24 April 2015

Don't demean Kargil heroes: SC to Centre

1.  Hey, what's happening.Is the Indian Army and MoD is on the same page? Is it the Supreme Court to wield the stick and put the record straight while telling : "Why are you saying that people who lost their lives were sluggish? It is very unfortunate. Is it not a sad reflection on their supreme sacrifice? You are now saying that they died because they were sluggish," the bench said. "What about sluggishness in coffin purchase," it added. 

The court was reacting after additional solicitor general Maninder Singh told the bench that the Ajai Vikram Singh committee appointed by the Centre had concluded that Indian soldiers were "sluggish" and had recommended several measures to make the Army more efficient. 

Singh said the government did not want to demean the sacrifice of soldiers but the casualties would have been much less had Army personnel been more active in the 1999 war. On the coffin purchase, the ASG replied that it was a case of "over activeness". [ http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Dont-demean-Kargil-heroes-SC-to-Centre/articleshow/47021459.cms?]

2.  For your benefit I am reproducing two news reports of yesterday, TOI and Hufflington Post.

3.  I hope you have read Ajai Vikram Sigh's response. Please see http://strategicstudyindia.blogspot.in/2015/04/av-singh-slams-army-for-distorting.html

4.  May I request for your comments.

Don't demean Kargil heroes: SC to Centre
Amit Anand Choudhary
Apr 23, 2015, 

The Supreme Court on Wednesday slammed the Centre for saying soldiers were sluggish in their response to the Pakistani army’s invasion in Kargil in 1999.

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday slammed the Centre for saying soldiers were sluggish in their response to the Pakistani army's invasion in Kargil in 1999. 
A bench of Justices T S Thakur and R Banumathi said it was very unfortunate that soldiers who gave their lives were not being respected by the government and even brought up the 'coffin scam' which took place during the war when the then NDA government had purchased caskets for soldiers from the US at an exorbitant price. 

"Why are you saying that people who lost their lives were sluggish? It is very unfortunate. Is it not a sad reflection on their supreme sacrifice? You are now saying that they died because they were sluggish," the bench said. "What about sluggishness in coffin purchase," it added. 

The court was reacting after additional solicitor general Maninder Singh told the bench that the Ajai Vikram Singh committee appointed by the Centre had concluded that Indian soldiers were "sluggish" and had recommended several measures to make the Army more efficient. 

Singh said the government did not want to demean the sacrifice of soldiers but the casualties would have been much less had Army personnel been more active in the 1999 war. On the coffin purchase, the ASG replied that it was a case of "over activeness". 

The bench was hearing the Centre's petition challenging an order of the Armed Forces Tribunal, which had restrained the Army from implementing a command-and-exit policy by which colonels would serve as battalion commanders for two to three years and exit to a non-command post by the time they reached the age of 40. The policy was recommended by the A V Singh committee. 

The bench said the government had to place on record that it had accepted the recommendation and oral acceptance would not be sufficient. The court asked the Centre to file an affidavit stating that it had accepted the recommendation. 

"You make a responsible statement on command-and-exit policy. You have to be clear in your view as services of many officers are at stake. You file an affidavit by April 29," the bench said. 

The government's petition said the A V Singh committee found that the age of colonels, who command a battalion comprising 800-odd soldiers, was a little over 40 years while the same for Pakistani and Chinese armies was 37 years. It said 1,484 additional posts would be created to bring down the age to 37 years. 

The committee was set up on July 16, 2001 by the then NDA government to look into manpower planning and suggest ways to restructure the officer-level cadre in the armed forces

Supreme Court Blames Govt, Says Age Made Army's Response Sluggish In Kargil 
Posted: 23/04/2015 

NEW DELHI — The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the government to spell out whether it has cleared the army's promotion policy to have a combat unit commanded by a colonel at the age of 37 years who will exit after commanding the unit for two and a half years.

The bench of Justice T.S. Thakur and Justice R. Banumathi sought the government's response asking if it had told the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) that the new promotion policy for commanding the combat unit was approved by it.

