China: A Positive Or Negative Influence In The World?

China: A Positive Or Negative Influence In The World?

According to a survey by Cambridge University and YouGov, unfavorable views of China have reached new highs in many countries.

As Statista’s Katharina Buchholz reports, out of 26 countries surveyed, negative views of China prevailed in 16 and were shared by an increasing number of respondents in those places since the poll started in 2019.

Infographic: China: A Positive or Negative Influence in the World? | Statista

You will find more infographics at Statista

Positive views of China were shared by more people than not in 10 places, with the biggest majorities of respondents agreeing in Nigeria and Kenya, but also in Thailand, Russia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Views of China are broadly negative across most of the world’s advanced economies including approximately three-quarters of respondents in Japan, Sweden, Australia, Denmark, the United Kingdom and Germany. To a lesser degree, the idea was reverberated in France, India, the United States and Canada. In Southern and Eastern Europe, feelings were more mixed but came down against China slightly. The criticism that the pandemic was badly handled as well as the rising of tensions between China and Taiwan have been noted as reasons why public opinion on China has deteriorated in some places.

Tyler Durden
Wed, 02/08/2023 – 05:45

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Welcome To The Global Recession, It Began In December Last Year

Welcome To The Global Recession, It Began In December Last Year

Authored by Mike Shedlock via MishTalk.com,

Consumer spending hit a brick wall in the US, EU, UK and Australia. Guess what that means…

Is the global consumer starting to capitulate?

Not Just EU

What About Australia?

There are limits to the amount of spending that can continue when savings is being drawn down.

“If these PCE figures are accurate, it looks like consumers may be moving faster than originally guessed.”

Question and Answer of the Day

“If the consumer capitulates, what will drive growth?”

Welcome to the Global Recession!

Bob Elliott and I have been in a running debate for a couple of months over jobs and a recession. 

I follow him because he always makes a strong case for his point of view: No Recession. 

Elliott is very data dependent, and cautious. This is the first I have seen him waver.

My “welcome” comment was not intended to be mocking, it’s simply how I feel. 

To be fair, I was early again, but not as early as some. I did not bite on the two consecutive quarters of negative GDP to start the year, but I did pencil in a recession starting in May. 

In October, retail sales forced me to admit my error. But in December, industrial production and retail sales put me back in the recession camp. 

Let’s go over the data.

Signs Say Industrial Production Has Peaked and so a Recession is Imminent

Recession lead times in months based on Fed data.

On January 18, 2023, I commented Signs Say Industrial Production Has Peaked and so a Recession is Imminent

Industrial production decreased 0.7 percent in December and 1.7 percent at an annual rate in the fourth quarter. 

Industrial Production Synopsis

  • Industrial production peaked in October

  • Manufacturing peaked in April with a double top in September

  • Consumer durable goods peaked in April

  • Manufacturing durable goods peaked in September

  • Motor vehicles and parts peaked in October

Recession lead times vs industrial production tend to be very small, typically 1-2 month. 2001 and 2020 were notable exceptions.

Existing Home Sales Decline for the Eleventh Straight Month

Existing home sales from the National Association of Realtors via St. Louis Fed

It was nearly a clean sweep for existing home sales in 2022, down every month except January.

For details, please see Existing Home Sales Decline for the Eleventh Straight Month

December Was Another Retail Sales Disaster

Retail sales from commerce department, chart by Mish

Month-Over-Month Advances and Declines

  • Food Service: -0.9 percent

  • Food Stores: +0.0 percent

  • Gas Stations: -4.6 Percent

  • General Merchandise: -0.8 Percent

  • Excluding Motor Vehicles and Gas: -0.7 Percent

  • Excluding Motor Vehicles: -1.1 Percent

  • Nonstore (Think Amazon): -1.1 Percent

  • Motor Vehicles: -1.2 Percent

  • Department Stores: -6.6 Percent

For further discussion, please see December Was Another Retail Sales Disaster, Even Worse With Negative Revisions

The BEA agreed with the advance numbers.

