Show Posts

This section allows you to view all posts made by this member. Note that you can only see posts made in areas you currently have access to.


Messages - Crafty_Dog

Pages: [1] 2 3 ... 927
1
second

Stocks Turn Lower After Powell’s Comments
Nasdaq falls nearly 3%, bond yields rise as investors digest Fed chair’s comments
Index performance
Source: FactSet
As of March 4, 2:59 p.m. ET
%
Dow industrials
S&P 500
NasdaqComposite
Russell 2000
March 4
2 p.m.
-5
-4
-3
-2
-1
0
1
By Caitlin Ostroff and Gunjan Banerji
Updated March 4, 2021 2:07 pm ET
SAVE
PRINT
TEXT



U.S. stocks dropped and Treasury prices tumbled as investors parsed comments from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell about the outlook for inflation and the central bank’s views on rising bond yields.

The S&P 500 dropped 1.9% after two consecutive days of declines. The Nasdaq Composite fell 2.8%, and is now poised to enter a correction--a 10% decline from its recent high. The tech-heavy gauge is also on track to fall more than 1% for the third consecutive session for the first time since September 2020. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 514 points, or 1.7%.

Fed Chairman Forecasts a Slow Return to Pre-Pandemic Employment
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

UP NEXT

Fed Chairman Forecasts a Slow Return to Pre-Pandemic Employment
Fed Chairman Forecasts a Slow Return to Pre-Pandemic Employment
Taking questions at the WSJ Jobs Summit, Jerome Powell explains his expectations for a return to maximum employment and how the labor force has changed since the pandemic started. Photo: Al Drago/Getty Images
Mr. Powell answered questions on how he views the jump in yields at The Wall Street Journal Jobs Summit and emphasized that the economy is far from reaching full employment. Some analysts and investors said that Mr. Powell’s responses, which closely adhered to his previous comments, did little to assuage fears about the recent rise in bond yields.

Nasdaq Composite performance, year-to-date
Source: FactSet
As of March 4, 2:59 p.m. ET
%
Jan. 5
Feb.
March
-4
-3
-2
-1
0
1
2
3
Central bank officials have previously said they would keep monetary policy loose until the economy is stronger, and that they view the rise in bond yields as a signal that investors are optimistic about the U.S. economic recovery.

The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note jumped to 1.541% during his speech, on track for the highest closing level in at least a year. That level marks a steep climb from early January, when it was as low as 0.915%. Yields rise when bond prices fall.

The stock market has been taking cues from the government bond market. A recent selloff in U.S. sovereign debt has lifted Treasury yields, curbing investors’ appetite for the technology stocks that had soared in a low-yield environment.

Some money managers are betting that additional fiscal stimulus in the U.S. will boost inflation and cause the Fed to raise interest rates sooner than they had expected. That has led to a jump in real yields, or the returns on bonds after adjusting for inflation expectations.

Yield on 10-year U.S. Treasury note
Source: Tullett Prebon
As of March 4, 2:58 p.m. ET
%
2/19/2020 closing yield
March 2020
'21
0.4
0.6
0.8
1.0
1.2
1.4
1.6
Fresh data showed that 745,000 Americans applied for first-time unemployment benefits in the week ended Saturday, up from 736,000 the week prior. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected 750,000 jobless claims.

A key measure of investors’ inflation expectations also surged recently. Five-year breakevens—which reflect the expected pace of price increases over the five-year period that begins five years from now—climbed above 2.5% for the first time in 13 years before closing at 2.487% Wednesday, according to Deutsche Bank.

Yields on Treasury inflation-protected securities, or TIPS, which are a proxy for the real yields, have also shot upward. The 10-year TIPS yield rose to minus 0.741% Thursday, from minus 1.089% at the end of last year, according to Tradeweb. It briefly closed as high as minus 0.635% at the end of February, when there was a wave of selling in the government bond market.


NEWSLETTER SIGN-UP
Markets
A pre-markets primer packed with news, trends and ideas. Plus, up-to-the-minute market data.

PREVIEW
SUBSCRIBE
The recent moves in the bond market have coincided with a sharp drop in tech darlings and favorites for momentum investors, like Tesla, which fell 6.7% on Thursday. ARK Innovation ETF dropped 6%.

Expectations for U.S. economic growth have been bolstered by a proposed $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package. Senate Democrats agreed Wednesday to narrow eligibility for some of the direct payments that are part of the bill, a concession to centrists whose support is needed to pass it.

“You basically have fiscal stimulus feed through to consumption, which means earnings can go up and that will support equity markets,” said Esty Dwek, head of global market strategy at Natixis Investment Managers.

She said she expects sectors like banks that would benefit from the economic reopening to perform well as investors exit richly valued technology stocks. “The headline numbers of the indexes sometimes mask that it has been more of a rotation in equities rather than out of equities,” she said.


A trader worked on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday.
PHOTO: COURTNEY CROW/ASSOCIATED PRESS
The stimulus package should also increase support for unemployed people, which will bolster consumer spending and the economic recovery, Ms. Dwek said.

Overseas, the pan-continental Stoxx Europe 600 fell 0.4%.

Most major Asian markets fell in a technology-led selloff that mirrored Wednesday’s trading in the U.S.

Markets were weighed down by uncertainty over the pace of global economic recovery, as well as concerns that quickening inflation could eventually lead to higher interest rates, according to Justin Tang, the head of Asian research at United First Partners in Singapore.

“On one hand, you want the economy to grow, but the massive cash in the economy raises the boogeyman of inflation,” he said. “I’m not sure if the economy can actually take higher interest rates at the moment. We are recovering, but I’m pretty sure we’re not out of the woods yet,” he added.

Share-price and index performance, Thursday
Source: FactSet
As of March 4, 2:59 p.m. ET
Snowflake
Splunk
Zoom
Alphabet
Amazon.com
Nasdaq Composite
Microsoft
Square
Okta
-8%
-6
-4
-2
0
2
4
6
8
Mr. Tang said the recent pullback was reminiscent of 2018, when the tech sector sold off as bond yields rose, though he noted that episode quickly eased.

—Joanne Chiu contributed to this article.

4
BEIJING—A World Health Organization team investigating the origins of Covid-19 is planning to scrap an interim report on its recent mission to China amid mounting tensions between Beijing and Washington over the investigation and an appeal from one international group of scientists for a new probe.

The group of two dozen scientists is calling in an open letter on Thursday for a new international inquiry. They say the WHO team that last month completed a mission to Wuhan—the Chinese city where the first known cases were found—had insufficient access to adequately investigate possible sources of the new coronavirus, including whether it slipped from a laboratory.

Their appeal comes as the U.S.—which recently reversed a decision to leave the WHO—lobbies for greater transparency in the investigation, saying it is waiting to scrutinize the report on the Wuhan mission, and urging China to release all relevant data, including on the first confirmed infections in December 2019, and potential earlier ones.

Beijing, meanwhile, is pressing for similar WHO-led missions to other countries, including the U.S., to investigate whether the virus could have originated outside China and spread to Wuhan via frozen food packaging.

(MARC:  Who could have seen that coming?!?)

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Feb. 12 that the team would release an interim report briefly summarizing the Wuhan mission, possibly the following week, with a full report coming weeks later. But that summary report has yet to be published and the WHO team is now scrapping that plan, said Peter Ben Embarek, the food-safety scientist who led the team. The WHO team plans to publish a summary along with the full, final report, he said. That final report “will be published in coming weeks and will include key findings,” a WHO spokesman said.

“By definition a summary report does not have all the details,” said Dr. Ben Embarek. “So since there [is] so much interest in this report, a summary only would not satisfy the curiosity of the readers.”


Peter Ben Embarek, who led the WHO team, visited Wuhan’s Huanan food market on Jan. 31.
PHOTO: THOMAS PETER/REUTERS
The delay in publishing the findings and recommendations from the Wuhan mission, conducted jointly with Chinese scientists and officials who will have to approve any report, comes against a backdrop of continued political and scientific controversy surrounding the search for the origins of the pandemic.

