20 May 2015

India’s New Stand on Energy

By Maitreyee Mukherjee and Asit Biswas
May 19, 2015

Acknowledging that the energy sector plays a critical role in his country’s development, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently commented: “We want to increase speed and at the same time, scale new heights of development and one of the sectors is energy.” Coal has been a key source for the nation’s expanding energy requirements. The new policy on renewable energy and objective of generating 175GW of electricity generation by 2022 (from solar, wind and other forms of renewable energy) by 2022, is a bold step. Focusing on clean energy and energy efficiency, Modi called for a global shift from a “carbon credit” to a “green credit” for clean production, and described it as an immediate need.

India’s renewable energy generation capacity in 2014 was 31.7GW. To meet its objectives, government has proposed to add additional capacity of 4.46GW by 2015-2016. As of March 2015, only 44 percent of the target has been achieved. The 2015 budget allocated $400 million for grid connections and distribution networks for renewable energy projects. In addition, the government has doubled the tax on every metric ton of coal brought in or produced within the nation. Cumulatively, these steps are expected to enable additional generation of renewable energy.

The Chinese 'Century' Is Already Over

May 19, 2015

"Both the world’s most populous democracy and its most powerful one are now viewing China in darker terms—and beginning to act accordingly."

On Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry completed a two-day trip to Beijing. The day before, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi wrapped up histhree-day visit to Xian, Shanghai, and Beijing. Everyone, it seems, is going to China, implicitly acknowledging that this is indeed its century.

In reality, however, the period of Chinese primacy, if it ever existed, is just about over. Neither Modi nor Kerry was in any mood to accommodate Beijing on core issues.

We start with Modi. The Indian leader was happy to travel to China to pick up commitments for Chinese investment into his country, and on this score, he appeared successful. On Saturday, he inked twenty-six memos of understanding for business dealsvalued by his government at $22 billion. 

China visit and after – Undoing Nehru’s folly

19 May , 2015

A few months ago, a European diplomat confidentially told me, ‘in fact, the job of Modi is just to undo the knots in which the UPA tied up India in the past’. He was probably thinking of the complex Defence Procurement Policy (DPP) put in place by A.K. Antony, the UPA’s Defence Minister, who made the DPP so complicated that it became impossible for India to arm itself or even ‘make arms in India.’ This is the sad story of the Rafale deal; finally, during his recent visit to France, Prime Minister Modi had cut the MMRCA ‘bind’ and buy a few airplanes ‘off-the-shelf’.

The Joint Statement does not say that India should have a permanent seat with veto power, like China has. This is really ingratitude from China’s side.

Unfortunately, it is not only in defence issues that the previous governments have entangled India into insolvable predicaments.

The case of a seat in the United Nations’ Security Council is a stark one.

Ganga, Brahmaputra on the same power map

Nitin Sethi
May 18, 2015

Just as the SC has asked for a comprehensive look at the mass of hydropower projects on the Ganga in Uttarakhand, NGT wants a similar exercise for the project rush in Arunachal's river system

The Union government has bought yet more time from the Supreme Court to decide the fate of dozens of hydropower projects on the Ganga and its tributaries in Uttarakhand. But it now faces similar legal scrutiny for its piecemeal clerances to dams in Arunachal Pradesh. With over 100 proposed hydropower projects in Arunachal Pradesh, the environment ministry has been asked by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) for a comprehensive and cumulative study of all the dams proposed in Arunachal on tributaries of the Brahmaputra and what their downstream impacts would be.

The Uttarakhand projects came under the court's scanner after the 2013 disaster that killed thousands in the hill state. The court asked the government if the projects had contributed to the tragedy. The government quoted several expert panels but stepped back from a decisive call on all future projects, put on hold by the court, pending the environment ministry's plans.

Indian Nuclear Muddle – OpEd

“A nuclear accident anywhere is a nuclear accident everywhere”

Almost a billion Indians now face the fearsome prospect of living under the shadow of an Indian nuclear lust. The Indian Nuclear Power Industry remains shrouded in secrecy and opacity refusing to reveal details on safety. Following the nuclear diplomacy of India, one of the crowning achievements by Government of India was the pact with USA which showered out India from the list of nuclear pariahs allowing full access to nuclear technology and materials without signing Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The nuclear power generation is controlled by a government entity Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) which remains cloaked in secrecy. Details about leakages and accidents are not forthcoming and not transparent. However, the Indian establishment is pushing ahead with nuclear energy where chronically inadequate management continues to dog the program.

