20 May 2016

*** Avoiding A War In Space


-- this post authored by Omar Lamrani

Space is becoming more congested, contested and competitive. Since the Soviet Union put the first satellite, Sputnik I, into space in 1957, no nation has deliberately destroyed another's satellite in orbit. But there is a growing possibility that battles may soon be waged in space.

Although the militarization of space started long ago, a number of technological developments and tests over the past decade show that the race toward itsweaponization is accelerating. Driven by Washington's dominance of and strategic dependence on space, U.S. rivals are working to develop and deploy anti-satellite weapons (widely known as ASATs). The technology, which began to be developed during the Cold War, has become an area of intense competition for the world's most capable militaries over the past decade.

For the United States, being the leader in military space technologies provides immense advantages. At the same time, its outsize reliance on those technologies entails risks. The current unequal dependence on space, the United States fears, could give adversaries incentive to attack its infrastructure in orbit. Washington is therefore pushing to bolster its capabilities and is preparing for the possibility that a future conflict could escalate into space. As the militarized space race continues, the United States will stay focused on deterrence. A war in space would be devastating to all, and preventing it, rather than finding ways to fight it, will likely remain the goal.
An Unequal Dependence

*** Did India lose another opportunity to resolve the border? Yes, suggests Dai Bingguo in his memoirs

By Prof. B. R. Deepak
Paper No. 6115 Dated 17-May-2016

India and China lost a few opportunities to resolve the border – first during Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai’s India visit in 1960, second during 1979 during Vajpayee’s China visit, and third during 1980s when rather than a package deal India insisted on sectoral approach.

Dai Bingguo, China’s Special Representative (SR) who negotiated border issue with four Indian SRs between 2003 and 2013 points to yet another opportunity lost in his memoir Strategic Dialogue: Reminiscences of Dai Bingguo published by People’s Publishing House in tandem with World knowledge Press in late March 2016. Dai has vividly and candidly penned down his reminiscences about these talks in Chapter 7 titled Dragon and Elephant Tango running into 29 pages and six sections - Taking on the thorny issue; An excellent beginning; Origin of the first political parameters and guiding principles; Arduous exploration for a framework for border resolution; Worth an effort; and Friendly neighbours facing each other. 

At the outset Dai acknowledges India’s support and sympathy towards China during latter’s war with Japan. He particularly mentions of Dr. Kotnis, China-India- Burma Theatre of War when Chinese expeditionary forces were trained inside the Indian territory during the World War II, and China-India and Burma jointly advocating the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence. However, owing to the boundary issue, China and India even fought a war; it was only after China initiated the policy of reforms and open door that relations normalised, posits Dai.

**In Libya and the Lessons of Afghanistan

By Kamran Bokhari 
May 18, 2016 

A daily explanation of what matters and what doesn't in the world of geopolitics. 

Afghanistan is a useful case to consider as Western powers plan to send arms to Libya. 

Summary The United States’ decision to arm anti-communist factions in Afghanistan during the 1980s inadvertently facilitated the emergence of transnational jihadism, which over the decades has spread across the Middle East. Nearly two generations later, Washington and its European allies are considering doing the same thing in Libya to fight the Islamic State. It is not clear that Western powers will follow through with the plan. Libya’s problems have less to do with waging war than with the inability to make peace. Whether it is Libya (in its fifth year of conflict) or Afghanistan (in its 37th) they share the same conundrum: the absence of a social contract.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on May 16 that the United Nations Security Council and the other countries involved in the negotiations to resolve the conflict in Libya were ready to provide Libya’s new Government of National Accord (GNA) with weapons and training to fight the Islamic State (IS) and other jihadist entities. Speaking to reporters in Vienna, Kerry said that the GNA was the only entity that could unify the energy-rich North African state and defeat IS.

* Power shifting as India rises above its former rulers

In the days of the British Raj, India was a subject of British rule in terms of politics and economy. Fast forward 70 years and the situation has somewhat reversed with Indian companies, most notably Tata, influencing the British economy.

The presence of India became clearer in the recent crisis facing the British steel industry. In fact, steel along with tea and the growing share of Indian companies in the UK economy show how the former imperial servant has become a competitor and in some cases has overtaken the UK. Several economic indicators exhibit this changing power structure; for example, the gap in trade levels between the two countries has been significantly reduced in recent years.

China’s Freight Train to Nepal Is No Threat, But Indian Border Infrastructure Needs Fast Upgrade

Unless India drastically improves its border infrastructure, China’s heightened presence is not likely to diminish – especially with Nepal’s government determined to prove that China is a viable alternative to India. 

China’s new freight train. 

New Delhi: On May 12, the Chinese state-run newspaper People’s Daily carried a short article with four photographs of a freight train waiting at a station in Lanzhou, before it left with 86 cargo containers for a journey to Nepal. 

