17 September 2015

Civil-military divide: Mind the gap

The OROP crisis highlights the long-simmering distrust between the government and the defence services. This is dangerous. Seemingly little things can trigger disaffection because the world view of the civilians is opposed to that of the defence personnel.

THE Pakistan Army originated in the Indian Army, their bureaucrats and politicians were once ours. And yet, a breakdown of relations between them has led to terrible consequences. Virtually the same thing happened in Myanmar. Servicemen, of all nationalities, believe that politicians are driven by a hunger for power; bureaucrats by a thirst for the privileges of tenure in office. Similarly, netas and babus, worldwide, are convinced that Servicemen are uniformed dolts, fit only to carry out orders and become cannon fodder. The OROP imbroglio is the result of these skewed perceptions.
This is not a new problem. Warriors of many societies, throughout history, tended to associate with other like-minded people. They were the artisans of war as others were specialists in construction, copper crafting, medicine or worship. Professionals tended to cluster together, share technical secrets, intermarry and form themselves into guilds. In the late Vedic period in our land, these professional guilds coalesced into exclusive castes. This proud exclusivity is the source of the problem.

Reform eludes UN Security Council

September 17, 2015

The framework document adopted at the General Assembly did not break the impasse on reforms, but brought some clarity as to who was on which side. It also became clear that any plan to introduce a substantial draft resolution in the next session would be futile.

The adoption by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) of a consensus resolution for beginning discussions at the Intergovernmental Negotiations Group (ING) on the basis of a framework document has been hailed as historic and path-breaking, but, in actual fact, the UN has not moved anywhere closer to an agreement on reform. The proposal should have been routinely adopted, coming as it did from the president of the General Assembly. Sam Kutesa, the outgoing President of the General Assembly had circulated the framework document at the end of July 2015 after extensive consultations, to serve as a sound basis for the next stage of consultations at the next session. He claimed that it was developed through an “inclusive and transparent process”, which included written submissions.

Trouble arose when some powerful states and groups made submissions, but insisted that their proposals not be included in the framework document. As a result, the president had to prepare his text in two parts, one containing collated views of a number of member states and another reproducing the letters of others.

The document revealed, not for the first time, that the positions of member states remained as wide apart as before and that there was not an iota of hope that a meeting point could be found during the 70th anniversary and beyond.

Opposition to expanison

'Shauryanjali': An Exhibition on 1965 War

By IDR News Network
15 Sep , 2015

The exhibition titled ‘Shauryanjali’ celebrating the Golden Jubilee of Indo-Pak War of 1965 opened at the India Gate lawns today. The exhibition is an ode to splendid show of valour and sacrifice of Indian Armed Forces personnel for protecting the borders of the country.

The exhibition has recreated the battle scene in various sectors beginning from Rann of Kutch to the ceasefire and Tashkent Summit. The battle of various types are also on display at the exhibition.

Evaluating the US-India Strategic Agenda

By Raymond E. Vickery, Jr.
September 16, 2015

The United States and India will hold their first-ever Strategic and Commercial Dialogue next week in Washington. This strategic and commercial consolidation is a little-noticed but important outcome of President Obama’s meeting with Prime Minister Modi at the Indian Republic Day last January. Now the Obama administration is pulling out all the stops to make this U.S. engagement a success and a key demonstration that the administration’s “rebalance to Asia” is more than just rhetoric.

The Modi administration is reciprocating by sending some of its brightest stars to the meeting and following-up with another visit from the Prime Minister himself. His trip will include a visit to Silicon Valley to see how the U.S. does innovation and culminate in an unprecedented third- within- a -year summit with Obama in New York on September 28. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to the White House on September 24 -25 occurs between the U.S.-India dialogue and the Modi summit – a sequence that will not be lost on Chinese policy makers. Nor will the virtually simultaneous visit to Washington of Pope Francis featuring a protection of the earth theme be ignored as Obama tries to push India toward a commitment on climate change, as he previously did China. Obama has declared climate change a strategic priority. An Indian commitment could pave the way for a substantive agreement in Paris this December.

The Hero of the Battle of Dograi

September 14, 2015 

Lieutenant Colonel Desmond Hayde was awarded the Mahavir Chakra, the second highest honour in war-time, for winning one of the toughest battles ever fought by the Indian Army.

In a brilliant and gruesome assault, what he and his men achieved that September 50 years ago, had never been seen before.

IMAGE: Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri greets Lieutenant Colonel Desmond Hayde in Dograi. Photograph: Kind courtesy Indian Army Facebook Page

In a cemetery in Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, quietly rests a war hero that many may not know of -- a man born in Ireland, who led India in its bloodiest, yet finest, infantry battle in the 1965 Indo-Pak War.

Not Just OROP. Another Grave Injustice For Army.

