11 May 2015

Govt to monitor shipping in South China Sea

Ajay Banerjee 
May 11 2015 

The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) has okayed a plan to virtually keep an eye on shipping in the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea, an act that is clearly aimed at monitoring the Chinese shipping of oil and gas, without saying so. 

The CCS, which is headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has approved a plan to collate shipping information from 24 countries located as far and wide as those on African East Coast that is the Indian Ocean to the South China Sea, where five countries are locked in bitter territorial dispute with China. Beijing is not one of the countries on the 24-country grouping. 

Navy Chief Admiral Robin Dhowan in an interview to The Tribune said: “We have the CCS approval to go ahead for collating white shipping (non-military shipping) information. We will go country by country to have greater transparency of what all (ships) passes through these waters.” 

Sources said ground-based, airborne and space-based monitoring systems in these countries will pick up information about all ships but will share only the data of merchant shipping. 

On being asked if China has protested the new 24-country maritime information sharing, the Admiral said: “I don’t think there is any reason for that. It’s not an alliance. It is not against any country nor is it a grouping of countries.” 

Breakthrough in India-Bangladesh ties


“India’s land and maritime boundary agreements with Bangladesh also show that intractable issues can be wrapped up between neighbours within an overall relationship of growing trust and friendship.” Picture shows the Akhaura Indo-Bangladesh border post.

The Indian Parliament’s momentous ratification of the India-Bangladesh Land Boundary Agreement has paved the way for further expansion of ties between the two countries.
The passage of the Bill ratifying the 1974 India-Bangladesh Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) is a sign that India’s ‘neighbourhood-first’ policy is beginning to work. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s deftness in reversing course on this issue within his party and winning support from all others enabled him to fulfil the assurance he had extended to his Bangladeshi counterpart last September in New York.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina hailed the event as a new milestone in bilateral relations. The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), in the name of its Chairperson, Khaleda Zia, described the passage of the Amendment “an important day in our national life.”

Significance of LBA

India’s relations with Bangladesh had already taken a distinctly positive course since Sheikh Hasina’s 2010 visit to New Delhi. The LBA’s unanimous endorsement is seen in Bangladesh as an affirmation of the general attitude of friendliness towards it in India. “What it has done,” says Shamsul Bari, a prominent resident of Dhaka, “is to create a positive image for India in Bangladesh.” It reflects the resolve of India’s leadership to be fair towards a country that has demonstrated goodwill for India by taking action against insurgent leaders sheltering within its territory, as also its readiness to partner India on mutually supportive connectivity and infrastructure initiatives.

India and China in a multipolar world

Sanjaya Baru.

If China rejects an imperialist view of history and believes in the creation of a multipolar world of the pre-imperial era, then it can work with India and other world powers. What path China chooses for itself will determine how other nations respond to its rise. For India, the task is cut out

A week before marking the first anniversary of his assumption of office, Prime Minister Narendra Modi ends his year of hectic diplomacy with a visit to China. For India, no other bilateral relationship is more complex and challenging than the one with its biggest neighbour. Fortunately, the mistakes that could have been made by India’s political leadership in dealing with a big neighbour were limited mostly to the very first decade of the republic. For half a century, India has been on a learning curve.

Jawaharlal Nehru’s errors of judgment in dealing with China cast a long shadow on bilateral relations. Every Prime Minister since has tread cautiously, perhaps far too cautiously, in dealing with China. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh once said that he had devoted considerable time to reading carefully through the Nehru files on China so as not to repeat any of his predecessor’s mistakes. I guess every Prime Minister would have done that and Mr. Modi may well have done this too.

Chinese assertiveness in Asia

But, Nehru’s errors of judgment were not inevitable. Indeed, we now know that as early as on November 7, 1950, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel had cautioned Nehru about the trust deficit in the bilateral relationship and of China’s expansionist instincts in Asia. Patel’s prescient and cautionary note to Nehru, buried in government files for decades, was made public a decade ago and is now freely available on the Internet.

If China annexed Tibet in Nehru’s time, it now seeks to usurp maritime territory in South China Sea. Time was when Chairman Mao Zedong dubbed the Soviets as “social imperialists”. No one has yet so branded China. However, unlike in the 1950s when the world adopted a more benign approach to China’s land grab, there has been greater concern about China’s assertiveness in Asia which has put its leadership on notice. While the Western leadership seems to be in disarray in responding to China’s smart diplomatic forays, India has pursued a balanced and wise policy of engaging China at every possible level while remaining on full alert in dealing with Chinese assertiveness.

Those Troubled Peaks Greater Chinese presence in Gilgit-Baltistan lends it geo-strategic significance

Source Link
Sushant Singh:May 11, 2015 

This huge territory, more than six times the size of so-called Azad Kashmir and part of the erstwhile princely state of J&K, was known as the Northern Frontier during British rule.

The tragic deaths of the ambassadors of the Philippines and Norway, and the wives of the Malaysian and Indonesian ambassadors, in a helicopter crash in Gilgit-Baltistan has drawn the world’s gaze to that remote, mountainous region. It was also in the news last month, when Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) from Xinjiang to the Gwadar port. Much of the CPEC passes through Gilgit-Baltistan.

