12 September 2017

*** Negotiating a Path to Dialogue With North Korea

By Rodger Baker
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The path toward dialogue with North Korea looks fainter by the day. Washington is calling for increased isolation of the North Korean government, announcing expanded arms sales to South Korea and Japan, and promising to deploy additional strategic assets in and around the Korean Peninsula. Even the South Korean government has said that dialogue may have to wait, since North Korea's latest nuclear test and rapid-fire missile launches threaten to destabilize the security balance in East Asia.

Beijing, meanwhile, has kept up its calls for talks, though it also has advocated stronger sanctions on Pyongyang. The most important thing, China insists, is that the United States and North Korea sit down to talk — whether in a multilateral, trilateral, bilateral or whatever possible format. From Beijing's perspective, dialogue is the only way to ease the heightened tensions in Korea, while excessive sanctions or coercive tactics are largely ineffective, if not counterproductive. It's becoming increasingly obvious, however, that Washington and Beijing differ in their thinking about talks with North Korea. Having just returned from two weeks spent engaged in unofficial dialogues and exchanges in the region, I can attest that the gulf separating China from the United States is as wide as the media makes it out to be. But the reasons behind the divergence are different from the ones so often described in the news.

The Value of Talk

Washington sees talks as a means to an end — in this case, the denuclearization of North Korea. Negotiations are worth the effort only if they will roll back Pyongyang's weapons programs. In two and a half decades of talks though, each agreement struck to that end has broken down, and all the while, North Korea has slowly but steadily improved its nuclear and missile capabilities. Politicians in the United States consequently have come to view dialogue as appeasement or even capitulation. By negotiating with Pyongyang, Washington has "allowed" North Korea to become a nuclear state and to use that status against it.

*** What Were China's Objectives in the Doklam Dispute?

by Jonah Blank

At 14,000 feet above sea level and with a perpetually harsh climate, the Doklam Plateau is an enormously difficult place to defend. Meanwhile, those launching an attack face exponentially greater challenges—and that's before the Himalayan winter sets in. This helps explain why China and India last week ended a military standoff there that had been festering since June. Beyond the sheer misery of preparing to fight on such a forbidding battlefield, however, both nations had every reason to deescalate one of the most serious showdowns since their sole war in 1962. The status quo ante has been essentially restored, but the dispute raised important questions about the balance of power in Asia, China's grand strategy, and what Washington can learn from the episode.

China and India share a border over 2,500 miles long, with almost all of it based on colonial-era agreements and surveys, and much of it still disputed. China claims pieces of territory held by India, mostly in the states of Arunachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, with smaller pieces claimed in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. India claims land held by China, most notably a piece of land called Aksai Chin through which Beijing built a road in the 1950s connecting Xinjiang to Tibet. Reflecting its unsettled nature, the portions of the border separating disputed territories are referred to as the Line of Actual Control. There are periodic skirmishes along the LAC, but both nations have carefully choreographed them to avoid escalation; as a result, there have been no casualties stemming from land disputes in half a century.

India's rail counter to China's border game is likely to be ready in a few years' time

LEH: At Upshi, 50 km south of Leh, a tiny hillock poses a big challenge to a team of railway survey men. A 16-member squad, comprising experienced railway engineers, geologists, bridge specialists and avalanche experts, tosses various options to negotiate the roadblock —from engineering a deep vertical cut to pushing the track towards the existing motor road. A senior geologist in the team is blunt: there’s no way we can have a tunnel below this heap of withered granite. There’s one more problem, points out another expert. The hillock is too short for a tunnel. So, what’s the way out? After some discord, a consensus is arrived at: let the project consultant RITES, whose survey experts did six recces of the terrain in the past, come up with two alternative solutions and freeze the matter, for good.

If the Government of India has its way, a railway line up to Leh — a district in Ladakh sandwiched between Pakistan occupied Kashmir in the west and China in the north and east — will be a reality in the next few years. The survey for a 498-km-long strategic railway line from Bilaspur (Himachal Pradesh) to Manali (HP) to Leh ( J&K) began in September last year. The Ministry of Defence has earmarked Rs 158 crore to the Indian Railways for the survey, with Rs 40 crore released in 2016-17. Depending on the gradients and the alignment, the route length could go up to 650 km, almost the same as the distance by road. But the big picture is this: strategically important Leh — just 250 km from the China border — will finally be connected to Delhi by an all-weather, 1,100-km-long rail route. Though defence requirements are the basic rationale for conceiving a railway line passing through a difficult terrain and high passes — 17,480-ft-high Taglang La is one of the four passes on the way — the people living in Mandi, Manali, Tandi, Keylong, Koksar, Darcha, Upshi, Karu, among other towns and villages, will find rail connectivity closer to their homes.