With all the understandable (and justified) focus on OROP, the media appears to have missed another major development in the Ministry of Defence - a decision to extend Short Service Commissions for 14 years. This is a gross injustice, and it is all the more difficult to understand in light of the Defence Minister's response to a question I raised in the Lok Sabha on December 12, 2014 (verbatim exchange follows):

"Madam Speaker, the issue of recruitment and the shortage of officers in our country is now widely known. But the Army appears to be addressing this by extending the duration of Short Service Commissions in a way that is doing an injustice to the officers concerned. In the old days, you would have a five-year commission. You would then leave and you would still be in the prime of your life; you would be able to find a job and move on. Today, they are making these officers stay for 10 years, 11 years, even 14 years. These are people who have no pension; they have no benefits. They leave the Army late and, as a result, they are not in a position thereafter to actually resume life in the civilian sector. I would like the Defence Minister to explain what the policy is now on Short Service Commissions. I would like to know whether the Government has begun extending these unobtrusively at the expense of the civil rights of the officers concerned. If they are going to do so, whether it would not be fairer to give them all the benefits that a normal officer would be entitled to, pensions included? Thank you, Madam, Speaker."

The Minister for Defence, Manohar Parrikar, replied as follows (again verbatim transcript from the parliamentary proceedings):

More action, less talk - Narendra Modi has miscalculated the time needed for reform

S.L. Rao 

In its issue of August 29, 2015, The Economist asked, in "Lights, camera, inaction!", whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi prefers talk over deeds. The Modi government, however, did initiate many actions. Its serious mistake lay in misjudging the complexities and challenges of getting things done in a fractious democracy.

The Modi government was preceded by years of missed opportunities, large-scale corruption, and lack of coordinated action. Modi, however, is different from many earlier prime ministers. A great orator, he has mesmerized audiences everywhere, irrespective of education and class. His election speeches promised development, eradication of black money, modernization, improvement and building of new cities, a vast skills-development programme, creation of jobs in urban India, promotion of entrepreneurship, improvement and building of infrastructure, encouragement to massive foreign investment and making India a single market, with less government and more governance. All of this aimed at speeding India's economic growth.

Why Supreme Court judgment on Aadhaar calls for an appeal

Nandan NilekaniThe writer is former chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India, and co-author of the

Aadhaar is critical plumbing for a welfare state. The verdict must be challenged on the grounds of individual choice and the freedom of the executive to frame policy.

The UIDAI system is completely ignorant of the usage of Aadhaar for seeding and for the Aadhaar Payments Bridge.

Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose files: IB note, questions on death

The documents purportedly suggest that in 1948-49, British and American intelligence agencies believed that Bose was alive and instrumental in a number of communist uprisings in Southeast Asia.

The Netaji files stacked at Writers’ Buildings. 

On Tuesday morning, files on Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose arrived in a small corner room in the east wing of Kolkata’s Writers’ Buildings for digitisation, before being made public Friday. But with some of these documents purportedly raising questions over his death in a plane crash in 1945 in Taipei, a familiar controversy has been reignited.

Politics 101: Why military coups happen in Pakistan

It an important question because Pakistan is not yet in agreement about the kind of political system it would like to live under.

Ten years ago, Dr Charles H. Kennedy, renowned expert on Pakistani politics, wrote the essay A User’s Guide to Guided Democracy, in which he sarcastically outlined ten steps that could help any new ruler of Pakistan's to consolidate their rule – common tactics that have been employed by all military dictators in Pakistan.

New Rand Study of China’s Growing Military Power

Andrew S. Erickson
September 15, 2015

The U.S.-China Military Scorecard: Forces, Geography, and the Evolving Balance of Power, 1996-2017

Eric Heginbotham, Michael Nixon, Forrest E. Morgan, Jacob Heim, Jeff Hagen, Sheng Li, Jeffrey G. Engstrom, Martin C. Libicki, Paul DeLuca, David A. Shlapak, David R. Frelinger, Burgess Laird, Kyle Brady, and Lyle J. Morris, The U.S.-China Military Scorecard: Forces, Geography, and the Evolving Balance of Power, 1996-2017 (Santa Monica, CA: RAND,September 2015).

Over the past two decades, China’s People’s Liberation Army has transformed itself from a large but antiquated force into a capable, modern military. Its technology and operational proficiency still lag behind those of the United States, but it has rapidly narrowed the gap. Moreover, China enjoys the advantage of proximity in most plausible conflict scenarios, and geographical advantage would likely neutralize many U.S. military strengths. A sound understanding of regional military issues—including forces, geography, and the evolving balance of power—will be essential for establishing appropriate U.S. political and military policies in Asia. This RAND study analyzes the development of respective Chinese and U.S. Military capabilities in ten categories of military operations across two scenarios, one centered on Taiwan and one on the Spratly Islands. The analysis is presented in ten scorecards that assess military capabilities as they have evolved over four snapshot years: 1996, 2003, 2010, and 2017. The results show that China is not close to catching up to the United States in terms of aggregate capabilities, but also that it does not need to catch up to challenge the United States on its

Chinese troops intrude in Ladakh: a coincidence?