Though under Pakistani control, the region’s legal status remains ambiguous. It does not find mention in Pakistan’s constitution. It is not a province of Pakistan. In 1994, Pakistan’s supreme court said these areas “are part of Jammu and Kashmir state but are not part of ‘Azad Kashmir’”.

This huge territory, more than six times the size of so-called Azad Kashmir and part of the erstwhile princely state of J&K, was known as the Northern Frontier during British rule. It came under Pakistan’s control after November 4, 1947, when the British commander of Gilgit Scouts, Major William Alexander Brown, declared its accession to Pakistan. Brown, who was awarded the MBE and the Star of Pakistan, was an employee of the maharaja of Kashmir. In his book, The Gilgit Rebellion, he says, “as a liberal member of the world’s paragon of democracy, I considered that the whole of Kashmir, including Gilgit Province, [should] unquestionably go to Pakistan in view of the fact that the population was predominantly Muslim. Partisan, traitor, revolutionary, I may have been, but that evening my sentiments dictated that if the Maharaja acceded to India, then I would forego all the allegiance to him”. In April 1949, the region was dissociated from Pakistan-occupied Azad Kashmir, named the Northern Areas of Pakistan and placed under the direct control of a joint secretary in the federal ministry of Kashmir affairs and Northern Areas affairs.

Beyond the boundary

Modi is not defensive about India’s expanding relationship with America. Nor is he whining about China’s all-weather partnership with Pakistan.

By joining the microblogging site, Weibo, a week before he heads out to China, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is persisting with a bold effort to loosen up a relationship that has been in a straitjacket for too long. Last year, when President Xi Jinping came to India, Modi insisted on receiving him first in the capital of his home state, Ahmedabad, and serenaded him on the Sabarmati waterfront.

It is now Xi’s turn to reciprocate. He is hosting the PM in his hometown, Xian, before the formal talks begin in Beijing. Xian is also the ancient capital of China and the focal point of Xi’s signature “one belt, one road” initiative, which seeks to connect, over land, far corners of Eurasia to the Indo-Pacific littoral across the seas. The two leaders will also travel to the Wild Goose Pagoda, which honours Xuanzang, the 7th century Buddhist monk who travelled to India. The PM has often reminded his Chinese interlocutors that Xuanzang had visited Gujarat and spent time in his birthplace, Vadnagar.

Many in Delhi wonder why Modi is so obsessed with these “secondary” cultural issues and not focused on the boundary dispute that has loomed large on India’s relationship with China since the middle of the last century. The traditionalists are right in sensing that Modi is abandoning the old approaches to China. Three broad themes have emerged out of his effort to reframe India’s China relationship.
One is Modi’s determination to widen the basis of the engagement with Beijing. For far too long, small parts of the national security establishment have controlled the narrative, the vocabulary and the agenda of the bilateral relationship. The rest of the Central government, let alone the state governments, business and civil society, has not had any real voice in shaping the very important ties with China.

Those Challenging India's Resolve to Crack Down on Foreign NGOs Can Do So At Their Own Peril

By Prabhu Chawla,10th May 2015 

Diplomacy is defence by design and offence through opprobrium. Envoys are expected to defend their countries even at the cost of giving offence by distorting facts and disseminating fiction. But it is undiplomatic to threaten their host country or embarrass a friendly nation. But the US ambassador to India, Richard R Verma, ignored the basic principles of civilised protocol. Last week, when the NDA government acted to ensure accountability in India’s money-minting NGO sector, Verma leapt to their aid and exculpation. Instead of using diplomatic channels to convey his government’s concerns to the home ministry, Verma chose a public platform to put the Indian government on the mat. Upset with its action against Greenpeace and Ford Foundation, Verma reflected a rare anger against Indian establishment. Speaking on the Indo-US relations, he warned, “I read with some concern the recent press reports on challenges faced by NGOs operating in India... Because a vibrant civil society is so important to both of our democratic traditions, I do worry about the potentially chilling effects of these regulatory steps focused on NGOs.” He didn’t elaborate on what he meant by the temperature metaphor, but it is evident that the US is wary of the home ministry’s order on severe scrutiny of the functioning of a large number of foreign-funded charitable organisations. It isn’t for the first time that the government decided to investigate the real motives behind the mushrooming of NGOs in India. Ever since the BJP government took over in May 2014, it has served notice on over 9,000 NGOs which failed to comply with Indian laws. Verma didn’t object then, because none of them were funded by American corporate entities or charities. His indignation surfaced only when the US outfits came under scrutiny. Last week, the government decided to probe the bank accounts of the Gates Foundation over discrepancies between the money received and spent. The foundation has refuted the allegations. Verma should have kept in mind that the scrutiny by Indian agencies is far more lenient than that of American agencies on their own charity organisations. Some of their 15-point charter of guidelines are:

Can India Join the Nuclear Suppliers Group?

