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Weekly Brief-en-18 March


March 18, 2023

The Maritime Security Forum is pleased to provide you with a product, in the form of a week newsletter, through which we present the most relevant events and information on naval issues, especially those related to maritime security and other related areas. It aims to present a clear and concise assessment of the most recent and relevant news in this area, with references to sources of information. We hope that this newsletter will prove to be a useful resource for you, providing a comprehensive insight into the complicated context of the field for both specialists and anyone interested in the dynamics of events in the field of maritime security.

The Weekly Brief contains more voluminous material and the concept is to be studied at the weekend but also during the week depending on the reader’s interest, unlike the MS Daily which is designed to be read ,, over a cup of flavored coffee,,

Weekly Brief 18 March, 2023



Update from Ukraine | The beginning of the end for the Russian dictator | Arrest warrant for Putin-Video presentation.

US sends U-2 Dragon Lady to Ukraine to spy on Russian movements-Video Presentation.

Russia, India and Iran’s strategic trade corridor | Alternative to the Suez Canal | Geopolitics-Video Presentation  

Comparison of Japan and Russia’s military power in 2023 | Comparison of Russia and Japan’s military power in 2023 17 Mar 2023-Video Presentation.

The US is not intimidated by the MQ-9 shoot-down. An RQ-4 Global Hawk drone transited Romania, then flew over the Black Sea towards Crimea.

Historic moment for Turkey’s aviation industry: TF-X fighter jet performs first ground tests (Photo).

Turks finally unveil testing of new TF-X fighter jet to replace F-16-Video presentation.

Slovakia extends donation and sends Ukraine KUB anti-aircraft systems along with 13 Mig-29s.

New Iranian drone strike on Ukraine on Friday night. Air alert, active for the eastern part of the country 

Could Trump’s victory in 2024 equate to Ukraine’s defeat? Former NATO chief: I fear a geopolitical catastrophe  

Erdogan has accepted Finland’s NATO membership. Sweden is still waiting.


Sextant used in space missions-Author: Vasile Chirila.

Sextant used in Apollo missions-Video presentation.

North Korea fires intercontinental missile on day of Yoon’s visit to Japan.

AUKUS pact: One step closer to war between China and the West?.

One year after Germany’s ‘Big Change’, policy change remains elusive.

As China and Russia unite, watch India.

Norway wants to replace its European NH-90 helicopters with American MH-60 Sea Hawks.


“Grain corridor” in the Black Sea in September 2022 – March 2023. New highlights.

Seymour Hersh in conversation. On US sabotage of Nord Stream pipelines.


Update from Ukraine | The beginning of the end for the Russian dictator | Arrest warrant for Putin-Video presentation

US sends U-2 Dragon Lady to Ukraine to spy on Russian movements-Video Presentation

Russia, India and Iran’s strategic trade corridor | Alternative to the Suez Canal | Geopolitics-Video Presentation

Comparison of Japan and Russia’s military power in 2023 | Comparison of Russia and Japan’s military power in 2023 17 Mar 2023-Video Presentation

In this video we will compare the military power of Japan and Russia, Japan vs Russia video contains comparison of Japan and Russia by many of their skills and capabilities, we compare the Air Force, Army , Navy and nuclear power of each country. in the ground forces we compare the number of active personnel, reserve personnel, battle tanks, armored vehicles, MRAP, APC, armored cars, Total Artillery, mobile missile projectors of Japan vs Russia. In the Air Force section we compared the number of total aircraft, fighter aircraft, attack aircraft, total helicopters, attack helicopters, transport aircraft, AWACS, electronic warfare aircraft, strategic bombers, stealth bombers of each country Japan and Russia . In the “Navy” section we compared the total number of naval assets of Japan and Russia, the total number of aircraft carriers, aircraft carriers, submarines, destroyers, frigates, corvettes of each country, Japan and Russia, and finally we compared the number of nuclear weapons of Japan and Russia.

U-2 spy planes flew out of RAF Fairford on daily missions to provide surveillance of Ukraine while Russian forces continued their illegal invasion. This narrow-bodied high-flying aircraft was part of the 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron of the United States Air Force. Although normally shrouded in secrecy, with little public ability to observe the Dragon Lady up close for nearly four years at RAF Fairford. The U-2 provided many opportunities for local aviation enthusiasts to see the legendary Cold War spy plane up close in the air over Gloucestershire.

The US is not intimidated by the MQ-9 shoot-down. An RQ-4 Global Hawk drone transited Romania, then flew over the Black Sea towards Crimea

This week’s aviation incident when two Russian Su-27 jets crashed a US MQ-9 Reaper drone over international waters of the Black Sea did not intimidate the United States. Presumably, the Russian Air Force was hoping that the Americans would reduce their air presence in the area, especially since they have imposed a so-called Russian no-fly zone in the Black Sea. But, surprise! The United States sent a new reconnaissance drone to the Russian-annexed Crimean Peninsula. According to air traffic monitoring service Flightradar, an RQ-4 Global Hawk drone with the call sign FORTE10 transited Romanian airspace to conduct a flight over the Black Sea.

The RQ-4 Global Hawk drone entered international airspace over the Black Sea after circling over Romanian airspace a few hours earlier.

The drone reportedly took off from Sigonella air base near the Italian city of Catania. This is evidenced by data from air traffic monitoring service Flightradar24, reports Censor.NET.

The drone took off from Sigonella air base near the Italian city of Catania. It was in Romanian airspace for some time and is now flying over the Black Sea. As of 13:00, 14,800 Flightradar24 users were following the flight of the US RQ-4 Global Hawk drone.

The RQ-4 Global Hawk drone entered international airspace in the Black Sea after an incident this week when two Russian Su-27 fighter jets crashed an American MQ-9 Reaper drone.

Earlier, CNN reported that the US military sent a new drone to the Black Sea region to inspect the crash site and monitor the actions of the Russian military, which has begun searching for the wreckage of the MQ-9 Reaper drone.

Earlier, in the US press, there were reports of “increased Russian ship activity in the area where the MQ-9 Reaper drone went down”.

The MQ-9 Reaper drone is at a depth of 850 m in the Black Sea

The drone itself is at a depth of around 850m and special deep-sea vehicles are needed to bring it to the surface. Thus, we can assume that the RQ-4B Global Hawk is now in the international airspace of the Black Sea to monitor this activity, but also to continue intelligence gathering missions on the activity of Russian armed forces in the Crimean Peninsula.

For its part, the US Department of Defense (DoD) said it is working to declassify information related to the incident in international airspace over the Black Sea. The US military yesterday released video footage of a Russian Su-27 fighter jet performing dangerous aerial manoeuvres that led to the crash of the MQ-9 Reaper drone in the Black Sea.

Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, said the attack on the US drone was carried out over part of Russian territory, alluding to the fact that the Crimean Peninsula belongs to Russians, not Ukrainians.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shigu also decorated the Su-27 pilots who shot down an American MQ-9 Reaper drone over the Black Sea.

Historic moment for Turkey’s aviation industry: TF-X fighter jet performs first ground tests (Photo)

Turkey is writing a new chapter in the modern history of its aviation industry. Turkey continues to be quite ambitious and doesn’t seem to want to give up on its military programme to build the TF-X fighter jet, even though it has faced many difficulties since the programme was officially dropped in 2013. Turkish media reports that the fighter jet [MMU in Turkish] TAI TF-X, has started test runs. The TF-X, which took to the runway powered by its own engines, successfully completed the test.

The military programme for the TF-X fighter aircraft, which was initiated by the Turkish Defence Industries Board [SSB] and is being implemented by TAI (Turkish Aerospace Industries), is progressing successfully.

Today, Turkish media published some pictures of the fighter jet which started taxiing tests on the runway, the next stage of ground tests.

According to Turkish media reports, during the test that took place on Thursday, 16 March, the TF-X aircraft started its own engines and took to the runway. The test involved starting the engines and moving on its own, advancing along the runway to a certain distance. Turkey declared the test a success, which it was.

The next test will be officially presented tomorrow, 18 March. It is known as the roll-out, which is the official departure of the aircraft from the hangar. The runway test demonstrated that the TF-X is fully prepared to perform the roll-out test.

However, it is unclear whether the TF-X aircraft will be produced entirely by Turkish industry, as Turkey wishes, as the companies participating in this project are looking for external partners. What is certain is that the programme has been delayed due to technological problems. Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) has been in talks with Rolls-Royce to co-produce the engines, but without concrete results.

We say this is an ambitious approach, as the military programme to build the TF-X has been delayed several times. A full-size mock-up of the fighter was unveiled at the Paris Air Show in 2019, TUSAS President and CEO Temel Kotil said then that Turkey’s goal was to achieve a first flight with the prototype in 2025. At the same time, it was hoped that the first aircraft of this type would join the Turkish Air Force as early as 2028.

