26 April 2016

Kabul’s season of uncertainty

April 26, 2016

President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ghani’s efforts at securing Pakistan’s cooperation to kick-start peace talks with the Taliban have been a failure. His national unity government is looking increasingly fragile.

The massive bomb blast in the heart of Kabul last week, which claimed about 70 lives and left nearly 350 people injured, marked the beginning of the 2016 fighting season — not that there had been much of a let-up in violence during the winter months. Since the Taliban had announced the launch of ‘Operation Omari’ a week earlier, a major attack was expected; yet the Kabul attack for which the Taliban claimed responsibility has shaken the weak National Unity Government (NUG) of President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah.

Even before the Kabul blast on April 19, Kunduz city had been subjected to a planned attack involving nearly a thousand well-equipped Taliban fighters who had managed to get hold of two old T-63 tanks as well. Unlike last September when the Afghan troops had retreated from the city under attack, this time with the help of air power (including the Mi-25 attack helicopters provided by India last December), the Afghan security forces were able to hold their ground. However, the two most effective elements in Kunduz — Afghan Special Forces and air power — are in short supply.

Elusive peace

Values in the Army

By Maj Gen S G Vombatkere
24 Apr , 2016

Wars, the product of forces in the international political stratosphere, are prosecuted by generals who are usually far from the battle-front. Battles are fought by middle-rank and junior officers, JCOs and soldiers. But even without formal declaration of war, the Indian army faces enormous challenges of defending inhospitable borders and operating in the counter-insurgency role, where the troops on-the-ground are directly and immediately affected. Facing these challenges and remaining prepared for war, calls for training to maintain a motivated fighting force which is doctrinally and technologically upto-date. Thus training is essentially for winning battles or military engagements, or effectively carrying out other operations in hostile and challenging environments.

The selection process for entry into the army essentially determines his trainability, and the training process, especially in the recruit or cadet stage, instils military values in him and gives him knowledge and skills to be an effective member of a fighting team.

Fighting is about team-work, with members of the team cooperating and supporting one another. At every level there is a team-leader of appropriate rank, depending upon service experience and performance. Each leader has his capabilities and ambitions, and there is inevitable competition for professional self-advancement. Individual training focuses on the soldier (the man of any rank in any arm or service – and recently, also the woman, but we will retain the masculine pronoun), to develop his physical, mental, intellectual and spiritual capabilities to lead his men and utilize the fighting resources at his command to win, always putting his country first, his army next, his men third and himself last. Group training harnesses individual strengths to create sub-units, units and formations with disciplined, formidable fighting capabilities. Training has to help the soldier cooperate for better fighting effectiveness, and compete for improving his physical capabilities, professional skills and knowledge.

Make in India in Defence Production: Challenges & Opportunities

By DC Srivastava
25 Apr , 2016

Collaboration and cooperation between the private sector and Public Sector Defence Units may create synergy in defence production. R&D needs to be taken to private firms and SMEs need to be encouraged to undertake the development and production of critical sub-assemblies through various policy supports. A boost in defence production in India will improve its defence preparedness, boost economy and provide employment apart from changing the technological landscape of India as it will also boost civil industries.

About 70 per cent of the capital acquisitions for equipping armed forces are met through imports. Therefore, one of the focussed areas for “Make in India” is defence industry that provides support to the national security in addition to creating employment.

Security is one of the most important matters of the state as security issues are closely linked with the legitimacy of the government. Though security encompasses many dimensions such as political including territorial security, economic security, cultural security and environmental security, defending the territorial integrity of the state is the prime responsibility of the government as most of the armed conflicts and wars have taken place for expansion and control over territories in order to enhance the tangible and intangible resources of state.

Factors Affecting Outcome of War

By Air Marshal RK Nehra
25 Apr , 2016

What were the causes for Hindu defeats? The simple and short answer is ‘Military non-performance of the Hindus’.

To examine the reasons of that non-performance, we have first to understand the nature of war, i.e. the factors that determine the outcome of war.

