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US Military Formulates Emergency Plans If Coronavirus Overpowers The US Administration

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The United States Government seems to be following ‘hope for the best but prepare for the worst’ in dealing with coronavirus pandemic. While the US president has called for social isolation and has implemented a string of measures to fight coronavirus, the Trump administration has also put in place contingency plans to possibly deal with the worst-case scenario writes William M. Akrin for the Newsweek.  

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“Revealed US Government documents have shown complex contingency plans codenamed Octagon, Freejack and Zodiac which have been formulated for “continuity of government” in worst-case scenarios and could see a centuries-old US Constitution somewhat circumvented to provide the most support,” writes Arkin.

The Covid-19 outbreak has raised fears that the executive branch or even the Congress and the Supreme Court could be severely affected and thereby rendered ineffective and inoperable by the virus leaving President Trump with reduced ability to help the American people.

To deal with such a grim scenario, the US Military has formulated contingency plans in case the coronavirus cripples the country and the government.

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In a worst-case scenario for Government officials, Washington could be evacuated and power devolved to those in remote, protected locations.  One senior official described the plans as unchartered and “new territory” which could see the country operate in an entirely new way.

The Above-Top Secret plans also revealed standby orders to execute the actions which were issued more than three weeks ago to protect Americans.

Questions have recently arisen regarding potential infection of hundreds of members of Congress. Government expert Norman Ornstein raised the issue last week, reminiscing the lack of a plan for “continuity of government” after the 9/11 terror attacks.

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He expressed his concern that the story would be repeated, leaving Congress powerless and paralysed. This is why America has put a detailed action plan into place, according to Newsweek.

Seven secret plans exist to deal with extraordinary situations. The first three are related to transportation of the White House and the Federal Government. The first plan called Rescue and Evacuation of the Occupants of the White House Mansion (RESEM) plan outlines the protection of President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence – moving them out of the White House at the direction of the Secret Service, or in a catastrophe digging them out of the rubble of White House.

The second is called Joint Emergency Evacuation Plan (JEEP) and involves transportation of Secretary of Defence and other national security leaders out of Washington and to a place of safety. The third is the Atlas Plan which involves emergency relocation of Congressional leadership such as Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Supreme Court judges. Under the plans, top government figures could be held in a secure unit bunker, until it becomes safe to return.

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The three most compartmented contingencies – Octagon, Freejack, and Zodiac – call upon various military units in Washington DC, North Carolina and eastern Maryland to defend government operations if there is a total breakdown. The seventh plan – codenamed Granite Shadow  – is a manual for extraordinary domestic missions that involve weapons of mass destruction.

Trial runs of some elements of the plan have been previously executed at State of the Union addresses and presidential inaugurations. However, newer, coronavirus-centric plans are still being discussed. The plans could see Washington DC totally evacuated.

Under Defence department regulations military commanders are permitted to take action on their own, but only in extraordinary circumstances where constituted local authorities are unable to control the situation.

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A top military planner told Newsweek: “In scenarios where one city or one region is devastated, that’s a pretty straightforward process. But with coronavirus, where the effect is nationwide, we’re in the territory we’ve never been in before.”

There are 7,253 confirmed cases across the United States so far. But it is thought cases could be significantly higher, as many have gone unreported. There are now cases in all 50 states of the United States. New York has the highest number of cases, at 2,480.

William M. Arkin is the author of a half-dozen books including American Coup: How a Terrified Government is Destroying the Constitution.

Americas

Beijing calls Japan’s F-35 deal with the US a big threat to China, Russia

China acknowledges that Japan is buying the US’ F-35 jets out of practicality as Tokyo needs to upgrade its ageing jets but accuses the US of hunting like wolves and not like a tiger.

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The US recently approved the sale of F-35 joint strike fighters to Japan at a whopping cost of $23 billion. China, a traditional foe and close neighbour of Japan has expressed concern of having such advanced jets in the region which could be detrimental to the security of both China and Russia.

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Chinese state media  – the Global Times acknowledges for once that Japan is buying the US’ F-35 jets out of practicality and as Tokyo needs to upgrade its current F-2s and F-15s jets.

