1 January 2017

Happy New Year 2017

*** An Oilman's Guide to Foreign Affairs

By Matthew Bey

Regardless of politics, everyone seems to agree that Donald Trump will be an unconventional U.S. president. It comes as little surprise, then, that many of his picks to fill Cabinet posts are also unorthodox. Chief among these selections is Rex Tillerson, the CEO of Exxon Mobil Corp. and Trump's nominee for secretary of state. At first glance, Tillerson may seem a strange choice to fill Washington's top diplomatic post; after all, the past several secretaries of state have had backgrounds in government or diplomatic service. But Tillerson's experiences in the oil and natural gas industry have doubtless prepared him for the weighty and often delicate duties of the job. Though he lacks a diplomatic track record, Tillerson's actions as head of the world's largest oil company bespeak a pragmatism and view of reality that will guide him — and the future of U.S. foreign policy — if he is confirmed.

Geopolitical Field Work

To adequately assess the possible risks to a prospective project, an oil company must know a country's geopolitics inside and out, from its current political climate at the local, regional, national and global levels to its long-term trajectory. Oil companies must have a thorough understanding of the land that their pipelines, wells and platforms will occupy — and the local or foreign actors that may contest its control. Furthermore, energy projects can take decades to get off the ground or recoup initial investments, and political leaders may come and go in the meantime. Since the governments in many oil- and gas-producing countries depend on energy revenue for funding, their leaders play an active role in overseeing the industry. When investing in projects in these countries, then, international oil companies often must negotiate with high-ranking officials, including heads of state.

*** The Bay of Bengal Naval Arms Race

By Saurav Jha

As Bangladesh and Myanmar build up their navies, India and China compete to supply equipment. 

In late November 2016, Bangladesh took delivery of two refurbished submarines from China, making the former the second Bay of Bengal (BoB) navy to acquire an undersea capability. This development takes place even as Myanmar recapitalizes its surface fleet sporting sonars supplied by India. Recent maritime boundary settlements, rather than obviating the need for naval capability accretion, seem to have enhanced it in the littorals of the resource-rich BoB. As such, the India-China contest for influence in the BoB has a decidedly naval edge to it, with both sides seeking to leverage capacity-building cooperation with countries in the region to secure access and a deep security relationship.

Bangladesh had actually sought to acquire its own submarine capability back in 2003, although that effort did not yield results due to internal political turmoil. The move to purchase submarines from abroad was revived in 2009, after naval tensions with Myanmar the previous year. In 2010, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced her government’s intention to develop the BN into a three-dimensional “deterrent” force, with a view to protecting the nation’s maritime resources and mostly coastal population. Similar statements have been made by Hasina on multiple occasions since then and her government is believed to be the key driver behind Bangladesh’s naval expansion.

** Understanding And Responding To Bomb Threats

Belgian authorities closed down the Brussels-North train station Dec. 27 in response to a telephoned bomb threat while authorities searched the station both visually and with explosive-detecting dogs. This marked the second time in two days the station was closed following an anonymous bomb threat made during the peak evening rush hour. The station was reopened to train, bus and pedestrian traffic after searches turned up nothing, demonstrating that the calls were merely the latest in a long string of hoax bomb threats directed against the station.

When authorities respond this way to an anonymous bomb threat, they cause significant disruptions and give those seeking to propagate terror a cheap, easy victory. Even worse than the fear they generate, such reactions to bomb threats can also provide terrorists with a soft target: Evacuating people from a place of relative security out into the open makes them more vulnerable to attacks with a variety of weapons, including bombs, guns, knives and vehicles.

** The 21st-Century General Staff: Military Moonshots For Modern War – Modern War Institute

by ML Cavanaugh

With the turn of a new administration and a new year, it’s fun to play king for a day. How about I go first? I would build a 21st-century American General Staff.

Several smart folks have called for this in front of Congress. Jim Thomas said he’d like to see a “true General Staff” that would “advocate for globally fungible power projection capabilities” and act as the “military’s global brain.” Adm. (Ret) James Stavridis also said he’d “stand up a truly independent General Staff,” to be “manned by the brilliant few, selected from their service at the [mid-career rank of major or lieutenant colonel], and permanently assigned to the General Staff.” Both made strong cases for a General Staff (GS) to meet current and coming challenges. And while they’ve put their fingers on a problem and argued that we should stand up a GS, and what this GS ought to do, they’ve skimped on specifically how we’d actually pull it together.

