18 May 2018

India’s Russia conundrum: a question of balance


Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Russia for an informal summit with President Vladimir Putin in on May 21. This previously unannounced visit follows Indian Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s visit to Moscow in April to finalize the procurement of five S-400 Triumf air defense systems, a deal that may very well breach US sanctions against Russia. Against this backdrop, India is playing a careful game balancing these two powers. But with India pivoting toward the US and Russia warming up to Pakistan and China, the long-standing India-Russia relationship must be viewed through a new strategic framework that reflects changing geopolitical realities.

To understand India’s delicate balancing act between the US and Russia, we have to ask a simple question: What do these countries want from each other?


by Sylvia Mishra

On March 29, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) confirmed in a press releasethat Pakistan had conducted another test of the Babur-3 nuclear-capable submarine-launched cruise missile (SLCM), after the first test in January last year. The missile, with a range of 450 km, engaged its target with “precise accuracy” and was successful in “meeting all the flight parameters.” While the yield of the Babur-3 warhead is unknown, analysts estimate from the 47 seconds of flight-testing footage shared by Pakistan’s defense establishment that the SLCM was fired underwater horizontally from torpedo tubes. 

Cascades of Violence Across South Asia

By John Braithwaite and Bina D’Costa

Our new book, Cascades of Violence: War, Crime and Peacebuilding Across South Asia, argues that one of the hidden benefits of preventive diplomacy is that it can reduce various kinds of crime and the self-violence of suicide in one’s own country. Crime and armed conflict are both what we call “cascade phenomena.” With crime, for example, every mass shooting that occurs in the United States markedly increases the probability that there will be future mass shootings. The challenge for every society is to tackle gun culture whenever it has a first mass shooting to prevent the kind of spiral that American school children suffer.

The Strategy Behind China's Diplomatic Offensive in Latin America

The story goes that the May 1 establishment of diplomatic relations between the Dominican Republic and China was long in the making, but delayed because the D.R. put up too many conditions. As a result, Panama ended up beating it to the finish line, becoming in June 2017 the first country in the region in several years to add an embassy to the already large Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) contingent of missions in Beijing. 

America’s Collision Course With China


In the future, historians will lament that America’s long-term policy toward China was not a result of calm calculation. Instead, they are likely to focus on how America’s political polarization and simplistic ideology – shared by many who should know better – drove it into a highly damaging and utterly pointless conflict. The world’s most important bilateral relationship – between the United States and China – is also one of its most inscrutable. Bedeviled by paradoxes, misperceptions, and mistrust, it is a relationship that has become a source of considerable uncertainty and, potentially, severe instability. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the brewing bilateral trade war. 

ZTE Redux

Let’s put any potential ZTE deal in perspective. More than a year ago, ZTE was caught selling telecommunications equipment to Iran that included U.S. parts, thus violating sanctions. ZTE pled guilty in November 2017, paid a $900 million fine, punished the responsible executives, and—this was unwise—agreed that if it was later caught violating the terms of the settlement, it would be cut off from all U.S. technology. This last condition was certainly not in ZTE’s interest and probably not good for the United States either.


by Tuneer Mukherjee

Over thirteen years after defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton produced a report for U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld warning of China’s plans to increase its maritime footprint in littoral South Asia, the building blocks for a Chinese support network of logistical stations therein is now being put into place. Over the years, China has managed to string together a patronage network of multiple South Asian coastal nations through massive investment spending, focused port development projects, and collaborative naval equipment transfers (refer Table 1 below). The formulation of this “string of pearls” strategy, furthering China’s larger military and commercial ambitions under the guise of economic development, has managed to bait nations out of India’s strategic orbit.