‘War’ is a three-letter dirty word, involving death and destruction, murder and mayhem, and everything unpleasant and unpalatable. However, it is war, which determines the fates of nations, and their pecking order in the comity of nations. Civilizations rose to their glory and grandeur on the shoulders of war; that was the case with all major civilizations, e.g. Greek, Roman, Christian and Islamic. War has dominated the human affairs right from the dawn of history, which is essentially a chronicle of wars. Those civilizations who could not understand the centrality of war in human affairs fell by the wayside; unfortunately, the Hindu civilization falls in this category. The one unimpeachable lesson of history is that maintenance of the delicate balance of civilizations requires War, or the ‘Threat of War’; that is the only language the world at large understands.

Civilizations rose to their glory and grandeur on the shoulders of war; that was the case with all major civilizations…Those civilizations who could not understand the centrality of war in human affairs fell by the wayside; unfortunately, the Hindu civilization falls in this category.

First Param Veer Chakra

By Sumit Walia
23 Apr , 2016

The Independence of India came with the pain of partition and the 1947-48 Indo-Pak war. Soon after independence, Pakistan attacked Kashmir with tribals from the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) backed by the regular Pakistan Army. They were few kilometers away from Srinagar airport when Indian soldiers fought gallantly to drive them back.

The Government wanted to honour these brave men, but there were no gallantry awards available.

During the Dominion period (1947-50), the British King remained, theoretically, the head of state. Pre-1947 awards could have been awarded, but awarding personnel of opposing forces with the same medals against each other seemed ridiculous to both New Delhi and London.

Finally, based on specific proposals, new awards known as the Param Vir Chakra (PVC), Mahavir Chakra (MVC) and Veer Chakra (VrC) were finalised in June, 1948. But the Governor General of India could not institute the awards, as India was still a dominion. So a draft of the Royal warrant was sent to London for approval of the Crown in June 1948. But how could the King sanction awards for a war between two members of the Commonwealth? Moreover, he would not have a symbolic presence on the medals, and the draft warrants were never implemented.

Relentless demonisation of Narendra Modi is wrong

Written by Tavleen Singh

Apr 24, 2016

If the Prime Minister wants to stop having his agenda for governance and development derailed, he must build better relations with the media.
PM Narendra Modi

Last week I met the Prime Minister to give him a copy of my new book and was surprised to find him unchanged. Media reports and political gossip had led me to believe that the ‘chaiwallah’ from Gujarat was so glamourised by his new job that he had become big-headed and bumptious. So it took me by surprise to find him exactly as he was when I last met him for a longish conversation in Gandhinagar more than two years ago. As then, we spoke without interruption from aides or cellphones, and as then, he listened carefully. It was a private conversation and not an interview, so I am not going to reveal details but mention this meeting only to make the point that the relentless demonisation of Narendra Modi is wrong. It began after the Gujarat violence in 2002 and now that he is Prime Minister, it harms India almost more than it harms him.

The long road to a $10 trillion economy

A believable target but questions about the strategic path 
A file photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Photo: Bloomberg

The Niti Aayog has presented Prime Minister Narendra Modi with a rather airy strategy to make India a $10 trillion economy by 2032. The strategy document offers us some insights into the minds of the men around the prime minister.

Will Advances in UAVs Edge Out Manned Aircraft?

By Gp Capt AK Sachdev
23 Apr , 2016

The term ‘drone’ has hummed itself into aviation lexicon and is universally used to describe flying objects not carrying a human pilot; some other terms in general use for them are Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), Unpiloted Air System, Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) and aero-models. Their size varies from barely visible objects to huge vehicles capable of flying for hundreds of hours outside the earth’s troposphere (for example, NASA’s Helios). As UAVs use the medium of the air for their movement, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the expert, global, UN agency on aviation, was constrained to issue a Circular 328 entitled Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) in 2011. It defines Unmanned Aircraft as, “an aircraft which is intended to operate with no pilot onboard and a UAS as an aircraft and its associated elements (ground control station, data link) which are operated with no pilot onboard.”

…in case of a major accident, there could be a hull loss but no precious lives of pilots or other crew would be sacrificed. So will unmanned flight make the combat pilot redundant in the years to come?

In parallel with the spectacular advances in manned aircraft, ever compounding levels of aerospace technology have nurtured the unmanned aerial platform into adulthood. As can be expected, commercial avarice has guided the tenor and texture of unmanned platforms for civilian uses (an aerially delivered pizza is around the corner any moment!) while military zealousness has dictated the progression of unmanned flight from simple “eyes in the sky” applications to vastly superior, surgically competent, and attractively cost-effective aerial platforms capable of most tasks possible by manned aircraft.