India’s Newfound Spine in Dealing with China

In China, Narendra Modi broke a longstanding trend of Indian leaders telling the Chinese what they want to hear. 

For all the pomp and circumstance, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to China will likely only be remembered for his plain-speaking. And it is by no means a small achievement. For years, Indian political leaders have gone to China and said what the Chinese wanted to hear. Modi changed all that when he openly “stressed the need for China to reconsider its approach on some of the issues that hold us back from realizing full potential of our partnership” and “suggested that China should take a strategic and long-term view of our relations.” In his speech at Tsinghua University too, Modi went beyond the rhetorical flourishes of Sino-Indian cooperation and pointed out the need to resolve the border dispute and in the interim, clarify the Line of Actual Control to “ensure that our relationships with other countries do not become a source of concern for each other.” This is a significant shift in Indian traditional defensiveness vis-à-vis China and should put the relationship on a firmer footing.

The Forgotten India-Pakistan Nuclear Crisis: 25 Years Later

By C Uday Bhaskar
May 18, 2015

In May 1990, then-U.S. President George H.W. Bush was convinced that Pakistan was poised to use a covert nuclear weapon capability against India. The impending apocalypse—which would have dwarfed Hiroshima and Nagasaki—had to be prevented at all costs.

Consequently, the White House dispatched a trusted emissary, Robert Gates (a man who would later become U.S. Defense Secretary in the George W. Bush and Obama administrations) on a top secret mission to South Asia—first to Pakistan and then to India. Eventually on May 21, 1990, it was concluded that the Gates mission had indeed succeeded and, paradoxically, the sense that the U.S. emissary obtained, when he met senior Indian officials and the Indian Prime Minister VP Singh, was that Delhi had not perceived any such threat.

If Pakistan’s army, which controlled the ‘button,’ had incontrovertibly contemplated using the nuclear weapon, then this information/intelligence had only been picked up by the White House.

Boosting the Helicopter Industry in India

18 May , 2015

Ka-226T multi-role Helicopter

Offering the new light helicopter to India, Russia intends to share new technologies with the Indian aerospace industry. These technologies can set an industrial base for high-technological production development. The implementation of offers included in Ka-226T offset programme may take the collaboration between Russia and India in the aviation industry to a new level. What is the essence of the Russian offer to India? First of all, it includes the establishment of Ka-226T production in India that can be performed by joint facility of “Russian Helicopters” and Indian SUN Group. It is planned to organise the manufacturing of main Ka-226T parts including fuselage, column and main rotor to perform final assembling, to conduct ground/flight factory and acceptance tests. The helicopters produced by the joint facility can be sold not only to the Indian Ministry of Defence, but also to foreign customers. So, India may obtain a required export product, a unique experience of high-technological manufacturing organisation and high-skilled jobs.

Afghanistan: Not Another Proxy Battleground

By Ali Reza Sarwar
May 18, 2015

Growing sectarian conflict elsewhere has worrying implications for Afghanistan.

Iran and Saudi Arabia are actively expanding their fight from the Middle East to Afghanistan. Iran is negotiating a nuclear deal with the Western powers and Saudi Arabia has long been a strategic ally in the Middle East, but the two countries, representing the rival Shia and Sunni sects of Islam respectively, will continue to remain troubling players in the region as long as Iran’s leadership remains unwavering in the belief that their interpretation of Shia orthodoxy is exportable outside their borders and troubled nations like Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Syria remain convenient battlegrounds for proxy war.

A recent report reveals that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and Ministry of Intelligence are actively recruiting Afghan refugees to fight in Syria in return for a monthly salary and legal residency. Video posted by Syrian rebels shows handcuffed Afghans, confessing that they were recruited and transported by Iranian officials to fight in Syria to fulfil their religious obligation – defending Bashar al-Assad’s Shia government – and received a financial benefit.

