9 April 2018

*** Assessing Russia’s Reorganized and Rearmed Military



Recent Western assessments of Russia’s renewed military power have led to a wide range of differing conclusions and, taken together, provide a mixed and confusing picture of the scale and nature of the threat. Impressive capabilities demonstrated in Ukraine and Syria have given rise to concern that Western armed forces may find it difficult to cope with an operating environment dominated by new Russian weapons systems for which they have neglected to adopt countermeasures. But at the same time, a number of veteran scholars of Russian military affairs argue that the power of the current Russian military is commonly overestimated, suggesting that it is hostage to many problems inherited from its traumatic post-Soviet degeneration, critically challenged by overstretch, technologically backward, or all three.

The Last Headhunters of Nagaland

By Sugato Mukherjee

The Konyak warrior tribe is one of the many Naga tribes. But what sets them apart from the rest of the tribes of this northeastern Indian state is their fierce headhunting history, which was part of their strong warrior tradition. Territorial conflicts between rival tribes and villages were resolved through warfare and Konyaks were feared for their headhunting skills – they beheaded their enemies and brought back the severed heads as trophies in a specially designed basket that they carried to the battles. The heads were then proudly displayed on the walls and doorways of the warriors.

Gadkari Discovers A Smart Way To Beat High Land Costs For Building Highways

by R Jagannathan

Smart ministers, smart staff and smart execution make it possible to beat dumb laws like the United Progressive Alliance (UPA)-era Land Acquisition Act, which mandates payment of four times market value for land compulsorily acquired for important road and other projects. Due to this act, there was a real danger that infrastructure can become unviable, with one report pointing out that land acquisition costs have soared from 9 per cent of total project costs in 2009 to 37-55 per cent in some new road projects now underway.

Advantage India

THE UNITED STATES is a ‘fading power’, China is racing to replace it at the top, and Russia has the military wherewithal to stop either of them cold, but lacks the economic heft to make it on its own. Great power politics are thus in a state of flux more than at any time in the recent past. The goal for India, in this context, should be to cobble together coalitions to deny China the upper hand on its periphery, in the Indian Ocean region, and in Asia at large while rendering the role of the US less central to the security of Asian states.

What do Pakistanis think of anti-India terrorist groups?

Madiha Afzal

Pakistan is facing renewed international pressure to take action against the Lashkar-e-Taiba. What do ordinary Pakistanis think of it, and other anti-India terrorist groups? Madiha Afzal explores that issue, drawing on survey data and on her new book, “Pakistan Under Siege Extremism, Society, and the State.” This piece originally appeared in DawnPakistan is facing renewed international pressure to take action against the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). Prior to this, for the first year of its administration, the Trump government focused single-mindedly on the Haqqani network.

India and Pakistan are quietly making nuclear war more likely

By Tom Hundley
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KARACHI, Pakistan — The Karachi Naval Dockyard, home port and strategic nerve center for Pakistan’s fleet, sits on a sliver of land bracketed between Port Grand, a “family fun” pier that features kiddie rides and a panoramic view of warships at anchor, and Machar Colony, a sprawling slum where cattle graze on garbage and a million human inhabitants live in nearly unimaginable squalor. It was here, during the quiet predawn of May 6, 2014, that four rogue naval officers walked up the gangway of the PNS Zulfiqar, a 4,000-ton frigate that was preparing to put to sea. A guard inspected their ID badges and saluted. Once on board, their plan was to join up with another group of six militants disguised in marine uniforms who were approaching the Zulfiqar in an inflatable dinghy. Together they hoped to hijack the ship and use it to attack a US Navy patrol in the Indian Ocean.

Why Does the U.S. Military Still Fail to Understand Taliban Strategy After 17 Years of War in Afghanistan?

Bill Roggio

After nearly 17 years with boots on the ground, Resolute Support apparently still does not understand the Taliban’s strategy in Afghanistan. Or, if NATO’s mission does, its leaders are being intentionally obtuse in public statements in order to pump its public relations campaign in support of the Afghan military and government. Just this week, Resolute Support spokesman Captain Tom Gresback claimed that Taliban operations in remote district centers “represent a significant lowering of ambition.” Below is the full quote, from a Reuters report that discusses the fighting in the southern provinces of Helmand and Farah, where the Taliban have recently made significant gains: “Taliban offensives in these remote areas represent a significant lowering of ambition after their failure to take any provincial capitals in 2017,” U.S. Navy Captain Tom Gresback, spokesman for the NATO-led Resolute Support coalition, said in an emailed statement.