UK media’s anti India bias all too evident

By Nitin Mehta
London: Ever since India got independence, the British media have painted a negative picture of the country. Indeed, many did not expect India to last long as a nation. There are countries that are failed states, countries which are engulfed in civil wars, but they do not get much of a mention from British and other Western correspondents. One reason for this is that being a democracy it is easy for them to report on India. Reporting on totalitarian countries is much more difficult. So India pays the price for being a democracy. There is another group of people who have made it their mission to write dark stories about India. They are writers of fiction with India and Indian society as backdrop. These books often become best sellers and qualify the authors, who are invariably Indian, to comment on the many failures of India. Arundhati Roy is a good example of this phenomenon. Then there are the social scientists, economists and those euphemistically called “secularists”. For the secularists, any expression of India’s heritage, culture and spiritual beliefs is anathema. For these social scientists and economists, most of whom are of Indian origin and live in Britain, India always falls short of their expectations. Democracy? It is caste based; it is corrupt. They did not play any part in nation building. They left and became armchair specialists, highlighting what they perceive to be India’s many failures. It takes more than a lifetime’s commitment and dedication to bring about change in a country the size of India. If these individuals were able to acknowledge Indian’s many achievements against all odds, then their criticism would have some credibility. However, they cling to outdated and redundant ideologies. They are the very people the British media turn to for their “expert” opinions. The irony is that these people get a hero’s welcome from the Indian intelligentsia, who mistakenly believe that these individuals have done India proud by becoming lords and professors in Britain.

Sino-Indian border truce

S Nihal Singh

The BRICS Summit and the bilateral meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and China’s President Xi Jinping amount to a wary peace, not a burying of the hatchet. Beijing’s compulsions in ending the standoff at Doklam were clear enough: the future of BRICS and the all-important Communist Party Congress next month to carve out Mr Xi’s leadership role for the next five years.

Despite the soothing words used by India’s spokesmen of looking forward, not back, the demarcation of the border remains contested and although efforts are being made to improve communications between the two sides, the problem is Chinese ambition, rather than the mechanism for dialogue.

As China seeks to assert its power in Asia in particular and in the rest of the world, it is angry with India for giving a thumbs down to its landmark ambitious OBOR project linking Asia to Europe and the rest of the world. New Delhi’s objections are primarily grounded in the economic corridor in Pakistan passing through contested Kashmir, although there are geopolitical reasons for not giving Beijing a free pass.

US scientists 'hack' India electronic voting machines

By Julian Siddle

Image captionIndia's voting machines are considered to be among the most tamperproof

Scientists at a US university say they have developed a technique to hack into Indian electronic voting machines.

After connecting a home-made device to a machine, University of Michigan researchers were able to change results by sending text messages from a mobile.

Indian election officials say their machines are foolproof, and that it would be very difficult even to get hold of a machine to tamper with it.

India uses about 1.4m electronic voting machines in each general election.
'Dishonest totals'

A video posted on the internet by the researchers at the University of Michigan purportedly shows them connecting a home-made electronic device to one of the voting machines used in India.

Professor J Alex Halderman, who led the project, said the device allowed them to change the results on the machine by sending it messages from a mobile phone.

It is not just the machine, but the overall administrative safeguards which we use that make it absolutely impossible for anybody to open the machineAlok Shukla, Indian Election Commission

Sri Lanka: Sovereignty Compromised

By Ana Pararajasingham

Addressing the Indian Ocean Conference in Colombo on August 31 this year, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe was confident that Sri Lanka is poised to become the “Hub in the Indian Ocean.” That was not all, with air and sea connectivity it was only a matter of time for Sri Lanka to emerge as a center for offshore finance, a competitive manufacturer, and service provider. The prime minister’s assessment was made in the context of the island’s strategic location in the Indian Ocean, its two international airports and several ports dotting its 1,340 kilometer coastline.

It was a promising picture.

While Colombo does possess several ports and two international airports, the control of major ports and the second international airport located in Matara is severely undermined by the involvement of China and India. The rationale for the involvement of these two Asian giants in the operation of Sri Lanka’s ports is not economic but strategic. Therein lies Sri Lanka’s predicament: It has little control over all its ports.

