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FTR#1187 The Oswald Institute of Virology, Part 6: Context, Part 2

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FTR #1187 This pro­gram was record­ed in one, 60-minute seg­ment.

Intro­duc­tion: In this pro­gram, we present more dis­cus­sion of the back­ground and con­text to Pen­ta­gon and USAID fund­ing for research into bat-borne coro­n­avirus­es through Eco­Health Alliance, in and around Chi­na.

Exem­pli­fy­ing the offen­sive mil­i­tary pos­ture in which the fund­ing of coro­n­avirus research has occurred is a quote from an oth­er­wise bel­li­cose Reuters sto­ry about U.S. with­draw­al from the inter­me­di­ate-range mis­sile treaty so that Amer­i­ca can build up forces to counter Chi­na. ” . . . . In a series last year, Reuters report­ed that while the U.S. was dis­tract­ed by almost two decades of war in the Mid­dle East and Afghanistan, the PLA had built a mis­sile force designed to attack the air­craft car­ri­ers, oth­er sur­face war­ships and net­work of bases that form the back­bone of Amer­i­can pow­er in Asia. Over that peri­od, Chi­nese ship­yards built the world’s biggest navy, which is now capa­ble of dom­i­nat­ing the country’s coastal waters and keep­ing U.S. forces at bay. . . .”

Imag­ine, for a moment Chi­na build­ing up its long-range mis­sile forces in the West­ern Pacif­ic to neu­tral­ize the U.S. Navy’s abil­i­ty to dom­i­nate Amer­i­ca’s coastal waters and keep an ene­my at bay.

This is a defen­sive gam­bit by China–America would respond with jus­ti­fi­able out­rage if Chi­na (or any oth­er nation) would chal­lenge Amer­i­ca’s abil­i­ty to dom­i­nate its coastal waters and keep an ene­my at bay.

The Pen­ta­gon fund­ing for these projects must be seen against the back­ground of three over­lap­ping areas of con­sid­er­a­tion:

  1. The fact that any virus can be syn­the­sized or mod­i­fied from scratch. As detailed in a very impor­tant arti­cle from The Guardian: “ . . . Advances in the area mean that sci­en­tists now have the capa­bil­i­ty to recre­ate dan­ger­ous virus­es from scratch; make harm­ful bac­te­ria more dead­ly; and mod­i­fy com­mon microbes so that they churn out lethal tox­ins once they enter the body. . . In the report, the sci­en­tists describe how syn­thet­ic biol­o­gy, which gives researchers pre­ci­sion tools to manip­u­late liv­ing organ­isms, ‘enhances and expands’ oppor­tu­ni­ties to cre­ate bioweapons. . . . Today, the genet­ic code of almost any mam­malian virus can be found online and syn­the­sised. ‘The tech­nol­o­gy to do this is avail­able now,’ said [Michael] “It requires some exper­tise, but it’s some­thing that’s rel­a­tive­ly easy to do, and that is why it tops the list. . . .”
  2. Also fun­da­men­tal to an under­stand­ing of the Covid “op” is the dev­as­tat­ing nature of bat-borne virus­es when intro­duced into the human body. “ . . . . As Boston Uni­ver­si­ty micro­bi­ol­o­gist Thomas Kepler explained to the Wash­ing­ton Post in 2018, the bat’s unique approach to viral infec­tion explains why virus­es that trans­fer from bats to humans are so severe. . . . ‘A virus that has co-evolved with the bat’s antivi­ral sys­tem is com­plete­ly out of its ele­ment in the human,’ Kepler said. ‘That’s why it is so dead­ly — the human immune sys­tem is over­whelmed by the inflam­ma­to­ry response.’ The bat immune sys­tem responds very dif­fer­ent­ly from ours to viral infec­tion. Instead of attack­ing and killing an infect­ed cell, which leads to a cas­cade of inflam­ma­to­ry respons­es, the bat immune sys­tem can starve the virus by turn­ing down cel­lu­lar metab­o­lism. The bat ori­gin of SARS-CoV­‑2 may explain the cytokine storms that are has­ten­ing some COVID-19 deaths. . . .”
  3. Analy­sis pre­sent­ed in the lib­er­al New York Mag­a­zine by Nichol­son Bak­er takes stock of the impli­ca­tions of con­tem­po­rary biotech­nol­o­gy and what we have termed (in past broad­casts) “The Mag­ic Virus The­o­ry.” “. . . . SARS‑2 seems almost per­fect­ly cal­i­brat­ed to grab and ran­sack our breath­ing cells and choke the life out of them. . . . Per­haps viral nature hit a bull’s‑eye of air­borne infec­tiv­i­ty, with almost no muta­tion­al drift, no peri­od of accom­mo­da­tion and adjust­ment, or per­haps some lab work­er some­where, inspired by Baric’s work with human air­way tis­sue, took a spike pro­tein that was spe­cial­ly groomed to col­o­nize and thrive deep in the cil­i­at­ed, mucos­al tun­nels of our inner core and cloned it onto some exist­ing viral bat back­bone. It could have hap­pened in Wuhan, but — because any­one can now ‘print out’ a ful­ly infec­tious clone of any sequenced dis­ease — it could also have hap­pened at Fort Det­rick, or in Texas, or in Italy, or in Rot­ter­dam, or in Wis­con­sin, or in some oth­er citadel of coro­n­avi­ral inquiry.. . .”

The ven­er­a­ble, bril­liant polit­i­cal researcher Peter Dale Scott has not­ed that “The cov­er-up obvi­ates the con­spir­a­cy.” Of great sig­nif­i­cance in this con­text is the appar­ent “scrub­bing” of infor­ma­tion on USAID’s fund­ing of key research in the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy: “ . . . . Shi’s most infa­mous Eco­Health Alliance-fund­ed paper is, ‘A SARS-Like Clus­ter of Cir­cu­lat­ing Bat Coro­n­avirus­es Shows Poten­tial for Human Emer­gence.’ In this con­tro­ver­sial gain-of-func­tion research col­lab­o­ra­tion with U.S. sci­en­tist Ralph Bar­ic of the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na at Chapel Hill, Shi and Bar­ic used genet­ic engi­neer­ing and syn­thet­ic biol­o­gy to weaponize a bat coro­n­avirus, max­i­miz­ing its poten­tial human infec­tiv­i­ty.

Shi’s fund­ing for this study came through a USAID Emerg­ing Pan­dem­ic Threats-PRE­DICT grant to Eco­Health Alliance—but the record for this grant appears to have been scrubbed from the U.S. government’s data­base.

Eco­Health Alliance was a PREDICT part­ner dur­ing the 2009–2014 fund­ing cycle, but there is no record of a USAID grant to Eco­Health Alliance for this time peri­od among the $100.9 mil­lion in grants it has received from the U.S. gov­ern­ment since 2003.

Shi’s con­tri­bu­tion to the work she did with Bar­ic was the ‘RsSHC014-CoV Sequence That Was Iso­lat­ed from Chi­nese Horse­shoe Bats.’ . . . .”

Of par­tic­u­lar sig­nif­i­cance in this con­text is the series of pro­grams record­ed in the fall of 2019, notably FTR#’s 1089, 1090, 1091, 1092, 1093, 1094, 1095.

Oth­er shows record­ed short­ly before, or in the after­math of, the begin­ning of the pan­dem­ic flesh out the panoply of oper­a­tions against Chi­na, includ­ing 1103, 1143, 1144, 1145, 1178, 1179, 1180.  1103, 1143, 1144, 1145, 1178, 1179, 1180.

Tak­en togeth­er and in the con­text of the full-court press against Chi­na dis­cussed in the above-enu­mer­at­ed pro­grams, the Pentagon/USAID fund­ing of Eco­Health Alliance, the impor­tant advi­so­ry role of for­mer Fort Det­rick com­man­der David Franz in Eco­Health Alliance and the research into bat-borne coro­n­avirus­es being con­duct­ed at the WIV and else­where in and around Chi­na, the four con­sid­er­a­tions just enu­mer­at­ed point omi­nous­ly to the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic as an “op.”

Key Points of Dis­cus­sion and Analy­sis Include: Joe Biden’s charge to intel­li­gence ser­vices to deter­mine the ori­gins of the coro­n­avirus; Biden’s deci­sion to autho­rize the intel­li­gence ser­vices to deter­mine the ori­gin of the virus derived momen­tum from Antho­ny Fau­ci’s expres­sion of doubts about the ori­gin of the vbirus; Fau­ci’s NIH was involved with the Eco­Health Alliance’s fund­ing of the WIV research; The sick­ness of sev­er­al WIV employ­ees in the fall of 2019; Attri­bu­tion by a Dutch researcher of that ill­ness to sea­son­al flu; Review of Direc­tor of Nation­al Intel­li­gence Avril Haines’ key role in Event 201 (Octo­ber of 2019) that fore­shad­owed the event; Haines’ vir­u­lent anti-Chi­na pro­cliv­i­ties; Overview of the mil­i­tary build-up and war-mon­ger­ing in which the Pen­ta­gon is involved; Review and fur­ther devel­op­ment of the weaponized media cov­er­age of Chi­na; Review of the fact that many per­son­nel at the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy were trained by the U.S.; the fact that it was well known that gain-of-func­tion research was being done at WIV; 

1a. We begin by dis­cussing Joe Biden’s charge to intel­li­gence ser­vices to deter­mine the ori­gins of the coro­n­avirus.

“Biden Asks Intel­li­gence Agen­cies to ‘Redou­ble’ Efforts to Deter­mine Coro­n­avirus Ori­gins” by Shan­non Pet­ti­p­iece; NBC News; 5/26/2021.

. . . .The intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty has been unable to reach a “defin­i­tive con­clu­sion” on the ori­gins of the virus and is con­flict­ed on whether it came from human con­tact with an infect­ed ani­mal or from a lab­o­ra­to­ry acci­dent, Biden said in a state­ment . . .

 

. . . . He said he asked nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er Jake Sul­li­van in March to pre­pare a report for him on what was known about the ori­gins of the virus. Biden said the find­ings, which he received ear­li­er this month, con­clud­ed that while two ele­ments of the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty “lean” toward the expla­na­tion that the virus came from ani­mal con­tact, anoth­er leans toward the lab­o­ra­to­ry expla­na­tion.

 

Biden said each assess­ment has “low or mod­er­ate con­fi­dence” and that “the major­i­ty of ele­ments do not believe there is suf­fi­cient infor­ma­tion to assess one to be more like­ly than the oth­er.” He said he has asked for fur­ther inves­ti­ga­tion.

 

Andy Slavitt, a senior White House advis­er for Covid-19 response, said Tues­day that it is a “crit­i­cal pri­or­i­ty” for the U.S. to uncov­er the truth.

 

“It is our posi­tion that we need to get to the bot­tom of this, and we need a com­plete­ly trans­par­ent process from Chi­na; we need the WHO to assist in that mat­ter,” he said. “We don’t feel like we have that now.” . . .

1b. Avril Haines has a strong, anti-Chi­na bias.

“Biden Intel­li­gence Pick Favors ‘Aggres­sive’ Stance on Chi­na” by Mark Hosen­ball and Arshad Moham­mad; Reuters.com; 1/19/2021.

The Unit­ed States should take an “aggres­sive stance” toward the threat posed by the aggres­sive and assertive Chi­na that it faces today, Avril Haines, Pres­i­dent-elect Joe Biden’s choice for the top U.S. intel­li­gence job, said on Tues­day. . . .

1c. More about Haines’ anti-Chi­na ori­en­ta­tion. In FTR#‘s 1185 and 1186.

“U.S. Spy Chiefs Warn of ‘Unpar­al­lelled’ Chi­na Threat in Return to Con­gress” by Mark Hosen­ball, Daphne Psaledakis and Patri­cia Zenger­le; Reuters.com; 4/14/2021.

U.S. spy agency lead­ers said on Wednes­day that Chi­na is an “unpar­al­leled” pri­or­i­ty, cit­ing Bei­jing’s region­al aggres­sion and cyber capa­bil­i­ties as they tes­ti­fied at a pub­lic con­gres­sion­al “World­wide Threats” hear­ing for the first time in more than two years.

“Giv­en that Chi­na is an unpar­al­leled pri­or­i­ty for the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty, I will start with high­light­ing cer­tain aspects of the threat from Bei­jing,” Direc­tor of Nation­al Intel­li­gence Avril Haines told the Sen­ate Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee.

She described Chi­na as increas­ing­ly “a near-peer com­peti­tor chal­leng­ing the Unit­ed States in mul­ti­ple are­nas.”

Fed­er­al Bureau of Inves­ti­ga­tion Direc­tor Christo­pher Wray said his agency opens a new inves­ti­ga­tion linked to Chi­na every 10 hours. . . .

1d. Biden’s deci­sion to autho­rize the intel­li­gence ser­vices to deter­mine the ori­gin of the virus derived momen­tum from Antho­ny Fau­ci’s expres­sion of doubts about the ori­gin of the vbirus.

Fau­ci’s NIH was involved with the Eco­Health Alliance’s fund­ing of the WIV research.

“REVEALED: Three Wuhan lab researchers were hos­pi­tal­ized in Novem­ber 2019 and Dr Fau­ci now says he’s ‘not con­vinced’ COVID devel­oped nat­u­ral­ly and calls for a full inves­ti­ga­tion into ‘what went on in Chi­na’” by Megan Sheets and Geoff Ear­le [Deputy U.S. Polit­i­cal Edi­tor aboard Air Force One (!); Dai­ly Mail [UK]; 5/23/2021.

Three researchers from China’s Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy (WIV) sought hos­pi­tal care in Novem­ber 2019, months before Chi­na dis­closed the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic, the Wall Street Jour­nal report­ed on Sun­day, cit­ing a pre­vi­ous­ly undis­closed U.S. intel­li­gence report.

The news­pa­per said the report – which pro­vides fresh details on the num­ber of researchers affect­ed, the tim­ing of their ill­ness­es, and their hos­pi­tal vis­its – may add weight to calls for a broad­er probe of whether the COVID-19 virus could have escaped from the lab­o­ra­to­ry.

The report came on the eve of a meet­ing of the World Health Organization’s deci­sion-mak­ing body, which is expect­ed to dis­cuss the next phase of an inves­ti­ga­tion into the ori­gins of COVID-19.

A Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil spokes­woman had no com­ment on the Journal’s report but said the Biden admin­is­tra­tion con­tin­ued to have ‘seri­ous ques­tions about the ear­li­est days of the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic, includ­ing its ori­gins with­in the Peo­ples Repub­lic of Chi­na.’

She said the U.S. gov­ern­ment was work­ing with the WHO and oth­er mem­ber states to sup­port an expert-dri­ven eval­u­a­tion of the pandemic’s ori­gins ‘that is free from inter­fer­ence or politi­ciza­tion.’

‘We’re not going to make pro­nounce­ments that pre­judge an ongo­ing WHO study into the source of SARS-CoV­‑2, but we’ve been clear that sound and tech­ni­cal­ly cred­i­ble the­o­ries should be thor­ough­ly eval­u­at­ed by inter­na­tion­al experts,’ she said.

The Jour­nal said cur­rent and for­mer offi­cials famil­iar with the intel­li­gence about the lab researchers expressed a range of views about the strength of the report’s sup­port­ing evi­dence, with one unnamed per­son say­ing it need­ed ‘fur­ther inves­ti­ga­tion and addi­tion­al cor­rob­o­ra­tion.’ 

Pho­to Cap­tion: China’s for­eign min­istry not­ed that a WHO-led team had con­clud­ed a lab leak was extreme­ly unlike­ly after a vis­it in Feb­ru­ary to the virol­o­gy insti­tute. Pic­tured, an aer­i­al view shows the P4 lab­o­ra­to­ry at the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy in Wuhan in China’s cen­tral Hubei province

The Unit­ed States, Nor­way, Cana­da, Britain and oth­er coun­tries in March expressed con­cerns about the WHO-led COVID-19 ori­gins study, and called for fur­ther inves­ti­ga­tion and full access to all per­ti­nent human, ani­mal and oth­er data about the ear­ly stages of the out­break.

Wash­ing­ton is keen to ensure greater coop­er­a­tion and trans­paren­cy by Chi­na, accord­ing to a source famil­iar with the effort.

The Chi­nese Embassy in Wash­ing­ton did not imme­di­ate­ly respond to a request for com­ment on Sun­day.

On Sun­day, China’s for­eign min­istry not­ed that a WHO-led team had con­clud­ed a lab leak was extreme­ly unlike­ly after a vis­it in Feb­ru­ary to the virol­o­gy insti­tute. ‘The U.S. con­tin­ues to hype the lab leak the­o­ry,’ the min­istry said in response to a request for com­ment by the Jour­nal. ‘Is it actu­al­ly con­cerned about trac­ing the source or try­ing to divert atten­tion?’

The Trump admin­is­tra­tion had said it sus­pect­ed the virus may have escaped from a Chi­nese lab, which Bei­jing denies.

A State Depart­ment fact sheet released near the end of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion had said ‘the U.S. gov­ern­ment has rea­son to believe that sev­er­al researchers inside the WIV became sick in autumn 2019, before the first iden­ti­fied case of the out­break, with symp­toms con­sis­tent with both COVID-19 and com­mon sea­son­al ill­ness­es.’ It did not say how many researchers.