The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue and the Maritime Silk Road Initiative

Major geopolitical shifts in the Asia-Pacific in the last decade have led to a revitalization of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue between India, Japan, Australia, and the United States first established in 2007-2008. China’s expanding maritime strategy and increasing assertiveness in land reclamation and territorial claims have been a key driver of a strengthening alignment among the Quad members. China’s Maritime Silk Road Initiative (MSRI) offers unique concerns to each member: India fears encroachment on its zone of strategic interest as well as encirclement from Chinese projects in Pakistan. Japan is wary of China’s ability to influence the energy supply chains on which East Asia depends. 

China’s Maritime Silk Road: Strategic and Economic Implications for the Indo-Pacific Region

China unveiled the concept for the Twenty-First Century Maritime Silk Road (MSR) in 2013 as a development strategy to boost infrastructure connectivity throughout Southeast Asia, Oceania, the Indian Ocean, and East Africa. The MSR is the maritime complement to the Belt and Road Initiative, which focuses on infrastructure development across Central Asia. Together these initiatives form the One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative designed to enhance China’s influence across Asia.

Power Transitions: Thucydides Didn’t Live in East Asia

by David C. Kang and Xinru Ma

The empirical examples that international relations scholars use to derive their theories about power transitions are almost all European. Two pre-modern East Asian cases lead to three new insights about power transitions.

Is it a risk for America that China holds over $1 trillion in U.S. debt?

Many worry that China’s ownership of American debt affords the Chinese economic leverage over the United States. This apprehension, however, stems from a misunderstanding of sovereign debt and of how states derive power from their economic relations. The purchasing of sovereign debt by foreign countries is a normal transaction that helps maintain openness in the global economy. Consequently, China’s stake in America’s debt has more of a binding than dividing effect on bilateral relations between the two countries.

China’s Campaign Against Uighur Diaspora Ramps Up


People hold placards and flags during a demonstration of France's exiled Uyghur community on July 4, 2010 in Paris. Mahmut, a Uighur living in a Scandinavian country, describes 2017 as the “saddest” year for his family. Born to secular Muslim parents, Mahmut, who asked to be identified by a pseudonym, says his family’s troubles began in late 2016 when the Chinese government pressured a cousin and his wife to return to China’s far western region of Xinjiang from Egypt.

China’s Maritime Silk Road Initiative: Economic Drivers and Challenges

China’s Maritime Silk Road Initiative (MSRI) seeks to connect Beijing with trading hubs around the world. Beijing insists the MSRI is economically motivated , but some observers argue that China is primarily advancing its strategic objectives. This article examines several economic criteria that should be used when analyzing port projects associated with the MSRI. China’s leaders have mapped out an ambitious plan, the Maritime Silk Road Initiative (MSRI), to establish three “blue economic passages” that will connect Beijing with economic hubs around the world. [1] It is the maritime dimension of President Xi Jinping’sBelt and Road Initiative (BRI), which could include $1–4 trillion in new roads, railways, ports, and other infrastructure. Within this broad and ever-expanding construct, Chinese investments have been especially active in the Indo-Pacific region, raising questions about whether it is China’s economic or strategic interests that are driving major port investments.

Security Implications of China’s Military Presence in the Indian Ocean

China’s increased military presence in the Indian Ocean should not come as a surprise. China is following in the traditional path of other rising powers; it is expanding its military operations to match its interests abroad. The security implications of China’s push into the Indian Ocean region are mixed. In peacetime, these efforts will certainly expand Chinese regional influence. In wartime, however, China’s Indian Ocean presence will likely create more vulnerabilities than opportunities. China’s military forays into the Indian Ocean have triggered a series of warnings. The term “string of pearls” was first used to refer to Chinese basing access in the Indian Ocean by a 2004 report for the U.S. Department of Defense. That report suggested China’s growing regional presence could “deter the potential disruption of its energy supplies from potential threats, including the U.S. Navy, especially in the case of a conflict with Taiwan.” Other scholars have warned that Beijing seeks to “dominate” the Indian Ocean region. Others suggest that the Chinese government is simply following its expanding trading interests and seeking to secure its supply lines against disruption.

Will China really supplant US economic dominance?