The international freight train will travel within Chinese territory until the current railhead of Xigaze (Shigatse) and then travel by road through Gyirong (Geelong) border post. The goods will take 10 days to reach Kathmandu, where they will, presumably, be greeted under the glare of high-voltage publicity. 

Among Indian policymakers, the news about the freight train has been greeted largely with skepticism. Even as some Indian members of parliament and media persons have been ringing alarm bells about China getting a share in the current Nepali polity under the Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli government, the power corridors in the country have been comparatively unconcerned – jaded at an apparent replay of the “China” card. 

Britain should stop trying to pretend that its empire was benevolent

Time for this myth to be exploded – empire brought with it slavery, exploitation, racism and kleptocracy. Image credit: Alphonse-Marie-Adolphe de Neuville

The recent debacle of David Cameron’s filmed condemnation of Nigerian and Afghan corruption and the Queen’s remark on Chinese officials’ rudeness highlights the persistence of imperial thinking in Britain. There seems to be a continuing assumption within the British establishment that it sets an example for others to follow and that the British are owed deference by others.

Ever since evangelical antislavery activists campaigned for Britain to abolish the transatlantic slave trade, Britons have assured themselves that imperial overrule is compatible with the “benign tutelage” of other races and nations. Unlike the other European empires, Britons tell themselves, theirs was an empire founded on humanitarian compassion for colonised subjects.

The argument runs like this: while the Spanish, Portuguese, French, Belgians and Germans exploited and abused, the British empire brought ideas of protection for lesser races and fostered their incremental development. With British tutelage colonised peoples could become, eventually, as competent, as knowledgeable, as “civilised” as Britain itself. These platitudes have been repeated time and again – they are still at the heart of most popular representations of the British Empire.

The ever present Civil-Military acrimony in Pakistan

By Dr Sudhanshu Tripathi
19 May , 2016

It certainly looks clear that all is not going well in Pakistan between its civilian government and an all-time powerful army. With the recent Panama Paper leaks having landed the sons and daughters of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s in the dock, the continuing war between the two centres of power as regards the claim to supremacy within the ruling circles of Pakistan has once again intensified. And, it is precisely the deepening chasm between the two that worries the entire world over the fear of a coup dislodging another civilian government from power in a country that has had a chequered political past. 

With the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), General Raheel Sharif having removed 12 of his senior military officers, including a lieutenant general and also a major general and five brigadiers on grounds of their proven involvement in corruption, his anti-corruption pitch has not only become louder, but it is also striking a right chord with the masses of Pakistan who have long suffered from corruption pervading into every aspect of their lives. It has also increased the pressure on Nawaz Sharif to come out clean on the charges that have been levelled against the members of his family, with the spectre of resignation already looming large.

China has not been made to pay yet for protecting Pakistan

By Kanwal Sibal
19 May , 2016

China’s repeated blocking of India’s moves in the 1267 United Nations sanctions committee to include leaders of Pakistan’s jihadi organizations perpetrating terrorist attacks against India reveals both the depth of its commitment to Pakistan and its scant regard for India’s sensitivities. It also reflects China’s thinking that it can manage relations with India largely on its own terms and does not have to accommodate India except where it is either cost-free or could further Chinese economic interests and bolster its position in multilateral parleys. Whereas our policy towards China is marked by great caution and even timidity, China deals with India from a position of strength laced with arrogance. India’s diffident response over the years to its provocations has perhaps convinced China that it can get away unbruised from slighting India periodically.

Pakistan claims it is a major victim of terrorism itself and now, with the blowback from nurturing jihadi groups, proclaims that there are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ terrorists.

China is willing to antagonize India even on the very sensitive issue of terrorism, on which the international community is becoming increasingly united on the need to combat it collectively. The earlier approach – marked by double standards and selectivity, and convenient distinctions between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ terrorists – is showing signs of change. Even countries like Saudi Arabia, seen as the cradle of extremist ideologies that spawn terrorism, are now positioning themselves in the vanguard of the fight against it. India has been able to obtain from countries like the United Arab Emirates (with traditional links to Pakistan) language on terrorism nuanced in our favour. Pakistan claims it is a major victim of terrorism itself and now, with the blowback from nurturing jihadi groups, proclaims that there are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ terrorists.

Same Age, Different Behaviour: Nuclear India and Nuclear Pakistan

Manpreet Sethi
16 May 2016 

Manpreet Sethi ICSSR Senior Fellow affiliated with the Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS) 

On 11 and 13 May, India completed 18 years as a nuclear-armed state. A couple of weeks from now Pakistan will do so too. And yet despite sharing the same age as overt nuclear weapons states, the two countries are far apart in their understanding of nuclear issues and behaviours. Both have chosen dissimilar objectives for their nuclear weapons, are pursuing diverse capability trajectories, and projecting deterrence in disparate ways. As China continues to block India's entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and seeks the same treatment for its 'all weather friend' Pakistan, it would be a good idea to understand some of these stark differences that undercut the very demand for uniform treatment.