Moreover, prescient as Thomas and Stavridis are, they’ve missed the larger problem: for geographic and institutional reasons, we’ve dispersed our military’s strategic talent in command and staffs across the globe (AKA death by 1,000 commander’s initiatives groups)-we have no central hub for our finest minds to tackle our toughest problems. A GS, operating alongside the Joint Staff, would overcome this oversight.

What Indian defence needs right now

Guru Aiyar

Overdue reform of Chief of Defence Staff and joint commands is the need of the hour rather than the loud debate over 'out-of-turn' military promotions.

The appointment of Lieutenant-General Bipin Rawat as the next Chief of Army Staff (COAS) by the Modi government has stirred a hornet’s nest. The list of criticisms ranges from doing away with the seniority principle to creating wide chasms within the various arms of the Indian army like the infantry, armoured corps, artillery, etc. What is not being debated in the mainstream media is the most pertinent question that should be asked of the government — what is stopping the Indian government from implementing the long-overdue reform of enacting a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) to serve as the Principal Military Advisor to the government?

This idea goes back to the Kargil review committee headed by the highly respected doyen of strategic affairs in India, the late Mr K. Subrahmanyam. In 2001, the panel's report noted rather caustically that “an objective assessment of the last 52 years will show that the country is lucky to have scraped through various national security threats without too much damage, except in 1962. The country can no longer afford such an ad-hoc functioning”. Needless to add, another 15 years have gone by without making much progress in what would have been independent India’s greatest military reform.

Kashmiris trapped in deadly politics of grief, must abandon macabre heroism

by Shah Faesal 

Looking at the Muslim world’s crisis, it will serve Kashmiris well if we abandon false hope and work towards a dignified exit from the conflict.

When I thought of “India” as a child, I thought of a distant, stiflingly hot place beyond the hills of my village, from where came cheerful hawkers with cloth-wrapped backpacks, barefoot fortune-tellers with curly hair and unfriendly, uniformed men who stole apples from our orchard.

Rather than being right here, India was somewhere out there. Even in school, when lessons on identity were given, they went well when they were about my village, district, state; the moment it came to my country, the teacher either got tongue-tied or the school bell would chime, class was over and we’d be left guessing. As the conflict intensified, we grew up as confused citizens of a country in the making.

Break Down of Global and Regional Consensus on Afghanistan

Break Down of Global and Regional Consensus on Afghanistan

A trilateral was held between representatives of Russia, China and Pakistan in Moscow on the political and security situation in Afghanistan. The meet was focused on growing influence of Daesh in the country. The Russian Foreign Ministry said."(The three countries) expressed particular concern about the rising activity in the country of extremist groups including the Afghan branch of IS (Daesh)," ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters after the meeting. The three countries agreed a "flexible approach to remove certain figures from sanctions lists as part of efforts to foster a peaceful dialogue between Kabul and the Taliban movement," she added. Afghanistan had however objected to the meeting which had excluded Kabul. Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ahmad Shekib Mostaghni said Kabul had not been properly briefed about the Moscow meeting. "Discussion about the situation in Afghanistan, even if well-intentioned, in the absence of Afghans cannot help the real situation and also raises serious questions about the purpose of such meetings," he said.

A complete breakdown of the global and regional consensus over Afghanistan is evident as Russia, China and Pakistan trilateral held on situation in the country in the absence of any representative from Kabul called for removal of UN SC sanctions on the Taliban. While this has been one of the conditions of negotiations in the past as well by the rebels that this should be suggested as the first step in the process of reconciliation without any commitment seems strange and may not be acceptable to the Afghan government as well as other stakeholders such as the United States. Thus Kabul has come down heavily on a meeting in which the country was not invited despite the dialogue being the third iteration on the subject. Not surprisingly the Afghan parliament came down heavily on the government for failure of foreign policy.

Afghanistan, India, and Trump

Rakesh Sood

Given his limited choices in stabilising Afghanistan, which include supporting a national election, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump will find India to be a reliable and trusted partner in this process

On January 20, next year, Donald Trump will take over as the 45th President of the United States of America, at a time when the U.S. remains engaged in the longest war in its history — the war in Afghanistan. He will be the third President to deal with the war launched in 2001 by U.S. President George Bush and sought to be brought to a conclusion by his successor U.S. President Barack Obama.

