15 July 2018

The India-Russia-US Energy Triangle

By Saurav Jha

In early June 2018, India received its first consignment of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Russia’s Gazprom. This followed the first ever arrival of an LNG cargo to Indian shores from the United States in March this year. Each occasion found India’s Union Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas (MoPNG), Dharmendra Pradhan, in attendance, as if to symbolize that India is engaging both the United States and Russia as part of its agenda to diversify away from acute dependence on OPEC for energy sources. It also means that the United States and Russia, besides vying for a share of the Indian defense market, will now increasingly find themselves in competition for India’s energy pie as well.

Future of India’s Supercarrier Program Still Uncertain

The Indian Ministry of Defense (MoD) has still not approved plans to move forward with the acquisition of the Indian Navy’s first supercarrier, the future 65,000-ton flattop INS Vishal, the second ship of the Vikrant-class, according to Indian media reports. As of this month, the MoD has not issued a so-called Acceptance of Necessity note, the first official step in procuring a new defense platform. The principal two reasons for the delay are difficulties with the carrier’s design and the Indian Navy’s declining budget. The proposed new supercarrier, to be constructed at the Cochin shipyard in southern India, is part of the Indian Navy’s Maritime Capability Perspective Plan (MCCP) which foresees the creation of three carrier strike groups with two groups deployed on the east and west coasts of India and the third held in reserve.

This mess we’re in

Tariq Khosa

PAKISTAN today suffers from a crisis of governance. The radical right is ascendant. Institutional decay is advanced; the state’s writ is eroded. We soon go to the polls in a divisive, belligerent and to a great extent despondent environment. It is time for serious reflection and introspection. In the past decade, our governments have been unable to produce a comprehensive national security policy. Instead of strategic, visionary long-term policies for both external and internal security challenges, there was a reliance on short-term, tactical (ie reactionary) responses to a myriad challenges on account of economic mismanagement, corruption and a convoluted policy of using religious extremists as tools of the invisible state. This mess can only be cleared through an effective charter of governance based on security and justice.

It Still Doesn’t Get Worse Than Afghanistan


What’s the dumbest aspect of contemporary U.S. foreign and defense policy? There’s no shortage of worthy candidates: the fruitless pursuit of strategic missile defense, which has costmore than $200 billion since the 1980s but still can’t provide convincing protection against even a nuclear pipsqueak like North Korea; President Donald Trump’s foolish flirtation with a global trade war, and especially his transparently comical claim that imports from Canada — Canada? — constitute some sort of national security threat; or even the blank check the United States has given its various Middle East allies to interfere in places such as Yemen, mostly unsuccessfully. And don’t get me started on Trump’s handling of North Korea or Iran.

Myanmar: Aung San Suu Kyi and the Cult of Personality

By David I. Steinberg

The Western world is inexorably witnessing the destruction of an international positive image: a cult of personality through which Aung San Suu Kyi achieved worldwide fame and acclamation. She had become known as the world’s ideal democratic symbol — a seemingly frail person but with iron determination, who had spent a decade and a half under house arrest for espousing and exemplifying democratic ideals against an authoritarian military dictatorship. She sacrificed her family for her perceived democratic role. Now, various international institutions have rescinded their prizes and awards to her; some media have unsympathetically called for the withdrawal of her Nobel Peace prize, and former illustrious supporters have been singularly silent.

China's Island Build-Up: The View From Space

By SpaceKnow

In 2015, China began pumping sand onto disputed reefs in the Spratly Island group of the South China Sea. Three years later, what used to be partially submerged coral features are now fully fledged islands, hosting buildings, ports, and runways. SpaceKnow looked at satellite images over the past decade to analyze the increase of infrastructure, land mass, ships, and planes in the disputed South China Sea. Our analytics are capable of detecting patterns and changes over a period of time for visualizing and assessing change. We recently looked into the buildup of islands in the Spratly Islands from 2009 through 2018. These selected images showcase the larger trends at play for some of the Spratly Islands, including an increase in urbanization as well as the deployment of boats and ships to the new facilities.