Personal Spending Hits a Solid Brick Wall in December Despite Rise in Income

Real Personal Consumption Expenditures from BEA, chart by Mish

On January 27, I noted Personal Spending Hits a Solid Brick Wall in December Despite Rise in Income

Brick Wall

  • Consumers literally hit the brick wall then went into reverse in November and December.

  • Real PCE fell 0.2 Percent in November and 0.3 percent in December.

  • Real PCE Goods were negative 0.9 percent in both months.

  • Real PCE Services rose 0.2 percent in November and was flat in December.

Data Consistent With Recession

Please see Alice Debates the Mad Hatter and the Red Queen on Timing the Recession

If for some reason you believe fourth-quarter GDP was robust, please see 4th Quarter 2022 GDP Is Much Weaker Than Headline Numbers, Recession Is Not Off.

Data is consistent with a recession starting in November or December.

When is the last time housing was down for a full year, industrial production down two months, and real spending down two months and the the economy was not in recession?

Factor in a decline in consumer spending in the EU, UK, and Australia and where are US exports headed? 

And with consumer spending falling off the cliff, how long will jobs stay strong? Strong enough to prevent a recession that history suggests has already started?

In Wonderland, jobs will save the day, assuming you believe the December Jobs data, but I don’t.

*  *  *

Please Subscribe to MishTalk Email Alerts.

Tyler Durden
Wed, 02/08/2023 – 05:00

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Mapping Global Geopolitical Uncertainty By Country

Mapping Global Geopolitical Uncertainty By Country

The Russia-Ukraine war highlighted how geopolitical risk can up-end supply chains and weaponize trade. More precisely, the war led to trade sanctions, a food crisis, and energy shortages.

In this graphic from The Hinrich Foundation, the third in a five-part series on the sustainability of trade, Visual Capitalist’s Jenna Ross explores how geopolitical risk differs by economy. It pulls data from the 2022 Sustainable Trade Index, which The Hinrich Foundation produced in collaboration with the IMD World Competitiveness Center.

Breaking Down Geopolitical Risk

Geopolitical risk has a strong correlation with GDP per capita, meaning that developing economies typically have less stability.

The following table shows how geopolitical risk breaks down for select economies that are covered in the 2022 Sustainable Trade Index. A lower number indicates less stability, while a higher number indicates more stability.

Economy Geopolitical Stability
Pakistan 5.2
Myanmar 9.9
Bangladesh 16.0
India 17.0
Mexico 17.9
Philippines 18.9
Papua New Guinea 20.3
Russia 20.8
Thailand 24.5
Indonesia 28.3
Ecuador 34.4
China 37.7
Peru 38.7
Cambodia 41.0
Vietnam 44.8
Sri Lanka 45.3
U.S. 46.2
Chile 49.1
Hong Kong 50.0
Malaysia 50.9
UK 61.3
South Korea 62.7
Laos 69.3
Taiwan 72.2
Australia 73.1
Japan 87.3
Canada 90.1
Brunei 90.6
Singapore 97.2
New Zealand 97.6

Source: World Bank, based on the latest available data from 2020. Values measure perceptions of political instability and violence, which are a proxy and precursor to geopolitical risk.

New Zealand has the highest level of stability, likely supported by the fact that it is a small nation with no direct neighbors. The country has taken steps to repair relationships with Indigenous peoples, through land and monetary settlements, though challenges remain. 

The U.S. has moderate stability. It has been impacted by increasing political polarization that has led to people having lower trust in institutions and more negative views of people from the opposing party. As the world’s largest economy, the U.S. also faces geopolitical risk such as escalating tariffs in the U.S.-China trade war. 

Want more insights into trade sustainability?

Download the 2022 Sustainable Trade Index for free.