The first and most evident difference lies in the purpose of the nuclear weapon in the national security strategies of the two countries. For India, the nuclear weapon performs a narrow, limited role of nuclear deterrence - to deter only the nuclear weapons of the other side. It is for this reason that acceptance of universal nuclear disarmament also comes naturally to India since if there were no nuclear weapons with the adversary India would not need such weapons either. For Pakistan, on the other hand, nuclear weapons serve the purpose of deterring India's conventional superiority. The Indian conventional strength bothers Pakistan because it fears its coming into play in response to its continued support for terrorism on Indian territory. In one sense then, the objective of Pakistan's nuclear weapons is to provide it with the space and the immunity to continue its policy of bleeding India through a thousand cuts while shielding itself against a conventional Indian response.

China Launches Another Spy Satellite Into Orbit

Stephen Clark
May 17, 2016

Chinese rocket lofts government surveillance satellite

A Long March 2D booster fired into space Sunday from a remote Chinese spaceport in the Gobi Desert, delivering a military spy satellite to a 640-kilometer-high (400-mile) perch in polar orbit.

The two-stage Long March 2D rocket took off at 0243 GMT Sunday (10:43 p.m. EDT Saturday) from the Jiuquan launch center in northwest China’s Inner Mongolia province.

The liftoff occurred at 10:43 a.m. Beijing time, according to China’s state-run Xinhua news agency.

The 41-meter (134-foot-tall) liquid-fueled rocket veered south from Jiuquan to put its payload into a sun-synchronous orbit. Tracking data released by the U.S. military indicated the spacecraft reached an orbit with an apogee, or high point, of about 653 kilometers (405 miles), and a low point, or perigee of 625 kilometers (388 miles).

The orbit is inclined 98.1 degrees to the equator, ensuring the satellite covers the entire planet.

Russia, China, And The West After Crimea

May 13, 2016 

On May 13, 2016, the Transatlantic Academy published a paper by Senior Fellow Angela Stent entitled “Russia, China, and the West After Crimea,” the eighth in its 2015-16 Paper Series.

Since the onset of the Ukraine crisis, Vladimir Putin has enthusiastically promoted ties with China as an alternative to Russia’s adversarial relationship with the United States and Europe. Presidents Putin and Xi have lavishly praised each other and criticized U.S. “unilateralism.” They have stepped up their military cooperation – conducting joint naval exercises in the Mediterranean last year – and signed major energy deals, such as the $400 billion Power of Siberia Gas pipeline project. In 2015, they attended each other’s military parades commemorating the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, when no Western leader attended either. The rhetoric and optics stress close ties between two leaders who share a conviction that their countries were unfairly treated in the past. They are also uncomfortable with the current international political and financial order, which, they believe, denies them equal treatment in setting the agenda and determining the institutional rules.

Despite the intensification of Sino-Russian ties since the annexation of Crimea, however, this remains a pragmatic and instrumental partnership, not a prelude to a closer alliance. For Moscow, the partnership is designed to reinforce Russia’s role as an independent center of global power, one of Putin’s key foreign policy goals. It is also intended to confer success by association from a rising China to a Russia experiencing serious economic problems. China’s support for Russia has served to legitimize Moscow’s actions in Ukraine and Syria. Russia is a useful partner for China because it supplies China with hydrocarbons and advanced military hardware, supports China on all major foreign policy issues, and pursues a policy of noninterference in China’s domestic affairs. While Chinese experts may privately express criticism of Russia’s actions in Ukraine, publicly officials have adopted a policy of neutrality. In return, Russia has not commented publically on China’s military activities in the South China Sea, although these actions have irked Russia’s other Asian partners such as Vietnam.

The Cyber Threat: Government Debates Cyber Counterattacks As Chinese Attacks Continue Unabated

May 16, 2016

China’s aggressive cyber espionage and military reconnaissance operations against both U.S. government and private networks show no sign of abating under the Obama administration’s policy of holding talks and threatening but not taking punitive action.

Typical of the administration’s approach has been the seemingly endless series of high-level meetings with Chinese officials, such as talks held last week in Washington to discuss “norms” of behavior in cyberspace.

For at least the past five years, President Obama and the White House have ignored appeals from security and military officials, as well as from Congress and the private sector, to show greater resolve and take some type of action against the Chinese, lest the country’s technology wealth be drained empty.

The meeting on May 11 included officials of the Senior Experts Group on International Norms and Related Issues. Christopher Painter, State Department coordinator for cyber issues, led the U.S. side, and the Chinese delegation was headed by Wang Qun, director of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s department of arms control.