Importance of the TF-X programme for the Turkish Air Force

The TAI TF-X project, which Turkey aims to develop as a 5th generation fighter aircraft, was launched on 5 August 2016. Ankara originally planned for the aircraft to make its first flight in 2026. However, Turkey is making rapid progress and now says the first flight will be in late 2023.

It is known that 3 MMU Block 0 and 1 MMU Block I prototypes will be produced by TAI. Production of 3 MMU Block 0 prototypes is planned to be completed by the end of 2026. From 2029, it is planned to start production work on the MMU Block I configuration and deliver 10 A/C MMU Block I to the Turkish Air Force.

The TF-X is a 5th generation fighter aircraft, which is intended to have similar characteristics to Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II. The TF-X programme has been developed with the aim of replacing the F-16C/D aircraft from 2030. As far as is known so far, Turkey would like between 100-150 TF-X aircraft for its air force, to keep operational until the early 2070s. At least that’s how things look on paper, but we’ll see how many of these become reality.

In July 2019, Washington excluded Turkey from the US-led F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program in response to Ankara’s decision to purchase and deploy Russia’s S-400 missile defense system.

Since then, Turkey has placed greater emphasis on the development of the TF-X programme. The Ankara government has allocated an additional $1.3 billion for Phase 1 of the TF-X programme. A total of 6,000 engineers are working on the programme and Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) has said it will soon build the first hangar to house the aircraft.

Turks finally unveil testing of new TF-X fighter jet to replace F-16-Video presentation

The TAI TF-X (Turkish Fighter) is a stealth twin-engine all-weather air superiority fighter in development by Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) and BAE Systems as its sub-contractor. The aircraft is planned to replace F-16 Fighting Falcons of the Turkish Air Force and to be exported to foreign nations. TAI CEO Temel Kotil stated that the TF-X will be unveiled by March 23, 2023 and make its maiden flight by 2025.

Slovakia extends donation and sends Ukraine KUB anti-aircraft systems along with 13 Mig-29s

Slovak MiG-29. Photo: Ministry of Defence in Bratislava

Just hours after the Slovak government approved the delivery of the withdrawn MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine on 17.03.2023, the parties took another step in this direction.

Slovak Defence Minister Jaroslav Nad and Ukrainian Ambassador in Bratislava Myroslav Kastran signed an intergovernmental agreement between the two countries. According to the document, the Slovak side will donate 13 MiG-29 fighter jets and components of a Kub air defence system to Ukraine.

Slovak Defence Ministry spokeswoman Martina Kakascíkova told TASR news agency that Slovakia is donating 13 MiG-29 fighter jets and two launchers of the Kub anti-aircraft missile system to Ukraine. Deliveries to the Ukrainian side will also include a guidance system, spare parts and missiles.

“Slovakia sent a clear signal today that it is on the right side of history. The greatest value is human life and that is why I believe that, thanks to Slovak military technology, these values will be protected in the best possible way,” said Nad.

According to Kakascíkova, the agreement between the Government of the Slovak Republic and the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine on the donation of military equipment is in line with Slovakia’s foreign policy interests. “It is drawn up in accordance with the legal order of the Slovak Republic, the general principles of international law, as well as the obligations of the Slovak Republic arising from other international documents,” the representative of the Slovak Defence Ministry stressed.

Slovakia and Poland are the first NATO states to send fighter jets to Ukraine. Poland will deliver the first four MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine in the coming days.


Slovakia has also sent Ukraine the S-300 system and Zuzana-2 howitzers.

 Photo: S-300

It should be noted that Slovakia has already transferred S-300 S anti-aircraft missile systems and Zuzana-2 self-propelled artillery systems to Ukraine.

The artillery pieces have a calibre of 155 millimetres, which is used by the artillery of NATO member states.

The Zuzana-2 self-propelled guns are produced by Konstrukta-Defence. They are mounted on the new Tatra chassis type T 815-7. The turret of the guns has level 3 protection according to the STANAG 4569 standard, i.e. it withstands a 155 millimetre projectile hit at a distance of 60 metres. The range of the installations is 41 kilometres.

New Iranian drone strike on Ukraine on Friday night. Air alert, active for the eastern part of the country

On Friday evening, 17 March, an air alert was announced in a number of eastern and northern regions of Ukraine .

According to Telegram channels, Shahed drones were launched by the Russians “from the Primorsko-Akhtarsk direction of the Krasnodar Territory”, an area east of the Kerch Strait.

The military administration of the Kiev region warned of the threat of drone attacks.

“Kyiv region! Threat of drone attack. We appeal to residents to stay in safe places until the end of the “air alert” signal. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones!” – said the Kiev Regional Military Administration.

Ukrainian officials confirm that the air defense is operating in the region and ask the population to keep the information embargo and not to share on social media the air defense activity and the consequences of enemy strikes.

According to UPravda, Telegram channels report on air defense activity in the Chernihiv and Kiev regions. Also, air alert has started in Zaporizhia (20:44) and Dnipropetrovsk (20:59) regions.

As of 21:20, an air alert was also announced in Poltava, Kharkov, Kerniv regions, the capital Kiev and Kiev region. At 21:39 – also in Khytomyr.

Head of the President’s Office Andri Yermak also wrote in Telegram: “Balalaikele are shot down by air defense forces. But don’t ignore the alarm.”

There is no information on the imminence of a new wave of missile attacks. Lately, the Russian Federation has reportedly been using Iranian drones as “decoys” to try to pinpoint points from which Ukrainian air defences strike

Could Trump’s victory in 2024 equate to Ukraine’s defeat? Former NATO chief: I fear a geopolitical catastrophe

Photo Credit: White House

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the former head of the North Atlantic Alliance has a bleak view of Trump’s role in Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Although in the long run he sees Trump in the losing camp, the former senior NATO official believes Trump has not had his last word on the international political stage, Politico reports.

It must be said that Anders Fogh Rasmussen is one of the Kiev government’s most important advisers, and from this position he is trying to get decision-makers in Washington and European capitals to provide the Ukrainian army with more and better weapons so that Ukraine can defeat Russia.

It may seem counterintuitive to fear Trump’s candidacy more than his return to power, but Rasmussen fears the worst in the event of a Trump candidacy – the former US president’s mere participation could sabotage the war in Ukraine, Anders Fogh Rasmussen believes.

 Photo Credit: Donald Trump

By winning the Republican primary for US president, Trump could shatter the bipartisan front in favour of Ukraine, Rasmussen fears.

Incidentally, Trump has been outspoken about his views on Russia’s invasion, praising Putin in the early days of the war as a smart strategist and recently suggesting that Ukraine should have ceded “Russian-speaking territories” to the invader.

Rasmussen says Trump’s policy on Ukraine would amount to acknowledging Russia’s claims.

“I call it a geopolitical catastrophe if Trump were nominated, because in the campaign his influence would be destructive,” Rasmussen says.

Basically, Trump would “contaminate” a much larger share of the electorate with his ideas and make it more difficult to secure congressional support for the war.

Already polls show “weakening support for Ukraine” in the United States.

And Trump’s appointment could accelerate this, Rasmussen argues.

“I really hope the Republicans will act in concert,” he says. “I hope, I would say not only from a European perspective, but also from a global perspective, that the Republicans will nominate a candidate who is much more committed to American global leadership than Trump and the Trumps.”

Who could be a Trump alternative

 Donald Trump and US Vice President Mike Pence

There are only a few candidates with a real chance in the Republican race who fit this description.

The most promising might be Mike Pence, the former vice president who is positioning himself for massive support for Ukraine and has denounced Russian “apologists” in his own party.

Nikki Haley, the former UN ambassador, has backed giving Ukraine the weapons it needs and describes Ukraine’s war as a fight for freedom.

Trump’s main Republican rival, Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida, has similarly Trumpian views on Ukraine, denouncing what he calls Biden’s “blank check policy” of military aid and saying the fate of Ukraine’s border regions should not be a primary US concern. DeSantis described Russia’s savage war of aggression as a “territorial dispute.”

But the Republican Party has no shortage of supporters for Ukraine. There are plenty of them, Politico writes, but like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, they have tended to be less vocal when it comes to financial and military spending. One of Ukraine’s staunch supporters, Mitch McConnell assured European leaders at last month’s Munich Security Conference that Republican leaders value a “strong transatlantic alliance” – whatever other voices say.

Still, there is a pronounced gap on Ukraine: a Gallup poll published in February found that 81% of Democrats wanted Ukraine to regain lost territory even at the risk of prolonging the war, compared with 53% of Republicans.

Only 10% of Democrats thought the United States had done too much to support Ukraine, while nearly half of Republicans thought American support had gone too far.

