Daily Archives: July 14, 2021

NATO Partners are invaluable assets to our security and our Alliance, underscores director of the NATO International Military Staff – NATO HQ

Posted: July 14, 2021 at 1:52 pm

On 13 July 2021, the Director General of the NATO International Military Staff (IMS), Lieutenant Hans-Werner Wiermann under the auspice of the Cooperative Security Division hosted the first in-person meeting with NATO Partners at NATO HQ since the start of pandemic. The meeting provided an opportunity to present the outcomes of the NATO Summit and explore ways to enhance existing partnerships.

Lieutenant General Wiermann extended a warm welcome to the 32 participating partner military representatives attending the in-person meeting at NATO HQ and thanked them for their additional support during the pandemic. The ongoing health crisis has illustrated once more the benefits of partnerships between NATO, NATO Allies and non-NATO Nations. Many Nations, including Allies and Partners, have been able to receive support through Operation Allied Hand with medical equipment and/or funds to acquire additional supplies. Although many Partners have benefitted from NATO and bilateral support throughout the pandemic, this would have not been possible without the contributions of other countless partners. Allies and Partners alike have exemplified the concept of solidarity to not only help each other but ultimately try and save lives, highlighted the Director General in his opening remarks.

The participants then turned their attention to the NATO 2030 agenda. Last month, at the Summit, Allied Heads of State and Government acknowledged the need to enhance existing relations with Partners as well as develop new partnerships around the world, including in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Todays meeting set the scene to foster dialogue between NATO and existing Partners, exchange ideas and build on the Summit decisions. We face many of the same security challenges, so it makes sense to tackle them together. And the more we cooperate to tackle them, the more we will all benefit. At the Summit, in June, Allies agreed that we need to do more with Partners and we are looking to deliver on that request. To project peace and stability even further, emphasised the Chair of the NATO Military Committee, Admiral Bauer at the reception.

Over more than 25 years, the Alliance has developed a network of partnerships that contribute to improved security for the broader international community. NATO partners have made and continue to make substantial contributions to NATO operations, missions, and practical cooperation activities. Through different frameworks, NATO pursues dialogue and practical cooperation across on land, sea and in the air as well as in the cyber domain.

The IMS by means of its Cooperative Security Division holds regular meetings with NATO Partners to assess these ongoing partnerships. All partners from the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, the Mediterranean Dialogue, the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative and the Partners across the globe framework were invited to this meeting with the exception of Russia and Belarus.

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Virgin Galactic: The private space race explained as Richard Branson prepares for Sunday’s launch – Sky News

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The last century's space race was a competition between the world's great powers and a test of their ideologies. It would prove to be a synecdoche of the entire Cold War between the capitalist United States and the socialist Soviet Union.

The starting pistol in the race to the future was fired in 1961 when President John F Kennedy committed to "achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth" and it ended with a US victory on 24 July 1969 when the crew of the Apollo 11 mission splashed down safely in the Pacific Ocean.

There are no such stakes in today's race. The values of the future aren't in question, merely the egos of three billionaires. One of these men is launching his private spacecraft off the planet on Sunday. Another follows suit soon after.

So here's how they compare and what you need to know:

"My mum taught me to never give up and to reach for the stars," said Sir Richard Branson announcing that he was going to be among the first people his spaceflight company launches on a mission.

Unfortunately, not only will Virgin Galactic's mission fall short of the stars, the two-and-a-half hour mission will also fall short of space, at least according to the internationally agreed definition.

VSS Unity is a spaceplane (perhaps just a plane?) that launches in mid-air from the belly of a carrier aircraft at an altitude of about 15km, and then flies up to an altitude of about 80km, allowing the passengers to feel nearly weightless for approximately six minutes and glimpse the curvature of the Earth.

The problem for Sir Richard is that the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI) defines the boundary between Earth's atmosphere and outer space as 100km above Earth's mean sea level, the so-called Karman Line, 20km higher than he is going to travel.

The definition of the edge of space is a bit of a challenge. Earth's atmosphere doesn't suddenly end but becomes progressively thinner at greater altitudes. In very simple terms, physicist Theodore von Karman's solution was to define the edge of space as the highest point at which an aircraft could fly without reaching orbital velocity.

While Karman himself and the FAI regards this altitude as 100km, Sir Richard has the US Air Force and NASA on his side. They both place the boundary of space at 80km above mean sea level, partially because putting it at 100km would complicate issues regarding surveillance aircraft and reconnaissance satellites for the US - although the Department of Defence subscribes to the FAI definition.

It's not clear whether this definition is covered by the small print of Virgin Galactic's customer tickets, but ultimately the company aims to be operating multiple space tourism flights a year, and already has more than 600 customers for the $250,000 (189,000) seats - including Justin Bieber and Leonardo DiCaprio.

"Ever since I was five years old, I've dreamed of traveling to space. On 20 July, I will take that journey with my brother," said Jeff Bezos, announcing his seat on a journey to the edge of space.

Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket is capable of actually making it there, with a maximum achieved altitude of above 100km, but how high it will bring its four passengers hasn't yet been confirmed.

These passengers will be Jeff Bezos, his brother Mark, a mystery customer who paid $28m (20m) for the seat in an auction, and 82-year-old Mary Wallace "Wally" Funk, a woman who had astronaut training in the 1960s but was denied the chance to go into space because of her gender.

While the mission will be scooped to launch by Virgin Galactic, by inviting Wally Funk it has managed to scoop Branson on getting a famous victim of gender injustice into space - she had previously put money down to fly with Virgin Galactic.

It will take three minutes to take the passengers up to the required altitude, at which point they will have three minutes more in which to enjoy their sudden near-weightlessness. They'll be allowed to unbuckle their seatbelts and float around, as well as examine the curvature of the Earth through one of the capsule's windows. Just over 10 minutes after launch, the spacecraft will land back on Earth.