How China’s Silk Road project can benefit India

18 May 2016

India remains unmoved, at present. Since OBOR is expected to take shape over 35 years, New Delhi cannot be said to have closed the matter for all time

It is hard to figure out why the Government of India (GoI) has steeled itself against accepting any part in China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative. Sections seeking to influence policy have more than once reiterated that it is in India’s interests to work with Beijing on OBOR.

None of these policy wonks and strategic affairs experts is a China-lover or China-optimist by any definition. To the contrary, many of them are staunch supporters of the US “pivot” against China and advocates of the Washington-Delhi-Tokyo axis. Their case is that India should get on board OBOR for non-ideological, pragmatic reasons. Economic common sense, need for connectivity and access to the proposed Asia-Europe infrastructure of transport and industrial corridors and hubs for telecom, trade, travel and energy transfer dictate that India seize the promise held out by OBOR.

In fact, from a geostrategic perspective, involvement in OBOR could help India to more effectively implement its own Spice Route and Mausam projects. Far from being counter-proposals, these two can be integrated with OBOR to optimise both economic and strategic gains. On more than one occasion, Beijing has expressed its readiness to work with New Delhi — and South Asia — on Spice Route and Mausam. It has offered to reorient and adapt OBOR to make it more acceptable to New Delhi.

China’s One Belt One Road – Viability and Implications

by Jayadeva Ranade

China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ (OBOR), which was first proposed in September 2013 and combines the twin initiatives of the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, is a grand concept that envisions China girdling the globe. Essentially it is a plan for a China-built land and sea transportation artery to link production centres in China with markets and natural resource centres around the world. At the same time it will harness China’s massive, but hitherto idle, economic, manpower and technological reserves and get much needed returns on the investment. The initiative blends geopolitical and diplomatic objectives and has a strong domestic agenda. The latter was highlighted when an official of China’s Ministry of Commerce told Caijing magazine in May 2014 that the “new 30 years” will put today’s China on the threshold of a third era comparable to those begun by Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.

The approximately US$ 1.4 trillion project potentially covers 55 percent of the world GNP, 70 percent of the global population, and 75 percent of the earth’s known energy reserves. China also claims to be willing to make a huge financial commitment in infrastructure financing and, though some multilateral and bilateral pledges may overlap, it is still estimated to exceed US$300 billion. The initiative has the potential to bend borders and alter geostrategic dynamics and the status quo in China’s extended neighborhood. Its completion is planned to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China in 2049.

How the Chinese Government Fabricates Social Media Posts for Strategic Distraction, not Engaged Argument

Gary King, Jennifer Pan, and Margaret E. Roberts. 2016. 

The Chinese government has long been suspected of hiring as many as 2,000,000 people to surreptitiously insert huge numbers of pseudonymous and other deceptive writings into the stream of real social media posts, as if they were the genuine opinions of ordinary people. Almost all scholars, activists, journalists, and participants in social media claim these so-called "Fifty Cent Party" posts argue vociferously for the government's side in political and policy debates. Yet, almost no systematic empirical evidence exists for this claim, or, more importantly, for the Chinese regime's strategic objective in pursuing this activity. In the first large scale empirical analysis of this operation, we show how to identify the secretive authors of these posts, the posts written by them, and their content. We estimate that the government fabricates and posts about 488 million social media comments a year. In contrast to prior claims, we show that the Chinese regime's strategy is to avoid arguing with skeptics of the party and the government, and to not even discuss controversial issues. We infer that the goal of this massive secretive operation is instead to regularly distract the public and change the subject, such as via cheerleading for China, the revolutionary history of the Communist Party, or other symbols of the regime. We discuss how these results fit with what is known about the Chinese censorship program, and suggest how they may change our broader theoretical understanding of "common knowledge" and information control in authoritarian regimes.


MAY 18, 2016

It’s that time of year again, and the end of an era. On Friday, the Obama Administration released the last annual Pentagon China report under its watch. Working the China military observers’ graveyard shift this weekend, I published analyses of the report’s overall content, and its key omissions — namely, any mention whatsoever ofChina’s maritime militia of “little blue men” trolling for territorial claims. Here, I’ll focus on the report’s greatest comparative advantage: insights concerning Beijing’s military technology and its applications that no other public source offers with such official backing or reliable details.

Defense Industrial Dynamics

The Pentagon’s report offers extensive coverage of China’s defense-industrial sector, including key policies and trends. Beijing clearly seeks a comprehensive indigenous defense industrial base, with strong commercial underpinnings. To that end, it is launching its third major round of post-Cold War reforms. Informed by extensive policy documents and a hierarchy of priority subjects, Beijing is funding extensive research, development, and acquisition throughout its sprawling defense industry and related organizations. Emphases include the widespread Chinese approach of civil-military integration and acquiring foreign technology by any means necessary — including extensive cyber and human espionage — while absorbing it and developing indigenous technology and systems in parallel. Characteristic of President Xi Jinping’s structural reform efforts more generally, a new high-level advisory body will oversee these efforts: the Strategic Committee of Science, Technology, and Industry Development for National Defense. One indication of progress: $15 billion in arms export agreements signed between 2010 and 2014.