Clearly, the views of the electorate are heavily influenced by the discourse of its leaders, where Trump and his acolytes play a very prominent role.

These are the consequences of letting people like Trump and Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, who is the most caustic American antagonist of the Ukrainian government, become the most powerful right-wing voices on the most burning security issue of the moment, the US publication adds.

Erdogan has accepted Finland’s NATO membership. Sweden is still waiting

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on Friday that he has finally agreed to Finland’s accession to NATO, with the parliament in Ankara set to ratify the country’s membership but not Sweden’s, Agerpres reports.

“We have decided to launch Finland’s NATO accession process in our parliament,” Erdogan said after a meeting in Ankara with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto. The Turkish president expressed hope that the vote in the Turkish parliament would take place before the parliamentary elections in May.

As for Sweden, Erdogan said he would continue talks with Sweden on terrorism-related issues and that Turkey’s ratification of the country’s entry into the Alliance would depend on the steps taken by the Swedish government.

Meanwhile, Hungary, the only other NATO member apart from Turkey that has not ratified the accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO, has announced that it will ratify Finland’s accession on 27 March. The announcement was made on Facebook by Mate Kocsis, the parliamentary group leader of Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party. As for the ratification of Sweden’s accession, the parliament in Budapest will vote on it “later”, the same Hungarian politician wrote in his message, without further details.

The two countries’ admission to the alliance was vetoed by Turkey, which accused them of harbouring “terrorists”, a term Ankara uses to refer to members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Following negotiations with the Turkish government, Sweden and Finland signed a memorandum with it last year pledging to deem the PKK a terrorist organisation. These two countries have also pledged not to support various groups opposed to Ankara, including the Kurdish YPG armed movement in Syria.

Turkey has meanwhile become even more radical against welcoming Sweden into the alliance, after a pro-Kurdish group symbolically “executed” a mannequin depicting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Stockholm in January, and a member of the far-right burned a copy of the Koran in the Swedish capital.

 NATO welcomes Turkey’s decision

 NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Friday welcomed Turkey’s decision to ratify Finland’s accession to the North Atlantic Alliance and called for ratification of Sweden’s membership “as soon as possible”, reports AFP.

“The most important thing is for Finland and Sweden to become full members of NATO quickly, and not to join at exactly the same time,” he explained in a statement published shortly after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s announcement.

The Ukrainian Air Force has published the first images from the use of the NASAMS air defence system

The Ukrainian Air Force has published the first images from a deployment of the NASAMS air defence system, saying it is very effective in intercepting air targets.

 Ukrainian Air Force Command spokesman Yuri Ignat detailed how the NASAMS air defence system works.

“The advantage of these Western systems is the ability to work in a single information field, i.e. to exchange information in real time,” Yuri Igna said, according to Militarnyi.

He also assessed the effectiveness of the complexes in the system for protecting Ukrainian airspace from Russian missile attacks.

“In the beginning, few missiles were shot down, because we didn’t have this kind of capabilities. There were 20-30% of missiles that were shot down. The percentage of downed missiles started to increase rapidly when we got Western systems: such as NASAMS, Iris-T,” the Ukrainian Air Force Command spokesman summed up.

Ignat stressed that although the efficiency of the systems is high, they cannot fully protect Ukrainian airspace:

“The existing medium-range SAMs (surface-to-air missiles) in Ukraine cannot physically cover the whole country, they cover strategically important areas, critical infrastructure elements, and their location is continuously changed. Currently, we have a diverse range of Soviet and Western-made air defence systems operated by the armed forces. But that is not enough. [Because] our country is big, one of the biggest in Europe,” the Ukrainian official said.

Currently, there are two NASAMS anti-aircraft missile systems in the Ukrainian Air Force. Another six complexes have been ordered by the United States as part of military security assistance to Ukraine, and an astfe of the system has also been pledged by Canada. Norway also recently announced plans to transfer two batteries of this air defence system to Ukraine.

The spokesman of the Ukrainian Air Force Command also published the first photo of a NASAMS anti-aircraft missile system launch unit.

It is known that the NASAMS systems received by Ukraine did not come from the US military inventory, but were purchased directly from the manufacturer. It can be assumed that they were part of an order for another country.

According to Raytheon Technologies CEO Greg Hayes, the United States is working with Middle Eastern countries to receive NASAMS systems on short notice. Therefore, it cannot be excluded that exactly one of these systems is in the photo shown by Yuri Ignat, as the shade of the paint matches the camouflage colour of a Middle Eastern army.

According to Hayes, the aim was to send a system ordered by another country to Ukraine in a relatively short time: between three and six months. Then the US would fill more orders over the next 24 months.

Hayes said NASAMS takes two years to build because of the time it takes to procure electronics and rocket motors. Such a US-Norwegian complex is known to be in the service of Oman. Kuwait and Qatar have already placed orders and are waiting to receive the NASAMS.


Sextant used in space missions-Author: Vasile Chirila

I have written this chapter based on the following sources: extracts from Apollo flight plans and mission reports, astronaut autobiographies and especially the book Digital Apollo by David A. Mindell.

A sextant provides the ability to make observations of the astronauts and estimate the position of the vehicle during loss of communications or other unforeseen situations. Its simplicity and independence from primary power systems make it useful as an emergency, survival backup to confirm position. Between December 1968 and December 1972, a total of nine Apollo spacecraft carried human crews away from Earth to another celestial body.

You can’t just launch a rocket to the moon and expect it to get there. Knowing that predicted navigation is not very accurate because variables such as wind, sea currents, or directional errors are not correctly estimated, sailors check their position with a sextant using the Sun, Moon, planets or stars. When a spacecraft sails from the Earth to the Moon, it encounters differences in gravity, and the rocket engine starts to correct the trajectory are rarely optimal, so errors are part of the process.

On a spacecraft you need a compass, a loch and a clock to calculate time, speed and distance travelled, which you use estimated navigation procedures to determine your position from a fixed, previously established position. Sailors determine the point of the ship from hour to hour, knowing the speed, sailing time and direction from the starting point. Travelling to the Moon, the process is similar, but in three dimensions and also thousands of times faster and with more sophisticated instruments. Instead of a magnetic/gyroscopic compass, the astronauts relied on an inertial module to hold the heading. Instead of a loch, accelerometers tracked every change in velocity. Instead of a chronometer accurate to the second, the atomic clock accurate to a millionth of a second.

Instead of wind or current drift, variable gravity produces changes in the spacecraft’s path. But otherwise, the astronauts’ situation was similar enough to that of sailors to use similar technology, meaning that instead of a nautical sextant, the astronauts used a space sextant.An ancient device was thus deployed aboard the Command Module (MC) and Lunar Module (ML) to help with guidance, control and navigation. During the Apollo era, stellar navigation was integrated into the digital computer and perfected through the use of a sextant. The Gemini missions of 1965-1966 were the first to use the sextant on a spacecraft. Following this initial technology demonstration, Apollo designers designed a sextant as a navigation backup. James Lovell, on Apollo 8 in 1968, was the first person to demonstrate that the sextant could be used to navigate in space. At that time there were obviously a number of unknowns to safely navigate from Earth to the Moon. Early flights of the Pioneer series of unmanned space probes revealed that small errors that occur when a rocket is stopped produce large errors in the final trajectory.

MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), which had experience in inertial systems for ballistic missiles on submarines and aircraft, received one of the first contracts for the GNC (Guidance, Navigation and Control) system for which they were given the following requirements: “to perform easy navigation measurements during the circumlunar voyage so as to optimally update and improve the position and motion elements (spacecraft track and velocity)”. The system was primarily inertial, but to correct for drift, it had “a space sextant to make periodic measurements of the navigation angle between pairs of celestial objects: Sun, Moon, nearby planets or selected stars.”

Of particular importance for inertial navigation were the varying effects of the gravitational field marked by changing proximity to the Earth or Moon and due to the anomalous nature of the Moon’s gravity.

The Apollo spacecraft contained a guidance and navigation and control (GNC) system that allowed its crew to navigate from Earth orbit to the Moon and back. The abbreviation GNC stands for guidance, navigation and control. Guidance (G) determines what velocity changes are needed to get the spacecraft where it needs to go, navigation(N) answers the question “where are we?” and control (C) is about operating the engine to get the spacecraft where it needs to go. The GNC components taken together took Apollo to the Moon.

The GNC system consisted of three main parts: an inertial measurement unit (IMU), which contained gyroscopes and accelerometers that established a baseline position and altitude, an optical unit (including a sextant) that allowed astronauts to update IMU settings based on observations of stars and planets, and a digital computer (AGC). The navigation unit was placed in the lower compartment of the command module for stability and to avoid exposure to vibration. Two Space Sextant telescopes were incorporated in the Apollo command module, opposite the hatch. View. The eyepieces seen in the first picture are of the command module sextant, measuring 45.7 x 40.6 cm, the second picture shows the elements visible on the outside of the module.

