31 December 2017

Top Conflicts to Watch in 2018

Top Conflicts to Watch in 2018
-- Maj gen P K mallick,VSM (Retd)

Center of Preventive Action of Council on Foreign Relation has identified eight conflicts as"top tier" risks In this year 2017. These were:
  • military conflict involving the United States, North Korea, and its neighboring countries
  • an armed confrontation between Iran and the United States or one of its allies over Iran's involvement in regional conflicts and support of militant proxy groups, including the Yemeni Houthis and Lebanese Hezbollah 
  • a highly disruptive cyberattack on U.S. critical infrastructure and networks 
  • a deliberate or unintended military confrontation between Russia and North Atlantic Treaty Organization members, stemming from assertive Russian behavior in Eastern Europe 
  • an armed confrontation over disputed maritime areas in the South China Sea between China and one or more Southeast Asian claimants—Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, or Vietnam 
  • a mass casualty terrorist attack on the U.S. homeland or a treaty ally by either foreign or homegrown terrorist(s) 
  • intensified violence in Syria as government forces attempt to regain control over territory, with heightened tensions among external parties to the conflict, including the United States, Russia, and Iran 
  • increased violence and instability in Afghanistan resulting from the Taliban insurgency and potential government collapse 

Many of the contingencies identified in previous surveys remain concerns for 2018. Of the thirty identified this year, twenty-two were considered risks last year. Among the eight new contingencies in this year's survey are the risks of intensified clashes between Israel and Hezbollah, increased violence and political instability in the Sahel region of Africa, and escalating tensions or extremist violence in the Balkans. 

Two contingencies were upgraded to the top tier this year: an armed confrontation between Iran and the United States or one of its allies, and an armed confrontation over disputed maritime areas in the South China Sea between China and one or more Southeast Asian claimants. 

The 2018 survey downgraded the priority rankings of two contingencies, compared to last year: the intensification of violence between Turkey and various Kurdish armed groups within Turkey and neighboring countries, and the probability of greater violence in Libya.

Other scenarios in this category include a mass-casualty terrorist attack on the U.S. homeland, a major cyberattack on U.S. critical infrastructure, and two surprising contingencies given how quiet each front was in 2017: military confrontations between Russia and nato members, or between China and one or more Southeast Asian nations over territorial disputes in the South China Sea. 

Reds on the Tracks

Ajit Kumar Singh

In the night of December 19, 2017, at around 11 pm, an armed squad of about 15 Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadres, including some women, carried out an attack at the Masudan Railway Station in the Jamalpur area of Monghyr District, Bihar. The Maoists set ablaze station property, including the signaling panel, hampering rail services, and abducted two railway employees present at the station - Assistant Station Master [ASM] Mukesh Paswan and porter Narendra Mandal. Though the movement of trains was restored after the fire was doused at around 5:30am, it had to be suspended again at 6:40am following a phone call, reportedly from the Maoists, threatening to kill the captives if traffic was not stopped. An unnamed railway official stated, “Assistant station master Mukesh Paswan and porter Narendra Mandal at Masudan were held captive and taken away to some undisclosed location at about 11:30pm. The panic-stricken ASM called the Malda [West Bengal] DRM [Divisional Regional Manger] to inform that the Maoists had threatened to kill them if the movement of trains continued [on Masudan track].” After the State Police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) launched a joint search operation, the Maoists released the two men in a hilly area at Jamalpur. Train services were restored thereafter. Interestingly, there was no force deployment at the station, which falls within a Maoist-affected region, even when the Maoists had called for a 24-hour Bihar and Jharkhand bandh (shut down) on December 20, 2017, protesting police action against their (Maoist) cadres.

Pakistan’s risky experiment of mainstreaming extremism

BY Sameer Patil

As Pakistan prepares for general elections, its Army is working to bring terrorist and radical religious groups into the political mainstream. Its leisurely response to recent anti-blasphemy protests by the Tehreek Labaik Ya Rasool group and release of terrorist mastermind Hafiz Saeed are a part of this strategy.

