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March 1, 2012
Notes from the Pentagon

The State Department recently denied $2 million in grants to a Russian research institute over concerns the money would be used to boost Moscow’s advanced nuclear missile work.

The unusual denial of the grant money was based on a review of a research program to be funded through the Moscow-based International Science and Technology Center, a group that acts as a funding vehicle for research cooperation and training in the former Soviet Union. The department feared the grant could undermine U.S. national security.

A State Department official said the project for the funds was reviewed in 2009 and 2010.

“During that review process, State recommended that the projects be denied based on the nature of the research: the projects involved the use of plasma actuator technology applied to hypersonic flows,” the official said.

“This aerospace-focused technology has direct application to UAV and missile systems,” the official added, referring to unmanned aerial vehicles.

“Russia is known to be pursuing advanced missile technologies that would benefit from this research. It is not in our national security interest to promote the development and spread of technologies that would ultimately benefit Russian military applications.”

Russian strategic missile forces are known to be building a high-technology “depressed-trajectory” strategic-missile warhead that travels in space and then re-enters the atmosphere at extremely high speeds. The warhead is being designed to defeat U.S. long-range missile defenses by making the warhead more difficult to track and target.

The two research grants totaling $2 million were supposed to have gone to the United Institute of High Temperatures within the Russian Academy of Sciences. The money was to be used for work on controlling the space flight of vehicles using a process known as magneto-plasma aerodynamics, according to Russian newspaper reports.

According to a report in the newspaper Izvestia, the denial notice was sent from the International Scientific and Technical Center, and it stated that the project was sponsored by the Air Force Research Lab.

The Obama administration appears to be facing a policy quandary over what to do about the escalating violence by Syrian government forces against civilians and opposition rebel forces.

Other than condemning the widespread shelling attacks, so far the administration is refusing to intervene, either militarily or through covert action in support of the Free Syrian Army or against the Bashar Assad regime and its forces.

U.S. officials, however, are closely watching states in the region. One country that could take action, possibly military intervention, is Saudi Arabia.

Both the Saudi King Abdullah and Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal recently called for covert military aid to rebels and even military attacks in support of opposition forces.

Qatar's government also is considering the provision of arms to opposition forces as well.

The official Saudi Press Agency recently quoted the king and foreign minister as calling for regime change in Syria through the use of force if necessary.

Asked recently if the Syrian opposition should be provided with arms, the Saudi foreign minister said, “I think it’s an excellent idea … because they have to defend themselves.”

The comments from the oil-rich kingdom’s leaders were the strongest statements that represent a significant escalation of Saudi rhetoric since criticism of the Assad regime began in November.

Chinese Internet users recently made fun of an anti-U.S. blogger who injured his neck at Washington Dulles International Airport after getting his head stuck between a wall and an escalator he was riding on.

The blogger, known as Sima Nan, was taken to a local hospital emergency room and later released on Jan. 24.

Several well-known Chinese bloggers on Twitter and the Chinese social media site Sina Weibo mocked Mr. Sima and suggested that he stopped criticizing the United States since he was well cared for.

Mr. Sima is one of the many well-off Chinese who have relatives living and working in the United States, including some of China’s most senior communist leaders.

He wrote about the incident on his blog and included photos of himself being carted out of the airport by emergency technicians. He also threatened to sue the airport over the incident.

The Internet chatter on the case included several Chinese bloggers who joked that Mr. Sima was the target of a U.S. intelligence dirty tricks operation aimed at pro-Beijing celebrities.

“The truth is U.S. imperialists have replaced aircraft carriers with escalators as weapons, since they’re no longer able to produce weapons of mass destruction amid the economic recession,” wrote Li Chengpeng, a former soccer commentator currently running as an independent candidate in local elections in Chengdu, Sichuan Province.

“Mr. Sima Nan realized this, and he sacrificed himself by testing this new weapon. He successfully unveiled a weapon that the imperialists are still developing.”

Said another former Chinese candidate, Wang Penghui: “Given that Sima Nan has regained consciousness and can now post microblog messages, he should now announce that he is ending his treatment in the United States and going back to his great motherland for any further medical attention. He shouldn’t forget to take his receipts from the hospital for reimbursement or to fly Air China back home.” Chinese economist Han Zhiguo congratulated Mr. Sima for “convincing the Chinese to believe that it feels so good to slam the United States while at the same time enjoying life there.”

Li Nuoyan, another commentator, stated that Mr. Sima “traveled to the tiger’s lair doing United Front work in order to apply to the PRC [Chinese] authorities for triple compensation for overtime work during the Lunar New Year.”

Chinese historian Ma Yong wrote that Mr. Sima “should change his mind after getting rescued from this accident, and should realize that this wasn’t a U.S. plot.”

And Cai Fumin, stated that Mr. Sima’s accident was “karma” and noted that “he sent his family to a country that he constantly badmouths. He’s no different from many corrupt government officials [in China].”

Mr. Sima, just prior to the incident, posted a note online calling the United States “enemy of the all the people of the world. It’s like a gigantic tumor.”

“Its military bases are all around the world,” Mr. Sima wrote. “All wars after the Second World War were instigated, engineered, or started by the United States. People around the world and governments of different countries are all questioning [US foreign policy].”

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