In 2008, the NSG exempted India from the requirement adopted by the NSG in 1992 banning nuclear cooperation with any state that had not accepted IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) comprehensive safeguards. That move allowed India to engage in nuclear trade with NSG members. India is now bidding for NSG membership. It is argued that exempting India once again from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) condition would undermine the Group. The process of negotiations during the NSG waiver enables us to examine the prospects of India becoming a member.

India received the NSG waiver after some tough negotiations. India got its exemption on the basis of certain non-proliferation commitments to which it agreed under the India-US Civilian Nuclear Agreement. These commitments included separating its civilian and military nuclear facilities in a phased manner; placing civil nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards; signing and adhering to the IAEA’s Additional Protocol; continuing its unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing; working with the United States for the conclusion of the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT); refraining from the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing technology to states that do not have them and supporting international efforts to limit their spread; introducing comprehensive export control legislation to secure nuclear material; and adhering to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and NSG guidelines.

The Unfulfilled Potential of India-Indonesia Relations

By Tridivesh Singh Maini
May 10, 2015

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will soon be completing his first full year in office. While he has his critics, there tends to be broad agreement that Modi has done a robust job in the sphere of foreign policy. Modi’s approach has focused on economics, soft power, connectivity, and maritime security. Modi has been deft at using what Joseph Nye has dubbed “smart power” – the right blend of soft power and hard power.

The government’s policy towards Southeast Asia – previously called “Look East” and now renamed “Act East”has sought to be comprehensive. Some clear instances of this can be found in relations with Myanmar. Not only is India focusing on enhancing land connectivity, with an eye to boosting the level of bilateral trade, but it is also keen to boost connectivity through the sea as well, for instance with the start of a bi-weekly steamer service connecting Chennai with Yangon.

While the active outreach to Myanmar is welcome, given its strong historical and cultural links, another country that warrants more Indian attention is Indonesia. Now is an appropriate time to re-examine the relationship, given that only recently a conference was held at Bandung to mark the 60th anniversary of the first African-Asian meeting, where the then Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Indonesian President Sukarno were amongst the leading lights. This conference led eventually to the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which has remained one of the cornerstones of India’s foreign policy.

Rethinking China’s Maritime Militia Policy

By Zhang Hongzhou
May 10, 2015

Given its transboundary nature, marine fishing inevitably carries an important political and diplomatic function, particularly in waters where disputes exist. It is no secret that China, Vietnam, and other countries in the Asia-Pacific have considered fishermen important players in strengthening its maritime presence in disputed waters. They are provided with financial and political support to undertake fishing activities in the contested waters, while countries have been known to deploy fishing boats to confront each other during maritime crises. For instance, both China and Vietnam dispatched fishing vessels during the recent 981 oil rig row.

In recent years, amid rising tensions in the South China Sea and East China Sea, the region has witnessed a growing number of incidents involving Chinese fishing boats. Some of these incidents have sparked tensions between China and its neighbors. While it is an exaggeration for some commentators to conclude that China is waging a “People’s War” at sea, there is no denying that the Chinese government has taken steps to strengthen the fishing industry’s role in protecting the country’s maritime interests in the disputed waters and that developing a strong fishing fleet is being considered an integral approach to become a sea power.

At Russia's Military Parade, Putin and Xi Cement Ties

May 09, 2015

On May 9, tanks, troops, missile launchers, and even cavalry filled Moscow’s Red Square, in what RT calledthe largest military parade in Russian or Soviet history since World War II. The grand parade, complete with bombers and fighter jets flying overhead, was held to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Germany’s surrender to the Allied powers. Watching the event alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin was China’s president, Xi Jinping. With Western leaders from Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States choosing not to attend, Xi and Putin’s solidarity was a clear sign of Russia and China’s growing convergence.

However, Xi was far from the only foreign leader in attendance. As Katie Putz noted for The Diplomat, top leaders from Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan were all present , as were the presidents of India and Vietnam. The parade itself was also international, with soldiers from Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, India, Mongolia, Serbia, and China all taking part.

Information Warfare: The Phony War With China

May 7, 2015: The U.S. has publicly and privately warned China that America would begin fighting back in response to continuing Chinese efforts, via the Internet hacking to spy, steal and suppress media in the West, especially the United States. This became more of an issue after China recently began using state sponsored Internet censorship technology to shut down web sites outside China that Chinese officials found “offensive”. Attacks against anti-Chinese sites has been going on for years but the latest effort, using massive DDOS attacks on foreign websites, gave the Chinese effort a name; the “Great Cannon”.

This was seen in the West as an act of war. This, the U.S. pointed, was crossing a line and retaliation was now a possibility. The Chinese were caught using their own resources (the Great Firewall of China and other Chinese Internet companies) to shut down foreign websites with DDOS attacks. Ironically the techniques used to deploy the Great Cannon were first made public when an NSA employee released a large number of NSA documents, one of which described how something like the “Great Cannon” would work. While the U.S. never used those techniques, China has and seems willing to keep escalating its use of the Internet to get whatever it wants. China appears to feel that the West is unwilling (but certainly, as the leaked NSA documents showed, not unable) to reply.