Chi­na refused to give raw data on ear­ly COVID-19 cas­es to the WHO-led team prob­ing the ori­gins of the pan­dem­ic, accord­ing to one of the team´s inves­ti­ga­tors, Reuters report­ed in Feb­ru­ary, poten­tial­ly com­pli­cat­ing efforts to under­stand how the out­break began.

Pho­to Cap­tion: The World Health Organization’s deci­sion-mak­ing body is expect­ed to dis­cuss the next phase of an inves­ti­ga­tion into the ori­gins of COVID-19 at a meet­ing lat­er this week

Ear­li­er on Sun­day, Dr Antho­ny Fau­ci revealed he is ‘not con­vinced’ that COVID-19 devel­oped nat­u­ral­ly and called for an open inves­ti­ga­tion into its ori­gins as Chi­na faces mount­ing pres­sure to pro­vide trans­paren­cy on the issue. 

Fau­ci, the nation’s lead­ing expert in infec­tious dis­eases, explained his uncer­tain­ty dur­ing a Poli­ti­Fact event on May 11 enti­tled: Unit­ed Facts of Amer­i­ca: A Fes­ti­val of Fact-Check­ing. 

‘There’s a lot of cloudi­ness around the ori­gins of COVID-19 still, so I want­ed to ask, are you still con­fi­dent that it devel­oped nat­u­ral­ly?’ Poli­ti­Fact man­ag­ing edi­tor Katie Sanders asked Fau­ci.  

‘No actu­al­ly,’ he replied. ‘I am not con­vinced about that, I think we should con­tin­ue to inves­ti­gate what went on in Chi­na until we con­tin­ue to find out to the best of our abil­i­ty what hap­pened.’

Fau­ci con­tin­ued: ‘Cer­tain­ly, the peo­ple who inves­ti­gat­ed it say it like­ly was the emer­gence from an ani­mal reser­voir that then infect­ed indi­vid­u­als, but it could have been some­thing else, and we need to find that out. 

‘So, you know, that’s the rea­son why I said I’m per­fect­ly in favor of any inves­ti­ga­tion that looks into the ori­gin of the virus.’ 

Fauci’s appear­ance at the event came hours after he was grilled on the same top­ic dur­ing a tense Sen­ate hear­ing.  

‘Will you in front of this group cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly say that the COVID-19 virus could not have occurred by ser­i­al pas­sage in a lab­o­ra­to­ry?’ Sen Rand Paul (R – Ken­tucky) had asked Fau­ci. 

The NIH direc­tor replied: ‘I do not have any account­ing of what the Chi­nese may have done, and I’m ful­ly in favor of any fur­ther inves­ti­ga­tion of what went on in Chi­na.’ 

Fau­ci also unequiv­o­cal­ly refut­ed Paul’s sug­ges­tion that the NIH had fun­neled mon­ey to the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy – the Chi­nese lab accused of play­ing a role in the COVID-19 out­break.  

Dur­ing his seg­ment at the Poli­ti­Fact event Fau­ci slammed Paul for ‘con­flat­ing… in a way that’s almost irre­spon­si­ble’ Chi­nese sci­en­tists with col­lab­o­ra­tive research into Sars-Cov­‑1, which emerged in Chi­na in the ear­ly 2000s. 

Fauci’s appear­ance at the event received lit­tle media atten­tion at the time but was pulled back into the spot­light over the week­end after the White House renewed its call for an inde­pen­dent and ‘trans­par­ent’ inves­ti­ga­tion into the ori­gins of the COVID. 

White House Press Sec­re­tary Jen Psa­ki on Thurs­day called for explor­ing the ‘root caus­es’ of the pan­dem­ic after Repub­li­cans issued an inter­im report say­ing there was ‘sig­nif­i­cant cir­cum­stan­tial evi­dence’ that the virus emerged from the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy.

‘I would cau­tion you against dis­prov­ing a neg­a­tive there which is nev­er the respon­si­ble approach in our view when it comes to get­ting to the bot­tom of the root caus­es of a pan­dem­ic that has killed hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple in the Unit­ed States,’ she said in response to a ques­tion about the report.

Pho­to Cap­tion: White House Press Sec­re­tary Jen Psa­ki called for a trans­par­ent inves­ti­ga­tion into the ori­gins of the coro­n­avirus

White House calls for trans­par­ent inves­ti­ga­tion into ori­gins of COVID

‘Our view con­tin­ues to be that there needs to be an inde­pen­dent, trans­par­ent inves­ti­ga­tion,’ she said.

She said the inves­ti­ga­tion required the ‘coop­er­a­tion and data pro­vid­ed from the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment’ – which has denied admin­is­tra­tion requests to ful­ly share it. 

‘We don’t have enough info at this point to make an assess­ment,’ she con­tin­ued.

In 2014, NIH approved a grant to Eco­Health Alliance des­ig­nat­ed for research into ‘Under­stand­ing the Risk of Bat Coro­n­avirus Emer­gence.’ The project involved col­lab­o­rat­ing with researchers at the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy to study coro­n­avirus­es in bats and the risk of poten­tial trans­fer to humans. 

In total, $3,378,896 in NIH fund­ing was direct­ed from the gov­ern­ment to the project.
Over the course of the two grants approved by the NIH for Eco­Health Alliance, the Wuhan Insti­tute received about $600,000 from the NIH, accord­ing to Robert Kessler, a spokesper­son for Eco­Health Alliance. 

The fund­ing was a fee for the col­lec­tion and analy­sis of viral sam­ples, the group said. It was direct­ed toward SARS research.

In the grant approved in 2014, about $133,000 was sent to the insti­tute in the first four years and about $66,000 in the past year. In the sec­ond grant approved in 2019, about $76,000 was bud­get­ed for the Wuhan Insti­tute, though no mon­ey was sent before the grant’s ter­mi­na­tion.

The grant was ter­mi­nat­ed in April 2020. 

Asked when Biden would call Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping, Psa­ki respond­ed that ‘We have made that call pub­licly many times’ and ‘con­veyed that pri­vate­ly. And we have cer­tain­ly com­mu­ni­cat­ed that they were not trans­par­ent from the begin­ning.’

The Repub­li­cans on the pan­el made their claim after infec­tious Fau­ci clashed with Sen Paul over his claims about a Chi­nese lab leak – and state­ments about a con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry that US back­ing was involved. 

Many top sci­en­tists, while not rul­ing out the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a human-caused event, point to the like­li­hood of the virus mutat­ing and jump­ing form ani­mals to humans, as has hap­pened with numer­ous pre­vi­ous coro­n­avirus­es.

The report says U.S. agen­cies and aca­d­e­m­ic insti­tu­tions ‘may have fund­ed or col­lab­o­rat­ed in’ gain of func­tion research – after Fau­ci specif­i­cal­ly denied gov­ern­ment back­ing.

‘Based on pub­licly avail­able infor­ma­tion, the pos­si­bil­i­ty that the out­break orig­i­nat­ed from an acci­den­tal expo­sure at the WIV has not been dis­proven,’ it says. 

It cites com­pet­ing the­o­ries – includ­ing the virus orig­i­nat­ing from a Chi­nese wet mar­ket, jump­ing over from human con­tact with a bat or oth­er species, or even through han­dling of import­ed frozen food  – but then says it focus­es on just one.

‘While Com­mit­tee Repub­li­cans acknowl­edge there are dif­fer­ing the­o­ries on the ori­gins of COVID-19, this review focus­es on the WIV as a pos­si­ble ori­gin source,’ it says, ref­er­enc­ing the Wuhan lab.

The report was released pub­licly Wednes­day after first being obtained by Fox News. 

The report, though cites ‘sig­nif­i­cant cir­cum­stan­tial evi­dence rais­es seri­ous con­cerns that the COVID-19 out­break may have been a leak from the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy,’ with­out pro­vid­ing any direct evi­dence that it did.

It says Chi­na has a ‘his­to­ry of research lab leaks result­ing in infec­tions’ and says the lab con­ducts ‘dan­ger­ous research,’ which risks the ‘acci­den­tal out­break of a pan­dem­ic.’

The report fol­lows repeat­ed attacks by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Chi­na after the virus out­break. He fre­quent­ly called covid-19 the ‘Chi­na virus’ in the run-up to the elec­tion and called it the ‘kung flu.’ 

It cites pub­lic report­ing that Chi­nese researchers were sick­ened in the fall of 2019 with ‘COVID-10-like symp­toms.’

 ‘By con­trast, lit­tle cir­cum­stan­tial evi­dence has emerged to sup­port the PRC’s claim that COVID-19 was a nat­ur­al occur­rence, hav­ing jumped from some oth­er species to human’ accord­ing to the report, although it is not just the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Par­ty mak­ing the claim.  

Pho­to Cap­tion: Chi­nese virol­o­gist Shi Zhengli (L) is seen inside the P4 lab­o­ra­to­ry in Wuhan, cap­i­tal of China’s Hubei province on Feb­ru­ary 23, 2017. Two Chi­nese labs are locat­ed close by a wet mar­ket in Wuhan that sci­en­tists believe allowed covid-19 to pro­lif­er­ate

CDC Direc­tor says it is ‘pos­si­ble’ COVID escaped from Wuhan Lab

Ear­li­er this month, Paul and Fau­ci got in a tense exchange dur­ing a Sen­ate hear­ing, where Paul accused the US of poten­tial­ly fund­ing ‘gain-of-func­tion’ research bats that could have gone awry.

‘This gain-of-func­tion research has been fund­ed by the NIH. … Dr. Fau­ci, do you still sup­port fund­ing of the NIH fund­ing of the lab in Wuhan?’ 
‘Sen­a­tor Paul, with all due respect, you are entire­ly and com­plete­ly incor­rect that the NIH has not nev­er and does not now fund gain-of-func­tion research in the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy,’ shot back Fau­ci.

‘Could you rule out a lab­o­ra­to­ry escape? The answer in this case is prob­a­bly not. Will you in front of this group cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly say that the COVID-19 could not have occurred through ser­i­al pas­sage in a lab­o­ra­to­ry,’ Paul asked Fau­ci.

‘I do not have any account­ing of what the Chi­nese may have done and I’m ful­ly in favor of any fur­ther inves­ti­ga­tion of what went on in Chi­na,’ Fau­ci, the head of the Nation­al Insti­tute of Aller­gy and Infec­tious Dis­eases, respond­ed.

‘How­ev­er I will repeat again, the NIH and NIAD cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly has not fund­ed gain of func­tion research to be con­duct­ed in the Wuhan Insti­tute.’ 

Fau­ci also told him: ‘I ful­ly agree that you should inves­ti­gate where the virus came from. But again, we have not fund­ed gain of func­tion research on this virus in the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy. No mat­ter how many times you say it, it didn’t hap­pen.’

A report by the World Health Orga­ni­za­tion with the col­lab­o­ra­tion from Chi­na called a ‘zoonot­ic trans­mis­sion’ from ani­mals to humans ‘like­ly to very like­ly’ as the cause, although the admin­is­tra­tion has fault­ed the report as incom­plete. 

CNN offers the expla­na­tion as to how Dr. Fauci’s posi­tion changed from May 2020 where he stat­ed to Nation­al Geo­graph­ic “If you look at the evo­lu­tion of the virus in bats and what’s out there now, [the sci­en­tif­ic evi­dence] is very, very strong­ly lean­ing toward this could not have been arti­fi­cial­ly or delib­er­ate­ly manip­u­lat­ed … Every­thing about the step­wise evo­lu­tion over time strong­ly indi­cates that [this virus] evolved in nature and then jumped species.”

The CNN arti­cle con­cludes “The ori­gins of the virus remain not ful­ly known. Trac­ing that is, at root, a med­ical and pub­lic health ques­tion — not a polit­i­cal one.”

Here is the arti­cle:

https://www.cnn.com/2021/05/24/politics/fauci-donald-trump-coronavirus/index.html

Why is Antho­ny Fau­ci hedg­ing on the ori­gins of the coro­n­avirus?
Analy­sis by Chris Cil­liz­za, CNN Edi­tor-at-large Updat­ed 12:29 PM ET, Mon May 24, 2021

(CNN) — Antho­ny Fau­ci, the direc­tor of the Nation­al Insti­tute of Aller­gy and Infec­tious Dis­eases, admit­ted ear­li­er this month that he is no longer con­vinced that the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic orig­i­nat­ed nat­u­ral­ly.

“I am not con­vinced about that, I think we should con­tin­ue to inves­ti­gate what went on in Chi­na until we con­tin­ue to find out to the best of our abil­i­ty what hap­pened,” Fau­ci told PolitiFact’s man­ag­ing edi­tor Katie Sanders.

“Cer­tain­ly, the peo­ple who inves­ti­gat­ed it say it like­ly was the emer­gence from an ani­mal reser­voir that then infect­ed indi­vid­u­als, but it could have been some­thing else, and we need to find that out. So, you know, that’s the rea­son why I said I’m per­fect­ly in favor of any inves­ti­ga­tion that looks into the ori­gin of the virus,” he con­tin­ued.

Which is, quite clear­ly, a change from Fauci’s pre­vi­ous view that the dis­ease very like­ly came about after ani­mal to human trans­mis­sion. Here’s Fau­ci in an inter­view with Nation­al Geo­graph­ic last May:

“If you look at the evo­lu­tion of the virus in bats and what’s out there now, [the sci­en­tif­ic evi­dence] is very, very strong­ly lean­ing toward this could not have been arti­fi­cial­ly or delib­er­ate­ly manip­u­lat­ed … Every­thing about the step­wise evo­lu­tion over time strong­ly indi­cates that [this virus] evolved in nature and then jumped species.”

Fauci’s dis­missal of the idea that the virus orig­i­nat­ed in a lab in China’s Wuhan province fol­lowed vague asser­tions by then-Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump that he had a “high degree of con­fi­dence” that the virus had come from a lab. Pressed for details on that asser­tion, which ran counter to US intel­li­gence on the virus’ ori­gins, Trump offered only this: “I can’t tell you that. I’m not allowed to tell you that.”

Giv­en that his­to­ry, con­ser­v­a­tives leaped on Fauci’s recent hedg­ing as proof pos­i­tive that Trump was, in fact, right all along. (Worth not­ing: Fau­ci made his com­ments at a fact-check­ing sym­po­sium on May 11, but they were large­ly ignored at the time. Con­ser­v­a­tive pub­li­ca­tions began writ­ing about the remarks over the week­end.)

“Fau­ci must answer for his role in Wuhan’s COVID lab,” tweet­ed for­mer New York Rep. Nan Hay­worth ®.

Fau­ci has become a light­ning rod for con­ser­v­a­tive crit­i­cism of how the sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty has han­dled the ongo­ing pan­dem­ic. Trump sought to vil­lainize Fau­ci for his alleged­ly too-cau­tious approach to a return to nor­mal from the virus, and the likes of Geor­gia Rep. Mar­jorie Tay­lor Greene have tak­en up the cause; last month she tweet­ed a video of her­self work­ing out that includ­ed this text: “This is my Covid pro­tec­tion #MakeAm­er­ic­a­HealthyA­gain It’s time to #Fire­Fau­ci”

So, how much “there” is actu­al­ly there? Well, on Sun­day, the Wall Street Jour­nal wrote this:

“Three researchers from China’s Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy became sick enough in Novem­ber 2019 that they sought hos­pi­tal care, accord­ing to a pre­vi­ous­ly undis­closed U.S. intel­li­gence report that could add weight to grow­ing calls for a fuller probe of whether the Covid-19 virus may have escaped from the lab­o­ra­to­ry…
“…The dis­clo­sure of the num­ber of researchers, the tim­ing of their ill­ness­es and their hos­pi­tal vis­its come on the eve of a meet­ing of the World Health Organization’s deci­sion-mak­ing body, which is expect­ed to dis­cuss the next phase of an inves­ti­ga­tion into Covid-19’s ori­gins.”

It’s worth not­ing here that, accord­ing to CNN report­ing, US intel­li­gence offi­cials are not cer­tain what the researchers were actu­al­ly sick with. And Direc­tor of Nation­al Intel­li­gence Avril Haines told Con­gress last month that “the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty does not know exact­ly where, when, or how Covid-19 virus was trans­mit­ted ini­tial­ly.”

Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for China’s For­eign Min­istry, denied the WSJ report and said that the US is “hyp­ing up the lab leak the­o­ry.”

What’s clear is that Fau­ci is sig­nif­i­cant­ly more open to the idea of the lab the­o­ry than he was a year ago. While he did leave him­self some wig­gle room in his state­ments about the ori­gins last year (he said he was “very, very strong­ly lean­ing toward this could not have been arti­fi­cial­ly or delib­er­ate­ly manip­u­lat­ed,”) there was no doubt about where Fau­ci stood on the ques­tion.

The issue, then, is not whether Fau­ci has moved his posi­tion on the pos­si­ble ori­gins of the virus but rather why he is doing so. Fau­ci defend­ers will insist that he is sim­ply evolv­ing his view based on infor­ma­tion that has come out over the last year. Fau­ci oppo­nents will insist he knew all along that the lab the­o­ry was a pos­si­bil­i­ty and down­played it sole­ly to make Trump look bad.