By Claude Arpi
16 Sep , 2015

Was it a coincidence?

Just the day before the new stand-off between the Indian and Chinese defence forces in Ladakh started, a senior member of the Chinese Central Military Commission visited the region.

The Indo-Tibetan Border Police apparently objected to the construction of the structure and, with the help of the Army, stopped the PLA.

Chinese Admiral: South China Sea ‘Belongs to China’

September 16, 2015

Speaking at this year’s First Sea Lord/RUSI International Sea Power Conference in London, Chinese Vice Admiral Yuan Yubai, commander of the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s (PLAN) North Sea Fleet, did not shy away from controversy. He emphatically stated that the South China Sea belongs to China.

“The South China Sea, as the name indicates, is a sea area that belongs to China. And the sea from the Han dynasty a long time ago where the Chinese people have been working and producing from the sea,” he said through an interpreter, according to Defense News.

Yubai was sitting on a panel with the U.S. Assistant Deputy Chief of Naval Operations Rear Adm. Jeff Harley and the President of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force’s Command and Staff College, Vice Admiral Umio Otsuka, discussing the role of naval power in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

Yubai’s statement came in response to Otsuka criticizing the land reclamation activities of “certain state actors” in the region. “Land reclamation conducted by some countries has been a problem in the South China Sea (and) we have to admit that the rule of law is at risk in this region. The JMSDF will secure the credibility of a deterrence capability and seek a multilateral framework in the Indo-Pacific region,” he said.

China, Iran Predict Closer Ties Thanks to Nuclear Deal

September 16, 2015

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif arrived in China on Tuesday for talks with Chinese officials, including his counterpart, Wang Yi, as well as Prime Minister Li Keqiang. In their discussions, both sides predicted a bright future for China-Iran relations in the wake of the nuclear deal reached by Iran and the P5+1 countries earlier this year.

This was Zarif’s first trip to China since the deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was finalized in July. The JCPOA calls for Iran to implement restrictions on its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions against the country.

Once those sanctions are gone, Zarif sees a bright future for Iran’s relationship with China. “Iran has always regarded China as a strategic partner, and bilateral relations will undoubtedly improve following the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” Zarif told Li during their meeting, according to Press TV. Li agreed, saying that China and Iran could strengthen cooperation in a number of fields after the deal is put into action and sanctions are lifted.

One Chinese City's Struggle With Water Scarcity

By Coco Liu
September 16, 2015

The original version of this article appeared on the Wilson Center’s New Security Beat.

Shenzhen sits in subtropical south China, where four-fifths of the country’s water resources flow. The monsoon brings heavy rains from April to September; at its peak, Shenzhen’s more than 7 million residents see pouring rain almost every day.

So why is this city facing a serious water shortage?

Statistics from the government show that Shenzhen is among the top 10 most water-scarce cities in China, with per capita water resources one-twelfth of the national average. Residents had less than 160 cubic meters of water available per person in 2010, significantly lower than the United Nations’ definition of absolute scarcity threshold (500 cubic meters).

South Korea, China React to Rumors of Upcoming North Korean Satellite Launch

September 15, 2015

On October 10, North Korea will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party of Korea. Observers are wondering whether Pyongyang will decide to mark the occasion with a literal bang, by launching a satellite via a long-range missile during the celebrations.

North Korea maintains that such launches are part of a peaceful space program; the United States and South Korea say that the satellite launches are simply excuses to test ballistic missiles. “There are multiple UN Security Council resolutions that require North Korea to suspend all activities related to their ballistic missile program … So any satellite launch using ballistic missile technology would be a clear violation of those resolutions,” U.S. State Department spokesperson John Kirby told reporters on Monday.

A release from North Korea’s KCNA added fuel to the speculation that a launch is in the works. KCNA interviewed the director of North Korea’s National Aerospace Development Administration, who spoke of “shining achievements” in the “field of outer space development.” The director, in particular, said that “NADA is pushing forward at a final phase the development of a new earth observation satellite for weather forecast.”

“The world will clearly see a series of satellites of Songun [military-first] Korea soaring into the sky at the times and locations determined by the WPK Central Committee,” KCNA concluded.

Tarkhan Batirashvili, Top ISIS Military Commander in Syria Was Trained by U.S.

Mitchell Prothero
September 16, 2015

U.S. training helped mold top Islamic State military commander 

KILLIS, Turkey: The 15 Chechens looking to cross the border from Turkey to Syria didn’t strike Abdullah as particularly important or unusual.

It was early summer in 2012, and as a smuggler based in the Turkish border town of Killis, Abdullah, who’d fled his home village in Syria because of fighting on the outskirts of Aleppo, was used to secretive groups of foreigners – journalists, aid workers and many recently aspiring jihadists – hiring him to cross Turkish military lines at the border while avoiding what was then still a significant Syrian government presence in northern Syrian.