The AGC is a digital computer produced for the Apollo program, which was installed on board each Apollo Command Module (MC) and Apollo Lunar Module (ML). It provided the interface for spacecraft guidance, navigation and control and had the following navigation programs: P22 for determining the MC’s location coordinates on the lunar surface using the sextant during orbital passes over the landing zone, P23 for spacecraft position and trajectory checks using the sextant, and P52 for aligning the navigation platform through spacecraft calibrations and realignments resulting from sextant observations of the stars.

The Apollo spacecraft navigated primarily using the radio system to provide position and velocity information.

As the spacecraft moved away from the Earth and closer to the Moon their trajectories could be determined based on angles measured with a sextant between the Earth or Moon and one of the selected stars. The sextant was similar to the classic naval sextant in that it had two lines of sight: fixed and moving. The fixed device aimed at a landmark on Earth, such as San Francisco Bay; when such a landmark was not available, the spacecraft aimed at a point on the Sunlit contour of the Earth or Moon. The second line of sight was the star line, which could be moved up to 67 degrees from the fixed line of sight. By aligning images of two objects using both lines of sight, it was possible to measure the angle between them accurately. The device was used repeatedly throughout the Apollo programme, in many phases of the missions, including re-entry.

Apollo was designed at the height of the Cold War and there was a real fear that its transmissions might be blocked by the USSR. While this thinking may now seem wrong, it is worth remembering that the space missions took place just when these concerns were taken very seriously. However, space flight proved to be above the Cold War, literally and figuratively, and the competitive nature of the “Space Race” never turned into aggression. The Apollo Sextant was used in Earth orbit and lunar orbit, as well as round trip. The instrument combined two separate optical devices that worked together as a sextant. Although it didn’t look like a traditional sextant, it worked in a similar way. The Apollo sextant fulfilled the role of a device to help align and limit the drift of the inertial system. There were two separate optical instruments in the guidance and navigation system, and these were used by the crew to navigate by the stars using landmarks on Earth or the Moon, giving the crew the means to navigate independent of ground-based mission control – an important safety measure in case of loss of communications.

The apparatus consisted of two telescopes: the first, a wide-field, non-magnifying search telescope used to locate a star or constellation in space, and the second, a telescope with 28 times magnification power, with which the actual reading was taken. One of the telescope axes was fixed, so the process of orienting to the Earth or Moon consisted of rotating the entire spacecraft until the star came into view. The Apollo Computer (AGC) calculated the spacecraft’s position based on this angle and the data stored in its memory. The astronaut aimed at two celestial bodies (two stars, or a star and the horizon of the Earth or Moon), adjusted the optics until they were aligned and brought into coincidence, then pressed a button that marked the instrument reading and the time. To determine the proper course for the Apollo spacecraft, the optical sextant assembly along with the AGC worked like this:

– The star code was entered into the AGC via the keypad to run a program that updated the inertial measurement unit;

– the code appeared on the screen, and the astronaut confirmed the number and pressed “Enter” to enter the code into the guidance computer;

– the computer processed the information to determine the spacecraft’s position and orientation to the indicated star;

– the astronaut located the star through the optical assembly and brought the image of the star into correlation with the landmark or horizon in the fixed telescope;

– when the alignment was made, the astronaut pressed the “Mark” button, which told the computer to record the angle between the star and the horizon and the time of the measurement;

– by repeating the procedure with a second star and sometimes a third, the computer had enough data to determine the spacecraft’s position;

– once the operation was complete, the status vector or position of the spacecraft was known.

Apollo 7 used P23 in Earth orbit, but did not obtain convincing results, according to the Post-Mission Report, page 5-98: “A series of measurements between the Earth’s horizon and a star were scheduled, but all attempts to make these observations were unsuccessful. This failure resulted from the inability of the crew to define a landmark on the horizon. The dichroic filter in the line of sight of the landmark did not help define a landmark for repeatable observations. The possibility of observing lunar stars/landmarks was demonstrated using the Alphard star and lunar landmark 5 (Diophantus crater).”

Apollo 8 was the first mission in which a human crew sailed, on the Saturn V spacecraft, from one celestial body to another, carried three astronauts from Earth into orbit around the Moon and back safely, and took the famous “Earthrise” photograph showing the blue Earth rising above a barren and inhospitable lunar horizon. By 1968, however, the on-board navigation system had evolved from a ground-based system to a backup system used by the astronauts, although in the initial planning stages for Apollo this extensive use of equipment was not foreseen. James Lovell, a Navy man, was the primary navigator for the mission, but the other astronauts (Frank Borman and William Anders) were also trained to use the system. Although mission control normally performed all the actual navigation calculations, it was necessary to have a crew member who was an expert in navigation so that the spacecraft could return to Earth if communications with mission control were interrupted. Apollo8 was the first spacecraft to enter lunar orbit and navigated by measuring the angle between a star and the Earth’s (or Moon’s) horizon with a sextant. James Lovell is one of 24 people to fly to the Moon, the first of three people to fly to the Moon twice and the only one to fly there twice without landing. He was also the first person to fly into space four times.

The first major use of the Apollo AGC computer came with the flight of Apollo 8. It was a test of the MIT-designed computer system, “to determine if the Apollo guidance computer could get the spacecraft to the moon and back without the aid of guidance assistance from Earth.” On the first day, as the spacecraft left Earth orbit, Lovell was unable to get accurate observations because it was hard to make out the stars among the chunks of ice and other small particles surrounding the command module, and as the astronauts travelled to the Moon, they were never in complete darkness; the next day, however, he was able to make much more precise corrections of the spacecraft’s position. Although the astronauts underwent extensive training to learn to recognise a point on the horizon where they could consistently return, fixing the Earth’s orbit was difficult because of the planet’s atmosphere. Correcting gyro drift was a relatively simple process that went like this: the astronaut entered the code of a star into the computer; the computer maneuvered the spacecraft until that star appeared in the telescope reticle; the extent to which the heading to a star was off-center indicated the size of the drift; the astronaut manipulated the optics until the star was centered, then pressed a button and the computer realigned the gyros.

Here’s an excerpt from the Apollo 8 mission report:

“The primary navigation for these missions was done from the ground. As a back-up measure and for stages of the mission (when the spacecraft was in the far side of the Moon) when ground tracking was not possible, an inertial navigation system was used on board. Astronauts periodically used a sextant to measure the angle between a star and the horizon of the Earth or Moon, to align the inertial system and to check the accuracy of the tracking data. The sextant served as a backup for Apollo navigation; ground staff compared the calculated results with those obtained using the sextant as a backup. In Earth or lunar orbit, the sextant was used to calculate the spacecraft’s altitude and position; while in transit between Earth and the Moon, it was used to calculate the spacecraft’s altitude, position, and velocity, which were essential for accurate course correction to reach the Moon and correctly place the spacecraft in the desired lunar orbit” (

Apollo 8 began its journey back to Earth on December 25, Christmas Day. Before re-entry, Lovell made some navigational observations. While maneuvering the module to view various stars, he accidentally erased some of the computer’s memory, which reset the inertial measurement unit to its pre-takeoff state; the IMU then fired the thrusters to “correct” the module’s altitude. Once the crew figured out why the computer had changed the module’s altitude, they realized they would have to re-enter the data for the module’s true orientation. In ten minutes Lovell found the right numbers, using thrusters to align the ship with the stars Rigel and Sirius, and another 15 minutes to enter the corrected data into the computer.

Sixteen months later, during the Apollo 13 mission, Lovell had to perform a similar manual realignment under more critical conditions after the inertial module drive had to be shut down to save power. Apollo 8 was a landmark mission for the use of a sextant in space, as astronauts navigated the space ocean as their counterparts had done at sea for centuries. With their position and velocity calculated on board in close agreement with what was calculated on the ground, the astronauts were confident they would pass safely through the far side of the Moon. This was a real concern because mission plans called for them to establish an orbit just 60 nautical miles from the far side of the Moon when they were not in radio contact with mission control on Earth. Had their calculations been off by even a few percent, they could have entered an impact trajectory with the far side of the Moon, with the CM on the ground unable to help them. The system worked just as well on the return trip, controlling the engine start that pulled the spacecraft out of lunar orbit and put it on a trajectory toward Earth, aligning the command module to a precise angle needed to enter Earth’s atmosphere.