Russia has one of the lowest levels of stability. The country’s invasion of Ukraine has led to war along with economic roadblocks that restrict normal trade activity. For instance, sanctions against Russia and blocked Ukrainian ports led to a food shortage. The two countries supply a third of the world’s wheat and 75% of the sunflower oil supply. 

The Impact of Geopolitical Uncertainty on Trade

Geopolitical risk can lead to civil unrest and war. It also has economic consequences including trade disruptions. As a result of the Russia-Ukraine war, the World Bank estimates that “world trade will drop by 1%, lowering global GDP by 0.7% and GDP of low-income economies by 1%.” A separate study found that Pakistan’s history of political instability has negatively affected trade in the country.

Of course, geopolitical risk is just one component of an economy’s trade sustainability. The Sustainable Trade Index uses a number of other metrics to measure economies’ ability to trade in a way that balances economic growth, societal development, and environmental protection. To learn more, visit the STI landing page where you can download the report for free.

Tyler Durden
Wed, 02/08/2023 – 04:15

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The WEF Wants To Hack Your Brain

The WEF Wants To Hack Your Brain

Authored by John Mac Ghlionn via The Epoch Times,

Once an idea reserved for the pages of dystopian sci-fi novels, brain hacking is already here. The elites in Davos appear to be interested in harnessing this technology to further their questionable agenda…

At a recent World Economic Forum (WEF) presentation, those in attendance were told that attempts to decode the human brain was already well underway. As Tim Hinchcliffe, a man who has been sounding the alarm on the WEF’s plans for years, noted, the presentation came five years after historian Yuval Noah Harari told those in Davos that human beings were entirely hackable. We are, in a nutshell, walking, breathing, living algorithms, according to the academic. Harari’s vision, at the time, was a thing of feverish fantasy. Now, though, this fantasy is fast becoming a reality.

At the WEF Annual Meeting 2023, The Atlantic’s CEO Nicholas Thompson chaired a session called “Ready for Brain Transparency?” The session opened with an Orwellian-inspired video showing a scenario in which employees’ brainwaves were monitored and decoded. Besides using the information gathered to evaluate employee performance, brainwaves were decoded to assess whether or not any individuals had participated in criminal activity.

Following the video, Duke University’s Nita Farahany, an expert on both the ethical and legal implications of emerging technologies, explained to the audience that methods of decoding brainwaves already exist. Certain technologies, she said, already allow powerful organizations and governments to “pick up and decode faces that you’re seeing in your mind—simple shapes, numbers, your PIN number to your bank account.”

A file photo of an electroencephalogram (EEG) cap used to study brain activity. (Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

“Artificial intelligence,” she continued, “has enabled advances in decoding brain activity in ways we never before thought possible.” All those thoughts and feelings bubbling around inside, added Farahany, are just pieces of data, adding that this data can be decoded using artificial intelligence (AI). Contrary to popular belief, devices used to decode this “data” needn’t be as invasive as Elon Musk’s neural implants. According to Farahany, devices used are more like Fitbits for the human brain. “We’re not talking about implanted devices of the future; I’m talking about wearable devices that are like Fitbits for your brain,” she concluded in a rather chirpy tone.

On the same day Farahany was giving her presentation, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was also in Davos. Like Farahany, Stoltenberg probably knows his fair share about brain hacking. In 2021, NATO chaired a forum exploring the “‘weaponization of brain sciences” and exploiting the “‘vulnerabilities of the human brain.” As reported by Project Censored, an organization dedicated to the promotion of investigative journalism, greater media literacy, and critical thinking, the forum was created to explore “more sophisticated forms of social engineering and control.” This explains why, in the two years since the forum, NATO has added a sixth level to its five operational domains (air, land, sea, space, and cyber): the cognitive domain.

In a NATO-approved piece, experts from Johns Hopkins University and Imperial College London discuss the many ways in which the human mind should be considered a battlefield. Cognitive warfare, they noted, involves much more than changing what people think; it also involves changing people’s behaviors. “Waged successfully,” reads the piece, cognitive warfare “shapes and influences individual and group beliefs and behaviours to favour an aggressor’s tactical or strategic objectives.” The aggressors “could conceivably subdue a society without resorting to outright force or coercion.” NATO’s purpose, it’s important to remember, is to keep us safe. That purpose appears to be changing.