The court took exception to the government saying that the army's response in the Kargil war was sluggish. It said the response was sluggish all over.

The court asked why there should be younger officers in the combat unit only and why not for those who carry ammunition and put up bridges in difficult locations.

Giving a week's time to the government, the court said the government's response should come either from the defence secretary or by the officer authorised by him stating whether the government had accepted the Ajay Vikran Singh Committee's recommendation entrusting the command of the combat unit to a colonel at the age of 37 years.

The court also asked the government to give details of the promotion policy being followed by the army and if the recommendation of the committee was not accepted by the government, then how was it being carried out by the army.

The government had embarked on the course of entrusting the command of the combat unit to a colonel at the age of 37 on the recommendations of the committee, which besides other things had gone into the question "why was our response sluggish in the Kargil war?"

The court sought the government's response after it had challenged the March 2, 2015 AFT order quashing the army policy under which newly created 750 posts were not to disbursed across the army on pro rata basis.

Under the 2009 policy, a larger chunk of the newly created 750 posts of colonels was to go to the infantry, mechanised infantry and the armoured corps.

In the last hearing, the court was told that initially 750 of colonels were created in 2004 for improving the age profile of infantry, mechanised infantry and the armoured corps in the combat area but was mistakenly disbursed across the army on a pro rata basis.

Since the pro rata disbursement of the newly-created posts did not achieve the desired objective of improving the age profile at the command level of the unit, the court was told that as a consequence in 2009, the pro rata distribution of another 750 posts was not followed.

The AFT on March 2, 2015, had quashed the January 21, 2009 policy which weighed in the favour of infantry, mechanised infantry and the armoured corps in combat area, saying it was violative of Article 14 (equality before law) of the Constitution.

The AFT by its order had said the government would create supernumerary posts to accommodate Lt. Col. P.K. Choudhary and other officers who were denied promotion on the basis of quashed policy subject to merit.

The government had told the court in the last hearing that it embarked on the policy of giving the command of a combat unit to a colonel at the age of 37 after the examination of the question "why was our response sluggish in Kargil?" found that while a colonel at the age of 41 was commanding a combat unit in the army, in the Pakistani and Chinese armies, the age of the colonel commanding a combat unit was 37 years.

AV Singh slams army for distorting recommendations on new promotion policy
Manu Pubby, ET Bureau Apr 14, 2015, 

NEW DELHI: Slamming the army for distorting and manipulating his recommendations on a new promotion policy that is now at the center of a widening rift within the service, former bureaucrat AV Singh has said that a section of officers have been unfairly favoured against the spirit of the committee report that he had drafted. Singh, who led the AV Singh Committee (AVSC) that looked into lowering the age profile of commanding officers in the Army after the Kargil war, has broken his silence on the matter, saying that negative repercussions could emerge due to the perceived discrimination. A wide rift has emerged between officers of the infantry and artillery and those from other arms over a 2009 promotion policy for Colonels.

The policy, derived by the army from the 2004 AVSC report, has created a disproportionate amount of new ranks for the infantry and artillery against other arms like the armoured corps, signals, engineering and mechanized infantry. Singh, who retired as the Defence Secretary, says the policy he drafted was never aimed at favouring a particular section of the army. "There was no reference to a specific arm or service in the report. The single point charter was how to bring down the age of commanding officers and brigade commanders," Singh told ET

At arm's length

Srinath Raghavan

Travelling around India ahead of the fourth general elections in 1967, the correspondent of The Times (London), Neville Maxwell, reported widespread apathy towards democracy. He claimed that "the great experiment of developing India within a democratic framework has failed...." this would be India's "fourth - and surely last - general election". Maxwell also felt that "the army will be the only alternative source of authority and order." Enamoured as he was of the Maoist revolution in China, Maxwell was a jaundiced observer of Indian democracy. But he was far from being alone in thinking that India would sooner or later slip under military rule. After all, by the late 1960s many of the first nationalist governments across the newly decolonized world were being replaced by military dictatorships. 