The management of Hambantota port is no longer under the direct control of the Sri Lankan state. Its operation is controlled by China via its state-owned company, China Merchants Ports Holdings. Beijing, having “invested” around $1.6 billion in building the port, reaped the benefits when Colombo was unable to make repayments on the “loan” and was thus forced to sell a 70 percent stake to the China Merchants Ports Holdings, which is to operate the port over a 99-year lease. The formal agreement was signed on July 31.

When the U.S. Government Tried to Fight Communism With Buddhism


As Buddhist Myanmar is once again in the news for a brutal crackdown on its Rohingya Muslim minority, it’s worth remembering just how politically volatile religion can be in Southeast Asia—a part of the world more famous for meditation retreats than religious conflict. While the influence of Buddhist nationalism in Myanmar, for instance, is often framed as an entirely new phenomenon, it has reared its head before, in similar times of uncertainty and confusion. During the Cold War, this region became a hot spot of competing visions and ideologies. And Buddhism was at the center of it all.

In 1953, several months after the inauguration of Dwight D. Eisenhower, Vice President Richard M. Nixon traveled with his wife, Pat, on a whirlwind tour of Asia. The trip included stopovers in Burma, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, where the French took him to the front lines of the first Indochina war to watch a bombardment of Viet Minh fighters. Nixon was impressed but unsettled. He didn’t like the patronizing way the French, who the United States was backing against the communist insurgency in the country, treated their Vietnamese allies, concluding they had failed to summon an attractive alternative to the soul-stirring nationalism of their enemies.

China’s other Muslims

THE faithful are returning from the haj. Waiting for prayers outside the Great Mosque in Tongxin, a remote town in the western province of Ningxia, Li Yuchuan calls his pilgrimage a liberation: “Our prayers are just homework for it.” His 84-year-old friend (pictured, right) leaps up and twists himself with lithe agility into the shape of a pretzel. “We Muslims pray five times a day,” he says. “We are flexible and tough.” China’s Muslims need to be.

China has a richly deserved reputation for religious intolerance. Buddhists in Tibet, Muslims in the far western region of Xinjiang and Christians in Zhejiang province on the coast have all been harassed or arrested and their places of worship vandalised. In Xinjiang the government seems to equate Islam with terrorism. Women there have been ordered not to wear veils on their faces. Muslims in official positions have been forced to break the Ramadan fast. But there is a remarkable exception to this grim picture of repression: the Hui.

China has two big Muslim groups, the Uighur of Xinjiang and the more obscure Hui. Though drops in the ocean of China’s population, they each have about 10m people, the size of Tunisia. But while the Uighur suffer, the Hui are thriving.

Indonesia, Long on Sidelines, Starts to Confront China’s Territorial Claims


JAKARTA, Indonesia — When Indonesia recently — and quite publicly — renamed the northernmost waters of its exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea despite China’s claims to the area, Beijing quickly dismissed the move as “meaningless.”

It is proving to be anything but.

Indonesia’s increasingly aggressive posture in the region — including a military buildup in its nearby Natuna Islands and the planned deployment of naval warships — comes as other nations are being more accommodating to China’s broad territorial claims in the South China Sea.

The two countries had three maritime skirmishes in 2016 involving warning shots, including one in which Indonesian warships seized a Chinese fishing boat and its crew.

Indonesia is challenging China, one of its biggest investors and trading partners, as it seeks to assert control over a waterway that has abundant resources, particularly oil and natural gas reserves and fish stocks.

Shutting down of old Silk Road exposes China's OBOR hypocrisy


When Beijing today speaks of One Belt One Road, it omits to say there was once a flourishing commerce which it closed.

In the fall of 1950, PN Kaul, a young colonel, was posted in Leh. In his memoirs, he wrote about his life in Ladakh and mentioned a curious incident. He saw thousands of refugees arriving from Xinjiang (then Sinkiang or Eastern Turkestan): “(They) came with what little they could carry on their ponies. Many had lost family members in their journey over Karakoram or neighbouring passes. I had a hard time trying to see that they weren’t fleeced by those connected with their evacuation from Leh.”


They were fleeing Kashgar, which a few months earlier had been taken over by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Kaul recalls, “Our consul general in Kashgar, Captain RD Sathe of the Indian Foreign Service and an ex-army officer, and his wife also arrived in Leh during the winter of 1950, after their difficult journey from Kashgar.”