The success of Apollo 8 set the stage for the successful landing of Apollo 11 in July 1969 and subsequent missions. In the book “Digital Apollo”, David Mindell provides further details on the subject. Apollo 8 tested these procedures and demonstrated that Program 23 works best a few hours after entry into trans-lunar orbit or a few hours before re-entry into Earth orbit. The spacecraft’s sextant could be used in conjunction with the navigation computer to determine a position correction while in Earth orbit and an attitude correction while en route to the Moon. Periodic realignment was performed 30 times with the sextant, each time using the P52 program. Program P23 is the program that uses the position update method, measuring with the sextant the angle between a star and a position on the Earth or Moon. This program actually had a few different modes: earth horizon, earth landmark, moon horizon and moon landmark. So you could give the computer the coordinates of a known landmark on the Earth or Moon, or it could also use the horizon closest to the navigation star. The latter method is the one that was used the most, usually while still close to Earth.

Findings from the Apollo 11 Mission Report twice highlight platform realignments with the P52 program. “The Moon, without atmosphere, when illuminated by the Sun, had clear visual landmarks and horizon. Earth, on the other hand, had most if not all of its landmarks obscured by clouds, and the Sunlit horizon (due to reflected sunlight in the atmosphere) is invisible from space and no distinct visual landmarks can be identified. Finding a precise horizon at Earth is important in the re-entry phase.

Apollo 13 has been defined as a successful failure because, although it failed to land, it returned safely to Earth through the efforts of the crew and ground personnel. But to get into the right position for it and stay on the way home, they had to navigate by the stars. This task was hampered by a large cloud of debris around the spacecraft, which made it difficult to identify the debris. Luckily for them, James Lovell, the mission commander, was experienced in guiding the spacecraft by the stars because he had done it before on Apollo 8. Once again, he aligned the sextant with the twilight line and the CM on the ground told the crew exactly when to fire the thrusters to line up. Fortunately, it was the last time the procedure had to be used, as future Apollo missions went off without incident, but it wasn’t the last time sextants were used in space.

The space sextant can also be used as a simple telescope when needed. In July 1969, Michael Collins tried unsuccessfully to use the Apollo 11 sextant to find the lunar module, Eagle, in the Sea of Galilee after landing. His failure probably resulted from the fact that Neil Armstrong changed the intended landing zone by four miles (six kilometres). In November 1969, during the Apollo 12 mission, Richard Gordon was able to use the command module’s sextant telescope to determine the position of the Intrepid lunar module and Surveyor probe after they landed on the Moon in the stormy ocean.

Sextant used in Apollo missions-Video presentation

Arab countries would support Syria’s reconstruction if Bashar al-Assad accepts Arab forces and reduced Iranian influence

Arab and European officials have announced that Arab countries, which have long distanced themselves from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, are willing to offer him a deal that would restore relations between Damascus and many Middle Eastern capitals in exchange for reducing Iran’s influence in Syria.

In talks initially led by Jordan, Arab countries proposed billions of dollars in aid to rebuild Syria after the 12-year civil war and pledged to press the US and European powers to lift sanctions against Assad’s government.

In return, Assad will have to cooperate with the political opposition, accept the presence of Arab forces to protect refugees returning to Syria, crack down on drug trafficking and demand that Iran stop expanding its presence in his country.

Negotiations are still at an early stage, and Assad has shown no interest in political reform or willingness to welcome Arab forces, nor have Western powers shown any inclination to end harsh sanctions for human rights violations in Syria.

But officials have pointed out that the recent devastating earthquakes that struck Turkey and Syria and killed 6,000 people in Syria have given a boost to the talks as Assad seeks to take advantage of the humanitarian catastrophe to reduce his isolation, while Saudi support has given a strong boost to the talks.

In February, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan called for an end to the status quo in Syria to allow a response to the humanitarian crisis. Saudi Arabia recently agreed to restore relations with Iran in a Chinese-brokered deal, signalling that the kingdom is open to a change of course in the region’s geopolitical alignment.

Arab neighbours are slowly rebuilding relations with Syria after Assad, with the help of Russia and Iran, repulsed an attempt to overthrow him, and his government now controls most of the country, except for part of Kurdish-held territory in the north-east and a rebel-held area in the north-western province of Idlib.

The Arab League suspended Syria’s membership in 2011 and imposed sanctions against Assad’s brutal crackdown on popular protests that began during the Arab Spring uprising and quickly turned into armed resistance. The United States and Europe have also imposed tough sanctions on the Syrian government and companies linked to the Assad family.

Now, Syria’s potential reintegration into the wider region and its reconstruction is on the agenda of the Arab summit, scheduled for later this year in Saudi Arabia.

 Syria’s isolation does more harm to the region

 While many Arab officials still despise Assad and his actions, they say international policies that isolate Syria are proving counterproductive over time, strengthening Iran’s influence in the region.

In recent weeks, Jordan and Egypt have sent their foreign ministers to Damascus on their first diplomatic visit since the outbreak of civil war in 2011. The United Arab Emirates has made Assad’s return to the Arab League a priority. UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan hosted the Syrian leader in Abu Dhabi last year, and Emirati companies are testing the waters of doing business in Syria.

According to an Emirati official, “there is an urgent need to strengthen the Arab role in Syria,” adding: “The search for a political solution to the crisis in Damascus needs to be accelerated to avoid the return of terrorism and extremism, which have spread during the ongoing conflict in Syria.”

 Western sanctions and Iranian influence weigh heavily on reconciliation issue

 But convincing the United States and Europe to lift sanctions against Assad and his partners will not be easy for Arab countries, even those that are allies of Washington.

On 20 February, Assad flew to the Sultanate of Oman to meet Sultan Haitham bin Tariq. European and Gulf officials said Assad had demanded pressure on Western countries to temporarily lift sanctions in exchange for keeping open crossings to rebel areas.

A European official and a Syrian government adviser said Assad had asked the sultan to broker a deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran for Tehran to agree to Riyadh having an economic presence in Syria.

Cash-strapped Iran, forced to cut off fuel and medical supplies to Syria, has so far welcomed Arab rapprochement but has shown no sign of reducing its military presence. Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani described progress between Syria and the Arab world as a “realistic approach” and “a positive step towards Islamic solidarity”.

Assad enjoys some leverage in negotiations that require financial assistance from Arab countries and because Syria is the main source of production and supply of the highly addictive drug Captagon. It has become the most widely used drug in the Middle East and Syria’s exports are now estimated at around $10 billion. The Wall Street Journal reported that Jordan raised the Captagon issue in contacts with Syrian officials before the devastating earthquake.

North Korea fires intercontinental missile on day of Yoon’s visit to Japan

LE FIGARO (France), March 16, 2023 – North Korea fired at least one intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) into the Sea of Japan on Thursday (March 16), Seoul announced, hours before a visit to Tokyo by South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol.

“Our military has detected a long-range ballistic missile fired from the Sunan area of Pyongyang,” the Joint Chiefs of Staff told AFP, saying it was an ICBM. Japan’s defence ministry also confirmed the launch, saying in a tweet that it estimated the missile “fell outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone about 550 km east of the Korean Peninsula”. The Japanese coastguard has asked ships passing through the area to be on the lookout for any debris that may be seen floating at sea. This is the third show of force by Pyongyang on Sunday since South Korea and the United States conducted their largest joint military exercises in five years this week.

President Yoon and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida are due to meet in Tokyo on Thursday for talks, including on Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programmes. The summit is the first in 12 years between the two neighbouring powers, who are trying to mend ties long damaged by atrocities committed by Japan during its 35-year colonial rule over Korea (1910-1945).

“Korea and Japan must increasingly cooperate in this period of multiple crises as North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats escalate,” South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said Wednesday in an interview with several media outlets, including AFP. “We cannot afford to waste time ignoring the strained relationship between Korea and Japan. I believe we must put an end to the vicious circle of mutual hostility and work together to defend the common interests of the two countries,” he added. Both countries are currently increasing their defence spending and regularly hold joint military exercises.

North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles on Tuesday and two strategic cruise missiles from a submarine on Sunday, hours before the start of the US-South Korea exercises. Dubbed “Freedom Shield”, the exercises began Monday and are scheduled to last 10 days. The South Korean military also revealed in early March that special forces from Washington and Seoul are also conducting “Teak Knife” military exercises, which consist of simulated precision strikes on key facilities in North Korea. The “Freedom Shield” exercises focus on “changing the security environment” due to North Korea’s dual wrongdoing, the allies said. North Korea sees the exercises as rehearsals for an invasion and regularly promises “crushing” actions in response.

AUKUS pact: One step closer to war between China and the West?

As expected, China has reacted angrily to the AUKUS Security Pact, a comprehensive defence and security alliance between Australia, Britain and the US in the Indo-Pacific region.

MILLIYET (Turkey), March 16, 2023 – China condemned the three-nation agreement, details of which were unveiled in SanDiego, US, on Monday, saying it “ignores the fears of the international community”, “moves in a dangerous direction” and “creates a risk for a new arms race and proliferation of nuclear weapons.”