In the midst of that debate, it’s impor­tant to remem­ber that Trump nev­er pro­vid­ed any evi­dence for his vague claims about the ori­gins of the virus. “Some­thing hap­pened,” was as far as he would go.

It’s also crit­i­cal to remem­ber that there would be a major dis­tinc­tion — even with­in the lab the­o­ry — between the virus acci­den­tal­ly get­ting out and it being pur­pose­ly released as a sort of weapon. Trump and his allies have long flicked at the lat­ter expla­na­tion but with­out any fur­ther expla­na­tion or proof.

As CNN wrote on Mon­day:
“The cur­rent intel­li­gence rein­forces the belief that the virus most like­ly orig­i­nat­ed nat­u­ral­ly, from ani­mal-human con­tact, the sources said. But that does not pre­clude the pos­si­bil­i­ty that the virus was the result of an acci­den­tal leak from the Wuhan Insti­tute, where coro­n­avirus research was being con­duct­ed on bats.”

Here’s the point: The ori­gins of the virus remain not ful­ly known. Trac­ing that is, at root, a med­ical and pub­lic health ques­tion — not a polit­i­cal one.

3. Spec­u­la­tion about the ori­gins of the virus also gained momen­tum from the infor­ma­tion that sev­er­al staff mem­bers of the WIV got sick in the fall of 2019.

As a Dutch researcher notes: ” . . . . Mar­i­on Koop­mans, a Dutch virol­o­gist on that team told NBC News in March that some WIV staff did fall sick in the autumn of 2019, but she attrib­uted that to reg­u­lar, sea­son­al sick­ness. There were occa­sion­al ill­ness­es because that’s nor­mal. There was noth­ing that stood out,” she said. “Maybe one or two. It’s cer­tain­ly not a big, big thing.’

It isn’t unusu­al for peo­ple in Chi­na to go straight to the hos­pi­tal when they fall sick, either because they get bet­ter care there or lack access to a gen­er­al prac­ti­tion­er. Covid-19 and the flu, while very dif­fer­ent ill­ness­es, share some of the same symp­toms, such as fever, aches and a cough. Still, it could be sig­nif­i­cant if mem­bers of the same team work­ing with coro­n­avirus­es went to hos­pi­tal with sim­i­lar symp­toms short­ly before the pan­dem­ic was first iden­ti­fied. . . .”

“Intel­li­gence on Sick Staff at Wuhan Lab Fuels Debate On Covid-19 Ori­gin” by Michael R. Gor­don, War­ren P. Stro­bel and Drew Hin­shaw; The Wall Street Jour­nal; 05/23/2021

Three researchers from China’s Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy became sick enough in Novem­ber 2019 that they sought hos­pi­tal care, accord­ing to a pre­vi­ous­ly undis­closed U.S. intel­li­gence report that could add weight to grow­ing calls for a fuller probe of whether the Covid-19 virus may have escaped from the lab­o­ra­to­ry.

The details of the report­ing go beyond a State Depart­ment fact sheet, issued dur­ing the final days of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion, which said that sev­er­al researchers at the lab, a cen­ter for the study of coro­n­avirus­es and oth­er pathogens, became sick in autumn 2019 “with symp­toms con­sis­tent with both Covid-19 and com­mon sea­son­al ill­ness.”

The dis­clo­sure of the num­ber of researchers, the tim­ing of their ill­ness­es and their hos­pi­tal vis­its come on the eve of a meet­ing of the World Health Organization’s deci­sion-mak­ing body, which is expect­ed to dis­cuss the next phase of an inves­ti­ga­tion into Covid-19’s ori­gins.

Cur­rent and for­mer offi­cials famil­iar with the intel­li­gence about the lab researchers expressed dif­fer­ing views about the strength of the sup­port­ing evi­dence for the assess­ment. One per­son said that it was pro­vid­ed by an inter­na­tion­al part­ner and was poten­tial­ly sig­nif­i­cant but still in need of fur­ther inves­ti­ga­tion and addi­tion­al cor­rob­o­ra­tion.

Anoth­er per­son described the intel­li­gence as stronger. “The infor­ma­tion that we had com­ing from the var­i­ous sources was of exquis­ite qual­i­ty. It was very pre­cise. What it didn’t tell you was exact­ly why they got sick,” he said, refer­ring to the researchers.

Novem­ber 2019 is rough­ly when many epi­demi­ol­o­gists and virol­o­gists believe SARS-CoV­‑2, the virus behind the pan­dem­ic, first began cir­cu­lat­ing around the cen­tral Chi­nese city of Wuhan, where Bei­jing says that the first con­firmed case was a man who fell ill on Dec. 8, 2019.

The Wuhan Insti­tute hasn’t shared raw data, safe­ty logs and lab records on its exten­sive work with coro­n­avirus­es in bats, which many con­sid­er the most like­ly source of the virus.

The Biden admin­is­tra­tion declined to com­ment on the intel­li­gence but said that all tech­ni­cal­ly cred­i­ble the­o­ries on the ori­gin of the pan­dem­ic should be inves­ti­gat­ed by the WHO and inter­na­tion­al experts.

“We con­tin­ue to have seri­ous ques­tions about the ear­li­est days of the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic, includ­ing its ori­gins with­in the People’s Repub­lic of Chi­na,” said a spokes­woman for the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil.

“We’re not going to make pro­nounce­ments that pre­judge an ongo­ing WHO study into the source of SARS-CoV­‑2,” the spokes­woman said. “As a mat­ter of pol­i­cy we nev­er com­ment on intel­li­gence issues.”

Bei­jing has also assert­ed that the virus could have orig­i­nat­ed out­side Chi­nainclud­ing at a lab at the Fort Det­rick mil­i­tary base in Mary­land, and called for the WHO to inves­ti­gate ear­ly Covid out­breaks in oth­er coun­tries.

Most sci­en­tists say they have seen noth­ing to cor­rob­o­rate the idea that the virus came from a U.S. mil­i­tary lab, and the White House has said there are no cred­i­ble rea­sons to inves­ti­gate it.

China’s Nation­al Health Com­mis­sion and the WIV didn’t respond to requests for com­ment. Shi Zhengli, the top bat coro­n­avirus expert at WIV, has said the virus didn’t leak from her lab­o­ra­to­ries. She told the WHO-led team that trav­eled to Wuhan ear­li­er this year to inves­ti­gate the ori­gins of the virus that all staff had test­ed neg­a­tive for Covid-19 anti­bod­ies and there had been no turnover of staff on the coro­n­avirus team.

Mar­i­on Koop­mans, a Dutch virol­o­gist on that team told NBC News in March that some WIV staff did fall sick in the autumn of 2019, but she attrib­uted that to reg­u­lar, sea­son­al sick­ness.

“There were occa­sion­al ill­ness­es because that’s nor­mal. There was noth­ing that stood out,” she said. “Maybe one or two. It’s cer­tain­ly not a big, big thing.”

It isn’t unusu­al for peo­ple in Chi­na to go straight to the hos­pi­tal when they fall sick, either because they get bet­ter care there or lack access to a gen­er­al prac­ti­tion­er. Covid-19 and the flu, while very dif­fer­ent ill­ness­es, share some of the same symp­toms, such as fever, aches and a cough. Still, it could be sig­nif­i­cant if mem­bers of the same team work­ing with coro­n­avirus­es went to hos­pi­tal with sim­i­lar symp­toms short­ly before the pan­dem­ic was first iden­ti­fied.

David Ash­er, a for­mer U.S. offi­cial who led a State Depart­ment task force on the ori­gins of the virus for then-Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo, told a Hud­son Insti­tute sem­i­nar in March that he doubt­ed that the lab researchers became sick because of the ordi­nary flu.

“I’m very doubt­ful that three peo­ple in high­ly pro­tect­ed cir­cum­stances in a lev­el three lab­o­ra­to­ry work­ing on coro­n­avirus­es would all get sick with influen­za that put them in the hos­pi­tal or in severe con­di­tions all in the same week, and it didn’t have any­thing to do with the coro­n­avirus,” he said, adding that the researchers’ ill­ness may rep­re­sent “the first known clus­ter” of Covid-19 cas­es.

Long char­ac­ter­ized by skep­tics as a con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry, the hypoth­e­sis that the pan­dem­ic could have begun with a lab acci­dent has attract­ed more inter­est from sci­en­tists who have com­plained about the lack of trans­paren­cy by Chi­nese author­i­ties or con­clu­sive proof for the alter­nate hypoth­e­sis: that the virus was con­tract­ed by humans from a bat or oth­er infect­ed ani­mal out­side a lab.

Many pro­po­nents of the lab hypoth­e­sis say that a virus that was car­ried by an infect­ed bat might have been brought to the lab so that researchers could work on poten­tial vaccines—only to escape.

While the lab hypoth­e­sis is being tak­en more seri­ous­ly, includ­ing by Biden admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials, the debate is still col­ored by polit­i­cal ten­sions, includ­ing over how much evi­dence is need­ed to sus­tain the hypoth­e­sis.

The State Depart­ment fact sheet issued dur­ing the Trump admin­is­tra­tion, which drew on clas­si­fied intel­li­gence, said that the “U.S. gov­ern­ment has rea­son to believe that sev­er­al researchers inside the WIV became sick in autumn 2019, before the first iden­ti­fied case of the out­break, with symp­toms con­sis­tent with both Covid-19 and sea­son­al ill­ness­es.”

The Jan. 15 fact sheet added that this fact “rais­es ques­tions about the cred­i­bil­i­ty” of Dr. Shi and crit­i­cized Bei­jing for its “deceit and dis­in­for­ma­tion” while acknowl­edg­ing that the U.S. gov­ern­ment hasn’t deter­mined exact­ly how the pan­dem­ic began.

The Biden admin­is­tra­tion hasn’t dis­put­ed any of the asser­tions in the fact sheet, which cur­rent and for­mer offi­cials say was vet­ted by U.S. intel­li­gence agen­cies. The fact sheet also cov­ered research activ­i­ties at the WIV, its alleged coop­er­a­tion on some projects with the Chi­nese mil­i­tary and acci­dents at oth­er Chi­nese labs.

But one Biden admin­is­tra­tion offi­cial said that by high­light­ing data that point­ed to the lab leak hypoth­e­sis, Trump admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials had sought “to put spin on the ball.” Sev­er­al U.S. offi­cials described the intel­li­gence as “cir­cum­stan­tial,” wor­thy of fur­ther explo­ration but not con­clu­sive on its own.

Asked about the Jan. 15 state­ment, State Depart­ment spokesman Ned Price said: “A fact sheet issued by the pre­vi­ous admin­is­tra­tion on Jan­u­ary 15 did not draw any con­clu­sions regard­ing the ori­gins of the coro­n­avirus. Rather, it focused on the lack of trans­paren­cy sur­round­ing the ori­gins.”

Though the first known case was Dec. 8, sev­er­al analy­ses of the virus’s rate of muta­tion con­clud­ed that it like­ly began spread­ing sev­er­al weeks ear­li­er.

The WHO-led team that vis­it­ed Wuhan con­clud­ed in a joint report with Chi­nese experts in March that the virus most like­ly spread from bats to humans via anoth­er ani­mal, and that a lab­o­ra­to­ry leak was “extreme­ly unlike­ly.”

How­ev­er, team mem­bers said they didn’t view raw data or orig­i­nal lab, safe­ty and oth­er records. On the same day the report came out, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghe­breye­sus said the team hadn’t ade­quate­ly exam­ined the lab leak hypoth­e­sis, and called for a fuller probe of the idea.

The U.S., Euro­pean Union and sev­er­al oth­er gov­ern­ments have also called for a more trans­par­ent inves­ti­ga­tion of Covid-19’s ori­gins, with­out explic­it­ly demand­ing a lab probe. They have called in par­tic­u­lar for bet­ter access to data and sam­ples from poten­tial ear­ly Covid-19 cas­es.

Mem­bers of the WHO-led team said Chi­nese coun­ter­parts had iden­ti­fied 92 poten­tial Covid-19 cas­es among some 76,000 peo­ple who fell sick between Octo­ber and ear­ly Decem­ber 2019, but turned down requests to share raw data on the larg­er group. That data would help the WHO-led team under­stand why Chi­na sought to only test those 92 peo­ple for anti­bod­ies.

Team mem­bers also said they asked for access to a Wuhan blood bank to test sam­ples from before Decem­ber 2019 for anti­bod­ies. Chi­nese author­i­ties declined at first, cit­ing pri­va­cy con­cerns, then agreed, but have yet to pro­vide that access, team mem­bers say.

————

4. Note that many of the per­son­nel at the WIV were trained in the U.S. afford­ing a pos­si­ble vehi­cle for covert oper­a­tion at the Insti­tute.

“Trump admin pulls NIH grant for coro­n­avirus research over ties to Wuhan lab at heart of con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries” by Conor Finnegan; ABC News; 05/01/2020

The Trump admin­is­tra­tion has pulled fund­ing for a group of sci­en­tists study­ing coro­n­avirus­es in bats and the risk of their spillover into humans — the very kind of infec­tion that start­ed the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic — accord­ing to Eco­Health Alliance, the New York-based non­prof­it orga­ni­za­tion con­duct­ing the research.

The can­cel­la­tion of the grant after more than a decade of work in this field seems to be tied to Eco­Health Alliance’s part­ner­ship with the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy, the bio­med­ical lab at the heart of con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries that the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment cre­at­ed or unleashed the virus or the unproven the­sis that the out­break start­ed with an acci­dent because of faulty safe­ty stan­dards in the lab.

Either way, the group expressed regret at the deci­sion by the Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health to ter­mi­nate fund­ing, say­ing its work has helped in “design­ing vac­cines and drugs to pro­tect us from COVID-19 and oth­er coro­n­avirus threats” and point­ing out the Wuhan Institute’s par­tic­i­pa­tion had been approved by the NIH for years, includ­ing just last year under Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump. . . .

. . . . Eco­Health Alliance has worked with that lab for over a decade, accord­ing to a source famil­iar with the grant, as has the U.S. Agency for Inter­na­tion­al Development’s PREDICT project, which for over 10 years has also stud­ied virus­es in ani­mals and pre­pared local part­ners around the world to detect that kind of “spillover.”

But in a let­ter last Fri­day, the Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health informed the Eco­Health Alliance it was ter­mi­nat­ing the grant and deny­ing it access to the remain­ing $369,819 in its account for Fis­cal Year 2020. . . .

. . . . Eco­Health Alliance has received NIH fund­ing for this work since 2008, amount­ing to $5.96 mil­lion over 12 years, accord­ing to NIHdata. That work has helped “devel­op pre­dic­tive mod­els of glob­al ‘hot spots’ for the future emer­gence of bat virus­es” and used its “large repos­i­to­ry of bat bio­log­i­cal sam­ples to con­duct tar­get­ed sur­veil­lance in these ‘hot spots’ for known and undis­cov­ered bat pathogens,” accord­ing to the group. . . .

. . . . Since Fis­cal Year 2014, that work has been award­ed to Eco­Health Alliance’s “Under­stand­ing the Risk of Bat Coro­n­avirus Emer­gence” project in par­tic­u­lar, which is explic­it­ly focused on Chi­na and done in part­ner­ship with the Wuhan Insti­tute and oth­ers.

“This project aims to under­stand what fac­tors increase the risk of the next CoV [coro­n­avirus] emerg­ing in peo­ple by study­ing CoV diver­si­ty in a crit­i­cal zoonot­ic reser­voir (bats), at sites of high risk for emer­gence (wildlife mar­kets) in an emerg­ing dis­ease hotspot (Chi­na),” the group’s NIH-approved research abstract said. . . .

. . . . But while U.S. intel­li­gence agen­cies look for clues of a poten­tial lab acci­dent, epi­demi­o­log­i­cal experts say it’s high­ly unlike­ly the first trans­mis­sion hap­pened that way. Virus sam­ples in labs are almost nev­er still infec­tious, after being frozen in nitro­gen dur­ing the col­lec­tion process and then inac­ti­vat­ed in the lab to pre­serve their genet­ic sequence.

“It’s an unlike­ly prob­a­bil­i­ty because the lab­o­ra­to­ry is a con­trolled set­ting and peo­ple wear per­son­al pro­tec­tive equip­ment. I’ve seen hearsay that they maybe didn’t have enough or they weren’t skilled enough, but there are bar­ri­ers, huge bar­ri­ers between peo­ple and virus­es in the lab­o­ra­to­ry set­ting,” said Dr. Chris­tine John­son, prin­ci­pal inves­ti­ga­tor with USAID’s PREDICT project, which will end this Sep­tem­ber after 10 years and two six-month exten­sions as USAID launch­es a new project that applies the data PREDICT col­lect­ed. . . . 

. . . . In the face of that, Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo has now start­ed to call into the ques­tion of China’s bio­med­ical labs, demand­ing that they pro­vide inter­na­tion­al inspec­tors access to them, although it’s unclear if the admin­is­tra­tion has for­mal­ly request­ed that of the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment. Many of the sci­en­tists at the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy have been trained by the U.S. government’s PREDICT project. . . .