This small sentence is fascinating, because the closure of the Indian consulate in Kashgar is one of the least-known historical facts, but which had tremendous consequences. Strangely, nothing can be found in the Indian archives about it.

Ethnicity factors strongly in PLA promotions


As China’s 19th Communist Party Congress approaches, the armed forces are preparing for a wide-reaching leadership reshuffle as President Xi Jinping consolidates his power. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the People’s Armed Police announced this week that a total of 303 delegates would be attendance at the congress, scheduled to open on October 18.

Three early trends are apparent from the designated armed forces’ delegation. First, 90% of those selected will be first time attendees, representing a new generation of officers who will owe their rise to Xi, who serves concurrently as commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

Second, several prominent old guard and so-called PLA ‘red princelings’ will be excluded from the power powwow. Among the missing are ex-chief of joint staff Fang Fenghui, now under investigation for corruption, and Political Work Department director Zhang Yang, who likewise apparently faces a probe. Zhang’s department helps to make military personnel decisions, but has come under fire in recent years for taking bribes for promotions.

Lastly, there will be a slight rise in the number of ethnic minority delegates. Six percent of armed forces delegates will be ethnic minority officers, up from the 18th Communist Party Congress’s 4.6%, with an estimated 11 ethnic groups represented.

The Manchus and Tibetans will each send three delegates, while the Uyghur, Hui and Tujia will each put forward two. The Zhuang, Xibe, Korean, Qiang, Bai and Naxi ethnicities will each send one delegate to the Congress.

Israel's Bombing of a Weapons Factory in Syria: What Comes Next?

by Elliott Abrams

This week Israel bombed a site in Syria, from Lebanese air space. This was the so-called Scientific Studies and Researchers Center in Masyaf, a city in central Syria, and it was hit because it is a military site where chemical weapons and precision bombs are said to be produced. Israel had made clear in a series of statements in the last six months that such a facility in Syria producing such weapons for use by Hezbollah against Israel would not be tolerated.

I was reminded of 2007 and 2008, when Israeli officials repeatedly told me and other American officials that the rocketing of Israel by Hamas in Gaza was intolerable. If it does not stop, they said, an operation is inevitable. They meant it, and the result was Operation Cast Lead, which began on December 27, 2008. We in the Bush administration had been given fair warning.

Today again, Israel has given the United States fair warning that there are limits to what Israel will tolerate in Iranian conduct and the Iranian presence in Syria. Israel has long intervened, perhaps 100 times over the years, to stop advanced weaponry from being transferred by Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Those were moving targets: caravans of trucks carrying such weaponry. But this week there was a stationary target, and I imagine the decision to fire from Lebanese air space was also a message—to Iran, Syria, and Lebanon.

Saudi embassy may have funded 9/11 'dry run': report

New evidence in a 9/11 lawsuit against the government of Saudi Arabia alleges the kingdom's embassy in Washington, DC may have funded a test run for the deadly attacks in 2001, according to a US newspaper report.

The evidence was submitted as part of a class action lawsuit against the government of Saudi Arabia, the New York Post reported on Saturday.

It alleges the embassy paid for two Saudi nationals to fly from Phoenix to Washington two years before planes hit the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and slammed into a field in Pennsylvania as part of a "dry run" for the attacks.

Saudi Arabia has always denied any involvement in September 11, 2001 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.

The victims' lawyers, however, have said the evidence suggests "a pattern of both financial and operational support" for the 9/11 conspiracy from official Saudi sources, according to the Post. 

The evidence could further reinforce the claim that employees and agents of Saudi Arabia directed and supported the hijackers.

Israel's Bombing of a Weapons Factory in Syria: What Comes Next?

By Elliott Abrams

This week Israel bombed a site in Syria, from Lebanese air space. This was the so-called Scientific Studies and Researchers Center in Masyaf, a city in central Syria, and it was hit because it is a military site where chemical weapons and precision bombs are said to be produced. Israel had made clear in a series of statements in the last six months that such a facility in Syria producing such weapons for use by Hezbollah against Israel would not be tolerated.

I was reminded of 2007 and 2008, when Israeli officials repeatedly told me and other American officials that the rocketing of Israel by Hamas in Gaza was intolerable. If it does not stop, they said, an operation is inevitable. They meant it, and the result was Operation Cast Lead, which began on December 27, 2008. We in the Bush administration had been given fair warning.