Pakistan has just been through another round of ‘sit-in’ protests, led by the Barelvi group, Tehreek Labaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLY): its demand was the revocation of an allegedly blasphemous amendment in the Election Act 2017 that was perceived to be questioning the finality of the prophethood.[1] The authorities’ and the military’s reluctance to take on the protesters showed a strong possibility of collusion between the Pakistani Army and radical religious groups.

In Tangled Afghan War, a Thin Line of Defense Against ISIS

By Mujib Mashal

KHOGYANI, Afghanistan — When the American military dropped the largest bomb in its arsenal on an Islamic State cave complex here in eastern Afghanistan in April, the generals justified it as part of a robust campaign to destroy the group’s local affiliate by year’s end.

Its force had been reduced to 700 fighters from 3,000, they said, and its area of operation diminished to three districts from 11.

But as the year comes to a close, the Islamic State is far from being vanquished in eastern Afghanistan, even as the group is on the run in its core territory in Iraq and Syria. It has waged brutal attacks that have displaced thousands of families and forced even some Taliban fighters, who had long controlled the mountainous terrain, to seek government protection.

Sharp Words From the United States Will Achieve Little in Pakistan

By Umair Jamal

It’s time for the United States to take note of some realities in Pakistan. 

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, during his recent surprise visit to Afghanistan, had sharp words for Pakistan. He not only accused Pakistan of providing safe haven to terrorists operating in Afghanistan, but also said that “President Trump has put Pakistan on notice” and “those days are over” when Islamabad can provide sanctuaries to militants in the country. Arguably, Pence’s statement directly threatening Pakistan of dire consequences unless the country changes its policy of allegedly sheltering terrorist organizations is perhaps the most serious warning that any U.S. regime has given to Pakistan since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

China, Pak to look at including Afghanistan in $57bn economic corridor

China and Pakistan will look at extending their $57 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to Afghanistan, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Tuesday, part of China's ambitious Belt and Road plan linking China with Asia, Europe and beyond.

China has tried to position itself as a helpful party to promote talks between Pakistan and Afghanistan, both uneasy neighbours ever since Pakistan's independence in 1947.

Trade And Terror: The Impact Of Terrorism On Developing Countries

by Subhayu Bandyopadhyay , Javed Younas

Economists Walter Enders and Todd Sandler defined terrorism as the premeditated use of or threat to use violence by individuals or subnational groups to obtain a political or social objective through the intimidation of a large audience beyond that of the immediate victims. Central to this definition is the widespread sense of vulnerability that individuals or businesses in a venue nation - a country where the violence occurs - must feel.



Russia rarely comes up when Western analysts talk about Southern Asia. Sure, there was that war in Afghanistan, but the Soviet Union withdrew its forces nearly two decades ago. How is it then, that we’re hearing lately about Moscow talking to its erstwhile enemy, the Taliban, and holding military exerciseswith Pakistan, all while maintaining its role as India’s biggest arms supplier? What’s happened and who, if anyone, should worry?



It’s getting harder to sustain a reasonable discourse about North Korea.

The political left keeps resorting to pacifist tropes about diplomacy being the only solution or the United States being the problem, but without advancing any theory of the case. In what universe will sitting down with a nuclear state and saying some special configuration of words convince them to give up what they equate with their survival? Diplomats are not wizards.

When China woos, it usually wins


The president of Maldives, Abdulla Yameen, couldn’t have asked for anything more from his Beijing visit that turned into a love-fest. The president of the tiny archipelago, which has 4,39,000 people, got red-carpet treatment from the moment he set foot in China’s capital — including a ceremonial meeting with President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People. A thousand-page free trade agreement signed in China was rubber-stamped through the Maldives parliament soon afterwards.

Eye on China — 22/12/2017

Ni hao! Welcome to Eye on China, a weekly bulletin offering news and analysis related to the Middle Kingdom.