By Kenneth Rogoff 

AS CHINA and the United States engage in their latest trade tussle, most economists take it as given that China will achieve global economic supremacy in the long run, no matter what happens now. After all, with four times as many people as the United States, and a determined program to catch up after centuries of technological stagnation, isn’t it inevitable that China will decisively take over the mantle of economic hegemon? I am not so sure. Many who see China’s huge labor force as a decisive advantage also worry that robots and artificial intelligence will eventually take away the majority of jobs, leaving most humans to while away their time engaged in leisure activities.

Cooperation, Uncertainty, and the Rise of China: It’s About “Time”

by David M. Edelstein

Underexplored in debates about power transitions is why declining powers typically pursue a mix of cooperative and competitive strategies toward rising and potentially threatening powers? Cooperation between the United States and China has been facilitated by the interaction of short time horizons of a declining power and long time horizons of a rising power.

China’s Bold Energy Vision


China’s proposed Global Energy Interconnection – based on renewables, ultra-high-voltage transmission, and an AI-powered smart grid – represents the boldest global initiative by any government to achieve the goals of the Paris climate agreement. It is a strategy fit for the scale of the most important challenge the world faces today.  The boldest plan to achieve the targets set by the 2015 Paris climate agreement comes from China. The Paris accord commits the world’s governments to keeping global warming to well below 2º Celsius (35.6º Fahrenheit) relative to the pre-industrial level. This can be accomplished mainly by shifting the world’s primary energy sources from carbon-based fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) to zero-carbon, renewable (wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, ocean, biomass), and nuclear energy by the year 2050. China’s Global Energy Interconnection (GEI) offers a breathtaking vision of how to achieve this energy transformation.

ISIS 2.0 Is Really Just the Original ISIS

Nearly four months after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared that the Islamic State had been militarily defeated, the group has rapidly transformed back into a terrorist network and shows no sign of ending its campaign of attacks across northern Iraq. “ISIS’s proto-state no longer exists. Their flag doesn’t fly over Iraqi territory,” says Fareed Yasseen, the Iraqi ambassador to the United States. “But that doesn’t mean they’ve disappeared. They are reverting to old tactics used by al Qaeda before 2014.”

Trump’s new national security team likely spells disaster for the Iran nuclear deal

Suzanne Maloney

Iranians are gathering today for picnics to mark sizdah bedar, the culmination of the annual celebration of the Persian new year (Nowruz.) Nowruz, a pre-Islamic holiday that coincides with the spring equinox, remains “so embedded in Persian culture” that it endured the early puritanism of Iran’s post-revolutionary era. For millions of Iranians and others who celebrate, the weeks around Nowruz mark an annual opportunity for ritual and renewal, a time for housecleaning and family get-togethers, casting out the dark winter and welcoming the fresh buds of spring.

US government has found widespread use of cellphone spying devices in Washington DC, but by whom?

US suspects cellphone spying devices in DC 

For the first time, the U.S. government has publicly acknowledged the existence in Washington of what appear to be rogue devices that foreign spies and criminals could be using to track individual cellphones and intercept calls and messages. The use of what are known as cellphone-site simulators by foreign powers has long been a concern, but American intelligence and law enforcement agencies — which use such eavesdropping equipment themselves — have been silent on the issue until now. In a March 26 letter to Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, the Department of Homeland Security acknowledged that last year it identified suspected unauthorized cell-site simulators in the nation’s capital. The agency said it had not determined the type of devices in use or who might have been operating them. Nor did it say how many it detected or where.

NATO’s Bad Apples


NATO faces a dilemma over criticizing member states that undermine democracy and the rule of law and disclose information that might endanger an ally. When a leading NATO member makes public the military positions of another ally deep inside a war zone, possibly endangering those forces, NATO remains silent. When NATO members undermine democratic values and the basic tenets of the rule of law, including an independent media and judiciary, they are not taken to task.Over the past few years—and in particular, over the past nine months—several members of the U.S.-led military alliance have run roughshod over NATO solidarity and the basic principles upon which the alliance was founded in April 1949.

Vladimir Putin, the Most Influential Man in the World

By David Brooks

Putin has established himself as one pole in the great global debate of the era, the debate between authoritarianism and democracy. He has a coherent strategy to promote his authoritarian side of that debate. He’s able to humiliate and disrupt his democratic rivals at will and get away with it. He’s become a cultural hero to populist conservatives everywhere — in France, Italy, the Philippines and the Oval Office. People are always saying that Putin is merely good at playing a weak hand. Everybody expects him to ultimately falter because Russia’s economy is so creaky. But his hand isn’t that weak. That’s because his power base is not economic; it’s cultural and ideological. As Christopher Caldwell writes in Imprimis, Putin’s international prestige starts with the story he tells. He came to power, by his telling, after Western reformers nearly destroyed his country. Teams of American economists thought that if you privatized property correctly, the law and order and social cohesion would take care of themselves.

