19 April 2018

China’s stealth wars in the Himalayas

Brahma Chellaney

Beijing’s military advance into Bhutan-claimed territory leaves New Delhi floundering, raising concern over India’s own borders. Operating in the threshold between peace and war, China has pushed its borders far out into international waters in the South China Sea in a way no other power has done elsewhere. Less known is that China is using a similar strategy in the Himalayas to alter facts on the ground — meter by meter — without firing a single shot.

The violently peaceful struggle for Tibet

Dr. Andrea Galli

Many years later, as he faced how the Dalai Lama became a political inconvenience for an increasing number of world leaders, the former emissary of the Dalai Lama, Gelek Rinpoche was to remember those distant afternoons when the poet Allen Ginsberg, the composer Philip Glass, the author Robert Thurman and the actor Richard Gere jointly planned fully-booked glamorous events for his Buddhist Jewel Heart organizations based in Ann Arbor, Chicago, and New York. At that time, the end of the Cold War was so recent that many notions lacked names, and in order to describe them, it was necessary to invent.

India’s grand illusion of a ‘reset’ with China

The power corridors in New Delhi are abuzz with the prospects of a “reset” of India-China ties. It started with a missive from foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale on 22 February discouraging government functionaries from attending events organized by the Tibetan government in exile. A number of high-level visits have since taken place. Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi came to India in early March and Indian national security adviser Ajit Doval visited China last week. And there have been reports suggesting that India did not intervene in the Maldives despite grave provocation from the Abdulla Yameen government in deference to Chinese sensitivities.

America’s Pakistan Problem

Brahma Chellaney

Debt-ridden Pakistan is very vulnerable to Western sanctions, yet it is unclear whether US President Donald Trump’s administration is willing to squeeze it financially in a way that could help reform its behaviour. Washington also seems reluctant to strip Pakistan of its status as a Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA) or target its military for rearing transnational terrorists. The main driver of Pakistan’s nexus with terrorists is its powerful military, whose generals hold decisive power and dictate terms to a largely impotent government. With the military’s rogue Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) rearing terrorists, Pakistan has long played a double game, pretending to be America’s ally while aiding its most deadly foes that have killed or maimed thousands of US soldiers in Afghanistan. Pakistani forces only target terrorists that fall out of line or threaten Pakistan itself.

The West Is Wrong About China’s President


In the West, government accountability is closely identified with democratic elections. In China, it is a function of how – and how well – the government responds to and protects the needs and interests of the people. BEIJING – China’s recent constitutional amendment eliminating the term limits for the president and vice president has left much of the West aghast. Critics fear the emergence of a new and unaccountable dictatorship, with President Xi Jinping becoming “Chairman Mao 2.0.” This response is more than a little inappropriate. 
Long tenures are not exactly unheard of in the West. For example, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has just begun her fourth four-year term – a development that the rest of Europe has largely welcomed rather than criticized.

The billion-dollar, Alibaba-backed AI company that’s quietly watching people in China

Josh Horwitz

If a person goes shopping at Suning, one of China’s largest electronics retailers, it’s possible that a camera in the store is tracking her behavior using SenseTime’s software. Later, if she opens Rong360, a peer-to-peer lending app, she’ll be asked to login using facial recognition—powered by SenseTime. She might send a video of herself to her friends on SNOW, a Snapchat-esque chat app, donning animated sunglasses built by SenseTime. And if she finds herself approached by police officers in the subway, it’s possible SenseTime helped identify her.

U.S. bans American companies from selling to Chinese phone maker ZTE

Steve Stecklow, Karen Freifeld

LONDON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Commerce has banned American companies from selling components to Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE Corp for seven years after breaking an agreement reached after it was caught illegally shipping goods to Iran, U.S. officials said on Monday. The U.S. action, first reported by Reuters (reut.rs/2H3p0Vl), could be devastating to ZTE since American companies are estimated to provide 25 percent to 30 percent of the components used in ZTE’s equipment, which includes smartphones and gear to build telecommunications networks. The ban is the result of ZTE’s failure to comply with an agreement with the U.S. government after it pleaded guilty last year in federal court in Texas to conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions by illegally shipping U.S. goods and technology to Iran, the Commerce Department said.