Today again, Israel has given the United States fair warning that there are limits to what Israel will tolerate in Iranian conduct and the Iranian presence in Syria. Israel has long intervened, perhaps 100 times over the years, to stop advanced weaponry from being transferred by Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Those were moving targets: caravans of trucks carrying such weaponry. But this week there was a stationary target, and I imagine the decision to fire from Lebanese air space was also a message—to Iran, Syria, and Lebanon.

Give North Korea a Safe Way to Back Down

Patrick M. Cronin

Pyongyang needs a face-saving way to walk back provocations.

A cardinal principle of strategy holds that if you do not wish to precipitate a conflict, then you should leave adversaries a face-saving way to back down from provocations. This is especially true of nuclear-armed family tyrants like Kim Jong-un.

This is why Seoul needs to reflect further on its announced resumption of propaganda broadcasts into North Korea. Piping loud music up to twelve miles into North Korea helped achieve the desired political objective of walking Pyongyang back from the brink in the aftermath of the maiming of two ROK soldiers on patrol last August. But the fourth nuclear test offers a different context from last August’s land mine incident.

Land mines offered plausible deniability, and when pressed, Kim Jong-un could make the concession of returning to talks without a personal loss of face. But there is no way for the young general to climb down from his regime’s hyperbolic “H-bomb of justice” claim. That means that the Blue House has no governing principle for allowing broadcasts, once resumed, to stop without President Park Geun-hye to suffer a political setback. Moreover, if the broadcasts persist over time, both domestic and international voices will gradually redirect their ire on Seoul rather than the nuclear culprit in Pyongyang.

Return of the city-state

Jamie Bartlett

If you’d been born 1,500 years ago in southern Europe, you’d have been convinced that the Roman empire would last forever. It had, after all, been around for 1,000 years. And yet, following a period of economic and military decline, it fell apart. By 476 CE it was gone. To the people living under the mighty empire, these events must have been unthinkable. Just as they must have been for those living through the collapse of the Pharaoh’s rule or Christendom or the Ancien Régime.

We are just as deluded that our model of living in ‘countries’ is inevitable and eternal. Yes, there are dictatorships and democracies, but the whole world is made up of nation-states. This means a blend of ‘nation’ (people with common attributes and characteristics) and ‘state’ (an organised political system with sovereignty over a defined space, with borders agreed by other nation-states). Try to imagine a world without countries – you can’t. Our sense of who we are, our loyalties, our rights and obligations, are bound up in them.

Which is all rather odd, since they’re not really that old. Until the mid-19th century, most of the world was a sprawl of empires, unclaimed land, city-states and principalities, which travellers crossed without checks or passports. As industrialisation made societies more complex, large centralised bureaucracies grew up to manage them. Those governments best able to unify their regions, store records, and coordinate action (especially war) grew more powerful vis-à-vis their neighbours. Revolutions – especially in the United States (1776) and France (1789) – helped to create the idea of a commonly defined ‘national interest’, while improved communications unified language, culture and identity. Imperialistic expansion spread the nation-state model worldwide, and by the middle of the 20th century it was the only game in town. There are now 193 nation-states ruling the world.

The Biggest Myth about North Korea

Van Jackson, Hannah Suh

Hint: It has to do with nukes and escalation.

A million lives and a trillion dollars. Experts in the 1990s predicted that the costs of war with North Korea would reach at least this magnitude. While this is probably true of a worst-case scenario, and estimates would doubtless be even higher today, pundits and officials alike have allowed it to cloud reasoned judgment about North Korea. A strawman argument has taken hold that any actions against North Korea will lead to cataclysmic death and destruction.

This is wrong. Alliance military actions against North Korea will not automatically trigger a nuclear holocaust or the annihilation of Seoul. Fear, risk aversion and a misunderstanding of North Korea have allowed the most dangerous scenario to be conflated with the most likely one. Rather than being paralyzed by the fact that anything is possible, alliance policy and military planning needs to recognize a simple reality: no matter what North Korea threatens, it will assiduously seek to avoid war-triggering actions. North Korea’s own historical behavior and its widely presumed goal of regime survival confirms as much.

It isn’t hard to find pundits who would have us believe North Korea is prepared to immolate the Korean Peninsula in a blaze of glory at the first hint of conflict. One argument goes that offensive military action “likely would trigger a war which would devastate South Korea.” Another offers that even an “extremely limited” preemptive strike “…risks sparking a major military conflict…that might have devastating consequences for the [United States], Korea, and beyond...” Still others argue that there’s nothing the United States or South Korea can do because North Korean artillery aimed at Seoul prevents even minor military actions, implying that any attacks on North Korea will trigger the worst scenario imaginable. One analyst even pointedly remarks that using force against North Korea would be worse than allowing its nuclear program to expand.