I. The Lead:

1. ‘Xiconomics’ takes shape: The three-day Central Economic Work Conference ended on Wednesday. More than 400 officials, from key party members to provincial governors and executives from state-owned firms and financial institutions, attended the conference. The annual, closed-door meeting sets the direction for economic policy for the coming year. Here’s what we’ve got this time around: 

Visualizing 2018: The Essential Graphics

From North Korea’s nuclear tests to global refugee flows, the rise or fall in numbers signals where the world may be headed in 2018. To help visualize what’s on the horizon, CFR editors asked ten of our experts to highlight the charts and graphs to keep an eye on in the coming year. 

1. U.S. Communities and the Climate Challenge

Balkans in 2017: Two Cheers for the Economy

Balkan economies made real progress in 2017 but media freedom ebbed in some countries, and the region remained hostage to East-West rivalry for influence. 

As 2017 draws to a close, most inhabitants of the Balkans could afford to raise a glass to a year that brought the region saw some economic benefits and saw no major conflicts between any states in Europe’s still fractured and potentially neuralgic southeast corner. 

Moreover, as Britain advanced its preparations to exit the EU, the first country to do so, interest grew into which of the five EU candidate countries – four in the Balkans – would be the first to take Britain’s vacant place. 

Views from the capitals: European dreams for 2018

The EU has seemingly survived the existential crises of the Brexit vote, the ascent of Donald Trump, and the rise of the far right across the continent. But the union and its international influence remain fragile. The populist wave may have peaked, but it has certainly not passed; refugee deals with Turkey and Libya are under threat, and the southern and eastern neighbourhoods remain turbulent. Against this backdrop, we asked our national offices to outline their governments' greatest hope and greatest fear for foreign and European policy in 2018. 

Power on the Periphery of Europe

By Antonia Colibasanu

British Prime Minister Theresa May visited Warsaw to sign a new defense treaty between Britain and Poland. May called the deal a “powerful symbol” of the two countries’ close cooperation; however, the agreement speaks less to the cooperation between the two countries and more to Europe’s slow regression to pre-EU realities through the fragmentation of the European Union.

America is on the brink of a historic break with Europe, thanks to Trump

Foreign service officers like me saw ourselves as guardians of this vital alliance. But Trump isn't interested in leading it or writing its next chapter.

The Trump administration’s newly unveiled national security strategy lists reinforcing America’s alliances as a major objective. Yet in the first year of his embattled presidency, Donald Trump has so undermined our ties to Europe that we could be on the verge of a break in the seven-decade trans-Atlantic alliance.

Seeing through a glass darkly

M.K. Narayanan

To deal with the terror threat, there must be far greater sharing of intelligence among agencies worldwide

Yet another anniversary of the November 26, 2008 terror attacks on multiple targets in Mumbai has come and gone. Much has changed since then and terror has evolved into an even more dangerous phenomenon. Recent variants represent a paradigmatic change in the practice of violence.

World's Wealthiest Became $1 Trillion Richer in 2017

Tom Metcalf and Jack Witzig 

The richest people on earth became $1 trillion richer in 2017, more than four times last year’s gain, as stock markets shrugged off economic, social and political divisions to reach record highs.

The 23 percent increase on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, a daily ranking of the world’s 500 richest people, compares with an almost 20 percent increase for both the MSCI World Index and Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

2 big warnings from Gen. McChrystal: War in Europe is possible & we’re going to have to give up rights for our security


After eight years at Foreign Policy, here are the ten most popular Best Defense posts.

U.S. Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, commander of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces-Afghanistan arrives at Combat Outpost Sharp in the Garmsir District. 

Next month, this column will be moving to another platform. But before we go, in celebration of eight happy and productive years at Foreign Policy, here are the most popular items ever to run on the Best Defense.