The 20 July flight will fittingly occur on the anniversary of the moon landings in 1969, but unlike the Apollo missions there will be no human piloting the modules. Instead, Blue Origin's New Shepard spacecraft is completely autonomous and will follow a programmed mission timeline before parachuting back to Earth.

The company has said that it expects to sell seats for more tourism flights in the future, but it isn't clear how this will happen and the tickets for New Shepard are yet to go on general sale.

"I want to die on Mars - just not on impact," Elon Musk once quipped, although he hasn't announced his immediate intention to travel into space at all.

Unlike both Bezos and Branson, Musk's private spaceflight company, SpaceX, has a long and successful history of launching payloads way beyond the 100km mark.

SpaceX has announced it will be launching an all-civilian mission into orbit by the end of the year, with the passengers actually orbiting around the planet for up to four days before returning to Earth.

All four crew seats on the mission have been paid for by Jared Isaacman, the founder of Shift4 Payments, who has declined to reveal the costs.

Isaacman is donating two of the seats to St Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, with one being given to a staff member there, and another intended to be raffled off to a member of the public. He hopes to raise $200m (145m) for the hospital, alongside a $100m (72m) donation of his own.

Elon Musk hasn't mentioned flying on this mission himself, although he has long articulated a plan to travel to Mars, plans that have been described as a dangerous delusion by Britain's chief astrophysicist Lord Martin Rees.

Back in 2016, Musk outlined his vision of building a colony on Mars "in our lifetimes" - with the first rocket propelling humans to the Red Planet by 2025.

For many years the company used an image of the Martian surface being terraformed (turned Earth-like) in its promotional material. However, a NASA-sponsored study published in 2018 dismissed these plans as impossible with today's technology.

Recently Musk has tweeted he believed it was "possible to make a self-sustaining city on Mars by 2050, if we start in five years" but as of yet, SpaceX has not planned any missions to the planet.

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NATO Secretary General discusses cooperation with Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina – NATO HQ

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NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed the Deputy Chairperson of the Council of Ministers and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mrs. Bisera Turkovi, and the Minister of Defence of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mr. Sifet Podi, to NATO headquarters on Wednesday (14 July 2021), to discuss how to further enhance NATOs relationship with Bosnia and Herzegovina and the wider region.

Following their bilateral meeting, the Ministers will participate in a meeting of the North Atlantic Council chaired by the Secretary General, where the Reform Programme and future political dialogue will be discussed with Allies. Mr Stoltenberg said that Allies are interested in learning about the Reform Programmes implementation, and that he looks forward to a constructive and informative debate. He also said that NATO continues to stand ready to support Bosnia and Herzegovinas reform efforts.

In their meeting, the Secretary General thanked Bosnia and Herzegovina for their contribution to the Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan. He also said that he was pleased that the regions COVID-19 situation has improved, and was glad that NATO was able to support Bosnia and Herzegovina in combatting the pandemic, through the Euro-Atlantic Disaster Coordination Centre.

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Watch the Moon, Mars, and Venus form a celestial conga line on July 12 – The Next Web

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Early on the evening of Monday, 12 July, a thin crescent Moon will be seen low on the horizon, just after sunset. Just half a degree below and to the right of our planetary companion, Venus and Mars the two closest planets to Earth, will shine in the twilight.

This is a perfect time for families to venture outside, viewing the wonders of the night sky.

Venus is often called the morning star, or evening star (depending on when the planet rises and sets), due to the fact it is seen near the Sun in the east at dawn, and west at sunset.

The evening of 12 July is a perfect example of Venus as the evening star.

This planet, roughly the size and mass of the Earth, is home to a hellish landscape of scorching temperatures, a poisonous atmosphere, and sulfuric acid rain.In June, NASA announced that two new space missions would be heading to Venus beginning later in the decade. VERITAS and DAVINCI+ will investigate the planets surface and atmosphere, returning incredible images, maps, and other data, likely rewriting our understanding of how Earths sister planet became so inhospitable, along with how it might still be active today. Theyll be joined by the European spacecraft EnVision, for whats sure to be an exciting new chapter in solar system exploration, NASA describes.

Shining bright red near the Moon andVenus, Mars completes the evenings cosmic triangle.

Mars is now a planet of robots, as orbiters, landers, and rovers explore the Red Planet. Robotic explorers built by NASA, the ESA are now joined by intrepid robotic explorers from China and the UAE.

Mars will, almost certainly, be the first world after the Earth on which humans lead out their lives. If we are smart enough, brave enough, and far-sighted enough toovercome the anti-science paradigmperpetuated far too often on social media, Mars provides us our best chance to become a multi-planetary species.

As seen from Mars, the Earth will be an evening star or morning star to future Martian colonists.

How long will it be until people living on Mars will look toEarth, hanging out as a bright light in the Martian sky? Will they see the Martian moons Phobos and Deimos as they appear to huddle together with Earth?

Counting stars by candlelight, all are dim but one is bright;The spiral light of Venus, rising first and shining best,On, from the northwest corner, of a brand new crescent moon,While crickets and cicadas sing, a rare and different tune,Terrapin Station The Grateful Dead,Terrapin Station

Anyone can view this event without any special equipment The Moon,Mars, and Venus are all easily visible using just the naked eye. This event will be seen by most people around the globe, provided the skies above them are clear.

Ideally, skygazers will want to head outside just a little after sunset, to a dark location, with a clear view to the west. This event will be visible for around 30 minutes before Mars and Venus set, so bring chairs, drinks, and snacks if youve got them! If you have a pair of binoculars, bring them along!

The thin two-day oldMoonwill be the first of the objects seen a slender crescent will appear, staking its claim on the darkening sky. Look for the first signs of this young Moon about 20 degrees above the western horizon.

Minutes later, the shining light of Venus will make itself known, just about 3.5 degrees to the right and a little over six degrees below, the Moon.

