11 July 2018

The US-India Partnership and Its Discontents: Managing Trump-Era Turbulence

By Harsh V. Pant

In the end it was much ado about nothing, really. All the recent hyperventilation of the Indian strategic community was really an exercise in vanity. Grand deductions were being made about why the United States canceled the much anticipated “2+2 talks” with India, set for July 6. It turned out that it was indeed a scheduling problem with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo actually having to go to North Korea to salvage that diplomatic process, which is seemingly on the verge of collapse. Trump’s outreach to North Korea is his signature foreign policy achievement so far and he would want to preserve at the least the appearance that it retains some traction. It’s not surprising, therefore, that India would be asked to wait. Nikki Haley’s visit to India last week is no coincidence either. It was meant to convey that even as the 2+2 was postponed, India will remain an important focus area for the United States.

India's unofficial recycling bin: the city where electronics go to die

In Moradabad, whole communities subsist by processing waste created by the world’s love affair with electronic goods. In this extract from their book, Assa Doron and Robin Jeffreyinvestigate the impact of this dangerous trade  Hazardous e-waste material exported from the affluent developed world continues to plague cities in developing countries. From the road one could see locals washing the ash from burned e-waste and using sieves to recover fragments of metal. Women and children broke apart and segregated the printed circuit board components, prying open the object and separating the gold, silver and copper-plated components. Locals in Moradabad in western Uttar Pradesh described [to us] the process of recycling this hazardous material. Once the basic dismantling and separation were achieved, different methods of extraction followed: typically burning, grinding, washing and bathing in acid.

Can China Mediate Between Pakistan and India?

By Samuel Ramani

On June 29, 2018, the deputy chief of the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad, Lijian Zhao, told reporters that China was holding talks with Indian officials on the de-escalation of bilateral tensions between India and Pakistan. Zhao justified China’s support for an India-Pakistan rapprochement by stating that both countries would benefit greatly from suspending their arms buildups, and participating in joint economic development initiatives. 

Although Zhao’s calls for improved India-Pakistan relations were met with skepticism in India, China has assumed an increasingly important role in the preservation of stability in South Asia. At last month’s Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping emphasized the importance of “unity” among the organization’s members, when he welcomed Pakistan’s President Mamnoon Hussain and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the gathering. On June 20, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang described India and Pakistan as China’s neighbors and friends. This statement prompted speculation that China would host a trilateral dialogue between itself, India, and Pakistan on regional security.

The Struggle for the Indo-Pacific: In Search of Shangri-La

By Roncevert Ganan Almond

The approach into Nepal’s Tribhuvan International Airport requires carefully navigating the encompassing mountains, some rising nearly 10,000 feet. At altitude, Kathmandu’s magnificent pagodas, stupas and palaces are lost amidst a maze of haphazard multicolored tenements, the flowering cover of the developing world. Mount Everest, named for the former surveyor general of India, hovers, white in the near distance. As always, China is over the horizon – and in the market.

Billions of Dollars Wasted on a Fight Which We Should Have Won: The secret story of how America lost the drug war with the Taliban

Josh Meyer

As Afghanistan edged ever closer to becoming a narco-state five years ago, a team of veteran U.S. officials in Kabul presented the Obama administration with a detailed plan to use U.S. courts to prosecute the Taliban commanders and allied drug lords who supplied more than 90 percent of the world’s heroin — including a growing amount fueling the nascent opioid crisis in the United States. The plan, according to its authors, was both a way of halting the ruinous spread of narcotics around the world and a new — and urgent — approach to confronting ongoing frustrations with the Taliban, whose drug profits were financing the growing insurgency and killing American troops. But the Obama administration’s deputy chief of mission in Kabul, citing political concerns, ordered the plan to be shelved, according to a POLITICO investigation.