From the origin of the coronavirus to claims of Russian collusion, this is the golden age of information warfare. But the golden age, with its focus on media control, is currently evolving. As the academics Tzu-Chieh Hung and Tzu-Wei Hung explained in an article last year, cognitive warfare extends from focusing solely on media control to explicit brain control. Cognitive warfare seeks to weaponize “neurological resources” as well as “mass communication techniques.” Whereas information warfare focuses almost entirely on the input of information, cognitive warfare focuses on both the input and the output (that is, our behaviors).

One needn’t be a card-carrying QAnon member to read the above and feel a profound sense of dismay. Talks of hacking the brain are straight out of communist China. As I write this, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is already using cognitive warfare to subdue the enemy. In the not-so-distant future, the unelected globalists in Davos and Brussels, home to NATO’s headquarters, could use the very same technology to subdue us.

Tyler Durden
Wed, 02/08/2023 – 03:30

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French Strikes Halt Fuel Shipments From Refineries And A Fuel Depot

French Strikes Halt Fuel Shipments From Refineries And A Fuel Depot

The French nationwide strike over proposed pension reform (Macron is seeking to raise the retirement age from 62 to, gasp, 64; the French say “non”) which we profiled last week, interrupted on Tuesday the shipment of fuels from refineries and a fuel depot of TotalEnergies, the French supermajor told Reuters.

Workers and employees in various sectors, including the energy sector, civil servants, and teachers, have been staging strikes for weeks to protest against President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to raise the retirement age.  

Workers at the oil refineries at Donges and Feyzin, operated by TotalEnergies, are on strike today, a representative of the Force Ouvriere trade union told Reuters. Workers at the fuel depot Flandres have also joined the massive industrial action in France, the official added.  

As Oilprice notes, this is not the first time that fuel deliveries have been disrupted by strikes this year. 

Two weeks ago, the strike in France halted wholesale fuel deliveries from three refineries operated by TotalEnergies on the first day of a series of planned nationwide strikes in many sectors. The Donges, Normandy, and Feyzin refineries of TotalEnergies stopped the wholesale supply of gasoline and diesel, while the refinery at Feyzin had to reduce processing rates to a minimum on January 19.

TotalEnergies and the French unit of ExxonMobil hold most of the refining capacity in France. The strikes against Macron’s unpopular pension reform are expected to continue.

The most recent wave of strikes comes three months after refinery workers went on strike for weeks in September and October amid a pay row. Strikes at refineries in France in the autumn of 2022 left more than 60% of the country’s refining capacity offline while gas stations in and around Paris and in the northern part of the country began to run out of fuel.

The strikes against the planned pension reform also come just as the EU banned imports of petroleum products from Russia as of February 5.

Tyler Durden
Wed, 02/08/2023 – 02:45

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A Scientific Review Shows the CDC Grossly Exaggerated the Evidence Supporting Mask Mandates


Masked children raise hands in a classroom

After questioning the value of general mask wearing early in the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) decided the practice was so demonstrably effective that it should be legally mandated even for 2-year-olds. A new review of the evidence suggests the CDC had it right the first time.

That review, published by the Cochrane Library, an authoritative collection of scientific databases, analyzed 18 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that aimed to measure the impact of surgical masks or N95 respirators on the transmission of respiratory viruses. It found that wearing a mask in public places “probably makes little or no difference” in the number of infections.

These findings go to the heart of the case for mask mandates, a policy that generated much resentment and acrimony during the pandemic. They also show that the CDC, which has repeatedly exaggerated the evidence in favor of masks, cannot be trusted as a source of public health information.

In September 2020, then‒CDC Director Robert Redfield described masks as “the most important, powerful public health tool we have.” He claimed masks provided more protection against COVID-19 than vaccines would.