Five decades on, such prophesies about the future of Indian democracy seem risible.Yet to understand the durability of our democracy, we need to explain why India never came close to experiencing military rule. This is the question that Steven Wilkinson sets out to answer in this brilliant book. 

The Great War, Gallipoli & Churchill

V R Raghavan.
Apr 24 2015 

A remarkable outcome of the Gallipoli fiasco and its heavy costs in lives, was the new awareness in the people of Australia and New Zealand of their national identity. 

COMMEMORATIONS of FirWorld War I, a century ago, began last year will continue for some time. It will be a hundred years in April, 2015 after the disastrous campaign fought in the Gallipoli Peninsula, between Turkey and the Allied powers led by United Kingdom. World War I was termed the Great War as much for the size of the forces which fought in it as for the carnage and costs to victors and vanquished alike. Gallipoli was a side show of the war but became a campaign marked by the valour and sacrifices of the troops, mainly from Australia, New Zealand, France and UK as also of Turkish army led by Kemal Ataturk. 

It was a costly but wasted campaign away from the great battlefields in Belgium and France which made the Great War famous. It was a campaign initiated by Winston Churchill against military advice. The disastrous campaign led to Churchill resigning from the British cabinet and going into oblivion to command a regiment on the western front. The Great War brought about the breakup of the Ottoman empire but Gallipoli began the emergence of Turkey as a modern state under Ataturk.

Pilots battle growing loss of drive to fly, says IAF study

Apr 24 2015

A study conducted by specialists at the IAF’s Institute of Aerospace Medicine (IAM) has revealed that loss of motivation for flying among aircrew in the armed forces is becoming more common. Based on their findings, the authors of the study have suggested that pilot selection needs to include tests of motivation for flying and emotional stability, with separate tests for stress coping and resilience. The findings of the study, undertaken by George CS, head of Department of Aviation Psychology, IAM, and NS Reddy, a graded specialist in aviation medicine, have been published in a recent issue of the Journal of Aerospace Medicine. The rising instances of loss of motivation come in the backdrop of the armed forces facing a severe shortage of junior and middle-rung officers. 

In the military, aeronautical adaptability is a complex issue involving motivation to fly, ability to fly and emotional stability for a career. Aeronautical motivation involves the desire to fly, the intensity and direction of which are geared towards flight safety; and is made up of both emotional and cognitive components. It is a dynamic balance between such positive factors as joy, emotional meaning and defence-coping skills and negative factors such as fear, anxiety and anticipated or experienced danger, according to the authors. 

The study has manifested loss of motivation for flying either as a primary process or secondary process. The primary condition is where there is no accompanying medical problem but lack of motivation is simply due to personal factors. These cases are dealt with administratively. The secondary process generally calls for medical disposal as it may include medical, psychological and emotional factors. 

Yemen’s long shadow

April 24, 2015 

Most critics of a ‘willing’ Nawaz Sharif government were given pause when columnists started writing about how an exodus of Pakistani workers from the Gulf, most of them unskilled and semi-skilled, could destabilise Pakistan and cause the government to fall. 

Pakistan was in two minds over going to the aid of Saudi Arabia and the GulfCooperation Council (GCC) states in the Yemen war, its government swearing allegiance but parliament ordaining “neutrality”. Then the UN Security Council imposed an arms embargo on Yemen’s Houthi rebels, former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his son, who heads the rebel troops, thus clearly siding with Saudi Arabia and its Arab League friends. It imposed a global asset freeze and travel ban on Abdul Malik al-Houthi and Ahmed Saleh. It demanded that the Houthis withdraw from areas they had seized, including the capital, Sanaa, and “resume negotiations on the democratic transition begun in 2011, when Ali Abdullah Saleh was forced to hand over power to [the pro-Saudi] Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi following mass protests”. 