Abu Omar al Shishani, born Tarkhan Batirashvili in Georgia’s Pankisi Valley, is seen in an image captured from an Islamic State video posted on the Internet. The Pankisi Valley is home to perhaps as many as 150 Islamic State fighters. Screenshot from ISIS Video

“In 2012, everyone was coming to Syria and we had too much work leading all kinds of people across the border,” he explained over lunch in Killis, a Turkish town just a few miles from the rebel-held Syrian city of Azzaz. “A lot were Muslims who had come to support the revolution against Bashar Assad from every country. So many from Europe, Russia, Germany, France… .”

Trouble in Tajikistan

By Cholpon Orozobekova
September 15, 2015

Recent deadly attacks and instability in Tajikistan, which have left 27 people dead, have prompted worries in neighboring countries, which share similar vulnerabilities and weaknesses. The initial attacks targeted police units in and near Dushanbe. The man allegedly behind them is Deputy Defense Minister Abduhalim Nazarzoda, a former opposition commander. The Tajik government says he is member of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), which was banned by the Tajik government days before the attacks were carried out. The IRPT says Nazarzoda was not a member and Tajik law bars members of the military from having political affiliations. The IRPT was once the main partner in an alliance that fought against government forces during the 1992-97 Tajik Civil War. Nazarzoda joined the security forces in June 1997, when the government and opposition signed a peace accord to end that conflict.

Last week’s attacks took place in the context of several incidents that have sparked outrage among the country’s believers. On August 28, Tajikistan banned the IRPT, giving it only 10 days to cease all activities. Tajik President Emomali Rahmon has also banned Islamic dress, and even prohibited men from having beards. There have been reports of Dushanbe police detaining men in the streets and shaving off their beards.

CSTO Gathers in Tajikistan, Talks ISIS

September 15, 2015

Tuesday, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), Russia’s answer to NATO, gathered in Dushanbe for a summit. Attended by the presidents of the six member states — Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus, Armenia, and the host, Tajikistan — the summit was preceded by a day of bilateral meetings. ISIS, also known as Islamic State, dominated the conversation and an unnamed source indicated that if Tajikistan asked, Russian troops would return to the Afghan border.

Of the three Central Asian states that share borders with Afghanistan, only Tajikistan is a member of the CSTO. Uzbekistan withdrew from the group in 2012. The idea of Russians once again at the Afghan border isn’t radical. Up until 2005, Russian border guards helped Tajikistan patrol the Tajik-Afghan border. In 2011, an RFE/RLarticle featured General Sharaf Fayzulloev, then-deputy commander of Tajikistan’s border guard forces discussing how Russia and the U.S. helped modernize the Tajik border service:

Fayzulloev said Tajikistan inherited old border posts, technical equipment, vehicles, weapons, and other equipment — much of which is decades old and is now obsolete.

How to Resolve the War in Ukraine

September 16, 2015

As the fall of 2015 unfolds, the Russia-Ukraine crisis is not generating nearly as much news attention as it created throughout most of 2014. But in fact, it is still very serious—which is why the incoming Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, told Congress in his recent confirmation hearings in July of this year that no issue concerned him more. The hope that the so-called Minsk II agreement, negotiated last winter, will produce a durable solution seems very unlikely. That plan called for greater autonomy for eastern Ukrainian provinces in return for a verifiable ceasefire, with the lifting of western sanctions on Russia to follow. But Kiev is showing little interest in granting such autonomy and Moscow is showing little interest in reducing its inflammatory behavior towards the conflict. The fighting continues at a relatively steady pace. Meanwhile, the underlying issues that helped provoke the crisis in the first place in late 2013 and early 2014—fundamental disagreement over Ukraine’s future strategic orientation—are no closer to resolution.

Business Conglomerate Controlled by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei Big Winner From Iranian Nuclear Deal

September 16, 2015

INSIGHT-Conglomerate controlled by Iran’s supreme leader a winner from nuclear deal

The historic nuclear deal reached between Iran and major world powers has yet to be implemented, but one clear winner has emerged: Iran’s highest authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Khamenei has yet to publicly back the accord, which lifts some sanctions on Iran in return for limits on its nuclear program. But he does stand to benefit, thanks to his close control of one of the most powerful and secretive organizations in Iran – “Setad Ejraiye Farmane Hazrate Emam,” or Setad.

The deal, which is likely to go into effect after clearing a major Congressional hurdle last week, lifts U.S. secondary sanctions on Setad and about 40 firms it owns or has a stake in, according to a Reuters tally based on annexes to the deal.

The delisting of Setad – which has little connection to Iran’s nuclear program but is close to Iran’s ruling elite – feeds into U.S. Republicans’ criticism that the deal will empower Iran’s hardliners and help fund its regional ambitions.