A Curious Case of the Tail Wagging the Dog

By Lt Gen Philip Campose
22 Apr , 2016

Recently, we had the strange case of China setting aside its claims to great power responsibility by taking action at preventing UN sanctions against a known terrorist, Masood Azhar, Chief of the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), a prominent terror organization from Pakistan, which has engineered a number of cross border attacks in India, the most recent being the attack on an Air force base in India’s Punjab province in January 2016. On the other hand, we also have leaked reports this week that, in 2010, the US government was deliberately willing to ignore credible intelligence that Pakistan’s Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) paid $200,000 to the Haqqani Network, a Pakistan sponsored terror organization in Afghanistan, to attack the CIA’s Camp Chapman base in Afghanistan in December 2009 and kill seven American nationals posted there, among others. The money would, in all probability, have been diverted from Coalition Support Funds provided periodically for specified purposes by the US to Pakistan ever since the launch of the US led campaign in Afghanistan.

How could the US equate a peace loving and stable democratic nation like India with a terrorist infested non democratic entity like Pakistan, whose intelligence agency attacks US citizens at will?

Satellite for SAARC: Pakistan’s Missed Opportunity

By Ajey Lele
21 Apr , 2016

Recently, Pakistan’s high commissioner in Delhi Abdul Basit announced that the peace process between India and Pakistan stands suspended. Over the years the India-Pakistan bilateral talk process has been more like a sinusoidal curve with crests and troughs, but not reaching to any definitive conclusions. Almost for the last three decades, the Pakistani military leadership/Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) has directly or indirectly ensured that civilian governments would not be able to transform peace talks into a sustainable process. Surprisingly, in its dealings with India, Pakistan has been so myopic that it has not found any genuine gesture for constructive engagement useful. The latest instance in this regard is Pakistan’s decision to pull out of India’s proposal for joint satellite development for the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) nations.

…in its dealings with India, Pakistan has been so myopic that it has not found any genuine gesture for constructive engagement useful.

In 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced India’s decision to develop (and gift) a satellite to benefit all SAARC member countries in different fields like weather data exchanges, disaster management, telecommunication and tele-medicine. The work on this satellite has already begun at the Indian Space research Organisation (ISRO), and the satellite is expected to be launched by the end of 2016. After remaining indecisive about this project for long, Pakistan has finally decided to opt out of the SAARC satellite project. Now, India would launch this satellite not as a satellite for SAARC, but as a South Asia satellite.

South China Sea on the Boil Again

By Radhakrishna Rao
24 Apr , 2016

There never seems to be a dull moment in so far as the raging controversy over the strategically located South China Sea is concerned. The most recent development in the high voltage melodrama surrounding the Sea China Sea was the slamming of US by Beijing for the escalation of tension in this disputed oceanic stretch. Beijing believes that it was the US influence peddling that has resulted in one time adversaries, Philippines and Vietnam, joining hands to strengthen the security ties for mounting a joint, coordinated response to the aggressive posturing by China in the disputed South China Sea region.

Citing historical reasons and geographical logic, China has claimed a sovereignty over the resources of South China Sea through which more than $5-trillion in global trade passes each year.

Everything going as planned, an ambitious action plan being finalized by Vietnam and Philippines would result in joint military exercises on a regular basis. For long US has been urging countries that are a party to South China Sea dispute to coordinate their action plan to counter the growing Chinese expansionism in South China sea region.

India’s ‘Necessary’ Message to China on the Uighur is a Gamble With an Uncertain Payoff

If Isa is eventually refused entry or does not come to India for some reason, the message the Chinese side receives may well be that the Modi government lacks the will to follow through. 

File photo of Uighurs protesting against China at the White House. Credit: Malcolm Brown/Flickr CC 2.0 New Delhi: Even as the Modi government is being lauded for its ‘strategic’ boldness in giving a visa to a well-known Uighur activist, China watchers counsel a more cautious approach, noting that while Beijing may get the message, the move is unlikely to push it to accommodate India’s concerns on Jaish-e-Mohammed supremo Masood Azhar.

On March 31, China put a technical hold, yet again, on Azhar’s listing by the 1267 Al-Qaida and Taliban sanctions committee of the United Nations Security Council. Not only did India publicly criticise China for this, the NDA government decided to take up the matter at all recent bilateral meetings. The need for action against Azhar was raised by external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, defence minister Manohar Parrikar and national security advisor Ajit Doval.