. . . . A 2017 report by Eco­Health Alliance’s project, whose authors include Wuhan Insti­tute sci­en­tists, was pub­lished in the research jour­nal Viro­log­i­ca Sini­ca and warned that “some bat SARSr-CoVs [severe acute res­pi­ra­to­ry syn­drome-relat­ed coro­n­avirus­es] are able to direct­ly infect humans with­out inter­me­di­ate host.”

5. The infor­ma­tion about the mil­i­tary and USAID fund­ing of research into  bat-borne coro­n­avirus­es in Chi­na must be seen against the U.S. mil­i­tary build-up against Chi­na, with atten­dant war-mon­ger­ing.

Coun­ter­ing the spin in this arti­cle, we note what the Chi­nese mis­sile and naval build-up was designed to do: ” . . . . In a series last year, Reuters report­ed that while the U.S. was dis­tract­ed by almost two decades of war in the Mid­dle East and Afghanistan, the PLA had built a mis­sile force designed to attack the air­craft car­ri­ers, oth­er sur­face war­ships and net­work of bases that form the back­bone of Amer­i­can pow­er in Asia. Over that peri­od, Chi­nese ship­yards built the world’s biggest navy, which is now capa­ble of dom­i­nat­ing the country’s coastal waters and keep­ing U.S. forces at bay. . . .”

Imag­ine, for a moment Chi­na build­ing up its long-range mis­sile forces in the West­ern Pacif­ic to neu­tral­ize the U.S. Navy’s abil­i­ty to dom­i­nate Amer­i­ca’s coastal waters and keep an ene­my at bay.

This is a defen­sive gam­bit by China–America would respond with jus­ti­fi­able out­rage if Chi­na (or any oth­er nation) would chal­lenge Amer­i­ca’s abil­i­ty to dom­i­nate its coastal waters and keep an ene­my at bay.

“Spe­cial Report: U.S. rearms to nul­li­fy Chi­na’s mis­sile suprema­cy” By David Lague; reuters.com; 5/6/2020.

As Wash­ing­ton and Bei­jing trade barbs over the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic, a longer-term strug­gle between the two Pacif­ic pow­ers is at a turn­ing point, as the Unit­ed States rolls out new weapons and strat­e­gy in a bid to close a wide mis­sile gap with Chi­na.

The Unit­ed States has large­ly stood by in recent decades as Chi­na dra­mat­i­cal­ly expand­ed its mil­i­tary fire­pow­er. Now, hav­ing shed the con­straints of a Cold War-era arms con­trol treaty, the Trump admin­is­tra­tion is plan­ning to deploy long-range, ground-launched cruise mis­siles in the Asia-Pacif­ic region.

The Pen­ta­gon intends to arm its Marines with ver­sions of the Tom­a­hawk cruise mis­sile now car­ried on U.S. war­ships, accord­ing to the White House bud­get requests for 2021 and Con­gres­sion­al tes­ti­mo­ny in March of senior U.S. mil­i­tary com­man­ders. It is also accel­er­at­ing deliv­er­ies of its first new long-range anti-ship mis­siles in decades.

In a state­ment to Reuters about the lat­est U.S. moves, Bei­jing urged Wash­ing­ton to “be cau­tious in word and deed,” to “stop mov­ing chess pieces around” the region, and to “stop flex­ing its mil­i­tary mus­cles around Chi­na.”

The U.S. moves are aimed at coun­ter­ing China’s over­whelm­ing advan­tage in land-based cruise and bal­lis­tic mis­siles. The Pen­ta­gon also intends to dial back China’s lead in what strate­gists refer to as the “range war.” The People’s Lib­er­a­tion Army (PLA), China’s mil­i­tary, has built up a huge force of mis­siles that most­ly out­range those of the U.S. and its region­al allies, accord­ing to senior U.S. com­man­ders and strate­gic advis­ers to the Pen­ta­gon, who have been warn­ing that Chi­na holds a clear advan­tage in these weapons.

And, in a rad­i­cal shift in tac­tics, the Marines will join forces with the U.S. Navy in attack­ing an enemy’s war­ships. Small and mobile units of U.S. Marines armed with anti-ship mis­siles will become ship killers.

In a con­flict, these units will be dis­persed at key points in the West­ern Pacif­ic and along the so-called first island chain, com­man­ders said. The first island chain is the string of islands that run from the Japan­ese arch­i­pel­ago, through Tai­wan, the Philip­pines and on to Bor­neo, enclos­ing China’s coastal seas.

Top U.S. mil­i­tary com­man­ders explained the new tac­tics to Con­gress in March in a series of bud­get hear­ings. The com­man­dant of the U.S. Marine Corps, Gen­er­al David Berg­er, told the Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee on March 5 that small units of Marines armed with pre­ci­sion mis­siles could assist the U.S. Navy to gain con­trol of the seas, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the West­ern Pacif­ic. “The Tom­a­hawk mis­sile is one of the tools that is going to allow us to do that,” he said.

The Tom­a­hawk — which first gained fame when launched in massed strikes dur­ing the 1991 Gulf War — has been car­ried on U.S. war­ships and used to attack land tar­gets in recent decades. The Marines would test fire the cruise mis­sile through 2022 with the aim of mak­ing it oper­a­tional the fol­low­ing year, top Pen­ta­gon com­man­ders tes­ti­fied.

At first, a rel­a­tive­ly small num­ber of land-based cruise mis­siles will not change the bal­ance of pow­er. But such a shift would send a strong polit­i­cal sig­nal that Wash­ing­ton is prepar­ing to com­pete with China’s mas­sive arse­nal, accord­ing to senior U.S. and oth­er West­ern strate­gists. Longer term, big­ger num­bers of these weapons com­bined with sim­i­lar Japan­ese and Tai­wanese mis­siles would pose a seri­ous threat to Chi­nese forces, they say. The biggest imme­di­ate threat to the PLA comes from new, long-range anti-ship mis­siles now enter­ing ser­vice with U.S. Navy and Air Force strike air­craft.

“The Amer­i­cans are com­ing back strong­ly,” said Ross Bab­bage, a for­mer senior Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment defense offi­cial and now a non-res­i­dent fel­low at the Wash­ing­ton-based Cen­ter for Strate­gic and Bud­getary Assess­ments, a secu­ri­ty research group. “By 2024 or 2025 there is a seri­ous risk for the PLA that their mil­i­tary devel­op­ments will be obso­lete.”

A Chi­nese mil­i­tary spokesman, Senior Colonel Wu Qian, warned last Octo­ber that Bei­jing would “not stand by” if Wash­ing­ton deployed land-based, long-range mis­siles in the Asia-Pacif­ic region.

China’s for­eign min­istry accused the Unit­ed States of stick­ing “to its cold war men­tal­i­ty” and “con­stant­ly increas­ing mil­i­tary deploy­ment” in the region.

“Recent­ly, the Unit­ed States has got­ten worse, step­ping up its pur­suit of a so-called ‘Indo-Pacif­ic strat­e­gy’ that seeks to deploy new weapons, includ­ing ground-launched inter­me­di­ate-range mis­siles, in the Asia-Pacif­ic region,” the min­istry said in a state­ment to Reuters. “Chi­na firm­ly oppos­es that.”

Pen­ta­gon spokesman Lieu­tenant Colonel Dave East­burn said he would not com­ment on state­ments by the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment or the PLA.

U.S. MILITARY UNSHACKLED

While the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic rages, Bei­jing has increased its mil­i­tary pres­sure on Tai­wan and exer­cis­es in the South Chi­na Sea. In a show of strength, on April 11 the Chi­nese air­craft car­ri­er Liaon­ing led a flotil­la of five oth­er war­ships into the West­ern Pacif­ic through the Miyako Strait to the north­east of Tai­wan, accord­ing to Taiwan’s Defense Min­istry. On April 12, the Chi­nese war­ships exer­cised in waters east and south of Tai­wan, the min­istry said.

Mean­while, the U.S. Navy was forced to tie up the air­craft car­ri­er USS Theodore Roo­sevelt at Guam while it bat­tles to con­tain a coro­n­avirus out­break among the crew of the giant war­ship. How­ev­er, the U.S. Navy man­aged to main­tain a pow­er­ful pres­ence off the Chi­nese coast. The guid­ed-mis­sile destroy­er USS Bar­ry passed through the Tai­wan Strait twice in April. And the amphibi­ous assault ship USS Amer­i­ca last month exer­cised in the East Chi­na Sea and South Chi­na Sea, the U.S. Indo-Pacif­ic Com­mand said.

In a series last year, Reuters report­ed that while the U.S. was dis­tract­ed by almost two decades of war in the Mid­dle East and Afghanistan, the PLA had built a mis­sile force designed to attack the air­craft car­ri­ers, oth­er sur­face war­ships and net­work of bases that form the back­bone of Amer­i­can pow­er in Asia. Over that peri­od, Chi­nese ship­yards built the world’s biggest navy, which is now capa­ble of dom­i­nat­ing the country’s coastal waters and keep­ing U.S. forces at bay.

The series also revealed that in most cat­e­gories, China’s mis­siles now rival or out­per­form coun­ter­parts in the armories of the U.S. alliance.

To read the series, click here

Chi­na derived an advan­tage because it was not par­ty to a Cold War-era treaty — the Inter­me­di­ate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) — that banned the Unit­ed States and Rus­sia from pos­sess­ing ground-launched bal­lis­tic and cruise mis­siles with ranges from 500 kilo­me­ters to 5,500 kilo­me­ters. Unre­strained by the INF pact, Chi­na has deployed about 2,000 of these weapons, accord­ing to U.S. and oth­er West­ern esti­mates.

While build­ing up its mis­sile forces on land, the PLA also fit­ted pow­er­ful, long-range anti-ship mis­siles to its war­ships and strike air­craft.

This accu­mu­lat­ed fire­pow­er has shift­ed the region­al bal­ance of pow­er in China’s favor. The Unit­ed States, long the dom­i­nant mil­i­tary pow­er in Asia, can no longer be con­fi­dent of vic­to­ry in a mil­i­tary clash in waters off the Chi­nese coast, accord­ing to senior retired U.S. mil­i­tary offi­cers.

But the deci­sion by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump last year to exit the INF treaty has giv­en Amer­i­can mil­i­tary plan­ners new lee­way. Almost imme­di­ate­ly after with­draw­ing from the pact on August 2, the admin­is­tra­tion sig­naled it would respond to China’s mis­sile force. The next day, U.S. Sec­re­tary for Defense Mark Esper said he would like to see ground-based mis­siles deployed in Asia with­in months, but he acknowl­edged it would take longer.

Lat­er that month, the Pen­ta­gon test­ed a ground-launched Tom­a­hawk cruise mis­sile. In Decem­ber, it test­ed a ground-launched bal­lis­tic mis­sile. The INF treaty banned such ground-launched weapons, and thus both tests would have been for­bid­den.

A senior Marines com­man­der, Lieu­tenant Gen­er­al Eric Smith, told the Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee on March 11 that the Pen­ta­gon lead­er­ship had instruct­ed the Marines to field a ground-launched cruise mis­sile “very quick­ly.”

The bud­get doc­u­ments show that the Marines have request­ed $125 mil­lion to buy 48 Tom­a­hawk mis­siles from next year. The Tom­a­hawk has a range of 1,600km, accord­ing to its man­u­fac­tur­er, Raytheon Com­pa­ny.

Smith said the cruise mis­sile may not ulti­mate­ly prove to be the most suit­able weapon for the Marines. “It may be a lit­tle too heavy for us,” he told the Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee, but expe­ri­ence gained from the tests could be trans­ferred to the army.

Smith also said the Marines had suc­cess­ful­ly test­ed a new short­er-range anti-ship weapon, the Naval Strike Mis­sile, from a ground launch­er and would con­duct anoth­er test in June. He said if that test was suc­cess­ful, the Marines intend­ed to order 36 of these mis­siles in 2022. The U.S. Army is also test­ing a new long-range, land-based mis­sile that can tar­get war­ships. This mis­sile would have been pro­hib­it­ed under the INF treaty.

The Marine Corps said in a state­ment it was eval­u­at­ing the Naval Strike Mis­sile to tar­get ships and the Tom­a­hawk for attack­ing tar­gets on land. Even­tu­al­ly, the Marines aimed to field a sys­tem “that could engage long-range mov­ing tar­gets either on land or sea,” the state­ment said.

The Defense Depart­ment also has research under­way on new, long-range strike weapons, with a bud­get request of $3.2 bil­lion for hyper­son­ic tech­nol­o­gy, most­ly for mis­siles.

China’s for­eign min­istry drew a dis­tinc­tion between the PLA’s arse­nal of mis­siles and the planned U.S. deploy­ment. It said China’s mis­siles were “locat­ed in its ter­ri­to­ry, espe­cial­ly short and medi­um-range mis­siles, which can­not reach the main­land of the Unit­ed States. This is fun­da­men­tal­ly dif­fer­ent from the U.S., which is vig­or­ous­ly push­ing for­ward deploy­ment.”

BOTTLING UP CHINA’S NAVY

Mil­i­tary strate­gists James Holmes and Toshi Yoshi­hara sug­gest­ed almost a decade ago that the first island chain was a nat­ur­al bar­ri­er that could be exploit­ed by the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary to counter the Chi­nese naval build-up. Ground-based anti-ship mis­siles could com­mand key pas­sages through the island chain into the West­ern Pacif­ic as part of a strat­e­gy to keep the rapid­ly expand­ing Chi­nese navy bot­tled up, they sug­gest­ed.

In embrac­ing this strat­e­gy, Wash­ing­ton is attempt­ing to turn Chi­nese tac­tics back on the PLA. Senior U.S. com­man­ders have warned that China’s land-based cruise and bal­lis­tic mis­siles would make it dif­fi­cult for U.S. and allied navies to oper­ate near China’s coastal waters.

But deploy­ing ground-based U.S. and allied mis­siles in the island chain would pose a sim­i­lar threat to Chi­nese war­ships — to ves­sels oper­at­ing in the South Chi­na Sea, East Chi­na Sea and Yel­low Sea, or ships attempt­ing to break out into the West­ern Pacif­ic. Japan and Tai­wan have already deployed ground-based anti-ship mis­siles for this pur­pose.

“We need to be able to plug up the straits,” said Holmes, a pro­fes­sor at the U.S. Naval War Col­lege. “We can, in effect, ask them if they want Tai­wan or the Senkakus bad­ly enough to see their econ­o­my and armed forces cut off from the West­ern Pacif­ic and Indi­an Ocean. In all like­li­hood the answer will be no.”

Holmes was refer­ring to the unin­hab­it­ed group of isles in the East Chi­na Sea — known as the Senkaku islands in Japan and the Diaoyu islands in Chi­na — that are claimed by both Tokyo and Bei­jing.

The Unit­ed States faces chal­lenges in plug­ging the first island chain. Philip­pines Pres­i­dent Rodri­go Duterte’s deci­sion to dis­tance him­self from the Unit­ed States and forge clos­er ties with Chi­na is a poten­tial obsta­cle to Amer­i­can plans. U.S. forces could face bar­ri­ers to oper­at­ing from strate­gi­cal­ly impor­tant islands in the Philip­pines arch­i­pel­ago after Duterte in Feb­ru­ary scrapped a key secu­ri­ty agree­ment with Wash­ing­ton.

And if U.S. forces do deploy in the first island chain with anti-ship mis­siles, some U.S. strate­gists believe this won’t be deci­sive, as the Marines would be vul­ner­a­ble to strikes from the Chi­nese mil­i­tary.

The Unit­ed States has oth­er coun­ter­weights. The fire­pow­er of long-range U.S. Air Force bombers could pose a big­ger threat to Chi­nese forces than the Marines, the strate­gists said. Par­tic­u­lar­ly effec­tive, they said, could be the stealthy B‑21 bomber, which is due to enter ser­vice in the mid­dle of this decade, armed with long-range mis­siles.

The Pen­ta­gon is already mov­ing to boost the fire­pow­er of its exist­ing strike air­craft in Asia. U.S. Navy Super Hor­net jets and Air Force B‑1 bombers are now being armed with ear­ly deliv­er­ies of Lock­heed Martin’s new Long Range Anti-Ship Mis­sile, accord­ing to the bud­get request doc­u­ments. The new mis­sile is being deployed in response to an “urgent oper­a­tional need” for the U.S. Pacif­ic Com­mand, the doc­u­ments explain.

The new mis­sile car­ries a 450 kilo­gram war­head and is capa­ble of “semi-autonomous” tar­get­ing, giv­ing it some abil­i­ty to steer itself, accord­ing to the bud­get request. Details of the stealthy cruise missile’s range are clas­si­fied. But U.S. and oth­er West­ern mil­i­tary offi­cials esti­mate it can strike tar­gets at dis­tances greater than 800 kilo­me­ters.

The bud­get doc­u­ments show the Pen­ta­gon is seek­ing $224 mil­lion to order anoth­er 53 of these mis­siles in 2021. The U.S. Navy and Air Force expect to have more than 400 of them in ser­vice by 2025, accord­ing to orders pro­ject­ed in the doc­u­ments.