Since US Congress Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s much-discussed visit to Taiwan last summer, it is the first time China has used such harsh language against the West.

China, which has the world’s largest military and armaments, and is the world’s most populous country, says it feels “squeezed” into the western Pacific region by the US and its allies.

Recently, China’s President Xi Jinping announced an accelerated increase in defence spending and that national security will become the country’s top leadership priority in the coming years.

What did the West hope for, and what did it find?

Okay, but how did it get to this point? Is the world heading in the Pacific towards a conflict of catastrophic proportions between China and the US and their allies? The West was wrong about China. For years, the dominant assumption in Western foreign ministries has been the naive assumption that China’s economic liberalism will inevitably foster an opening up of society and pave the way for political freedoms.

As Western multinational companies invested in China and the standard of living of hundreds of millions of citizens rose, logically, so too should the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) relax its control over society, allow for petty, democratic reforms, and allow the CCP to become part of the “rule-dependent united world order.” But things did not develop in this direction.

Yes, China is an economic giant, it is a vital part of the global supply chain, and it has become the most important trading partner of many countries in the four corners of the world. But instead of intertwining this change with democracy and political liberalism, it has entered a path that strikes fear in both Western governments and neighbouring countries such as Japan, South Korea and the Philippines.

Does China want war?

From a military point of view, China is indeed a force today. In recent years, China’s People’s Liberation Army, both numerically and technologically, has made huge strides.

For example, Dong Feng hypersonic missiles, which can launch powerful explosives or nuclear warheads, can reach five times the speed of sound.

This should give the US pause for thought about the 7th Fleet, based at the Yokosuka military base in Japan, and how prepared it is to risk action against Chinese missiles.  

The situation is the same for ballistic missiles. China has launched an accelerated programme to triple the number of warheads it possesses and is secretly building new weapons depots in its western regions.

But none of this means the country wants to go to war. And China really doesn’t want that.

When it comes to Taiwan, exerting enough pressure for the island to bow its head to the power in Beijing without the use of force is the preferred method.


One year after Germany’s ‘Big Change’, policy change remains elusive

Nine days before Russian President Vladimir Putin began his war of conquest in Ukraine, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz visited Moscow. He summed up his meetings by repeating a phrase made famous by Egon Bahr, West Germany’s emissary to Moscow in the 1970s: “Without Russia, a peace order in Europe is not possible”.

This line was conceived when Bahr launched Germany’s plans for Ostpolitik under then Chancellor Willy Brandt. Usually translated as “new eastern policy”, Ostpolitik prioritised political accommodation and featured slogans such as “change through trade”. It sought to produce goodwill and collaboration, first with East Germany and the Soviet Union and later with the Russian Federation.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this often came at the direct expense of Germany’s less powerful neighbours in Central and Eastern Europe.

Just days after the invasion of Russia, Scholz seemed to reject nearly five decades of Social Democratic Party policy. In a special session of the Bundestag, the chancellor declared “Zeitenwende” or “big change”. This change would reverse half a century of restraint, he proclaimed, by overhauling a bereft Bundeswehr, sending arms to Ukraine and ending Germany’s energy dependence on Russia.

It also implied a pivot to the concerns of emerging democracies in Eastern Europe that have long struggled under Moscow’s thumb. Most recently, Scholz presented his belated decision to send in tanks as the latest evidence of this revolution. With the Leopard 2 added to a plentiful list of equipment authorized for Ukraine’s war effort, US President Joe Biden said Germany “stepped up.”

Within a year, Berlin dropped its insistence on sending helmets alone, becoming the second-largest supplier of arms and ammunition to help Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelenskii. During Scholz’s first visit to the White House since the invasion last week, Biden praised Germany’s “deep support for Ukraine.”

Still, some uncomfortable realities persist.

Despite Chancellor Scholz’s rhetorical pledge to condemn Russia’s actions, Germany still sends less aid to Ukraine per capita than countries without its economic strength. This reality colours its vaunted status as the second largest contributor to Ukraine’s war effort (if one counts its contributions through the European Union as well as independent contributions).

The €100 billion Scholz promised to spend on military modernisation remains an illusion. Germany’s new defence minister, Boris Pistorius, recently claimed he inherited an army in worse shape than it was before Scholz’s pledge. A few weeks earlier, Eva Högl, Scholz’s military commissioner and political ally, publicly insisted that “it would take 300 billion euros to make significant changes in the Bundeswehr”.

A year after his Zeitenwende speech, the chancellor has yet to deliver the radical change he promised. Instead, he seems more willing to wait when it comes to changing Germany’s strategic calculus.

Given these circumstances, it seems that Ostpolitik is quietly being repackaged for a new era, with unfortunate consequences for the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.

A “Russia first” policy.

Since the 1970s, Brandt and his chief strategist Bahr, both of the Social Democratic Party, have sought to bring the people of the Eastern Bloc closer together through overtures that began with the recognition of East German statehood.

The policy they advanced, Ostpolitik, stirred controversy from the start. Brandt’s conviction that “genuine coexistence is the only alternative to atomic war and universal suicide” led him to dismiss Western criticism of Soviet repression as “ersatz heroism”. But the debate over the first formulation of Ostpolitik remains a question largely confined to Europe’s Cold War past. Its real legacy now comes from what historian Timothy Garton Ash refers to as the “second thirty years” of politics – the era from German reunification to Russia’s incursions in 2022. During this period, Ostpolitik evolved from a means of easing East-West tensions. to a set of disjointed initiatives promoted under the banner of constructive relations with the Russian Federation. Now it could be revived, serving as a malleable framework for Berlin’s interests. Talking to former officials who were active during this period reveals why it is so difficult for Berlin to truly disengage from Moscow and stop neglecting its former subjects in the ex-Soviet bloc. Although these officials come from many political traditions, they all point to the deep historical roots of the Ostpolitik tradition.

Some offer fierce criticism. Others argue that history has justified the policy, even amid the ongoing conflict. These continued defenses, in particular, suggest why Ostpolitik might survive the invasion of Ukraine.


As China and Russia unite, watch India

The rapprochement between Russia and China has accelerated dramatically since the former suspended its participation in the New START treaty. Senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi met Russian President Vladimir Putin to affirm the two countries’ burgeoning relations and their mutual desire to see a multipolar international order. China’s new Communist Party foreign minister Qin Gang went on to say that today’s global instability has increased “the need for sustainable development of Russian-Chinese relations”.

More worryingly, US intelligence suggests Beijing is considering supplying Moscow with weapons to help its war effort in Ukraine. How should Washington react to this series of diplomatic moves? It should turn more attention to India.

While penetrating Russian and Chinese communications should remain the US strategic priority, the urgency of detaching India from Kremlin influence has increased in recent weeks. This is due to the nature of the relationship between Moscow and Beijing.

Russian politicians and economists are aware that unilateral rapprochement with China would mean accepting a secondary, inferior status. This violates one of Russia’s key historical foreign policy principles: exploiting the Eurasian country’s unique geography to remain a regional superpower that keeps its distance from both Europe and Asia. Thus, Russia will want to ally with India to diversify its exports and ensure that it is not limited to being a mere factory for Chinese profit.

Some Russians have already expressed alarm about the implications of unequivocal unity with China. Moscow’s dependence on Beijing’s purchase of energy and natural resources is turning it into a “vassal” or “colony” of China, worries economist Leonid Paidiev.

Vasily Astrov, an economist at the Institute for International Economic Studies in Vienna, explains that cooperation with China “was seen as an alternative, a ‘plan B’ – it was not the subject of a conscious and considered choice… because the alternative is isolation. “

On the one hand, Russia knows that it cannot dispense with China, as this would leave it abandoned on the global stage. On the other, it is afraid of becoming a vassal state. To get out of this dilemma, Moscow is looking to India.


Norway wants to replace its European NH-90 helicopters with American MH-60 Sea Hawks

In June 2022, the Norwegian Ministry of Defence took a drastic step, deciding to retire its NH-90 NFH [Nato Frigate Helicopter] helicopters with immediate effect… and return them to the industry, namely the NHIndustries consortium, demanding a refund of five billion Norwegian kroner [or about 500 million euros at the exchange rate at the time].

Oslo ordered 14 NH-90 NFHs in 2001 for coast guard and anti-submarine warfare missions. However, Norwegian Defence said, only eight were delivered “in a fully operational configuration” in 2022… with a very disappointing availability rate, as these aircraft flew only 700 hours a year on average, compared to the expected 3900 hours.

“No matter how many hours our technicians work or how many parts we order, it will never be possible to make the NH90s compatible with the requirements of our armed forces,” said Bjørn Arild Gram, Norway’s defence minister, at the time.