The Real Next War in Syria: Iran vs. Israel

By Thomas L. Friedman

SYRIA-ISRAEL BORDER, Golan Heights — Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Syria is going to explode. I know, you have heard that one before, but this time I mean really explode. Because the U.S., British and French attack on Syria to punish its regime for its vile use of chemical weapons — and Russia’s vow to respond — is actually just the second-most dangerous confrontation unfolding in that country. Even more dangerous is that Israel and Iran, at the exact same time, seem to be heading for a High Noon shootout in Syria over Iran’s attempts to turn Syria into a forward air base against Israel, something Israel is vowing to never let happen. This is not mere speculation. In the past few weeks — for the first time ever — Israel and Iran have begun quietly trading blows directly, not through proxies, in Syria.

U.S. Seeks Arab Force and Funding for Syria

Michael R. Gordon

WASHINGTON—The Trump administration is seeking to assemble an Arab force to replace the U.S. military contingent in Syria and help stabilize the northeastern part of the country after the defeat of Islamic State, U.S. officials said.

John Bolton, President Donald Trump’s new national security adviser, recently called Abbas Kamel, Egypt’s acting intelligence chief, to see if Cairo would contribute to the effort, officials said.

The initiative comes as the administration has asked Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to contribute billions of dollars to help restore northern Syria. It wants Arab nations to send troops as well, officials said.

Russian military capabilities in event of Western strike on Syria

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia has said it will target U.S. missiles and the ships or planes that fire them if an attack on Syria threatens the lives of its own military personnel based there. Here’s what we know about Russian military capabilities in Syria:



An advanced truck-mounted system that Russia is known to have deployed to protect its Hmeymim air base in Syria’s Latakia Province and its Tartus naval facility on the coast. Its mobile nature means it can easily and quickly be deployed elsewhere. Designed to shoot down military aircraft, missiles and drones, its radar can detect targets up to 600 kms (375 miles) away. Each truck carries four missiles of varying range. Can track multiple targets simultaneously. Taken seriously by NATO, the S-400s have not been combat tested however. Capable of intercepting U.S. Tomahawk cruise missiles, there are question marks over whether Moscow has enough interceptor missiles deployed to Syria to handle a large swarm of missiles. In such a situation it might be able to shoot down some, but not all incoming missiles. Russia also has an older version of the same missiles - S-300s - deployed in Syria.

Relationships Between Highly Asymmetric Nuclear Powers

By Rod Lyon

The current tensions between Washington and Pyongyang aren’t just about history. Nor are they simply the result of personal frictions between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un. At their core, they reflect the difficulties that typically attend adversarial relationships between two highly asymmetric nuclear powers. Bernard Brodie, one of the doyens of deterrence thinking during the early days of the Cold War, canvassed some of the problems in this sort of relationship in his 1958 essay, The anatomy of deterrence. There he considered how the Soviet Union might be strategically hampered by the emergence of a much inferior adversary which could, however, threaten nuclear damage to a small number of Soviet cities. The following extract is taken from pages 7–9 of his essay: [D]eterrence effect in itself does not depend on superiority … Let us assume that a menaced small nation could threaten the Soviet Union with only a single thermonuclear bomb, which, however, it could certainly deliver on Moscow if attacked … [This] would be sufficient to give the Soviet government much pause … If we think of five to ten H-bombs delivered on as many … cities, the deterrence would no doubt be significantly greater.