China's Rapid Rise: From Backward Agrarian Society To Industrial Powerhouse In Just 35 Years

from the St Louis Fed

-- this post authored by Yi Wen

China's industrial revolution, which started 35 years ago, is perhaps one of the most important economic and geopolitical phenomena since the original Industrial Revolution 250 years ago. The reason is simple: Less than 10 percent of the world's population is fully industrialized; if China can successfully finish its industrialization, an additional 20 percent of the world's population will be entering modern times.

Along the way, China is igniting new growth across Asia, Latin America, Africa and even the industrial West, thanks to the country's colossal demand for raw materials, energy, trade and capital flows.

China's rapid growth has puzzled many people, including economists.

How could a nation with 1.4 billion people transform itself relatively suddenly from a vastly impoverished agricultural land into a formidable industrial powerhouse when so many tiny nations have been unable to do so despite their more favorable social-economic conditions? Among the many conflicting views that have emerged to interpret China's rise, two stand out as the most popular and provocative. The first sees China's hypergrowth as a gigantic government-engineered bubble. 

Saudi Oil, Money Bribes and the Killing of Osama Bin Laden Interview with Seymour Hersh

Seymour Hersh is an American investigative journalist who is the recipient of many awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for his article exposing the My Lai massacre by the U.S. military in Vietnam. More recently, he exposed the U.S. government’s abuse of detainees in the Abu Ghraib prison facility.

Hersh’s new book, The Killing of Osama Bin Laden, is a corrective to the official account of the war on terror. Drawing from accounts of a number of high-level military officials, Hersh challenges a number of commonly accepted narratives: that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the Sarin gas attack in Ghouta; that the Pakistani government didn’t know Bin Laden was in the country; that the late ambassador J. Christopher Stevens was at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in a solely diplomatic capacity; and that Assad did not want to give up his chemical weapons until the U.S. called on him to do so.

Ken Klippenstein: In the book you describe Saudi financial support for the compound in which Osama Bin Laden was being kept in Pakistan. Was that Saudi government officials, private individuals or both?

Why Al Qaeda thinks ISIS has no future

April 23, 2016 

Finding patterns Out of the spotlight, affiliates of Al Qaeda appear to be gaining influence by a strategy of gradual persuasion in areas where they operate. The Islamic State hasn't built such deep roots.

Washington — Al Qaeda’s fundamentally different approach to winning the hearts and minds of the world’s Muslims – recently thrown into shadow by the bold moves of the Islamic State – is now showing signs of longer-term success.

Al Qaeda has long espoused “strategic patience” to establish a global caliphate only after gradual persuasion of Muslims through a long war with the West. That approach contrasts starkly with that of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, which declared a caliphate in Syria and Iraq months after breaking with Al Qaeda in 2014.

A Bright Future For Solar Power In The Middle East


Deserts are seemingly obvious places to locate solar technology. In fact, the swath of desert stretching from the Atlantic Ocean, across North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, to the Persian Gulf has vast solar potential. But until recently it has not been economically feasible, or even necessary, to develop the renewable resource. In many areas, geographic constraints such as rough terrain have made solar projects impractical.

Only now has a combination of demographic pressure, low oil prices and technological readiness primed Middle Eastern and North African states for more investment in solar power. For countries such as Jordan and Morocco, renewable energy may offer a path toward greater energy independence. Others, such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, are interested in exporting renewable energy technology and financing solar projects abroad.

The steady price decline of solar power generation infrastructure, especially photovoltaic cells, is making the renewable option more viable for North African and Middle Eastern states, a region where the sun shines in abundance. Not only is the technology becoming more affordable, but operational costs after construction are also minimal when compared with hydrocarbon-based generation. As a result, several countries in the Middle East and North Africa are focusing on solar power as a means to satisfy rising electricity demand, make cuts to unsustainable government subsidy programs and reduce dependence on energy imports.

How Young Arabs View Isis

by Felix Richter, Statista.com

-- this post authored by Niall McCarthy

A recent survey found that the majority of young Arabs across the Middle East cannot see themselves supporting the so-called Islamic State, even if it used less violence.

Most of them also believe that the terrorist group will fail to establish a caliphate in the Arab world.