In step with Ghani’s Afghanistan

Suhasini Haider 

As India prepares to welcome Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani, it must recognise that political changes and new regional equations, rather than past years of goodwill, will be the most important determinants of the future course of India-Afghanistan relations On a visit to Afghanistan in February 2014, it looked as though relations between India and Afghanistan were on a high. Relations were set to get into a new pace, with India committing to projects as part of the total package of $2 billion for development aid and to a request from Afghanistan for helicopters. The helicopters, three upgraded ‘Cheetals’ from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, were to be delivered “soon”. 

“Soon” has meant more than a year later. The helicopters will now be handed over when Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani visits New Delhi on April 27. But the Afghanistan they will land in has changed vastly in the past year, and their impact may not be as deeply felt as when they were needed a year ago. What has changed? New governments in New Delhi and Kabul are the most visible change; so have Afghanistan’s regional equations with Pakistan, Iran, and China, especially since its President, Hamid Karzai, demitted office. As Prime Minister Narendra Modi prepares to welcome Mr. Ghani, it is this change, rather than past years of goodwill, that will be the most important determinant of the future course of India-Afghanistan relations. 

India's New Mega Weapon: Nuclear-Armed Supersonic Missiles

April 22, 2015 

India’s nuclear command has begun receiving fighter jets armed with the country’s most advanced, supersonic cruise missile.

According to media reports, India’s Strategic Forces Command (SFC) has begun receiving 42 Su-30MKI air dominance fighters modified to carry air-launched BrahMos supersonic cruise missile. This will significantly enhance the striking power of the air leg of India’s nuclear triad.

“Individually, the Su-30 and BrahMos are powerful weapons,” Russia and India Report noted. “But when the world’s most capable fourth generation fighter is armed with a uniquely destructive cruise missile, together they are a dramatic force multiplier.”

Would America Back India in a War?

April 22, 2015 

Last month, I had the privilege of taking part in a Track 1.5 strategic dialogue on Indo-U.S. relations. Held in New Delhi, the gathering was an unabashed success, and the richness and candor of the discussions aptly reflected the renewed momentum of the bilateral relationship. Over the course of the event, much mention was made of Obama’s recent visit, and of one document in particular: the U.S. India Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region.

Shortly after having completed my presentation on Indo-U.S. cooperation in the Indian Ocean, I was asked a pointed question by a retired Indian Navy Admiral. Should India, queried the Admiral, read more deeply into both governments’ decision to jointly reference the importance of freedom of navigation in the South China Sea? More specifically, did this mean that the United States would provide military assistance to India in the event of a Sino-Indian naval confrontation in maritime Southeast Asia?

Deal or No Deal?

APRIL 22, 2015 

The Obama team’s effort to negotiate a deal with Iran that could prevent the Iranians from developing a nuclear bomb for at least a decade is now entering its critical final stage. I hope that a good, verifiable deal can be finalized, but it will not be easy. If it were, we’d have it by now. Here are the major challenges:

First, you can negotiate a simple arms control agreement with an adversary you don’t trust. We did that with the Kremlin in the Cold War. By simple, I mean with relatively few moving parts, and very clear verification procedures that do not require much good will from the other side — like monitoring Soviet missile sites with our own satellites. You can also negotiate a complicated arms control deal with a country that shares your values: Japan and South Korea regularly submit their nuclear facilities to international inspections.

But what is hard to implement is a complex arms control deal with an adversary you don’t trust — like Iran or North Korea. Each moving part requires some good will from the other side, and, because there are so many moving parts, the opportunities for cheating are manifold. It requires constant vigilance.

China Beware: Here Comes India’s Most Powerful Destroyer

April 22, 2015

Yesterday, the Indian Navy, in the presence of Admiral RK Dhowan, India’s current chief of naval staff, launched its latest stealth guided missile destroyer with a ceremony held at Mazagaon Dock Limited (MDL), Mumbai. The 7,300 tonVisakhapatnam is the first of four plannedVisakhapatnam-class (Project 15B) vessels, based on the older Kolkata-class destroyers design (Project 15A), to enter Indian service.