The deal that curtails Iran’s nuclear ambitions seems doomed

John Bolton

EVER since Donald Trump’s election, he has had in his sights the “worst deal ever”—the one reached in 2015 that sought to circumscribe Iran’s nuclear ambitions. For a while the threat to the survival of the agreement looked more rhetorical than real. No longer. On January 12th the president signed the waiver that prevents the reimposition of nuclear-related sanctions on Iran for a further 120 days. But, against the advice of his national-security team at the time, he warned that this would be the last such waiver unless the European parties to the deal—Britain, France and Germany—worked with America to fix what he regards as the fatal flaws in the agreement.

Act on daunting demographic challenge

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The population forecast through 2045, released last week by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, paints a stark demographic challenge for many of Japan’s municipalities, which may become literally unsustainable in coming decades due to sharply declining local populations. It’s estimated that the nation’s population will fall by 16 percent in 2045 from the 2015 level. Tokyo will be the sole exception among the 47 prefectures to escape a net decline, while it’s forecast that the population of prefectures such as Akita, Aomori, Yamagata and Kochi will drop by 30 to 40 percent. About 40 percent of cities, towns and villages throughout the country are expected to see their populations fall by more than 40 percent.

The Avengers at a Crossroads: Assessing Prospects for New Strategic Challenges and Opportunities


The re-emergence of Thanos as a top global security threat has presented an important strategic challenge to the future of the Avengers, currently one of the most prominent nongovernmental organizations in the security sphere, as well as important military, security, and political challenges for the broader international community. This study argues that the Avengers should restore a strategic deterrence posture to best confront Thanos and other cosmic beings that could possibly emerge as future threats to the security position of the United States and its allies. An emphasis on “superheroics” has previously meant that much of the group’s efforts have been diffused. In this increasingly complex and unpredictable international security landscape, the Avengers should individually and collectively engage with key government and intergovernmental stakeholders to ensure an effective coordination of strategies and approaches to address Thanos and threats emanating from other parts of the world and universe.

Russian Tactical Nukes Are Real

By Mark B. Schneider

Russia has the most extensive arsenal of naval tactical nuclear weapons in the world. In stark contrast to President Vladimir Putin’s frequent discussion of the country’s strategic nuclear weapons, the Russian government generally is quite secretive about its tactical nuclear weapons. The country claims it has reduced its tactical nuclear weapons inventory by 75 percent from late Cold War levels. This is probably true, but the Soviet tactical nuclear weapons arsenal was so large that this still could leave 5,000 or more tactical warheads available today, as Pravda reported in 2014. [1] The 2018 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) reports that Russia has 2,000 non-strategic nuclear weapons and is increasing and modernizing them. [2] If Russian press reports are correct, the NPR number is a considerable underestimate.

The Attack on the Nuclear Reactor in Syria: The Intelligence Dimension

Although the public discourse after Israel took official responsibility for the attack in Deir ez-Zor has primarily revolved around the issue of the reactor’s discovery, it is important to recognize that intelligence operations did not end with the collection breakthrough. Intelligence had to cope with two particular challenges. First, at the strategic level, it had to assess the type of reaction - or lack of reaction - to an attack likely to come from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In this context, developing the idea of Assad’s “room for denial” constituted a conceptual innovation. Regarding the second challenge, namely, the attack itself, the intelligence community had to provide accurate information on the facility, on the reactor, and on its surroundings. Execution of the attack necessitated close cooperation between the regular intelligence entities and the operational and operations research entities in the air force. In retrospect, it seems that the intelligence community, in its various elements, succeeded in uniting its efforts and operating with a high level of “jointness.” This was true regarding the transfer of intelligence missions from Military Intelligence to the Mossad as an intelligence collection organization, as well as the clarification of differences of opinion on the threat assessment and possible reactions to the attack.

Status, Prestige, Activism and the Illusion of American Decline

by John Glaser

Status and prestige have been the most prevalent drivers of U.S. foreign policy for decades, but such concerns are the shadow, not the substance, of U.S. power, and lead to fears of U.S. decline. The United States can choose to forswear status and prestige-driven foreign policy excesses, or it can hasten its own actual decline.