These Were China’s Top 10 Cyber Security Threats in 2014


The formation of the Small Leading Group on Information Security and Internet Management. Formed in February, the group signaled the increasing importance of cyber to Chinese interests and greater attention to policy making from the highest levels of government. In the words of President Xi Jinping, who leads the group, “No information security, no national security. No informatization, no modernization.” 

Microsoft stops supporting Windows XP. XP is thirteen years old, so it was to be expected that support would end. The program is, however, still widely used in China—over 70 percent of computers, or close to 200 million users—still use the program. No support means no patches and updates, creating a massive security threat for China. Just one more thing China can be annoyed with Microsoft about. 

First National Cybersecurity Awareness Week in Beijing. Held in November, the event involved central agencies as well as provinces and municipalities. It educated the public about phishing, telecom fraud, online rumors, and other topics and will be staged annually. China joins a growing list of countries and organizations sponsoring cybersecurity awareness campaigns that includes the United States,Australia, Canada, the Organization of American States, and the European Union

China’s $46 billion gamble

May 8, 2015
Sanjay Kapoor

Chinese President Xi Jinping's announcement of a massive $46 billion investment in Pakistan during his recent visit to Islamabad left observers in Washington, Riyadh and New Delhi in serious shell shock. 

In these days of austerity and economic slowdown, nobody goes around buying up countries. But, by all appearances, that’s exactly what China has done. 

The mammoth scheme to develop a 3,200-km industrial corridor linking the Pakistani port of Gwadar and the western Chinese city of Kashgar, in Xinjiang province, dwarfs the handouts Pakistan has received from the US or from benevolent Saudi Arabia. 

From those allies, Islamabad has got driblets – always in the form of some kind of performance-linked funds. For the Saudis, that meant: Open so many madrassas and make people wear short pyjamas and long beards. I am not sure whether chasing out the Shia Muslims, too, figured on the Saudi wish list. The US demands were a bit more complicated, ranging from pampering the Mujahideen when the Soviets were occupying Afghanistan to smoking the same militants out when they were declared the enemy after 9/11. The US government also expects no more than a token protest when it violates Pakistan’s sovereignty when sending out its murderous drones to kill Taliban militants. And it expects Islamabad to turn a blind eye to the killing of innocents – called “collateral damage” – in these same attacks. As of November 2014, supposedly “clinical and precise” attacks by US drones had killed 1,147 people, though they were targetting only 41, according to human rights group Reprieve. One can only wonder what the total might have been if they hadn't been so careful. 

Pentagon Releases 2015 Report on Chinese Military

May 8, 2015

The Pentagon has just released its annual report to Congress on the Chinese military entitled Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2015. 

This year’s report is 98 pages long, including charts and maps, and includes chapters on Chinese security strategy,force modernization goals and trends, resources allocated for military and security modernization. forces allocated towards a “Taiwan Contingency,” U.S.-China military-to-military contacts, Chinese space activities, Chinese missile defense activities, and recent Chinese land reclamation activities in the South China Seas, 

The full report can be read here.

Saudi Arabia Says Coalition Airstrikes Hit Houthi Terror Hub In Yemen

The coalition airstrikes, led by Saudi Arabia, targeted the key areas held by Houthi rebels at Sadaa in Yemen in the past 24 hours, destroying a communication facility, rebel headquarters and places where arms and ammunition were stored.

The air raids, which began on Friday evening, also successfully targeted rebel camps and gatherings, the Coalition Command said.

It urged civilians to stay away from Houthi gatherings and their military sites.

“We have kept two options open — military support to Operation Restoring Hope and, at the same time, a fitting response to those who carried out attacks on the cities of Najran and Jazan,” defense spokesman Brig. Gen. Ahmed Al-Assiri told reporters at the Riyadh airbase on Saturday.

The coalition forces carried out 130 airstrikes targeting 100 sites in Sadaa, Maran, Albiqaa and the borders between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Yemen, he said.

In a propaganda war against ISIS, the U.S. tried to play by the enemy’s rules

Greg Miller and Scott Higham
May 8, 2015

As fighters surged into Syria last summer, a video surfaced online with the grisly imagery and sneering tone of a propaganda release from the Islamic State.

“Run, do not walk, to ISIS Land,” read the opening line of a script that promised new arrivals would learn “useful new skills” such as “crucifying and executing Muslims.” The words were juxtaposed with images of the terrorist group’s atrocities: kneeling prisoners shot point-blank; severed heads positioned next to a propped-up corpse; limp bodies left hanging from crosses in public squares.

The source of the video was revealed only in its closing frame: the U.S. Department of State.

“Welcome to ISIS Land” was in some ways a breakthrough for the U.S. government after years of futility in attempting to compete with the propaganda of al-Qaeda and its off-shoots. The video became a viral phenomenon — viewed more than 844,000 times on YouTube — and a cause of significant irritation to its target.

But the minute-long recording also became a flash point in a much broader debate over how far the United States should go in engaging with a barbaric adversary online.