Even though ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’ ended on December 28, 2014 implying an end to formal combat operations by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) forces, the U.S. still maintains approximately 9,800 troops as part of the international troop presence numbering over 12,000 under ‘Operation Resolute Support’. Primary responsibility for fighting the insurgency was transferred to the Afghan National Security Forces (consisting of the military and the police) two years ago but U.S. presence is essential to provide critical domain awareness, intelligence and surveillance support, air power and special forces.

How East Asia Got 6 Of The World's Most Powerful Armed Forces

Ralph Jennings

China boasts East Asia’s strongest armed forces. It ranks below only the United States and Russia worldwide. No wonder Taiwan’s defense ministry scrambled two F-16 fighters and two reconnaissance aircraft to track a Chinese aircraft carrier as it worked the perimeter of the nearby island’s territorial waters this week, watching the fleet ease back toward a port in China.

But Taiwan’s military ranks 10th in Asia on the GlobalFirePower.com scale that puts China in third place. Also in Asia, Japan ranks No. 4 and South Korea No. 6. Indonesia comes in eighth and Vietnam ninth for the region. All of these armed forces rank in the database’s top 20 of 126 countries analyzed worldwide, coming in before much of Europe and the Middle East. The survey evaluates countries based on weapons stocks, numbers of troops (including reserves) and potentially available troops if a country were to require military service. Geographic position can also help increase a country’s rank.

Why the East Asian countries have bulked up their armed forces goes back to the Chinese aircraft carrier – called the Liaoning and apparently China’s only one. The strongest armed forces in the region outside China have bulked up largely to resist China. “China is the biggest single factor accounting for military modernization and build-ups in the region,” says Denny Roy, senior fellow at the East-West Center, a U.S. think tank.

New Weapons on China’s Artificial Islands Don’t Violate 'Non-Militarization' of South China Sea

By Steven Stashwick

Installation may raise tensions, but China has long excluded “necessary defense” from its pledge. 

Just before public attention was diverted by China’s seizure of an Unmanned Underwater Vehicle — known commonly as an underwater drone — from the U.S. oceanographic survey vessel USNS Bowditch in the South China Sea, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) revealed commercial satellite imagery of new weapons systems installed on several Chinese-occupied Spratly Islands. The images, published by CSIS’s Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) on December 13, appear to show anti-aircraft guns and anti-missile point defense systems on Gaven, Hughes, Johnson, Cuarteron, Fiery Cross, Mischief, and Subi reefs in the South China Sea, contested features that China has built up into large, artificial islands with extensive airfield and radar facilities over the last several years.

Indian media’s perception of China: Analysis of editorials

This report is part of a larger study of public perception of India-China relations. The full study comprises two parts: a survey of the print media, both national and local; and a survey of public opinion in areas bordering China in eastern India. This is the first part, and it presents the findings of the print media survey — it makes an analysis of the data collected from select national newspapers in India. It must be noted that the websites of the newspapers have been used to collect the data, covering a period of three years (2012 to 2014). This three-year period was selected because it saw leadership changes in both countries, and these leaders — Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi — appear similarly assertive in strengthening the two nations’ bilateral relationship. They are also making efforts to resolve border and trade disputes. Widely publicised visits by both leaders to their neighbour country, as well as their meetings on the sidelines of various regional and global forums have taken place during this time. At the same time, there have been border skirmishes before or during the high-profile visits.

China’s military in 2016: Missiles, intelligence and the SCS


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China’s military advanced along several fronts in 2016 in its concerted program to develop new asymmetric and conventional warfare capabilities while continuing to challenge the United States for military control of key waterways in Asia.

As 2016 drew to a close, China flexed its military muscle with the high-profile dispatch of its lone aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, to an area of the western Pacific in a carrier battle group formation. Seven warships accompanied the carrier – three destroyers, three frigates and a supply ship.

Contrary to many western China analysts’ who said the Chinese carrier would take many years to deploy, Chinese state media trumpeted naval drills as a sign the the carrier will ready for combat operation sooner than expected.

“Compared with other countries, China has progressed ahead of expectations,” Zhang Junshe, a senior researcher at the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Naval Military Studies Research Institute, told state-run media, adding “other countries’ aircraft carriers normally spent five to six years or even 10 years to gain combat capability.”

Iraq Shifts Tactics in Mosul as Forces Advance on New Fronts

Iraqi security forces began a dramatic shift in tactics Thursday in their stalled offensive to retake Mosul, Islamic State’s last major stronghold, advancing on new fronts and bringing federal police into the battle after counterattacks inflicted heavy casualties.