One handy trick for observing the night sky is to hold an index finger out at arms length. This will cover about half a degree side-to-side, around the size of the Moon or theSunas seen from Earth. a clenched fist held at arms length covers about 10 degrees from thumb to pinkie finger.

Following the arrival of Venus, a red light first dim, then growing progressively brighter as the sky darkens, will be seen just one-sixth of a degree below and half a degree west of the Moon. This is, of course, the planet Mars.

Make sure to see Moon,Mars, and Venus together in the sky on 12 July, low on the western horizon, just after sunset.

This article was originally published onThe Cosmic Companionby James Maynard, the founder and publisher of The Cosmic Companion. He is a New England native turned desert rat in Tucson, where he lives with his lovely wife, Nicole, andMax the Cat. You can read the original article here.

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Charles Djou and Adam Kinzinger on the need to expand NATO to Asia – The Economist

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Jul 14th 2021

by Charles Djou and Adam Kinzinger

THE RISE of a China that is mercantilist, militaristic and aggressive presents the most significant security challenge for Western democracies since the Cold War. Chinas growing influence is likely to overwhelm individual countries responding on their own and set the stage for an international system designed in Beijing. Resisting this pull toward authoritarianism, however, can be achieved with a unified group of democracies. The best means to secure this comes by transforming the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) into a global alliance of nations that are democratic, have market economies and respect civil liberties and the rule of law.

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The first job of the new NATO should be to welcome democratic countries from the Asia-Pacific region into the alliance. A strong American commitment to expand NATO to include all experienced democracies is vital. Only America has the resources, strength and leadership capacity to bring this to fruition. The countrys national-security policy should prioritise transforming NATO into an alliance of democracies throughout the world.

When NATO was established in 1949, its purpose was to defend Western Europe from the Soviet Union and the communist bloc. It was a time when protecting countries in the North Atlantic area was the same as defending Western democracy. Today NATO continues as historys most successful and enduring alliance. Although the Soviet Union no longer exists, the commitment of its members continues, while democracy and democratic values have spread far beyond the limited physical geography of Europe.

However in the 21st century, NATO must tackle not only security challenges in the West, but also issues that span the globe.

Following the attacks of September 11th 2001, NATO joined America for a nearly two-decade fight against Islamic extremism. Today the alliance not only combats cyber attacks and disinformation campaigns, but it has come to understand the grave threat that Chinese authoritarianism poses to our way of life. As such, NATO membership should extend beyond defending the physical landmass of Europe and cyberspace to the defence of all democracies.

Of course, Russia remains a clear and present security challenge. But we must also address the threats of an increasingly assertive China. Its authoritarianism presents the most pronounced challenge to Western liberalism since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Though Americas economy and military are larger, over the next 20 years China will surpass the country in both respects.

Wherever China believes it has national interests, it will increasingly challenge and undermine Western ideals of civil liberty, rule of law and democracy. As Chinas economy and military strength grow over the coming decades, America by itself (let alone any other democracy) will not be able to compete one-to-one against it. Collectively, however, likeminded democracies can defend our shared values. The multilateral approach of NATO remains the best vehicle for such collective security.

Right now, the Asia-Pacific security framework for democracies is largely bilateral. Security relationships exist between America and Australia, with Japan and with South Korea. But these security relationships do not necessarily exist among Australia, Japan and South Korea. This existing bilateral framework functions so long as America continues serving as the hub, but it could easily be challenged once China is both the worlds largest economy and military. Americas alliances would be made stronger if it were conceived of as a web of interrelationships.

There are other international institutions nominally dedicated to preserving democratic values. Yet none of these organisations can as effectively provide security to the worlds democracies as NATO. The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, draws together America, Japan, India and Australia. It promotes defence co-operation between the Asia-Pacific regions largest democracies, partially in response to increased aggression by China. But the Quad is only an informal forum for security communication among countries and lacks any concrete mechanism for defence co-operation and co-ordination. Although a step in the right direction, more will be needed to strengthen the Quad.

The West must rethink outdated defence strategies of regional security in Europe and bilateral security in the Asia-Pacific region. If a new NATO extends its reach to include experienced democracies globally, then it may peacefully resist creeping global authoritarianism. A united West will give illiberal leaders pause before trying to undermine democratic ideals.

Australia, Japan and South Korea all have democratically elected governments, market economies and healthy government institutions. The new NATO should start expansion by inviting these three countries into the alliance. In the long term, the organisation could look to others, such as New Zealand, as well as Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines and India, should their democracies meet NATO requirements. Eventually it should be open to adding experienced democracies from elsewhere too.

Transforming todays alliance into the new NATO will not be easy. The NATO charter will need to be amended, notably the provisions that limit membership to European nations. European countries will also require significant assurances and compromises. The process will be time consuming and bureaucratic.

American leadership will be crucial. It will be needed to connect the European and Asian democracies together. America already has existing mutual-defence obligations with NATO as well as Australia, Japan and South Korea. Linking these commitments together will result in a stronger and much more robust global security alliance for America and its allies. No other country can perform this critical job.

At its core, NATO is a mutual-assistance defence treaty. All members, new and old, will need to agree to Article 5, which states that an armed attack against one or more shall be considered an attack against them all to invoke the right of individual or collective self-defence. After all, when democracy is threatened anywhere, it harms democracies everywhere.

The formation of a new NATO that includes countries in the Asia-Pacific region might inadvertently antagonise China and thereby stir up the very militarism the alliance seeks to prevent. That is certainly a risk, but the alternative is a larger and weightier risk: an emboldened China that makes a mockery of international law and is a source of continual global instability.

Standing up against authoritarianism demands that the West joins forces in a way that it hasnt since the original alliance was created more than 70 years ago. It is a testament to the wisdom of those who conceived of the organisation that it has led to a peaceful period in Europe. Our generation needs to build on their work and courage, and take on this challenge. Democracy might be in recession today but it can recover with an alliance against authoritarianism, united under NATO and led by America.____________

Charles K. Djou is a former Republican congressman for Hawaii who served on the House Armed Services Committee and is a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Reserve. Adam Kinzinger is a Republican congressman representing Illinois, who serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and is a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air National Guard.