“The evidence is clear,” Redfield’s successor, Rochelle Walensky, insisted in November 2021, when she averred that wearing a mask “reduc[es] your chance of infection by more than 80 percent.” Three months later, the CDC claimed a study it published had shown that “wearing a mask lowered the odds of testing positive” by as much as 83 percent.

These statements were based on two sources of evidence with widely recognized drawbacks: laboratory experiments in stylized conditions and observational studies that do not fully account for variables that affect virus transmission. RCTs are designed to avoid those problems by comparing disease rates among subjects randomly assigned to wear masks in real-life situations with disease rates in a control group.

If masks had the dramatic effect that the CDC claimed, you would expect to see evidence of that in RCTs. But the Cochrane review found essentially no relationship between mask wearing and disease rates, whether measured by reported symptoms or by laboratory tests.

When it comes to symptoms consistent with COVID-19 or influenza, the authors reported, “wearing masks in the community probably makes little or no difference.” They reached the same conclusion regarding laboratory-confirmed cases.

Two RCTs were conducted during the pandemic, one in Denmark and one in Bangladesh. The first found no protective effect, while the second found that symptoms consistent with COVID-19 were about 11 percent less common in the masked group.

The latter finding was far less impressive than the results from the observational study that the CDC touted in February 2022. In that study, the CDC reported, surgical masks similar to the ones used in the Bangladesh RCT reduced the risk of infection by 66 percent. Even cloth masks, which the CDC has conceded are the least effective kind, supposedly reduced infections by 56 percent.

That gloss obscured grave methodological problems with the CDC-promoted study, including sample bias, recall bias, and the failure to consider “other preventive behaviors.” As the Cochrane review notes, the Bangladesh study also suffered from several weaknesses, including “baseline imbalance, subjective outcome assessment and incomplete follow-up across the groups.”

In any case, including the Bangladesh RCT, which accounted for a large share of the data in the Cochrane meta-analysis, did not change the overall results, which indicated “little or no effect of mask use.” And contrary to the expectation that N95 respirators would prove superior to surgical masks, the review found that the existing evidence “demonstrates no differences in clinical effectiveness.”

The authors suggest several possible explanations for these results, including “poor study design,” inconsistent or improper mask use, “self-contamination of the mask by hands,” “saturation of masks with saliva,” and increased risk taking based on “an exaggerated sense of security.” But one thing is clear: Instead of following the science on masks, the CDC distorted it to support a predetermined conclusion.

© Copyright 2023 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

The post A Scientific Review Shows the CDC Grossly Exaggerated the Evidence Supporting Mask Mandates appeared first on Reason.com.

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The Supreme Court at the 2023 State of the Union

Tonight President Biden gave the State of the Union address. In attendance were Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Kagan, Justice Kavanaugh, Justice Barrett, and Justice Jackson. Justices Kennedy and Breyer were also in attendance. When they entered, there was a standing ovation on both sides of the aisle.

The President’s address included only one bit about the Supreme Court. Here were his prepared remarks:

Congress must restore the right the Supreme Court took away last year and codify Roe v. Wade to protect every woman’s constitutional right to choose. The Vice President and I are doing everything we can to protect access to reproductive health care and safeguard patient privacy. But already, more than a dozen states are enforcing extreme abortion bans. Make no mistake; if Congress passes a national abortion ban, I will veto it.

But Biden issued a watered-down version of these already-tepid remarks:

Congress must restore the right that was taken away in Roe v. Wade and protect Roe v. Wade [applause] give every woman a [?] right. The Vice President and I are doing everything to protect access to reproduction health care and safeguard patient safety. But already, more than a dozen states are enforcing extreme abortion bans. Make no mistake about it; if Congress passes a national abortion ban, I will veto it.