Iraq’s military announced a multi-sided offensive on the city’s northern, eastern and southeastern neighborhoods in an attempt to choke off supplies of weapons and new fighters.

In the past week, Iraq’s military has begun using heavy artillery in the crowded city, in spite of the risk to civilians, and has moved forces from Baghdad and other areas to support the Counter Terrorism Forces. Some 4,000 federal police have been shifted from the capital and south of Mosul to support the fight in the east.

The changes follow a series of devastating counterattacks by Islamic State that have raised questions about the battle plan and even the military’s capacity to secure other urban centers, including the capital Baghdad…

Why ISIL fights in Europe


Don’t buy their propaganda of ‘retaliation’ for Western strikes in Syria. The jihadist group has larger ambitions in Germany and France. 

The so-called Islamic State rushed to claim responsibility for last week’s Christmas market attack in Berlin, even with the alleged terrorist Anis Amri then on the run. (The 24-year-old Tunisian was killed a few days later in Milan.)

The jihadist group’s eagerness to cash in the propaganda chips is only one indication of how important it was and remains for ISIL to score a hit against Germany — especially after a string of aborted or limited attacks. Germany stands at the very core of ISIL’s strategy for Europe. It’s important to understand why in order to think more clearly about possible remedies.

Dual goals

ISIL’s terror campaign in Europe began on May 24, 2014 when Mehdi Nemmouche attacked the Jewish Museum in Brussels, killing four people. This attack took place more than a year after the declaration of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant in the Syrian city of Raqqa, and a month before Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, ISIL leader, proclaimed himself “caliph.” Even more important, Brussels occurred long before a U.S.-led coalition started bombing ISIL positions in Iraq, in August 2014, then in Syria the following month.

2017: Europe's year of rage

James Forsyth

After the tumult of 2016, Europe could do with a year of calm. It won’t get one. Elections are to be held in four of the six founder members of the European project, and populist Eurosceptic forces are on the march in each one. There will be at least one regime change: François Hollande has accepted that he is too unpopular to run again as French president, and it will be a surprise if he is the only European leader to go. Others might cling on but find their grip on power weakened by populist success.

The spectre of the financial crash still haunts European politics. Money was printed and banks were saved, but the recovery was marked by a great stagnation in living standards, which has led to alienation, dismay and anger. Donald Trump would not have been able to win the Republican nomination, let alone the presidency, without that rage — and the conditions that created Trump’s victory are, if anything, even stronger in Europe.

European voters who looked to the state for protection after the crash soon discovered the helplessness of governments which had ceded control over vast swathes of economic policy to the EU. The second great shock, the wave of global immigration, is also a thornier subject in the EU because nearly all of its members surrendered control over their borders when they signed the Schengen agreement. Those unhappy at this situation often have only new, populist parties to turn to. So most European elections come down to a battle between insurgents and defenders of the existing order.

Newsflash: Russia Is Not the Soviet Union

Doug Bandow

No position taken by President-elect Donald Trump more upsets leading Republican legislators than his desire to reconcile with Russia. GOP leaders routinely assert that 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney was right when he declared Russia “without question our No. 1 geopolitical foe.”

Perhaps in Neoconservative nightmares. But not in terms of America’s national interests.

Vladimir Putin is not a nice fellow. And obviously he’s no friend of liberal values.

But then, neither are the Saudi royals. The leaders of the Central Asian states. Egypt’s new pharaoh, General/President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Turkey’s sultan-wannabe, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. And plenty of other governments with which Washington routinely cooperates while complaining very little about their brutality at home. A lamentable lack of respect for human rights does not turn a state into a threat to the U.S.

Russia today is not engaged in a global ideological battle with America. However cynical the old Communist leadership, the Soviet Union posed an ideological and moral challenge to the U.S. Many people around the world were attracted to Communism for a time, at least, and even some Americans thought they saw the future at work. Eventually the façade was irrevocably broken and the crimes were too many and too grievous to hide or dismiss.

Margaret Thatcher was prophetic on Europe

Files recently released by the National Archives shed light on Margaret Thatcher’s last years in No 10. The predominant issue then, as now, was Europe. The Tory wets not only disagreed with Lady Thatcher’s Euroscepticism but were embarrassed by it and determined to resist. In hindsight, they were wrong and she was absolutely right. 

Europe has yet to prove Lady Thatcher wrong. 