Al Qaeda gives way to IS: But will it survive?

By Col (Dr) Tej Kumar Tikoo (Retd.)
19 May , 2016

For nearly two years now, the world has been dealing with a new and most brutal form of terrorism represented by ISIS; the acronym stands for Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. However, during this period, the organization has undergone many changes in its religion-based nomenclatures. To start with, it was ISIL, or Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ancient name for Syria) and later, it preferred to call itself simply, IS, i.e., Islamic State. Prior to June 2014, the world’s attention was riveted on Al Qaeda, which though, reduced to a shadow of its past after the 9/11 attack on twin trade towers at New York, still retained the ability to strike at western interests in many places.

Through its own branches in Yemen and Iraq, called AQAP, AQI respectively, Al Qaeda continued to remain a factor in the violent and unstable conditions in Middle East.

Nuclear Terrorism And ISIS: How Scared Should We Be?

Nathalie Guibert 

Though a massive attack with a full-fledged nuclear weapon is highly unlikely, a so-called "dirty bomb" scenario is not out of the question. 

PARIS — The Islamic State (ISIS) wants us to believe that terrorists will soon be equipped with nuclear weapons. Authorites in Washington, where a recent series of four summits on nuclear security was held, have expressed concern about the Syrian-Iraqi situation. And Western intelligence services know that jihadists have been trying to lay their hands on radioactive material.

There is, however, no serious precedent of nuclear terrorism. In 1995, in a Moscow park, Chechen rebels planted an unactivated device containing dynamite and caesium. In 1998, near Grozny, other Chechens made a bomb containing unidentified radioactive substances. In 2003, British intelligence services found evidence suggesting that al-Qaeda, in Afghanistan, was able to produce a small dirty bomb, but no such device was ever found.

Faced with this threat, experts advise common sense. They dismiss, for example, the possibility of terrorists capturing an existing nuclear missile, given how complex the access and the use of these weapons are. Nor do they believe that terrorist groups can manufacture a military-grade weapon — not without support of a state.

Western Jihadist Threats to the Military

May 17, 2016 

In a recent high-profile terrorism case in the U.K., a British-born ISIS sympathizer named Junead Khan was convicted for plotting to attack and kill U.S. military personnel stationed in Britain.[1] His plan was to ram into a vehicle carrying American soldiers and then behead the incapacitated victims. Had police intervened at any point, the intention was to detonate a pressure cooker bomb, committing suicide in the process and maximizing the number of casualties. Far from being an isolated case, this is just one of a long list of attacks on military personnel which have been planned and sometimes executed by Western jihadists. Indeed, Khan appears to have been directly inspired by the events of May 22nd, 2013, when an off-duty British soldier, Fusilier Lee Rigby, was run down and hacked to death by two extremists on the streets of Woolwich, east London.[2] Plots and attacks like these understandably grab headlines and result in at least temporarily heightened force-protection measures. However, little effort has been made to systematically analyze Western jihadist threats to the military, which of course are not limited to the U.K. and are both diverse and ongoing. Drawing upon a variety of cases involving Europe, North America and Australia, this article identifies a range of overlapping external and internal threats and discusses implications for military security.

External Threats

In this context, external threats involve civilian jihadists acting against domestic military targets from outside of the organization. Most notably, this includes planned and/or executed terrorist attacks as well as malicious hacking operations aimed either at defacement, disruption or acquisition of sensitive information. A third type of external threat involves the acquisition of military materials such as manuals, weapons or other items, though not necessarily for use against military targets.

Terrorist Attacks against Domestic Military Targets

Opinion: The case for launching a digital invasion against ISIS

By Kyle Matthews, Contributor Chantalle Gonzalez, Contributor 
MAY 18, 2016

The cybersecurity threat from Islamic State and the group's supporters requires a global, coordinated effort to decimate their entire digital and online apparatus.

While Defense Department officials said that the US began dropping"cyberbombs" on Islamic State last month, the online threat posed by the terrorists deserves an even more profound response: a global, coordinated assault on their entire digital apparatus. 

The US and its allies have been reluctant to talk publicly about offensive operations in cyberspace, but now is the time to put the West's collective technical superiority to work in an all-out cyberwar against the Islamic State.

That effort shouldn't just be limited to targeting the outfit's central command. It should include identifying and exposing the transnational network of pro-IS hacking groups, their leaders, their alliances, and how they are working in concert with Islamic State leadership. 