He didn’t say the Supreme Court took away the right. He didn’t say Congress should codify Roe v. Wade. And he didn’t even clearly say constitutional right to choose. He only threatened to veto a bill that will never get passed. Alas, the camera did not cut to the Justices while Biden delivered these remarks, so there was no reaction shot. Biden did not do a reprise of Obama’s 2010 State of the Union.

Biden did make a joke about the Chief Justice providing a court order so he can attend the Super Bowl.

There was zero mention of “Court reform.” No mention of his much-vaunted Supreme Court commission. And no mention of his new Supreme Court appointee, Ketanji Brown Jackson. Or as he said it recently, Ketanji Drown Jackson.

At 2:26:30 (on the C-SPAN feed), Biden makes his way back to the Justices. He says “Sorry you guys had to sit through that. I apologize.” Justice Kagan laughs out loud and the Chief smiles.

So much for using the bully pulpit to go after the Supreme Court.

Next, Biden asks Justice Breyer “are you doing okay.” Breyer says nods his head, “yes.” Then Biden walks over to Justice Kennedy, and brings Justice Breyer back into the conversation. He then recounts a lengthy story about Kennedy’s nomination to the Supreme Court in 1987. Biden recounted how he recommended then-Judge Kennedy to President Reagan.

On balance, this usually-staid exercise was actually refreshing. It was nice to see Justices Kennedy and Breyer back in their element. And even though we are repeatedly told that the Supreme Court is an existential threat to democracy, Republicans and Democrats alike cheered for the Justices (including two members of the Dobbs majority), and the President joked around with the Chief. Things are not so bad.

The post The Supreme Court at the 2023 State of the Union appeared first on Reason.com.

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Biden Promises To Stop Waiving His Own Terrible ‘Buy American’ Mandates


President Joe Biden gives the State of the Union address

President Joe Biden lambasted “past administrations” that have flaunted requirements to buy American-made materials for federal infrastructure projects in his State of the Union address. He might want to look in the mirror.

“Buy American has been the law of the land since 1933. But for too long, past administrations have found ways to get around it,” said the president Tuesday night. “Not anymore. Tonight, I’m also announcing new standards to require all construction materials used in federal infrastructure projects to be made in America.”

The new standards Biden mentioned are actually standards established by Congress that would be in effect today but for waivers created by his administration. These requirements have long been found to increase the costs of infrastructure projects, but the promise of creating even more cost-increasing American jobs makes them a popular provision.

The $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), which Biden signed into law in November 2021 re-upped requirements that federally funded infrastructure use American-made iron and steel. It also expanded those requirements to construction materials like drywall, copper wire, fiber optic cables, and lumber.

Biden was so proud of those new Buy America provisions, he made sure to mention them in his 2022 State of the Union address.

“I’m announcing that this year we will start fixing over 65,000 miles of highway and 1,500 bridges in disrepair,” said the president that night. “When we use taxpayer dollars to rebuild America, we are going to Buy American. Buy American products to support American jobs.”

Those requirements were supposed to kick in within 180 days of the law’s passage. Right before they did, the Biden administration’s Department of Transportation (DOT) issued a sweeping 180-day waiver for new Buy America provisions for construction materials, citing the cost and complexity of complying with those provisions.

Public comments from state departments of transportation, public transit agencies, and contractors all generally supported this waiver and, in fact, asked that it last for at least 18 months and as long as four years.

The reason is pretty straightforward: Buy America provisions greatly increase the costs of infrastructure projects.

As I noted during Biden’s last State of the Union, buying American steel for infrastructure projects costs around twice as much as importing it from China, according to a 2019 Congressional Research Report. The mandate cost American roadbuilders an additional $2 billion from 2009 to 2011, back when then-Vice President Biden was overseeing the spending of stimulus dollars on infrastructure projects.

Procuring American-made buses means that we pay twice as much as Japan and Korea do for their rolling stock. Our train cars cost as much as 34 percent more because we insist on buying American.

DOT officially let that waiver lapse as scheduled in November 2022. But in January, it also issued regulatory guidance extending that waiver for contracts on DOT-funded projects through March 2023 for solicitations offered before May 2022.