What's Next for the China-CEE 16+1 Platform?

By Bartosz Kowalski

On July 6 and 7, the seventh summit of the heads of governments of the countries of China and Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) took place in Sofia, Bulgaria. Despite the rumors that have been circulating for the last few months about reducing the frequency of meetings, it was announced that Croatia will host the summit next year. In 2020, the role of host will again fall to China, for the second time in five years. At the meeting in the Bulgarian capital, over 20 cooperation documents were signed, and Prime Ministers Li Keqiang and Boyko Borissov opened the “China-CEE agricultural demonstration zone.” Although Li suggested that the CEE countries should participate in the construction of various types of industrial parks, the agricultural emphasis seems to be symbolic in the light of all the achievements of the “16+1” format so far, and the general developmental offer of the CEE region.

What is China's State Capitalism, Anyway?

by Frank Li

The dramatic rise of China over the past four decades not only has rocketed China's economy to the top of the world (in terms of PPP - purchasing power parity), with no end in sight, but also is ending western dominance over the past 200 years, at least. What does that mean to the world? Everything, from democracy (End of Democracy?) to human rights (Human Rights: Yet Another Big and Fat Western Lie!)! Behind the China miracle is her system called "state capitalism". What, then, is it?

After Trump's new tariff threat, China may either have to blink or widen the trade war


President Trump’s latest threat of tariffs against China, on imports totaling roughly $200 billion, substantially raises the stakes for Beijing and could push the two countries’ trade war beyond the tit-for-tat duties seen so far. China’s Commerce Ministry said Wednesday that the nation would act with “necessary counter-measures,” but did not say that the government would retaliate in commensurate fashion, as it has promptly done in the past. The pause in brinkmanship reflects the quandary now facing Beijing. The new U.S. proposed levies would be on top of 25% tariffs that the Trump administration has assessed on $50 billion of Chinese goods, $34 billion of which took effect last Friday. On that day, China fired back with tariffs of the same amount.

Chinese Hackers Target Satellite, Geospatial Imaging, Defense Companies

By Catalin Cimpanu

A cyber-espionage group believed to be operating out of China hacked companies who develop satellite communications, geospatial imaging, and defense contractors from both United States and Southeast Asia.
The hacks were detected by US cyber-security firm Symantec, who said today in a report that intruders showed particular interest in the operational side of the breached companies. Hackers tried to reach and paid close attention to infecting computer systems used for controlling communications satellites or those working with geospatial data collected by world-mapping satellites.

Whither Wahhabism

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 fueled 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.

The Meaning of the Western Alliance


Even before he left for Europe, Donald Trump had started with the demands and acrimony he brought with him to this week’s nato summit. So right beforehand, Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, pushed back. He urged America to appreciate its allies, pointing out that America didn’t have that many. Trump’s tone at the summit indicated he was more interested in hectoring them about military spending. But Tusk’s own biography shows exactly why the alliance is about so much more than defense budgets.

The Mathematics Versus the Politics of Immigration

By David Kampf

The United States is being inundated by asylum seekers. Europe is being flooded by refugees. An exodus from poor countries is overwhelming rich countries -- illegal workers steal jobs, migrants pocket welfare benefits, and foreign criminals endanger society. Migration is often branded as a problem and the root of other troubles. But the truth is that migration can help countries rich and poor. It is not a threat that needs to be contained; it’s an opportunity that should be seized. And perhaps more important, it is impossible to stop. 



The security of the European Union is being challenged like never before. Central tenets of the international system that Europeans helped build are eroding or even disintegrating one by one. Great power competition is increasingly shaping Europeans’ security environment, while other security threats are also on the rise, from terrorism and cyber attacks to climate change. The EU now faces security threats from its east and south – and an uncertain ally in the West. To the east, a new kind of uneasy neighbourly relationship with Russia is developing – one that appears to involve Europeans accepting Russian meddling in their political affairs, from deliberate interference in elections to cyber attacks on European companies, systems, and political machinery. Further east, China continues to deepen its influence on EU states through trade and investment in the Union and its neighbourhood.

