On November 24 the head of the British army, Lieutenant General Mark Carleton-Smith, was reported as saying that “Russia today indisputably represents a far greater threat to our national security than Islamic extremist threats such as al-Qaida and Isil,” and that “The Russians seek to exploit vulnerability and weakness wherever they detect it... We cannot be complacent about the threat Russia poses or leave it uncontested.”
What threat? Does Britain really feel threatened militarily by Russia? The absurdity of this assertion beggars belief.
Carleton-Smith is apparently convinced that “Russia has embarked on a systematic effort to explore and exploit Western vulnerabilities, particularly in some of the non-traditional areas of cyber, space, undersea warfare.”
Let’s ignore the fact that undersea warfare might be reasonably described as “traditional” because it has been conducted since at least the siege of Syracuse in 414 BC, while the first functioning (if unsuccessful) military submarine was the Turtle in the American Revolutionary War of 1776, and consider cyber warfare.
In 2014 NBC News reported that “Documents taken from the National Security Agency... describe techniques developed by a secret British spy unit called the Joint Threat Research and Intelligence Group (JTRIG) as part of a growing mission to go on offense and attack adversaries ranging from Iran to the hacktivists of Anonymous. According to the documents, which come from presentations prepped in 2010 and 2012 for NSA cyber spy conferences, the agency’s goal was to ‘destroy, deny, degrade [and] disrupt’ enemies by ‘discrediting them, planting misinformation and shutting down their communications’.”
NBC went on that “According to notes on the 2012 documents, a computer virus called Ambassadors Reception was ‘used in a variety of different areas’ and was ‘very effective.’ When sent to adversaries, says the presentation, the virus will ‘encrypt itself, delete all emails, encrypt all files, make [the] screen shake’ and block the computer user from logging on . . .”
So Carleton-Smith thinks Russia is entirely at fault, and a greater threat to Britain than Islamic State, because it is taking action in cyber-world to try to counter all the British (and US and Australian) efforts to “destroy, deny, degrade and disrupt” un-named “enemies” by “discrediting them, planting misinformation and shutting down their communications.”
As to space, perhaps Carleton-Smith needs to be reminded that a week after he was appointed head of the British army on June 11, 2018, President Trump declared “I am hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the armed forces. Our destiny beyond the Earth is not only a matter of national identity but a matter of national security.”
In one of his disjointed rambling speeches Trump had already given notice that “Space is a war-fighting domain, just like the land, air, and sea. We may even have a Space Force, develop another one, Space Force. We have the Air Force, we'll have the Space Force.”
His initial comments were off-script, but his potentially devastating fantasies were given substance by later actions — and it is therefore not surprising that the world sat up and took notice, and that China and Russia are developing plans to counter this obscene extension of the global aggression displayed by Washington’s Military Industrial Complex and its well-rewarded Congressional cheerleaders.
Then we come to Carleton-Smith’s “undersea warfare” (which happens to be the title of the US Navy’s “professional magazine of the undersea warfare community”). This is an intriguing inclusion in his list of Russian threats to Britain, because recently there were other (“non-traditional”?) undersea operations in the Arctic, named ICEX 2018. Concerning these manoeuvres it was reported that the submarines USS Connecticut, USS Hartford and the Royal Navy’s HMS Trenchant, “spent 105 days under ice while steaming over 21,000 nautical miles. Combined, they performed 20 through-ice surfacings including the first three-submarine ICEX since 1991.”
The Arctic is extremely important to Russia as a potential source of minerals and a commercially important shipping route, as the ice continues to melt. As observed by Russia’s defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, “The Arctic has turned into an object of territorial, resource and military-strategic interest for a number of states. This could lead to growth in the potential for conflict in this region.”
The potential for conflict was highlighted by the US-UK submarine manoeuvres and a number of other indicators described in SCF, not the least of which is Britain’s parliamentary declaration that “NATO’s renewed focus on the North Atlantic is welcome and the Government should be congratulated on the leadership the UK has shown on this issue.”
Which brings us, finally, to Carleton-Smith and NATO, which organisation he greatly admires. He believes the military alliance represents the “centre of gravity of European security”, insisting that it has been “extraordinarily successful” and therefore “In my experience, we should reinforce success.”
That would be the NATO “success” that destroyed Libya in a nine-month aerial blitz that resulted in anarchy and expansion westwards of Islamic State. As I write, Voice of America is reporting that “at least nine security service members were killed in a suspected Islamic State group attack in the south-eastern Libyan town of Tazerbo” which rather makes nonsense of the Carleton-Smith claim, in his interview with the Daily Telegraph’s foreign editor, a sycophantic creep called Con Coughlin, that “The physical manifestation of the Islamist threat has diminished with the complete destruction of the geography of the so-called Caliphate.”
Then there is the US-NATO “extraordinarily successful” conflict in Afghanistan, where the death of yet another US soldier has just been notified along with news that 27 Afghan soldiers were killed in a bomb explosion while they were praying. This is somewhat at variance with views of Carleton-Smith’s father, Major General (retired) Sir Michael Carleton-Smith, who told his local newspaper that the war in Afghanistan “undoubtedly it has been worth it. Afghanistan still has massive problems, but it’s a better place now than it was when we went in.” What garbage.
But then we realise that there is a bigger picture, as explained in the UK Defence Journal which tells us that “Further to the Defence Select Committee’s report... Carleton-Smith stated that the defence budget ‘should be in direct proportion to the threat’. This remark was made more poignant by the fact that the previous day, Lt Gen Frank Leidenberger from Germany referred to “the good old days of the Cold War”, and suggested that in 2018, we are in a ‘lukewarm war’. Mark Lancaster MP (Minister of State for the Armed Forces) was another who argued that the threat now is as bad as it was during the Cold War.”
When you want more money, you hype the threat.
Carleton-Smith ended his address to the Royal United Services Institute in London by saying “we are all custodians of something exceptionally precious, not just our Army, but our nation’s Army and it’s made of flesh and blood - and beating hearts.”
And damn-fool generals.