This chart asks "how strongly young Arabs agree or disagree with this statement".

You will find more statistics at Statista.

Defending Democracy To the Last Drop of Oil

April 23, 2016

U.S. President Barack Obama is escorted to Marine One as he arrives at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on April 20, 2016. (Photo: Carolyn Kaster / AP)

Poor President Barack Obama flew to Saudi Arabia this past week but its ruler, King Salman, was too busy to greet him at Riyadh’s airport.

This snub was seen across the Arab world as a huge insult and violation of traditional desert hospitality. Obama should have refused to deplane and flown home.

Alas, he did not. Obama went to kow-tow to the new Saudi monarch and his hot-headed son, Crown Prince Muhammed bin Nayef. They are furious that Obama has refused to attack Iran, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Syria’s Assad regime.

They are also angry as hornets that the US may allow relatives of 9/11 victims to sue the Saudi royal family, which is widely suspected of being involved in the attack.

Interestingly, survivors of the 34 American sailors killed aboard the USS Liberty when it was attacked by Israeli warplanes in 1967, have been denied any legal recourse.


APRIL 21, 2016

North Korea is preparing to detonate yet another nuclear device, the second such test this year and the fifth overall. Although some feared an atmospheric test, the plan appears to call for another underground blast, thereby limiting most of the fallout to heavy-handed messaging from Pyongyang. Domestic audiences, elite and popular alike, should pick up on the narrative that Kim Jong Un is the mightiest of all the Kim family dictators. Internationally, the nuclear and missile antics are North Korea’s response to American-led military exercises and diplomacy.

Clearly Kim is repudiating his father’s 2005 pledge to pursue denuclearization and the Six Party Talks process that encouraged that commitment. But he is also spurning the entire edifice of agreements, diplomatic forums, and security mechanisms that comprise the loosely organized nuclear nonproliferation regime.

Kim’s nuclear proliferation contrasts sharply with the rhetoric of the recent Nuclear Security Summit hosted by President Barack Obama. That meeting ended with high-minded statements of hope, a testament to how during four summits over the past six years, world leaders have tried to lock down nuclear materials and facilities before they wind up being used to commit mass destruction.

Hybrid Wars, Destabilizing Scenarios and Colored Revolutions: The Balkans, Chechnya and the “Central Asian Spring”

April 16, 2016
Source Link

The US’ History Of Regional Revolution Attempts

The most significant destabilizing scenario that could ever occur in Central Asia is an “Arab Spring”-like event that ravages the region and irreversibly upsets its existing political balance. The interesting aspect about this possibility is that it was actually attempted twice before, and furthermore, this was even before the “Arab Spring” ever happened. Before delving into the details and reexamining some overlooked aspects of history, it’s important to remind the reader that the US has always been endeavoring to initiate region-wide transformations of power.

The “Spring Of Nations” And “Balkan Spring”:

The first such success in having this happen was the 1989 “Spring of Nations”, which in retrospect can be seen as the ‘first Arab Spring’, albeit much more peaceful than what transpired 22 years later. The series of events much more closely related to the “Arab Spring” are the Yugoslav Wars, which in their own way were a chain reaction of conventional and unconventional conflicts born out of the 1991 independence movements, otherwise defined by the author as the “Balkan Spring”. Because large-scale, anti-government (as in against the federal center of Belgrade) social movements preceded the outbreak of dirty wars, the Balkan Spring can be defined as the spiritual forerunner of the “Arab Spring”.

The “Soviet Spring”:

World Book Day : 101 Books You Must Read - A Short Reading List

April 23, 2016

What is amongst the better ways to mark the ‘World Book Day’? Going through a list of 101 must-read books (tailored for Indian readers) doesn’t seem like a bad idea

Harsh Gupta was apparently partly inspired and partly exasperated with my reading lists; more importantly, he did not find them to be of much use to him or most people outside the “nerd bubble” or ivory tower. He has therefore taken the liberty to create his own list (with a little input from me), which is supposed to be more relevant to the homo discens dextera indicus politicus in a globalised world. So here are our 101 suggestions! 
The Mahabharata – Vyaasa 

Understanding Poverty – Banerjee, Mookherjee, Benabou 
A History of South India from Prehistoric Times to the Fall of Vijayanagar – KA Nilakanta Sastri 

