3 June 2018

India-US-China: Aligning Interests or Managing Threats?

By Monish Tourangbam and Pooja Bhatt

All eyes and ears will be tuned to India’s vision of the Indo-Pacific when Prime Minister Narendra Modi gives the keynote speech at the upcoming Shangri-La Dialogue next month in Singapore. The dialogue first convened in 2002 and soon became the flagship annual meeting for issues relating to security of the Asia-Pacific, later coinciding with the Obama-era Asia rebalancing strategy. However, the increasing salience of the Indo-Pacific as an emerging geopolitical construct, and the Trump administration’s embrace of the same, means that the Shangri-La Dialogue will also mirror this shift of focus from the Asia-Pacific to the larger Indo-Pacific.

From Cyber Warfare To Anti-Satellite Weapons, India Has All Capabilities: Defence Research Chief

by Pallava Bagla
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NEW DELHI: India's defence research chief Dr S Christopher has explained the various stages of development of the country's array of sophisticated weapons and where they stand currently. India already has anti-satellite capability. However, Dr Christopher says any ballistic missile that flies for a 1,000-plus km height can be designed in such a way that it becomes an anti-satellite weapon. "You do not necessarily need to specially use Agni-V (ballistic missile)," he told NDTV in an exclusive interview. The defence scientist says unmanned warfare is going to be the order of the day, with drone development taking centre stage.

Thermal Power Plant at the Khushab Plutonium Complex is Nearly Complete

by David Albright, Sarah Burkhard, Claire Chopin, and Frank Pabian

In a previous Khushab Update,1 the Institute identified major new construction in the southwest corner of Pakistan’s Khushab Plutonium Production Complex (also known as “KCP”). This construction was most likely being done for a new coal-fired thermal power plant to augment the electric power requirements of the complex. Recently acquired commercial satellite imagery from March 2018 now confirms that assessment, as does corroborative information gleaned from open source reporting. In the last Khushab report released by the Institute in September 2017, we addressed the issue of the ongoing construction as possibly being the early stages of a tritium extraction facility. However, we also suggested that the construction was more likely for a coal-fired thermal power plant. Now that construction of the facility is almost finalized, it is even more evident that the facility under construction is indeed a twin-boiler coal-fired thermal power plant (TPP). Information published by the Pakistani Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) underlines this conclusion.

White House move raises trade tensions with China


The White House announced Tuesday it will move forward with plans to punish China with hefty tariffs and investment restrictions, steps that ramped up tensions between Washington and Beijing on trade. The administration said it will impose a 25 percent tariff on $50 billion in Chinese technology imports, and that it will implement limits on investment in U.S. high-technology sectors. The decision builds on the announcement Trump made in March to take several major steps against China to protect U.S. domestic technology and intellectual property from theft.

China’s looming financial crisis

BY Stephen Joske
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Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia Philip Lowe’s speech last week highlighting the risks to the Chinese financial system from shadow banks – non-bank financial institutions often operating in more lightly regulated wholesale markets – has once again drawn attention to the major economic risk in China. As Lowe pointed out, most countries with rapid credit growth have a financial crisis and a recession. While China has started to recognise its credit problem and is addressing it, its responses are too late and too slow to avert a crisis. The main debate should be over when, and not if, a Chinese financial crisis will hit.  The official propaganda line from China, echoed by financial market commentators keen to sell Chinese assets to investors, is that it cannot have a financial crisis because of high savings, low foreign debt, and government control over financial institutions. Yet the first two just mean that China’s financial crisis will be driven by domestic markets.

US Needs New Strategy Vs. Russian, Chinese ‘Political Warfare’: CSBA


WASHINGTON: Russia’s meddling in the 2016 elections is just the tip of an iceberg of ongoing, systematic subversion, argues a new report. From Beijing’s bullying of Chinese students abroad, forcing them to lobby for the regime on matters like Taiwan and Tibet, to Moscow’s online support for radicals in Italy, Spain, and the Netherlands, both Russia and China are waging political warfare worldwide in ways democracies are ill-equipped to deal with, says the Center for Strategic & Budgetary Assessments.


China’s Wang Qishan vows to deepen ties with Russia, takes veiled swipe at US

Vice-president tells forum in St Petersburg there will be no winners from a trade war between China and America, and Beijing has to be ready Wang Qishan vowed to deepen cooperation with Russia and made a veiled attack on US protectionism on Saturday during his first overseas trip since he became Chinese vice-president in March. He told an economic forum in St Petersburg that China had been in frequent talks with the administration of US President Donald Trump, who has threatened to slap tariffs on numerous Chinese imports and wants to narrow the trade gap between the two countries. The vice-president said there would be no winners if there was a trade war between the world’s two largest economies, but Beijing had to be ready for any turn of events.

Was Merkel’s Visit to China Successful?