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George W. Bush calls withdrawal of U.S. and other NATO troops from Afghanistan "a mistake" – CBS News

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Former President George W. Bush on Wednesday criticized the withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan and said civilians were being left to be "slaughtered" by the Taliban.

"I think the consequences are going to be unbelievably bad," he told German broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

"Afghan women and girls are going to suffer unspeakable harm. This is a mistake. ... They're just going to be left behind to be slaughtered by these very brutal people, and it breaks my heart," Mr. Bush said.

The former Republican president, who sent troops to Afghanistan in the autumn of 2001 after the September 11 attacks, said he believed German Chancellor Angela Merkel "feels the same way."

Mr. Bush said Merkel, who is set to retire from politics later this year after 16 years in power, had brought "class and dignity to a very important position and made very hard decisions."

The interview came as Merkel was about to make her last official visit to the U.S. and first since President Joe Biden took office.

U.S. and NATO forces began withdrawing from Afghanistan in early May and are due to completely pull out by September 11, some 20 years after they arrived in the war-torn country.

Most of the 2,500 U.S. and 7,500 NATO troops who were in Afghanistan when Mr. Biden detailed the final withdrawal in April have now gone, leaving Afghan troops to fight an emboldened Taliban seemingly bent on a military victory.

The country is facing a crisis as the insurgents snap up territory across the countryside, stretching government forces and leading to a fresh wave of internally displaced families, complicated by a renewed outbreak of COVID-19.

The United Nations said on Sunday the rising conflict is causing "more suffering" across the violence-wracked country, and called for continuous financial aid.

Mr. Biden has insisted, however, that it is time for U.S. involvement in the war to end and for Afghans to chart their own future.

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Space tourism: a small step that can lead to giant leaps | The Strategist – The Strategist

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Think back to the beginning of commercial aviation in the 20th century. The Wright brothers flew their Wright Flyer on 17 December 1903 at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, proving that heavier-than-air flight was possible. On 1 January 1914a little over 10 years after Kitty Hawkthe worlds first passenger flight took off from Tampa and landed in St Petersburg, Florida, a trip lasting only 23 minutes. The Wright Flyer was a giant leap, and while that first passenger flight was a small step building on the history made at Kitty Hawk, it ultimately paved the way for todays commercial aviation industry, which has transformed global society and opened up new industries and economies.

Fast-forward to July 2021. Richard Bransons Virgin Galactic has just demonstrated a small step towards opening up the space domain for broader access, with the successful flight of VSS Unity, a sub-orbital rocket plane. Last Sunday it flew to the edge of space, allowing its crew, and paying passengers, to experience a few minutes of weightlessness and see the earth as if from orbit. Critics have dismissed the flight, and an upcoming launch by competitor Jeff Bezoss Blue Origin of its New Shepard suborbital rocket, as mere stunts, and attacked space billionaires Branson, Bezos and Elon Musk for investing time and money in what they claim are frivolous efforts. The critics dont see the bigger picture.

The start of space tourism is just as important as the early days of commercial aviation were in transforming global affairs. Initially only open to the very rich, and quite dangerous, commercial air travel is now commonplaceindeed, a globalised economy couldnt function without it. Might similar opportunities emerge from commercial space activities in coming decades?

Space tourism needs to be considered as just one element of an effort to expand human access to the space domain and open up the final frontier for large-scale entrepreneurial activities. The era of government-run space programswhats been called old space or Space 1.0, epitomised by NASAs Apollo missionslimited the ability of societies to use space for broad purposes beyond satellites in orbit. What low-cost space access does is allow states and commercial actors to exploit space directly in new and exciting, and much more far-reaching, ways.

But to achieve this goal, the proponents of space tourism such as Branson, Bezos and Musk need to aspire to more than suborbital joyrides for the mega-rich. The industry needs to make a determined effort to provide regular, safe and affordable access to low-earth orbit (LEO) for a wide range of paying customers. If the cost can be brought down to the equivalent of a business-class airfare and paying passengers can fly into orbit with confidence in the safety of the craft, the space tourism market will take off. A failure to achieve this space is for everyone goal will likely see space tourism wither.

The space tourism sector therefore needs to quickly take the next step to develop the technology for accessing LEO cheaply and safely. That will require new types of launch vehicles that take us beyond Bransons air-launched rocket plane and Bezoss suborbital rocket. There will also need to be a blurring of the line between space tourism and the broader elements of commercial space, including a desire to engage more fully with the space-based industry and space-based manufacturing sectors. Space tourism companies need to engage with commercial space companies, such as Axiom Space, that are developing commercial orbital platforms for manufacturing and research, because it will broaden their customer base and strengthen their business model.

The tourism dimension is important, though. Seeing the earth from LEO is a breathtaking experience, and many people would pay to experience hours or even days in orbit, rather than just four minutes of weightlessness. Developing a launch vehicle that can dock with an orbital platform established to support the space tourism market would be a critical next step. Its that positive vision for a future for humanity in space, so well illustrated in Stanley Kubricks 1968 film adaption of Arthur C. Clarkes 2001: A Space Odyssey, that needs to be the goal. Science fiction needs to become fact or this effort wont work.

Of course, governments can benefit from space tourism too, as paying customers. Already, Musks SpaceX is moving quickly to seal contracts to launch satellites for the US military, and theres discussion on the role SpaceXs revolutionary and fully reusable Starship launch vehicle might play in supporting the US Space Force. Imagine the potential applications for the vehicles developed for orbital space tourism, including supporting countries defence and national security needs. Fast, low-cost access to LEO is truly transformative for military space activities and, in the same way that the Sopwith Camel, the Spitfire and the F-35 Lightning II are all descendants of the Wright Flyer, the implications of new types of craft for low-cost space access need to be considered in a future operational context.

