Global SITREP for Thursday, 22 February 2024 – Forward Observer

Global SITREP for Thursday, 22 February 2024

Good morning, and welcome to the Global Situation Report for Thursday, 22 February 2024.

  1. GATES: PUTIN “PRETTY SMUG” AS UKRAINE WAR TURNS: Former CIA Director and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates described Russian President Vladimir Putin as “pretty smug” following Western consensus that the Ukraine war is now tilted in Russia’s favor.
  • Gates hasn’t seen “any evidence that Putin is prepared to negotiate,” especially as the Russians remain well-equipped. “I’ve read that for every artillery shell that the Ukrainians fire, the Russians are firing 10,” Gates added. 

Why It Matters: Over the past few weeks, numerous NATO officials have acknowledged that Russia is winning the war in Ukraine. While the Biden administration prepares a new round of sanctions on Russia, political officials from several NATO countries have pressed for escalation with Russia. In this interview, Gates suggests that the Ukrainians could destroy the Kerch Strait Bridge as an example of escalation that would “give the Russians pause.” According to estimates from Estonian intelligence, Russia is rebuilding its defense industrial base – the target of incoming Biden sanctions – and could refit its military for another large-scale war in just 4-6 years. – M.S.

  1. INDIA EXPECTS U.S. TO HELP WITH REHEATED BORDER BATTLES: In a conference during the INDUS-X Summit, Indian Defence Secretary Giridhar Aramane expects the United States to provide intelligence and equipment to India during a repeat of the 2020 clashes on the Indo-China border.
  • India and China concluded more talks about the border with no resolution this week. China claims they agreed “to maintain communications to turn the page” on the border crisis.

Why It Matters: Araname’s allusion to a reheated border clash with China has no timeline but comes at a time of heightened tensions and likely war between China and numerous neighbors. Since the 2020 clashes, we have seen a sharp increase in U.S. armed forces training with the Indians in the mountainous border region and widely publicized joint exercises grow. It appears the U.S. and India are preparing to open a Western Front for China that coincides with a Pacific war, regardless of the reason that war kicks off. – J.V.

  1. USCG TO HELP PHILIPPINES AGAINST ILLEGAL SEA ACTIVITIES: United States Coast Guard (USCG) Commandant Linda Fagan told the Philippines that the USCG is committed to helping allied nations counter illegal activities in their waters.
  • “And we will continue to operate and engage that way as a demonstration of sort of the importance of rule of law and ensuring that nations have capacity and capability to counter illegal activities or other encroachments of sovereignty,” Fagan said.

Why It Matters: Out of context, this could be mistaken for a generic mission statement from the U.S. government. However, the USCG has recently visited the Philippines specifically for training and has been taking over some of the littoral missions for the United States Navy in the Pacific. This is likely a real verbal commitment to an increased presence and training with the Philippines, which has been seeing increasingly dangerous interactions with China in its littoral waters. – J.V.

  1. 2ND EFFECTS OF HOUTHI ACTIONS TO INCREASE PIRACY: A Houthi attack on the British-registered M/V Rubymar cargo ship prompted the crew to abandon ship on Sunday. It is still afloat in the Red Sea.
  • Twenty-two thousand tons of fertilizer remain on board.

Why It Matters: Abandon ship operations almost never involve anchoring the vessel, meaning the ship is damaged, possibly on fire, carrying tons of fertilizer, and drifting on the ocean. Despite a missile hitting the waterline, the ship did not sink. This ship is now a navigational hazard at a minimum but also poses an unknown explosion risk. If no explosion happens, the magnitude of fertilizer is a highly valuable target for pirates and privateers in nearby Africa, and they now know it will be sitting there for several more days until it can be rescued. Continued successful attacks risk causing more navigational hazards and incentivizing more piracy. – J.V.

  1. LEAKED DOCS FROM CHINA HACKERS SHOW TAIWAN PREPARATIONS: An unknown source posted more than 570 internal files from Shanghai-based hacking firm iSoon, which sells third-party hacking and data-gathering services to the Chinese government.
  • According to the leaked documents, iSoon provided critical infrastructure information to clients, including road-mapping data outlining bridge and tunnel locations from Taiwan.

Why It MattersChina-linked hacking group Volt Typhoon has prepositioned on U.S. networks to disrupt critical infrastructure that feeds into military bases at home and abroad. A similar hacking effort is very likely targeting critical infrastructure in Taiwan, in addition to hacks that have stolen Taiwan infrastructure data that would aid Chinese military operations on the island. In the event of a conflict, China’s most likely course of action is to launch a massive cyber attack against the U.S. and Taiwan’s critical infrastructure that feeds water, power, and communications into military and government facilities to disrupt a U.S. response. – R.C.

THAT’S A WRAP: This does it for today’s edition. Thank you for reading. If you know folks who would also like to receive this email, would you please forward it to them? We appreciate you spreading the word. – M.S.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Name *