GT also accepts that Japan could be facing pressure from China and Russia and Tokyo has rationally opted to go for the most advanced jets in the world – the F-35s to counter the dual challenge of Beijing and Moscow.

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It goes on to say – Japan has made substantial improvement in its military modernization program. The first of the Izumo-class helicopter carriers, Izumo, has marked a milestone in its transformation into Japan’s first true aircraft carrier since World War II. The other Izumo-class carrier Kaga is also under transmutation. Both ships will be transformed into light aircraft carriers on which approximately 20 F-35s can be stationed.

But light aircraft carriers have restricted combat capabilities. Due to political issues, the reformations are concerning in certain quarters because they represent “the first time” that modern Japan has had fixed-wing aircraft carriers.

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Japan is approving a strategy of taking rapid moves in carrier development. Of special interest will be any plan by Japan to develop real carriers over 50,000 tons. If they acquire a large number of F-35Cs, it will imply a new stage of Japanese aircraft carrier development.

Such a massive military advancement in Japan will bother its neighbours i.e. Russia and China. There are apprehensions that Japan will amend its peaceful constitution. This could turn Japan into an aggressive, hostile force and nations that suffered in World War II because of Japanese expansionist policy will be closely watching.

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Japan is a key defence partner of the US. It is also part of Washington’s so-called global alliance that targets China. Tokyo is also collaborating with the US by developing an anti-missile system, which will affect the strike capabilities of China and Russia and endanger its security, writes the GT.

Without self-sufficient defence capabilities, Japan is incapable of holding by itself and will only end up being commanded by the US. Although Japan has its own strategies and doesn’t want to be fully commanded by Washington, the US will unquestionably tightly its grip over Tokyo and use it against China and Russia.

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GT accuses the US of hunting in a group, indirectly referring to all the alliances that Washington has all over the globe. Japan has limited military capabilities and is only capable of integrated combat with the assistance of the US, the report says.

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Americas

US outraged with India for neglecting American F-21s for Russian Jets

According to US experts – the F-21 merely resembles the old F-16 but rather is a new aircraft with new cockpit display, a larger airframe spine to accommodate additional electronics and a new infrared sensor and refuelling probe that is compatible with India’s Russian made aerial tankers.

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India recently signed a 2.43-billion deal with Russia for the acquisition of MiG-29s and Sukhoi Su-30MKIs while overlooking American fighter jets including F-21s that the US claimed was a lethal combination of stealth F-35 and F-22 jets.

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Earlier, as EurAsian Times reported, US aerospace giant Lockheed Martin also said that it will not sell its newly rolled out F-21 fighter jet to any other country if India places an order for 114 planes, an offer aimed to counter other US, European or Russian jets.

Recently, amid escalating border tensions between India and China, New Delhi approved to spend billions to purchase Russian fighter jets. Moscow will sell New Delhi 33 new fighter aircraft including 12 Su-30MKIs and 21 MiG-29s along with up-gradation of 59 MiG-29s.

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The MiG 29 procurement and up-gradation from Russia is estimated to cost Rs 7418 cr, the Su-30 MKI will be procured from HAL at an estimated cost of Rs 10,730 cr.

Rahul Bedi a senior journalist and defence analyst write – the piddling issue of the US potentially sanctioning India under CAATSA for acquiring Russian military hardware including fighter jets to meet its urgent needs simply refuses to go away.

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In a statement to the UK’s Jane’s Defence Weekly after India declared its intent to procure Russian fighter jets, a senior US State Department official ominously announced that India was not ‘safeguarded’ from penalties under CAATSA.

Bedi quotes the US defence official – We urge all of our allies and partners to forego (defence) deals with Russia that risk triggering sanctions under CAATSA.

He further added that though the US could not “prejudge whether a specific transaction would result in sanctions, it was important to note that CAATSA did not have any blanket or country-specific waiver provision.

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There are stringent guidelines for considering a waiver, and each deal is assessed on a case-by-case basis,” Jane’s quoted the US official as saying. US Secretary of State (Mike Pompeo) has not made any judgment regarding the significance of any deal (with Russia) involving India, he added, but did not elaborate.