The clip was assembled by a special unit at the State Department charged with finding ways to contain the spread of militant Islamist ideology. The Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications, or CSCC, had direct backing from President Obama, help from the CIA, and teams of Arabic, Urdu and Somali speakers who were thrust into the fray on Twitter and other social-media platforms.


May 8, 2015 

I’ve always been skeptical of the kind of historical op-ed that relies on building some absurdly precise parallel between a contemporary political event and an obscure precedent from the past. The Greek debt crisis really isn’t all that similar to the Fourth Crusade, post-9/11 America isn’t really reminiscent of fin-de-siècle Vienna, etc. But given the ongoing debate over the Islamic nature of ISIS, I can’t resist throwing caution to the wind and offering my own contribution to the genre: Baron Roman Fedorovich von Ungern-Sternberg — The Buddhist al-Baghdadi. If nothing else, the gruesome adventures of an aristocratic 1920s Buddhist convert provide one more bit of evidence for why we should understand ISIS in a political or structural context, rather than a specifically Islamic one.

The most dramatic account of Baron Ungern-Sternberg’s reign of terror is undoubtedly the 1922 classic Beasts, Men and Gods, penned by Polish adventurer Ferdinand Ossendowski. Ossendowski’s tale of meeting Ungern-Sternberg in Mongolia while fleeing the Red Army makes for engaging reading, though that may have something to do with long-standing accusations that he made up the most engaging parts of it. Yet when it comes to the outline of Ungern-Sternberg’s career, as well as the depths of his savagery, the essentials of Ossendowski’s book are all supported by Peter Hopkirk’s better-documented and still quite engaging book, Setting the East Ablaze.

The Gulf States: America's New Taiwan?

May 8, 2015 

The upcoming Camp David Summit with nervous Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) leaders has the Obama administration casting about for ways to enhance security assurances. Fearful that a probable nuclear accord with Iran would mark a strategic shift from the Arab Gulf toward Iran as regional guarantor (with the United States then ducking out to pivot to Asia), GCC countries are understandably speculating on a worst-case scenario.

America abandoning its largely informal security ties to the GCC, however, is highly unlikely. Even if negotiators reach a nuclear accord with Iran, there is no linkage of an agreement to any wider U.S.-Middle East strategy. In fact, the divorce of the Iran deal from any larger U.S. strategy was one of the major criticisms that former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz made of the administration in an influential Wall Street Journal commentary.

Nonetheless, given the U.S. role as security guarantor in the Gulf, such fears cannot be wished away. The body language and occasional White House hints suggest it hopes that a nuclear accord with Iran would lead to a thaw in U.S.-Iranian relations and new cooperation in other areas. Such a fading enmity makes the Gulf’s fears almost inevitable.

Report on Operation INHERENT RESOLVE: What Have 9 Months of Airstrikes in Iraq and Syria Accomplished?

Micah Zenko
May 8, 2015

Today marks the nine month anniversary since the start of the U.S.-led air campaign, later named Operation Inherent Resolve, against the self-declared Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria. The air war, which Secretary of State John Kerry thendescribed as definitively not a war, but rather “a heightened level of counterterrorism operation,” shows no sign of ending. U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) Commander Gen. Lloyd Austintold the House Armed Services Committee in March, “The enemy is now in a ‘defensive crouch,’ and is unable to conduct major operations.” The Pentagon has released a series of maps that purportedly detail the loss of territory under control by IS. However, the number and competence of Iraqi and Kurdish ground forces required to ultimately defeat IS militants on the ground, and then control, secure, and administer newly freed territory, are lacking. In an unnoticed indicator found in the prepared testimonybefore the House Armed Services Committee, two U.S. Air Force lieutenant generals acknowledged: “These combat operations are expected to continue long-term (3+ years).” 

U.S. officials have gone to great lengths to emphasize the contribution of coalition members in conducting airstrikes against IS, and, in September, evenrefused to expand the scope of its targets until those partners publicly committed their support. It is no surprise, given its vastly larger and more proficient aerial capabilities, that the United States has been the primary source of all airstrikes against IS, even while the number of participating militaries has increased from nine to twelve since September. The table below breaks down coalition support for the 3,731 air strikes.

European War Games: Responses to Russian Military Drills

MAY 5, 2015 

Several events have coincided to demonstrate the dynamic, if not guarded, relationship between Russia and the Nordic and Baltic states. Ten NATO countries and Sweden launched a two-week planned exercise in the North Sea on May 4 to improve their anti-submarine warfare capabilities. On the same day, Finland — not a NATO member — began mailing letters to about 900,000 reservists informing them of their roles in a potential crisis situation. Meanwhile, Sweden's Foreign Ministry formally complained to Russian authorities that Russian navy ships were disrupting cable-laying work in waters between Sweden and Lithuania, the latest in a series of formal complaints over Russia's activity in the area. Concurrently, the Swedish and Lithuanian foreign ministers met with Moldova's pro-West leaders in Chisinau.