The other three vessels will be launched at an interval of three years at a total cost of INR 293.40 billion ($4.89 billion). According to Indian naval officials, the 164 m-long Visakhapatnam will be commissioned in July 2018. The Kolkata-class destroyer INS Kolkata (Project 15A) was commissioned in August 2014, with the two remaining vessels of the class to be commissioned by 2016.

Afghanistan’s Iconic Hind Gunships Won’t Fly Much Longer


For several years, the Afghan air force has flown Russian Mi-35 Hind gunships. The iconic, armored helicopters are better known as “flying tanks” for their ability to spew bullets and rockets — while absorbing gunfire.

But the Afghans probably won’t fly their Hinds a year from now. The helicopters are getting old and falling apart — and with Washington’s relationship with Moscow at its lowest point in decades, the Pentagon is buying tiny American choppers to replace them.

On April 9, the Afghan air force received six American-made MD-530F gunships. In 2013, In 2014, the Pentagon decided to send a total of 12 armed MD-530Fs, and added guns and armor to five helicopters already in Kabul’s hangars.

The United States is putting up the money for the dozen choppers, spare parts and training for Afghan air crews.

China’s new silk road: What’s in it for Pakistan?

Source lINK

The project will include building new roads, an 1,800-kilometre railway line and a network of oil pipelines to connect Kashgar in China’s western Xinjiang region to the Pakistani port of Gwadar.

During his visit to Pakistan, China’s president discussed a raft of energy and infrastructure deals as part of wider ambitions to open new trade and transport routes across Asia.

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Pakistan had already generated a sense of nervous anticipation. Originally expected to come in September last year, Xi’s visit was postponed in the wake of prolonged anti-government protests in Islamabad, with the government not want anything untoward happening this time round.

China, US, Russia: Partners are lining up with billions of dollars to bolster Pakistan

Xi Jinping's $46 billion pledge was just the latest instance. More money is flowing Islamabad's way.

As state visits go, this one ranks as an unquestionable newsmaker. President Xi Jinping of China concluded a two-day visit to Pakistan on Tuesday, during which he promised his country’s all-weather ally $46 billion worth of investment in energy and infrastructure projects. This, to give some perspective to the many zeros in that amount, is reportedlythree times more than the figure Pakistan has received in foreign direct investment in the past eight years.

Xi’s trip was an occasion for celebration for Islamabad and at the same time it was an opportunity for the two nations to flaunt their closeness. Prior to leaving Beijing, Xi said he felt as if he was going to visit the home of his own brother. Reciprocating the camaraderie, Pakistan sent a fleet of JF-17 fighter jets, which it jointly developed with China, to escort Xi’s plane into Islamabad. At the capital’s airport the reception party included the country’s two power centres, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Army chief Raheel Sharif, as well as President Mamnoon Hussain.

Pakistani politicians decry "unfair" China corridor route

By Gul Yousafzai

QUETTA, Pakistan (Reuters) - Politicians in Pakistan complained on Wednesday that a plan for projects worth $46 billion to be built with Chinese funding has been unfairly changed to the disadvantage of two provinces.

Chinese President Xi Jinping launched the plan in Pakistan on Monday. It involves energy and infrastructure projects linking the neighbours' economies and creating an "economic corridor" between Pakistan's Gwadar port and China's western Xinjiang region.

Gwadar is on the Arabian Sea in Baluchistan, Pakistan's poorest and least populous province, where rebels have waged a separatist insurgency for decades, complaining that richer provinces unfairly exploit their mineral and gas resources.

The insurgency has raised doubts about the corridor, a network of roads, railways and pipelines. To minimise the risk, government planners have shifted its route east, to bypass as much of Baluchistan as possible, Baluchistan politicians said.

Sugar Daddy Xi Jinping is effectively reducing Pakistan to a vassal state

Apr 21, 2015 

It is difficult for India to not be seriously concerned by the massive $46 billion investment that China plans to make in Pakistan. The agreements being signed during the ongoing visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Pakistan will bring much-needed investment in roads and power plants. A 3,000-km economic corridor will link China to the Chinese-built port of Gwadar, enabling more trade with West Asia.