This isnt simply about generating a lucrative new economic sector or getting easier access to orbit. At a broader level, space tourism contributes to transforming how humanity thinks about its future in space and increases the prospects for humanity becoming a spacefaring civilization. That future, with humans living and working in space, both for exploration and commercial activity, is a positive vision.

But realising that vision will take time, and space is an incredibly harsh environment. It will also take money. Governments alone cant and wont create that future suggested in 2001, so commercial companies and the space billionaires have to lead. Bezos advocates the establishment of orbital space colonies, while Musk talks about the potential for a colony on Mars. Both are very long-term visions, but the journey has to begin somewhere, and its the space billionaires who are taking small steps now to achieve those giant leaps in the future.

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An Urgent NATO Priority: Preparing to Protect Civilians – War on the Rocks

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The year is 2030 and Russias military and intelligence services have spent months waging a disinformation campaign directed at the citizens of a NATO ally. The campaign has created strife among its target population and has increased civil unrest. Russian government actors proceed to conduct daily cyber attacks on critical infrastructure, causing prolonged electrical blackouts and cutting off access to water and hospitals in major cities, including the capital. Large-scale and coordinated terrorist attacks at ports of entry across the country including at the largest seaport and the hub of economic activity have increased fear. These attacks undermine the credibility of the government, which has struggled to provide relief to its citizens or stop the attacks.

A well-equipped and highly trained proxy force, backed by the Russian government, initiates attacks against the NATO allys security forces and intense fighting breaks out. The allys military is losing ground and violence spills into urban areas near the frontlines. Civilians citizens of the NATO ally confront the horrible decision of whether to flee or stay behind. Civilians who take flight, as well as those remaining in place, are targeted by cells of proxy fighters. The impact on the population is purposeful and immense: Harming civilians and civilian infrastructure is integral to the adversarys strategy.

Should NATO prepare for this scenario? Absolutely. The contingency above is a simplified version of what many who study the future of war are thinking through. In this imagined crisis, the conflict forces civilians to seek protection, even to cross borders to other NATO allies and partners. In turn, allies and partners see that a strong and skilled NATO force is needed to push back the incursion and assist the allied government in protecting its civilians. That could lead the North Atlantic Council, NATOs governing body, to enact Article 5, launching plans for a collective defense mission.

For NATO to succeed in the type of hybrid warfare scenario described above, alliance leaders would need to specify protection of civilians as an explicit mission objective. The good news is that the alliance already has a strong basis for doing that successfully, thanks to its existing policy and supporting documents. However, work on policy implementation building the skills, knowledge, and capabilities to protect civilians has been insufficient. Thats the clear finding of the research that our team has been conducting since 2019. Weve convened workshops focused on this issue with more than 100 practitioners, academics, and representatives of militaries and governments, and we presented a series of findings in a March 2021 report authored by our colleague Kathleen Dock.

NATO should take urgent actions now to ensure that it emphasizes protection of civilians as a core capability for future alliance missions not only out-of-area ones, but also any conducted on NATO territory and it should embrace protection of civilians as a cross-cutting requirement in NATOs new strategic concept.

Protection of Civilians: NATOs Existing Efforts

NATOs efforts on this issue are a work in progress. At the alliances 2016 summit in Warsaw, NATO leaders adopted a landmark protection of civilians policy. It captured decades of lessons and experience, from operations in the Balkans, Afghanistan, and Libya, and was written broadly to apply to all current and future NATO missions. In particular, the policy broke new ground by calling for the physical protection of civilians against harm caused by belligerents. The policy was the first such document for NATO and laid out the alliances approach to protecting civilians, which is built on four key concepts: understanding the human environment; mitigating harm; facilitating access to basic needs; and contributing to a safe and secure environment. The North Atlantic Council committed political support to the policy and, subsequently, NATO proceeded with practical implementation by producing an associated action plan, military concept, and a handbook on the subject.

Yet, as NATO marks the fifth anniversary of the policys adoption, continued work to build protection of civilians as a core capability is lagging. The policy is not being used actively to prepare NATO for its future, including missions where civilian protection would be a key objective and for operations in which NATO members might find themselves protecting allied citizens.

For some alliance and member state officials, protection of civilians is seen as rooted in the past and in those previous out-of-area missions where the alliance focused on protecting non-NATO citizens. Others argue that protecting civilians is not a future operational requirement. But, in fact, civilian protection is a challenge that will impact all future missions especially those that may occur within the borders of NATO allies and partners.

NATO officials have not surveyed those allies and partners to see how they plan to train and implement protecting civilians as a future mission requirement, what they have drafted as national-level guidance, and what is needed to prepare for such missions. Information about these matters is spotty today, and nations do not have an easy mechanism to learn from one another before a coalition is assembled for a specific mission.

The June 2021 NATO summit was a missed opportunity to catalyze further progress on this set of issues. Although NATO leaders took many vital steps to bolster the alliance against future threats, they failed to take additional actions to enhance the alliances ability to protect NATO civilians at home.

Toward the Future: Three Critical Steps

NATO allies and partners should champion, and resource, better implementation of the policy on protecting civilians, both during the drafting of NATOs new strategic concept and in other future planning.

First, NATO leaders military and political should recognize that protecting civilians is relevant for their populations and smart policy for the alliance. The 2021 summit emphasized working toward common purposes and uniting all members in their political commitment to the alliance. Leaders know that commitment will be tested, especially in the context of an operation that may take place within the borders of a NATO ally. In a scenario like this, NATO citizens will effectively become civilians caught in conflict and the alliance will have a duty to protect them. Civilians living within the borders of an ally or partner will expect the alliance to keep them safe both by refraining from harming them through NATO operations and by protecting them against harm from adversaries. Protecting civilians is a whole of alliance endeavor. If it is to be done effectively, it should be a core political commitment and military task.