For instance, she opposed chancellor Nigel Lawson’s preference for unofficially “shadowing” the German mark, which was Europe’s strongest currency, or joining the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) as a way of bolstering the pound. Eventually the pro-Europeans got their way – and membership of the ERM proved an unmitigated disaster. Leaving it in 1992 led to more than a decade of healthy growth. 

Pakistan Opens New Nuclear Plant Built With China's Help

Ayaz Gul 

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has inaugurated a nuclear power facility built with the assistance of China.

The plant at Chashma, in Pakistan's Punjab province, adds 340 megawatts to the national grid. Beijing has already constructed two other nuclear reactors, with a combined capacity of more than 600 megawatts.

The three power plants at Chashma are known as C-1, C-2 and C-3 respectively. They are are part of broader plans to overcome long-running crippling power shortages in Pakistan.

“The next (nuclear) power projectwith an installed capacity of 340 megawatts, C-4, is also being built here (in Chashma with Chinese assistance). God willing, it will be operational and connected to the national grid in April, 2017,” Sharif told Wednesday’s ceremony.

Pakistan’s current electricity output stands at around 16,000 megawatts, including nuclear power production.

Assessing the Right Strategy to Deal with Emerging Contours of Conflict in J&K

By Narender Kumar 

Armies do not fight wars; nations fight wars. War is not a military activity conducted by soldiers, rather a social activity that involves entire nations. Carl von Clausewitz noted that passion, probability and policy each play their role in war. Any understanding of war that ignores one of these elements is fundamentally flawed.[i] The conflict in Jammu & Kashmir is becoming more complex and strategy ineffective with signs of fatigue and fragmented approach distinctly visible. We need to ask the question whether our Kashmir strategy is flawed. Who is fighting the hybrid war in Jammu and Kashmir, is it security forces or is it India as a nation?

Pakistan has employed all major components of hybrid war- regulars, irregulars, criminals, economic and cyber war in the same battle space. Regulars are providing training, logistic support, intelligence support, facilitating infiltration and exfiltration, irregulars undertaking terror strikes in Jammu and Kashmir and rest of the country, criminals undertaking drug trafficking, arms trafficking, FICN, cyber-attacks and radicalisation of population in J&K and rest of the country. India is fighting this hybrid war in a conventional manner by employing regulars to deal with a hybrid threat. Pakistan has employed a hybrid threat that is physical and conceptual in its dimensions: the former, a struggle against an armed enemy and the latter, a wider struggle for, control and support of the combat zone’s indigenous population, the support of the home fronts, and the support of the international community.[ii] To secure and stabilize the ground situation and defeat the hybrid threat, India should break the contact between Pakistan-based terror modules and Kashmiri youths. At the same time the economy needs to be improved, law and order situation should be improved and costs imposed on Pakistan. If India fails to reverse the threat three consequences can be expected from a flawed grasp of the contemporary conflict in J&K:-

How to Respond to Terror and LoC Attacks: Where Tactical is Strategic?

Rahul Bhonsle 

How to Respond to Terror and LoC Attacks: Where Tactical is Strategic?

In military parlance, there are three distinct levels of conflicts – the tactical, operational and the strategic. The tactical obviously implies actions at the lowest level – from the company to the division, while the operational level is seen as the theatre – a corps while strategic entails impact at the campaign or national. A terrorist attack concerning resources employed is sub-tactical – wherein a small group strikes at a target causing disproportionate casualties. Similarly, any action at the Line of Control (LOC) carried out by a small team such as the BAT (border action team) is at best tactical having a direct impact at the post which is struck or ambush of a patrol. The overall effect of these measures is at the national or strategic level. Take the case of the Uri terrorist attack in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed by a small group of four terrorists. The anger in India extended across the nation leading the government to consider a variety of options from reneging on the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to Pakistan or the Indus Water Treaty of 1960 to the surgical strike that was launched on the night of 28/29 September. Thus the tactical becomes strategic.

In the same manner, attacks on the LoC particularly those by Pakistan that have entailed inhuman mutilation of bodies of soldiers have resulted in a hue and cry across the country calling for revenge. A muted response to the mutilation of bodies by a Pakistan BAT team in 2013 had led to the government of the day being blamed for the lack of sufficient resolve to face the challenge and was one of the factors that had led to the downfall of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in 2014. While there was a retaliatory response even in 2013, it was not as demonstrative as the action taken by the Indian Army in 2016 under the present government led by Mr Narendra Modi. Thus the political implications of an action at the tactical and sub-tactical level would be more than evident.