Afghan forces straining to keep the expanding Taliban at bay

By Tim Craig May 16 

KABUL — Taliban militants are expanding their reach into new areas of Afghanistan, straining security forces who are locked in some of the bloodiest battles of the 13-year-old insurgency, provincial and local law-enforcement officials said.

In the first spring fighting season since the U.S.-led coalition ended combat operations in Afghanistan, heavy clashes are being reported in at least 10 Afghan provinces. The provinces are in every corner of the country, creating widespread unease about whether the Afghan government and army can repel the threat.

“This is the worst fighting season in a decade,” said Attiqullah Amerkhil, a Kabul-based political and military analyst. “There is now fighting in every part of the country.”

Such dire assessments have become something of an annual tradition here, where it’s difficult for analysts and journalists to safely obtain information from rural areas of the country. But coalition statistics and interviews with nearly two dozen provincial officials suggest that security is indeed worsening in many areas of the country.

Asia's Largest Naval Warfare Exhibition: Focus on Subs and UVs

May 19, 2015

This year’s IMDEX conference is bigger than ever — a telling sign of an accelerating arms race in Asian waters?

This week, Singapore will once more play host to Asia’s largest maritime defense trade fair, theMaritime Defense Exhibition and Conference (IMDEX). Taking place from May 19 – 20 at Singapore’s Changi Exhibition Center, the 10th biennial IMDEX will feature military hardware from more than 180 participating companies, high-level delegations from around 40 and navy chiefs from 24 countries, along with 20 warships from 12 nations.

IMDEX 2015′s principal focus will be on unmanned vehicles (both in the skies and underwater), vessels suited for littoral waters, and underwater technology, according to the event organizers.

Defense News quotes Leck Chet Lam, IMDEX Asia’s head organizer, as saying that “unmanned vehicles will feature in several areas of IMDEX Asia 2015.” UV exhibitors will include Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, ST Engineering, SAAB AB, Atlas Elektronik and Microflown Maritime.

China's War against International Law in the South China Sea

Dean Cheng
May 19, 2015

Today, China is turning reefs into islands—all while slowly chipping away at international law. 

In medieval times, alchemists sought to transmute base metals into gold. Today, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is engaged in the geopolitical equivalent of alchemy in the South China Sea, as it seeks to transform reefs into islands. The Pentagon’s annual report on Chinese military capabilities notes that, for the last year, China has been reclaiming land at five of the reefs under its control in the South China Sea. The PRC is already building major infrastructure on four of these artificial islands. At least two of them—Fiery Cross Reef and Subi Reef—are getting airstrips.

Beijing views these actions as “lawful and justified,” since they are occurring on Chinese territory. As the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi emphasized at the National People’s Congress earlier this year, China is building on “its own islands and reefs.” As important, China characterizes these actions are “necessary.” That assertion is likely rooted, in part, in the fact that none of China’s claimed features have an airstrip, unlike almost all of the other claimants’, including Taiwan’s Itu Aba, Malaysia’s Swallow Reef (where Kuala Lumpur has also reclaimed land), Vietnam’s Southwest Cay, and the Philippines’ Pagasa island.

Test of Wills: Can China Overtake America in Asia Peacefully?

May 19, 2015

Chinese scholars look to a crisis in America's own backyard for important insights into Beijing’s relationship with Washington. 

It is well known that Chinese social scientists have been hard at work over the last decade grappling with the intellectual challenge of great power relations, to include a special interest in “权利转移” [power transition]. It is doubtlessly encouraging to see Chinese thinkers looking outside of the narrow confines of the Chinese historical experience. It was not that long ago, after all, that they were all seeking answers from a single, little red book. I have written in another column for this Dragon Eye series that Chinese strategists keep a very close eye on Western concept development within international relations theory. Thus, the “Thucydides Trap” has become quite a common topic of discussion in Chinese circles over the last two years.

International relations theorists have long identified the Anglo-American accommodation of the late 19th century as uniquely worthy of study. This is for the obvious reason that it stands out as a unique case of peaceful power transition. A late 2014 study from the Chinese journal 中国社会科学 [Social Sciences of China] by two Tianjin academics, Han Zhaoying and Yuan Weihua, may suggest that Chinese specialists agree about the particular importance of the Anglo-American historical case. Their paper, which focuses on the 1895 Venezuela Crisis as a “典型案例” [classic case] is entitled “The Balance of National Will in the Course of the Transfer of Power – Resolution of the Venezuelan Crisis of 1895.” As the title may suggest, the findings of this study are not altogether positive, from an American perspective. Underlining the importance of the piece, a note reveals that the study was sponsored by central authorities as a “重大项目” [vital project] related to research on “new type great power relations.”