Former U.S. officials say Setad was just one of a slew of entities sanctioned because they were considered part of the Iranian government. One former official said Setad was also targeted because the United States saw it as close to Khamenei and believed that the sanctions might induce him to back serious nuclear negotiations.

Australia: Malcolm Turnbull’s Economic Challenge

September 15, 2015

Australia’s fifth prime minister in five years, Malcolm Turnbull has promised a new economic vision for the world’s 12th largest economy. But with growth slowing, an obstructionist upper house, and an electorate worried over increasing joblessness and falling living standards, can the former businessman deliver?

On Monday evening, Liberal Party lawmakers voted 54 to 44 in favor of 60-year-old Turnbull over Abbott, 57, who had secured a landslide election victory for the center-right party just two years earlier. Popular Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was reelected deputy leader, defeating Abbott nominee Kevin Andrews by 70 votes to 30.

Financial markets reacted cautiously Tuesday, with the Australian stock market opening higher but closing 1.5 percent lower on worries over China and the U.S. Federal Reserve. The Australian dollar also enjoyed an early gain Tuesday morning, reaching a two-week high of US$0.716, before falling back on international factors.

Japan Pledges New Vessels, Loans to Vietnam in Boost to Strategic Partnership

September 16, 2015

Japan and Vietnam agreed to strengthen their extensive strategic partnership Tuesday during the Vietnamese Communist Party chief’s first ever official visit to Tokyo.

Following a meeting with Nguyen Phu Trong, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam, Japanese premier Shinzo Abe pledged that his country would provide new vessels and loans to Vietnam in a boost to economic and security ties.

Vietnam and Japan already have a robust relationship, with the two countries upgrading their relationship from a strategic partnership in 2009 to an extensive strategic partnership in 2014 (See: “The Future of US-Japan-Vietnam Trilateral Cooperation”). But the visit, Nguyen said in an interview with Japanese media outlets before his four-day trip to Japan, was aimed at “bringing Vietnam-Japan relations to a higher level.”

The Lehman Effect On Indian Banks

Sep 14, 2015 

A few senior executives of the state-run banking industry disagreed with what I wrote a week ago—that they are apprehensive about new banks eroding their customer base. According to them, state-owned banks have the strength and agility to take on competition. When the first set of new banks appeared on the scene in the mid-1990s, core banking solutions were something unknown to the state-run lenders, but they embraced the technology and changed the way banking was done.

The senior bankers blame the current state of affairs on the Indian economy—after all, banks are a proxy for the economy and when growth falters and the investment climate is dull, banks cannot thrive. The villain of the piece, it seems, is the US investment bank Lehman Bros Holdings Inc.

India suffered relatively less from the global financial crisis that followed the collapse of Lehman Bros, but local banks went for large-scale restructuring of loans, many of which later turned bad.

While that created a big pool of bad assets, the sluggish economic growth has discouraged companies from investing in new projects.

Grandmaster of the Great Game

Obama’s Geopolitical Strategy for Containing China 

In ways that have eluded Washington pundits and policymakers, President Barack Obama is deploying a subtle geopolitical strategy that, if successful, might give Washington a fighting chance to extend its global hegemony deep into the twenty-first century. After six years of silent, sometimes secret preparations, the Obama White House has recently unveiled some bold diplomatic initiatives whose sum is nothing less than a tri-continental strategy to check Beijing’s rise. As these moves unfold, Obama is revealing himself as one of those rare grandmasters who appear every generation or two with an ability to go beyond mere foreign policy and play that ruthless global game called geopolitics.

Since he took office in 2009, Obama has faced an unremitting chorus of criticism, left and right, domestic and foreign, dismissing him as hapless, even hopeless. “He's a poor ignoramus; he should read and study a little to understand reality," said Venezuela’s leftist president Hugo Chavez, just months after Obama’s inauguration. “I think he has projected a position of weakness and... a lack of leadership,” claimed Republican Senator John McCain in 2012. “After six years,” opined a commentator from the conservative Heritage Foundation last April, “he still displays a troubling misunderstanding of power and the leadership role the United States plays in the international system.” Even former Democratic President Jimmy Carter recently dismissed Obama’s foreign policy achievements as “minimal.” Voicing the views of many Americans, Donald Trump derided his global vision this way: “We have a president who doesn’t have a clue.”

Tomgram: Alfred McCoy, Washington's Great Game and Why It's Failing

June 7, 2015.

It might have been the most influential single sentence of that era: “In these circumstances it is clear that the main element of any United States policy toward the Soviet Union must be that of long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies.” And it originated in an 8,000 word telegram -- yes, in those days, unbelievably enough, there was no email, no Internet, no Snapchat, no Facebook -- sent back to Washington in February 1946 by George F. Kennan, the U.S. chargé d’affaires in Moscow, at a moment when the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union was just gaining traction.