For her part, the director of Forsvarmateriell [FMA, the Norwegian equivalent of the French DGA, editor’s note], Gro Jære, pointed out that “several attempts to solve the NH-90 problems” in connection with NHIndustries had proved unsuccessful.

“More than twenty years after the contract was signed, we still do not have helicopters capable of performing the missions for which they were purchased, and without the manufacturer being able to present us with realistic solutions,” she lamented. It therefore remained for the Norwegian Ministry of Defence to quickly find a solution for the replacement of the NH-90 NFHs, at a time when their anti-submarine warfare capability was needed more than ever because of Russian submarine activity.

“We will consider some alternative approaches to meet our operational needs, but we must be prepared for the fact that there will be no easy solutions,” said Bjørn Arild Gram. In reality, the solution was not that hard to find: it was enough to imitate Australia, which, to replace its NH-90 NFH [or MH-90 Taïpan in Australian nomenclature], opted for the MH-60 Sea Hawk, offered by US manufacturer Sikorsky [Lockheed-Martin subsidiary, editor’s note]. And this has just been announced by Oslo.

Indeed, on 14 March, the Norwegian Ministry of Defence announced its intention to procure six MH-60 Sea Hawks to replace NH-90s. And for that, it is ready to invest 12 billion Norwegian kroner, or more than a billion euros. “In the current security situation, we have put a lot of effort into finding a solution quickly. The MH-60 Sea Hawk is based on proven technology and is used by close allies,” Gram said.

To develop technical and operational expertise and thus speed up the entry into service of its future helicopters, the Norwegian Air Force will send “personnel” to Denmark, which has had seven MH-60Rs since 2019.

In addition, the first three aircraft are to be taken from an order placed by the US Navy, so that they can be delivered in 2025, with the others to follow by 2027. At least, that’s what Oslo hopes… “The delivery times assume that Norway reaches an agreement with the US authorities in the summer of 2023. Signing the contract requires Storting [parliament] approval. The choice of maritime helicopters is part of the investment proposal that will be presented to it in the spring session,” the Norwegian Ministry of Defence indeed said.



“Grain corridor” in the Black Sea in September 2022 – March 2023. New highlights

We consider the indicator of the average number of ships arriving per day in the 3 ports of the Odessa region in the framework of the “Black Sea Grain Initiative” as one of the indicators of the level of military risks in the Black Sea region.

In September 2022, it equated to an average of 5.9 ships per day; in October – 5.1; in November 2022 – 3.3; in December – 3.2 ships per day; in January 2023 – 2.8; in February – 2.5; 1-10 March 2023 – 2.8 ships per day. The reduction from 5-6 to 2.5-3 of the number of vessels leaving daily through the Bosphorus “grain corridor” is a conscious policy of Russia, which does not like the successful export of Ukrainian grain and the corresponding additional revenues of the Ukrainian Budget, which are directed to finance the war against the Russian Federation.

The Russian Federation’s agreement to extend the Black Sea Grain Initiative by 60 days instead of 120 as before is due to one factor – the deadline for the presidential and parliamentary elections in Turkey, which are due to take place on 14 May 2023. . That is, the Russian Federation, as before, does not want to spoil relations with the current President of Turkey, for whom this is a successful global leadership project – at least during his term of office.

Therefore, the Russian Federation demonstrates that if R. Erdogan loses to the opposition candidate, the Russian Federation’s participation in the grain initiative can be cancelled. We note that the Russian Federation representatives’ insistence on linking the “grain initiative” with the resumption of the supply of Russian ammonia via the “Togliatti-Odesa” pipeline to the port of Pivdenny should be understood as follows: this is the desire to achieve a ceasefire on the front line in the area of the city of Kupyansk, Kharkov region, near the administrative border with the occupied Luhansk region.

Finally, amid a possible decline in Ukraine’s export role due to the loss or serious damage caused by the war to Ukrainian cultivated areas, the Russian Federation aims to increase its exports and improve its place in the rankings of major grain exporters.

Important notes and explanations:

On July 22, 2022, an initiative on safe transport of grain and food products from Odessa, Chornomorsk and Pivdenny ports (participants – Ukraine, Turkey, United Nations, Russian Federation) was officially launched in Istanbul for a period of 120 days, i.e. until November 22, 2022. The first ship with Ukrainian agricultural products left Odessa port on 1 August 2022.

The inspection procedure is determined by the document signed on 22 July 2022 in Istanbul – “Initiative for the Safe Transport of Grain and Food Products from Ukrainian Ports”, which states, “…Prior to the start of the operation, a Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) will be established, which includes representatives of the Parties and the UN. The JCC provides overall supervision and coordination of this initiative. Each Party and the UN will be represented in the JCC by a senior person and the required number of representatives agreed.

A. Inspection teams will be established in Turkey. Inspection teams in Turkey will be composed of representatives of all Parties and the UN. Vessels will transit Ukrainian ports and enter Ukrainian ports according to the schedule approved by the SCC after inspection of vessels by the inspection team. The main task of the inspection teams will be to verify the absence of unauthorised cargo and personnel on board vessels bound for or leaving Ukrainian ports.

D. Merchant vessels will be pre-registered with the SCC, with their dates verified and their ports of loading confirmed, working closely with the port administration. Technical surveillance will be carried out during the passage of vessels. Vessels will move along the humanitarian maritime corridor agreed by all parties. SCC will develop and disseminate a detailed operational and communications plan, including identification of safe havens and medical care options. G. All merchant vessels participating in this initiative will be subject to inspection by an inspection team at ports designated by Turkey upon entry/exit to/from the Turkish Straits.

The main purpose of this study, like the previous ones, was to establish the dynamics of the main indicator (in our opinion) characterizing the activity of the “grain corridor” – the average number of vessels arriving per day in the 3 ports of the Odessa Region under this agreement. Note that we consider this indicator as one of the indicators of the level of military risks in the Black Sea region. We will present the results in a moment, which are quite eloquent (see Chart 1).

The reduction from 5-6 to 2.5-3 of the number of ships leaving daily through the Bosphorus “grain corridor” is a conscious policy of Russia, which does not like the successful export of Ukrainian grain and the corresponding additional revenues of the Ukrainian Budget, which are directed to finance the war against the Russian Federation.

According to our information, this is implemented by a direct order from Moscow to Russian inspectors working as part of joint inspection groups set up in Turkey by representatives of Ukraine, Turkey, Russia and the UN, not to inspect more than 3-4 vessels per day. under any circumstances.

The general results of monitoring the number of vessels arriving in Ukrainian ports in the Odessa region along the grain corridor are shown in Diagram 2.

The red column on the diagram highlights the day of 29 October 2022, when an air and sea drone attack on Russian Black Sea Fleet warships in the Sevastopol Bays took place, resulting in several ships being damaged. Recall that on the same day, 29 October 2022, Russia announced the suspension of its participation in the “grain deal”. At the same time, Russia’s Defence Ministry claimed that the reason for such a step was “the terrorist act committed on 29 October against Black Sea Fleet vessels and (allegedly) civilian vessels involved in guaranteeing security”. grain corridor”.

All of this was 100% fiction, as neither Russian warships nor fictitious “civilian ships” actually took part in it.

In the 29 October attack, the Russian Federation blamed the Ukrainian authorities with the participation of UK experts. The UN then said the agreement remains in force and UN inspectors will continue to inspect the vessels. Turkey stated the same position, i.e. to continue the work even without Russian Federation participation. And the UN inspectors and Turkey did indeed continue to inspect the vessels and give them permission to continue the movement without the participation of the Russian Federation representative.

Already on November 2, 2022, the President of Turkey announced that the grain corridor for the export of Ukrainian food will start working from Wednesday noon “as it was before”. Shortly after the Turkish President’s statement, the Russian Federation’s Ministry of Defence published a message that Russia was resuming its participation in the Black Sea grain initiative. But just after that, in November 2022, the number of ships receiving permits from the Joint Coordination Centre in Istanbul (JCC) to operate flights to Ukrainian ports was reduced almost 2-fold – from 5 to 3 per day.

It is no secret that Russia has repeatedly threatened to withdraw from the Black Sea grain initiative, demanding changes and preferences for its mineral and grain fertilizers. In addition, as early as 19 September 2022 it has inhibited the passage of grain ships through Turkish straits.

The Russian Federation has also publicly stated that it opposes the “grain deal” for the next term, i.e. after 20 November 2022, but has nevertheless continued its participation without significant opposition.

The peculiarity of the current situation is that Russia has so far declared its agreement to extend the “grain initiative” not for another 120 days, as before, but only for 60 days, i.e. until 17 May 2023 inclusive.