SATCOM: Vital to Our Nation's Military and National Security

By Jim Bridenstine

What do satellite communications have in common with strip clubs, biofuel, and giant African rats? All represent examples of waste according to a stunning new report by Senator John McCain on indefensible defense spending. As Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, McCain’s report highlights billions in Pentagon waste, including: 

$1 million for Department of Defense (DoD) personnel travel claim reimbursements for unauthorized spending at casinos and strip clubs 

$58 million for experimental biofuels to power Navy ships (at $30 per gallon!) 

$1.4 million for the Army to study the bomb sniffing capabilities of giant African rats 

Compared to these egregious examples, DoD’s purchase of satellite communications (SATCOM) is less likely to get the headlines. At an annual cost of $1 billion, however, Chairman McCain’s report identifies DoD’s SATCOM procurement policies as wasteful and inefficient. Congress should pay close attention to DoD’s upcoming SATCOM review – called an Analysis of Alternatives or AoA in Pentagon-speak – to ensure the warfighter (and the taxpayer) gets more value.

DARPA's Master Plan to Spot Facebook Terrorists

Michael Peck

There are plenty of lunatics on Facebook, Twitter and other social media. Not to mention trolls, haters and other assorted unpleasantness.

Most are harmless. A few are terrorists and insurgents who would love nothing better than to kill U.S. troops.

So, how do you tell the loonies and the loudmouths from the real killers?

DARPA wants to figure out how.

The Pentagon's cutting-edge research agency wants software that can sift through social media, and determine whether the person writing "Death to America" on Facebook is just venting steam -- or is about to strap on an explosive vest and launch a suicide attack on American soldiers.

The project, formally titled "Force Protection in the Online Information Environment," aims to "develop automated software tools that use publicly available information (PAI) to detect intent, within foreign populations, to harm U.S. forces stationed overseas."

Is This What the Pentagon's 'Third Offset' Has Been Missing All Along?

By Robert Farley

Have changes to the U.S. industrial and technological sector posed new challenges for defense procurement? 

Two weeks ago, the Center for New American Security released a new report on the future of U.S. defense innovation. Titled Future Foundry, the report introduces the concept of “optionality,” an interpretation of the Third Offset; the idea that the United States can leverage technological advantage to offset the rise of China and the military re-emergence of Russia.

The authors (Ben Fitzgerald, Alexandra Sander, and Jacqueline Parziale) argue that changes to the industrial/technological sector have created new problems and opportunities for acquisition. The balance of research and development funding no longer favors the Defense Department, as the private sector (not to mention foreign countries) supply an increasing proportion of the overall pie.

US Unveils New Sanctions on Russia for Hacking

By Catherine Putz

The measures put President-elect Donald Trump in an awkward position. 

On Thursday, U.S. President Barack Obama announced new sanctions against a handful of individuals and entities — including two Russian intelligence agencies, the FSB and GRU — in response to hacking linked to the recent presidential election.

In addition, the U.S. State Department declared 35 Russian diplomats “persona non grata” and stated its intention to close two “recreational compounds” owned by the Russian government in Maryland and New York. The U.S. Treasury Department is adding two more names to its list of those sanctioned for cyber-related activities.

The sanctions were anticipated. Earlier in December, Obama said in an interview, “I think there is no doubt that when any foreign government tries to impact the integrity of our elections … we need to take action. And we will — at a time and place of our own choosing. Some of it may be explicit and publicized; some of it may not be.”

The Perils of Connectivity: Cyber Insecurity in 2016


From disruptive distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks rendering entire swathes of the Internet including Netflix, Twitter, PayPal, CNN, The New York Times, and Amazon hosting services inaccessible, to nation-states inserting themselves into the democratic process of other countries’ self-determination, it has truly been a landmark year for cybersecurity—or lack thereof.

Nations are desperately attempting to exert national sovereignty over cyberspace via controversial new laws, massive breaches compromising the personal data of millions continue, and the stalemate over encryption technology endures as the rift between Washington and Silicon Valley only grows.

Cybercriminals are as prevalent as ever, and Nation-states have been emboldened in cyberspace. While both China and Russia use cyberspace to conduct all forms of espionage, China focuses on furthering its economic goals while Russia uses its toolset for influence operations to further its foreign policy objectives.