Expanding Buy America provisions, and cracking down on waivers, are a staple of all administrations and most State of the Union addresses. The fact they keep exempting themselves from these requirements shows that Biden—and his predecessors—understand at some level that they’re a bad idea.

The post Biden Promises To Stop Waiving His Own Terrible 'Buy American' Mandates appeared first on Reason.com.

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Truth About Tanks: How NATO Lied Its Way To Disaster In Ukraine

Truth About Tanks: How NATO Lied Its Way To Disaster In Ukraine

Authored by Scott Ritter,

Tank warfare has evolved. The large force-on-force armored battles that were the hallmark of much of WWII, the Arab-Israeli conflicts, which served as the foundation of operational doctrine for both NATO and the Soviet Union (and which was implemented in full by the United States during Operation Desert Storm in 1991), has run its course.

Like most military technological innovations, the ability to make a modern main battle tank survivable has been outstripped by the fielding of defensive systems designed to overcome such defenses. If a modern military force attempted to launch a large-scale tank-dominated attack against a well-equipped peer-level opponent armed with modern anti-tank missiles, the result would be a decisive defeat for the attacking party marked by the smoking hulks of burned-out tanks.

Don’t get me wrong: tanks still have a vital role to play on the modern battlefield. Their status as a mobile bunker is invaluable in the kind of meat-grinder conflicts of attrition that have come to define the current stage of large-scale ground combat. Speed and armor still contribute to survivability, and the main gun of a tank remains one of the deadliest weapons on the modern battlefield.

But the modern tank performs best as part of a combined arms team, supported by infantry (mounted and unmounted) and copious amounts of supporting arms (artillery and close air support.) As part of such a team, especially one that is well-trained in the art of close combat, the tank remains an essential weapon of war. However, if operated in isolation, a tank is simply an expensive mobile coffin.

Much has been made about the recent decision made by NATO and allied nations to provide Western main battle tanks to Ukraine. The politics of this decision is its own separate topic. This article will address the operational practicalities of this decision, namely has the military capability of Ukraine been enhanced through the provision of these new weapons systems.

To answer this question, one needs to examine three basic issues: training, logistical sustainability, and operational employment.

Training

It takes 22 weeks to train a basic American M1 Abrams crewmember. That training just gives the soldier the very basic skill set to be functional. Actual operational expertise is only achieved through months, if not years, of additional training in not just the system itself, but employing it as part of a similarly trained combine arms team. Simply put, even a Ukrainian tank crew experienced in the operation of Soviet-era T-72 or T-64 tanks will not be able to immediately transition to a Western-style main battle tank.

T-72B3M main battle tanks from the 1st Guards Tank Regiment at Red Square

First and foremost, the crew size of a Soviet-era tank is three, reflecting the reality that the Soviet tanks make use of an automatic loading mechanism. Western tanks have four crew members because the loading of the main tank gun is done manually. Adapting to these dynamics takes time, and requires extensive training.

Training is expensive. NATO is currently providing Ukraine with three types of Western main battle tank: the British Challenger 2, the German Leopard 2, and the American M1A2. There is no unified training course—each tank requires its own unique training prospectus that is not directly transferable to another system.

The decentralized training processes created by such a diverse approach promotes inefficiencies and generates discrepancies in outcome—one crew will not be like another, which in combat, where units are supposed to be interchangeable to promote predictable outcomes if all other circumstances remain the same, is usually fatal.

Moreover, these problems will only be enhanced by the emphasis that will be placed on rapid outcomes. The reality is whatever training programs that are developed and delivered by the nations providing the tanks will be insufficient to the task, resulting in poorly trained crews taking extremely complicated weapons systems into the most dangerous environment in the world for a tank—the teeth of a Russian Army designed and equipped to kill these very same tanks.