China’s foreign ministry described the open letter as “old wine in new bottles” that assumed guilt and lacked scientific credibility, and said the Wuhan mission concluded that a laboratory origin was “extremely unlikely” and not worth further research. Neither the foreign ministry nor China’s national health commission responded to requests for comment on the Wuhan mission report.

READ THE OPEN LETTER
“Call for a Full and Unrestricted International Forensic Investigation into the Origins of COVID-19”

According to an advance copy of the open letter, the group of 26 scientists and other experts in areas including virology, zoology and microbiology said that it was “all but impossible” for the WHO team to conduct a full investigation, and that any report was likely to involve political compromises as it had to be approved by the Chinese side.

Related Video
Lab Theory ‘Extremely Unlikely’: What WHO Team Learned in Wuhan
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

UP NEXT

Lab Theory ‘Extremely Unlikely’: What WHO Team Learned in Wuhan
Lab Theory ‘Extremely Unlikely’: What WHO Team Learned in Wuhan
The World Health Organization’s mission to Wuhan said the coronavirus most likely spread naturally to humans through an animal. WSJ’s Jeremy Page reports on what scientists learned during their weekslong investigation. Photo: Thomas Peter/Reuters
A credible investigation required, among other things, confidential interviews and fuller access to hospital records of confirmed and potential Chinese coronavirus cases in late 2019, when the outbreak was first identified in Wuhan, said the letter signed by experts from France, the U.S., India, Australia and other countries.

Investigators should also be allowed to view records including maintenance, personnel, animal breeding and experiment logs from all laboratories working with coronaviruses, the letter said.

“We cannot afford an investigation into the origins of the pandemic that is anything less than absolutely thorough and credible,” the letter said. “Efforts to date do not constitute a thorough, credible, and transparent investigation.”


Guards stand in front of Wuhan’s Jinyintan Hospital during a visit by members of the WHO team on Jan. 30.
PHOTO: HECTOR RETAMAL/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
The appeal is unlikely to gain traction, as any future probes would require Beijing’s cooperation. Moreover, many leading infectious-disease experts are skeptical that a lab accident could plausibly explain the origins of the pandemic.

Still, it expresses what has become a more widely shared dissatisfaction, voiced by the U.S. and U.K. governments and many scientists world-wide, that China has provided too little information and data to the WHO to guide researchers trying to determine where the virus originated and how it jumped to humans.

“China has not been fully and effectively transparent either at the start of this crisis, when it mattered most, or even today as investigations are going forward trying to get to the bottom of what happened,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in an interview with PBS on Wednesday.

China has repeatedly said that it is cooperating fully with the WHO and denied assertions, including from Trump administration officials, that the virus might have come from a research facility in Wuhan, at least one of which specializes in bat coronaviruses.


During the mission last month, the WHO team said its members and their Chinese counterparts analyzed the leading hypotheses to determine where future research should focus. At the mission’s end, team leaders said they would urge studies of ways the virus could have spread from different small mammals, and wouldn’t recommend further research on a potential lab accident, a theory it deemed “extremely unlikely.”

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS
How do you think a proposed new inquiry into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic should be structured and governed? Join the conversation below.

That conclusion was hailed by Beijing, as well as by scientists in various countries who argue that the virus spread naturally—most likely from bats, then possibly through another animal, to humans—and dismiss the laboratory hypothesis as a politically motivated smear.

Since returning from China, however, some of the WHO investigators have qualified their conclusions, saying they didn’t have the mandate, expertise or data for a full audit of any laboratory. The team also lacked important data on the first confirmed cases, or on patients hospitalized with similar symptoms beforehand.

A laboratory accident is “definitely not off the table,” Dr. Ben Embarek told a seminar last week. Dr. Tedros said in February after the team’s trip that “all hypotheses remain open and require further analysis.”

The signatories of the open letter are mostly members of a broader group, spearheaded by French scientists, who have been sharing research papers and other information on Covid-19 since around December. None are associated with the WHO investigation.


Signatories of the open letter are calling for a new probe after the WHO team’s mission, which included a visit to Hubei province’s center for disease control.
PHOTO: THOMAS PETER/REUTERS
Among the signatories are Etienne Decroly and Bruno Canard, molecular virologists at AFMB Lab, which belongs to Aix-Marseille University and the French National Centre for Scientific Research, France’s state research agency.

Dr. Decroly said he became involved after concluding that on the basis of available data, it was impossible to determine whether SARS-CoV-2 “is the result of a zoonosis from a wild viral strain or an accidental escape of experimental strains.”


The letter was co-organized by Gilles Demaneuf, a French data scientist based in New Zealand, and Jamie Metzl, a U.S.-based senior fellow for the Atlantic Council and adviser to the WHO on human genome editing.

Prominent critics of the laboratory hypothesis have in recent weeks published new research on bat coronaviruses found in Southeast Asia and Japan that they say shows that SARS-CoV-2 most likely evolved naturally to infect humans.

Investigating the Origin of Covid-19
MARCH 6, 2020
How It All Started: China’s Early Coronavirus Missteps
MAY 12, 2020
On the Ground in Wuhan, Signs of China Stalling Probe of Coronavirus Origins
FEB. 10, 2021
Possible Early Covid-19 Cases in China Emerge During WHO Mission
FEB. 12, 2021
China Refuses to Give WHO Raw Data on Early Covid-19 Cases
FEB. 18, 2021
In Hunt for Covid-19 Origin, WHO Team Focuses on Two Animal Types in China
FEB. 19, 2021
Covid-19 Was Spreading in China Before First Confirmed Cases, Fresh Evidence Suggests
FEB. 26, 2021
Patient Zero Points to Second Wuhan Market
MARCH 1, 2021
Covid-19 Virus Studies Yield New Clues on Pandemic’s Origin
Robert Garry, a virologist at the Tulane University School of Medicine who was involved in that research, said he and other colleagues had initially considered the possibility of a leak or accident from a laboratory, but ultimately deemed it “nearly impossible.”

The Biden administration hasn’t publicly repeated its predecessor’s specific assertions regarding Wuhan laboratories.

Signatories of the open letter say they don’t back any one hypothesis but think it is premature to exclude the possibility of a leak or accident at or connected with a research facility such as the Wuhan Institute of Virology, or WIV, which runs high-security laboratories and has conducted extensive research on bat coronaviruses.

WIV scientists deny the virus came from there, saying they neither stored nor worked on SARS-CoV-2 before the pandemic and none of their staff tested positive for the virus.

Signatories said investigators should look at several possible scenarios, including whether a laboratory employee became infected with a naturally evolving virus while sampling bats in the wild, during transport of infected animals, or during disposal of lab waste.

They also said investigators should probe whether SARS-CoV-2 could have stemmed from “gain-of-function” experiments, in which viruses found in the wild are genetically manipulated to see if they can become more infectious or deadly to humans.

MORE ON THE PANDEMIC

6
Politics & Religion / Re: Citizen Trump
« on: Today at 10:01:53 AM »
I think he would make an outstanding president, but not a candidate likely to win.

10
Politics & Religion / Re: NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo
« on: Today at 05:55:43 AM »
I remember when Ed Koch was running for governor against his dad, the Cuomo people put out the whisper campaign slogan "Vote for Cuomo, not the homo".

15
Politics & Religion / D1: US-China AI competition
« on: March 03, 2021, 07:27:06 PM »
second

16
Politics & Religion / GPF: Indo Pacific Deterrence Fund
« on: March 03, 2021, 07:23:30 PM »
Indo-Pacific deterrence fund. U.S. Indo-Pacific chief Adm. Philip Davidson is asking Congress for some $27 billion to build out its deterrence capabilities across the region. The request includes a $200 million radar system for Palau, the strategically located island nation that, unusually for the region, has been openly lobbying for a U.S. military base. This would tie into a $2.3 billion space-based radar system. There's also a big emphasis on a network of ground-based medium- and intermediate-range missiles across the first island chain, which the U.S. currently is lacking (and also doesn't really have any place yet to put them).