Cyberattack Targets Safety System at Saudi Aramco


Malicious software attacked a safety system in August at Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil company, in what is the first-ever example of malware targeting the computer systems designed to prevent a disaster at an industrial facility.

The attack was first described by the computer security firm FireEye in a blog post last week, which did not name the victim of the attack. But a confidential report obtained by Foreign Policy and authored by Area 1 Security, a computer security firm founded by veterans of the U.S. National Security Agency, identifies Aramco as the victim of the attack.


By Philipp Martin Dingeldey 


To stay ahead of competing ports and technological developments, automation has been heralded as inevitable. Major transshipment hubs and aspiring ports bet their future on automation, which raises the impact cyber risks could have in the long-run.

Russia is pushing the Army to move faster on electronic warfare

By: Mark Pomerleau 

The Electronic Warfare Planning and Management Tool is a command-and-control planning capability that allows commanders and soldiers to visualize what the effects of electronic warfare will look like on a screen. 

Air Force wants cyber to have impact, tools measuring how hard it can hit

By: Mark Pomerleau  

The effects of kinetic weapons, such as hand grenades, are widely understood. For nonkinetic effects, such as cyber or electronic jamming, it’s much more difficult to visualize their effects, making planning and employment more unpredictable and in some cases less likely. The Air Force are the RAND Corporation are working to address this difficulty in characterizing impact.

How Should International Law Treat Cyberattacks like WannaCry?

By Michael J. Adams, Megan Reiss

North Korea was behind the infamous WannaCry cyberattack, asserted homeland security adviser Thomas P. Bossert in a Dec. 18 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that echoes the CIA’s previously classified assessment and British government statements. And the United States, Bossert insists, will hold bad actors accountable—in this case, for the billions of dollars in harm caused by this widespread and indiscriminate ransomware attack. He cites as precedent the U.S. government actions taken against Russian, Iranian and Chinese hackers.

What three of the year’s biggest defense stories looked like from space

By: Mike Gruss

The news in the defense community in 2017 largely revolved around three international conflicts: North Korea’s attempts to become a nuclear power, the fight against the Islamic State and attacks in Syria.

The satellite imagery company DigitalGlobe captured events from each of these struggles and released them to selected media outlets for the end of the year. While satellite imagery can feel novel at times, high-resolution imagery has become a critical asset for military and intelligence agencies.

A New History of the Second World War

By Joshua Rothman

In 1936, Charles Lindbergh arrived in Berlin to inspect the Luftwaffe. The visit had been arranged by Truman Smith, an ingenious intelligence officer who knew that Herman Göring, the Nazi air marshal, would find the American aviator’s celebrity irresistible; Lindbergh flew to Berlin with his wife, Anne, as his co-pilot, and then, along with Smith and another officer, spent a few days meeting German pilots, inspecting operations, and even flying several German planes. (The group also had dinner at Göring’s house, where they met his pet lion cub, Augie.) Lindbergh was impressed by what he saw; Göring so enjoyed impressing him that Smith was able to arrange four more visits over the next few years. Drawing on them, Lindbergh sent a dire warning to General Henry (Hap) Arnold, the commander of the U.S. Air Force, in 1938. “Germany is undoubtedly the most powerful nation in the world in military aviation,” he wrote, “and her margin of leadership is increasing with each month that passes.”

30 December 2017

The Future of Conflict for Next Five Years

The Future of Conflict for Next Five Years

-- Maj Gen P K Mallick,VSM (Retd)

John E. McLaughlin was Deputy Director and Acting Director of the CIA from 2000 to 2004, and now teaches at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).

He has tried to look ahead five years to estimate the future of conflict. 

His predictions are :

First, we are likely to see what might be called a protracted standoff among the great powers, as rivalries persist and the will and processes for dampening them remain elusive. Ukraine is a good case in point. NATO powers have few tools to force Russia out of Ukraine other than economic sanctions, while Russian president Putin sees keeping Ukraine out of Western institutions and frameworks as a core interest that he can nary sacrifice.