The security implications for India are clear. First, it could economically strengthen Pakistan and bring the Chinese army closer to our western borders. Second, US influence on Pakistan will reduce, as Pakistan gets into a closer embrace with China. And third, Chinese access to Gwadar port makes it a potential economic and political player in Afghanistan and Iran too.

Don't Let China Swallow Taiwan

With the prospects of a transition of power next year, the punditry is once again shifting into high gear with alarmist messages about the risk of renewed tensions in the Taiwan Strait. As always, it is the Taiwanese side—not only the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) but also the millions of Taiwanese who want to maintain their way of life—that is being blamed for the potential risks, not the bully on the other side who is aiming his canons at the island.

What is even more extraordinary about this lopsided logic is that its adherents do recognize the extraordinary accomplishments that have been made by Taiwan over the decades. And yet they still find it within themselves to propose policies that are as defeatist as they are bereft of human decency—or logic, for that matter, as we shall see.

The East Is Crimson

Harvard and China have one thing in common: They both consider themselves to be the center of the world. So, it was always inevitable that when the scandal that brought down Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai broke, the repercussions would be felt, somehow, in Cambridge. The connection, it turned out, was Bo Guagua, the son of the disgraced Communist official. The younger Bo was a graduate student at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. In April, he stopped attending classes and was seenleaving his off-campus apartment with what appeared to be a security detail.

The fact that Bo Guagua was a couple months from his Harvard degree has sparked interest in the number of so-called princelings—the offspring of powerful Chinese Communist Party officials—attending elite U.S. universities. It’s actually not very rare. Xi Jinping, China’s vice president, is expected to become China’s top leader this fall. His daughter is a Harvard undergrad. Two recent top party leaders—Zhao Ziyang and Jiang Zemin—had grandchildren who attended Harvard. Jia Qinglin , one of China’s most senior officials, has a granddaughter at Stanford. In fact, according to Andrew Higgins and Maureen Fan, at least five of the nine members of the Politburo Standing Committee, China’s top decision-making body, have children or grandchildren who have studied in the United States. 

Revealed: How the Yemen Crisis Wrecked Xi Jinping's Middle East Travel Plans

April 22, 2015

Xi’s planned trip to Saudi Arabia was scrapped, and even his visit to Pakistan faced complications. 

Until a few weeks ago, people around the world were wondering which countries Xi Jinping would visit for his first trip abroad in 2015. There was no doubt that Pakistan would be on the itinerary, but it was also thought likely that Xi would travel to the Middle East to visit Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Since assuming the presidency two years ago, Xi has been to almost every region of the world, even visiting far-away Latin America twice. But he hasn’t yet been to the Middle East, an important region located directly on the planned route for the “One Belt, One Road” strategy. Besides Xi, Premier Li Keqiang also hasn’t stopped in the Middle East, to the regret of many Middle Eastern countries. To remedy the situation, the Middle East was to be included in Xi’s April trip, according to Chinese diplomatic sources.

The World Doesn't Think Much of China’s Leaders (Literally)

April 22, 2015

China’s leaders are most popular in Africa, but face high disapproval ratings in the West and parts of Asia. 

Gallup has released a new poll on global public opinion regarding the leadership of U.S., China, Russia, the EU, and Germany. While most media coverage, including Gallup’s own summary, focused on the perceptions of the U.S. and Russia, the survey also contains interesting tidbits about how the world views China’s top leadership under President Xi Jinping. The data mostly serves to reinforce expectations – that China is more popular in the developing worlds (particularly among African countries) and is looked on with suspicion by the West.


April 23, 2015 

The recent takeover of Yemen’s fifth largest city of al-Mukalla by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) highlights the growing strength of the organization. While AQAP has certainly taken advantage of the more chaotic environment as a consequence of the Houthi’s war in the south and the Saudi air campaign, the group has in fact been gearing up its own overt military campaign since last summer. Therefore, even if there is an eventual ceasefire between the Houthis and the Saudis, AQAP will continue fighting and operating on its own terms.

