Ballooning America
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 06 Feb , 2023

When the English translation of the Chinese book ‘Unrestricted Warfare: China’s Master Plan to Destroy America’ was first published in 1999, it shocked the US strategists out of their wits. It took them three years to recover and coin the term ‘Hybrid Warfare’. But time has moved on. This time it is a Chinese balloon spotted floating in the airspace high above commercial aviation traffic over the western state of Montana that has caused a commotion in Washington.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has postponed his visit to China due to the situation with a flying object, the US State Department has said, adding that Blinken plans to visit China at the earliest opportunity, when conditions permit. The statement further said, “The presence of a PRC balloon in US airspace is a violation of sovereignty and international law. The United States will continue to maintain open channels with China, including in order to discuss what happened.”

China’s foreign ministry has said that the balloon is a civilian airship used for weather research, which has been blown off course. China said it regretted the unintentional entry into foreign airspace and would continue to communicate with US officials. Interestingly, the surveillance zone of the “spy ship” from its observed position included the Malmstrom Air Force Base and the ICBMs the base houses.

The US was initially hesitant to shoot down the balloon fearing the debris since the balloon/airship is believed to be the size of three buses but eventually did so and is looking to collect the debris. China would be enjoying the flurry in Washington and the statements. It is quite possible that China timed the balloon with  Blinken about to proceed to Washington. It certainly is not a weather monitoring airship which went astray because a second Chinese spy balloon was later spotted over Latin America. 

In addition to intelligence gathering, China perhaps wanted to signal how much it cares about America reaching out to Beijing through Blinken. It is on record that the US had no guts to stop Beijing from systematically militarizing the East and South China Seas over the past several years, which is still continuing despite the fanfare of occasional FONOPS missions by the US Navy. China always displayed the upper hand whether by bumping US fighter aircraft or force landing an American spy plane.  

The US could bomb countries like Iraq for 42 continuous days before invading it and attack countries on pretext of countering terrorism but when it comes to China or Russia, it is another story. The provision of Abrams and Leopard-2 tanks, which fire depleted Uranium ammunition, to Ukraine amounts to crimes against humanity. But then Ukraine is headed by Volodymyr Zelenskyy who is playing the role of a geopolitical prostitute of America (

The US is looking for a Ukraine-like proxy in the Indo-Pacific, be it Japan, Taiwan, Philippines (where the US has five military bases in rotation and is adding four more including two close to Taiwan), South Korea or India. India is being wooed on the plank of technological cooperation but what about transfer of technology, which the US has always shied from giving to India? How can we forget that despite an intelligence sharing agreement with India, the US never warned India in 2020 that Chinese motorized divisions exercising in Aksai Chin were moving to Eastern Ladakh? To top this, US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin, later visiting India, told media, “We never knew China and India were so close to war.”

The US wants to ban Tik Tok because it is exposing the evil designs of US-led NATO and the neo-Nazi NATO leaders who are dancing to Washington’s tune – bent upon instigating a nuclear war even though America’s deep state thinks only Europe would face the Russian wrath.  In a recent Tik Tok clip titled ‘NATO A Suicide Pill For the World’, Scot Ritter, American author and former US Marine Corps intelligence officer, says in an interview the Ukraine wants 300 tanks, 500 divided vehicles, 500 artillery pieces and unlimited ammunition (two divisions worth) to severe the land bridge between Russia and Crimea.

Ritter says that in such a case, Russia will not sit idle. It will disrupt the supply chain in Poland and Germany leading to a NATO-Russia war, and in turn a general nuclear exchange that would wipe out life on earth. Though a diehard American, Ritter hopes Russia wins this war in order to avoid a global holocaust. 

America has approved a new $2.2 billion package for Ukraine and is supplying longer range missiles. This plus the recent visit by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and 15 commissioners to Kiev to boost EU-Ukraine relations indicates the West will continue to fuel the war in Ukraine. Ritter rightly says “NATO does not protect anybody”. These Western actions help divert attention from the turmoil, strikes and downfall of the economy in countries like the UK and Germany, while the US keeps lowering its flag for periodic killings – unable to fight  the drug menace, control drugs and hatred towards non-whites.

Not that the NATO doesn’t nurture latent fears recognizing inwardly that the war in Ukraine is unwinnable.  In a recent talk delivered at Keio University in Japan NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that if President Putin wins, the message to Moscow and Beijing will be that they can achieve what they want through brute force. He said Beijing is learning lessons from the war in Ukraine and what is happening in Europe today could happen in East Asia and the Indo-Pacific tomorrow. 

Stoltenberg told the audience that China’s coercive policy has consequences for “your” security in the Indo-Pacific and “ours” in Euro-Atlantic. He further said that China is building substantial military forces including nuclear weapons, investing heavily in long range missiles that can reach NATO territories and applying new disruptive technologies into weapons systems including artificial intelligence, quantum computing and many other technologies.  Stoltenberg’s fear is evident that in the event of a nuclear exchange over Ukraine, China could join the war.

Meanwhile, NATO has launched a program to develop cooperation with experts from countries of the Indo-Pacific region on current events and their potential implications for Euro-Atlantic security. The initiative is based on another NATO program – “Science for Peace and Security”, designed to develop dialogue and practical interaction between NATO member countries and partners based on scientific research, technological innovation and knowledge sharing. According to American analyst Brian Berletic, the goal of this project, like many other initiatives of the North Atlantic Alliance in the field of international scientific cooperation, is to expand US influence in the region with the help of soft power, while at the same time curbing the growth of China’s influence.

Finally, the US has consistently demonstrated that it thrives on war. If there is war in the Indo-Pacific involving China, it would prefer to sit on the fence and supply weapons – as it is doing in Ukraine. Scot Ritter saying “NATO does not protect anybody” is nail on the head. In this backdrop, Western sanity in the Ukraine war would remain a chimera. It would perhaps require an extraordinary development for NATO to change course.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Lt Gen Prakash Katoch

is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army.

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