Global power is shifting to Asia – and Europe must adapt to that

Natalie Nougayrède
In 2012, McKinsey analysts, using data from the University of Groningen, released a striking map showing how the global economic centre of gravityhas shifted since AD1. Yes, you read that correctly: since Jesus was a year old. Looking at the map now brings a fresh reminder of how Europe’s global position is fast being challenged. Awakening to that reality is why it makes sense to stick together and make the European project thrive, not wither away.

Here’s a glimpse of what the map says. It took one century, from 1820 to 1913, for the centre of gravity (as measured by “weighing” locations’ GDP) to move from Asia to Europe. After the second world war, that point moved across the Atlantic to the United States. In the 1960s, 70s, 80s and 90s, it remained in the western part of the northern hemisphere. Then a dizzying acceleration occurred. In just one decade, from 2000 to 2010, the centre swept back to Asia, reversing almost all the trends of the previous 2,000 years.

We’ve been mentally adjusting to this shift for some time. Books have been written about how this will be the “Asian century”. These days, news headlines about North Korea and China, not to mention Myanmar, serve as a constant reminder of how much of the world’s security – its governance as well as the liberal democratic values that will (or won’t) be upheld – depends on what happens in a part of the world that seems distant to most Europeans.

The Ultimate Nightmare: North Korea Could Sell Saudi Arabia Nuclear Weapons

Zachary Keck

Pakistan won't sell Saudi Arabia a nuclear bomb, but North Korea might.

One of the gravest concerns about Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon is that it will set off a nuclear arms race in the region, whereas Iran’s acquisition of the bomb prompts its neighbors to follow suit. As President Obama warned in 2012, if Iran gets nuclear weapons, “It is almost certain that other players in the region would feel it necessary to get their own nuclear weapons.”

No country is seen as more likely to go nuclear in response to Iran doing so as Saudi Arabia, Iran’s long-standing rival in the region. Saudi officials have done little to tamp down such fears, instead indulging them repeatedly. Just last month, Prince Turki bin Faisal, Saudi Arabia’s former intelligence chief, told a South Korean conference: “Whatever the Iranians have, we will have, too.”

With a few exceptions, nearly everyone who fears that Saudi Arabia will acquire a nuclear weapon nonetheless concedes Riyadh wouldn’t build a bomb itself. Instead, the general consensus has long held that Saudi Arabia would purchase off-the-shelf nuclear weapons from Pakistan. Indeed, concerns about a secret Saudi-Pakistani nuclear pact date back to the 1970s and 1980s, and have become especially prevalent over the past decade and a half.



Elon Musk is worried about governments, specifically the Russian one, competing for artificial intelligence superiority and sparking World War III. That shocking statement was made all the more shocking by the low expectations the world seems to have for Russia, which US Senator John McCain dismissed just a few years ago as a “gas station masquerading as a country.” 

Recent remarks by Russian President Vladimir Putin grabbed Musk's attention. Speaking to schoolchildren about AI on 1 September, Putin declared, “Whoever becomes the leader in this area will rule the world.” Musk's response emerged on Twitter: “It begins...”

Actually, Russia isn't “beginning” anything when it comes to AI. It's just that its progress in the field has been somewhat below the radar: We are used to discussing AI in the context of major Silicon Valley companies' or top US universities' advances, and while Russians work there, the top names are not Russian. Nor are the top thinkers and investors in the field. IBM's recent list of “AI influencers” only includes one native Russian speaker, University of Lousiville's Roman Yampolskiy — who, like Musk, worries about a possible “AI apocalypse” — and he's originally from Latvia, not Russia.

Russia is awful at commercialising and promoting technological advances. Prisma, an AI application that literally redrew photos to make them look like paintings by a number of famous artists, took post-Soviet countries by storm last year and won some interest in the U.S. but failed to become a global phenomenon. Other Russian AI startups are only known to experts, and while large Russian information technology companies such as Yandex and Mail.ru Group have invested a lot of resources in AI research and built products using neural networks (Yandex search, more popular than Google in Russia, is powered by proprietary neural tech), these achievements are overshadowed by those of bigger Western rivals. Even Russian venture capitalists appear to be looking for AI opportunities outside the home country. 