In our opinion, this can be explained by only one factor: the date of the presidential and parliamentary elections in Turkey, which are due to take place on 14 May 2023. That is, the Russian Federation, as before, does not want to spoil relations with the current President of Turkey, for whom this is a successful overall leadership project – at least during his term of office.

Therefore, the Russian Federation demonstrates that if R. Erdogan loses to the opposition candidate, the Russian Federation’s participation in the grain initiative can be cancelled. Here is the full text of the Russian Federation’s official commentary on the issue (in original language):

To illustrate the reality of Russia’s “claims”, let’s dwell in a bit more detail on the Tolyatti-Odesa ammonia pipeline issue, which has been present since the first day of negotiations on Ukrainian grain exports.

The real implication of this Russian demand is absolutely clear: the pipeline enters Ukrainian territory in the area of Kupyansk, Kharkiv region – along the front line between the occupied Kharkiv and Luhansk regions. That is to say, the resumption of ammonia pumping through this pipeline clearly requires a ceasefire on this side of the front. The Ukrainian authorities do not agree with this, realising that it may set an unfavourable precedent of a “partial ceasefire”.

At the same time, Russia does not really need the Tolyatti-Odesa pipeline any more, as the Government of the Russian Federation adopted on 22 February 2023 Order No. 452-r, which approved the plan for the urgent construction by Tolyatyazot of Russia’s first terminal for the transshipment of ammonia and mineral fertilizers on the Black Sea in the port of Taman (Krasnodar territory).

Construction of the first stage of the port with a capacity of 2 million tonnes of ammonia will be completed by the end of 2023. This terminal will replace the “Togliatti – Odessa” ammonia pipeline, whose operation was blocked by Ukraine after the start of the Great War on 24 February 2022. * * * Table 1. Database of ships that passed through the “grain corridor” to Odessa ports in August-December 2022 / Database of ships that passed through the “grain corridor” to Odessa ports in August-December 2022

The table can be accessed at:

Seymour Hersh in conversation. On US sabotage of Nord Stream pipelines


On March 6, Seymour “Sy” Hersh spoke about the Nord Stream explosion on September 26, 2022. He reveals in his substiva how it resulted as the Washington administration authorized C4 explosives to be planted on the pipelines in June under the cover of a NATO. exercise in the Baltic Sea and then set them off using a signal from a sonar buoy dropped on the surface. Hersh discusses sabotage at the UN, the decline of his brand of journalism in the mainstream media and beyond!

Seymour Myron “Sy” Hersh is an investigative journalist and political writer. He won a Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting in 1970 for exposing the My Lai massacre and cover-up. At the New York Times he covered the Watergate scandal, the secret US bombing of Cambodia and the CIA’s domestic spying program. He wrote eleven books and also won a record five George Polk Awards and two National Magazine Awards.

“When I talk about two dark ships, I’m talking about images, electronic pulses. And I can tell you that on a mission like this – I even asked that question – open-source becomes a great asset, because you can invent anything.

“People in the intelligence community, that I know about, this is – the NSA, the National Security Agency has been involved in this as well, the mission to build – to give the president the option to bomb the pipelines. They could have recreated a major Japanese task force plotting to Hawaii, you know, for Pearl Harbor, you know. They could have created anything they wanted in the water. So, when you start talking about “They couldn’t track this and they couldn’t track that,” it just ignores the possibility that there are people who know exactly what open-source intelligence does. And rather than ignore it, you use it as part of a cover. Of course it didn’t have the transponder on, of course it wasn’t seen, of course the ship, the Norwegian Alta-class minesweeper, whatever it was – it could have rocked on a different frequency. Apparently, when you’re given a code, detonator code, you have to enter the code. But you can enter any code in an emergency, you don’t have to enter your own code. You could fake it, it’s that simple.”

“I’ve been in this business for 50 or 60 years and I’ve never had anyone I’ve talked to ever have a problem.”

“You know, Mr. President, when he went to Kiev, he took a ride in the middle of the day. And you know what happened? The bombing warning signal, the sirens indicating that there was a Russian bombing coming, a Russian attack – their warning signal, I think, I forgot. In World War II – I don’t know what they called it – you know, the sirens were going off. And it didn’t sound for 10 days before and – I know for a few days after that it didn’t sound. But as they were going for their walk, the warning signals came on of an impending air raid. And you know what I’m saying? I say, if I were a reporter, I would tell the White House: “Did you set it up so that they would call when they were walking in the middle of Kiev in the middle of the day so they could look more heroic?” But that’s what I practice – that’s the only explanation I have for it. Because there was no air raid. So, here come all these air raid sirens and the press writes about it. It’s amazing.”

“If I had a chance to ask Mr. Biden a question … I would just say … “why don’t you test the U.S. intelligence community to do an in-depth study and tell you who did it?” Because we monitor everything, we could find out who did it. You could ask the guy who runs intelligence – for the director of national intelligence – he has access to everything. Everything: covert, non-covert, signals. The CIA has a branch called the Directorate of Intelligence that does a great job. And another lower level if you have a group in the field, like it was in Norway, at that time there is/is a special unit in the CIA that – and an agency that monitors even local phone calls to make sure they’re still hidden, they’re not exposed. Or somebody’s neighbor says there’s something funny going on, you know, across the street. Of course I’m on an island, but still. Why haven’t they asked that question?”

“Well, of course they’re going to want to downplay it because obviously they know what happened and they can’t admit they know. The whole purpose of – you have to know historically, from Kennedy’s time there was an enormous amount of concern of America during the Cold War in our days of isolation – that was the great theory, isolation – that contained the evil spread of communism or the spread of evil communism. And so, they were always worried about the huge reserves of Russian gas and oil that they were selling to Western Europe even then. And the pipelines were just starting to go into Europe and there was a lot of stuff coming through Ukraine. And there were a lot of concerns – raised constantly, again and again – about Russia weaponizing its gas, cheap gas and oil for sale to Germany and Europe to get leverage with them. And it may have diminished NATO’s strength, diminished cohesion. Western Europe doesn’t have gas or oil, they get raw materials from elsewhere.”

“At Stalingrad, the last Stalingrad, the Russians lost 2,400 dead and wounded every four hours and beat Germany, then the Nazis. They will not lose that war, they will not win that war. And so, I think by the fall that was clear to everybody and I think Biden and his zeal to keep the war going, because it served him politically. Americans, we love our presidents at war. I think at that point he chose to destroy the pipeline, so Chancellor Scholz, who controls – and this is the second pipeline called Nord Stream 2 – controls it – shut it down at our request, sanctioned it. It was full of gas, 750 miles of methane gas, that’s why there was such a big spill of gas. It hadn’t started delivering yet, it was just frozen. It had a chance – or the chance to unfreeze it. I think Biden decided to take that from him. And I think ultimately that’s going to be the big issue for Biden, especially maybe next winter if it’s a bad winter.”

“The politics of destroying the gas pipeline, whether it’s an act of war or what, but it was a slap in the face to Europe. Saying, you know, ‘If you’re not going to play ball with me and Ukraine -‘ says the president, ‘-I don’t care what happens there.’ “I don’t care if it’s going to be harder to keep your people rich and warm,” basically that’s what he did. And that’s the real input of the story.”

“It seems like what I hear from people who write to me, who read stuff from Substack and other places, is that they understand that this kind of journalism has existed and existed before. They just didn’t see enough of it. I mean, I actually had a story that the New York Times ran on Page 1 for two days about two or three years ago when the Afghan war was still going on. And there were occasions when the Agans were shooting an American because they were so angry about what was happening there. The Afghan army was not happy with our total control over most of the things there. And so, one of the stories said that the Afghan soldiers – quoting unnamed sources, talking about unnamed sources – that the Kremlin was paying bounties to Afghan soldiers who killed an American GI on duty in Afghanistan. And that story disappeared because it was a complete fraud.

“I guess they think they don’t – you know, Tony Blinken, secretary of state, wouldn’t go to a meeting with his colleagues in China because of a balloon … Weather balloon or whatever it was. I mean, a balloon? He canceled a meeting because it was – they’re just, you know… They’re just kids. And this is really serious business. And I’m sorry, that the president’s leadership is not there on this.”

“And so, I came to My Lai 10 years later as a police reporter and worked for United Press, covering a State House in South Dakota, which was fun. I had never been there. I spent the winter in South Dakota. And then I worked for the AP in Chicago, where I had a lot of fun. And then to Washington, where I was covering the War. Covered the Pentagon. And then a few years later, I do My Lai. And I have 11 years of college. I don’t know rich people. And I’m doing this story by sticking two fingers up to the My Lai story about a massacre that was covered up by everybody – Kissinger, Nixon, you name it. And Westmoreland, who ran the war. I’m sticking two fingers in the eye of a sitting president, Richard Nixon. And in many countries around the world, I’d be in a gulag for doing that. Not here.”


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