The Deniers – Lawrence Solomon 

A Brief Tour of Human Consciousness: From Impostor Poodles to Purple Numbers – VS Ramachandran 

Nudge – Richard Thaler & Cass Sunstein 

India After Gandhi: The History of the World’s Largest Democracy – Ramachandra Guha 
Minimum Wages – David Neumark 

India Unbound – Gurcharan Das 

Exploding The Myth Of The Scientific Vs Artistic Mind

-- this post authored by David Pearson, Anglia Ruskin University

It's a stereotype, but many of us have made the assumption that scientists are a bit rigid and less artistic than others. Artists, on the other hand, are often seen as being less rational than the rest of us. Sometimes described as the left side of the brain versus the right side - or simply logical thinking versus artistic creativity - the two are often seen as polar opposites.

Neuroscience has already shown that everyone uses both sides of the brain when performing any task. And while certain patterns of brain activity have sometimes been linked to artistic or logical thinking, it doesn't really explain who is good at what - and why. That's because the exact interplay of nature and nurture is notoriously difficult to tease out. But if we put the brain aside for a while and just focus on documented ability, is there any evidence to support the logic versus art stereotype?

Psychological research has approached this question by distinguishing between two styles of thinking: convergent and divergent. The emphasis in convergent thinking is on analytical and deductive reasoning, such as that measured in IQ tests. Divergent thinking, however, is more spontaneous and free-flowing. It focuses on novelty and is measured by tasks requiring us to generate multiple solutions for a problem. An example may be thinking of new, innovative uses for familiar objects.

Google's Dominance In Europe

by Felix Richter, Statista.com

The European Commission officially filed an antitrust complaint against Google on Wednesday.

The company is charged for abusing Android's dominant position in the smartphone market to strengthen its position in other areas such as web search, browsing and mobile apps.

Google allegedly breached EU antitrust rules by requiring device manufacturers to pre-install Google Search and the company's Chrome browser as a condition to license certain Google proprietary apps and by offering financial incentives to manufacturers who exclusively pre-install Google Search on their devices.

The below chart illustrates how dominantly Google operates in different areas across the European Union's largest markets.

This chart shows Google's search engine, smartphone OS and browser market share in the UK, Spain, Italy, France and Germany.

You will find more statistics at Statista.

Journey to Europe: Welcome to Czechia

By Jacob L. Shapiro

The Czech Republic’s latest metamorphosis won’t be able to save it from its geopolitical fate.

The Czech Republic has decided that, for strictly aesthetic reasons, it should now be called Czechia. The lighthearted stories about this name change are the only headlines about the country in the Western media right now. A deeper and more provocative way of understanding the Czech government’s strategic predicament is through what numerous Czech officials and businessmen told us begrudgingly yesterday in our various meetings with them: no matter how you decide to refer to the Czech nation-state, from an economic perspective, the country is a de facto colony of Germany. From a strategic perspective, however, the Czechs have no interest in being so closely tied to Germany. A shift is underway in Prague – and that shift has the potential to reshape Europe. 

At Geopolitical Futures, we often refer to the fact that Germany earns just under half of its GDP from exports. By comparison, the Czech Republic earns over 80 percent of its GDP from exports. More than 30 percent of Czech exports go to Germany, and often Germany is not their final destination. German companies control the financing and provide the technology for many Czech companies. As we have pointed out before, the Czech Republic’s small size allows it a certain level of agility with which the massive German economy cannot compete. But even so, the Czech Republic’s economy is built on Germany’s. When Germany catches a cold, the Czech Republic gets pneumonia. And our prognosis for Germany’s economy is far more serious than just a common cold.

Czech dependence on the German economy was all well and good as long as the European Union could say that it was upholding its promise of peace and prosperity for its members. But in 2008, that peace ended abruptly and the seeds for the end of prosperity were sown. On Aug. 8, Russia invaded Georgia and, as George put it yesterday, “returned to history.” Seven weeks later, Lehman Brothers went bankrupt and the 2008 financial crisis began in earnest. Fast forward to the current crisis of the exporters and the global economic stagnation and the Czech Republic, like many European states, is experiencing déjà vu. Its interests are no longer in sync with Germany’s, and its prosperity is no longer assured. To the east, Russia is becoming more aggressive.