Fighting in Three Realms: Democratic, Autocratic, and Ideological

By Stanley J. Wiechnik

“The first, the supreme, the most far-reaching act of judgement that the statesmen and commander have to make is to establish … the kind of war on which they are embarking; neither mistaking it for, nor trying to turn it into, something alien to its nature. This is the first of all strategic questions and the most comprehensive.”
—Carl von Clausewitz


War is a continuation of politics by other means, we are instructed. Based on that axiom, the manner in which a state fights a war will be inexorably tied to its political nature. Democracies fight wars differently than monarchies and principalities. Clausewitz recognized this when he saw the type of army post-revolutionary France was able to field: “Suddenly war again became the business of the people – a people of thirty millions, all of whom considered themselves citizens…. The people became a participant in war; instead of governments and armies heretofore, the full weight of the nation was thrown into the balance.”[1] Similarly, wars conducted by religiously or ideologically motivated participants, sometimes called doctrinal wars,[2] tend to be more brutal than wars that do not involve this ideological component.[3] Yet despite these distinctions, American strategists tend to plan and execute all wars the same way, regardless of what type of enemy they are fighting.

This is how your world could end

Peter Brannen

Many of us share some dim apprehension that the world is flying out of control, that the centre cannot hold. Raging wildfires, once-in-1,000-years storms and lethal heatwaves have become fixtures of the evening news – and all this after the planet has warmed by less than 1C above preindustrial temperatures. But here’s where it gets really scary.

If humanity burns through all its fossil fuel reserves, there is the potential to warm the planet by as much as 18C and raise sea levels by hundreds of feet. This is a warming spike of an even greater magnitude than that so far measured for the end-Permian mass extinction. If the worst-case scenarios come to pass, today’s modestly menacing ocean-climate system will seem quaint. Even warming to one-fourth of that amount would create a planet that would have nothing to do with the one on which humans evolved or on which civilisation has been built. The last time it was 4C warmer there was no ice at either pole and sea level was 80 metres higher than it is today.

The modern world will be much more of a killing fieldMatthew Huber, paleoclimatologist

I met University of New Hampshire paleoclimatologist Matthew Huber at a diner near his campus in Durham, New Hampshire. Huber has spent a sizable portion of his research career studying the hothouse of the early mammals and he thinks that in the coming centuries we might be heading back to the Eocene climate of 50 million years ago, when there were Alaskan palm trees and alligators splashed in the Arctic Circle.

Nato chief: world is at its most dangerous point in a generation

Daniel Boffey

Exclusive: Jens Stoltenberg warns of converging threats as Russia mobilises estimated 100,000 troops on EU’s borders

The world is more dangerous today than it has been in a generation, the head of Nato has said, days before the mobilisation of an estimated 100,000 Russian troops on the EU’s eastern borders, and as a nuclear crisis grows on the Korean peninsula.

Jens Stoltenberg, secretary general of the military alliance, said the sheer number of converging threats was making the world increasingly perilous.

Asked in a Guardian interview whether he had known a more dangerous time in his 30-year career, Stoltenberg said: “It is more unpredictable, and it’s more difficult because we have so many challenges at the same time.

“We have proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in North Korea, we have terrorists, instability, and we have a more assertive Russia,” Stoltenberg said during a break from visiting British troops stationed in Estonia. “It is a more dangerous world.”

From next Thursday, over six days, Russian and Belarusian troops will take part in what is likely to be Moscow’s largest military exercise since the cold war. An estimated 100,000 soldiers, security personnel and civilian officials, will be active around the Baltic Sea, western Russia, Belarus and the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, without the supervision required under international agreement.

How the CIA is Using Artificial Intelligence to Collect Social Media Data

The United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) requires large quantities of data, collected from a variety of sources, in order to complete investigations. Since its creation in 1947, intel has typically been gathered by hand. The advent of computers has improved the process, but even more modern methods can still be painstakingly slow. Ultimately, these methods only retrieve minuscule amounts of data when compared what artificial intelligence (AI) can gather.

According to information revealed by Dawn Meyerriecks, the deputy director for technology development with the CIA, the agency currently has 137 different AI projects underway. A large portion of these ventures are collaborative efforts between researchers at the agency and developers in Silicon Valley. But emerging and developing capabilities in AI aren’t just allowing the CIA more access to data and a greater ability to sift through it. These AI programs have taken to social media, combing through countless public records (i.e. what you post online). In fact, a massive percentage of the data collected and used by the agency comes from social media. 