The next year, a reworked version of Kennan’s “Long Telegram” with that sentence would be published as “The Sources of Soviet Conduct” in the prestigious magazine Foreign Affairs under the pseudonym “Mr. X” (though it was common knowledge in Washington who had written it). From that moment on, “containment” of what, until the Sino-Soviet split, was called the Soviet bloc, would be Washington’s signature foreign and military policy of the era. The idea was to ring the Soviet Union and China with bases and then militarily, economically, and diplomatically hem in a gaggle of communist states from Hungary and Czechoslovakia in Eastern Europe to North Korea on the Pacific and from Siberia south to the Central Asian SSRs of the Soviet Union. In other words, much of the Eurasian land mass.

Intelligence brief: Russia’s electronic warfare capability in Ukraine

Author: Rob O'Gorman 
7 July 2015 

Russian forces and Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine have significant advantages over Ukrainian forces in the area of electronic warfare (EW).

Russia has been making good use of its brigade-level EW assets in Ukraine, particularly with the barrage (noise) jamming of tactical radio nets, cell phone emitters and satellite downlink targets. This capability was most recently demonstrated by the electronic warfare company of 18 Guards Motor Rifle Brigade during its deployment in Ukraine (both Crimea and eastern Ukraine). With its own jammers (R-330ZH ‘Zhitel’), it was able to effectively nullify the Ukrainian communications and GPS signals in the regions it was deployed to.

Such jamming can typically affect opposing forces up to 30-40 kilometres back from the frontline, and seriously deteriorates the Ukrainian’s command and control (C2). As such, Western supporters of Kiev might consider supplying the Ukrainian armed forces with defensive capabilities, including electronic countermeasures. Furthermore, the strong jamming signals are ordinarily glaringly obvious on a spectrum analyser screen. If Ukraine’s own EW assets can detect such powerful signals, these can be geolocated with their direction finder assets. At that point, the jammers could be attacked by aircraft, artillery or even special forces. For their part, Russian and Russian-backed forces in eastern Ukraine are able to use artillery, particularly multiple rocket launchers, against any threat emitters they identify.

Refugee Flows: a Grand Strategic Weapon of Mass Destruction

SEPTEMBER 11, 2015

One could argue that the massive refugee flows triggered primarily by ISIS and al Nusrah, and possibly accelerated by alleged indiscriminate attacks on civilians by the al-Assad regime, have mutated into a powerful grand-strategic weapon of mass destruction. I use the term “grand strategic” advisedly, because it involves more the sustainment of cohesion and morale among our allies and attracting the support of as-yet uncommitted nations around the world than it does defeating military forces on the battlefield. [Interested readers can find my discussion of the nature of grand strategy at this link.]

Whether intentionally or not — and I think intentionally — the tactics and operations of ISIS and al Nusrah (who are supported financially by wealthy Salafis in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies) have unleashed a wave of terror that has created a flood of refugees in Syria and Iraq. This refugee crisis is placing the United States, its European allies, and Israel on the horns of a grand-strategic dilemma that promises to become much worse as the cold, rainy winter season approaches.

Our NATO allies, including an increasingly ambivalent Turkey, simply do not have the resources or political will to absorb the millions of desperate people now on the move. The proximate causes of these refugee flows may be the tactics of terror unleashed by Salafi forces, but it is common knowledge that the emergence of ISIS and al Nusrah has been midwifed by America’s interventions and policies in the Middle East — particularly (1) our unprovoked invasion of Iraq in 2003, made without UN authorization and with only limited international support, and (2) by our uncritical support of Israel’s desire to topple the Assad regime in Syria. Sooner or later, if this humanitarian catastrophe continues to worsen, any remaining empathy held by our allies in Europe and neutral parties around the world for the foreign policy of United States will dissolve into finger pointing, particularly if domestic politics in the US continue to foment war on behalf of Israel, while using the politics of fear to make the US people even more immigration phobic.

The Logic And Risks Behind Russia's Statelet Sponsorship from STRATFOR

Mother Russia can be quite generous when it comes to her collection of statelets. In the early 1990s, when a broken Russia had no choice but to suck in her borders, a severely distracted Kremlin still found the time and money to promote and sponsor the fledgling breakaway territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia in Georgia and Transdniestria in Moldova. And as Russia became more economically coherent over the years, the number of Russian troops in these territories grew, and a bigger slice of the Russian budget was cut out to keep the quasi-states afloat.

These post-Soviet statelets have a good deal in common. They are all tiny - South Ossetia is roughly 3,900 square kilometers (1,500 square miles) and has about 40,000 inhabitants, Abkhazia covers 8,500 square kilometers and its population is about 240,000, and Transdniestria is 4,100 square kilometers and has a population of 555,000. They are also all economically isolated, effectively run on black and gray economies, and are largely dependent on Russia's financial largesse for survival. Most important, from Russia's point of view, they each occupy strategic spaces in the post-Soviet sphere where Russian troops and thus the potential for further intervention can apply acute pressure on Georgia and Moldova should they draw too close to the West. The presence of Russian troops in these breakaway territories forms the tripwire that any Western patron will be wary to cross when it comes to defending those countries in their time of need. This, after all, is the true deterrent value of statelet sponsorship.