21
Politics & Religion / Camel's nose in the tent for UBI
« on: March 03, 2021, 07:14:27 AM »
Universal basic income is about to arrive in America. Congressional Democrats’ $1.9 trillion stimulus bill provides for no-strings attached checks, limited only to parents of children under 18. This UBI for parents is billed as pandemic relief, but its real purpose is to put a stake in the heart of work-based welfare reform.

Supporters blandly describe their plan as “Child Tax Credit improvements for 2021.” It would replace today’s annual child tax credit, which tops out at $2,000, with more-generous “child allowances,” payable monthly. Those allowances are federal payments of $3,600 (or $300 a month) for each child under 6 and $3,000 ($250 a month) for older children. The current credit increases with income from work; the new one would provide the same large payments to all.

Under the guise of pandemic relief, the federal government would give a nonworking single parent with two preschool-age children and one in grade school $850 a month. This would come on top of other government benefits, including $680 a month in food stamps, amounting to $18,360 in combined annual income. That’s the equivalent, without accounting for taxes, of working 28 hours a week at $12.50 an hour. On top of that, the family would receive health insurance from Medicaid, and it may also receive housing and child-care assistance. Government benefits to nonworking households that are this generous are bound to reduce employment.

The bill would provide the new benefit for only one year, but the Washington Post reports that “congressional Democrats and White House officials have said they would push for the policy to be made permanent later in the year.”


Under current law, federal cash assistance to poor families flows through state social-services agencies, which require recipients to work, look for work, or at least engage in some activity designed to help them become employed. UBI for parents is designed to circumvent these requirements. If enacted it will more than double the government-provided cash assistance to households headed by single mothers, creating a perverse incentive for the unmarried poor to have more children. That would lead to more poverty, not less.


Unlike existing benefits, UBI for parents also avoids efforts to seek and collect child-support payments from parents who don’t live with their kids. That’s unfortunate, because efforts to collect child support have led to increased income for families in need and greater emotional connection between absent dads and their children.

If all this sounds vaguely familiar, it should. Sending monthly checks to nonworking parents was exactly how welfare used to work until 1996, when President Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, for which Sen. Joe Biden voted. That law requires parents to work or train in exchange for welfare benefits and offered additional child care and other support to help them go to work.

Once UBI for parents is here, calls for UBI for everyone will follow. Democrats’ stimulus bill already includes more checks for adults (and their children), so the mechanics are in place. Last year then- Sen. Kamala Harris introduced legislation calling for $2,000 monthly “pandemic” payments per adult and up to three children. If such a scheme ever started, it would be politically difficult to shut off, despite its high cost.

Some conservatives and libertarians have argued for UBI, but only as a replacement for the rest of the welfare state. That is most definitely not what the Democrats are proposing—they want the UBI, and food stamps and Medicaid and all of the rest.

After the 1996 welfare reform, child poverty declined as single mothers increasingly worked and received benefits that supplemented their earnings. This combination of work plus aid made work pay, as Mr. Clinton used to say, and it allowed people to have the dignity that comes with earning one’s own living. Monthly welfare benefits with no expectation of work would reduce employment and earnings, establish lifelong government dependency for millions of Americans, and increase unwed childbearing. Democratic lawmakers may be happy to pave the way for UBI and finally reverse what Congress and Mr. Clinton did in 1996. It’s a bad bargain for everyone else.

Mr. Doar is president of the American Enterprise Institute. He served as commissioner of social services in New York City, 2007-14. Mr. Weidinger is a resident fellow in poverty studies at AEI and a former deputy staff director of the House Ways and Means Committee.

22
Australia’s Role in America’s War With China
By: Jacek Bartosiak
March 3rd, 2021
Australia’s Role in America’s War With ChinaJacek BartosiakMarch 3rd, 2021

Analysis

In U.S. plans for a war with China, Australia serves as a base for peripheral operations in the Indian Ocean and in the Indonesian Straits.

Of course, there are voices in the Antipodes against America’s use of Australia in a war, but for now the Australian government stands firmly with Washington. It is therefore quite possible for Canberra to participate in a war with China, should it ever come to that.

Strengths and Weaknesses

A sea state whose navy is weaker than that of the enemy may try indirect methods – peripheral raids or military campaigns far from the conflict’s center of gravity and the enemy. The ability of a maritime state to “wait” in conflict and disperse the continental state’s power through the horizontal expansion of the theater of operations is a significant advantage for the U.S. and Australia over China – one that will fade as the Chinese achieve the status and capabilities of a maritime power.

Perhaps this should be the overall strategy of both countries in a potential war with China: an attack on distant communication lines. The Chinese economy is very sensitive to the smooth, free and timely flow of goods and merchandise by sea, the lion’s share of which flow from Africa and the Middle East across the Indian Ocean.

A division of tasks is also possible. The U.S. Navy would operate in the Western Pacific, and the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), somewhat in the rear, would carry out diversions on the periphery of the Indian Ocean, taking advantage of the convenient geographic location of its west coast. The RAN would have to strike against China’s naval forces in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden, operating from Gwadar in Pakistan, in order to eliminate the enemy’s naval forces at the beginning of the conflict. The Indian Ocean is, from the point of view of military geography, larger than the Western Pacific, and has no advanced counter-combat structures like the South China Sea or the Western Pacific. In the future, however, the northern part of the ocean will become more frequented by enemy forces and infiltrated by its reconnaissance, making RAN operations difficult.

At the same time, analysts in Australia realize that in the event of a war with China, Australia will not be able to count on quick and adequate military aid and supplies. The planning leaves no doubt: The conflict will last many months, if not years, and will involve a great effort by the U.S. to replenish its own weapons and ammunition, especially precision ammunition, so the allies’ needs will be served on stretched communication lines threatened by intersection from China.

The greatest challenge to any operation in the Indian Ocean is its sheer size. There are 1,864 nautical miles between the Australian ports of Perth and Darwin. Another 3,266 nautical miles lie between Perth and the U.S. base at Diego Garcia. The conventional Australian submarine fleet will find it difficult to maintain more than one or two ships in the war area on longer patrols in the Indonesian archipelago, much less far out in the Indian Ocean.


(click to enlarge)

Nuclear submarines are much more operational in the Indian Ocean. Australia does not have them, so in the Indian Ocean, it will have to rely on the air force, including long-range unmanned patrol systems. Fleet Base West (HMAS Stirling), in Perth, is conveniently located for the operation of U.S. Navy nuclear submarines and would be the third in the Indian Ocean theater of war alongside Guam and Diego Garcia. (It is also possible to build a small spare port for submarines in the Cocos Islands near Indonesia, after the lagoon is partially drained, which would also improve the logistics of the allies during the conflict.)

An Indispensable Ally

Essentially a continent-sized island, Australia lies on the fringes of the Asia-Pacific routes and is the southern anchor of the entire Indo-Pacific operational area, which is fundamental to the United States. In recent years, U.S. and global attention has shifted east toward Asia, and Australia – a distant continent during the defining conflicts of the 20th century – has found itself near the center of the strategic contest between the world’s two largest powers. For the U.S., Australia and their alliance became a priority. It could become America’s most closely allied relationship in the 21st century.

At the same time, for Australia itself, China is a major trading partner. China buys huge amounts of natural resources from Australia, in particular iron ore and natural gas, but also agricultural produce. As a result, the previously poorer Western Australia is growing rapidly. In 2013, China accounted for 35 percent of the country’s exports, double the share from just five years earlier. Australia is more economically dependent on China than it ever was on the United Kingdom, not to mention the United States.

For two decades, the Australian economy has grown every year, despite the 2008-09 financial crisis. It is the only developed country to achieve such a result. According to analysts, only South Korea is more dependent on fluctuations in Chinese markets. Mandarin is Australia’s second most important language, and Chinese tourists spent more money there than tourists from any other country before the pandemic.