This kind of effort would have to include hacking their computers and smartphones, implanting viruses and malware to pull out intelligence data on the organization, disrupting their ability to communicate with one another, and for those who are outside of Iraq and Syria, unmasking their profiles and publicizing their identities.

Twilight of the Petrostate

May 17, 2016 

The age of oil rents is over. A political and geopolitical revolution is on its way.

About twenty countries around the world are dependent on a single number: the price of oil. Some, primarily Persian Gulf states, live entirely off their oil and gas wealth. They rely on crude oil, natural gas and petroleum products for 50 percent of their Gross Domestic Product and for 70-plus percent of their budget revenue. Some 15 countries generate more than 50 percent of their export earnings from oil, gas and petroleum product sales.

Oil-producing countries have been living a dream. In recent decades, most oil-producing countries saw their per-capita GDP not only expand but show a rate of growth above the global average. In other words, they were getting rich faster than the rest of the world. In terms of dollar-denominated GDP per capita, as crude prices peaked in 2011 Russia and Kazakhstan outstripped Malaysia and Turkey; Saudi Arabia and Equatorial Guinea nearly overtook South Korea; Kuwait shot ahead of Great Britain, while Qatar rose to rank as one of the three richest nations. The new generation of the petrostates' political elite has come to look on oil rent as a means to achieve all its goals. And yet, many experts will call the oil windfall a curse, not a blessing. A prosperity that is due to the sheer accident of owning large mineral resources rather than to technological prowess, investment and hard work has its downsides, including the degradation of political systems, the throttling of competition and the proliferation of populist fiscal policies.

An awakening from this dream is now inevitable. The future holds challenges for those countries that have cast their lot with the global oil market. There is little doubt that oil's transformation into an ordinary, non-rent-generating commodity is going to change the world.

The World Bank is eliminating the term “developing country” from its data vocabulary

May 17, 2016

Is Singapore, with a higher per-capita income than the United States, really a developing country? (Reuters/Edgar Su) 

In the 2016 edition of its World Development Indicators, the World Bank has made a big choice: It’s no longer distinguishing between “developed” countries and “developing” ones in the presentation of its data.

The change marks an evolution in thinking about the geographic distribution of poverty and prosperity. But it sounds less radical when you consider that nobody has ever agreed on a definition for these terms in the first place.

The International Monetary Fund says its own distinction between advanced and emerging market economies “is not based on strict criteria, economic or otherwise.” The United Nations doesn’t have an official definition of a developing country, despite slapping the label on 159 nations. And the World Bank itself had previously simply lumped countries in the bottom two-thirds of gross national income (GNI) into the category, but even that comparatively strict cut-off wasn’t very useful.

“The main issue is that there is just so much heterogeneity between Malawi and Malaysia for both to be classified in the same group—Malaysia is more like the US than Malawi,” says Umar Serajuddin, a senior economist in the World Bank’s statistics office. “When we lump disparate countries together in the same group, it isn’t really useful.”

Cold War Theater

The U.S. and Russia are fighting about missile defense when they should be settling differences. 

The entire spectacle is theater, and little more.

Photo illustration by Sofya Levina. Photos by Kirill Kudryavtsev/Getty Images and Jim Watson/Getty Images. 

An American missile defense system was activated with great fanfare in Romania on Thursday, and Russian officials instantly denounced it as a provocation that might trigger a nuclear arms race and possibly war.

Fred Kaplan is the author of Dark Territory: The Secret History of Cyber War

Is Moscow’s protest mere bluster and nonsense? Mainly yes, but a little bit no. The Russians are being paranoid in typically Russian fashion; but, as has often been the case, there’s some logic to their madness.

You may be surprised (I was) that we’re putting antimissile missiles on Eastern European soil. Wasn’t that President George W. Bush’s idea, and didn’t President Obama scotch the plan during his first year in office, deciding instead to put the interceptors out to sea, on the U.S. Navy’s Aegis cruisers? Obama did this for two reasons. First, ships are mobile, so the missiles would be less vulnerable to a pre-emptive attack. Second, Russians had expressed fears that the missiles were aimed at them, and this was the era of the “reset” in Russian-American relations. (Bush diddesign the program to intercept Russian

intercontinental ballistic missiles; Obama reoriented it, with different interceptors, to go after short-range missiles launched at Europe by Iran or rogue powers.)

Africans don’t trust their governments—that’s great for cyber criminals

Africans could be the next victims of cyber criminals.(Reuters/Esam Omran Al-Fetori) 

African citizens and businesses would rather take their chances with the consequences of cybercrime than share personal information with their governments. That’s why African countries could be a major victim of cyber crime in coming years, warn analysts and government officials speaking at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Kigali last week.

The lack of trust some Africans have for their governments runs deep, particularly in countries where the leadership has been repressive or autocratic and stems from fears officials may be spying on citizens.