Counseling the 33%: An Approach to One-on-One Development

By Jeffrey Meinders

All of our subordinates fall into one of three categories: top-third, middle-third, and bottom-third; few people will dispute that simple math. The problem exists when the middle-third think they are in the top group, and the bottom thinks they are in the middle, creating 66% of your subordinates who believe they are among the best. This confusion is understandable; we encode our current evaluations with very specific language which is hard for junior officers to decipher. This confusion leads to almost half of your best receiving OERs they think are unfair and unwarranted. Today’s digital age compounds the problem; where less and less face-to-face interaction occurs. This may complicate closed door conversations for leaders and their subordinates.

The Triton Cyber Weapon

By Justin Sherman Inés Jordan Zoob

In August of 2017, a private Saudi Arabian petrochemical company was hit by a cyber attack which was designed, according to investigators, to sabotage the firm’s equipment and trigger a plant-wide explosion [1]. This was by no means a run-of-the-mill cyber breach. Instead, it was one of the very few instances where a cyberweapon, known as Triton, had been specifically engineered to sabotage industrial control systems (ICS) [2]. Perhaps the most well-known example of this type of attack was the Stuxnet virus discovered in 2011, which targeted nuclear centrifuges in Natanz, Iran [3].

Google And Facebook Know More About You Than You’d Like

by Ameer Shahul

If you ever thought social media was violating your privacy, think again. You are your enemy number one on social media. Without reading the fine print, you have consented to dozens of platforms, allowing them to retrieve, store, and benefit from your data. Simply put, the highest level of privacy invasion happens with your consent. If you want to know the real impact of this compromise on privacy, here are some examples from Google, Facebook, and Linkedin: 

What India can do to build, bridge and bolster digital trust

Prerna Sharma and Shamika Ravi

The Development Seminars @ Brookings India series is a platform for global scholars to present their work to a curated audience of senior government officials, policy makers, journalists, academics and policy enthusiasts. The fundamental focus of the seminar series is to draw research-based insights to shape and influence policy dialogues in India, through purposeful and pointed discussions. There are more mobile phones than peopleon this planet, Facebook now has 2 billion monthly users, and over 93 per cent of India’s adult population now has access to a unique Aadhaar identity. With critical data pools lying with governments and social media networking sites, building, bridging and bolstering trust in our digital environment becomes central to our very existence.

Here Are the Major Takeaways From Trump's Tariff List

China and the United States again upped the trade ante with their latest tit-for-tat tariff measures announced this week, as Washington continues to implement its trade and investment agenda against Beijing. Although negotiations have begun behind the scenes and China is offering certain concessions, it is not clear whether the United States is willing to accept them; more likely than not, most of these tariffs will be implemented in the future.
So far, China has responded in kind to each move the United States has made and will continue to do so as Washington wraps up its third front against China in the coming weeks: restrictions on Chinese investment into strategic sectors in the United States.

To Illustrate the Dangers of Cyberwarfare, the Army Is Turning to Sci-fi

By Stephen Cass

At first glance, Dark Hammer [PDF] looks a lot like any other science fiction comic book: On the front cover, a drone flies over a river dividing a city with damaged and burning buildings. But this short story in graphic form comes from the Army Cyber Institute at West Point, in New York. The ACI was set up to research cyber challenges, and it acts as a bridge between different defense and intelligence agencies and academic and industry circles. “Our mission is to prevent strategic surprise for the army…to really help the army see what’s coming next,” explains Lt. Col. Natalie Vanatta, the ACI’s deputy chief of research. Dark Hammer is the first of four recently released comic books set in the near future that depict some of the emerging threats identified by the ACI. The books are free and downloadable by all, but they are primarily intended for “junior soldiers and young officers to get them to think about—well, what if the next 10 years doesn’t look like the last 80?” says Vanatta. The choice of format is unusual but far from unprecedented, she adds. “The army really has a large history of using graphic novels or fiction to help our workforce understand somewhat intangible concepts.”

Three Takeaways from the French Cyber Defense Review

Alex Grigsby is the assistant director of the Digital and Cyberspace Policy program at the Council on Foreign Relations. Earlier this month, French Digital Economy Minister Mounir Mahjoubi released a strategic review of France's approach to cybersecurity. The review is a wholesale reassessment of the cyber threats France faces but recommends a number of policies that will be familiar to anyone who has read a national cybersecurity strategy document in the last decade: delineate clear roles and responsibilities for government organizations; protect government systems and critical infrastructure providers; and modernize cybercrime laws and investigative techniques.