All of these events confirm that the Nordic and Baltic states are working to boost security cooperation in response to Russia's military activity in the region. Consequently, the security buildup will continue — on both sides.

Russian military activity, especially flights, along NATO's borders has increased in past months. In March, Russian military activity in the Black Sea, Baltic Sea and along the Finnish border spiked as part of snap drills simulating a full-scale confrontation with the West. The exercises were not so much a direct threat to the region as a colossal demonstration of Russian capability against NATO and other regional powers, particularly Baltic and Nordic countries.

All Eyes On Camp David Meet With GCC Leaders – OpEd

By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

US President Barack Obama is known for his persuasive talents. Indeed, the upcoming Camp David summit may not only ease the minds of the invited GCC leaders and calm the anger aroused by the impending Iranian nuclear agreement. It may also turn a new page in the history of the region. Still, we are skeptical, because the task seems too difficult and complex to achieve.

Obama’s initiative has been a positive step following the series of negative measures the Gulf countries believe the US has taken against them in the negotiations with Iran — measures they feel have failed to take into account the enormous risks to other countries in the region. One writer, defending Obama, argues that the president’s open policy of seeking to resolve old tensions is not limited to Iran; he reinitiated ties with Cuba after 50 years, without imposing any conditions on Havana.

However, it is wrong to compare Iran with Cuba. Iran is a malignant force, while Cuba is benign and no longer represents a threat to any party. Tehran’s religious ideology is based on change and domination; it took part in the violence in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Bahrain, Gaza, Yemen, Sudan and Central Africa, and further afield; Iran has been active in Southeast Asia, and involved in the bombings in Argentina. Cuba’s hostile military and political activities, on the other hand, ended at the beginning of the millennium, a decade and a half ago.

Putin Continues to Push Miitary Modernization Program Despite Russia’s Economic Woes

Jonathan Marcus
May 8, 2015

Russia’s 9 May military parade in Red Square has added significance this year.

The 70th anniversary of victory in World War Two is an opportunity for the Russian military to show off some of its latest equipment.

And President Vladimir Putin can demonstrate to his own people, and to the world, that Russia is back in the military equivalent of the premier league.

Russia’s armed forces modernisation is still very much a work in progress. But the fighting in eastern Ukraine has demonstrated that, over recent years, elements of the Russian army have significantly improved, in equipment and capability.

Keir Giles, an expert on the Russian armed forces at the Conflict Studies Research Centre, says the current military reform has been going on for seven years, and was “kick-started by Russia’s military performance in the war with Georgia in 2008”.

“Russia won that war convincingly,” he says, “but confirmed in the process that the way its troops were organised and equipped was out of date.

"Since then, Russia has been working hard to overhaul almost every aspect of its military, including massive investment in new weapons systems - everything from nuclear weapons down to the uniforms and equipment carried by individual soldiers.”

The Marriage of Convenience Between Russia and China

May 8, 2015

THE celebrations in Moscow on May 9th to commemorate the capitulation of Nazi Germany 70 years ago will speak volumes about today’s geopolitics. While Western leaders are staying away in protest against Russia’s aggression in Ukraine (and the first annexation of sovereign territory in Europe since the second world war), China’s president, Xi Jinping, will be the guest of honour of his friend, Vladimir Putin. Western sanctions over Ukraine, and what looks set to be a long-term chilling of relations with America and Europe, has given Russia no option other than to embrace China as tightly as it can.

Next week, in a further symbol of the growing strategic partnership between the two countries, three or four Chinese and six Russian naval vessels will meet up to conduct live-fire drills in the eastern Mediterranean. The exercise, which follows several similar ones in the Pacific since 2013, aims to send a clear message to America and its allies. For Russia the manoeuvres signal that it has a powerful friend and a military relationship with a growing geographic reach. For China even a small-scale exercise of this kind (its ships are coming from anti-piracy duty in the Gulf of Aden) speaks of increasing global ambition in line with Mr Xi’s slogan about a “Chinese dream”, which he says includes a “dream of a strong armed-forces”. 

At a more practical level, the exercise provides a shop-window for China’s Type 054A guided-missile frigate, which it would like to sell to the Russians. It also offers operational experience in an unstable region in which it has an expanding economic presence. In 2011 China organised the evacuation of more than 38,000 Chinese from Libya during that country’s upheaval. Last month its navy pulled several hundred of its citizens out of Yemen, which is being torn apart by civil war. There are thought to be at least 40,000 Chinese working in Algeria and more than 1m across Africa.

Putin just dismissed nearly 20 generals

MAY 8, 2015

Russian President Vladimir Putin has dismissed nearly 20 generals just a day before Moscow was set to host a Victory Day parade celebrating the 70th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany, RIA Novosti reports

The generals were dismissed by a presidential decree. Among those let go was the lieutenant general of police, Sergey Lavrov, as well as the head of media relations in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Andrei Pilipchuk.

The first deputy commander of the central regional military command, Vladimir Padalko, was also dismissed, according to the Gazeta.