The Tale of Three Nuclear Fleets: Uncertain Future for Nuclear in France, the United States, and Japan

SEP 14, 2015 

It was a busy summer for the top three nuclear energy countries in the world: the United States (with a 100-reactor fleet), France (with a 58-reactor fleet), and Japan (with a 43-operable-reactor fleet). In France, a law was passed in late July to severely limit the role of nuclear power in the country’s electricity supply mix for some decades to come. Several weeks later on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, the much anticipated Clean Power Plan to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from the existing power generation fleet was officially rolled out in the United States, disincentivizing license renewal for nuclear power plants. The following week in Japan, on August 11, the restart of nuclear power generation at the Sendai Plant in Kagoshima Prefecture brought an end to the two-year-long absence of nuclear power generation in Japan. While the Japanese restart stands out as the best news for the global nuclear industry, the future remains largely uncertain for nuclear energy in these three longstanding nuclear power leaders.


How To Keep Hackers from Causing Chaos at the Gas Pumps—and 9 OtherFBI Warnings

SEPTEMBER 14, 2015

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security just issued new warnings about everyday objects that stay connected to an unsecured internet.

Aliya Sternstein reports on cybersecurity and homeland security systems. She’s covered technology for more than a decade at such publications as National Journal's Technology Daily, Federal Computer Week and Forbes. Before joining Government Executive, Sternstein covered agriculture and derivatives ... Full Bio

Their public service announcements concern security risks posed by the so-called Internet of Things, or IoT, a situation where everyday objects connect to a network. 

Researchers this summer proved that connected items can endanger people driving cars and wearing pacemakers. The Defense Department secretary last week mentioned the inventors of the Internet have been working on security fixes for IoT.

But until those technologies are rolled out, the FBI and DHS are offering some pointers.

First, the FBI names the following 10 things as examples of IoT devices: 

Spear Phishing: A Simple, Yet Effective Hacking Method

By Dan Verton

The National Counterintelligence and Security Center — an arm of the intelligence community responsible for developing strategies to counter foreign espionage targeting Federal agencies and major government contractors — has started a comprehensive training and education initiative focused on cyber espionage, particularly spear phishing.

The initiative, which also includes a broader awareness component focusing on the potential impact of data breaches on operational security for intelligence personnel, comes as a response to the massive theft of security clearance data on 21.5 million Federal employees. That incident, which officials have attributed privately to Chinese state-sponsored hackers, occured at the Office of Personnel Management and sparked a 30-day cybersecurity sprint across the government.

"What we have done through the auspices of the National Counterintelligence Security Center is to do as much education as we possibly can on what the potential implications are both institutionally and individually," Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said during a House Intelligence Committee hearing Thursday.

Part of that education effort includes a 3-minute video on the specific threat of spear phishing — an effort by cybercriminals to leverage social engineering and create targeted emails that appear to come from a trusted source but contain links to malicious code or infected attachments. Once clicked by the recipient, spear phishing emails infect the user's machine and help the hackers gain access to the network.

For NSA, Deterrence Strategy Takes On New Importance

By Dan Verton

The National Security Agency detailed "a significant amount of people and resources" to the Federal investigation of the data breach at the Office of Personnel Management, NSA Director Admiral Michael Rogers acknowledged Tuesday at a public forum in Washington, D.C. The response, however, was largely an effort to help OPM understand how the breach happened and what could be done to plug the holes.

But a new approach is taking shape that Rogers and other senior cybersecurity policymakers describe as a nascent cyber deterrence strategy – a fundamental military concept that has been used for decades to prevent the use of nuclear weapons, but that has failed to take shape in the cyber realm. Thanks to the increasing volume and severity of state-sponsored attacks targeting U.S. companies, Federal agencies and critical infrastructures a rough outline of a U.S. cyber deterrence policy and a set of basic international norms of behavior in cyberspace is now taking shape.

"I believe in the long run, we’ve got to get the foundational concepts of deterrence and norms of behavior," Rogers said, speaking Tuesday at a Wilson Center forum. "We’ve got to get there in cyber. Right now, I believe most nation states, groups and individuals have come to the conclusion that in the current framework there’s little price to pay for the behaviors they are choosing to engage in. And in the long run, I don’t think that’s the best place for the United States to be and…I don’t think that’s in the best interest of the world," Rogers said.

The new art of war: How trolls, hackers and spies are rewriting the rules of conflict

Wandering the pretty, medieval streets of Tallinn's old town, it is hard to believe that the tiny country of Estonia has anything at all to do with cyberwarfare. But first as victim of an attack and now as home to some of the leading thinkers on how the digital battlefield will develop, the country has played a key role in its emergence and evolution.