From the point of view of military geography, Australia is located at the junction of the Pacific and Indian oceans and has an ideal location that allows control over the sea and air communication routes connecting both waters. Due to its location and its modern infrastructure and strategic depth, determined by the vastness of the territory, Australia is an indispensable ally for the United States.

The United States, wishing to dominate the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean militarily, will have to use Australian bases, ports and airports, provide logistics, train and rotate units, and maintain military stocks and equipment repair centers. Australia is an excellent base for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, by both sea and air. Its proximity to the Indonesian and South Asian “bottlenecks,” the main arteries of world trade, enables it to exercise operational control over the Sunda and Lombok straits. Australia is also a great base for all operations in the Indian Ocean and for the control of Asian countries’ sea routes from resource bases in Africa and the Persian Gulf.


(click to enlarge)

Until recently, U.S. domination in the waters surrounding Australia was stabilizing and comfortable. Australia could trade with whomever it wished in Asia, benefiting from the military and political protection of American power. When, after Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit in 2005, the head of the Australian Foreign Ministry described the alliance treaty with the U.S. as merely “symbolic,” it led to genuine panic in Washington. The Chinese believed that Australia could play a role similar to that of France in Europe (in the Western camp, but with a distance to the United States). Economic relations with China flourished in the following years, but the Australian government chose to strengthen its political ties with the U.S.

This decision met with criticism from many analytical centers and business circles in Australia, which were of the opinion that a position should not be taken directly on the American side in the impending conflict for domination in this area of the world.

Australia is familiar with the strategic dilemmas related to the rise of an Asian power, particularly when Australia depends for its security on a weakening and departing power. Beginning in 1921 and with the denunciation of the Anglo-Japanese naval treaties, the Australians began to fear Japan and stopped believing that their geographic remoteness kept them safe. After the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931, Australia did not openly condemn the aggressors’ actions and avoided confrontation. Australian politicians feared a Japanese invasion and doubted British guarantees, including the ability of the British navy to come from a base in Singapore to aid Australia. They also did not believe that the United States would be able to provide significant assistance in the event of a war with Japan. Regardless of these sentiments, Australia benefited greatly from trade with Japan and recorded a positive trade balance with that country, very similar to the current Chinese case.

The Rivalry Moves Closer

Australia’s military role in a possible war with China is closely related to where a possible conflict would take place. If it erupted far away in Northeast Asia or around Taiwan, Australia would not be able to make a significant contribution, but it could provide key logistical and base facilities as well as reconnaissance and intelligence services for U.S. forces, especially in the event of the destruction of U.S. infrastructure in the immediate vicinity of the conflict.

In the event of a conflict in the South China Sea, Australia’s role would be huge, given the proximity to its ports and infrastructure, including military airports. Then, most likely, Australian forces would assist in launching strikes against Chinese forces in order to prevent the capture of strategic locations around the Indonesian islands and straits, and to try to gain control and access to key maritime crossings in the Indonesian archipelago to protect the traffic of ships and allied warships while destroying Chinese communications.

However, it is likely that in the coming years and decades, the strategic U.S.-China rivalry will gradually move to the Indian Ocean. There will be competition if China builds a real ocean fleet and finally gets access to the ports it is building in the Indian Ocean basin (in Gwadar, Djibouti, Ceylon, the Seychelles, Kenya and East Africa). Especially if China tries to control the lines of communication from the Persian Gulf, Africa and Europe, crucial to keeping the Asian economies alive, Chinese bases in the region will be a threat to Australia. In connection with the above, the basic roles for the Australian armed forces in a possible future war can be distinguished: providing strategic depth, operation of the submarine fleet, reconnaissance tasks and force projection into the Indonesian Straits.

An Important Advantage

Australia’s most important advantage is its strategic depth, far as it is from the Asian mainland. As U.S. bases in the Western Pacific become more vulnerable to destruction by Chinese attacks, including missile strikes, Australia will play a larger and more important role as a technically well-developed logistics center and sanctuary free from enemy combat.

China’s growing reliance on missiles would indeed make Australia, which is outside China’s effective combat range, very attractive for allied air operations. And while Chinese submarines may threaten Australia’s communication lines and targets, it is likely that most of the Chinese submarine fleet will be occupied with more important matters within the second island chain. However, Chinese subs could be expected to conduct mining operations and missile attacks on ports and coastal infrastructure, and Chinese special forces may be secretly deployed to sabotage operations at military bases in northern Australia. To defend against these threats, Australia needs to strengthen coastal surveillance and security procedures around bases, ammunition and fuel depots.

China's Perspective
(click to enlarge)

In that sense, Chinese forays in the north would resemble the Japanese sabotage operations in Sydney and Newcastle during World War II – operations that were psychologically effective but ultimately irrelevant to the outcome of the conflict.

Moreover, distance and maritime geography mean that Chinese conventional submarines would have a hard time in the shallow waters to the north and east of Australia. They would have to surface frequently, and their noisy nuclear subs would be easily tracked by the well-equipped Australian coastal listening stations. The United States could help with its long-range reconnaissance, nuclear submarines and strike aviation operating from Australia.

Currently, Washington’s bomber aviation and submarine fleet rely heavily on a small number of bases in the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean. In the Western Pacific, the main base is Guam, located 1,800 nautical miles off the coast of China. Guam may soon be within range of Chinese ballistic missiles and is already within range of submarine-fired maneuvering missiles and aircraft. U.S. aircraft are also stationed in the Indian Ocean, on the British island of Diego Garcia, 3,900 nautical miles away from China. A significant distance means an extension of the time of arrival to the place of conflict, which significantly limits combat capabilities by shortening the time of effective patrolling and reducing the weight of the combat load.

Australia, on the other hand, provides the U.S. with a relatively safe sanctuary for air operations beyond the reach of Chinese forces. The airbases in the sparsely populated Northern Territory, Cape York, Queensland and Western Australia lie approximately 2,700 miles from the Taiwan Strait and “only” 1,700 nautical miles from the South China Sea. In addition, Australia has islands in the Indian Ocean. The runway on the Cocos Islands in the eastern Indian Ocean is even closer – 700 miles to the narrow straits of Sunda and Lombok. From the military port of Stirling, the distance to the South China Sea is comparable to the distance from Guam. The use of the naval port in Stirling by U.S. nuclear submarines significantly diversifies the deployment of U.S. forces in theatre while enhancing operational accessibility both in the Indian Ocean and in the Persian Gulf. Unlike Guam, all of these locations are beyond the reach of conventional Chinese missile forces, including those in development.

Added Benefits

Notably, air bases in northeastern Australia increase the strategic mobility of the United States, especially in terms of reconnaissance and performance of tasks by long-range strike aviation and for tanker aircraft, which will be crucial given the vast expanses of the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean. Of course, fuel storage facilities would be essential in this regard. Tanker planes will be needed to provide an air bridge for tactical aviation operating over the South China Sea and for bombers operating from Diego Garcia. Australia currently has only one squadron of airplanes stationed in Tindal, in the north of the country. The Darwin base is the only one in the north of the country that can accommodate American heavy tanker aircraft and bombers, and is therefore the center of allied air operations.

In the north of Australia, there are three more bases that are currently empty: Curtin, Learmonth and Scherger. All of them have lanes of little more than 10,000 feet (3,000 meters), which is not enough to accommodate U.S. Air Force tankers and heavy bombers. In addition, more planes mean more parking. Airports in the north have shelters for 10-20 multi-role fighters, but all except Tindal are close to the sea and require shelters to protect from the elements. Finally, investment in rapid refueling facilities for combat operations will be required to be able to operate more aircraft at one time and plan intensive combat operations.

Another island that could prove useful is Christmas Island, located in the Indian Ocean close to the Indonesian Straits. Its role as a detention center for migrants limits its martial effectiveness, and in any case the island’s runway is located at the top of a mountain and ends with a cliff that slopes steeply into the sea, making it impossible to extend it to the minimum required 11,000 feet for the stationing of American tankers and long-range bombers.