In Asia, the interests of the US and its partners converge only partly with those of China, making it difficult to collaborate on a strategy to avoid the seeming inevitability of a North Korea armed with a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile.

A second trend fuelling conflict will be the atomization of terrorism in the aftermath of a likely successful international effort to push ISIS off the Iraqi and Syrian territories that it seized in 2014. With its global strategy, ISIS has established a number of nodes, outside its heartland, in places like Egypt, Libya, East Africa and Southeast Asia, from which it can plot, train, plan and regroup. Attacks such as the ones in Ankara, Paris, Brussels, Nice, Berlin, Manchester, London, Barcelona and Manhattan will become the new normal for the immediate future.

Finally, the Russian hacking of the US election is probably just the front end of a long bout of cyber-duelling among nations, accompanied by the incalculable impact of cyber-skilled non-state actors. Russia’s intervention was novel only in its means. It was fuelled mainly by social media and, as such, was merely the 21st century version of a covert influence tradition rooted in the post-revolutionary Russia of the last century.

With cyber tools certain to grow in sophistication, we are certain to see more such efforts. Nothing is likely to interrupt this trend, short of successful cyber arms control negotiations or a calamitous event, such as a ‘cyber 9/11.’ The latter would involve some country experiencing the loss of its power grid or some other capability essential to its normal functioning and to public health and safety. Such an event might (or might not) have the effect that the 9/11 attacks had in galvanizing international support for the resource and policy commitments needed to combat terrorism.

India to become fifth largest economy in 2018, says report

Currently ranked seventh, India will move up to fifth place in 2018 and vault to third spot by 2032, the Centre for Economics and Business Research, a London-based consultancy, said.

India is set to overtake the United Kingdom and France to become the world’s fifth largest economy next year, a report said on Tuesday.

Currently ranked seventh, India will move up to fifth place in 2018 and vault to third spot by 2032, the Centre for Economics and Business Research, a London-based consultancy, said in its annual rankings.

The Paradox of Indian Military Innovation

Anirudh Kanisetti

What explains the Great Divergence between Indian and foreign military powers?

Inthe 10th and 11th centuries, Europe was very much the backwater of the civilised world. In the Middle East, the Islamic Golden Age of scientific innovation was reaching a crescendo with advances in everything from algebra to the properties of light. In China under the Song dynasty, paper money was being experimented with, and more importantly, gunpowder weaponry was being incorporated into the military.

New Extremist Religious Groups Are Wrecking Pakistan

Abdul Basit

Religious politics in Pakistan has moved away from pan-Islamism to narrow sectarianism with the entry of new religious-political groups.

With the rise of Barelvi, a sub-sect of Sunni Hanafi Islam, extremist groups in Pakistan, the country’s drift into extremism comes full circle. Apparently, considered to be more tolerant and accommodative of other faiths and sects, the Barelvi groups in Pakistan have been asserting themselves politically since the 2016 hanging of Mumtaz Qadri, who was the self-righteous assassin of former Punjab governor Salman Taseeer.

South Asia is not the most dangerous place on Earth

Ramamurti Rajaraman

Nuclear weapons are arguably among the most dangerous inventions of man. The scale and rapidity of the destruction they can cause is unparalleled, as evidenced by the two occasions that they were used on civilian populations and by the numerous tests conducted on testing ranges. It follows that any country choosing to possess nuclear weapons is creating an existential threat, not only for its adversaries but also for itself and for its general neighborhood. Such places are all very dangerous to be in.

In Tangled Afghan War, a Thin Line of Defense Against ISIS

Mujib Mashal
New York Times 

KHOGYANI, Afghanistan — When the American military dropped the largest bomb in its arsenal on an Islamic State cave complex here in eastern Afghanistan in April, the generals justified it as part of a robust campaign to destroy the group’s local affiliate by year’s end.

Its force had been reduced to 700 fighters from 3,000, they said, and its area of operation diminished to three districts from 11.