This new anti-ship mis­sile is derived from an exist­ing Lock­heed long-range, land attack weapon, the Joint Air-to-Sur­face Stand­off Mis­sile. The Pen­ta­gon is ask­ing for $577 mil­lion next year to order anoth­er 400 of these land-attack mis­siles.

“The U.S. and allied focus on long-range land-attack and anti-ship cruise mis­siles was the quick­est way to rebuild long-range con­ven­tion­al fire­pow­er in the West­ern Pacif­ic region,” said Robert Had­dick, a for­mer U.S. Marine Corps offi­cer and now a vis­it­ing senior fel­low at the Mitchell Insti­tute for Aero­space Stud­ies based in Arling­ton, Vir­ginia.

For the U.S. Navy in Asia, Super Hor­net jets oper­at­ing from air­craft car­ri­ers and armed with the new anti-ship mis­sile would deliv­er a major boost in fire­pow­er while allow­ing the expen­sive war­ships to oper­ate fur­ther away from poten­tial threats, U.S. and oth­er West­ern mil­i­tary offi­cials say.

Cur­rent and retired U.S. Navy offi­cers have been urg­ing the Pen­ta­gon to equip Amer­i­can war­ships with longer-range anti-ship mis­siles that would allow them to com­pete with the lat­est, heav­i­ly armed Chi­nese cruis­ers, destroy­ers and frigates. Lock­heed has said it suc­cess­ful­ly test-fired one of the new Long Range Anti-Ship Mis­siles from the type of launch­er used on U.S. and allied war­ships.

Had­dick, one of the first to draw atten­tion to China’s fire­pow­er advan­tage in his 2014 book, “Fire on the Water,” said the threat from Chi­nese mis­siles had gal­va­nized the Pen­ta­gon with new strate­gic think­ing and bud­gets now direct­ed at prepar­ing for high-tech­nol­o­gy con­flict with pow­er­ful nations like Chi­na.

Had­dick said the new mis­siles were crit­i­cal to the defen­sive plans of Amer­i­ca and its allies in the West­ern Pacif­ic. The gap won’t close imme­di­ate­ly, but fire­pow­er would grad­u­al­ly improve, Had­dick said. “This is espe­cial­ly true dur­ing the next half-decade and more, as suc­ces­sor hyper­son­ic and oth­er clas­si­fied muni­tion designs com­plete their long peri­ods of devel­op­ment, test­ing, pro­duc­tion, and deploy­ment,” he said.

6. The pro­gram con­cludes with an exam­ple of the war-mon­ger­ing rhetoric that has become accept­able in US nation­al secu­ri­ty cir­cles. An arti­cle co-writ­ten by a for­mer Marine Corps Colonel espous­es the use of “privateers”–armed pirates on Chi­na’s large mer­chant fleet.

Hav­ing achieved the rank of colonel in the Marine Corps, Can­cian is obvi­ous­ly no fool. It is unthink­able that he does not know either the lyrics of, nor the mean­ing of the lyrics of, the Marine Corps Hymn. “From the Halls of Mon­tezu­ma to the Shores of Tripoli . . .” The lat­ter is a ref­er­ence to one of the first Marine Corps actions against the Bar­bary Pirates of North Africa in the first decade of the nine­teenth cen­tu­ry.

The actions espoused by Can­cian and Schwartz would be seen as an act of war.

Just imag­ine the reac­tion in this coun­try if a retired Chi­nese colonel wrote in a Chi­nese mil­i­tary jour­nal, espous­ing the use of armed pirates against U.S. mer­chant ship­ping!

“Unleash the Pri­va­teers!” by Colonel Mark Can­cian [USMC—Retired] and Bran­don Schwartz; Unit­ed States Naval Insti­tute; April 2020.

Naval strate­gists are strug­gling to find ways to counter a ris­ing Chi­nese Navy. The eas­i­est and most com­fort­able course is to ask for more ships and air­craft, but with a defense bud­get that may have reached its peak, that may not be a viable strat­e­gy. Pri­va­teer­ing, autho­rized by let­ters of mar­que, could offer a low-cost tool to enhance deter­rence in peace­time and gain advan­tage in wartime. It would attack an asym­met­ric vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty of Chi­na, which has a much larg­er mer­chant fleet than the Unit­ed States. Indeed, an attack on Chi­nese glob­al trade would under­mine China’s entire econ­o­my and threat­en the regime’s sta­bil­i­ty. Final­ly, despite per­va­sive myths to the con­trary, U.S. pri­va­teer­ing is not pro­hib­it­ed by U.S. or inter­na­tion­al law. . . .

Discussion

3 comments for “FTR#1187 The Oswald Institute of Virology, Part 6: Context, Part 2”

  1. It was basi­cal­ly a giv­en that the US saber-rat­tling direct­ed at Chi­na will increase in both pitch and vol­ume the clos­er we get to the 2022 Bei­jing Win­ter Olympics. Espe­cial­ly in the con­text of a West­ern pro­pa­gan­da cam­paign to not just pin the out­break of the SARS-CoV­‑2 pan­dem­ic on the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy but sug­gest the virus was specif­i­cal­ly devel­oped as a bio­log­i­cal weapon. We even had Repub­li­can Sen­a­tor Tom Cot­ton assert­ing back in April of 2020 that the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment delib­er­ate­ly allowed the virus to spread around the world. The howls are only going to grow. It’s the kind of glob­al con­text that turns the 2022 Olympics into the per­fect foil for what­ev­er nar­ra­tive peo­ple want to devel­op. A kind of “The CCP is plan­ning [insert dia­bol­i­cal plot here]” choose-you-own-adven­ture tem­plate.

    And yet, despite that con­text that ensures the hyper­alarmism around the 2022 Olympics will be cranked up to 11 until those games are over, we have the fol­low­ing sto­ry that unhinged even by the debased stan­dards of our times: Tom Cot­ton is now assert­ing that Chi­na is going to use the 2022 Olympics to steal the genet­ic infor­ma­tion from the world’s top ath­letes to cre­ate super-sol­diers. Back­ing up Cot­ton in per­ma-Chi­na-hawk Gor­dan Chang, who backs up Cot­ton’s warn­ings about the Olympics being used as a giant DNA har­vest­ing exer­cise. Chang warns that Chi­na may not only be inter­est­ed in cre­at­ing super-sol­diers but could also use that genet­ic infor­ma­tion to design bio­log­i­cal weapons that tar­get­ing every­one peo­ple with a Chi­nese genet­ic back­ground.

    It’s the kind of pro­pa­gan­da that’s so stu­pid on so many lev­els it’s dif­fi­cult to know where to begin. Yes, Chi­na could indeed be attempt­ing to devel­op eth­no-spe­cif­ic bio­log­i­cal war­fare agents. There isn’t evi­dence of this, but log­i­cal­ly speak­ing it would­n’t be shock­ing if true. What would be shock­ing, beyond shock­ing in fact, is the notion that DNA from Olympic ath­letes would some­how be need­ed for Chi­na to accom­plish this. It’s not like Chi­na is going to have dif­fi­cul­ty obtain­ing non-Chi­nese DNA and there’s noth­ing spe­cial about
    Olympian DNA when it comes to design­ing virus­es.

    Now, yes, it’s pos­si­ble the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment would have an inter­est in obtain­ing a cat­a­log of the world’s Olympic ath­letes. In fact, it’s indis­putable that the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment has an inter­est in under­stand­ing the rela­tion­ship between genet­ics and ath­let­ics. The gov­ern­ment announced in 2018 that all ath­letes com­pet­ing to rep­re­sent Chi­na in the 2022 Olympics would have to sub­mit their DNA for whole genome sequenc­ing as part of a new Chi­nese gov­ern­ment project. The inter­est is clear­ly there. An inter­est prob­a­bly shared with every oth­er gov­ern­ment on the plan­et. Uzbek­istan jhas already start­ed gene-hunt­ing for its future star ath­letes. Such a cat­a­log of top ath­lete genomes could allow for some poten­tial­ly very inter­est­ing stud­ies. And yet, if we had to think of a coun­try on the plan­et that is best equipped to con­duct large scale stud­ies explor­ing the impact of dif­fer­ent genet­ic vari­ants on athletic/military per­for­mance, it’s hard to think of a coun­try bet­ter posi­tioned to do that than the most pop­u­lace coun­try on the plan­et. Yes, Chi­na may not have quite eth­nic diver­si­ty of a place like the US, but it’s still huge coun­try with sig­nif­i­cant genet­ic diver­si­ty. If Chi­na wants to hunt for par­tic­u­lar genet­ic traits it’s not there’s going to be a prob­lem with sta­tis­ti­cal sam­ple sizes.

    Sim­i­lar­ly, sure, Chi­na may have an inter­est in devel­op­ing eth­no-spe­cif­ic bio­log­i­cal weapons. An inter­est also prob­a­bly shared with every oth­er major gov­ern­ment on the plan­et. And yet, again, it is entire­ly unclear what on earth Olympic ath­lete DNA would have to do with that? Are the Chi­nese going to design bio­log­i­cal weapons to tar­get Olympic ath­letes? Are they some­how unable to obtain non-Chi­nese DNA with­out the arrival of these Olympic teams? What’s the log­ic here? And that’s just it. There is no log­ic here because this is pro­pa­gan­da. Log­ic isn’t just beside the point. It gets in the way. It’s why we should expect these anti-Chi­nese hys­ter­ics to only get more and more hys­ter­i­cal the clos­er over the next year.

    But it’s also impor­tant to keep in mind one of the oth­er core attrib­ut­es of con­tem­po­rary West­ern far right pro­pa­gan­da: pro­jec­tion. Seem­ing­ly patho­log­i­cal pro­jec­tion to the point where it’s like a tick. It is per­haps the most dis­turb­ing aspect of right-wing dis­in­for­ma­tion: wrapped in the pack of lies is a warn­ing of intent. Con­sis­tent­ly.

    And that’s why we have to ask: what exact­ly is Tom Cot­ton think­ing about in terms of the future of US bio­log­i­cal war­fare capa­bil­i­ties and super-sol­dier pro­grams? We’ve been learn­ing about the Pen­tagon’s own super-sol­dier pro­grams for years. There’s pre­sum­ably always going to exist a super-sol­dier pro­gram as long as the Pen­ta­gon exists. And we can be pret­ty con­fi­dent a Sen­a­tor like Tom Cot­ton is going to be deeply involved in the con­gres­sion­al over­sight of those pro­grams to the extent that any over­sight exists. What is Tom Cot­ton pro­ject­ing here?

    But it’s not just wingnuts Cot­ton and Chang. As the fol­low­ing arti­cle notes, Cot­ton’s warn­ings about Chi­nese inter­est in US genet­ic data showed up in a Feb­ru­ary 2021 Nation­al Coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence and Secu­ri­ty Cen­ter fact sheet titled “CHINA’S COLLECTION OF GENOMIC AND OTHER HEATHCARE DATA FROM AMERICA: RISKS TO PRIVACY AND U.S. ECONOMIC AND NATIONAL SECURITY.”, which was cit­ed in the let­ter Cot­ton sent to Pres­i­dent Biden this week warn­ing about Chi­na’s genet­ic scheme. In oth­er words, these con­cerns about Chi­nese Olympic genet­ic ambi­tions are metas­ta­siz­ing across the US intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty as the 2022 Olympics approach:

    Talk­ing Points Memo

    Inside Tom Cotton’s Insane World Of DNA Theft, Olympic Ath­letes, And Anti-Chi­na Con­spir­a­cies

    By Josh Koven­sky
    June 16, 2021 3:48 p.m.

    In the minds of the right, the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­nist threat is back. And this time, it’s not just per­son­al — it’s genet­ic.

    At least, that’s accord­ing to a let­ter that Sen. Tom Cot­ton (R‑AR) sent to Pres­i­dent Biden this week.

    In the let­ter, Cot­ton warns Biden that Bei­jing plans on using the 2022 Win­ter Olympics as a giant fun­nel for pre­cious Amer­i­can DNA, har­vest­ing the nation’s fittest and finest for their genom­ic infor­ma­tion as part of a plan to achieve mil­i­tary dom­i­nance.

    Writ­ten in the lan­guage of a Cold War-era B‑movie and filled with a mix­ture of sci-fi schem­ing, eugen­ics, and sten­to­ri­an warn­ing, Cot­ton demands that Biden with­draw Amer­i­can par­tic­i­pa­tion from the 2022 win­ter Olympics absent guar­an­tees from Chi­na that it will not col­lect the data or DNA of vis­it­ing Amer­i­can olympians.

    “In 2022, thou­sands of world-class ath­letes will gath­er to com­pete in Chi­na,” the let­ter reads. “Their DNA will present an irre­sistible tar­get for the CCP.”

    He added that, “thus, we should expect that the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment will attempt to col­lect genet­ic sam­ples of Olympians at the Games, per­haps dis­guised as test­ing for ille­gal drugs or COVID-19.”

    Why, you, the White House, or unsus­pect­ing inter­na­tion­al­ly ranked snow­board­ers may ask, would the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment wish to do this?

    The answer, Cot­ton wrote, is sim­ple: super­sol­diers.

    “The CCP has report­ed­ly con­duct­ed tests to devel­op bio­log­i­cal­ly-enhanced sol­diers and intends to use DNA data to cat­a­pult Chi­nese biotech­nol­o­gy com­pa­nies to glob­al mar­ket dom­i­nance,” Cot­ton wrote, cit­ing a col­umn writ­ten by Trump-era Direc­tor of Nation­al Intel­li­gence John Rat­cliffe.

    ...

    Gor­don Chang, author of the 2001 book “The Com­ing Col­lapse of Chi­na,” sup­ports Cotton’s demands, though he told TPM that he did not con­sult with the sen­a­tor on the let­ter.

    “If you want to devel­op a race of super­hu­man Chi­nese, you would cer­tain­ly want the DNA of the world’s most fit and ath­let­ic peo­ple,” Chang said. He added that the Chi­nese could har­vest the flood of fig­ure skaters, curl­ing play­ers, and bob­sleigh jock­eys for their most promis­ing traits, though he said that Bei­jing would most like­ly be inter­est­ed in “super­in­tel­li­gence.”

    Chang echoed Cotton’s sug­ges­tion that the Chi­nese would har­vest DNA through COVID test­ing.

    The ath­letes, Chang mused, “are going to eat stuff, leave nap­kins around the place — they’re going to poop. They’re going to leave a lot of DNA.”

    Rat­cliffe wrote in his Decem­ber 2020 Wall Street Jour­nal col­umn that “Chi­na has even con­duct­ed human test­ing on mem­bers of the People’s Lib­er­a­tion Army in hope of devel­op­ing sol­diers with bio­log­i­cal­ly enhanced capa­bil­i­ties,” cit­ing unspec­i­fied intel­li­gence.

    That strain of thought appears to have made it into the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty itself, with the Nation­al Coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence and Secu­ri­ty Cen­ter in Feb­ru­ary 2021 releas­ing a fact sheet cit­ed in Cotton’s let­ter titled “CHINA’S COLLECTION OF GENOMIC AND OTHER HEATHCARE DATA FROM AMERICA: RISKS TO PRIVACY AND U.S. ECONOMIC AND NATIONAL SECURITY.”

    That doc­u­ment informs read­ers that “your DNA is the most valu­able thing you own.” A DNI spokesman told TPM that the agency stands by the report.

    “Los­ing your DNA is not like los­ing a cred­it card,” the doc­u­ment reads. “You can order a new cred­it card, but you can­not replace your DNA.”

    It’s a bit of a non-sequitur from there to the document’s next claim, which is not that the Chi­nese plan on depriv­ing you, cit­i­zen, of your DNA: rather, it is a “strate­gic com­mod­i­ty to be col­lect­ed and used for its eco­nom­ic and nation­al-secu­ri­ty pri­or­i­ties.”

    The doc­u­ment is silent on what exact uses the Chi­nese would have for Amer­i­can genet­ic mate­r­i­al. It cites the country’s sprawl­ing and inva­sive sur­veil­lance sys­tem, say­ing that Bei­jing includes genom­ic infor­ma­tion to iden­ti­fy its cit­i­zens and links the col­lec­tion of DNA to the mass intern­ment of the Uighur minor­i­ty.

    It’s total­ly unclear how those abus­es relate to a super­sol­dier pro­gram.

    But accord­ing to Cleo Paskal, a senior fel­low at the Foun­da­tion for the Defense of Democ­ra­cies whose May col­umn “Is Bei­jing Plan­ning a Rob, Repli­cate, Replace Olympics??” was cit­ed in Cotton’s let­ter, it has to do with war.

    “There are defen­sive and offen­sive aspects to it,” Paskal told TPM. “One is you could under­stand bet­ter the genet­ics of high per­form­ing indi­vid­u­als, lung capac­i­ty, heart, the oth­er is that you could fig­ure out how to attack peo­ple from a wide range of dif­fer­ent genet­ic pro­file back­grounds.”

    She told TPM that Cotton’s office had called her to ver­i­fy a quote in the let­ter that it even­tu­al­ly sent to Biden.