The timing of the shakeup is curious. The Kremlin is set to host world leaders in Moscow for the anniversary parade on May 9. The Victory Day parade features Russian military equipment and members of the Russian military play a major role in the celebrations.

The dismissals come amid major changes within the Russian military. Putin has made the modernization of the military one of his main priorities, and he signed a new military doctrine in December 2014 that updated the goals of the country's armed forces.


May 7, 2015 

Last month the incumbent president of Burundi, Pierre Nkurunziza, was selected as his party’s nominee in the presidential elections to be held in late June. This would be Nkurunziza’s third term, in violation of Burundi’s peace agreement andconstitution. Even though the nomination was validated by the constitutional court, it appears that this decision was obtained through threats and intimidation. While these political machinations are worrisome, the public unrest and the police response to that unrest are more worrisome as Burundi faces the worst political and violent crisis since the end of its civil war in 2005.

Earlier this week the Associated Press reported Burundi’s national police responded to protests with water cannons, tear gas, and small arms fire, leaving at least three dead and 45 wounded. This represents the latest example of Burundi’s national police acting as the enforcement arm of the ruling the party instead of providing order and ensuring respect for the laws, as their mission was laid out in the Arusha peace agreement. Late last month, six protestors were killed, Burundi’s last independent radio station was shut down, and an arrest warrant was issued for an opposition leader. A few months before that came reports of police (and army forces that typically remain neutral) conducting extrajudicial killings.

The Russian Navy's 5 Most Deadly Weapons of War

May 9, 2015 

The Russian Navy has a lot of catching up to do. After decades of being chronically underfunded, Russia’s defense budget has finally grown to the point where the country is building new naval vessels. Russia’s defense budget,which was at $68.9 billion in 2013, will hit $81 billion this year.

Much of that will go to the Russian Navy. Russia is beginning to rebuild her fleet, with an emphasis on submarines and the country’s sea-based nuclear deterrent. A new surface fleet centered around a new aircraft carrier is planned, possibly including multiple aircraft carriers. An effort to deploy a new amphibious force has stalled with the cancellation of a sale of two Mistral helicopter carriers.

The stakes are high. The Russian Navy is old and decrepit, and without it Russia will be unable to project power and influence beyond Eurasia. North and South America, most of the Pacific Ocean, Africa, the Indian Ocean, and much of the Middle East would be out of reach of Russian conventional forces

One Candidate to Rule Them All: Jeb Bush's Key to GOP Victory

May 9, 2015 

Jeb Bush has regained a narrow lead in the national polls, but even at this wildly premature stage, the early states are really where the action is at.

There the former Florida governor is on shakier ground. He was up in New Hampshire in the last April polls, but not by a big enough margin to easily overcome a poor showing in Iowa, where he is running anywhere from first to seventh place.

Even if Bush continues to perform well in the national polls, he likely needs to win Iowa, New Hampshire or South Carolina. To understand why, consider Rudy Giuliani.

Giuliani was the national front-runner for virtually all of 2007, sometimes overwhelmingly so (Bush’s leads have rarely been substantial). He essentially decided to bypass the early states, under the thinking that Iowa and South Carolina were too socially conservative, New Hampshire perhaps too close to Mitt Romney.

America’s Mayor was going to make his last stand in Florida. But by the time that primary rolled around, the primary campaign had passed him by. His national poll leads couldn’t be sustained in the wake of a series of single-digit primary and caucus performances. Giuliani dropped out of the race, never finishing better than third anywhere.

Give diplomacy a chance in cyber conflicts

It's a truism in diplomacy that when you accuse your rival of doing something naughty, it's almost certain that you yourself have been doing it on an even grander scale.

In the past decade, the United States has accused China of all sorts of aggressive actions in cyberspace against American companies and government agencies. Most often, they involve theft of intellectual properties in high-tech industries. But the revelations by US National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden about pervasive cybersurveillance and spying against both foreigners and American citizens completely knocked the wind out of Washington's diplomatic onslaught.

Now, the Pentagon is ready to regain the initiative by releasing a 33-page cyberwarfare strategy. Essentially, it warns other countries that hope to launch cyberattacks against US interests to expect a militarised response. That would include, but not be restricted to, a retaliatory strike in cyberspace. After the document's public release, US defence secretary Ashton Carter singled out China, Russia, Iran and North Korea as the US' worst cyber adversaries.

In Order to Fight Foreign Spying (Allegedly), China Tightens Even Further Its Control Over the Internet

May 8, 2015

China tightens cybersecurity controls to limit foreign spying 

China has proposed a fresh wave of cybersecurity legislation to tighten its grip on the county’s information technology structure and further localise the use of tech products.

China has included cybersecurity as an important element of a draft national security law, as reported by Reuters. The document, posted online this week, proposes tighter controls on the country’s information technology structure in response to US intelligence agency surveillance.

Last year, former US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden revealed the extent of the NSA’s spying activities, which included bulk metadata collection on domestic and foreign targets, wiretapping and the creation of backdoors within US tech products used to spy on foreign targets.

