2 September 2018

US sanctions policy risks alienating India

Brahma Chellaney

When the U.S. slaps a nation with punitive sanctions, it tries to prevent not only American companies from doing business with the target country but also those of other states. Inevitably, these extraterritorial effects hit some countries much harder than others -- as India has just found to its cost.
Even though New Delhi has been boosting ties with Washington for over a decade, it is a prime victim of two new sets of U.S. economic sanctions -- on Iran and on Russia. These two countries, now at the center of the current American foreign policy debate, are both long-standing economic and political partners for India.

India and the U.S. — it’s complicated

Rakesh Sood
The first round of the India-U.S. 2+2 talks at the level of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and their counterparts Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary James Mattis is scheduled for September 6 in Delhi. It is a significant development but one that appears perfectly logical when seen against the two-decade-old trend line of India-U.S. relations. True, the trend line has not been smooth but the trajectory definitively reflects a growing strategic engagement. From estranged democracies, India and U.S. can worst be described today as prickly partners.
Strategic convergence

How Can U.S.-India Relations Survive the S-400 Deal?

Despite the convulsions that have marked U.S. foreign policy during Donald Trump’s presidency, U.S.-India relations appear to have survived relatively unscathed thus far. However, the tenor of bilateral interactions has certainly changed somewhat: Washington’s strategic altruism toward New Delhi has not disappeared, but it has been punctuated by new expectations of reciprocity, especially in the economic arena. Even in this area, though, the Trump administration’s demands have been modest overall and in many ways overdue.

India keeping a cautious eye on Bhutan elections


National Assembly elections are scheduled to be held in Bhutan on September 15 and October 18, and the Himalayan kingdom’s relations with India will be an important issue where India must exercise caution, according to an August 20 commentary in the Indian daily The Hindu. Bhutan, which has been heavily dependent on India for decades, has become increasingly concerned about its sovereignty. In April last year, Bhutanese authorities removed a board which read “Dantak welcomes you to Bhutan” at the country’s international airport. The Indian Border Roads Organization helps build roads under what’s called Project Dantak. The Hindu also pointed out that another board that credited “the Government of India” for the construction of the highway from the capital Thimphu to Phuentsholing on the Indian border in the south had been painted over.

Washington Warns of Sanctioning India Over Russian Missile System


The United States is refusing to rule out sanctions on India—a stated ally—if New Delhi goes through with a planned purchase of Russia’s new S-400 missile system this year, a top U.S. Defense Department official warned ahead of historic talks between the two countries next week. The S-400 “is a system that’s particularly troubling for a lot of reasons, and I think our strong preference … is to seek alternatives,” said Randall Schriver, the U.S. assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs, during an Aug. 29 event in Washington. “If they choose to go down that route, like I said, I can’t sit here and tell you today that the waiver will necessarily be used.” The waiver Schriver referred to is a congressional loophole designed to insulate allies from ongoing U.S. sanctions against Russia.

EMPIRE OF DEBT China ‘colonising smaller countries by lending them massive amounts of money they can never repay in bid for world domination’

By Gerard du Cann

CHINA is "colonising" smaller countries by lending them massive amounts of money they can never repay, it's been claimed. The country is accused of leveraging massive loans it holds over small states worldwide to snatch assets and increase its military footprint. 7Countries around the world owe huge sums to President Xi Jinping's China  Developing countries from Pakistan to Djibouti, the Maldives to Fiji, all owe huge amounts to China. Already there are examples of defaulters being pressured into surrendering control of assets or allowing military bases on their land. Some are calling it "debt-trap diplomacy" or "debt colonialism" - offering enticing loans to countries unable to repay, and then demanding concessions when they default.

Why China and Russia are obsessed with vast new war games

Peter Apps

As the West obsesses over Donald Trump’s legal and political challenges, Brexit and a host of other domestic crises, Chinese troops will join their Russian counterparts for Moscow’s largest military exercises in more than three decades. Coming six months after Beijing’s biggest ever offshore naval drills, the joint war games are another reminder of how central military posturing now is to the world’s two most powerful authoritarian states. While neither likely desires or expects war with the United States or its allies, both Beijing and Moscow want to give every impression they are increasingly ready – and are relying on that message to dominate their neighborhoods and intimidate less-powerful nearby nations. Both countries also have an unambiguous message for the Pentagon – that if war should come in Eastern Europe or the South China Sea, the United States would risk serious losses if it tried to intervene.

