Background Briefing: February 13, 2023
What Hazards Did the Unidentified Objects that Were Shot Down Pose to Commercial Aviation?
We begin with the White House press briefing today by Admiral Kirby about the Chinese spy balloon and the three subsequent objects shot down by the US over Alaska, Canada and Lake Huron. Amid the hyperventilation from Republicans and the press, little more was learned about the unidentified flying objects from today’s briefing and won’t be until the debris is located and analyzed. Joining us to discuss the reasons offered for shooting down the objects because they posed a threat to commercial aviation is R. John Hansman, the T. Wilson Professor of Aeronautics & Astronautics MIT, where he is the Director of the MIT International Center for Air Transportation. He conducts research in the application of information technology in operational aerospace systems. Dr. Hansman holds 6 patents and has authored over 250 technical publications. He has over 5800 hours of pilot in-command time in airplanes, helicopters and sailplanes including meteorological, production and engineering flight test experience. Professor Hansman chairs the US Federal Aviation Administration Research Engineering & Development Advisory Committee as well as other national and international advisory committees.
The Risks to Diplomacy From Intelligence Collection
Then we examine the risks intelligence collection poses to diplomacy and reports that China’s leader Xi Jinping may not have authorized the spy balloon and speak with Gregory Treverton, a senior adviser with the Transnational Threats Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a professor of the practice of international relations at the University of Southern California. He has served in government for the first Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, handling Europe for the National Security Council, and was chairman of the National Intelligence Council from 2014 to 2017. His books include Dividing Divided States, Beyond the Great Divide: Relevance and Uncertainty in National Intelligence and Science for Policy.
Russia’s Plans to Topple the Government in Moldova
Then finally we look into the Russian plan to topple the government in Moldova outlined by Moldova’s President Sandu based on intelligence from Ukraine. Joining us is Rachel Schmalz, who was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to teach English in Moldova in 2021 and 2022. She is currently studying for her master’s degree at the University of Alberta, specializing in 20th/21st-century Soviet/Russian history with a focus on the formation of national identity in the Crimean Peninsula, specifically looking at the period after Nikita Khrushchev transferred the Crimean Peninsula to the Ukrainian SSR in 1954.