Starting in late July 2014, AQAP made a concerted media effort for the first time to actively report and take credit for its military operations on an almost daily basis. This differed from its past pattern of only commenting on large-scale operations. In part, AQAP did this to bring attention to its new military campaign, two years after it had been kicked out of southern cities by the Yemeni military and local popular committees after governing from the spring of 2011 to the summer of 2012.

Julie Bishop in Iran

Australia’s ties with Iran have seen a boost this weekend just passed. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop used her 36-hour trip to Tehran – the first high-level Australian visit to Iran in more than a decade – to cover a lot of ground: repatriation of some asylum seekers, nuclear issues, and intelligence sharing between the two nations. It is this last point that is the most important and unusual.

Iran will share intelligence gathered from its operatives fighting in Iraq with Australia. This would have been unthinkable a few years ago, but Iran’s greater willingness to make some concessions on its nuclear program in return for the lifting of sanctions, a measure of liberalism under President Hassan Rouhani, and the expediency of new alliances in the face of Islamic State threats have helped to drive new and closer ties.

Survivors Tell of Syria’s Underground Railroad to Europe


WURZBURG, Germany — “It was pitch black. We were groping our way through the forest, hoping to hear water soon. I’d seen the maps and spoken to others who had done the journey before—I knew that once we reached the river, we would nearly be in Greece.”

This was no orienteering exercise. It was a long-awaited attempt to enter Europe.

In 2014, 23-year-old Yousef made the perilous overland journey from Turkey to Germany, fleeing Syria where he had been imprisoned for organizing peaceful protests. Many people make this journey with the help of paid smugglers, but Yousef had spent the months beforehand poring over maps of Europe, filling his camera phone with screenshot aerial views of the terrain and learning village names by heart.

Shameless: The UN Fiddles While Syria Burns

April 22, 2015 

“Unless the Council delivers on its call for accountability, including an arms embargo, it risks losing credibility.”

That remark from Philippe Bilopion, the United Nations Director at the global rights watchdog Human Rights Watch, rings loud and clear to the countless civil servants, analysts, and policymakers who have been focusing on the horror that is the Syrian civil war over the past four years. It’s a simple statement, but one that describes perfectly how irrelevant and ineffectual the United Nations Security Council has been on the issue of Syria. Put simply — and in the bluntest terms possible — the Security Council has been an absolute embarrassment, an elite multilateral body that time and again has been unable to pass the most basic of resolutions on the conflict.

The New York Times “basically rewrites whatever the Kiev authorities say”: Stephen F. Cohen on the U.S./Russia/Ukraine history the media won’t tell you

It is one thing to comment in a column as the Ukrainian crisis grinds on and Washington—senselessly, with no idea of what will come next—destroys relations with Moscow. It is quite another, as a long exchange with Stephen F. Cohen makes clear, to watch as an honorable career’s worth of scholarly truths are set aside in favor of unlawful subterfuge, a war fever not much short of Hearst’s and what Cohen ranks among the most extravagant expansion of a sphere of influence—NATO’s—in history.

Cohen is a distinguished Russianist by any measure. While professing at Princeton and New York University, he has written of the revolutionary years (“Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution,” 1973), the Soviet era (“Rethinking the Soviet Experience,” 1985) and, contentiously but movingly and always with a steady eye, the post-Soviet decades (“Failed Crusade: America and the Tragedy of Post-Communist Russia, 2000; “Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives,” 2009). 

South Korea Is Planning a Huge Increase in Defense Spending

April 22, 2015

On Monday, South Korea said that its defense budget would grow markedly over the next five years amid a growing perception of threats from North Korea.

According to Yonhap News, South Korean defense spending will grow by $214.7 billion (232 trillion won) between 2016 and 2020. The annual rate of increase will be roughly 7 percent.

About $143.2 billion of the projected budget injection will go toward the maintenance cost of troops and the remainder will go toward improving military capabilities, including investments in research and development for South Korea’s preemptive strike, missile defense, and air defense apparatuses.