What Would Taiwan Actually Gain from Reunification with China?

May 19, 2015

"Can we name one thing that the Taiwanese do not enjoy at present that China could offer to them?"

With a third transition of power in Taiwan in 2016 looking increasingly likely and attendant fears that a return of the Democratic Progressive Party into office could “jeopardize” relations with an intransigent regime in Beijing, the “Taiwan Question”—and more pointedly the matter of its official status—is once again a topic of interest among Asia experts and political analysts.

Some, apprehending the high risks of maintaining security guarantees to Taiwan, have recently counseled a shift in U.S. policy aimed at striking a“grand bargain” with Beijing, ceding Taiwan in return for concessions by China on other longstanding territorial conflicts. At the heart of those lies a key question: Under which terms would Taiwan’s 23 million souls consider a political union with China as an acceptable outcome?

As I seek to demonstrate, the viable options are probably very limited and are well beyond what Beijing is currently willing to put on the table.

'Simply Brilliant': China’s Creeping Invasion of the South China Sea

May 18, 2015 

In the past 12 months, China has provoked considerable attention with its reclamation activities in the South China Sea, particularly in the Spratlys where it controls seven maritime features.

China’s history of salami-slicing presents a dilemma to regional countries as well as external powers with regional interests: do they escalate an incident each time China slices the salami and risk open conflict, or stand down and allow China to augment its territorial claims.

The million-dollar question remains: who or what will freeze China’s reclamation in the South China Sea? The answer: nothing, really.

It has been proposed, for example, that like-minded states carve out a ‘code of practice’ that would stress the rule of law and mirror the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. Another option being considered by the Pentagon is to send U.S. aircraft and ships within 12 nautical miles of the Chinese-built reefs in the Spratlys, to challenge its influence there.

Beyond American Predominance in the Western Pacific: The Need for a Stable U.S.-China Balance of Power

Michael D. Swaine

Policymakers in the United States, China, and other Asian powers must choose whether to deal forthrightly and sensibly with the changing regional power distribution or avoid the hard decisions that China’s rise poses until the situation grows ever more polarized and dangerous.

A shorter version of this essay entitled “The Real Challenge in the Pacific: A Response to ‘How to Deter China’” appeared in the May/June 2015 issue ofForeign Affairs. 

In 2011, I argued in a book entitled America’s Challenge: Engaging a Rising China in the Twenty-First Century, that, while Washington and Beijing are by no means fated to enter into a hot or even a cold war, the competing assumptions they hold regarding the necessary conditions for long-term stability and prosperity in Asia, if not moderated through a process of mutual accommodation, would likely result in steady movement toward a zero-sum, adversarial mind-set. I wrote that this dynamic could eventually polarize the region and undermine the goals of continued peace and prosperity toward which all sides strive. Unfortunately, in the past three years, this type of mind-set has deepened, in and out of both governments and across much of Asia. Indeed, the international media, along with a coterie of regional and international relations specialists, increasingly seem to interpret every action taken by one government, no matter how small, as being by necessity designed to diminish the position of the other. 

Is Islamic State Now Evolving into a Transnational Movement?

18 May 2015

The February ORG briefing (Is Islamic State in Retreat?) analysed the view that the organisation was in retreat after six months of air strikes and considerable losses. It concluded that the movement remained reasonably coherent in Syria and Iraq, was gaining some allegiance in other countries and had the possibility of increasing its support among disaffected communities in western states. Last month’s briefing (Is Islamic State here to Stay?) extended this discussion to examine two driving forces that increased its support, the issue of marginalisation across significant parts of the Middle East and the ability of the movement to present itself as the vanguard in the protection of Islam under attack, this last element aided by the long-term support for the Wahhabi tradition by Saudi Arabia, especially in South West Asia and the Middle East.