    FDD has long dis­tin­guished itself as one of D.C.’s most hawk­ish think tanks among a blob of for­eign pol­i­cy out­fits that already make them­selves known for favor­ing mil­i­tary solu­tions when­ev­er pos­si­ble.

    Paskal told TPM that Chi­na was like­ly plan­ning on using infor­ma­tion gath­ered from the Bei­jing Win­ter Olympics to refine its mil­i­tary oper­a­tions against India in the cold-weath­er, high-alti­tude Himalaya moun­tains. The two nations clashed there last year.

    “If you’re involved in cold weath­er fight­ing — which they are in the Himalayas, they’ve now got peo­ple who have spent mil­lions of dol­lars per­fect­ing cold weath­er equip­ment — the tech is com­ing to you,” she said, refer­ring to the Olympics. “As is the train­ing regime — how do you train to be in top shape in cold weath­er envi­ron­ments? What do you eat? How do you com­bine indi­vid­ual genet­ics with train­ing to be most effec­tive.”

    Chang, the author, took it even fur­ther — the offen­sive capa­bil­i­ty would not just be super­sol­diers, but super­weapons: “pathogens that leave the Chi­nese immune but sick­en and kill every­one else.”

    When asked whether the tech­nol­o­gy was there for that, he replied, “I don’t know if they’ve devel­oped those pathogens, but we don’t want the first evi­dence of that to be 330 mil­lion dead Amer­i­cans.”

    ————

    “Inside Tom Cotton’s Insane World Of DNA Theft, Olympic Ath­letes, And Anti-Chi­na Con­spir­a­cies” by Josh Koven­sky; Talk­ing Points Memo; 06/16/2021

    “In the let­ter, Cot­ton warns Biden that Bei­jing plans on using the 2022 Win­ter Olympics as a giant fun­nel for pre­cious Amer­i­can DNA, har­vest­ing the nation’s fittest and finest for their genom­ic infor­ma­tion as part of a plan to achieve mil­i­tary dom­i­nance.

    First: col­lect the Olympic DNA. Next: [do mys­tery stuff with DNA]. Final­ly: mil­i­tary dom­i­nance. That’s the dia­bol­i­cal Chi­nese plan laid out in a let­ter to Pres­i­dent Biden this week from Sen­a­tor Tom Cot­ton. And in that let­ter we find a cita­tion to a Decem­ber 2020 WSJ col­umn by Trump-era Direc­tor of Nation­al Intel­li­gence John Rat­cliffe. Rat­clif­fe’s assess­ment also made its way into a Feb­ru­ary 2021 Nation­al Coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence and Secu­ri­ty Cen­ter fact sheet. A fact sheet that could­n’t give actu­al exam­ples of how Chi­na was plan­ning on using the DNA infor­ma­tion of the Amer­i­can pub­lic its alleged­ly har­vest­ing. It’s one of the iron­ic fea­tures of hyper­alarmism: it tends to be extreme­ly vague hyper­alarmism:

    ...
    Why, you, the White House, or unsus­pect­ing inter­na­tion­al­ly ranked snow­board­ers may ask, would the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment wish to do this?

    The answer, Cot­ton wrote, is sim­ple: super­sol­diers.

    “The CCP has report­ed­ly con­duct­ed tests to devel­op bio­log­i­cal­ly-enhanced sol­diers and intends to use DNA data to cat­a­pult Chi­nese biotech­nol­o­gy com­pa­nies to glob­al mar­ket dom­i­nance,” Cot­ton wrote, cit­ing a col­umn writ­ten by Trump-era Direc­tor of Nation­al Intel­li­gence John Rat­cliffe.

    ...

    Rat­cliffe wrote in his Decem­ber 2020 Wall Street Jour­nal col­umn that “Chi­na has even con­duct­ed human test­ing on mem­bers of the People’s Lib­er­a­tion Army in hope of devel­op­ing sol­diers with bio­log­i­cal­ly enhanced capa­bil­i­ties,” cit­ing unspec­i­fied intel­li­gence.

    That strain of thought appears to have made it into the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty itself, with the Nation­al Coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence and Secu­ri­ty Cen­ter in Feb­ru­ary 2021 releas­ing a fact sheet cit­ed in Cotton’s let­ter titled “CHINA’S COLLECTION OF GENOMIC AND OTHER HEATHCARE DATA FROM AMERICA: RISKS TO PRIVACY AND U.S. ECONOMIC AND NATIONAL SECURITY.”

    That doc­u­ment informs read­ers that “your DNA is the most valu­able thing you own.” A DNI spokesman told TPM that the agency stands by the report.

    “Los­ing your DNA is not like los­ing a cred­it card,” the doc­u­ment reads. “You can order a new cred­it card, but you can­not replace your DNA.”

    It’s a bit of a non-sequitur from there to the document’s next claim, which is not that the Chi­nese plan on depriv­ing you, cit­i­zen, of your DNA: rather, it is a “strate­gic com­mod­i­ty to be col­lect­ed and used for its eco­nom­ic and nation­al-secu­ri­ty pri­or­i­ties.”

    The doc­u­ment is silent on what exact uses the Chi­nese would have for Amer­i­can genet­ic mate­r­i­al. It cites the country’s sprawl­ing and inva­sive sur­veil­lance sys­tem, say­ing that Bei­jing includes genom­ic infor­ma­tion to iden­ti­fy its cit­i­zens and links the col­lec­tion of DNA to the mass intern­ment of the Uighur minor­i­ty.

    ...

    And then there’s Gor­don Chang, who is warn­ing not just that Chi­na will use Amer­i­can DNA infor­ma­tion to enhance its own biotech sec­tor but also that Chi­na is going to use this infor­ma­tion to devel­op eth­no-spe­cif­ic bio­log­i­cal weapons:

    ...
    Gor­don Chang, author of the 2001 book “The Com­ing Col­lapse of Chi­na,” sup­ports Cotton’s demands, though he told TPM that he did not con­sult with the sen­a­tor on the let­ter.

    “If you want to devel­op a race of super­hu­man Chi­nese, you would cer­tain­ly want the DNA of the world’s most fit and ath­let­ic peo­ple,” Chang said. He added that the Chi­nese could har­vest the flood of fig­ure skaters, curl­ing play­ers, and bob­sleigh jock­eys for their most promis­ing traits, though he said that Bei­jing would most like­ly be inter­est­ed in “super­in­tel­li­gence.”

    ...

    Chang, the author, took it even fur­ther — the offen­sive capa­bil­i­ty would not just be super­sol­diers, but super­weapons: “pathogens that leave the Chi­nese immune but sick­en and kill every­one else.”

    When asked whether the tech­nol­o­gy was there for that, he replied, “I don’t know if they’ve devel­oped those pathogens, but we don’t want the first evi­dence of that to be 330 mil­lion dead Amer­i­cans.”
    ...

    Sim­i­lar­ly, we have warn­ings from Cleo Paskal, a senior fel­low at the Foun­da­tion for the Defense of Democ­ra­cies, that Chi­na might use that genet­ic infor­ma­tion to learn how to attack peo­ple from a wide range of genet­ic pro­files. Appar­ent­ly Chi­na just would­n’t have access to non-Chi­nese DNA pro­files with­out these secret Olympic har­vest­ing schemes:

    ...
    But accord­ing to Cleo Paskal, a senior fel­low at the Foun­da­tion for the Defense of Democ­ra­cies whose May col­umn “Is Bei­jing Plan­ning a Rob, Repli­cate, Replace Olympics??” was cit­ed in Cotton’s let­ter, it has to do with war.

    “There are defen­sive and offen­sive aspects to it,” Paskal told TPM. “One is you could under­stand bet­ter the genet­ics of high per­form­ing indi­vid­u­als, lung capac­i­ty, heart, the oth­er is that you could fig­ure out how to attack peo­ple from a wide range of dif­fer­ent genet­ic pro­file back­grounds.”

    ...

    Paskal told TPM that Chi­na was like­ly plan­ning on using infor­ma­tion gath­ered from the Bei­jing Win­ter Olympics to refine its mil­i­tary oper­a­tions against India in the cold-weath­er, high-alti­tude Himalaya moun­tains. The two nations clashed there last year.
    ...

    So what have we learned here? Well, we def­i­nite­ly have NOT learned about any loom­ing threat from a Chi­nese DNA har­vest­ing pro­gram because these warn­ing can’t actu­al­ly cite a log­i­cal coher­ent threat. But we have learned that a large seg­ment of the pro­fes­sion­al Chi­na-alarmism indus­try knows next to noth­ing about genet­ics and what is and isn’t fea­si­ble with this tech­nol­o­gy. Yes, there are abun­dant rea­sons to be con­cerned about the devel­op­ment of eth­no-spe­cif­ic bio­log­i­cal weapons or genet­ic super­sol­dier tech­nolo­gies, regard­less of which mil­i­tary is devel­op­ing these tech­nolo­gies. But the idea that these pro­grams would be reliant on the har­vest­ing of Olympic ath­lete DNA is the kind of absur­dist alarmism that ignores real­i­ty. For starters, if the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment REALLY wants to col­lect the DNA on some star non-Chi­nese ath­letes, they could just buy one of the exist­ing con­sumer DNA-test­ing com­pa­nies and sud­den­ly own the rights to all that DNA. Are there any start ath­letes in those data­bas­es?

    Or maybe they could secret­ly obtain that DNA from hair sam­ples, etc, from any com­pe­ti­tion around the globe where these star ath­letes are com­pet­ing. It’s not like Chi­nese spies can only col­lect a hair sam­ple while in Chi­na.

    Oh, and it’s worth not­ing that the World Anti-Dop­ing Agency (WADA) has been open­ly con­sid­er­ing forc­ing all Olympic ath­letes to sub­mit DNA sam­ples for the pur­pose of iden­ti­fy­ing dop­ing. So genet­ic screen­ing of ALL Olympic ath­letes is prob­a­bly com­ing one of these years. Don’t for­get that mRNA tech­nol­o­gy will have plen­ty of poten­tial dop­ing appli­ca­tions. Vac­cines are just the start.

    It’s also worth recall­ing the 2017 push by the GOP in con­gress to allow US employ­ers to coerce their employ­ees into sub­mit­ting to genet­ic test­ing schemes that effec­tive­ly give the employ­er knowl­edge about their employ­ees’ genet­ic lia­bil­i­ties. Obtain­ing genet­ic infor­ma­tion on Amer­i­cans would be pret­ty easy for Chi­nese employ­ers at that point. Or just hack an employ­er and grab the info.

    Final­ly, regard­ing the warn­ings about Chi­na using US DNA to design tar­get­ed bioweapons that don’t impact peo­ple of Chi­nese ances­try, this is prob­a­bly a good time for Amer­i­cans to reminds them­selves that one of the many bonus­es of hav­ing a high­ly eth­ni­cal­ly diverse nation is that it con­fers an inher­ent degree of pro­tec­tion against bio­log­i­cal attacks of this nature. After all, it’s not like there aren’t Chi­nese-Amer­i­cans serv­ing in the US mil­i­tary. In oth­er words, the more genet­i­cal­ly diverse the US mil­i­tary is, the greater the pro­tec­tion against gene-based bio­log­i­cal attacks. Some­one might want to let Sen­a­tor Cot­ton know about this, although it prob­a­bly won’t do much to soothe his anx­i­eties.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 16, 2021, 5:21 pm
  2. This next June 20, 2021 Guardian Arti­cle by Robert Reich explains how China’s increas­ing­ly aggres­sive geopo­lit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic stance in the world is unleash­ing a fierce bipar­ti­san back­lash in Amer­i­ca. How­ev­er, the response will be coun­ter­pro­duc­tive if it is used to finance the mil­i­tary and increase con­flict with fight Chi­na instead of fund­ing research to make Amer­i­ca have tech­no­log­i­cal supe­ri­or­i­ty, a bet­ter infra­struc­ture or supe­ri­or edu­ca­tion for our cit­i­zens.

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/jun/20/the-uss-greatest-danger-isnt-china-its-much-closer-to-home?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

    The US’s great­est dan­ger isn’t Chi­na. It’s much clos­er to home

    The rival­ry with Chi­na is pal­pa­ble but his­to­ry teach­es us lessons about how it’s eas­i­er to blame oth­ers than blame our­selves

    The Guardian Sun 20 Jun 2021 02.00 EDT
    Last mod­i­fied on Sun 20 Jun 2021 05.44 EDT

    Robert Reich

    China’s increas­ing­ly aggres­sive geopo­lit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic stance in the world is unleash­ing a fierce bipar­ti­san back­lash in Amer­i­ca. That’s fine if it leads to more pub­lic invest­ment in basic research, edu­ca­tion, and infra­struc­ture – as did the Sput­nik shock of the late 1950s. But it pos­es dan­gers as well.

    More than 60 years ago, the sud­den and pal­pa­ble fear that the Sovi­et Union was lurch­ing ahead of us shook Amer­i­ca out of a post­war com­pla­cen­cy and caused the nation to do what it should have been doing for many years. Even though we did it under the pre­text of nation­al defense – we called it the Nation­al Defense Edu­ca­tion Act and the Nation­al Defense High­way Act and relied on the Defense Advanced Research Projects Admin­is­tra­tion for basic research lead­ing to semi­con­duc­tors, satel­lite tech­nol­o­gy, and the Inter­net – the result was to boost US pro­duc­tiv­i­ty and Amer­i­can wages for a gen­er­a­tion.

    When the Sovi­et Union began to implode, Amer­i­ca found its next foil in Japan. Japan­ese-made cars were tak­ing mar­ket share away from the Big Three automak­ers. Mean­while, Mit­subishi bought a sub­stan­tial inter­est in the Rock­e­feller Cen­ter, Sony pur­chased Colum­bia Pic­tures, and Nin­ten­do con­sid­ered buy­ing the Seat­tle Mariners. By the late 1980s and start of the 1990s, count­less con­gres­sion­al hear­ings were held on the Japan­ese “chal­lenge” to Amer­i­can com­pet­i­tive­ness and the Japan­ese “threat” to Amer­i­can jobs.

    A tide of books demo­nized Japan – Pat Choate’s Agents of Influ­ence alleged Tokyo’s alleged pay­offs to influ­en­tial Amer­i­cans were designed to achieve “effec­tive polit­i­cal dom­i­na­tion over the Unit­ed States”. Clyde Prestowitz’s Trad­ing Places argued that because of our fail­ure to respond ade­quate­ly to the Japan­ese chal­lenge “the pow­er of the Unit­ed States and the qual­i­ty of Amer­i­can life is dimin­ish­ing rapid­ly in every respect”. William S Dietrich’s In the Shad­ow of the Ris­ing Sun claimed Japan “threat­ens our way of life and ulti­mate­ly our free­doms as much as past dan­gers from Nazi Ger­many and the Sovi­et Union”.

    Robert Zielin­s­ki and Nigel Holloway’s Unequal Equi­ties argued that Japan rigged its cap­i­tal mar­kets to under­mine Amer­i­can cor­po­ra­tions. Daniel Burstein’s Yen! Japan’s New Finan­cial Empire and Its Threat to Amer­i­ca assert­ed that Japan’s grow­ing pow­er put the Unit­ed States at risk of falling prey to a “hos­tile Japan­ese ... world order”.

    And on it went: The Japan­ese Pow­er Game,The Com­ing War with Japan, Zaibat­su Amer­i­ca: How Japan­ese Firms are Col­o­niz­ing Vital US Indus­tries, The Silent War, Trade Wars.

    But there was no vicious plot. We failed to notice that Japan had invest­ed heav­i­ly in its own edu­ca­tion and infra­struc­ture – which enabled it to make high-qual­i­ty prod­ucts that Amer­i­can con­sumers want­ed to buy. We didn’t see that our own finan­cial sys­tem resem­bled a casi­no and demand­ed imme­di­ate prof­its. We over­looked that our edu­ca­tion­al sys­tem left almost 80% of our young peo­ple unable to com­pre­hend a news mag­a­zine and many oth­ers unpre­pared for work. And our infra­struc­ture of unsafe bridges and pot­holed roads were drain­ing our pro­duc­tiv­i­ty.

    In the present case of Chi­na, the geopo­lit­i­cal rival­ry is pal­pa­ble. Yet at the same time, Amer­i­can cor­po­ra­tions and investors are qui­et­ly mak­ing bun­dles by run­ning low-wage fac­to­ries there and sell­ing tech­nol­o­gy to their Chi­nese “part­ners”. And Amer­i­can banks and ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists are busi­ly under­writ­ing deals in Chi­na.

    I don’t mean to down­play the chal­lenge Chi­na rep­re­sents to the Unit­ed States. But through­out America’s post­war his­to­ry it has been eas­i­er to blame oth­ers than to blame our­selves.

    The great­est dan­ger we face today is not com­ing from Chi­na. It is our drift toward pro­to-fas­cism. We must be care­ful not to demo­nize Chi­na so much that we encour­age a new para­noia that fur­ther dis­torts our pri­or­i­ties, encour­ages nativism and xeno­pho­bia, and leads to larg­er mil­i­tary out­lays rather than pub­lic invest­ments in edu­ca­tion, infra­struc­ture, and basic research on which America’s future pros­per­i­ty and secu­ri­ty crit­i­cal­ly depend.