Debate | The China Model

China’s rise is both unambiguous and unstoppable, whether the West likes it or not. Refusing to acknowledge reality will only generate more tension – and more risk, because failing to accommodate China will destabilize the rules-based order on which the world has come to rely. BEIJING – The global balance of power is shifting. As the United States retreats from global leadership, China is expanding its international influence. Now, many in the West fear a China-led attempt to overhaul the rules and norms that underpin the existing world order. Are they right to be afraid? The reemergence of China as a major regional and even world power certainly poses profound challenges to the US-led international order that was created after World War II. But Chinese leaders’ goal is not explicitly to upend that order, which did, after all, prove flexible enough to enable the impoverished China of the 1970s to become what it is today. Instead, the goal is to ensure that the existing order can adequately accommodate the interests and objectives of both China and the US.

The Gift that Keeps on Giving – to China


By abandoning the thoughtful policymaking of his predecessors in favor of a presidency modeled on reality TV, US President Donald Trump has failed to articulate anything resembling a credible national strategy. Trump’s threatened trade war with China, which is already benefiting that country at America's expense, is a case in point. All bad management, a business guru once remarked, is taught by example. Donald Trump is teaching a master class on how not to serve as America’s chief executive. By abandoning the thoughtful policymaking of his predecessors in favor of a presidency modeled on reality TV, Trump has failed to articulate anything resembling a credible national strategy.

Ramadan in 2018, a Threat Lens Perspective

Stratfor Threat Lens anticipates an increase in the tempo and intensity of attacks during Ramadan this year, similar to that seen in 2016 and 2017. A confluence of events — including but not limited to Ramadan — will exacerbate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The United States opened its new embassy in Jerusalem May 14, coinciding with the day Palestinians commemorate their 1948 displacement from Israel. Editor's Note: This security-focused assessment is one of many such analyses found at Stratfor Threat Lens, a unique protective intelligence product designed with corporate security leaders in mind. Threat Lens enables industry professionals and organizations to anticipate, identify, measure and mitigate emerging threats to people, assets, andintellectual property the world over. Threat Lens is the only unified solution that analyzes and forecasts security risk from a holistic perspective, bringing all the most relevant global insights into a single, interactive threat dashboard. 

Counter terrorism Spending: Protecting America while Promoting Efficiencies and Accountability

The United States currently lacks an accurate accounting of how much it has spent on the fight against terrorism. Without accurate data, policymakers will have difficulty evaluating whether the nation spends too much or too little on the counterterrorism (CT) mission, and whether current spending is doing its job effectively or efficiently.

Views on Islam in Times of Terrorism

By Darius Farman and Enzo Nussio 

How have recent jihadist terrorist attacks in Western Europe and the attendant debate over countermeasures affected Swiss attitudes towards Islam? Darius Farman and Enzo Nussio highlight that despite some fluctuations, there has been no significant increase in anti-Muslim sentiment in Switzerland since the 1990s. However, they also point out that public debate on Islam has shifted, particularly in terms of its prevalence and Islam’s portrayal as a potential threat. Further, discrimination against Muslims has risen, possibly because of the erosion of inhibitions against such behavior due to the hardening of negative attitudes.for Center for Security Studies (CSS)

Threat Report 2018: Al-Qaida Patiently Rebuilding

As the United States relocated its embassy in Israel to the city of Jerusalem, al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri used the occasion to call for jihad, claiming the international system is hostile toward Muslims. Al-Qaida has rebounded in recent years, rebranding its message and building local branches across the Middle East and Africa. The following brief is from The Cipher Brief’s 2018 Annual Threat Report. For more information on how to get the whole report, please click hereBottom Line: While the Islamic State (ISIS) grabbed the spotlight of international terrorism, al-Qaida has meticulously rooted itself in several conflicts across Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, where it has seized upon local grievances to appeal to disenfranchised communities and build its brand as a champion of victimized Sunnis. Consequently, al-Qaida’s strategy, combined with its long-term vision, renders the movement the most dangerous and entrenched terrorist network devoted to carrying out spectacular attacks against the West, and the United States in particular.