A New Normal for China-North Korea Relations

It has been three and half years since North Korean leader Kim Jong-un rose to power, a period that has seen a chill in the China-North Korea relationship.

However, the current estrangement between China and North Korea may be the new normal, rather than an abnormality. Over the previous decades, the superficial affinity between these two neighbors made for a fruitful bilateral relationship, but ties remained frail and complicated by regional and global politics. That more positive relationship was understandable, but not quite normal.

During the heyday of the Cold War, Pyongyang fully mobilized its delicate (and successful) strategy of diplomatic maneuvering between the former Soviet Union and China in the Mao Zedong era. North Korea’s alliance treaties with both Moscow and Beijing are proof of this. In general, this period saw a triangle formed by China, North Korea, and the Soviet Union — sometimes an equilateral one, but quite often leaving one leg of the triangle shorter than the other. By following the changing political climates between its bigger and stronger neighbors, North Korea successfully secured national strategic gains, including political support, economic aid, and military protection, through a number of means from both China and former Soviet Union.

A Korean Conscientious Objector in Paris

Yeda Lee, 23, lives in a flat with three other Koreans in the Parisian suburbs of Creteil.

He lives on the 16th floor of a nondescript building between other apartment blocks and children’s playgrounds. From the kitchen balcony, Yeda points out Paris’ Montparnasse Tower, visible in the distance.

After stints at a guest house, a homeless shelter, on the streets, and in social housing, Yeda has finally found a place he can call home.

Unlike his flatmates, who are in Paris on student visas, Yeda is here because he fled his country. He did not come with a French proficiency test in hand or with a steady allowance from his family. He arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport with 400 euros and the goal of applying for asylum. Yeda is South Korea’s first political refugee in France.

The two Koreas are still technically at war. The South has an active conscription system that obliges all able-bodied men to serve at least 21 months in the army followed by enrolment as reservists.

Taking the High Road in the Propaganda War

MAY 12, 2015

Only truth — not propaganda — can beat back Russia’s misinformation offensive.

In March, as the eastern Ukrainian town of Debaltseve suffered heavy fighting despite a recent ceasefire agreement, journalist Nastya Stanko made a disturbing report: “People from Debaltseve told us that the army from NATO, the Polish army, and the U.S. army were all in Debaltseve,” wrote Stanko, a co-founder of independent Ukrainian broadcaster Hromadske.tv. “These people believed that if they were evacuated, they would be killed. So they wouldn’t come out of their basements.” These residents believed what they had seen on Russian television broadcasts. Employing World War II references that trigger traumatic memories, these broadcasts propagate a narrative that paints the popularly elected regime in Ukraine as a Western-backed, ultra-nationalist, fascist junta, conducting pogroms against the Russian-speaking population of eastern and southern Ukraine.

Why Ukraine's Success Is Pivotal

Carl Gershman

At a conference in Kyiv last May of world-class intellectuals that was convened Timothy Snyder and Leon Wieseltier, the Swedish foreign minister, Carl Bildt, said that Ukraine was “the epicenter of the global struggle for democracy.” It still is.

The goal of that meeting was to rally Western political, economic, and military support for Ukraine’s fight to become a democratic European country. But here we are, almost a year later, and despite the readiness of the Ukrainian people to sacrifice and die for European and democratic values, economic assistance has been inadequate, military aid is minimal, sanctions have had less effect on the Russian economy than the drop in oil prices, and political support has been at best ambivalent. For all intents and purposes, Ukraine has been abandoned by a confused, fearful, and self-absorbed West.

Four Reasons to Be Hopeful About Ukraine’s Economy

MAY 14, 2015

Ukraine's Finance Minister Natalia Jaresko and Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk address the media during a news briefing in Kyiv on March 11, 2015. The International Monetary Fund's board signed off on a $17.5 billion four-year aid program for Ukraine. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

Ukraine's current economic crisis was years in the making. Former President Viktor Yanukovych grossly mismanaged and looted the country. And it may take years for the country to fully recover. But there are signs that the economy has reached the lowest point and its prospects are brighter than commonly portrayed in the press.