The U.S. Mission in Afghanistan Is Not Making Us Safer—It’s Time to Bring It to an End

by Daniel L. Davis

At his confirmation hearing to be the 17 th U.S. Commander in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. Austin Miller told senators he could not say when the war would end, but claimed the mission “is about protecting U.S. citizens,” by preventing Afghanistan from being used as a platform to attack America. The obvious reality, however, is that the mission has nothing to do with that goal. As someone who served two combat tours in Afghanistan, it is especially difficult to watch as Lt. Gen. Miller follows the seemingly identical script used by the parade of generals who have preceded him. All claim we have to “win” in Afghanistan, because if we don’t, they imply, we’ll suffer another orchestrated attack on the homeland. These claims rest on two assumptions, both of which are demonstrably false.

China Installed Military Jamming Equipment on Spratly Islands, U.S. Says

By Michael R. Gordon

Jamming equipment located on Mischief Reef in the South China Sea in a satellite photo taken by DigitalGlobe, a commercial space imagery firm. The photo was commissioned by the U.S. military, which added the color inset showing the type of equipment installed on the outpost in the Spratly Islands. China has installed equipment on two of its fortified outposts in the Spratly Islands capable of jamming communications and radar systems, a significant step in its creeping militarization of the South China Sea, U.S. officials say. The move strengthens China’s ability to assert its extensive territorial claims and hinder U.S. military operations in a contested region that includes some of the world’s busiest shipping routes.

Inside China’s Dystopian Dreams: A.I., Shame and Lots of Cameras

By Paul Mozur

ZHENGZHOU, China — In the Chinese city of Zhengzhou, a police officer wearing facial recognition glasses spotted a heroin smuggler at a train station. In Qingdao, a city famous for its German colonial heritage, cameras powered by artificial intelligence helped the police snatch two dozen criminal suspects in the midst of a big annual beer festival. In Wuhu, a fugitive murder suspect was identified by a camera as he bought food from a street vendor. With millions of cameras and billions of lines of code, China is building a high-tech authoritarian future. Beijing is embracing technologies like facial recognition and artificial intelligence to identify and track 1.4 billion people. It wants to assemble a vast and unprecedented national surveillance system, with crucial help from its thriving technology industry.

Amid US-China Trade War, Beijing Worries About Its Financial Sector

By Charlotte Gao

Chinese financial authorities insist China is capable of “winning big battles” and “tackling external risks.” 

The trade war between the United States and China — the two largest economies in the world — officially started last week. Yet even before both countries began imposing tariffs on each other’s goods, China’s financial markets had been experiencing serious fluctuations. Faced with such a gloomy market outlook, Chinese financial authorities repeatedly vowed that China will “resolutely prevent systemic financial risks.” So far, China’s currency and stock market have been under considerable pressure.

Xi Jinping’s Great Leap Backward


Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s move to eliminate the two-term limit for the presidency and vice-presidency of the Chinese state reflects his belief, and the belief of cadres and officials, that the much-praised system of Chinese communist governance had failed. As Thomas Friedman of The New York Times wrote in May, “Xi’s allies argue that his crackdown on corruption; his repeal of term limits, which positions him to rule for what could be decades; and his tightening of the control that the Communist Party wields over every institution was urgent because collective rule did not work.”

Whither Wahhabism? – Analysis

By James M. Dorsey

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Salman could well dash expectations that he is gunning for a break with Sunni Muslim ultra-conservatism rather than a shaving off of the rough edges of Wahhabi ideology that has been woven into the kingdom’s fabric since its founding more than eighty years ago.

Prince Mohammed has fuelled expectations by fostering Islamic scholars who advocate a revision of Wahhabism as well as by lifting a ban on women’s driving and creating space for entertainment, including music, theatre, film, and, for conservatives, controversial sports events like wrestling.

Iran’s Nuclear Deal, Oil and US Sanctions

Amb D P Srivastava

A meeting of the Joint Commission established under Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) took place in Vienna on 6th July. The Joint Commission was set up as the mechanism to resolve any disputes arising out of implementation of the Iran nuclear deal. This was the first such meeting held after US withdrawal from JCPOA announced by President Trump on 9th May. It was convened on Iran’s request. With the exception of UK, all other countries – France, Germany, Russia, China, and Iran - were represented at the level of Foreign Ministers. The UK was represented by the Minister of State for the Middle East, Alistair Burt. The Joint Commission was chaired by EU High Representative Federica Mogherini.