Trump’s New, Confrontational Foreign Policy and the End of the Iran Deal

By Robin Wright

On January 20, 1981, John Limbert and fifty-one other American diplomats were taken to Tehran’s international airport on a bus, after being held in captivity by young revolutionaries for four hundred and forty-four days. The diplomats were all blindfolded. “Listening to the motors of the plane warming up—that was the sweetest sound I’ve ever heard,” Limbert recalled last week. The Air Algérie crew waited to uncork the champagne until the flight had left Iranian airspace. The next day, however, the Timescautioned, “When the celebrations have ended, the hard problems unresolved with Iran will remain to be faced.” That’s still true, nearly four decades later. Since Iran’s 1979 revolution, six U.S. Presidents have traded arms, built back channels, and dispatched secret envoys in an effort to heal the rupture. “It’s a bad divorce, like ‘The War of the Roses,’ ” Vali Nasr, the Iranian-born dean of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, said. “Neither side has ever gotten over it.” Finally, in 2015, Barack Obama led six major world powers into the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the most significant nonproliferation pact in more than a quarter century. The deal limited but did not eliminate Iran’s nuclear capabilities in exchange for relief from some but not all punitive U.S. economic sanctions.

Threat Report 2018: North Korea’s Nuclear Doctrine

Months of fruitful engagement between North Korea, South Korea and the United States may soon turn sour. Yesterday, Pyongyang warned that ongoing joint military exercises and aggressive statements made by the Trump administration were damaging the diplomatic atmosphere. The regime canceled upcoming talks scheduled with South Korea, and threatened to pull out of the Trump-Kim summit, slated for June 12. Today’s brief, a part of The Cipher Brief’s 2018 Annual Threat Report, looks at the history of U.S.-North Korea negotiations, and the latter’s nuclear program, with insight into the regime’s end goals and what it may—and may not—be willing to put on the table.

Assessing the Health of the Defense Industrial Base

By John Adams

This week, the Department of Defense is scheduled to send the White House a long-awaited comprehensive interagency assessment on the health of the defense industrial base, identifying areas where efforts must be taken to strengthen domestic manufacturing capabilities and highlighting materials on which the U.S. is dependent upon China. Responding to an Executive Order issued by President Trump last summer, the report promises to shake up the way DoD has managed supply chain vulnerabilities for the past decade.

Independence-Minded Catalonia Will Tread a More Cautious Path

In Catalonia, pro-independence forces are once again in control of the regional government, but they will refrain from making any substantial unilateral decisions. The new Catalan government will focus on more immediate goals, such as the freeing of secessionist leaders who are in prison, or the normalization of Catalan institutions after the conclusion of months of direct control by the central state. Madrid will refrain from making any significant concessions to the separatists, which means that the issue of Catalan independence will not go away.

The Next Israeli War

By Jacob Shapiro

Another war between Israel and Hezbollah may well be approaching. Iran, Hezbollah’s primary patron, continues to ship weapons to the Lebanese militia despite Israel’s insistence that doing so is something it cannot allow. Israel has conducted airstrikes on Iranian and Syrian targets in the past month accordingly, but to no avail. The more aggressively Israel behaves, the sooner a direct fight with Iran will come. Of course, the two have been engaged in a war of words for some time, but this contest has been confined to the battlefield of rhetoric for a simple if overlooked geographic reason: The two countries are too far away from each other to wage war. Now, though, Iranian bases are coming under attack, and casualties are beginning to mount, but Iran has yet to respond. Eventually it will have to, and when it does it will come in the form of Hezbollah.

Speech by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Cyber Defence Pledge Conference (Ecole militaire, Paris)

Minister Parly, 
Ladies and gentlemen.

May I start by thanking France for hosting us today. France is a strong NATO Ally, contributing to our shared security and our collective defence in many different ways. You have high end capabilities. You have professional, dedicated forces. You have the resolve and the will to deploy them when needed. And also in cyber space we see France leading the way. And just the fact that France is organising this conference. The first annual conference on the Cyber Defence Pledge. Shows France’s strong commitment to our collective defence and also to the efforts to strengthening our cyber defences. And to implement the Cyber Defence Pledge.

