Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard
In the system of national defense of the US a gaping vulnerability was found that is very difficult to close. The reaction of the Pentagon is reminiscent of badly hidden panic, and journalists who examined the results of the research of American experts, who thoroughly studied the condition of the American army and defensive industry, admit that there is iron logic in the recent “strange” actions of president Trump — he wants to save America from transforming into a cardboard tiger with paper claws.
The essence of the problem, according to the retelling of the columnist of the Reuters agency Andy Home, who obtained a copy of the September report of the US Department of Defence on the situation concerning key deliveries necessary for the American army, is reduced to one important figure. More than 300 (!) key elements necessary for the normal functioning of the US Armed Forces and defensive industry are under threat: American producers are either on the verge of bankruptcy or were already replaced by suppliers from China or other countries because of the deindustrialisation of national economy and the relocation of production to the countries of Southeast Asia.
Mr. Home gives as a striking and clear example the amusing (of course, if you are not a US military man) fact from the report: it turns out that the last American producer of the synthetic threads necessary for the production of army tents “died” quite recently. This means that in the event that the US will fall under such a “textile embargo”, for some American soldiers they will seriously face the prospect of sleeping in the open-air. It is difficult not to notice that such a prospect looks slightly humiliating for an army that claims to be the most hi-tech on the planet.
The situation could be considered as funny if it didn’t affect such a wide range of requirements of the American army and military-industrial complex. In the declassified part of the research of the American Department of Defence it is mentioned that in the US there are difficulties with future deliveries of the power switches that nearly all American missiles are equipped with. As officials of the Pentagon report, the producer of these switches was closed down, but the highest military ranks learned about it only after it became clear that the power switches ended. And there is nowhere to take new ones from, because the producer disappeared into thin air a whole 2 years ago. One more striking example: the country’s only producer of solid rocket motors for “air-to-air” missiles, as the American officials write, “encountered technical production issues”, the reasons for which couldn’t be found even after government and military experts were involved. Attempts to restart production failed, and the Pentagon was obliged to employ a Norwegian company to ensure uninterrupted deliveries. Obviously, this indicates a certain technical degradation of the entire American system, because only the loss of some key competencies can explain a situation in which production cannot be restored and the problem cannot even be determined.
Whilst becoming acquainted with the complaints of the leadership of the American army it is difficult to rid oneself of the impression that it isn’t a document of the US Department of Defence dated September, 2018 that is in front of your eyes, but a description of the problems of the Russian army from the era of the dashing 90’s. Literally there is no direction in which there would be no serious or very serious problems, and often they even can’t be solved at the expense of the bottomless military budget.
In the section on nuclear weapon problems the Pentagon complains that in the US there isn’t the necessary number of engineers and technicians who would have the corresponding education, training, and US citizenship that are necessary for working with army nuclear objects. The mention of nationality is of importance, because American higher education institutions produce enough engineers, physicists, and representatives of other technical specialties and exact sciences, however a disproportionately large number of these graduates are foreigners, most often from the People’s Republic of China.
Americans can’t find not only the necessary engineers, but also the necessary microelectronics for nuclear weapons. And they complain that they no longer have the right to trust suppliers of electronic components – after all, “the supply chain is globalised”. In translation from American bureaucratese into colloquial Russian it means: “the microelectronics for our nuclear missiles are made in China, and we don’t know what the Chinese have stuffed in it”. There are serious difficulties even concerning issues that should be solved very easily in the conditions of hi-tech American economy. For example, the Pentagon complains about a lack of tools for the development of software, as well as the management of data and production, that could be trusted. The situation is exacerbated by “poor cybersecurity practices by many key software vendors”. This, when translated from American bureaucratese into colloquial Russian, means: “concerning cybersecurity, our vendors are so bad that we don’t know what the Chinese and Russian hackers cram into the software that our military use”.
Main conclusion of the report: “China represents a significant and growing risk to the supply of materials deemed strategic and critical to U.S. national security. <…> Areas of concern to America’s manufacturing and defense industrial base include a growing number of both widely used and specialized metals, alloys and other materials, including rare earths and permanent magnets”. In general everything is bad, starting with aluminium and ending with cybersecurity, from power switches for missiles to engineers and drill operators, and from computer numerical control machines to synthetic fabric for military tents. The greed of American business, the ideology of globalisation, and the iron belief that history, as Fukuyama predicted, is about to end collectively caused such damage to the defense capability of the US that the geopolitical opponents couldn’t even dream of. It is precisely by understanding this fact that explains Donald Trump’s attempts to carry out the reindustrialisation of America almost by force.
However, there is every reason to believe that, taking into account the present economic difficulties, it’s unlikely that Trump’s administration will be able to fix what its predecessors broke 20 years. And we [Russians – ed] and our Chinese partners need, on the one hand, not to repeat the mistakes of Americans, and on the other hand — to make the most of these mistakes. Judging by what is happening now on the world stage, this is exactly what Moscow and Beijing are doing.
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