First, the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) massive, front-loaded aid package gave much-needed breathing space to the Ukrainian government. The IMF deal gave the government resources to cover the deficit and foreign reserves to defend the hryvnia. Most visibly, the hryvnia appreciated by a third relative to the levels it reached in the heat of the panic in February 2015.

Falling to Earth: Is Russia's Space Industry Dying?

May 18, 2015

During the Cold War, the might of the Soviet Union's space program made the world tremble.

Sputnik. Yuri Gagarin. The Salyut and Mir space stations. All were a match for the world's greatest technological and industrial powers. The legacy of this robust program has lived on for years in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, but problems have been steadily accumulating. Now, Russia's industrial base, economy and security are threatened by the increasingly troubled state of its space industry.

In recent weeks, we have witnessed the failure of a Progress cargo spacecraft launched to the International Space Station, the failure of a large Proton rocket carrying a Mexican communications satellite and the failure of another Progress cargo spacecraft to fire its engines on command.

Russia's main space launch site is still the Baikonur Cosmodrome, located in the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan. All cosmonauts and astronauts who fly to the International Space Station lift off from Baikonur, and they also land in Kazakhstan.

Russia Threatens to Build More Nuclear Weapons

May 18, 2015

Russia may increase the size of its nuclear arsenal, a senior Russian official revealed on Friday.

Speaking at the 2015 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty conference in New York, Mikhail Ulyanov, the Director of the Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control at the Russian Foreign Ministry, said that Russia may be forced to increase the size of its nuclear arsenal in response to provocative U.S. actions.

Noting that the United States and Russia have drastically reduced the size of their respective arsenals in recent years, and that the United States has proposed reducing their arsenals by another third,Ulyanov stated “U.S. actions have led to the appearance of completely contradictory factors which, in some circumstances, may even push Russia to begin increasing [its nuclear arsenal]."

How David Cameron Could Save His Legacy

May 19, 2015

Does the prime minister have what it takes to turn it around and act in the UK's best interest?

Britain’s David Cameron earned himself a “rapturous” response from members of his own party following the Conservatives’ election victory earlier this month. And rightly so; his unexpected triumph made him the first Tory leader to win a majority in a UK general election since 1992. But Cameron faces some gargantuan challenges when it comes to the business of actually governing the country. To succeed, he will need to demonstrate much better leadership—indeed, much greater statesmanship—than he hitherto has been known for.

It is a truism that not all political leaders are equal in stature. Even if a small number are recognized for their wisdom, principles and selflessness, far too many are seen as short-sighted, opportunistic and given to furthering sectional interests over the general well-being of the country. According to the political scientist James Ceaser, the mantle of “statesman” is reserved only for those in the former category of leaders. The latter, he says, are mere “demagogues.” The difference is this: Whereas statesmanship is concerned with governing for the public good, demagoguery is largely self-serving; demagogues exploit popular feelings of envy, fear and hope simply to sustain their own vacuous political careers.

Flood Of Rohingya Migrants Ends In Humanitarian Catastrophe – Analysis

The death toll is estimated to be over one hundred as Rohingya migrants are grappling with hunger and thirst in the seas of Southeast Asia.

It all began last week when a sickeningly overcrowded vessel carrying hundreds of Rohingya families who had previously escaped from Myanmar using Thailand as a way station was detected in the seas of Southeast Asia on May 13.

Chris Lewa, the founder and coordinator of an NGO named the Arakan Project, was quoted by the BBC as saying that he had received an emergency phone call from someone on the vessel. During the phone call, Lewa was informed that a group of migrants, including 84 children and 50 women, were stranded on a boat that was abandoned by its captain and crew, who also took some essential parts of the boat’s engine with them.

Can Fracking Survive?

MAY 12, 2015

On May 11, the same day panelists converged at the Atlantic Council to debate the future of hydraulic fracking technology, news broke of a pessimistic report by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) predicting that oil prices would remain well below $100 per barrel for the next ten years—and that in the best-case scenario, a barrel of crude would cost only $76 in 2025.

Such a scenario has led to much hand-wringing in the US fracking business, the explosive growth of which over the last five years has produced today’s glut on the world oil market. Many say the industry has become a victim of its own success.

The Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center brought together three panelists for a discussion titled “Can Fracking Survive? The Impact of Low Oil Prices and Prospects for International Expansion.”