Bedi writes that the veiled CAATSA threat by the US, targeted at India for purchasing Russian fighter jets seems to be more a commercial bludgeon than a lawful effort to punish a politically intrusive Russia.

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Accordingly, it also leads to the clear picture that the CAATSA stems largely from US’ resentment with the Indian government for not acquiring US fighters like Lockheed Martin’s F-21 and instead opting for Russian Su-30MKIs and 21 MiG-29s.

The US has long been craving to sell the customized F-21s to India which was unveiled at Aero India 2019 in Bangalore.

Bedia writes that little more than a re-branded F-16 that dates back to the mid-1970s, it makes great economic sense from the US perspective to ‘sell’ India to licence-build this fighter for the IAF to meet its requirement for an additional 114 combat aircraft to make up for the depleted fighter squadrons.

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With F-16s being phased out of the US Air Force, and their plant at Fort Worth in Texas closing down, moving the ageing fighters’ manufacturing unit to India, would keep the line going for few more years, while also providing employment opportunities in the US under Donald Trump’s ‘America First’ drive.

India going with Russia and French fighter jets has exasperated the US and could well be the motive behind its veiled threat of invoking CAATSA against India.

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Americas

US threatens Russia with consequences for paying bounties to Taliban in Afghanistan

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The US has threatened to respond if the Pentagon confirms reports of Russian bounties to kill US soldiers in Afghanistan. While Russia denies its involvement in any such operation, US-Russia relations could further deteriorate if the reports are confirmed.

The Pentagon is investigating reports of Russian bounties to kill US soldiers in Afghanistan and if found to be true, the US has promised to retaliate. Moscow on the hand has denied involvement in any such operation.

Speaking in front of the House armed services committee, General Mark Milley, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff said that the Pentagon was committed to discovering whether Russian military intelligence had paid the Taliban for attacks on American soldiers in Afghanistan.

“We’re going to get to the bottom of this bounty thing. If there are bounties, I’m an outraged general, just like every one of us in uniform is,” Milley said. “That’s a real big deal. We don’t have that level of fidelity yet, but we’re still looking.”

Despite vowing to retaliate, Milley suggested that the US may not be responding to the reports as robustly as necessary in non-military ways. The 62-year old admitted that the US was perhaps not doing enough.

The issue is at the strategic level,” he said. “Is there diplomatic, and informational and economic … sanctions, are there démarches, are there phone calls, is there pressure, those sorts of things. And I can tell you that some of that is done.’’

Mark Esper, the defence secretary, was also testifying to the House armed services committee. Esper said that the reports did not come from any of the nine of the total of 17 US intelligence agencies under Pentagon’s authority, implying the information leaked to the press in recent weeks came from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) or another civilian agency.

The reports first came to notice in January and were ignored because they lacked credibility. It was only in February that Gen Kenneth McKenzie and the defence secretary became aware of them in February.

Milley confirmed that the investigation is not over and promised to get to the bottom of the situation. President Donald Trump has insisted he was not briefed on the Russian bounties.

Russia Denies Involvement

While American intelligence agencies work to confirm reports, Russia denies the existence or its involvement in any such operation. Moscow says the U.S. is trying to portray Moscow as an all-purpose bogeyman.

“I would like to say officially that these allegations, distributed by the media, are downright lies. No concrete evidence has been presented,” Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Antonov, said this week in an online forum with the Center for the National Interest.

Other Russian officials point out that Moscow would have little incentive to establish such a program given the high risk of getting caught.

According to NPR, the Russian military intelligence known as the GRU is believed to be behind the suspected Russian bounty program in Afghanistan. The GRU has an aggressive and high-risk culture and is hence preferred by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The New York Times was the media outlet to report about Russia secretly offering money to the Taliban in exchange for killing American soldiers in Afghanistan.

If confirmed, it would be the first time the Russian spy unit was known to have orchestrated attacks on Western troops and could have a severe impact on Washington-Moscow relations.

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