The West Rebukes Russia in Syria

By Jacob L. Shapiro

Late last week, the U.S., U.K. and France launched coordinated missile strikes on select regime targets in Syria. It was the second time the Trump administration had ordered strikes on the Assad regime, and only two things distinguish last week’s strikes from the ones that were carried out a year ago: Twice as many missiles were fired in the most recent attack, and the U.K. and France participated. But the strikes will not change the Syrian war. They were driven mainly by domestic politics in the three countries involved, which have emphasized both that regime change is not their goal and that Russia is partly responsible for Bashar Assad’s actions.

The Future of the United States and Europe: An Irreplaceable Partnership

The partnership between the United States and Europe has been an anchor of the world’s economic, political and security order for more than seven decades. The U.S. relationship with the European Union is the deepest in the world – but we should not take it for granted. Transatlantic relations are at a critical point in their history, and it is necessary to reassess their trajectory, as well as the prospects for EU-U.S. cooperation. In a new publication, CSIS, in partnership with Chatham House, assesses the top policy priorities on both sides of the Atlantic, identifying areas of potential cooperation as well as growing divergences to be managed. United States cooperation with Europe is essential to meeting global challenges – this is a conclusion that every U.S. administration has reached in the past 70 years. Our recommendations seek to strengthen that relationship and promote that community of democratic values that upholds the international order.

It Takes More Than Money to Make a Marshall Plan

Benn Steil and Benjamin Della Rocca

The Marshall Plan, the historic U.S. aid initiative to speed western Europe’s recovery after World War II, is rightly legendary for its vision and accomplishments. The $13.2 billion the United States dedicated to the Plan from 1948 to 1952 would be worth a substantial $135 billion in today’s money. Although it is widely understood that the United States spent enormous sums fighting the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is much less well known how much was spent on reconstruction. Through 2017, the total was $208 billion, in today’s dollars. This is over 50% more than the totality of Marshall aid, in today’s dollars. Yet the United States has tragically little to show for it.

Alone in the desert? How France can lead Europe in the Middle East

Manuel Lafont Rapnouil 

The Middle East is a key stage for France’s foreign policy, one where it bids to prove its credentials as an international power, punching above its weight and demonstrating the independence that is so important to the French sense of place in the world. In this context, the Arab uprisings and their subsequent upheavals have been a particular challenge, to such an extent that France attempted to recalibrate its strategy. Despite this, France soon settled back into its traditional realism by adopting an approach based on “reassurance”. Under this approach, France sought to foster stability by reassuring its partners against their perceived anxiety in the face of domestic instability, regional changes, and international uncertainties. But “reassurance” did not deliver and France still faces key challenges in the region.

The Other North Korea Question: How Important is the Korean Peninsula to the US?

By Sam Roggeveen

America’s leadership in the Asia Pacific was founded in the ashes of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and on its status as the first atomic power. Nuclear weapons thereafter defined Asian geopolitics. Today, on the Korean Peninsula, nuclear technology is again set to feature in a dramatic shift in Asia’s power balance. With a summit meeting between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un now in prospect, future historians may come to see North Korea’s nuclear-armed ballistic missiles as the trigger that unravels America’s strategic leadership of Asia.

Orbán 3.0: What to expect next

Zsuzsanna Végh 

Viktor Orbán’s post-victory intentions are clear: to extend Fidesz control over civil society and remaining independent media outlets. The stage is now set for the EU – with European People’s Party MEPs holding the balance – to take action on further violations of democratic principles and values. In late February this year, Hungary’s Fidesz party was rocked by losing a by-election in its normally solid stronghold city of Hódmezővásárhely. Until that moment, victory for the governing Fidesz-Christian Democrat coalition at the April general election had been largely a given. 

The Global Battle for Digital Trade

Global powers are competing to shape the new economy and the future of digital trade. In recent years, three groups have emerged: liberalizers (as represented by the U.S.), regulators (the European Union), and mercantilists (China). Each group champions different degrees and types of government intervention, especially for cross-border data flows. The differences among these approaches, and various attempts to bridge them, could define digital trade rules in the coming years.