North Korea Declares U.S. Diplomacy “Gangster-Like”

By Robin Wright

The first sign that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s trip to Pyongyang wasn’t going quite as expected came in a casual but pointed question from the lead North Korean negotiator on Saturday morning. Had the Secretary slept well? Kim Yong Chol wanted to know. “I did, I did,” Pompeo replied, adding his gratitude for the accommodations at a government guesthouse. As a pool of American reporters looked on, the North Korean shot back, “But we did have very serious discussions on very important matters yesterday. So, thinking about those discussions, you might have not slept well last night.” Pompeo replied that he had “slept just fine.” The American reporters noted an edge in his voice, however.

Brexit, defence, and the EU’s quest for ‘strategic autonomy’

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Nick Witney 

There is more joy in heaven (or so we are told, on the best available authority) over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine already-righteous folk. On that basis, fatted calves in the vicinity of Brussels should have been keeping a very low profile as the British, after long years decrying and obstructing European defence integration, have rediscovered an unconditional commitment to Europe’s security, and pressed for the closest possible post-Brexit partnership.

Lessons Learned From 25 Years of Negotiating with North Korea

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is resetting expectations for a denuclearization timeline for North Korea, saying Monday that it will take ‘decades’ to get North Korea to dismantle its nuclear program. 

In a Tweet on Monday, President Donald Trump reaffirmed his confidence in the North Korean leader, saying that he believes Kim Jung Un will keep his promises.

Ambassador Joseph DeTrani is one of the few people who has decades of experience negotiating with North Korean leaders. The former Director of the Counterproliferation Center and Former Special Envoy for Six Party Talks with North Korea filed this Cipher Brief, focused on what he has learned from those years of experience:

A Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Makes a Mockery of Trump

Ahumanitarian disaster is unfolding in southern Syria, where hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing heavy fighting and finding borders locked tight. More than three hundred thousand civilians are on the move—some on tractors, some on foot—trying to escape a Russian-backed Syrian army offensive aimed at reconquering the city of Dara’a and the surrounding area, where the rebellion against the regime of Bashar al-Assad began seven years ago.

What Will Lopez Obrador Do About Mexico's Corruption?

By Reggie Thompson

Thanks to a congressional majority, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador will become the strongest Mexican president in decades, but questions remain about how he will wield that power. Lopez Obrador's big win, as well as the success of his party in Congress, gives him a mandate to tackle corruption, but he will find it easier to stamp out graft at the federal level than among lower-level officials. As a politician who has acted pragmatically in the past, Lopez Obrador could abandon a far-reaching campaign against corruption in favor of a targeted anti-graft drive.

Trump Is Right: The U.S. Can’t Lose a Trade War

by Salvatore Babones

The conventional wisdom of the international expert class is that “you can't win a trade war.” What they really mean is that you can't win a trade war in a fair game . If all sides start in balance, the rules are the same for everyone, and no player has coercive power over any other, the winning strategy is for everyone to cooperate. Economics 101. But if one country starts with a massive trade deficit, the existing rules are written to favor its opponents. And when the country with the trade deficit just happens to be the most powerful country in the world, it's safe to say that there are multiple paths to victory. Despite being widely ridiculed in the press, the homespun wisdom encapsulated in President Donald Trump's April 4 tweet that “When you’re already $500 Billion DOWN, you can’t lose!” is essentially correct. The only thing incorrect was the figure. The U.S.trade deficit was $568 billion in 2017, and that figure incorporates America's trade surplus in services. America's trade deficit in goods alone was a whopping $811 billion.