Germany Lines Up with China in Trade War


Germany's top manufacturing companies -- Volkswagen, BMW, Daimler, BASF and Siemens -- announced tens of billions of dollars of new investments in China as Chinese Premier Li Keqiang posed for a photo op with German Chancellor Merkel in Berlin. Houston, we've got a problem. Forget about Harley-Davidson. Some of the world's most powerful industrial firms have just given China a gigantic vote of confidence. BMW will expand its joint venture with Brilliance Auto to produce 519,000 vehicles a year. It also set up a joint venture to produce an electric version of the Mini together with Great Wall Auto. And it agreed to buy $4.7 billion worth of batteries from Chinese producer CATL, which just announced a new plant in southern Germany. Volkswagen earlier this year announced that it would invest $18 billion in China by 2022 and construct six plants to build electric vehicles. Oh, and BMW will move some of its SUV production out of its South Carolina plant in response to auto tariffs.

World Cup 2018: Croatia’s Conflict Resolution

Ivan Sršen

The summer of 1990, for those who lived in what was then Yugoslavia, was something like the summer of 1939 in Europe: warm and easy-going, spent mostly on the beach with a cold beer in hand, or—if you were far from any sea or lake—in the shade of a tree or a tall building, comfortably cooling your feet in a washbowl. No one expected the sudden break-up of that Balkan country, or at least not me, then an eleven-year-old boy.

How the U.S.-led Trade Wars Imperil the Global Economy

The recent trade skirmishes between the U.S. and China escalated yesterday with the Trump administration levying tariffs on an additional $200 billion worth of imports from China. The 10% tariffs will apply from August 30 to a long list of products including seafood, home appliances, industrial components and phone accessories, but excluding mobile phones. In what many are calling an all-out war, the latest action comes on top of the U.S. levying tariffs on $34 billion worth of imports from China earlier this month and the latter immediately responding with eye-for-an-eye tariffs on imports from the U.S. The U.S. had also slapped import levies in January on solar panels and washing machines, and in March on steel and aluminum. They triggered retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exports from its NAFTA partners Canada and Mexico, and from the European Union.

What America Gets Out of NATO

By Nicholas Burns

Donald Trump prepared for this week’s NATO summit by doing what no president had done before — making a case that the alliance is a bad deal for the American people. Last week in Great Falls, Mont., he said that he had told Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, “I don’t know how much protection we get by protecting you.” Mr. Trump has been even tougher on the European Union, branding it “as bad as Nafta” and adding, “Sometimes our worst enemies are our so-called friends.”

The Global Economy’s Uncertain Future


LONDON – At the start of 2018, most of the world economy was experiencing a synchronized cyclical recovery that seemed to herald a longer period of sustainable growth and an end to the decade-long hangover from the 2008 slump. Despite the shock of Brexit, storm clouds over the Middle East and Korean Peninsula, and US President Donald Trump’s unpredictable behavior, rising investment and wages, alongside falling rates of unemployment, appeared to be in the offing. Yet, as I warned in January, “the global mood [had] shifted from fear about political risks to obliviousness, even though many such risks still loom large.” Moreover, while my preferred global indicators were all looking up, I worried about whether that would continue after the first half of 2018, given foreseeable complications such as monetary-policy tightening across advanced economies, especially in the US.

Information Operations are a Cybersecurity Problem: Toward a New Strategic Paradigm to Combat Disinformation

by Jonathon Morganand Renee DiResta

Disinformation, misinformation, and social media hoaxes have evolved from a nuisance into high-stakes information war. State actors with geopolitical motivations, ideological true believers, non-state violent extremists, and economically-motivated enterprises are able to manipulate narratives on social media with ease, and it’s happening each and every day. Traditional analysis of propaganda and disinformation has focused fairly narrowly on understanding the perpetrators and trying to fact-check the narratives (fight narratives with counter-narratives, fight speech with more speech). Today’s information operations, however, are materially different – they’re computational. They’re driven by algorithms and are conducted with unprecedented scale and efficiency. To push a narrative today, content is quickly assembled, posted to platforms with large standing audiences, targeted at those most likely to be receptive to it, and then the platform’s algorithms are manipulated to make the content go viral (or at least, to make it easily discoverable). These operations are exploiting weakness in our information ecosystem. To combat this evolving threat, we have to address those structural weaknesses…but as platform features change and determined adversaries find new tactics, it often feels like whack-a-mole. It’s time to change our way of thinking about propaganda and disinformation: it’s not a truth-in-narrative issue, it’s an adversarial attack in the information space. Info ops are a cybersecurity issue.