Logistical Sustainability

Tanks are among the most technically challenging weapons systems on a modern battlefield. They are constantly breaking down, especially if not properly maintained. For the M1 Abrams, for every hour a tank is in the field, there are three hours of maintenance time required. This problem only becomes magnified in combat.

Normally an armor unit is equipped with highly specialized organic maintenance crews that can repair most of the minor issues that can sideline a tank. Given the training requirements to produce this level of high-quality mechanic, it is unlikely Ukraine will be provided with this kind of maintenance support.

A Ukrainian artilleryman throws an empty 155MM shell tube as Ukrainian soldiers fire a M777 howitzer towards Russian positions on the frontline of eastern Ukraine, on November 23, 2022.

This means that the tanks that are being provided to Ukraine will need to be returned to NATO nations for any significant repairs of equipment that is damaged through simple usage or actual combat. In short, it is highly likely that a Western main battle tank in Ukrainian hands will break down at some point during its operational use by Ukraine, meaning that the total number of tanks available to Ukraine will be far less than the number of tanks provided.

Operational Employment

Ukraine’s commander in chief of the Armed Forces, General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, told The Economist last month that he needed 300 tanks, 500 infantry fighting vehicles, and 500 artillery pieces, if he were going to have any chance of defeating [Russia].

Following the January 20 meeting of the Ramstein Contact Group, and subsequent follow-on discussions about the provision of tanks, NATO and its allied partners have agreed to provide less than 50% of the number of tanks requested, less than 50% of the number of infantry fighting vehicles requested, and less than 20% of the artillery requested.

Moreover, the timetable for delivery of this equipment is staggered incoherently over a period that stretches out for many months, and in some cases extends into the next year. Not only does this complicate training and logistical sustainability issues that are already unfavorably inclined for Ukraine, but it makes any meaningful effort to integrate this material into a cohesive operational employment plan all but impossible. In short, Ukraine will be compelled to commit the equipment provided—especially the tanks—into combat in piecemeal fashion.

The truth about tanks is that NATO and its allied nations are making Ukraine weaker, not stronger, by providing them with military systems that are overly complicated to operate, extraordinarily difficult to maintain, and impossible to survive unless employed in a cogent manner while supported by extensive combined arms partners.

The decision to provide Ukraine with Western main battle tanks is, literally, a suicide pact, something those who claim they are looking out for the best interests of Ukraine should consider before it is too late.

Tyler Durden
Wed, 02/08/2023 – 02:00

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Balloon With 3 Hypersonic Missiles Tested By China In 2018

Balloon With 3 Hypersonic Missiles Tested By China In 2018

Authored by Andrew Thornebrooke via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

Chinese state-owned television aired footage of a high-altitude balloon dropping hypersonic weapons in 2018.

China tested hypersonic glide vehicles dropped from a balloon in 2018, according to Chinese state broadcaster CCTV. (Screenshot via Chinese social media)

The stunning footage displays a high-altitude balloon, not dissimilar from the one that traversed over the United States last week, carrying three hypersonic glide vehicles (HGVs) into high altitude and dropping them for testing.

Chinese state broadcaster CCTV reported on the weapons test in September 2018. The footage has since been deleted from Chinese media, but photographs and short clips can still be found online.

In one post from 2018, a Twitter user shared footage from Douyin, China’s version of TikTok, which shows the balloon lifting the three HGVs from the ground.

HGVs are generally launched by rockets in a similar manner to traditional missiles. Upon reaching orbit, however, HGVs detach from the rocket and fly through the atmosphere using their own momentum.

Such weapons are much faster than other missiles while they are in low orbit, but become much slower upon hitting the dense air of the atmosphere as they have no jets to power them. The three HGVs dropped by the balloon in the footage appear to have been designed to test this phenomenon.

The balloon-dropped HGVs were part of an effort to develop precision warheads for hypersonic weapons, which would give the Chinese military an “unstoppable nuclear-capable weapon,” according to the South China Morning Post.

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Tyler Durden
Tue, 02/07/2023 – 23:50

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