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Omar Lamrani (Stratfor) — A new arms race is unfolding between the world's great powers. Hypersonic missiles, which are both accurate and extremely fast, stand to change the face of modern warfare by rendering the current generation of missile defense systems ineffective.
As competition heats up among Russia, China and the United States to be the first to deploy hypersonic missiles, each will become more vulnerable to attack by the others. If tensions rise, so will the risk of pre-emptive strikes among the longtime rivals.
Hypersonic missiles travel at least five times the speed of sound. Only a few other manmade devices are capable of reaching hypersonic speeds, including ballistic missiles, space launch vehicles and unmanned spacecraft such as the Boeing X-37. The only manned aircraft to achieve hypersonic speed is the rocket-powered North American X-15, which broke speed and altitude records when it was introduced in the 1960s.
Stratfor — Russian President Vladimir Putin announced March 14 that Russia had sufficiently achieved its goals in Syria since beginning airstrikes in September, and that it will gradually withdraw the bulk of its forces from the country, starting March 15.
According to Putin, the process could take as long as five months. However, Russia's air base in Latakia will continue to operate, as will its naval facility in Tartus.
Russia's involvement in Syria has been guided by a number of key priorities. The first is ensuring the stability of the allied Syrian government and by extension Russian interests in Syria. The second is demonstrating and testing its armed forces, which are undergoing a significant force modernization.
Controversy is brewing between the United States and Russia over the mysterious death of a one-time Kremlin heavyweight in Washington. Mikhail Lesin, Russia's former press minister, died in the U.S. capital in November 2015. At the time, Lesin's family reported that he had suffered a fatal heart attack.
But on March 10, Washington's medical examiner and police department announced Lesin was killed by blunt force injuries to his head, neck and upper and lower torso. However, they refrained from calling the death a homicide.
Russia has reacted to the news by threatening to ask for international assistance if the United States does not clarify the circumstances surrounding Lesin's demise. Moscow's tactic of pre-emptively shifting blame to the United States by citing a lack of cooperation on Washington's part is notable; it is almost as if the Kremlin is attempting to avoid any questions about its own possible role in Lesin's death.
Recent developments in the Caucasus suggest that subtle but important shifts are occurring, especially when it comes to Russia's role in the region. A flurry of diplomatic activity has transpired over the past few weeks, with Russian officials participating in negotiations over a wide variety of issues, including natural gas exports to Georgia, weapons sales to Armenia, and broader political and security ties with Azerbaijan.
This accelerated diplomatic bustle comes at a time when other players, such as Turkey and the West, have begun to more actively challenge Moscow's dominance in the region. Moreover, Russia's evolving position in the Caucasus will likely be an important indicator for the future of larger conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.
Robert Kahn testified before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, describing the crisis risks generated by persistently low oil and gas prices. He argued that the risks are especially acute for energy exporters such as Venezuela and Nigeria, and that such countries need sizable policy adjustments in the immediate future.
The following is the statement prepared by Robert Kahn, the Steven A. Tananbaum Senior Fellow for International Economics at the Council on Foreign Relations before the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, 2nd Session, 114th Congress.
Hearing on Economic and Geopolitical Implications of Low Oil and Gas Prices