A robust commitment to protection of civilians also distinguishes NATO allies and partners from opponents who disregard international humanitarian law and human rights principles, or who disregard the rights of their own civilians. In contrast to their likely adversaries, NATO nations strive to uphold a rules-based international order. One key contributor to achieving that goal is signaling the importance of protecting civilians in future operations and supporting further development of military capabilities suited to that task. On the political side of NATO, officials and leaders should have expertise in protection of civilians to help ensure that future mandates set civilian protection as a central goal. Only if that happens will military planners be able to plan effectively.

Second, NATO should build its knowledge, skills, and abilities to protect civilians and treat such protection as an operational goal. Future war experts have researched and identified modes of conflict that will change the character of war, including proxy wars, cyber attacks on military and civilian infrastructure, conflict in densely populated urban areas, disinformation campaigns aimed at eroding social cohesion, and the use of artificial intelligence. Not all of these are new, of course. But trends point to the high likelihood that the United States and other NATO members will find themselves responding to future conflicts that, at the very least, are fought among civilian populations or in which civilians are deliberately targeted. NATO is still not fully prepared to deal with such situations.

To anticipate, plan for, and address civilian insecurity is more than a moral good. It is a requirement of operational success when a population is a strategic target. On the military side, understanding the operational aspects of civilian protection should be folded into doctrine and training and woven throughout various functions, from intelligence to planning, strategy, and leadership. NATO should also establish protection of civilians as an operational requirement and integrate it into work at the headquarters level, including at Allied Command Operations, Allied Command Transformation, and in discussions with allies and partners. In a future crisis, political and military actors will need to work together, so establishing those lines of communication now is essential. Much of the protection of civilians agenda is currently managed by NATOs Human Security office in Brussels, which lacks the staffing capacity and bureaucratic heft to implement the policy in the future.

Third, protection of civilians should be included in NATOs next strategic concept as a core political and military capability. The new strategic concept is due to be completed by 2022. Building additional knowledge, skills, and capabilities to safeguard civilians needs to be directed. By crafting a new action plan, building off the one completed in late 2020, the North Atlantic Council could initiate the next phase of this policy agenda by early 2022. High-level policy attention and guidance do not, of course, automatically mean effective implementation in future conflicts. Implementation will take sustained political support and savvy political leaders who understand how their political and strategic decisions impact those on the ground and the military components meant to implement their mandates. It will also take knowledgeable and well-trained militaries. Just as nations dont assume that a new group of military trainees will innately know how to use advanced artillery effectively, neither can NATO assume that new personnel will know how to protect civilians. That intention should be captured in doctrine, and trained and exercised, just like other core military missions.

Its Time for Additional Policy Action

By including the protection of civilians in its strategic concept, and by recognizing the broad importance of protecting civilians to the alliance, NATO will meet multiple goals. It will prepare for future missions that its allies and partners may face. It will establish NATO as committed to the security of civilians in conflict, a value that will help unite the alliance and distinguish it from many of its adversaries. And it will build on the good work that it has started and that needs a push in order to move aspirational goals into operational capability.

Together, these proactive measures will ensure that NATO sees protecting civilians as a core task for future alliance missions, not only out-of-area ones but also any that occur in the territory of allies and partners. As the old proverb says, An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. NATO can take more strides now to enable it to protect civilians in future conflicts.

Victoria K. Holt is a distinguished fellow at the Stimson Center. Her areas of expertise focus on issues relating to international security and multilateral tools, including peace operations and conflict prevention, the United Nations and U.N. Security Council, protection of civilians, crisis regions, and U.S. policymaking. Prior to joining Stimson, Holt was the deputy assistant secretary of state for international security in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, serving from 2009 to early 2017.

Marla B. Keenan is an adjunct senior fellow at the Stimson Center. Her areas of expertise focus on issues relating to international security, including human rights in armed conflict, protection of civilians, civilian harm tracking and analysis, and civil-military relations in armed conflict. Marla is also an International Security Program senior fellow at New America, working to strengthen partnerships between non-governmental organizations and academic institutions on applied research in armed conflict, and a security fellow at the Truman National Security Project.

Image: U.S. Army (Photo by Sgt. Patrik Orcutt)

An Urgent NATO Priority: Preparing to Protect Civilians - War on the Rocks

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Trump was planning to withdraw US from Nato and ditch South Korea alliance, according to new book – The Independent

Posted: at 1:52 pm

Donald Trump was considering pulling out of Nato and cutting the USs alliance with South Korea if he won the 2020 election, according to an account of his private meetings with top aides.

I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J Trumps Catastrophic Final Year is a behind-the-scenes account of Mr Trumps last year in the White House, authored by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporters Phil Rucker and Carol Leonnig.

In an excerpt published in the Washington Post, Mr Trump is said to have lost the confidence of Defense Secretary Mark Esper. According to the book, Mr Esper confided in colleagues that he was rooting for Joe Biden to win the election because he believed he cared about national security.

Esper couldnt say the same about Trump. In fact, Trump had privately indicated that he would seek to withdraw from Nato and to blow up the US alliance with South Korea, should he win reelection. When those alliances had come up in meetings with Esper and other top aides, some advisers warned Trump that shredding them before the election would be politically dangerous.

Yeah, the second term, Trump had said. Well do it in the second term.

According to the excerpt, episodes recounted in the book are based on interviews with senior Trump administration officials, friends and advisers to the president.

White House scenes from election night are described in detail, including Mr Trumps reaction to seeing Arizona called for Mr Biden on Fox News.

Trump, who had been watching Fox, was livid. He could not fathom that the conservative news network he had long considered an extension of his campaign was the first news organization to call Arizona for Biden. This was a betrayal. His top advisers, who had been in the Map Room at the time, rushed upstairs to see the president.