Developing the Cocos Islands would require even more infrastructure investments. There are no shelters and hardly any place to park aircraft. The fuel depots are far away and insufficient, and the runway is only 8,000 feet long. Moreover, flight control and guidance systems are outdated. However, if developed correctly, the airport on the Cocos Islands would be ideal for stationing long-range maritime patrol aircraft. Learmonth Airport is closer to the South China Sea than Darwin and has good logistical links to the rest of the country.

Notably, there are oil resources and refineries in southern and western Australia, but there are too few oil pipelines throughout the country. Raw materials such as oil are transported by ships, and ships and tankers would be the first targets of a Chinese attack. From ships, oil and other raw materials are transported by trucks and local pipelines. During rainy seasons, access by heavy trucks to some air bases is difficult in the north. (Officials are considering plans to transport by train in the future.) Therefore, the priority should be the improvement of railway infrastructure and its protection, as well as fuel storage facilities, refineries, storage facilities for weapons and ammunition, rockets and precision weapons. Australia will have to provide for its own protection to eliminate the possibility of attacks by special forces.

The airport network described above enables the U.S. and Australia to have a tactical aviation presence over the most important sea routes in the Western Pacific, the South China Sea and Southeast Asia. It strengthens U.S. strike capabilities in the event of a conflict with China, and it discourages the Chinese from carrying out a preemptive strike. This, in turn, could allow Washington to control the escalation of conflict.

23
Australia’s Role in America’s War With China
By: Jacek Bartosiak
March 3rd, 2021
Australia’s Role in America’s War With ChinaJacek BartosiakMarch 3rd, 2021Analysis
In U.S. plans for a war with China, Australia serves as a base for peripheral operations in the Indian Ocean and in the Indonesian Straits.

Of course, there are voices in the Antipodes against America’s use of Australia in a war, but for now the Australian government stands firmly with Washington. It is therefore quite possible for Canberra to participate in a war with China, should it ever come to that.

Strengths and Weaknesses

A sea state whose navy is weaker than that of the enemy may try indirect methods – peripheral raids or military campaigns far from the conflict’s center of gravity and the enemy. The ability of a maritime state to “wait” in conflict and disperse the continental state’s power through the horizontal expansion of the theater of operations is a significant advantage for the U.S. and Australia over China – one that will fade as the Chinese achieve the status and capabilities of a maritime power.

Perhaps this should be the overall strategy of both countries in a potential war with China: an attack on distant communication lines. The Chinese economy is very sensitive to the smooth, free and timely flow of goods and merchandise by sea, the lion’s share of which flow from Africa and the Middle East across the Indian Ocean.

A division of tasks is also possible. The U.S. Navy would operate in the Western Pacific, and the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), somewhat in the rear, would carry out diversions on the periphery of the Indian Ocean, taking advantage of the convenient geographic location of its west coast. The RAN would have to strike against China’s naval forces in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden, operating from Gwadar in Pakistan, in order to eliminate the enemy’s naval forces at the beginning of the conflict. The Indian Ocean is, from the point of view of military geography, larger than the Western Pacific, and has no advanced counter-combat structures like the South China Sea or the Western Pacific. In the future, however, the northern part of the ocean will become more frequented by enemy forces and infiltrated by its reconnaissance, making RAN operations difficult.

At the same time, analysts in Australia realize that in the event of a war with China, Australia will not be able to count on quick and adequate military aid and supplies. The planning leaves no doubt: The conflict will last many months, if not years, and will involve a great effort by the U.S. to replenish its own weapons and ammunition, especially precision ammunition, so the allies’ needs will be served on stretched communication lines threatened by intersection from China.

The greatest challenge to any operation in the Indian Ocean is its sheer size. There are 1,864 nautical miles between the Australian ports of Perth and Darwin. Another 3,266 nautical miles lie between Perth and the U.S. base at Diego Garcia. The conventional Australian submarine fleet will find it difficult to maintain more than one or two ships in the war area on longer patrols in the Indonesian archipelago, much less far out in the Indian Ocean.


(click to enlarge)

Nuclear submarines are much more operational in the Indian Ocean. Australia does not have them, so in the Indian Ocean, it will have to rely on the air force, including long-range unmanned patrol systems. Fleet Base West (HMAS Stirling), in Perth, is conveniently located for the operation of U.S. Navy nuclear submarines and would be the third in the Indian Ocean theater of war alongside Guam and Diego Garcia. (It is also possible to build a small spare port for submarines in the Cocos Islands near Indonesia, after the lagoon is partially drained, which would also improve the logistics of the allies during the conflict.)

An Indispensable Ally

Essentially a continent-sized island, Australia lies on the fringes of the Asia-Pacific routes and is the southern anchor of the entire Indo-Pacific operational area, which is fundamental to the United States. In recent years, U.S. and global attention has shifted east toward Asia, and Australia – a distant continent during the defining conflicts of the 20th century – has found itself near the center of the strategic contest between the world’s two largest powers. For the U.S., Australia and their alliance became a priority. It could become America’s most closely allied relationship in the 21st century.

At the same time, for Australia itself, China is a major trading partner. China buys huge amounts of natural resources from Australia, in particular iron ore and natural gas, but also agricultural produce. As a result, the previously poorer Western Australia is growing rapidly. In 2013, China accounted for 35 percent of the country’s exports, double the share from just five years earlier. Australia is more economically dependent on China than it ever was on the United Kingdom, not to mention the United States.

For two decades, the Australian economy has grown every year, despite the 2008-09 financial crisis. It is the only developed country to achieve such a result. According to analysts, only South Korea is more dependent on fluctuations in Chinese markets. Mandarin is Australia’s second most important language, and Chinese tourists spent more money there than tourists from any other country before the pandemic.

From the point of view of military geography, Australia is located at the junction of the Pacific and Indian oceans and has an ideal location that allows control over the sea and air communication routes connecting both waters. Due to its location and its modern infrastructure and strategic depth, determined by the vastness of the territory, Australia is an indispensable ally for the United States.

The United States, wishing to dominate the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean militarily, will have to use Australian bases, ports and airports, provide logistics, train and rotate units, and maintain military stocks and equipment repair centers. Australia is an excellent base for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, by both sea and air. Its proximity to the Indonesian and South Asian “bottlenecks,” the main arteries of world trade, enables it to exercise operational control over the Sunda and Lombok straits. Australia is also a great base for all operations in the Indian Ocean and for the control of Asian countries’ sea routes from resource bases in Africa and the Persian Gulf.


(click to enlarge)

Until recently, U.S. domination in the waters surrounding Australia was stabilizing and comfortable. Australia could trade with whomever it wished in Asia, benefiting from the military and political protection of American power. When, after Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit in 2005, the head of the Australian Foreign Ministry described the alliance treaty with the U.S. as merely “symbolic,” it led to genuine panic in Washington. The Chinese believed that Australia could play a role similar to that of France in Europe (in the Western camp, but with a distance to the United States). Economic relations with China flourished in the following years, but the Australian government chose to strengthen its political ties with the U.S.

This decision met with criticism from many analytical centers and business circles in Australia, which were of the opinion that a position should not be taken directly on the American side in the impending conflict for domination in this area of the world.

Australia is familiar with the strategic dilemmas related to the rise of an Asian power, particularly when Australia depends for its security on a weakening and departing power. Beginning in 1921 and with the denunciation of the Anglo-Japanese naval treaties, the Australians began to fear Japan and stopped believing that their geographic remoteness kept them safe. After the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931, Australia did not openly condemn the aggressors’ actions and avoided confrontation. Australian politicians feared a Japanese invasion and doubted British guarantees, including the ability of the British navy to come from a base in Singapore to aid Australia. They also did not believe that the United States would be able to provide significant assistance in the event of a war with Japan. Regardless of these sentiments, Australia benefited greatly from trade with Japan and recorded a positive trade balance with that country, very similar to the current Chinese case.

The Rivalry Moves Closer

Australia’s military role in a possible war with China is closely related to where a possible conflict would take place. If it erupted far away in Northeast Asia or around Taiwan, Australia would not be able to make a significant contribution, but it could provide key logistical and base facilities as well as reconnaissance and intelligence services for U.S. forces, especially in the event of the destruction of U.S. infrastructure in the immediate vicinity of the conflict.