Diverging Trajectories in Bangladesh: Islamic State vs al-Qaeda

By: Nathaniel Barr

Al-Qaeda and Islamic State have adopted divergent strategies in their competition for dominance in Bangladesh. Al-Qaeda has sought to build popular support by exploiting the grievances of the country’s political Islamists, and by employing targeted violence against secularists, atheists and those who are perceived to be advancing Western values, an approach that analysts have noted mirrors the Maoist insurgency model. [1] The group has also pursued a deliberate and cautious growth strategy, refraining from behavior that would expose its clandestine activities. IS, on the other hand, has adopted a more aggressive and confrontational approach, carrying out high-profile attacks against religious minorities, Westerners and security forces in an effort to sow sectarian tensions and destabilize the Bangladeshi state.

Staying Power Mao and the Maoists.

By Pankaj Mishra

“Arevolution is not a dinner party,” Mao Zedong declared. Rather, as he helpfully clarified in 1927, it is “an insurrection, an act of violence.” He might have warned that nation building is no picnic, either. Mao rose to supremacy within the Chinese Communist Party (C.C.P.), through several bloody purges of “revisionists” and “rightists.” After long years as a marginal peasant leader, he finally brought his revolution to all of China, forcing his great rival Chiang Kai-shek to flee to Taiwan (then called Formosa). Founding the People’s Republic of China in 1949, Mao exulted, “The Chinese people, comprising one quarter of humanity, have stood up.” He soon knocked them down, overwhelming the gradual processes of China’s modernization with the frenzy of permanent revolution.

At an Air Show in China, Drones, Not Jets, Are the Stars

By Lam Yik Fei 

WUHAN, China — Need more evidence that China is a global force in technology? Just listen for the low whine of tiny propellers.

And look up.

At the World Fly-In Expo, an air show held in the central Chinese city of Wuhan last month, jets, hot air balloons, autogiros and ultralight planes were upstaged by Chinese-made drones.


By Tuan N. Pham

At the 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), President Xi Jinping opened the assembly by delivering a seminal report to its members. The three hour-long speechemphatically reaffirmed a strategic roadmap for national rejuvenation and officially heralded a new era in Chinese national development. Beijing now seems, more than ever, determined to move forward from Mao Zedong’s revolutionary legacy and Deng Xiaoping’s iconic dictum (“observe calmly, secure our position, cope with affairs calmly, hide our capacities and bide our time, be good at maintaining a low profile, and never claim leadership”). Beijing also appears poised to expand its global power and influence through the ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, expansive build-up and modernization of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), assertive foreign policy, and forceful public diplomacy. Underpinning these strategic activities are various ancillary strategies – maritime, space, and cyberspace – all interlinked with the grand strategy of the Chinese Dream.

The Perils of a Post-ISIS Middle East


To defeat the Islamic State, Washington has cultivated ties with groups at odds with each other. What happens when their common foe is gone?

As 2017 draws to a close, the mood among leading pundits on the U.S.-led campaign to dislodge the Islamic State from Iraq and Syria might seem justifiably upbeat, even jubilant. After all, the accomplishments in the campaign’s first three years are many: eliminating key ISIS leaders, clearing the group from its so-called “dual capitals” of Mosul and Raqqa, and reducing the territorial safe havens from which it can plot attacks. It’s with some justification that, on December 9, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory over ISIS in Iraq.

Is Saudi Arabia’s Post-Oil Future Realistic?

By Irina Slav

In case anyone had any doubts that Saudi Arabia has very ambitious economic growth plans, the 2018 budget, announced earlier this week by King Salam, must have dispelled them. The kingdom plans to spend $261 billion in 2018, its largest-ever budget. And that’s not all.

Riyadh also eyes reducing the share of oil revenues in the total to less than 50 percent. That would be a huge reduction given that oil accounted for more than 90 percent of revenues just three years ago. To date, oil revenues are about two-thirds of the total. So, basically, there are now two questions that pique the curiosity of observers: Where will the money for the record budget come from, and how will Riyadh accomplish the huge cut in oil revenues as a part of the total?