Extending an Olive Branch: Rebuilding Turkish-Armenian Relations

One hundred years after the Ottoman-era atrocities against the Armenians, a fierce battle is still being fought between Turkey and Armenia over historical truth. In this war, politicians and lobbyists have replaced the generals, and international legislative bodies serve as battlegrounds where history and politics are mixed, often irresponsibly.

On April 24, Armenians around the world annually commemorate the mass atrocities that were perpetrated against them by the Ottoman Empire during World War I. Most historians put the number of Armenian Christians who perished at between 1 million and 1.5 million and consider the events to have been genocide. Turkish authorities, however, have contested these figures and rejected the use of the term genocide. The official Turkish position instead attributes the deaths and displacements to the broader context of the war, during which many Muslims, Turks, and other minority groups also perished. Although the scholarly record is not ambiguous, Turkish officials have advocated for the formation of an international commission of historians to study the matter before a definitive conclusion is reached.


April 22, 2015 
Intelligence Reform 2.0: Here Are Six Ways To Make Sure America’s Leaders And Troops Get The Intelligence They Need


David Shedd and Matthew Ferraro have an article on the DefenseOne.com website this morning discussing their thoughts and ideas for Intelligence Community (IC) reform; which if implemented they argue, would improve the content and quality of intelligence our leaders and soldiers need. The authors note that “ten years ago this month, American intelligence agencies were reorganized [in an attempt to] to prevent another 9/11,” from occurring. The two argue that “now the IC needs even more radical transformation — as national security challenges grow, budgets decrease, and questions arise about the intelligence’s [surveillance, reconnaissance, and production] place within an open society. The key to addressing these challenges,” the two authors argue, “will be building a more integrated intelligence enterprise…that demonstrates its value to the American people.” With that conclusion as the backdrop, the two authors suggest the following six major initiatives — if adopted — would put the IC on a path to adapt to the ‘new’ national security landscape.

1) The CIA Must Fully Implement Its Reorganization Plan: Mr. Shedd and Mr. Ferraro note that CIA Director John Brennan has already begun the broadest reorganization and focus of the agency since the 1970’s — “integrating its capabilities around specific subjects, and geographic regions. The agency has successfully, beta-tested this kind of collaboration for years,” the two men acknowledge; “but, if the past is prologue, this reform will be arduous, in an organization that is averse to major reforms. For this transformation to succeed,” they argue, “CIA will need to foster the highest level of skills necessary for successful clandestine operations and analysis, establish clear career development paths for its personnel, and ensure ongoing support from the President — well past 2016.”

American Strategy and Critical Changes in US “Energy Import Dependence"

APR 21, 2015 

Changes in energy technology and in the way oil and gas reserves are estimated, are raising serious questions about the future of US dependence on energy imports, and how this affects US strategy. While future projections remain highly uncertain, and various sources differ sharply in detail, official US projections show a steady decline in the level of future direct import dependence almost regardless of the type of dependence involved.

These projections are shown in detail, along with the necessary graphics and trend analyses in the full version of this report, which is available on the CSIS web site athttp://csis.org/publication/american-strategy-and-critical-changes-us-energy-import-dependence. The key conclusions and supporting data are summarize in this Executive Summary.

Since at least 2012, projections by the International 

Energy Agency (IEA), and the Energy Information Agency (EIA) of the US Department of Energy have reported that a combination of new technologies and more diverse sources of fossil and other fuels could give the US enough annual output of all forms of energy to be a net exporter of energy.

Since those 2012 estimates, projections of US energy output relative to demand have increased, and the projections that the EIA issued in April 2015 now project that total US energy import dependence based on national energy consumption in BTUs will drop from 30% in 2005 and roughly 10% in 2013, to approximately 5%-8% in most scenarios during 2020-2030. The US would be a net exporter of energy at levels of 10-25% after 2025-2030 in the “high oil price” and “high oil and gas resource” scenarios.