    The cen­tral ques­tion for Amer­i­ca – an ever more diverse Amer­i­ca, whose econ­o­my and cul­ture are rapid­ly fus­ing with the economies and cul­tures of the rest of the globe – is whether it is pos­si­ble to redis­cov­er our iden­ti­ty and our mutu­al respon­si­bil­i­ty with­out cre­at­ing anoth­er ene­my.

    —–
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    If there were ever a time to join us, it is now. Every con­tri­bu­tion, how­ev­er big or small, pow­ers our jour­nal­ism and sus­tains our future. Sup­port the Guardian from as lit­tle as $1 – it only takes a minute. Thank you.
    © 2021 Guardian News & Media Lim­it­ed or its affil­i­at­ed com­pa­nies. All rights reserved. (mod­ern)

    Posted by Mary Benton | June 20, 2021, 5:49 pm
  3. Here we go again: We’re get­ting reports of new secret war games con­duct­ed by the US in the Pacif­ic. Secret US-Japan war games start­ed in the last year of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion. It sounds like the focus of the exer­cis­es were on a hypo­thet­i­cal Chi­nese inva­sion of Tai­wan. It report­ed­ly involved joint exer­cis­es but also table-top war gam­ing, which is par­tic­u­lar­ly unset­tling since table-top war gam­ing is the kind of exer­cise where we would expect sce­nar­ios like the exchange of nuclear weapons to be played out.

    It also sounds like Japan is increas­ing­ly view­ing the defense of Tai­wan is an exis­ten­tial issue for Japan. As a result, there are grow­ing calls for not just bilat­er­al US-Japan­ese mil­i­tary exer­cis­es but a tri­lat­er­al US-Japan-Tai­wan coor­di­nat­ed region­al defense strat­e­gy. In oth­er words, we should prob­a­bly expect reports of secret US-Japan-Tai­wan war games and mil­i­tary exer­cis­es soon­er rather than lat­er.

    And we can’t ignore that this is all hap­pen­ing in the con­text of the US’s with­draw­al from the Inter­me­di­ate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, which is now allow­ing for the sta­tion of nuclear-tipped medi­um-range mis­siles direct­ly in Chi­na’s neigh­bor­hood. And that means any future US war games in the region are poten­tial­ly going to involv­ing war gam­ing the use of those nuclear armed medi­um-range mis­siles. The kind of mis­siles that kind be launch­es and hit their tar­gets in min­utes. Mak­ing the grow­ing con­flict in the Pacif­ic the per­fect sit­u­a­tion for desta­bi­liza­tion:

    The Finan­cial Times

    US and Japan con­duct war games amid ris­ing Chi­na-Tai­wan ten­sions
    Secret table-top plan­ning and joint exer­cis­es in South Chi­na Sea con­tin­ue as con­cerns grow over Bei­jing stance

    Demetri Sev­astop­u­lo in Wash­ing­ton and Kathrin Hille in Taipei
    June 30 2021

    The US and Japan have been con­duct­ing war games and joint mil­i­tary exer­cis­es in the event of a con­flict with Chi­na over Tai­wan, amid esca­lat­ing con­cerns over the Chi­nese military’s assertive activ­i­ty.

    US and Japan­ese mil­i­tary offi­cials began seri­ous plan­ning for a pos­si­ble con­flict in the final year of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion, accord­ing to six peo­ple who request­ed anonymi­ty. The activ­i­ty includes top-secret table­top war games and joint exer­cis­es in the South Chi­na and East Chi­na seas.

    Shin­zo Abe, then Japan’s prime min­is­ter, decid­ed in 2019 to sig­nif­i­cant­ly expand mil­i­tary plan­ning because of the threat to Tai­wan and the Senkaku Islands in the East Chi­na Sea. This work has con­tin­ued under the admin­is­tra­tions of Joe Biden and Abe’s suc­ces­sor, Yoshi­hide Suga, accord­ing to three of the peo­ple with knowl­edge of the mat­ter.

    The US and Japan have become alarmed as Chi­na has flown more fight­er jets and bombers into Taiwan’s air defence iden­ti­fi­ca­tion zone, includ­ing a record 28 fight­ers on June 15. The Chi­nese navy, air force and coast guard have also become increas­ing­ly active around the Senkaku, which are admin­is­tered by Japan but claimed by Chi­na and Tai­wan.

    Chi­na insists that it wants to uni­fy Tai­wan with the main­land. While it says it wants peace­ful uni­fi­ca­tion, it has not ruled out the use of force to seize con­trol of Tai­wan.

    “In many ways, the People’s Lib­er­a­tion Army drove the US and Japan togeth­er and toward new think­ing on Tai­wan,” said Randy Schriv­er, who served as the top Pen­ta­gon offi­cial for Asia until the end of 2019. “Assertive­ness around the Senkaku and Tai­wan at the same time dri­ves home the issue of prox­im­i­ty.”

    The US has long want­ed Japan, a mutu­al defence treaty ally, to con­duct more joint mil­i­tary plan­ning, but Japan was con­strained by its post­war paci­fist con­sti­tu­tion. That obsta­cle was eased, but not elim­i­nat­ed, when the Abe gov­ern­ment in 2015 rein­ter­pret­ed the con­sti­tu­tion to allow Japan to defend allies that came under attack.

    As the two allies start­ed to bol­ster their joint plan­ning, Japan asked the US to share its Tai­wan war plan. The Pen­ta­gon demurred because it want­ed to focus on boost­ing co-ordi­na­tion with Tokyo in phas­es. One for­mer US offi­cial said the even­tu­al goal was for the allies to cre­ate an inte­grat­ed war plan for Tai­wan.

    Two of the peo­ple said the US mil­i­tary and Japan­ese self-defence forces had con­duct­ed joint exer­cis­es in the South Chi­na Sea that had been couched as dis­as­ter relief train­ing. The coun­tries have also held more mil­i­tary exer­cis­es around the Senkaku, which could also help pre­pare for any con­flict with Chi­na over Tai­wan, which is just 350km west of the islands.

    “Some of the activ­i­ties we’re train­ing on are high­ly fun­gi­ble,” said Schriv­er, adding that exer­cis­es such as an amphibi­ous land­ing in a “dis­as­ter relief sce­nario” would be “direct­ly applic­a­ble” to any con­flict around the Senkaku or the Tai­wan Strait.

    Mark Mont­gomery, a retired admi­ral who com­mand­ed the USS George Wash­ing­ton air­craft car­ri­er strike group and was direc­tor of oper­a­tions at Indo-Pacif­ic com­mand between 2014 and 2017, said the Pen­ta­gon need­ed a “com­pre­hen­sive under­stand­ing” of the sup­port Japan could pro­vide in the case of a con­flict.

    “As a cri­sis grows and Japan is poten­tial­ly drawn in as a par­tic­i­pant, the US will need to under­stand how Japan could sup­port or enable US oper­a­tions,” he added.

    US and Japan­ese diplo­mats are exam­in­ing the legal issues relat­ed to any joint mil­i­tary action, includ­ing access to bases and the kind of logis­ti­cal sup­port Japan could pro­vide US forces engaged in a con­flict with Chi­na.

    In the event of a war over Tai­wan, the US would rely on air bases in Japan. But that rais­es the odds that Tokyo would be dragged into the con­flict, par­tic­u­lar­ly if Chi­na tried to destroy the bases in an effort to hob­ble the US.

    One offi­cial said the US and Japan need­ed to urgent­ly cre­ate a tri­lat­er­al shar­ing mech­a­nism with Tai­wan for infor­ma­tion about Chi­nese naval and air force move­ments, espe­cial­ly around the Miyako Strait to the east of Tai­wan, which is cov­ered by Japan­ese sen­sors from the north-east and Tai­wanese sen­sors from the south-west.

    “Some of that kind of data is shared between Tai­wan and the US, and between Japan and the US. But we have no direct shar­ing tri­lat­er­al­ly,” the offi­cial said. “You can­not start set­ting that up in the mid­dle of a con­tin­gency. You have to do it now.”

    Anoth­er offi­cial said the three nations had tak­en a small but impor­tant step in 2017 by agree­ing to share mil­i­tary air­craft codes to help iden­ti­fy friend­ly air­craft.

    Tai­wanese offi­cials and US and Japan­ese sources said co-oper­a­tion had since risen sig­nif­i­cant­ly, dri­ven by the grow­ing aware­ness in Japan about the impor­tance of Tai­wan — which is 110km from Yon­a­gu­ni, the west­ern­most island in the Japan­ese arch­i­pel­ago — for its own secu­ri­ty.

    “The Japan­ese gov­ern­ment has increas­ing­ly recog­nised, and even acknowl­edges pub­licly, that the defence of Tai­wan equates to the defence of Japan,” said Heino Klinck, a for­mer top Pen­ta­gon offi­cial who over­saw mil­i­tary rela­tions with Japan and Tai­wan from late 2019 until the end of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion.

    ...

    ————

    “US and Japan con­duct war games amid ris­ing Chi­na-Tai­wan ten­sions” by Demetri Sev­astop­u­lo and Kathrin Hille; The Finan­cial Times; 06/30/2021

    “US and Japan­ese mil­i­tary offi­cials began seri­ous plan­ning for a pos­si­ble con­flict in the final year of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion, accord­ing to six peo­ple who request­ed anonymi­ty. The activ­i­ty includes top-secret table­top war games and joint exer­cis­es in the South Chi­na and East Chi­na seas.”

    The US-Japan war gam­ing has already begun, hav­ing been secret­ly start­ed dur­ing the last year of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion. And that includes top-secret table­top war games, which sure sounds like the type of war games where the use of nuclear weapons is on the table. And with Japan increas­ing­ly view­ing Tai­wan’s defense as a Japan­ese nation­al secu­ri­ty issue and the US view­ing Japan as a for­ward oper­at­ing base for the poten­tial defense of Tai­wan, it’s rea­son­able to sus­pect that if the US and Japan are wargam­ing the use of nuclear weapons it would be be in the con­text of a joint US-Japan­ese defense of Tai­wan:

    ...
    The US has long want­ed Japan, a mutu­al defence treaty ally, to con­duct more joint mil­i­tary plan­ning, but Japan was con­strained by its post­war paci­fist con­sti­tu­tion. That obsta­cle was eased, but not elim­i­nat­ed, when the Abe gov­ern­ment in 2015 rein­ter­pret­ed the con­sti­tu­tion to allow Japan to defend allies that came under attack.

    As the two allies start­ed to bol­ster their joint plan­ning, Japan asked the US to share its Tai­wan war plan. The Pen­ta­gon demurred because it want­ed to focus on boost­ing co-ordi­na­tion with Tokyo in phas­es. One for­mer US offi­cial said the even­tu­al goal was for the allies to cre­ate an inte­grat­ed war plan for Tai­wan.

    ...

    US and Japan­ese diplo­mats are exam­in­ing the legal issues relat­ed to any joint mil­i­tary action, includ­ing access to bases and the kind of logis­ti­cal sup­port Japan could pro­vide US forces engaged in a con­flict with Chi­na.

    In the event of a war over Tai­wan, the US would rely on air bases in Japan. But that rais­es the odds that Tokyo would be dragged into the con­flict, par­tic­u­lar­ly if Chi­na tried to destroy the bases in an effort to hob­ble the US.

    ...

    Tai­wanese offi­cials and US and Japan­ese sources said co-oper­a­tion had since risen sig­nif­i­cant­ly, dri­ven by the grow­ing aware­ness in Japan about the impor­tance of Tai­wan — which is 110km from Yon­a­gu­ni, the west­ern­most island in the Japan­ese arch­i­pel­ago — for its own secu­ri­ty.

    “The Japan­ese gov­ern­ment has increas­ing­ly recog­nised, and even acknowl­edges pub­licly, that the defence of Tai­wan equates to the defence of Japan,” said Heino Klinck, a for­mer top Pen­ta­gon offi­cial who over­saw mil­i­tary rela­tions with Japan and Tai­wan from late 2019 until the end of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion.
    ...

    And that’s why we should­n’t be sur­prised to even­tu­al­ly see a tri­lat­er­al US-Japan­ese-Tai­wanese wargames in the region soon­er or lat­er. This is the direc­tion these rela­tion­ships are head­ing: Tai­wan is being turned into the focus of the grow­ing ‘Great Pow­ers’ rival­ry in the Pacif­ic. Which is going to trans­late into a lot more Tai­wan-cen­tric mil­i­tary exer­cis­es. Poten­tial­ly involv­ing the inter­me­di­ate range mis­siles that the INF treaty Trump tore up pre­vi­ous­ly banned:

    ...
    One offi­cial said the US and Japan need­ed to urgent­ly cre­ate a tri­lat­er­al shar­ing mech­a­nism with Tai­wan for infor­ma­tion about Chi­nese naval and air force move­ments, espe­cial­ly around the Miyako Strait to the east of Tai­wan, which is cov­ered by Japan­ese sen­sors from the north-east and Tai­wanese sen­sors from the south-west.

    “Some of that kind of data is shared between Tai­wan and the US, and between Japan and the US. But we have no direct shar­ing tri­lat­er­al­ly,” the offi­cial said. “You can­not start set­ting that up in the mid­dle of a con­tin­gency. You have to do it now.”
    ...

    Final­ly, note the ref­er­ences to “fun­gi­ble” exer­cis­es. In oth­er words, dual-use exer­cis­es like an amphibi­ous land­ing in a ‘dis­as­ter relief sce­nario’. We should prob­a­bly expect a lot more exer­cis­es of that nature:

    ...
    Two of the peo­ple said the US mil­i­tary and Japan­ese self-defence forces had con­duct­ed joint exer­cis­es in the South Chi­na Sea that had been couched as dis­as­ter relief train­ing. The coun­tries have also held more mil­i­tary exer­cis­es around the Senkaku, which could also help pre­pare for any con­flict with Chi­na over Tai­wan, which is just 350km west of the islands.

    “Some of the activ­i­ties we’re train­ing on are high­ly fun­gi­ble,” said Schriv­er, adding that exer­cis­es such as an amphibi­ous land­ing in a “dis­as­ter relief sce­nario” would be “direct­ly applic­a­ble” to any con­flict around the Senkaku or the Tai­wan Strait.
    ...

    So if joint mil­i­tary exer­cis­es — and fun­gi­ble ‘non-mil­i­tary’ exer­cis­es — are set to be car­ried out with increas­ing fre­quen­cy right on Chi­na’s bor­ders as part of a clear Chi­na-con­tain­ment strat­e­gy, the risk of a con­flict in the Pacif­ic is obvi­ous­ly grow­ing. So it’s prob­a­bly a good time to ask whether or not we’re head­ing into a new kind of MAD­ness-dri­ven mutu­al­ly assured destruc­tion super pow­er dooms­day nuclear stand­offs that defined the Cold War.

    But as the fol­low­ing BBC arti­cle from a few years ago reminds us, when we’re talk­ing about deep­en­ing mil­i­tary build ups in antic­i­pa­tion of a giant con­flict, we can’t just be con­cerned about the plans for future con­flicts. We also have to be watch­ing out for unplanned con­flicts. Even acci­den­tal con­flicts. Because when you’re talk­ing about con­flicts between nuclear pow­ers, all it takes is a sin­gle acci­dent to effec­tive­ly end the world. That was the core les­son learned by NATO forces fol­low­ing the 1983 annu­al Able Archer NATO mil­i­tary sim­u­la­tions. Sim­u­la­tions that almost trig­gered a Sovi­et first strike in response to what looked like NATO prepa­ra­tions for a first strike. Yes, NATO almost got itself nuked by run­ning a mil­i­tary sim­u­la­tion so real­is­tic the Sovi­ets thought it was a cov­er for an actu­al first strike and start­ing prepar­ing for their own. US air bases even prac­ticed arm­ing planes with dum­my war­heads.

    Per­haps even more dis­turb­ing is what the NATO forces did dur­ing the sim­u­la­tion. In an appar­ent attempt to sig­nal that NATO was seri­ous about esca­lat­ing the fake con­flict, NATO forces launched a sin­gle medi­um range nuclear mis­sile at Kiev. The the­o­ry was that this ‘nuclear sig­nal­ing’ would help cool­er heads pre­vail. Obvi­ous­ly that did­n’t work and by the end of the sim­u­la­tion civ­i­liza­tion was destroyed.

    Oh, and here’s the kick­er: NATO forces did­n’t even real­ize they have spooked the Sovi­et lead­er­ship into prepar­ing a first strike. This was only dis­cov­ered lat­er. It’s the kind of sto­ry that’s piled so high with top-lev­el stu­pid­i­ty it’s amaz­ing civ­i­liza­tion has­n’t destroyed itself yet.

    So as the US-Japan-Tai­wan mil­i­tary alliance con­tin­ues to grow and evolve, it’s going to be impor­tant to keep in mind that the mil­i­tary exer­cis­es involved with this alliance are going to grow and evolve too. And may end up look­ing like prepa­ra­tions for a first strike:

    BBC

    The war game that could have end­ed the world

    By Richard Holling­ham
    8th Novem­ber 2018

    A mil­i­tary exer­cise staged 35 years ago this week almost trig­gered World War Three. BBC Future reports on pre­vi­ous­ly secret doc­u­ments that reveal what hap­pened.