Madeleine Albright: ‘The things that are happening are genuinely, seriously bad

Andrew Rawnsley

Madeleine Albright has both made and lived a lot of history. When she talks about a resurgence of fascism, she says it as someone who was born into the age of dictators. She was a small girl when her family fled Czechoslovakia after the Nazis consumed the country in 1939. After 10 days in hiding, her parents escaped Prague for Britain and found refuge in Notting Hill Gate, “before it was fancy”, in an apartment which backed on to Portobello Road. Her first memories of life in London are of disorientation. “I didn’t have a clue. My parents were very continental European and I didn’t have siblings early on. I felt isolated.” As Hitler unleashed the blitz, “every night we went down to the cellar where everybody was sleeping.”

The Problem With Farm Loans

Ashutosh Datar

The government ensures credit to farmers with the best intentions. But they lead to horrible outcomes. In his budget speech every year, the Finance Minister lays down an indicative target of farm credit to banks. Banks have an explicit target for agriculture lending as part of their overall priority sector lending target. Banks must give at least 18% of their total loans to agriculture (and related activities allowed by the RBI). The underlying, unflinching belief is that farmers need more institutional credit as against credit from money lenders. Loans from formal financial institutions are cheaper and they do not resort to unscrupulous recovery practices. Crop loans are generally available at a four percent interest rate due to a subsidy from the central government, and some states provide a subsidy on top of it, making crop loans effectively interest-free.

Explaining the Hype Around Hypersonic Weapons

Countries around the world are in the process of developing hypersonic weapons technology, and the United States and China are leading the pack. With the technology needed for hypersonic missiles growing ever more feasible and accessible, we anticipate that both countries will have mature designs in the near future. The new missiles will be much faster than any current cruise missiles, and they will be extremely hard to detect. As the world adjusts to this evolving weaponry, the way countries approach offensive arms development and preemptive strikes is set to change dramatically.

Is it better to defend the Army’s network in the field or from afar?

By: Mark Pomerleau 

U.S. Army commanders are coming to grips with the need to more robustly defend their tactical networks from intrusions from highly sophisticated enemies.

A pilot program at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin in California integrates cyber planners and tactical cyber operators with brigade combat teams doing their rotations through the center as part of their normal brigade training. For the sake of the pilot, a defensive cyber planner is embedded with the brigade staff to help coordinate with the brigade’s organic network operators. The planner acts as a liaison with the brigade between remote defensive capability provided by the cyber protection brigade.

Cyber in movies is cool, but can the Army do it?

By: Mark Pomerleau 

Leaders on an Army team that experiments with bringing cyber weapons to the battlefield say their top priority is managing commanders’ expectations.

The Army is testing giving brigade commanders direct authorities of cyber capabilities, a new concept that includes offensive and defensive planners on the brigade staff.

Army Cyber Command is using a pilot program, Cyber and Electromagnetic Activities Support to Corps and Below, to test the infrastructure changes necessary to insert tactical cyber teams within brigades.

Guess which world leader is urging cybersecurity cooperation

MOSCOW — President Vladimir Putin on Friday called for closer international cooperation in fending off cyberattacks.

Addressing a cybersecurity conference in Moscow, Putin said it’s important to develop common cybersecurity standards that take into account interests of all nations. He noted that cyberthreats have mounted around the world.

“Cyberthreats have reached such a scale that they could only be neutralized by combined efforts of the entire international community,” Putin said.

“We have repeatedly seen that some nations’ egoism, their attempts to act squarely to their own advantages, hurt the global information stability,” he added without specifying.

Encryption Is the Key

By Carl M. Cannon

In this series of articles running through July, RealClearPolitics and RealClearDefense take an in-depth look at the intersection of cybersecurity, technology, and warfare in the 21st century. Below is Part 9.

Although the bad blood between President Trump and James Comey helped shape our current contentious political environment, on one highly charged policy issue both men were in complete agreement during the brief time Comey served under Trump. That issue relates to cybersecurity and the pitched battle between law enforcement and the tech industry over encryption.

The president and the former FBI director have been equally vehement in their denunciation of Silicon Valley tech giants for building encrypted software code that protects users of computers and mobile phones from intrusion -- even from law enforcement officials pursing criminals.