Zbigniew Brzezinski’s American new Strategy towards Russia and China


Famous American political scientist Zbigniew Brzezinski once again frightened mankind by saying that “the end of America's global role ... would most probably be global chaos”. To avoid this, the supporter of the American hegemony of the United States suggested Global Realignment. That's the name of his article in the Journal The American Interest. So, what is the American Interest according to Brzezinski?

To briefly summarize the content of Brzezinski’s article it boils down to two theses:

1) The United States is no longer a global imperial power.

2) As was already mentioned above - the probable chaos as a result of the collapse of the US imperial hegemony. In order for the United States to maintain its power, Brzezinski offers several recipes:

a) Make the main geopolitical rivals of America - Russia and China - work towards US interests. This is supposed to use the crisis in the Middle East as a source of supposed common threats to all three powers.

“America can only be effective in dealing with the current Middle Eastern violence if it forges a coalition that involves, in varying degrees, also Russia and China”.

Open Letter to the President, Part 5

by John Mauldin, Thoughts from the Frontline
April 25th, 2016 

When the next president of the United States walks into the Oval Office on Saturday, January 22, after the heady experience of Inauguration Day followed by numerous balls, he or she will be confronted with significant economic challenges.

This is the fifth and I hope final installment in a series of letters I’ve written to the next president on those challenges. The first three letters in the series dealt mostly with the realities of the economic landscape beyond the the United States. The situations that most of our significant trade partners face dictate that the next US president will have much less room to operate than the candidates have suggested that they’d like to have.

Europe will be struggling not to fall apart. The budgets of most European countries are going to be even more constrained than the US budget will be. China will be lucky to escape a hard landing within the next four years. The same can be said for many other countries that are dependent on global trade in an era when trade is actually slowing.

Strategic Partnership Model: Aatre Task Force Report Prospects and Challenges

Rahul Bhonsle 
Apr 24, 2016 

One of the key recommendations of the Dhirendra Singh Committee which was set up to examine the defence procurement procedure and suggest measures for indigenisation under the overall rubric of the Make in India programme was selection of Strategic Partners on the lines of the Raksha Udyog Ratnas from the private sector. This was in the Buy and Make category of defence acquisition – that is direct procurement of fully formed equipment from a foreign vendor, “followed by indigenous production in a phased manner involving ToT of critical technologies as per specified range, depth and scope from the foreign OEM”.

As a follow up, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) constituted a Task Force under the Chairmanship of Dr. V.K. Aatre former Scientific Adviser to the Raksha Mantri (RM) with experts from various fields as members. The Task Force was to examine in detail the process of selection of Strategic Partners and recommend specific criteria as well as draft a long-term covenant to be entered into between the Government and the selected Strategic Partners.

While the Dhirendra Singh Committee recommended broad parameters for selection to include financial, technical and so on, details have now been worked out by the Aatre Task Force.

The Task Force deems that this is a de novo requirement as such a model does not exist globally, which is not surprising given that Western countries having advanced industrial base going back to centuries already have well established private players in the defence sector.

Why We Still Need Those Nuclear Missile Silos

Some anti-nuclear groups along with former Secretary of Defense William Perry suggest eliminating ICBMs in part to save money on upcoming nuclear modernization. Getting rid of ICBMs would be a serious mistake.

The U.S. nuclear triad protects the U.S. homeland and allies from a surprise nuclear attack with three types of nuclear delivery systems: Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missile and manned bombers. Today’s ICBM force was fielded in 1970 with a planned service life of 10 years, but has been modernized to last decades longer. Today, though, the missiles are long overdue for replacement, which is why the Air Force and Congress support building a new Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent.

To ensure the U.S. strategic deterrent is credible, it must be recapitalized every 30 years. Refurbishing the current ICBM force would not be an effective option. It would cost more to update and sustain the missiles with outdated parts. Some missiles would also have to be used for testing which would decrease the total number of missiles ready to respond to a nuclear first strike. As a result, a renovated ICBM force would likely fail to deter aggressors effectively.

Effective deterrence is a function of real capabilities and the perception by potential adversaries of a credible national will to respond to aggression. Rivals must believe the U.S. will take action before its nuclear arsenal is destroyed or by making sure it has a second-strike capability. To make the first use of nuclear weapons irrational, enough deterrent forces

Wave of the Future: IBM Moves In a Big Way Into Cognitive Computing

Tracey Lien
April 24, 2016

Cutting Edge IBM makes a big shift into cognitive computing

IBM’s California research lab sits atop a green hill in Almaden, 15 miles south of downtown San Jose.