Cyber Command has a role, but Pentagon leaders struggle to define it

By: Mark Pomerleau   

Nearly a decade after the formation of U.S. Cyber Command senior leaders at the Department of Defense are questioning the scope of the organization’s work due to the novelty of formalized military cyber operations and the dynamic cyber environment. In other words: where does Cyber Command’s work begin and end?  The challenge associated with defining traditional military activities in the cyber domain is typically that is done by looking back historically at what are traditional types of military operations,” Kenneth Rapuano, assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and global security and the principal cyber adviser for the Department of Defense, said during an April 12 hearing in front of a House Armed Services subcommittee.

What the Hoover Dam shows about hardening critical infrastructure

By: Meredith Rutland Bauer

Cybersecurity is often discussed in terms of mission-critical information in far-off databases or personal information stored on handheld devices, but what about the cybersecurity of bridges, power plants and dams? Securing old-school infrastructure against cyber attacks is critical now that they rely on digital interfacing for day-to-day operations, experts and government officials say. Power plants, drinking water facilities and even oil pipelines rely on strong cybersecurity to prevent service outages. While experts say the U.S. has never had a significant incident as a result of a cyber breach at one of these facilities, the repercussions of a successful attack could range from merely inconvenient to deadly.

Where Users' Facebook Data May Have Been Compromised

by Niall McCarthy

That's far more than previously believed with whistleblower Christopher Wylie earlier putting the number at approximately 50 million. Commenting on the situation, Mark Zuckerberg said that "clearly we should have done more and we will going forward". The Facebook boss also said that "he previously assumed that when Facebook provided people with tools, it was their own responsibility about how to use them". He has now said that holding such a view was "wrong in retrospect".

How can international law regulate autonomous weapons?

Ted Piccone

Some militaries are already far advanced in automating everything from personnel systems and equipment maintenance to the deployment of surveillance drones and robots. Some states have even deployed defensive systems (like Israel’s Iron Dome) that can stop incoming missiles or torpedoes faster than a human could react. These weapons have come online after extensive review of their conformity with longstanding principles of the laws of armed conflict, including international humanitarian law. These include the ability to hold individuals and states accountable for actions that violate norms of civilian protection and human rights.

Two Decades of War Have Eroded the Morale of America’s Troops


If the courage of young men and women in battle truly does depend on the nature and quality of our civic society, we should be very worried. South of Fallujah’s Route Fran were hundreds of insurgents who’d spent months digging trench lines, emplacing roadside bombs, barricading streets, training with their weapons, reading the Koran, and watching videos of suicide bombers to inspire them for the fight to come. North of Route Fran were the roughly 1,000 men of 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, preparing themselves for the assault. Route Fran itself was a wide, four-lane highway. On November 9, 2004, the highway was wet—it’d rained the previous day—and the sky was gray and foreboding.

Pentagon, Intel Agencies Set Up New AI Joint Office


WASHINGTON: The Pentagon will submit a report to Congress this summer outlining plans for a new office to lead the military and intel agencies’ work developing and acquiring artificial intelligence tools, a high priority for the national security wing of the federal government alarmed at the huge leaps China is making in the field. Michael Griffin, the Pentagon’s research and engineering chief, told a crowd at the Hudson Institute on Friday that his office is still hammering out the details, but the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) will tie together the military’s efforts with those of the Intelligence Community, allowing them to combine efforts in a breakneck push to move government’s AI initiatives forward.

Stop Wasting Infantry’s Time: Mattis Task Force


“All too often when we bring things up inside the Beltway, it immediately devolves to material and programs and technology," said Scales. "What we hope comes out of this is not just new machines but new ways of thinking about warfare at the tactical level.” Infantry training at the Joint Readiness Training Center, Fort Polk, La. ARLINGTON: Finding $2.4 billion for new infantry equipment was just the start for Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’s Close Combat Lethality Task Force. Now they’re taking on the hard part:getting the military to stop wasting the troops’ time.