In the event of a conflict in the South China Sea, Australia’s role would be huge, given the proximity to its ports and infrastructure, including military airports. Then, most likely, Australian forces would assist in launching strikes against Chinese forces in order to prevent the capture of strategic locations around the Indonesian islands and straits, and to try to gain control and access to key maritime crossings in the Indonesian archipelago to protect the traffic of ships and allied warships while destroying Chinese communications.

However, it is likely that in the coming years and decades, the strategic U.S.-China rivalry will gradually move to the Indian Ocean. There will be competition if China builds a real ocean fleet and finally gets access to the ports it is building in the Indian Ocean basin (in Gwadar, Djibouti, Ceylon, the Seychelles, Kenya and East Africa). Especially if China tries to control the lines of communication from the Persian Gulf, Africa and Europe, crucial to keeping the Asian economies alive, Chinese bases in the region will be a threat to Australia. In connection with the above, the basic roles for the Australian armed forces in a possible future war can be distinguished: providing strategic depth, operation of the submarine fleet, reconnaissance tasks and force projection into the Indonesian Straits.

An Important Advantage

Australia’s most important advantage is its strategic depth, far as it is from the Asian mainland. As U.S. bases in the Western Pacific become more vulnerable to destruction by Chinese attacks, including missile strikes, Australia will play a larger and more important role as a technically well-developed logistics center and sanctuary free from enemy combat.

China’s growing reliance on missiles would indeed make Australia, which is outside China’s effective combat range, very attractive for allied air operations. And while Chinese submarines may threaten Australia’s communication lines and targets, it is likely that most of the Chinese submarine fleet will be occupied with more important matters within the second island chain. However, Chinese subs could be expected to conduct mining operations and missile attacks on ports and coastal infrastructure, and Chinese special forces may be secretly deployed to sabotage operations at military bases in northern Australia. To defend against these threats, Australia needs to strengthen coastal surveillance and security procedures around bases, ammunition and fuel depots.

China's Perspective
(click to enlarge)

In that sense, Chinese forays in the north would resemble the Japanese sabotage operations in Sydney and Newcastle during World War II – operations that were psychologically effective but ultimately irrelevant to the outcome of the conflict.

Moreover, distance and maritime geography mean that Chinese conventional submarines would have a hard time in the shallow waters to the north and east of Australia. They would have to surface frequently, and their noisy nuclear subs would be easily tracked by the well-equipped Australian coastal listening stations. The United States could help with its long-range reconnaissance, nuclear submarines and strike aviation operating from Australia.

Currently, Washington’s bomber aviation and submarine fleet rely heavily on a small number of bases in the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean. In the Western Pacific, the main base is Guam, located 1,800 nautical miles off the coast of China. Guam may soon be within range of Chinese ballistic missiles and is already within range of submarine-fired maneuvering missiles and aircraft. U.S. aircraft are also stationed in the Indian Ocean, on the British island of Diego Garcia, 3,900 nautical miles away from China. A significant distance means an extension of the time of arrival to the place of conflict, which significantly limits combat capabilities by shortening the time of effective patrolling and reducing the weight of the combat load.

Australia, on the other hand, provides the U.S. with a relatively safe sanctuary for air operations beyond the reach of Chinese forces. The airbases in the sparsely populated Northern Territory, Cape York, Queensland and Western Australia lie approximately 2,700 miles from the Taiwan Strait and “only” 1,700 nautical miles from the South China Sea. In addition, Australia has islands in the Indian Ocean. The runway on the Cocos Islands in the eastern Indian Ocean is even closer – 700 miles to the narrow straits of Sunda and Lombok. From the military port of Stirling, the distance to the South China Sea is comparable to the distance from Guam. The use of the naval port in Stirling by U.S. nuclear submarines significantly diversifies the deployment of U.S. forces in theatre while enhancing operational accessibility both in the Indian Ocean and in the Persian Gulf. Unlike Guam, all of these locations are beyond the reach of conventional Chinese missile forces, including those in development.

Added Benefits

Notably, air bases in northeastern Australia increase the strategic mobility of the United States, especially in terms of reconnaissance and performance of tasks by long-range strike aviation and for tanker aircraft, which will be crucial given the vast expanses of the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean. Of course, fuel storage facilities would be essential in this regard. Tanker planes will be needed to provide an air bridge for tactical aviation operating over the South China Sea and for bombers operating from Diego Garcia. Australia currently has only one squadron of airplanes stationed in Tindal, in the north of the country. The Darwin base is the only one in the north of the country that can accommodate American heavy tanker aircraft and bombers, and is therefore the center of allied air operations.

In the north of Australia, there are three more bases that are currently empty: Curtin, Learmonth and Scherger. All of them have lanes of little more than 10,000 feet (3,000 meters), which is not enough to accommodate U.S. Air Force tankers and heavy bombers. In addition, more planes mean more parking. Airports in the north have shelters for 10-20 multi-role fighters, but all except Tindal are close to the sea and require shelters to protect from the elements. Finally, investment in rapid refueling facilities for combat operations will be required to be able to operate more aircraft at one time and plan intensive combat operations.

Another island that could prove useful is Christmas Island, located in the Indian Ocean close to the Indonesian Straits. Its role as a detention center for migrants limits its martial effectiveness, and in any case the island’s runway is located at the top of a mountain and ends with a cliff that slopes steeply into the sea, making it impossible to extend it to the minimum required 11,000 feet for the stationing of American tankers and long-range bombers.

Developing the Cocos Islands would require even more infrastructure investments. There are no shelters and hardly any place to park aircraft. The fuel depots are far away and insufficient, and the runway is only 8,000 feet long. Moreover, flight control and guidance systems are outdated. However, if developed correctly, the airport on the Cocos Islands would be ideal for stationing long-range maritime patrol aircraft. Learmonth Airport is closer to the South China Sea than Darwin and has good logistical links to the rest of the country.

Notably, there are oil resources and refineries in southern and western Australia, but there are too few oil pipelines throughout the country. Raw materials such as oil are transported by ships, and ships and tankers would be the first targets of a Chinese attack. From ships, oil and other raw materials are transported by trucks and local pipelines. During rainy seasons, access by heavy trucks to some air bases is difficult in the north. (Officials are considering plans to transport by train in the future.) Therefore, the priority should be the improvement of railway infrastructure and its protection, as well as fuel storage facilities, refineries, storage facilities for weapons and ammunition, rockets and precision weapons. Australia will have to provide for its own protection to eliminate the possibility of attacks by special forces.

The airport network described above enables the U.S. and Australia to have a tactical aviation presence over the most important sea routes in the Western Pacific, the South China Sea and Southeast Asia. It strengthens U.S. strike capabilities in the event of a conflict with China, and it discourages the Chinese from carrying out a preemptive strike. This, in turn, could allow Washington to control the escalation of conflict.

30
How Many Countries Are There in the World?

undefined and Director of Analytic Client Solutions
Amelia Harnagel
Director of Analytic Client Solutions, Stratfor
4 MIN READMar 2, 2021 | 22:22 GMT





People stand over a world map at the Monument to the Discoveries in the Belem parish of Lisbon, Portugal, on Aug. 21, 2014.
People stand over a world map at the Monument to the Discoveries in the Belem parish of Lisbon, Portugal, on Aug. 21, 2014.
(Frederic Soltan/Corbis via Getty Images)

How many countries are there in the world? It’s a seemingly simple question. But like so many things in geopolitics, the answer is, well...complicated.

The 1933 Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States listed four requirements for statehood: a permanent population, a defined territory, a government and the capacity to enter into relations with other states. The issue, however, is defining who meets that criteria, which varies depending on who you ask.

The Common Standards
United Nations: Since the middle of the 20th century, U.N. membership has largely been seen as the standard for what makes a country a country. South Sudan was the last new member to join the United Nations in 2011, bringing the total number of U.N. member-states (and some would say recognized countries) to 193.