What the f--- is Fox doing? Trump screamed. Then he barked orders to Kushner: Call Rupert! Call James and Lachlan! And to Jason Miller: Get Sammon. Get Hemmer. Theyve got to reverse this. The president was referring to Fox owner Rupert Murdoch and his sons, James and Lachlan, as well as Bill Sammon, a top news executive at Fox.

Trumps tirade continued. What the f---? he bellowed.

I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J Trumps Catastrophic Final Year is published on 20 July by Penguin Press.

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Trump was planning to withdraw US from Nato and ditch South Korea alliance, according to new book - The Independent

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Staying Would Be Suicide: With Departure of NATO Troops, the Taliban Gains Ground in Afghanistan – DER SPIEGEL International Edition

Posted: at 1:52 pm

The mobile phone video is short and slightly grainy, but you can hear the fear, even the panic in the voices of the people waiting. Theyre making their way up the gangway into the small plane. Nobody wants to be left behind. A single man finally makes it past the security people and rushes to the plane. The person filming explains, "That was a senator" a member of the upper house of parliament in Kabul. "These are members of parliament, representatives from the provincial council and commanders."

In recent days, the dramatic scenes in Faizabad, the capital of the mountainous province of Badakhshan, have been a Saigon moment for Afghanistans government. They are reminiscent of the iconic photograph shot half a century ago, when one of the last American helicopters took off from South Vietnam, leaving desperate allies behind.

The events in Faizabad have great symbolic importance and reinforce a suspicion that has been lingering for some time now: One day soon, the current elites in Kabul might also have to flee from the advancing Taliban.

There have long been fears in Washington that the Afghan leadership and its troops would have a hard time holding their own against the Taliban once the NATO troops left. The Washington Post recently reported on a United States intelligence assessment forecasting that Afghan leadership could only hold out for six months, perhaps a year, after the final withdrawal.

The clock started ticking on July 2, at 3 a.m. local time, when the last plane took off from the Bagram Airfield north of Kabul. The Americans didnt even tell the Afghans in advance that they were leaving, they just disappeared. When the Afghan army finally arrived hours later, they already had to drive the first looters away from the base. It only took a few hours for the panic-stricken crowd to descend on the Faizabad airport.

Despite its very clear risk analyses, the United States decided, after almost 20 years, to end the war it launched after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, initially to hunt down Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaida terrorists he led. But also to stabilize and democratize the country in the long term with partners including Germany. The first part of the mission succeeded, but the second one largely failed. The Taliban has now secured control of large parts of the country.

Children stand in front of a bombed-out business in Kandahar: At night, the streets belong to the Taliban.

They advanced rapidly in Faizabad, surrounding the city while simultaneously conquering almost the entire province. By July 14, they were in control of 26 of the 28 districts and had besieged two more. Other areas, especially in the north, are also falling into Taliban hands at ever-increasing speed. In the week up to July 5 alone, the Taliban captured another 38 of Afghanistans 407 districts, nearly one-tenth of the country. In all, they now control nearly 200 districts, with another 120 or so besieged. And almost nowhere have they triumphed as quickly and as radically as in Badakhshan.

On July 3, all commercial flights from Kabul to Faizabad were suspended until further notice. Then began the half-hearted evacuation attempts that were caught on video. Witnesses at the airport claim the government sent only one plane. GIZ, the German development aid organization, alone rented five aircraft from the United Nations fleet to bring its local staff to safety.

Fierce battles erupted around Faizabad, with dozens killed. But in most of the districts, there were no reports of fighting. The Taliban just marched through without resistance. The army, police, local militias some of them only recently established simply gave up, went home or fled. According to the Tajik army, over 1,037 Afghan security forces escaped across the border into the desperately poor neighboring country in a span of two days. And they werent the first to flee. "Staying would be suicide," said one soldier who had already fled to Tajikistan with an earlier wave. "Unfortunately, the majority of the districts were left to the Taliban without any fight," Mohib-ul Rahman, a provincial council member, told Radio Free Europe.

"Two helicopters picked up only the uniformed people, soldiers and police, a militia member who had deserted told DER SPIEGEL: "It was clear to everyone that it is over. Some fled, others just went home." All the reports from those holding out in Badakhshan and of those who have escaped Kabul confirm what the Talibans propaganda channels are communicating: The Taliban is advancing everywhere. In many cases, the government troops left their vehicles, weapons and ammunition. The only word from the Wakhan corridor, a remote mountainous area, is that the government has simply abandoned the district.

In Kabul, however, Defense Ministry spokesperson Fawad Aman tweeted: "Vast areas were cleared of Taliban terrorists in outskirts of Faiz-Abad, using an alternate spelling of Faizabad. In a second tweet, he posted four photos from the city as proof cars were still on the road. "People continue to live without fear of the Taliban terrorists." But there was no word about the abrupt loss of almost the entire province and the citys expected fall. There was only talk of victories even in the countrys other combat zone, where the Taliban are currently still advancing.

The spokesperson, indeed, the entire government, as well as President Ashraf Ghani and the political elite in Kabul all seem to be out of touch with reality. Ghanis national security adviser, Hamdullah Mohib, who just visited Moscow, earnestly declared that the Afghan forces had not expected a Taliban offensive. Nonetheless, he said they would "absolutely, definitely go on the counterattack.

In Kabul, politicians have been working for months to finalize the formation of a Supreme State Council that would have the authority to conduct peace negotiations with the Taliban at some point in the future. But the process has been repeatedly delayed, partly due to divisions among the Kabul elite: A "High Council for National Reconciliation" was announced in 2020, but a feud between President Ghani and his political nemesis, Abdullah Abdullah, over how many of his supporters could be included in the body has stalled that effort.