The Grim Conclusions of the Largest-Ever Study of Fake News


The massive new study analyzes every major contested news story in English across the span of Twitter’s existence—some 126,000 stories, tweeted by 3 million users, over more than 10 years—and finds that the truth simply cannot compete with hoax and rumor. By every common metric, falsehood consistently dominates the truth on Twitter, the study finds: Fake news and false rumors reach more people, penetrate deeper into the social network, and spread much faster than accurate stories. “It seems to be pretty clear [from our study] that false information outperforms true information,” said Soroush Vosoughi, a data scientist at MIT who has studied fake news since 2013 and who led this study. “And that is not just because of bots. It might have something to do with human nature.” 

Waging cyber war without a rulebook

By Derek B. Johnson 

For years, security experts have warned of an impending cyber Pearl Harbor: an attack so big and bold that it cripples U.S. infrastructure and demands a military response. However, in interviews with former White House and executive branch officials as well as members of Congress and staffers involved in cyber policy, many expressed more concern about the potential for a Cyber Gulf of Tonkin: a misunderstanding or misattribution around an event that precipitates or is used as a justification for war. "I think we should all be concerned about a [misunderstanding] or something that is made to look like someone else took action," said Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), a co-founder of the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus. "Attribution is very difficult, although we are getting much better at it. There's no doubt there could always be a level of uncertainty."



Adam Smith, who illuminated their function on the first page of The Wealth of Nations, offered the celebrated example of a pin factory: “I have a seen a small manufactory… where ten men only were employed, and where some of them consequently performed two or three distinct operations. [They] could make among them upwards of forty-eight thousand pins a day… Separately and independently… they certainly could not each of them have made twenty, perhaps not one pin a day.” But the benefits of factories suggest their limitations. They are not reprogrammable: To make different products, a factory must retool with different machines. Thus, the first product shipped is much more expensive than the next million, and innovation is hobbled by need for capital expenditure and is never rapid. More, specialization compels multinational businesses to circle the globe with supply chains and warehouses, because goods must be shipped and stored.

Why America Needs an Independent Space Force

by Francis Grice

President Trump’s recent declaration of a new Space Force was met with ridicule in many quarters. Yet, the reality is that the United States does urgently need a dedicated military space branch that is separate from its Air Force. While the United States has somewhat neglected its space program over the past twenty-five years, China has escalated its efforts in this area, including launching numerous manned space flights, landed a rover on the moon, and deployed multiple unmanned space stations. This has spurred a regional space race with India, Japan, South Korea, North Korea, Taiwan, and Iran and more besides. The goal for the most ambitious of these states is not merely to equal American accomplishments, but to push past them, including establishing permanently manned space stations, landing astronauts on the Moon and Mars, and building lunar habitations. If achieved, these feats could knock the United States out of the lead in space for the first time since Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin orbited the earth in 1961.

Hacker Steals Military Docs Because Someone Didn’t Change a Default FTP Password

By Catalin Cimpanu

A hacker is selling sensitive military documents on online hacking forums, a security firm has discovered. Some of the sensitive documents put up for sale include maintenance course books for servicing MQ-9 Reaper drones, various training manuals describing comment deployment tactics for improvised explosive device (IED), an M1 ABRAMS tank operation manual, a crewman training and survival manual, and a document detailing tank platoon tactics. Hacker asking between $150 and $200 for the lot
US-based threat intelligence firm Recorded Future discovered the documents for sale online. They say the hacker was selling the data for a price between $150 and $200, which is a very low asking price for such data.