Admission of new members is managed by the U.N. Secretary-General with approval from the General Assembly, based on whether the applicant is deemed a “peace-loving” state that is “able and willing to carry out the obligations contained in the [U.N.] Charter.”
The United Nations also allows for non-member states to serve as “permanent observers” in the General Assembly, which currently includes The Holy See (commonly known as Vatican City) and the Palestinian territories.
Nation-State vs. Country
For the purposes of this analysis, we’ve opted to stick with the common vernacular that uses “nation-state” and “country”  interchangeably. Technically, however, there’s a difference. The United Kingdom, for example, is a single nation-state made up of four countries. And while a country, Libya is not a formal nation-state since it currently lacks a unified government that’s recognized both at home and abroad. 

The World Bank: Another large global body that we reference often in our work here at Stratfor is the World Bank. While World Bank and U.N. membership overlaps significantly, they have different missions and different criteria for admission. Andorra, Cuba, Liechtenstein, Monaco and North Korea are U.N. members but not World Bank members, whereas Kosovo is a World Bank member but not a U.N. member.

The Olympics: Of course, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is another large international organization with a global membership and reach. The number of countries competing changes slightly each time the events are held, as well as between the summer and winter games. But for our purposes here, we’ll consider the 2016 Summer Olympics, which saw athletes from a whopping 205 countries compete. This included all 193 U.N. countries except Kuwait (whose athletes competed under the banner of Independent Olympic Athletes), along with 12 other countries.


The Gray Areas
It is worth noting that there are dozens of areas around the world that are not formal members of these international organizations, but meet the 1933 criteria for statehood listed above (i.e. permanent population, defined borders, a government and capacity for international relations). This includes:

Self-proclaimed states like Liberland, located between Croatia and Serbia.
Partially recognized states like Western Sahara and Northern Cyprus.
Politically ambiguous states like Palestine and Taiwan, which are both recognized by some U.N. member states and not others.
“De-facto” states like Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine, which operate mostly independently but are still widely recognized as part of another nation-state. Other breakaway territories that fall into this category include Somaliland, Tibet, Abkhazia and Transnistria.
Our Definition

As for our analysts and experts here at Stratfor and RANE, we use our own standard for defining countries based on geopolitical realities. We started with the U.N. list (including the permanent observers), and then added Greenland, Hong Kong, Kosovo and Taiwan. All four of these added states operate independently in the world system, at least geopolitically, which we deemed distinct enough to warrant them being treated as individual actors. While bound to spark some controversy, our standard should not be construed as taking a side in the quest for independence in these disputed regions, but rather a necessary framework for us to do our jobs.

And that, there, is why there is no one “right” answer to how many countries there are in the world, as the definition of country will always depend on the context in which it’s being used. For us, it’s outlining the constraints and compulsions within states’ (sometimes disputed) borders. But for others, it may have nothing to do with geopolitics and everything to do with what is “home.” And neither one of us is more right than the other.

31
Politics & Religion / Operation Warp Speed
« on: March 03, 2021, 04:39:55 AM »
American governments, federal and state, have made many mistakes in the Covid-19 pandemic. But the great success—the saving grace—was making a financial bet in collaboration with private American industry on the development of vaccines. That effort is now letting the country see the possibility of a return to relatively normal life as early as the spring.


President Biden announced Tuesday that the U.S. should have enough vaccine supply for every American adult by the end of May. Last week the Food and Drug Administration finally approved Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, and this week J&J struck a deal with Merck to manufacture the single-shot J&J vaccine as well. With the Moderna and Pfizer shots already going into more than a million American arms each week, thousands of lives will be saved.

It’s important to appreciate what an achievement this is. Critics scoffed when President Trump set a target of having a vaccine approved by the end of 2020, and Kamala Harris suggested she might not take a shot recommended by the Trump Administration.


The Biden-Harris Administration has now changed to full-throated encouragement—though not before continuing to trash the Trump efforts. White House aides have suggested that they inherited little vaccine supply and no plan for distribution. Both claims are false.



The supply was ramping up fast, and while there were distribution glitches at first, the real problem has been the last mile of distribution controlled by states. Governors like New York’s Andrew Cuomo tried to satisfy political constituencies that wanted early access to vaccines, adding complexity and bureaucracy that confused the public.

Mr. Biden made the same mistake Tuesday, asking states to give priority to educators (read: teachers unions), school staffers and child-care workers. That is arbitrary and unfair. A 30-year-old teacher who may still work remotely until September is at far less risk than a 50-year-old FedEx driver who interacts with customers all day. The fairest, least political distribution standard is age.

The Trump Administration’s Operation Warp Speed also contracted most of the vaccine supply for production before approval by the FDA: 200 million doses each of Pfizer and Moderna, and 100 million of J&J. No one knew which technology would be approved first, if at all, so the government wisely bet on several. This was the best money the feds spent in the pandemic. Mr. Biden ought to give the vaccine credit where it is due—to U.S. drug companies and Operation Warp Speed.

39
Politics & Religion / Biden Admin defines its approach to China
« on: March 02, 2021, 08:42:03 AM »
Obviously this would appear to contradict the Manchurian Joe riff , , , if he is actually the one in charge see e.g. https://www.breitbart.com/the-media/2021/03/01/now-40-days-biden-has-not-held-solo-press-conference/

Daily Memo: The Biden Administration Defines Its Approach to China
The new administration appears set to continue its predecessor's China trade policy.
By: Geopolitical Futures

The trade war is here to stay. A big report released Monday by the U.S. Trade Representative office makes abundantly clear that the Biden administration has no plans to scrap the Trump administration’s hawkishness on trade and other grievances with China. The new administration will face all the same hurdles as the old on actually making meaningful headway on its goals. But it’s worth watching to see if it can gain leverage from mounting international concerns over human rights issues such as forced labor in Xinjiang and threats to supply chains critical to the West.

Rethinking East Asia. The U.S. is rethinking its force structure in the Western Pacific, eyeing deployments “across the battlespace’s breadth and depth,” according to Adm. Philip Davidson, commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. Davidson argued that the gradual loss of base access for U.S. forces in places like Thailand, Taiwan and the Philippines over the past half-century has left the U.S. ill-positioned to sustain the balance of power with China. U.S. forces in the region are concentrated in places like South Korea, Japan and Guam, half a continent away from the chokepoints around the South China Sea that the U.S. would want to block in a conflict with China. And concentrated forces is itself an increasing problem in an era of precision-guided missiles. (MARC:  Note well this sentence.
 We have commented on this issue here) The big question is: Is anyone else in East Asia keen to host major U.S. deployments?

41
Politics & Religion / George Friedman: Bargaining positions
« on: March 02, 2021, 07:13:28 AM »
   
The US, Iran and Bargaining Positions
By: George Friedman
The Iranian government has announced that it will not attend the first round of negotiations over restoring the agreement that limited its ability to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran says sanctions imposed by the administration of former President Donald Trump must first be removed for talks to begin.

Obviously, this is a tactic meant to improve its bargaining position with the United States. But that position must be credible, and read that way by both sides. Iran reads President Joe Biden to be particularly vulnerable on this issue. Biden has long maintained that abandoning the nuclear agreement was a mistake that he would correct at the first opportunity.

Biden therefore needs to resurrect the original agreement or replace it with something similar. Iran understands U.S. politics as well as anyone, and it has proved to be an excellent negotiator. If officials believe Biden must restore the agreement, they will make it as difficult as possible.

One of the best ways to negotiate is to appear irrational. Rational actors believe themselves to be reasonable and operate under the assumption that their counterparts believe them to be rational too. Negotiators might well be rational, but showing their cards in a reasonable way gives the counterpart a roadmap of how to calm the talks. Iran is a master at appearing suicidal, when, in fact, it is as scared of nuclear annihilation as any other country. Religious fanaticism about the annihilation of Israel, for example, doesn’t comport with reality. The Israelis have a substantial nuclear arsenal and years of experience gaming possible Iranian threats. Any planned Iranian attack would be detected early in the process, and Israel would strike preemptively. In other words, the worst place Iran could be is close to completing a nuclear weapon, and its leaders know it.