“There is a huge lack of information sharing due to absence of trust between the private and public sector which is affecting the fight against cyber crimes” said Jean-Luc Vez, the head of public security policy and security affairs at the World Economic Forum.

He said the reason for the mistrust is that “some countries go on scrutinizing and spying on their citizens which makes it hard for the private sector to share information,” adding that it difficult for people to draw a distinction between the needs of national security and combating cyber crimes.


May 16, 2016

Where Oil Prices Go From Here; Goldman Sachs Says “Oil Market Has Ended Almost 2yrs Of Oversupply & Flipped To A Deficit’

Pulitzer Prize-winning author, and Vice Chairman of the global consulting firm IHS, has an Op-Ed in this morning’s (May 16, 2016) Wall Street Journal on what the future holds for the price of oil. Mr. Yergin, who is steeped in the history of oil, begins by noting that “leaders of the major oil exporting countries used to talk about “saving the oil” for their grandchildren. But now,” he writes, “the grandchildren are in charge and the want to monetize the oil. That is certainly so in Saudi Arabia, where Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — a grandson of the country’s founder, Abdul Aziz ibn Saud — has launched an ambitious plan to reduce the country’s dependence on oil. Decrees issued this month announced far-reaching changes in Saudi ministers and government organizations.”

“Yet,” Mr. Yergin observes, “the result could end up making Saudi Arabia, which now produces one of every eight barrels of the world’s crude, an even bigger player in the global oil market. Prince Mohammed’s Vision 2030 plan comes as the oil market is working back toward a balance, having crashed as low as $26 a barrel in February — from $100 in 2014. Current prices in the mid-to-high $40s are signaling a turn in the market,” he contends.

“World oil production still exceeds consumption. Yet by Autumn,” Mr. Yergin writes, “declining production and rising demand should put the market roughly in balance, with prices around $50 a barrel, although still with a big overhang in oil inventories.”

UK's special forces target Isis communications with black ops electronic warfare

May 15, 2016

GoPro footage reveals horrific reality of what it's like to fight for IsisIBTimes UK

UK special forces have launched a massive electronic warfare campaign on Islamic State (Isis). The "black ops" operation reportedly carried out by a crew of the RAF Rivet Joint spy plane has shut down the extremist group's communications network in Libya.

The forces deployed sophisticated "jamming strikes" on the Isis (Daesh) stronghold of Sirte, a town located on the Mediterranean coast, 400 miles from Malta, the Daily Mail reported. The strike involved the RAF crew turning off IS's preferred signal frequencies.

A source is quoted as saying: "All enemy communications including mobile phones and the internet are vulnerable to interception. It is best practice to monitor these means and gather information, then occasionally use jamming strikes to spread confusion among their ranks at vital times. There is a shortage of human sources within IS in Libya so whatever intelligence we can gather from listening to their conversations, the better."

A GCHQ cyberwarfare squad on board the Royal Navy survey vessel HMS Enterprise kept track of the response to the latest jamming strike. They also observed the online exchanges between key IS leaders who are currently believed to hold command over 6,000 militants in Libya.

Mobile data needs to get this much cheaper before most of the world can afford it

Most of the world can’t afford mobile data at current prices. About 43% of the world’s population can afford 500 MB of mobile data a month right now. In order to double that number, data costs have to fall by 70% globally, according to a new study by Strategy&, a unit of the consulting firm PwC.

Here’s what that looks like charted in 14 countries:

The study, conducted for Facebook’s controversial Internet.org initiative, which aims to provide internet access to currently unconnected populations, defines “affordable” as a prepaid data plan that allows up to 500 MB of use a month, and costing 5% or less of a person’s gross monthly income. Even those assumptions may be conservative. The average user in a rich country uses 630 MB of data a month, and that figure is kept low because of widespread availability of wifi networks, some of which are free. If wifi use is taken into account, rich-country users eat up 2 GB of data monthly, according to the report.

What does 500MB of data get you? Every day, 800 plain-text emails, or 17 web pages, or eight minutes of video, according to a global study on internet connectivity published by Internet.org in February.

The problem isn’t going away any time soon. Unlike the rich world, many emerging markets don’t have an infrastructure of wifi networks. If emerging market users behaved like their counterparts in wealthy markets, their mobile data consumption would also be as much as 2 GB, but would cost them considerably more given the lack of free wifi.


By Jake Bebber

The following is a two-part series on how the U.S. might better utilize cyberspace and information operations as a Third Offset. Part I evaluated current offset proposals and explores the strategic context. Part II provides specific cyber/IO operations and lines of effort. Read Part One here.