As part of a fresh wave of changes in response to these revelations, China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) have begun to review the draft legislation, which includes a “sovereignty” clause to make cybersecurity an official national interest – one to be controlled and protected. The document says:
“The state establishes national internet and information security safeguard systems [..] and protects national internet space sovereignty, security and development interests.”

Here's What a Cyber Warfare Arsenal Might Look Like

By Larry Greenemeier | May 6, 2015 

The Pentagon has made clear in recent weeks that cyber warfare is no longer just a futuristic threat—it is now a real one. U.S. government agency and industry computer systems are already embroiled in a number of nasty cyber warfare campaigns against attackers based in China, North Korea, Russia and elsewhere. As a counterpoint, hackers with ties to Russia have been accused of stealing a number of Pres. Barack Obama’s e-mails, although the White House has not formally blamed placed any blame at the Kremlin’s doorstep. The Obama administration did, however,call out North Korea for ordering last year’s cyber attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment. 

The battle has begun. “External actors probe and scan [U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)] networks for vulnerabilities millions of times each day, and over 100 foreign intelligence agencies continually attempt to infiltrate DoD networks,” Eric Rosenbach, assistant secretary for homeland defense and global security,testified in April before the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services, Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities. “Unfortunately, some incursions—by both state and nonstate entities—have succeeded.” 

After years of debate as to how the fog of war will extend to the Internet, Obama last month signed an executive order declaring cyber attacks launched from abroad against U.S. targets a “national emergency” and levying sanctions against those responsible. Penalties include freezing the U.S. assets of cyber attackers and those aiding them as well as preventing U.S. residents from conducting financial transactions with those targeted by the executive order. 

The impossible task of counting up the world's cyber armies

May 6, 2015

Digital is spreading into all elements of warfare. Image: iStockCalculating the scale of the world's cyber-warfare forces is a tricky business. Even for Western governments which are relatively open about the scale of their armed forces, cyber warfare is one area where most clam up.

That's partly because they are reluctant to tip off potential adversaries about their capabilities, but the bigger issue is that it's intelligence agencies like the NSA and GCHQ that have been pioneering the use of the internet for surveillance and have the highest-level skills. As spies like to operate in the shadows, that means that a veil of secrecy is thrown over most details of military cyber operations, even though the scale of the investment and operations continues to grow.

A new document, the US Department of Defence Cyber Strategy, does throw some light on US military thinking and capabilities, and it may be the start of greater openness about cyber-warfare capabilities across the world.

The new policy sets out when the US will use its cyber-warfare capabilities to prevent an attack on the country, stating: "The US military may conduct cyber operations to counter an imminent or on-going attack against the US homeland or US interests in cyberspace. The purpose of such a defensive measure is to blunt an attack and prevent the destruction of property or the loss of life."

This means war, but are we prepared for cyber warriors?

Cyber thieves take personal and financial data. Cyber pirates steal industrial and commercial intellectual property. But the cyber attacks that threaten to destroy or disarm critical infrastructure systems like the electric grid are true declarations of war. Pernicious cyber warriors seek to undermine society's sense of security and its standard of living. A survey conducted by McAfee and the Center for Strategic and International Studies reveals that 80 percent of critical infrastructure providers have faced threats ranging from denial-of-service attacks (flooding servers with hits that overwhelm servers or locking out users), to extortion and advanced persistent attacks. While physical attacks on the grid are likely to be geographically limited, the potential harm and economic dislocation from just a few cyber warriors can rapidly cascade across a broad geographic area that could be catastrophic. The nation's highly interconnected bulk power system makes it a prime target for those hoping to inflict significant physical damage and economic destruction. In 2003, when the Northeast U.S. and part of Canada was blacked-out, it cost the economies of both countries between $7 and $14 billion-despite the industry's quick action to restore power. The threat that cyber warriors pose to the nation make this a critical public policy priority.

The grid as a potential casualty

Grid modernization generally means greater digital control and greater integration. With the advantages of improved dispatch of power over greater distances and smarter, self-healing power networks, come more sophisticated and multidimensional cyber risks. 

Cyber war and peace

By Javier Solana

Information and communication technologies have become a central part of everyday life for most of the world’s population. They affect even the most underdeveloped and remote areas of the planet and have become a key factor driving development, innovation and economic growth. 

But this is just the beginning of a fundamental transformation. In the coming years, new technologies, such as the “Internet of things,” 3-D printing, and autonomous vehicles will revolutionise businesses operations, regulatory regimes, and even social conventions. 

These technologies generate enormous benefits, but they are also risky, owing to the ease of accessing data and using it for criminal purposes. Cyber-attacks are already vastly increasing in number, sophistication, magnitude, and impact. As the world becomes more interdependent and hyper-connected, there is growing concern about the vulnerability of the Internet, an infrastructure on which nearly all economic activities – including trade, energy provision, and the entire financial system – have come to depend. 

Cyber-attacks take place in a medium, cyberspace, where offensive actions have an advantage over defensive ones. Indeed, most of cyberspace’s infrastructure was designed to ensure its interoperability and openness, often at the expense of security, which tends to limit usability.