The value of a nuclear program, on the other hand, is substantial. It shows an attempt to possess a nuclear weapon without giving any indication of already having one. It is the program that is perfect for Iran. It frightens without forcing anyone to take risky actions. The tools for building a program are lying on the floor with apparently earnest efforts to put it together. Iran gets to negotiate concessions for not building a nuke, even without itself being directly threatened by nuclear annihilation.

Meanwhile, it also tries to assert its power in a more effective way – by providing support, for example, for the Houthis in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps forces in Syria, and by becoming deeply involved in Iraq. Iran’s most effective foreign policy tactic in the region is delivering covert support to non-Iranian forces that can bring pressure on Sunni Arab states, Israel and U.S. forces still deployed in the region. Nuclear weapons are a notional concept designed to magnify Iranian power. Their real power rests on their ability to destabilize certain countries. This strategy carries with it only minimal risk compared to building a nuclear weapon and the missiles to deliver it. Iran wants the ability to go nuclear without going nuclear while engaging Israel, the Arabs and the Americans with covert operations that are difficult to counter.

Refusing to discuss the old nuclear treaty serves two purposes. It tests the new American president to see how badly he needs this agreement, and it allows the Iranians to escalate their actual priorities by using the American desire for a resurrected agreement. There’s no real downside for Iran. What Tehran needs more than anything is the lifting of sanctions. The sanctions imposed on Iran after Trump abrogated the nuclear agreement are wrecking its economy and, in turn, generating political opposition to the architects of the first agreement. (This was compounded by the budding coalition between Sunni Arab states and Israel, a nominally defensive alignment that could, as Iran well knows, turn offensive quickly.)

Politically, if Biden wants to make good on his promises, he needs to resurrect some version of the old treaty. The Iranians read this need as an opportunity to extract concessions, particularly removing sanctions but also, in the long run, minimizing the threat from the forces across the Persian Gulf. These are critical to Iran.

Biden’s problem is that he has not yet begun to govern. The first few months of any new administration is an extension of the campaign. Thus, Biden ordered an airstrike against Iran-backed militias in Syria to demonstrate that he is willing to strike at their prized covert operations. The Iranians are watching carefully to see if the left-wing of the party governs or if the center governs. Similarly, following his campaign commitment to human rights, Biden went after Saudi leader Mohammed bin Salman – who, according to U.S. intelligence, authorized the murder of Jamal Khashoggi – before trying to heal whatever breach in relations it might have caused.

The United States needs the Israel-Arab coalition to block Iranian covert ambitions, so it needs Saudi Arabia to be part of it. All presidents must figure out how to square the circle of what they promised to do and what they must do. And in this sense, Biden has a problem: He is pledged to resurrect an agreement that did not really address the problem of Iran, and he must do it to show the Europeans that he is not Trump while making clear to the Iranians that he is not giving away Trump’s strategy without making a fundamental change in America’s Iranian policy. And Iran will make this as hard as possible for him.

42
Politics & Religion / Re: Mike Pence
« on: March 02, 2021, 07:07:46 AM »
Political purgatory: Mike Pence missing in action as Trump makes triumphant return
As former President Donald Trump teased his political comeback to conservatives this weekend, his one-time wingman, ex-Vice President Mike Pence, was nowhere to be found.

44
Politics & Religion / WSJ: Voting Rights at the SCOTUS
« on: March 01, 2021, 01:01:14 PM »
Voting Rights at the Supreme Court
The Justices have a rare chance to clarify federal election law.
By The Editorial Board
Feb. 28, 2021 6:00 pm ET



Election laws have become a dangerous political flashpoint, as Americans recently learned the hard way. On Tuesday the Supreme Court will hear a potentially landmark case (Brnovich v. DNC) that offers an opportunity to restore the Voting Rights Act to its original purpose.


At issue is Arizona’s requirement that voters cast ballots on election day in their assigned precinct and its ban on ballot harvesting by outside groups. A majority of states require in-precinct voting, and 20 or so limit ballot harvesting, which allows third parties to collect ballots in bunches. Both rules are intended to bolster ballot integrity.

Democrats say this violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits states from adopting voting qualifications, standards, or practices that result in “denial or abridgement” of the right to vote “on account of race or color.” But they provide no evidence that Arizona’s rules limit minorities’ ballot access.

Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to stop states from disenfranchising blacks with underhanded methods like poll taxes and literacy tests. But Democrats now argue that any state regulation that makes it a little harder for anyone to vote violates the law—even if it applies equally to minorities and whites.


Importantly, the Voting Rights Act (VRA) puts the burden on plaintiffs to show that minorities, based on the “totality of circumstances,” have “less opportunity” than others “to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice.”

The High Court hasn’t provided a clear standard for lower courts to interpret Section 2. And many lower court judges have blocked voter ID requirements, early-voting curbs and same-day registration restrictions, among other rules, based on statistics that purportedly show that minorities are disparately impacted.


The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2014 enjoined Ohio’s reduction of early voting from five weeks to four. Ohio settled the case with the NAACP by agreeing to start early voting 29 days before Election Day. But the Ohio Democratic Party sued and said 29 days wasn’t enough.

In the current Arizona case, a federal judge ruled there is no evidence that the state’s in-precinct voting rule and ballot harvesting ban disproportionately burdens or discriminates against minorities. A Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel affirmed the ruling but was overruled en banc. Backers of Arizona’s ballot harvesting ban “had a sincere, though mistaken, non-race-based belief that there had been fraud in third-party ballot collection, and that the problem needed to be addressed,” the Ninth Circuit’s liberal judges held.

There’s no guiding legal principle to the Ninth Circuit’s ruling, and any law that bolsters election integrity may violate the VRA if judges say so. Even the Biden Justice Department told the High Court last month that it doesn’t “disagree” with Arizona’s argument that its law is legal under Section 2’s “results test.”

The Court is highly likely to agree, and the shrewd liberal Justice Elena Kagan will no doubt tell Chief Justice John Roberts he can get a 9-0 ruling by holding that the Ninth Circuit committed a clear error in overturning the lower court findings of fact. But that would be a lost opportunity.

Arizona’s election laws are clearly not a violation of Section 2 as a matter of law, and the Court needs to protect state procedures that protect ballot integrity from electioneering lawsuits. But it would be even better if the Court goes further and clearly defines what the language of Section 2 means.

Courts have defined this so broadly that it has invited political mischief and judicial activism on an ad hoc basis. As the Chief Justice wrote in a memo when he served in the Reagan Justice Department, “Violations of Section 2 should not be made too easy to prove, since they provide a basis for the most intrusive interference imaginable by federal courts into state and local processes.”

That’s exactly what Americans saw in 2020, with enormous damage to public confidence in the election results. With so much political contention over voting access and election laws at the current moment, the Court needs to set proper parameters around Section 2 to distinguish between real and invented legal violations.

45
Politics & Religion / Re: Iran
« on: March 01, 2021, 12:40:25 PM »
second post

Israeli officials say Iran was behind the mysterious blast.
By: Geopolitical Futures

Pointing fingers. Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz blamed Iran for an explosion on an Israeli-owned cargo ship in the Gulf of Oman over the weekend. The ship is currently in the port of Dubai undergoing repairs. Israeli Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi said the incident is a reminder that the threat posed by Iran is not just nuclear. Meanwhile, Israel carried out its own attacks over the weekend, targeting Iran-backed militias in southern Damascus, according to the Syrian military.

48
Politics & Religion / Gov. Ron DeSantis
« on: March 01, 2021, 07:19:25 AM »
Gov. DeSantis had a whole hour on Mark Levine last night.  Added quite a bit to the already strong impression I had of him.

Apparently he came in second to Trump in the CPAC straw poll.

So, starting this thread on him.

Pages: [1] 2 3 ... 927