By Charlotte Gao

On May 25, German Chancellor Angela Merkel wrapped up her two-day visit to China. This visit — coming immediately after her visits to the United States and to Russia in recent weeks — was short yet fruitful for Merkel. As various media outlets noted earlier, the Iran nuclear deal (from which U.S. President Donald Trump just withdrew) and human rights issues (traditionally Beijing’s most hated topic) were the top two priorities on Merkel’s agenda. Merkel’s visit showed that she made a successful balance this time by achieving a united front with China on Iran deal on the one hand, and standing firm on human rights on the other.

These Documents Reveal a Bizarre War Game Being Played by the Pentagon

By Nick Turse

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.com. Ready To Join The Resistance?Sign up for Take Action Now and we’ll send you three actions every Tuesday. You will receive occasional promotional offers for programs that support The Nation’s journalism. You can read our Privacy Policy here. For almost 20 years, US drone warfare was largely one-sided. Unlike Afghans and Yemenis, Iraqis and Somalis, Americans never had to worry about lethal robots hovering overhead and raining down missiles. Until, that is, one appeared in the skies above Florida.

The Complicated Geopolitics of U.S. Oil Sanctions on Iran

by Amy Myers Jaffe
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It is often said, perhaps with some hyperbole, that Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers was the best hope for conflict resolution in the Middle East. Its architect John Kerry argues instead that the 2015 deal’s limited parameter of closing Iran’s pathway to a nuclear weapon is sufficient on the merits. The Trump administration is taking a different view, focusing on Iran’s escalating threats to U.S. allies Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Those threats, which have included missile, drone, and cyberattacks on Saudi oil facilities, are looming large over the global economy because they are squarely influencing the volatility of the price of oil. One could argue that the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Iranian deal, referred to as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), has injected an even higher degree of risk into oil markets, where traders now feel that the chances of Mideast conflict resolution are lower.

With CAATSA, the U.S. is Trying to Make Russia Hurt

Middling powers in Europe, Asia and the Middle East will face increasing pressure from Washington on their ties with Russia because of the United States' new sanctions legislation. Germany, Vietnam and Turkey are some of the major states most likely to defy U.S. pressure on their Russia relations. In Asia, India may struggle to cope with the U.S. sanctions, while Indonesia could go either way. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates will find it easier to comply thanks to their limited links to Russia and deep defense relationships with Washington. Measures such as the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act will encourage U.S. partners to adopt a more multilateral strategy in an emerging world of great power competition.

Russian Election Interference: Europe’s Counter to Fake News and Cyber Attacks

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Russia’s aggressive campaign targeting the 2016 U.S. election revealed not only the extent to which information and communications technologies are being used to undermine democratic processes but also the weaknesses of protection measures. The U.S. government was effectively caught off guard, once again highlighting that such interference presents a rising global threat. Comprehensive strategies and tools are clearly needed as part of a long-term, holistic approach to building resilience, but to be effective, they should be informed by the regular sharing of best practices and lessons learned between countries.

Threat Report 2018: Russia’s Military Doctrine of Deception and Deniability

Bottom Line: Moscow’s increasingly assertive military activity in Eastern Europe and the Middle East seeks to project the power of a resurgent Russia in relation to a retreating United States, while concealing its economic and political fragility at home. In doing so, the Kremlin walks a fine line between escalation with the West and the gradual growth of influence abroad. These realities have required the Kremlin to pursue unconventional and deniable means, sometimes complimented with a small overt military footprint to accomplish its political and military objectives.

Israel’s Nuclear Strategy: Enhancing Deterrence in the New Cold War

By Louis René Beres

By definition, as long as particular countries regard their nuclear status as an asset, every state that is a member of the so-called nuclear club is a direct beneficiary of the Cold War. This is because all core elements of any national nuclear strategy, whether actual or still-contemplated, were originally conceptualized, shaped, and even codified within the earlier bipolar struggles of post World War II international relations.[1] Nonetheless, as the world now enters into a more-or-less resurrected form of this initial struggle the strategic postures of each extant nuclear weapons state are being modified within the still-developing parameters of Cold War II.

Iran and Israel are Racing toward Confrontation in Syria

By Mona Yacoubian

Israel has long been wary of Iran’s power projection in the Levant, particularly in Syria. Ties between Tehran and Damascus have been close since the 1979 revolution, but the relationship deepened after Syria’s civil war erupted in 2011. With the Assad regime’s survival at stake, Tehran doubled down on its support, providing critical military assistance—fighters and strategists—and economic aid estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Syria and Iran now have a partnership with existential stakes—for the Assad regime’s longevity and Iran’s enduring position in Syria, the most strategic property in the Levant. USIP’s Mona Yacoubian looks at Iran and Israel’s goals and concerns in Syria and the potential of their shadow war spilling over into a regional conflagration.