Electronic Jihad in Nigeria: How Boko Haram Is Using Social Media

By: Jacob Zenn

While many jihadist groups have shown themselves adept at using social media to further their propaganda efforts, Boko Haram arrived late to the game. In 2010, the year then Boko Haram leader Abubakr Shekau declared jihad, one Boko Haram member even posted on the Ansar al-Mujahideen jihadist web forum that “we lack vibrant media experts in video production … we are seriously lacking expertise, which is presently harming our efficiency” (Ansar al-Mujahideen, November 4, 2010).

The Return of Global Russia: An Analytical Framework

Paul Stronski

Since 2012, Russia has been conducting a sophisticated, well-resourced, and, thus far, successful campaign to expand its global influence at the expense of the United States and other Western countries. Moscow has pursued a host of objectives, such as tarnishing democracy and undermining the U.S.-led liberal international order, especially in places of traditional U.S. influence; dividing Western political and security institutions; demonstrating Russia’s return as a global superpower; bolstering Vladimir Putin’s domestic legitimacy; and promoting Russian commercial, military, and energy interests.

The Economist reveals its country of the year

EVERY Christmas since 2013 The Economist has picked a “country of the year”. Rogue nations are not eligible, no matter how much they frighten people. (Sorry, North Korea.) Nor do we plump for the places that exert the most influence through sheer size or economic muscle—otherwise China and America would be hard to beat. Rather, we look for a country, of any size, that has changed notably for the better in the past 12 months, or made the world brighter.

Russia’s Financial Tactics in the Middle East

By: Theodore Karasik


Russia’s strategy to build a greater presence in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, and specifically the Persian Gulf, by using finance to influence geopolitics has become an integral part of Putin’s foreign policy.

Since 2007, Russia has increasingly focused on financial tactics to achieve its strategic policy goals in the Middle East.This “soft power” links Russia to the Middle East in new and creative ways, a trend that has continued without letup since Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the region twice 10 years ago. These financial ties are both formal and informal: public transactions but also gray zones of monetary interaction between Russia and Arab states that are illustrative of a far more robust set of monetary connections than recognized by policymakers and analysts.

Russia in the Middle East: A New Front in the Information War?

By: Donald N. Jensen


Russia uses its information warfare capability as a tactic, especially its RT Arabic and Sputnik news services, to advance its foreign policy goals in the Middle East: become a great power in the region; reduce the role of the United States; prop up allies such as Bashir al- Assad in Syria, and fight terrorism. Evidence suggests that while Russian media narratives are disseminated broadly in the region by traditional means and online, outside of Syria its impact has been limited. The ability of regional authoritarian governments to control the information their societies receive, cross cutting political pressures, the lack of longstanding ethnic and cultural ties with Russia, and widespread doubts about Russian intentions will make it difficult for Moscow to use information operations as an effective tool should it decide to maintain an enhanced permanent presence in the region.

Europe in 2017 and Beyond


Europeans have a knack of extrapolating one event and making it a trend.

So it was with the election last May of Emmanuel Macron. As France’s new president, Macron based his campaign on Europe and on domestic reform. In doing so, he roundly defeated his rival and leader of the far-right National Front, Marine Le Pen. Most European leaders were gushing in their praise for Macron. For them, his victory meant that populism was on the run. Europe was “back on track.”

The 2017 National Security Strategy: A Scorecard

By Peter Dombrowski ; Simon Reich

The U.S. Congress mandates that each presidential administration produce a “national security strategy,” although it does not specify when or how often. The periodic reports usually arrive with little public fanfare – beyond the intense scrutiny of a coterie of policymakers, military officials, commentators and academics (like the two of us) who together comprise the national security establishment.