Targeting China’s ability to control information is an efficient means to offset Chinese power. To be effective, the United States should adopt a “whole of government” approach, leveraging cyberspace and other information related capabilities that can hold China’s domestic internet filtering, censorship, and information dissemination capabilities at risk. This campaign should operate across the entire spectrum of conflict and engagement, from public diplomacy and strategic communication, to battlespace preparation, limited conflict, and if de-escalation is unsuccessful, full-spectrum military operations. It will likely require coordination and administration at the highest civilian leadership level. This will be a long-term campaign aiming to counter China during the critical window in the next ten to twenty years when Chinese economic and military power will surge, and then subside as demographic factors limit its growth causing China to enter into a period of decline and inherently shifts its focus inward to to maintain stability.

The Problem With Personnel Reform: Who are the Army’s Best and Brightest?

May 18, 2016

The Problem With Personnel Reform: Who are the Army’s Best and Brightest?

Robert P. Callahan, Jr.

The phrase “best and brightest” is frequently used but ambiguously defined. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter’s Force of the Future aims to recruit and retain this group, but it fails to define who the best and brightest are. Many proposed personnel reforms do the same thing. Doctrinal and popular sources define which officers are the Army’s best and which are its brightest. These sources suggest that the Army’s best and brightest officers form two almost completely independent groups. The best officers succeed in traditional leadership positions, the brightest officers leverage their participation in Broadening Opportunity Programs to attempt to improve the Army, and the best and brightest do both. The firmly defined career track of the Army’s best and the Army’s up-or-out policy combine to prevent the best and the brightest from overlapping. A number of reforms have been proposed to address this state of affairs, but recent reports suggest that the Army’s policies will not change. 

Setting the Stage

During late February 1991, Captain Herbert McMaster led Eagle Troop, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment (ACR) east across the deserts of Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm. Eagle Troop was ordered to the 70th easting (a measure of distance east or west) on the afternoon of February 26th, and their advance led directly into a village heavily defended by Iraqis. After engaging the Iraqis and bypassing the village to the north, CPT McMaster’s soldiers decisively engaged a dug-in Iraqi position on the back slope of a ridge. Weaving through minefields, clearing bunkers, and peppering the unprotected rears of Iraqi tanks, Eagle Troop wiped out the Iraqi position. During the course of these actions, Eagle Troop had moved beyond the 70th easting to the 73rd easting. When McMaster’s executive officer radioed a reminder that the 70th easting was the limit of advance, McMaster replied, “I can’t stop. We’re still in contact. Tell them I’m sorry.”[i] McMaster was awarded the Silver Star, the Army’s third highest award for bravery, for his initiative and the successes of Eagle Troop.

Navy chief tells fellow admirals to rethink integrity and behavior in aftermath of scandals

May 18 2016

Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, answers a question at a U.S. base in Bahrain in 2015. (Spec. 2nd Class Charles Oki/U.S. Navy) 

The Navy’s highest-ranking officer has summoned more than 200 admirals to a special gathering near Washington on Thursday at which he will urge them to place a renewed emphasis on integrity in light of several scandals that have plagued the service. 

“Our behavior, as an organization and as individuals, must signal our commitment to the values we so often proclaim,” Adm. John M. Richardson, the chief of naval operations, wrote in an unusually blunt message to his fellow admirals before the meeting. “As senior leaders, our personal conduct, and the example it sets, are essential to our credibility.” 

“When we perform superbly, that is justifiably expected,” Richardson added in his message, which was obtained by The Washington Post. “When we misstep, it is a shocking disappointment that brings into question trust and confidence. Some of these missteps are front page news, and rightly so.” 

Although Richardson did not single out specific cases of misbehavior, the Navy has been dogged by a major corruption scandal involving an Asian defense contractor who has pleaded guilty to bribing Navy officers with cash, sex and luxury goods over a decade. 

This Is How the U.S. Navy's Submarine Force Dominates the World's Oceans

May 17, 2016 

Though Russia continues to develop and build newer and ever more capable nuclear attack submarines such as the Project 885M Yasen-class, the U.S. Navy continues to maintain its technological edge by incrementally improving itsVirginia-class attack boats.

“I think we have a very focused program called the acoustic superiority program to make sure that we in fact keep our technological lead—our acoustical advantage—and that's a focus of every one of our developmental programs,” Capt. Mike Stevens, Naval Sea Systems Command’s Virginia-class program manager told me at the Navy League’s Sea, Air and Space symposium on May 17. “It doesn't do any good to build submarines that aren’t up to par, so it’s a main part of our focus to make sure those submarine do maintain their acoustical advantage—not just today but 10, 20 years out.”

Indeed, while the highest profile planned improvement to Virginia-class boats is the addition of a new payload module that boosts the vessel’s Tomahawk missile capacity to 40, there are a host acoustical improvements to boats that are ongoing. “Acoustics are an essential element of a submarine,” Stevens said. “Stealth is the main aspect we focus on, so we always—from ship to ship even—we look at the acoustic health and make sure we’re doing what we can improve it.”