    On 7 Novem­ber 1983, around 100 senior mil­i­tary offi­cers gath­ered at Nato head­quar­ters in Brus­sels to ‘fight’ World War Three. The annu­al sim­u­la­tion, known as Able Archer, came at the end of a large-scale con­ven­tion­al exer­cise ­– Autumn Forge – involv­ing tens of thou­sands of Nato troops across west­ern Europe.

    Able Archer 83 was held at a time of height­ened Cold War ten­sion. Rela­tions between War­saw Pact and Nato-aligned nations were as bad as they had ever been. Ear­li­er in the year, US Pres­i­dent Ronald Rea­gan had brand­ed the Sovi­et Union an “evil empire.” And, in Sep­tem­ber, Sovi­et pilots had shot down a Kore­an Air­lines 747, killing all 269 peo­ple on board.

    Mean­while, both sides of the Iron Cur­tain were in the process of deploy­ing medi­um range nuclear weapons – includ­ing cruise mis­siles based at Green­ham Com­mon in south­ern Eng­land – capa­ble of strik­ing tar­gets with­in five min­utes of launch. The world was on a nuclear hair-trig­ger.

    Accord­ing to the fic­tion­al sce­nario behind the Able Archer 83 war game, tur­moil in the Mid­dle East was putting a squeeze on Sovi­et oil sup­plies. Mean­while, Yugoslavia – which wasn’t aligned to either side of the Cold War – decid­ed to back the West. The Sovi­et lead­ers in the game feared this would lead to a cas­cade of oth­er east­ern Euro­pean coun­tries fol­low­ing suit, switch­ing alle­giance from the War­saw Pact to Nato, and putting the entire com­mu­nist sys­tem at risk.

    The imag­ined ‘war’ start­ed when Sovi­et tanks rolled across the bor­der into Yugoslavia. Scan­di­navia was invad­ed next, and soon troops were pour­ing into West­ern Europe. Over­whelmed, Nato forces were forced into retreat. A few months after the pre­tend con­flict began, West­ern gov­ern­ments autho­rised the use of nuclear weapons.

    Role-play­ing Nato forces launched a sin­gle medi­um range nuclear mis­sile, wip­ing Ukrain­ian cap­i­tal Kiev from the map. It was deployed as a sig­nal, a warn­ing that Nato was pre­pared to esca­late the war. The the­o­ry was that this ‘nuclear sig­nalling’ would help cool­er heads to pre­vail. It didn’t work.

    By 11 Novem­ber 1983, glob­al nuclear arse­nals had been unleashed. Most of the world was destroyed. Bil­lions were dead. Civil­i­sa­tion end­ed.

    Acci­den­tal sig­nal

    Lat­er that day, the Nato com­man­ders left their build­ing and went home, con­grat­u­lat­ing them­selves on anoth­er suc­cess­ful – albeit sober­ing – exer­cise. What West­ern gov­ern­ments only dis­cov­ered lat­er is that Able Archer 83 came per­ilous­ly close to insti­gat­ing a real nuclear war.

    “There’s evi­dence at the high­est lev­els of the Sovi­et mil­i­tary that they were find­ing it increas­ing­ly dif­fi­cult to tell drills from an actu­al attack,” says Nate Jones, direc­tor of the Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act Project for the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Archive in Wash­ing­ton DC, an inde­pen­dent non-prof­it organ­i­sa­tion that advo­cates for open gov­ern­ment. “We’re now amass­ing a col­lec­tion of doc­u­ments con­firm­ing that the Sovi­ets were real­ly scared the West would launch a nuclear strike.”

    Based at George Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­si­ty, the offices of the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Archive are stacked high with files and box­es of doc­u­ments. Every shelf creaks with infor­ma­tion that gov­ern­ments would rather have kept secret. Expos­ing the details of Able Archer 83 has tak­en Jones years of per­sis­tence.

    “I remem­ber [when I start­ed] going to the archives and being laughed at, being told you’ll nev­er see that as it’s high­ly clas­si­fied,” says Jones. But after 12 years of fil­ing free­dom of infor­ma­tion requests, com­plain­ing, chas­ing and bad­ger­ing, in 2015, the efforts paid off. “I got this pack­age in the mail, the key all-source intel­li­gence report – and to make it even bet­ter, it arrived on my birth­day.”

    The doc­u­ment, pro­duced in 1990 by the US President’s For­eign Intel­li­gence Advi­so­ry Board, is enti­tled “The Sovi­et War Scare.” With only a few short sec­tions redact­ed, the 109-page report details the unin­tend­ed con­se­quences of Able Archer 83. It makes for sober­ing read­ing (you can read the entire report here).

    Unlike pre­vi­ous exer­cis­es, Able Archer 83 includ­ed encrypt­ed com­mu­ni­ca­tions and peri­ods of total radio silence. There were also deploy­ments on the ground. Some US air bases even prac­tised weapons han­dling – taxi­ing out of hangars with real­is­tic dum­my war­heads.

    Based on intel­li­gence gath­ered in the months fol­low­ing the exer­cise, the 1990 report inves­ti­gat­ed the Sovi­et response. This includ­ed ground­ing flights, trans­port­ing nuclear weapons ready for deploy­ment and assign­ing pri­or­i­ty tar­gets. There was also an unprece­dent­ed empha­sis on civ­il defence mea­sures. It had all the appear­ances of full-scale prepa­ra­tions for war.

    The Sovi­et lead­er­ship didn’t believe Able Archer was an exer­cise, but instead a cov­er for a gen­uine first strike nuclear attack, and they pre­pared to retal­i­ate.

    “The war scare was real, and it’s very scary – an unprece­dent­ed mil­i­tary reac­tion,” says Jones. “We don’t want our ene­mies to think we’d launch a first strike when we have no inten­tion of doing so.”

    So how did an annu­al Nato mil­i­tary exer­cise get so bad­ly mis­in­ter­pret­ed? To inves­ti­gate the answer, Jones and his col­leagues have recent­ly been scour­ing Russ­ian sources includ­ing the KGB archive in Ukraine.

    “We’ve found a con­fi­den­tial Sovi­et mil­i­tary jour­nal from 1984 with a detailed analy­sis of Able Archer,” says Jones. “[It’s clear] from wor­ried tones that the Sovi­et mil­i­tary was scared.”

    In 1983, the leader of the Sovi­et Union was Yuri Andropov. A for­mer head of the KGB and very much of the Sovi­et old-guard, he had risen through com­mu­nist par­ty ranks. But by the time he reached the top he was seri­ous­ly ill. And seri­ous­ly para­noid.

    “There was a para­noia,” says Mar­tin Chalmers, deputy direc­tor gen­er­al of Lon­don-based secu­ri­ty think-tank RUSI. “The Sovi­et lead­er­ship could remem­ber the trau­ma of Hitler’s sur­prise attack in 1941 that almost destroyed the Sovi­et Union – that was the lens through which US pol­i­cy was seen.”

    “There’s a doc­u­ment I found of Andropov telling KGB offi­cers: ‘your num­ber one pri­or­i­ty is not to miss a nuclear strike’,” says Jones. “KGB oper­a­tives were tasked with try­ing to detect this and report it every two weeks.”

    But because their mas­ters in Moscow want­ed to hear there was poten­tial for a first-strike, to please their boss­es, that’s what the spies deliv­ered.

    “These peo­ple were close to the West, they lived in the West and knew there were no plans for a first strike but they report­ed what they were told to report,” Jones explains. “Moscow col­lect­ed these reports and drew dire con­clu­sions and, as this report­ing was going on, Able Archer 83 occurred.”

    It was a dan­ger­ous­ly vicious cir­cle. “It’s a fail­ure of the Sovi­et sys­tem,” says Jones, “Sovi­et intel­li­gence did not act ratio­nal­ly.”

    But nor did West­ern lead­ers under­stand the dan­gers of sim­u­lat­ing a first strike nuclear attack. “It was a lack of empa­thy com­bined with the nuclear arms race cre­at­ing ten­sion,” says Jones. “The [con­ven­tion­al Autumn Forge] exer­cise was right on the Sovi­et bor­der and then you had the added dimen­sion of these new decap­i­tat­ing nuclear weapons.”

    ...

    Far from being a ter­ri­fy­ing foot­note in Cold War his­to­ry, how­ev­er, Able Archer 83 is still rel­e­vant today. Rhetoric is once again ratch­et­ing-up between Rus­sia and the US, with con­cerns that glob­al nuclear treaties are unrav­el­ling.

    Rus­sia, the US and Chi­na are renew­ing their nuclear arse­nals. The US also insists that the Rus­sians have, in breach of the Inter­me­di­ate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, devel­oped a new medi­um-range mis­sile. As a result, Pres­i­dent Trump has said he will with­draw from the agree­ment.

    “The col­lapse of arms con­trol will com­bine with the very real con­cerns that both sides see the oth­er side as malign and pos­si­bly pre­pared to do some ter­ri­ble thing in a cri­sis,” says Chalmers. “If a cri­sis comes along, the chances of a mis­un­der­stand­ing of the sort we saw in 1983 will be greater.”

    Jones, who has been immersed in Able Archer 83 for most of his career, agrees. “As long as there are nuclear weapons, the dan­ger of war through mis­cal­cu­la­tion remains.”

    ———–

    “The war game that could have end­ed the world” by Richard Holling­ham; BBC; 11/08/2018

    “Lat­er that day, the Nato com­man­ders left their build­ing and went home, con­grat­u­lat­ing them­selves on anoth­er suc­cess­ful – albeit sober­ing – exer­cise. What West­ern gov­ern­ments only dis­cov­ered lat­er is that Able Archer 83 came per­ilous­ly close to insti­gat­ing a real nuclear war.

    NATO com­man­ders knew by the end of the exer­cise that they blew up the sim­u­lat­ed world. But it was only lat­er that they real­ized they almost blew up the actu­al world. Oops. So the crew who thought nuk­ing Kiev would deesca­late the sit­u­a­tion did­n’t real­ize run­ning a war game like this was incred­i­bly dan­ger­ous. Imag­ine that:

    ...
    The imag­ined ‘war’ start­ed when Sovi­et tanks rolled across the bor­der into Yugoslavia. Scan­di­navia was invad­ed next, and soon troops were pour­ing into West­ern Europe. Over­whelmed, Nato forces were forced into retreat. A few months after the pre­tend con­flict began, West­ern gov­ern­ments autho­rised the use of nuclear weapons.

    Role-play­ing Nato forces launched a sin­gle medi­um range nuclear mis­sile, wip­ing Ukrain­ian cap­i­tal Kiev from the map. It was deployed as a sig­nal, a warn­ing that Nato was pre­pared to esca­late the war. The the­o­ry was that this ‘nuclear sig­nalling’ would help cool­er heads to pre­vail. It didn’t work.

    By 11 Novem­ber 1983, glob­al nuclear arse­nals had been unleashed. Most of the world was destroyed. Bil­lions were dead. Civil­i­sa­tion end­ed.
    ...

    It’s also worth keep­ing in mind how much of the Sovi­ets’ ratio­nale for their response to the Able Archer exer­cise was pred­i­cat­ed on the idea that the West real­ly was plan­ning on a first strike. In oth­er words, they clear­ly believed Ronald Rea­gan was will­ing to ‘push the red but­ton’. So NATO had cre­at­ed a sce­nario where estab­lish­ing the cred­i­ble threat — by hav­ing an appar­ent mad man as the US pres­i­dent — dra­mat­i­cal­ly increased the dan­ger of expe­ri­enc­ing a pre­emp­tive first strike. It’s the kind of les­son that’s going to be cru­cial to keep in mind the next time the US has some­one like Don­ald Trump as pres­i­dent, where the unhinged and bel­liger­ent nature of his per­sona was often sold as a sta­bi­liz­ing force because it demon­strat­ed to the world that the US was­n’t scare to use mil­i­tary mus­cle. It’s exact­ly the kind of mad man men­tal­i­ty that could trig­ger a pre­emp­tive first strike as the Able Archer 83 exer­cise made clear. If the Sovi­ets did­n’t believe they were deal­ing with a mad man it would have been a lot eas­i­er for them to inter­pret the sig­nal­ing com­ing from the exer­cise as some­thing less than an exis­ten­tial threat:

    ...
    “There’s evi­dence at the high­est lev­els of the Sovi­et mil­i­tary that they were find­ing it increas­ing­ly dif­fi­cult to tell drills from an actu­al attack,” says Nate Jones, direc­tor of the Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act Project for the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Archive in Wash­ing­ton DC, an inde­pen­dent non-prof­it organ­i­sa­tion that advo­cates for open gov­ern­ment. “We’re now amass­ing a col­lec­tion of doc­u­ments con­firm­ing that the Sovi­ets were real­ly scared the West would launch a nuclear strike.”

    ...

    Unlike pre­vi­ous exer­cis­es, Able Archer 83 includ­ed encrypt­ed com­mu­ni­ca­tions and peri­ods of total radio silence. There were also deploy­ments on the ground. Some US air bases even prac­tised weapons han­dling – taxi­ing out of hangars with real­is­tic dum­my war­heads.

    Based on intel­li­gence gath­ered in the months fol­low­ing the exer­cise, the 1990 report inves­ti­gat­ed the Sovi­et response. This includ­ed ground­ing flights, trans­port­ing nuclear weapons ready for deploy­ment and assign­ing pri­or­i­ty tar­gets. There was also an unprece­dent­ed empha­sis on civ­il defence mea­sures. It had all the appear­ances of full-scale prepa­ra­tions for war.

    The Sovi­et lead­er­ship didn’t believe Able Archer was an exer­cise, but instead a cov­er for a gen­uine first strike nuclear attack, and they pre­pared to retal­i­ate.
    ...

    And this was all tak­ing place as both sides were in the mid­dle of deploy­ing medi­um-range nuclear weapons. Sound famil­iar?

    ...
    Mean­while, both sides of the Iron Cur­tain were in the process of deploy­ing medi­um range nuclear weapons – includ­ing cruise mis­siles based at Green­ham Com­mon in south­ern Eng­land – capa­ble of strik­ing tar­gets with­in five min­utes of launch. The world was on a nuclear hair-trig­ger.

    ...

    Far from being a ter­ri­fy­ing foot­note in Cold War his­to­ry, how­ev­er, Able Archer 83 is still rel­e­vant today. Rhetoric is once again ratch­et­ing-up between Rus­sia and the US, with con­cerns that glob­al nuclear treaties are unrav­el­ling.

    Rus­sia, the US and Chi­na are renew­ing their nuclear arse­nals. The US also insists that the Rus­sians have, in breach of the Inter­me­di­ate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, devel­oped a new medi­um-range mis­sile. As a result, Pres­i­dent Trump has said he will with­draw from the agree­ment.

    “The col­lapse of arms con­trol will com­bine with the very real con­cerns that both sides see the oth­er side as malign and pos­si­bly pre­pared to do some ter­ri­ble thing in a cri­sis,” says Chalmers. “If a cri­sis comes along, the chances of a mis­un­der­stand­ing of the sort we saw in 1983 will be greater.”

    Jones, who has been immersed in Able Archer 83 for most of his career, agrees. “As long as there are nuclear weapons, the dan­ger of war through mis­cal­cu­la­tion remains.”
    ...

    This arti­cle from 2018 was basi­cal­ly a warn­ing against Trump’s with­draw­al from the INF. Warn­ings that went unheed­ed and now we have medi­um-range mis­siles — which may or may not be nuclear tipped — emerg­ing as one of the key tech­nolo­gies that’s going to be relied on in the event of such a con­flict.

    Also keep in mind that a con­flict in the Pacif­ic is like­ly going to be much more mis­sile-focused than a NATO-Sovi­et con­flict on the plains of Europe sim­ply due to the increased impor­tance of naval and aer­i­al bat­tles. You’re not going to have giant tank bat­tles with that kind of con­flict. Mis­siles are inher­ent­ly more impor­tant for this kind of fight and that means more drills involv­ing those mis­siles. Pre­sum­ably drills involv­ing the show­er­ing of Chi­na’s strate­gic infra­struc­ture with medi­um-range mis­siles. Medi­um-range mis­siles that, again, may or may not be nuclear-tipped. There’s a lot less ambi­gu­i­ty about what’s on the end of an ICBM sta­tioned in North Dako­ta than a cruise mis­sile host­ed in Japan. And as the sto­ry of Able Archer 83 should make clear, that’s the kind of ambi­gu­i­ty that could end civ­i­liza­tion if mis­in­ter­pret­ed. A psy­cho­log­i­cal line that con­tin­u­al­ly needs to be walked every time one of these kinds of exer­cis­es plays out. It’s all the lat­est grim reminder that the log­ic of mutu­al­ly assured nuclear MAD­ness only works if the rival lead­er­ship appear to the oth­er side to be kind of insane, but not too insane. Which is pret­ty insane.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 5, 2021, 4:57 pm

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