Strength in Numbers: A Safety Net to Prevent Crises in the Global Economy

If you are lucky, when the going gets tough, you have a group of people you can rely on to help you through a crisis. Countries are no different—a safety net to help them in bad economic and financial times can make the difference in peoples’ lives. 

Insurance against crises

The global financial safety net should help countries in three ways: provide insurance to help prevent crises; supply financing to countries if crises materialize; and provide incentives for countries to adopt the right policies.

The Year in Review: The Death of the UN GGE Process?

An effort at the United Nations to clarify norms of state behavior in cyberspace suffered a setback this year, perhaps causing the United States to alter its cyber norm promotion efforts. 

Alex Grigsby is the assistant director of the Digital and Cyberspace Policy program at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Checkmate For Humanity?: In 4 Hours, Robot Teaches Itself Chess, Then Beats Grandmaster With Moves Never Devised In The Game’s 1,500-Year History — A True Watershed Event

John Naish, posted an article on the Daily Mail’s website, December 21, 2017, opening with this provocative question: “Will robots one day destroy us? It’s a question that increasingly preoccupies many of our most brilliant scientists and tech entrepreneurs,” he wrote.

Artificial intelligence (AI) used to be an area of research that belonged to a relatively small sector of the scientific and academic/research communities. Not any more. If there was one area that experienced a surge in advancement, practical applications, as well as showed signs of breath-taking potential in 2017, AI would be near the top of the heap, along with Bitcoin.

How to civilize the Dark Web economy

International Security

Digital payment systems and financial services have become an essential part of modern technological infrastructure, growing exponentially over the past three decades and continuously innovating to meet the demands of the international financial system.

2018 will be the year of cyberwar

Justin Ling 

In 2017, the word “cyber” was doing a lot of work. 

We learned the details of Russia’s cyber campaign to hack, among others, Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and the Democratic Party. We saw the United Kingdom’s National Health Service be taken offline for hours as ransomware rendered their systems useless. Credit-monitoring company Equifax had to eat crow after its systems were infiltrated, potentially exposing the sensitive financial information of hundreds of millions of Americans and Canadians. 

The Fentanyl Crisis is a Reverse Opium War

Greg R. Lawson

If America sees its vigor sapped over time through addiction and domestic fractiousness, then it will be a much weaker challenge on the international stage.

“History does not repeat itself. But it does rhyme,” is a famous quote that is often attributed to Mark Twain. Today, not only is history rhyming, but it is taking a deeply ironic turn while doing so.

One hundred and fifty years ago a two-millennia-old civilization in the East was hooked on opium and watched as its once perceived centrality in world affairs was eradicated by an upstart empire from the West upon which it was claimed that “Sun Never Sets.” Today, the inheritor of that empire’s tradition is being flooded by a synthetic opiate even as the old Eastern empire shakes off it’s century-plus torpor and seeks to unite the Eurasian landmass in a way that would have stunned that great geopolitical thinker, Sir Halford Mackinder.

Infographic Of The Day: The Race For Clean Energy

Last year, on a global basis, more net power generating capacity was added through renewable sources than via all other power sources combined.

Which countries are leading this charge, and what power sources are being adopted the fastest?

Today’s infographic breaks down various metrics around energy investment. The graphic looks at absolute and per capita power consumption by countries, as well as dollars being invested into each particular type of green energy.

Country Comparisons

The two countries that lead the pack in absolute terms are China and the United States. In 2016, China consumed the equivalent of 349.2 million tonnes of oil in renewable energy, while the U.S. was at 143 million tonnes.

However, these numbers are very skewed by the large populations of these countries. In percentage terms, China only gets 11.4% of its primary energy from renewables, while the U.S. gets 6.3% of its mix from sources like solar and wind.

On a per capita basis, major economies leading the world include countries like Norway, Canada, Sweden, Brazil, and Austria – all of these countries get about 30% or more of their primary energy from renewables. That said, it is also worth noting that hydropower makes up a large degree of the energy mixes for many of these places.