Blockchain Will Help ‘Drive This Next Industrial Revolution,’ Wall Street Bull Predicts; One Of 5 Key Technologies, Along With Automation, Artificial Intelligence, The Internet-Of-Things, And Robotics; And, It Has Enormous Implications For Warfare, & Espionage

Digital currency and Bitcoin may get sucking out most of the oxygen in the room; but, it is the blockchain technology that is going to fundamentally change the economic, and perhaps military landscape when all is said and done. “At this point, blockchain may still be l considered an emerging technology,” Stephanie Landsman wrote on CNBC’s webisite, May, 13, 2018; “but, Federated Investors Portfolio Manager, Steve Chiavarone, is folding the electronic system, which records crypto-currency transactions into his stock market forecasts,” she noted.

COMPASS: a new AI-driven situational awareness tool for the Pentagon?

by Heather M. Roff 

In late March, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) held a proposers day for one of its new projects: Collection and Monitoring via Planning for Active Situational Scenarios (COMPASS). The new project’s goals are to increase a commander’s “situational awareness and reduce the ambiguity of actors and objectives in gray-zone environments”—where a “gray zone” is characterized as “limited conflict, sitting between ‘normal’ competition between states and what is traditionally thought of as war.”

Hey, Big Tech, Don’t Abandon Uncle Sam’s Cyber Warriors


There’s a dangerously misguided provision in the otherwise laudable accord signed recently by 30 leading tech companies. As cyber enemies proliferate, the United States needs every tool at its disposal to protect itself from attack. But a recent cybersecurity accord between leading technology companies snubs cooperation with the U.S. government, effectively undercutting U.S. cyber deterrence and emboldening cyber adversaries. Last month, more than 30 technology companies signed the Cybersecurity Tech Accord, aimed at protecting customers from malicious cyberattacks. Facebook, Microsoft, Dell, and Oracle pledged to join forces to mitigate state-sponsored attacks, develop stronger cyber defense capabilities, and prevent bad actors from tampering with their products. However, the companies also vowed not to aid any governments in “offensive” cyber activities.

“The Damn Thing Melted”: Arctic Security in the Blue-Water Era

By Steve Tebbe

When Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer told the media last week that “the damn thing melted,” he wasn’t talking about an ice cream cone. As the Arctic faces unprecedented levels of open water, Spencer and other naval leaders recently testified to Congress about the U.S. Navy’s strategy, which is changing as quickly as the Arctic itself. The Navy’s previous Arctic strategy was released in 2014, but the significant decrease in Arctic sea ice required an update to reflect the emergence of “blue-water Arctic operations,” now that the region has become ice-free enough for open waterways. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson told reporters “the Arctic triggered [the update]” of the four-year-old Arctic Roadmap, which was originally designed to last 16 years.

The Persistent Importance of an Old Cold War Concept

by Nicholas McCarty

Cold War era Kremlinologists often used to refer to a concept known as the “correlation of forces.” It was a neat way of second guessing the Soviet Union’s underlying military strategy. That concept, however, largely fell out of use with the fall of the Soviet Union. Considering the nature of today’s confrontation between Russia and the West, it is clearly a term that has been wrongly forgotten, and is due a comeback. The ideas behind “correlation of forces” draw heavily on Marxist-Leninist doctrine, at least in its emphasis on reducing a highly complex strategic reality into a mathematical blueprint. Thinking in terms of a “correlation of forces”, broadly speaking, is a way of accounting for national power that goes beyond merely the sum of a nation’s tanks, warplanes, or nuclear missiles. Instead, national power should be measured just as much by factors that are far harder to quantify: Internal cohesion, economic strength, and even ideological clarity of vision. The key lies in various calculations of underlying momentum.

RIP the Trans-Atlantic Alliance, 1945-2018


The Atlantic alliance, built to contain the Soviet Union in the aftermath of World War II, began to die when the Cold War ended. What kept it alive over the last three decades has been less strategic necessity than a convergence of values — the values of the liberal postwar order. Now, the senior partner of the alliance, the United States, has lost interest in those values. The alliance was already a corpse, but Donald Trump drove the last nail into its coffin when he decided this week to withdraw from the nuclear deal with Iran.