Cynthia Quarterman, Nonresident Distinguished Fellow at the Global Energy Center, moderated the panel, which comprised Subash Chandra, Managing Director and Senior Equity Analyst at Guggenheim Partners; Geosciences Professor Terry Engelder of Penn State University; and Russell Gold, Senior Energy Reporter at the Wall Street Journal. 

A New Solution: The Climate Club

William D. Nordhaus

John Palmer, the resident doctor onboard the icebreaker Kapitan Khlebnikov, watching two icebergs about to collide in the Ross Sea off Franklin Island, Antarctica, December 2006; photograph by Camille Seaman from her book Melting Away: A Ten-Year Journey Through Our Endangered Polar Regions, just published by Princeton Architectural Press

Climate change has become the premier environmental issue facing the globe. Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions continue to grow and accumulate in the atmosphere. The average global temperature in 2014 was the highest recorded over the last century and a half. Most scientists say that climate change is a “very serious problem.” Yet virtually no progress has been made in convincing the general public of its serious nature, nor have significant steps been taken to curb emissions and slow warming. Why has progress been so halting? 

The risks of a warming world and potential policies to deal with these risks are the subject of a short book by Gernot Wagner and Martin Weitzman. Wagner is a public policy specialist and lead senior economist at the Environmental Defense Fund and has written widely on energy and climate change. Weitzman is one of the leading economic theorists of our day, having made fundamental contributions to environmental accounting, the relative merits of price and quantity regulation, measurement of species extinction, and in an earlier era the economics of central planning and the Soviet Union. 

Economic And Environmental Impacts Of Fracked Shale Gas – Analysis

By Catherine Hausman and Ryan Kellogg*

The economic and environmental impacts of the US fracking boom are hotly debated. This column argues that there’s been a large positive impact on the US economy, estimating that the benefits to producers and consumers totalled $48 billion in 2013, or around one-third of 1% of US GDP. The climate change impacts have been large, but they do not outweigh the private gains. However, a lack of data on the impacts to water, air, and seismic activity hamper policymakers effectively targeting the areas of greatest concern and hamper them drawing up effective regulation.

The fracking revolution has happened incredibly quickly, with natural gas output in the US increasing by 25% in just six years. Research is accumulating on its impact on the economy (e.g. CBO 2014, Mason et al. 2014) and the environment (e.g. Jackson et al. 2014, Moore et al. 2014, Small et al. 2014). Some uncertainties are being resolved which will help policymakers better understand the implications of this rapid change in domestic fossil fuel production, but a number of big-picture questions remain unanswered.

10th Fleet's the Charm? US Navy Looks to Beef Up Cyber Capabilities

By Jack Detsch
May 19, 2015

The U.S. Navy’s nascent 10th fleet plans to beef up its ability to fight off cyber intruders. Will that be enough?

A strategy announced last week will improve the ability of the U.S. Navy’s Fleet Cyber Command to fight in cyberspace, envisioning the network as a “war-fighting platform” and toughening defensive units to prevent intrusions.

It’s another step toward an offensive posture on the cyber front, a push that began when Defense Secretary Ashton Carter unveiled a new strategy for the digital age at Stanford University last month. “Adversaries should know that our preference for deterrence and defensive posture don’t diminish our willingness to use cyber options if necessary,” Carter said. “And when we do take action — defensive or otherwise, conventionally or in cyberspace — we operate under rules of engagement that comply with international and domestic law.”

The cyber strategy will see the 10th fleet play a major role. The 10th fleet, originally established in 1943 to supervise Allied anti-submarine training in the run up to the Battle of the Atlantic, was reactivated in 2010 at U.S. Cyber Command in Fort Meade, Maryland, also the headquarters of the National Security Agency. It willhouse 40 cyber mission teams by 2020, providing support to deployed forces.

Russian Cyber War Techniques in the Ukraine Described

James J. Coyle
May 18, 2015

Hackers have consistently used low-level cyberwarfare tactics to advance Russian goals in Ukraine.

A dedicated group of hackers successfully infected the email systems of the Ukrainian military, counterintelligence, border patrol and local police. The hackers use a spear-phishing attack in which malware is hidden in an attachment that appears to be an official Ukrainian government email.