As you might know or have guessed, the CIA is no stranger to collecting data from social media, but with AI things are a little bit different, “What is new is the volume and velocity of collecting social media data,” said Joseph Gartin, head of the CIA’s Kent School. And, according to Chris Hurst, the chief operating officer of Stabilitas, at the Intelligence Summit, “Human behavior is data and AI is a data model.”

New malware steals users’ money through mobile phones: Kaspersky

New Delhi: A new malware Xafecopy Trojan has been detected in India which steals money through victims’ mobile phones, cyber security firm Kaspersky said in a report.

Around 40% of target of the malware has been detected in India. “Kaspersky Lab experts have uncovered a mobile malware targeting the WAP billing payment method, stealing money through victims’ mobile accounts without their knowledge,” the report said.

Xafecopy Trojan is disguised as useful apps like BatteryMaster, and operates normally. The trojan secretly loads malicious code onto the device. Once the app is activated, the Xafecopy malware clicks on web pages with Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) billing—a form of mobile payment that charges costs directly to the user’s mobile phone bill.

After this the malware silently subscribes the phone to a number of services, the report said. The process also does not require user to register a debit or credit card or set up a user-name and password. The malware uses technology to bypass ‘captcha’ systems designed to protect users by confirming the action is being performed by a human.

New AI can guess whether you're gay or straight from a photograph

Artificial intelligence can accurately guess whether people are gay or straight based on photos of their faces, according to new research that suggests machines can have significantly better “gaydar” than humans.

The study from Stanford University – which found that a computer algorithm could correctly distinguish between gay and straight men 81% of the time, and 74% for women – has raised questions about the biological origins of sexual orientation, the ethics of facial-detection technology, and the potential for this kind of software to violate people’s privacy or be abused for anti-LGBT purposes.

The machine intelligence tested in the research, which was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and first reported in the Economist, was based on a sample of more than 35,000 facial images that men and women publicly posted on a US dating website. The researchers, Michal Kosinski and Yilun Wang, extracted features from the images using “deep neural networks”, meaning a sophisticated mathematical system that learns to analyze visuals based on a large dataset.

The research found that gay men and women tended to have “gender-atypical” features, expressions and “grooming styles”, essentially meaning gay men appeared more feminine and vice versa. The data also identified certain trends, including that gay men had narrower jaws, longer noses and larger foreheads than straight men, and that gay women had larger jaws and smaller foreheads compared to straight women.

Cambridge University could allow laptops and iPads for exams amid fear young people are losing ability to write

Luke Mintz

Cambridge University is considering axing compulsory written exams and allowing students to use laptops or iPads instead, after tutors complained that students' handwriting is becoming illegible.

Academics say that the move, which would bring an end to more than 800 years of tradition, has come about because students rely too heavily on laptops in lectures, and are losing the ability to write by hand.

Cambridge University has now launched a consultation on the topic as part of its "digital education strategy", having already piloted an exam typing scheme in the History and Classics faculties earlier this year.

In an online survey, students are asked whether they would like the option to type exams, and whether this would have a “significant positive impact” on their “well-being”. 

Dr Sarah Pearsall, a senior lecturer at Cambridge’s History Faculty who was involved with the pilot earlier this year, said that handwriting is becoming a “lost art” among the current generation of students.

“Fifteen or twenty years ago students routinely have written by hand several hours a day - but now they write virtually nothing by hand except exams,” she told The Daily Telegraph.

EU runs its first-ever cyber war game exercise

European Union defence ministers have staged a cyber attack simulation in a bid to work out exactly how good - or otherwise - EU member states' cyber defences really are. 

Perhaps surprisingly, it is the first time that such an exercise has been conducted on an EU-wide basis. 

The simulation, though, lasted little more than 90 minutes, and Reuters reports that the exercise went reasonably well.

The UK opted out of the exercise. 

"In the simulation, hackers sabotaged the EU's naval mission in the Mediterranean and launched a campaign on social media to discredit the EU operations and provoke protests," reported the news agency.

"Each of the defence ministers tried to contain the crisis over the course of the 90-minute, closed-door exercise in Tallinn that officials sought to make real by creating mock news videos giving updates on an escalating situation."

"Cyber, the fifth domain of warfare, must be given as much attention as land, air, sea and space," said Jorge Domecq, CEO of the European Defence Agency.