There aren’t any signs that suggest if you drive up the narrow road that wraps around the hill you’ll find a research facility at the top. No signs that the research center is home to a Fortune 500 company. No signs — even inside — that the company once dominated the personal computer industry.

After decades in the spotlight as a hardware-centric firm selling PCs, servers and mainframes, the 105-year-old tech giant has made a dramatic shift into a realm that few understand: cognitive computing. Deep within the apps we use, the food we eat, the medicine we take and the medical diagnoses we make, you’ll find traces of IBM.

Like its Almaden research lab, there are no obvious signs it’s there. Look carefully, though, and the work of IBM — particularly from its Almaden lab — is everywhere.

IBM’s cognitive computing business — which includes artificial intelligence, machine learning, algorithms and analytics — accounted for 35% of the company’s $81 billion in revenue last year. It’s the fastest-growing segment at IBM, where overall sales are declining. Jeffrey Welser, director of IBM’s Almaden Research Center, said it’s “the main focus for IBM in terms of growth.”

The work at Almaden played no small part in this.

On the Brink of Cyber War? Moscow, Washington Meet Quietly in Geneva


Years ago the Stuxnet virus showed the possibility of anonymous “kinetic” attacks in the cyber arena, leading many military and defense analysts to worry that World War III may be carried out with a keyboard.

On Thursday, senior cybersecurity officials from the US and Russia began two-day meetings in Geneva. The US says that the two countries are renewing efforts to prevent rushing into a cyber war “by mistake,” but many wonder what defines a "cyber war," and whether it actually poses a credible risk.

In recent years, America has pushed the boundaries of cyberwarfare while Western media focused on imagined threats from Russian and Chinese hackers. Beginning in 2010, with Operation Olympic Games, the US and their Israeli counterparts released the Stuxnet virus, crippling Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility and demonstrating the potential of "kinetic effects" as a result of cyberwarfare.

Programmed to deceive A new book explains the frightening evolution of cyber-warfare and suggests that it's not just governments but organisations too that are vulnerable

April 23, 2016 
Author: Fred Kaplan

Waiting to kick off a television discussion on banking technology a year ago, I was privy to the discussion between two chief technology officers (CTOs) of large Indian banks on an "incident" they had just faced.

From what I could gather, both banks had just faced massive Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, virtually shutting down their systems. Somehow they managed to reduce the impact of the attack - being closer to a weekend helped, apparently. Better still, as I understood, they had kept the lid on it.

Where did that DDoS attack (in which a multitude of comprised systems attack a single target causing a denial of service for users of the system, in this case internet banking) come from? The two CTOs were not willing to speculate with me, except to say that "organised hackers" were behind it. The grim message I took away was that this was not the first such attack nor would it be the last.

Cyber-attacks are not new but evidently they are getting worse and far more organised. Nor is it only about geeky teenagers staring at large monitors in tucked away basements - more on this in a bit - but entire armies of highly-trained staff, which defend and attack as they would in regular war.


APRIL 21, 2016

When asked two weeks ago in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee whether the Army was “outranged” by any adversary, U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley said: “Yes … the ones in Europe, really Russia. We don’t like it, we don’t want it, but yes, technically [we are] outranged, outgunned on the ground.”

Given Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, this is sobering testimony. But is it accurate? Unfortunately, yes: Nearly two years of extensive wargaming and analysis shows that if Russia were to conduct a short-warning attack against the Baltic States, Moscow’s forces could roll to the outskirts of the Estonian capital of Tallinn and the Latvian capital of Riga in 36 to 60 hours. In such a scenario, the United States and its allies would not only be outranged and outgunned, but also outnumbered.

Outnumbered? While the Russian army is a fraction of the size of its Soviet predecessor and is maintained at a level of imperfect readiness, we found that it could — in 10 days or so — generate a force of as many as 27 fully ready battalions (30–50,000 soliders in their maneuver formations, depending on precisely how they were organized) for an attack on the Baltics while maintaining its ongoing coercive campaign against Ukraine.

Infographic Of The Day: Why The Scale Is Not The Best Indicator Of Fitness

Somehow grown to be conditioned to accept that our outward appearance, when it comes to visible excess fat is tied to the number on the bathroom scales.