For the most part, the technologies are not advanced but the attacks have been persistent. Lookingglass, a cybersecurity firm, suspects the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) is the culprit behind the virus dubbed Operation Armageddon.

The Russian government is likely behind an even more dangerous virus. Since 2010, BAE Systems has been monitoring the activities of malware they dubbed Snake, and numerous digital footprints point to the Russian Bear. Moscow time-zone stamps were left in the code and Russian names are written into the software.

Other clues point to the Kremlin. “It’s unlikely to be hacktivists who made this. The level of sophistication is too high. It is very well written—and extremely stealthy,” observed Dave Garfield, BAE’s managing director for cybersecurity.

Remote Control Project: Remote-control warfare briefing #11

The eleventh in the Remote Control project’s monthly briefing series from Open Briefing has been published today. The briefings cover developments in five key areas or remote warfare: special forces, private military and security companies, unmanned vehicles and autonomous weapon systems, cyber warfare and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.
Key stories this month: 
US special operations forces withdraw from Yemen, severely limiting US counter-terrorism campaign: The US has withdrawn an estimated 125 special forces operators from Yemen causing significant political consternation for the Obama administration which held up Yemen as a US counter-terrorism success story. 

Sentencing in Blackwater Iraq shootings trial highlights need for better regulation of private military companies: Four former Blackwater security contractors have been sentenced to long prison terms for their roles in the killing of 17 Iraqi civilians in Nisour Square in 2007. 

Meet the US Military’s New Army of Mini-Drones

A tiny new drone developed by the Naval Research Laboratory could be used to detect enemy submarines.

The U.S. Naval Research Institute has developed a tiny new reconnaissance drone the size of a human hand designed to be dropped from aircraft at high altitudes or launched by firing it from a gun into the air.

Like with previous inventions (see: “Drone Swarms: How the US Navy Plans to Fight Wars in 2016”), the scientists at the Naval Research Laboratory sought inspiration from nature when designing the U.S. military’s smallest unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to date, particularly how insects called Cicadas suddenly emerge in huge swarms from the underground for reproduction.

Lacking an engine or other propulsion system and only consisting of about ten parts,this “micro air vehicle” is essentially a glider and “resembles a paper airplane with a circuit board,” AFP reported yesterday.


The United States should begin negotiations with France to purchase the two big deck amphibious ships originally built for sale to Russia, but subsequently retained by France due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. With the French government set to reimburse the Russians for the voided contract, a confluence of strategic, operational, and fiscal dynamics point to a win-win opportunity for the United States. An American purchase of these assets would relieve a key NATO ally of a fiscal burden they incurred by rightly withholding the ships in response to Russia’s rogue behavior in Ukraine. It would send an unmistakable message to Putin that there are consequences associated with his aggressive policies. Such a symbolic move would reassure nervous Central and Eastern European allies by providing a tangible example of NATO solidarity and American commitment to Europe. Diplomatically, this acquisition would complement recent NATO initiatives to increase readiness within the maritime domain and reward France for taking one on the chin for European security. Operationally, these ships would mitigate the mobility deficit for U.S. Marine Corps crisis response forces that are currently land-based due to the U.S. Navy’s shortage of amphibious ships. Given the modest price of the ships when compared to alternatives, buying the two Mistrals provides a potent bang for the buck.


The United States possesses the most capable armed forces in the world. America leads the world in military expenditures, spending more than the next nine nations combined — seven of which are either U.S. friends or allies. In part because of this dominance, the world has been free of major power warsfor decades.

But trends such as globalization, mass access to technology and communications, and asymmetric reactions to U.S. tactics in Afghanistan and Iraq are converging into an era where more and more conflicts are being fought at the lower end of the conflict spectrum. These form a “gray zone” between traditional notions of war and peace.

Gray zone conflicts are not formal wars, and little resemble traditional, “conventional” conflicts between states. If the spectrum of conflict is conceived as a line running from peaceful interstate competition on the far left to nuclear Armageddon on the far right, gray zone conflicts fall left of center. They involve some aggression or use of force, but in many ways their defining characteristic is ambiguity — about the ultimate objectives, the participants, whether international treaties and norms have been violated, and the role that military forces should play in response.