Thucydides in the Data Warfare Era

By Anastasios Arampatzis, Justin Sherman

“Once again, the historian who wishes to understand this difficult period must try to read between the lines.” —Donald Kagan, A New History of the Peloponnesian War

While Thucydides may not have predicted smartphones or the Internet of Things, the Athenian general’s theories are still relevant in the age of cyber. The digital technologies rapidly changing our planet certainly raise compelling and difficult questions—around such issues as proportionality, attribution, and deterrence—but that doesn’t mean old principles are useless. These are not revolutionary nor novel statements—not by any means. But these ideas are at the crux of Thucydides’ three principles, and they still have important strategic value. While his writings were about battles fought with spears and swords, we can still leverage his views of honor, fear, and interest to better understand cyber conflict.

Here are the top 5 issues on the docket for NATO’s 2018 summit

By: Daniel Cebul 
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WASHINGTON ― Following along the same vein as the 2016 Warsaw summit, this year’s meeting of NATO leadership in Brussels will focus on reinforcing the alliance’s military presence in Eastern Europe as part of its deterrence mission. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg outlined the five main topics for the July 2018 summit during a speech before the NATO Parliamentary Assembly on May 28.

1. Deterrence and defense

Here’s how the Navy is developing information warfare ‘Top Guns’

By: Mark Pomerleau 
The Navy is looking to develop better information warfare personnel and improve doctrine such as intelligence experts in over the horizon targeting. The Navy recently celebrated the one-year mark of its development center aimed at growing more robust information warfare personnel for 21st century battlefronts. In order to meet evolving threats and challenges, the Navy is standing up a center to train warfighters.

Lessons from Strengthening Capacity in Countering Violent Extremism

BY: Jeff Krentel; Nathaniel L. Wilson

An evaluation of a three-year USIP program to strengthen capacity in the field to counter violent extremism revealed that effective project design, thoughtful recruitment strategies, and tailored course content are critical. Participants reported applying what they learned to either adjust existing CVE programs or develop new programs altogether. This report explores the lessons from the project for funders and practitioners to develop more effective projects. 



Indeed, information is—to adapt Thucydides’ wisdom—the modern money that fuels war. Those who have the fastest Observe-Orient-Decide-Act (OODA) data loop will be able to dominate the cyber battlespace. Better information means more comprehensive threat intelligence, faster response times, and more robust offensive capabilities. Thucydides is a relevant lens through which to understand modern data and information warfare, but he is just one such example. Cyber raises many new questions that strategists never could have exactly foreseen. That does not mean, however, that old theories are irrelevant. From Sun Tzu’s Art of War to Thomas Schelling’s Strategy of Conflict, we should look to the breadth of complex, thought-out strategies that others have laid before us to answer the complex questions of our digital age.

When Less is More: Cognition and the Outcome of Cyber Coercion

By Miguel Alberto Gomez for Institute for National Security Studies (INSS)

The rise of offensive interstate cyber interactions continues to fan interest in the coercive potential of cyber operations. However, empirical evidence from past cases suggests that such operations often perform poorly, with adversaries opting to resist rather than comply with an aggressor’s demands. Miguel Alberto Gomez contends that this does not necessarily mean the coercive potential of cyber operations can be dismissed. Instead, he argues for a shift in how we explain state behavior, suggesting a move away from prevailing normative interpretations and towards approaches that use cognitive heuristics.

Robotics and Military Operations

Edited by Prof. William G. Braun III, Dr. Stéfanie von Hlatky, Dr. Kim Richard Nossal.

In the wake of two extended wars, Western militaries find themselves looking to the future while confronting amorphous nonstate threats and shrinking defense budgets. The 2015 Kingston Conference on International Security (KCIS) examined how robotics and autonomous systems that enhance soldier effectiveness may offer attractive investment opportunities for developing a more efficient force capable of operating effectively in the future environment. This monograph offers 3 chapters derived from the KCIS and explores the drivers influencing strategic choices associated with these technologies and offers preliminary policy recommendations geared to advance a comprehensive technology investment strategy. In addition, the publication offers insight into the ethical challenges and potential positive moral implications of using robots on the modern battlefield.

Winning Wars and Military Education: Crossing Both Spans of the Strategy Bridge

Frank G. Hoffman
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This essay reflects the author’s own views and does not reflect the policy or position of the Department of Defense or U.S. Government. Does anyone remember how to win wars? One distressing aspect of U.S. foreign policy over the last 15 years has been the general lack of interest in coming to grips with the evident flaws in American policy and strategy formulation. While there have been numerous efforts by U.S. allies to identify why various policies have failed, including the Chilcot Inquiry and scholarly and objective books in the United Kingdom about British Generals and Military Strategy, examinations about why the United States has not achieved its objectives at desired costs are few. General Daniel Bolger’s Why We Lost is a rare exception.