Estonia is a country of around 1.3 million people, facing the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Finland, it borders Latvia to the south and Russia to the east. After decades as part of the Soviet Union, it regained independence in 1991.

Even today reminders of the Soviet times still abound in the capital Tallinn. There's a museum in one of the big downtown hotels showing how the KGB would bug the rooms of foreign guests.

But Estonia does not intend to be defined by its past, but is instead intent on creating the most advanced digital state on the planet. Since independence, Estonia has invested heavily in digital services. It leads the way with internet voting—in the 2011 election nearly a quarter of voters cast their ballots that way—and electronic tax filing, all underpinned by a nationwide digital signature infrastructure.

NATO updates cyber defence policy as digital attacks become a standard part of conflict

June 30, 2014 

NATO has updated its cyber defence policy in the light of a number of international crises that have involved cyber security threats. 

Reflecting how all international conflicts now have some digital component, NATO has updated its cyber defence policy to make it clear that a cyber attack can be treated as the equivalent of an attack with conventional weapons.

The organisation's new cyber defence policy clarifies that a major digital attack on a member state could be covered by Article 5, the collective defence clause. That states that an attack against one member of NATO "shall be considered an attack against them all" and opens the way for members to take action against the aggressor — including the use of armed force — to restore security.

That NATO is updating its cyber defence strategy now shows how rapidly cyber warfare has jumped up the agenda. While defence strategies are usually expected to last a decade, its last cyber strategy was only published three years ago.

Jamie Shea, deputy assistant secretary general for emerging security challenges, told ZDNet: "For the first time we state explicitly that the cyber realm is covered by Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, the collective defence clause. We don't say in exactly which circumstances or what the threshold of the attack has to be to trigger a collective NATO response and we don't say what that collective NATO response should be.

White House Frustrated by Chinese and Iranian Cyber Threats

Davod E. Sanger
September 15, 2015

Cyberthreat Posed by China and Iran Confounds White House

WASHINGTON — A question from a member of the Pentagon’s new cyberwarfareunit the other day prompted President Obama to voice his frustration about America’s seeming inability to deter a growing wave of computer attacks, and to vow to confront the increasingly aggressive adversaries who are perpetrating them.

“Offense is moving a lot faster than defense,” Mr. Obama told troops on Friday at Fort Meade, Md., home of the National Security Agency and the United States Cyber Command. “The Russians are good. The Chinese are good. The Iranians are good.” The problem, he said, was that despite improvements in tracking down the sources of attacks, “we can’t necessarily trace it directly to that state,” making it hard to strike back.

Then he issued a warning: “There comes a point at which we consider this a core national security threat.” If China and other nations cannot figure out the boundaries of what is acceptable, “we can choose to make this an area of competition, which I guarantee you we’ll win if we have to.”


SEPTEMBER 15, 2015

Amid ongoing debate and anxiety over the future of NATO and the defense spending of its member states, one aspect of the alliance is rarely mentioned: How does NATO work in practice? Commentators often write of NATO’s strategic position vis-à-vis Russia, but we hear little of how cooperation between the allies takes shape on the ground. During my recent deployment to Afghanistan — the only conflict zone where NATO’s Article V has been invoked — I had the chance to see exactly that: a view of NATO at the tactical level.

I was privileged to work closely with Czech and Polish forces co-deployed at my base. I worked as an intelligence officer for a task force that oversaw force protection for Bagram Airfield and the train, advise and assist mission supporting Afghan security forces in Parwan Province. Although NATO and partner forces were deeply integrated into force protection and patrol operations within the ground defense area, the intelligence sections did not typically enjoy the same level of cooperation. This stemmed in part from the inherent “close-hold” nature of military intelligence, as well as from some preconceived notions of language barriers (as it turned out, nearly all the Czech and Polish soldiers I worked with spoke fluent English). But I was fortunate to have been part of an effort to strengthen working relationships between allied intelligence personnel, and there are a few valuable lessons I learned in the process.

A Little Effort Goes a Long Way


SEPTEMBER 15, 2015
Like many observers in the military, I have been cheering the Department of Defense’s growing interaction with Silicon Valley. I am hopeful that the exciting culture of innovation that drives much of our country’s technological progress will inspire meaningful improvement in Department processes.

Aside from astronomical home prices, hooded sweatshirts, and millennial executives, I am sure the personnel manning the newly christened Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUX) will discover the Valley’s widespread devotion to the “lean startup” model. Explored by Eric Ries in his seminal 2011 book, The Lean Startup, the concept continues to be a dominant model of operations for tech startups seeking to integrate cutting edge technology quickly and effectively into American life.

The defense acquisition process, widely criticized for chronic inefficiency in fielding new weapons systems, can be improved by incorporating the basic tenets of this model. It offers a solution to a massive efficiency barrier for defense programs — effectively leveraging technological innovation into useful products for users in a timely manner.