For 20 years, the changing governments in Kabul told themselves confidently that the Americans would stay forever. For former President Hamid Karzai, in particular, that self-deception became a mantra: The U.S. would never, ever pull out of Afghanistan. They believe the U.S. secret interests in Afghanistan its fabled mineral resources, geopolitical aspirations, or a host of other possible incentives were just too great. This made it easy for them to disparage their American occupiers while also sending them every bill. Afghanistan was occupied, they would say, and Kabul wasnt responsible for anything.

"We didnt realize the Americans were gone until it was light. No one told us anything."

This feigned incapacity, combined with grand patriotic gestures, was nurtured in Kabul. Even when then-President Donald Trump announced his withdrawal deal with the Taliban leadership in 2020, many still reacted with disbelief. And when, after his election, President Joe Biden gave specific withdrawal dates in April, some still didnt want to believe it. Even as Ashraf Ghani flew to Washington in late June, many in the Presidential Palace and the government ministries hoped that Biden, at the last second, would say: "OK, were going to stay."

But that didnt happen. Instead, unit by unit, the U.S. military, intelligence and service providers said goodbye and disappeared. The harsh awakening came early in the morning of July 2. Over two decades, the gigantic U.S. base at Bagram had grown into a kind of city with, at times, tens of thousands of residents, fast-food outlets, a hospital, a prison and a 3.6-kilometer (2.2-mile) runway big enough for a Boeing 747 aircraft to take off and land. Bagram was the heart of the American military machine in Afghanistan. But the place fell silent overnight. "We didnt realize the Americans were gone until it was light," said General Mir Asadullah Kohistani, the Afghan who is now in charge of the compound. "No one told us anything.

At an evening gathering in Kabul, officers were still upset about the callous departure days earlier. And it sounded less like determined anger than fearful indignation.

No one in Kabul seems to have a plan for stopping the Taliban. President Ghani doesnt make public appearances. Western diplomats in Kabul say he only consults with his closest confidants. A new defense minister with combat experience from the guerilla war has been appointed, but overall, the executive branch in Kabul seems shockingly paralyzed.

Afghan soldiers on the former U.S. base at Bagram: The Afghan elite had somehow convinced themselves the Americans would stay forever.

Even the elite units, which are robust in combat and yet manageable in size, are driven haphazardly and without cover into suicide missions, complains one of their commanders. On June 16, when a special forces group was sent into the Taliban stronghold of Faryab to retake a district, the men came under mortar fire from a much larger Taliban force. They had been expected.

If things had gone according to plan, there would, for example, have been air support for the elite force. But as one military man later summed it up "the army didnt come, the police didnt come and the secret service didnt come." He didnt even bother mentioning the air force. "Everyone left them hanging." At least 21 of the elite fighters were killed in less than an hour, including their well-known commander. There was a big funeral in Kabul, and the district was retaken. But only for three days. The Taliban has been in control ever since. A member of the provincial council, Abdul Ahad Elbek, criticized the deployment, saying that sending the troops there in the first place had been a death sentence.

Its a strange contrast: On the one hand, the government is acting mindlessly, while, on the other hand, as Bill Roggio, the matter-of-fact editor of The Long War Journal, argues, the Taliban is acting more strategically. By attacking the north, he says, the Taliban is about to threaten the power bases of the government and its allies. "If the Afghan government loses the north," he recently wrote, then Afghanistan is effectively lost. Then "the Taliban could take the population centers in the south, east, and west without a fight, and begin its siege of Kabul."

Badakhshan, the mountainous province that has now been conquered, played a central role as the last bastion against the Taliban in the 1990s. The legendary guerilla leader Ahmed Shah Massoud, the "Lion of the Panjshir Valley," successfully fought to ensure the Taliban never captured the region. He also became famous for controlling the hinterlands leading to the border with Tajikistan, through which he ran his supply route.

The Taliban grew out of the Pashtun ethnic group almost three decades ago. They never gained complete control over northern Afghanistan, which is primarily home to Tajiks, Uzbeks and Ismailis. Taloqan was the last provincial capital they managed to capture in 2000, a year before they were driven out altogether by the U.S. forces. The Taliban captured the rest of Takhar in June and now Taloqan is under siege.

Back in the autumn of 2019, a team of reporters with DER SPIEGEL witnessed how the governments power in the districts had shrunk to the central military posts. Even then, the Taliban controlled the villages and streets after sunset.

As in Takhar, many soldiers and police in Badakhshan are simply giving up. Before closing in, the Taliban dispatch village elders as emissaries to the military posts to make an offer: the freedom to retreat and around 50 euros in pocket money or a fight to their death. According to reports from the ground, the Islamists sometimes pay extra for equipment, vehicles and ammunition left behind. Afterward, the people who abandon the fight are left alone.

Politically, the Taliban are seeking to promote themselves as representatives of all Afghans and not as just the leaders of the Pashtuns. Their shadow governor for Takhar province is an Uzbek, and the military commander for the northern offensive is a Tajik. A high-ranking Taliban delegation recently traveled to Day Kundi province to assure the Shiite Hazara living there that nothing would happen to them. Just 20 years ago, they were persecuted and massacred by the Taliban as heretics.

But what is credible change and what is just deception? The fear runs deep in millions of Afghans, and the dearth of information from remote districts fuels that fear. Shaky mobile phone videos are circulating of women being flogged by the Taliban for "immoral behavior," of individual men being executed. Some of the people who have fled to Kabul describe acts of revenge. Decrees issued by local Taliban leaders forbid women from leaving the house without a male family member, girls schools have been closed.

Not everything can be corroborated, but the Talibans foot soldiers appear to have changed far less than its leadership in exile, who like to think of themselves as modernized and having arrived in the 21st century.

"But what choice do we have? asks the militiaman from Badakhshan who had watched as the solider and police officers were taken away by helicopter. "The government is abandoning us, the foreign troops are gone, almost all the borders are closed. What are we supposed to do?

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Staying Would Be Suicide: With Departure of NATO Troops, the Taliban Gains Ground in Afghanistan - DER SPIEGEL International Edition

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