Is the U.S. in a new Cold War with China? How much worse could things get?


The trade war between the U.S. and China is deepening, with prospects bleak for a swift settlement. Analysts see the conflict as a symptom of something much larger: an effort by the U.S. to slow China’s rise as a second superpower. The age of great power competition is back, a titanic battle that could be long, dangerous and unpredictable. But just how bad could things get?

Is this a new Cold War?

Most of the warnings of an emerging Cold War have come from China, from President Xi Jinping on down.The state-run People’s Daily argued President Trump’s trade war was “never just about narrowing trade deficits but to contain China in much broader areas.”

Is the Trade War Impacting US Views of China?

By Shannon Tiezzi

U.S. public opinion toward China has soured over the last year, amid tough talk on trade from President Donald Trump – but remains largely in line with China’s favorability rating from 2013-2016. That’s according to a new survey of U.S. public opiniontoward China by the Pew Research Center published on August 28.The survey finds that “Overall, 38% of Americans have a favorable opinion of China, down slightly from 44% in 2017.” However, last year’s 44 percent favorability rating for China was something of an outlier; from 2012 to 2016, that figure stayed between 40 and 25 percent. Meanwhile, the percentage of Americans with an unfavorable view toward China stayed constant this year at 47 percent, after ranging from 52 to 55 percent from 2013-2016.

Why the US Trade War on China Is Doomed to Fail

By Vasilis Trigkas and Qian Feng

The fourth round of Sino-U.S. trade negotiations held recently in Washington, DC ended with a whimper, and so the largest trade war in post-World War II economic history continues unabated while a nascent crisis in emerging markets has alarmed investors worldwide. Motivated by the misperception that China’s economy is in critical condition, an emboldened U.S. President Donald Trump looks determined to escalate the warThe president’s senior economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, during a recent cabinet meeting, asserted that China’s economy “looks terrible, it is heading south.” The United States, he further declared “is crushing it, having a genuine boom.”

China's Hidden Totalitarianism

by Michael Clarke

Chinese President Xi Jinping has proclaimed that his signature “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) that seeks to link the Chinese economy with the major continental and maritime zones of the Eurasian continent will “benefit people across the whole world,” as it will be based on the “Silk Road spirit” of “peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness.” The lived reality of the people of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region—the hub of three of the six “economic corridors” at the heart of BRI—could not be further from this idyll. Rather, China has constructed a dystopic vision of governance in Xinjiang to rival that of any science-fiction blockbuster.

Iran Says It Will Block Middle East Oil Exports If It Can't Ship

Iran will halt Middle East oil exports if it’s not allowed to ship its crude through the Strait of Hormuz, according to a top military official. If the Islamic Republic can’t use the Strait for its oil exports, “there will be no security for others either and no other crude will be exported from this region,” Armed Forces Chief of Staff Mohammad Bagheri said, state-run Mehr news agency reported. The U.S. Army and other military forces present in the Middle East “know full well that the smallest mistake in the region will bear a heavy cost for them.” Iran has been threatening to halt exports from Hormuz, the world’s most important oil chokepoint, since early July. Bagheri’s comments come after the U.S. reimposed a set of economic sanctions that had been eased against Iran as part of a 2015 international nuclear agreement. The measures are set to intensify in November when they will target Iran’s oil sales - the lifeline of its economy.

Understanding Terrorism Is More Than a Numbers Gam


Statistical measurements are crucial to assessing terrorist and militant threats, but they provide only a starting point.

Beyond the numbers, it is essential to assess the ultimate objective of attacks, the specific threats of terrorists' tactics and even the novel tactics that can amplify the political impact of nonlethal attacks.

Focusing on such qualitative aspects, rather than on merely the quantitative, can temper overreaction to deadly events and highlight emerging threats before an attack.


James Howcroft

The 9/11 Commission identified “lack of imagination” within the counter-terrorism community as a key reason for the failure to stop the attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon in 2001. The failure to realize that airplanes themselves could be used as weapons contributed to the fact that the plot was not detected, and appropriate counter-measures were not taken. It is therefore important for counter-terrorism professionals to try to think from the terrorists’ perspective and to consider possible ways they might adapt and innovate in the future. The Program on Terrorism and Security Studies (PTSS) at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, brings together counter-terrorism professionals and practitioners from around the world for a month twice a year to study contemporary terrorism and the tools and strategies needed to combat it. The 68 participants from 48 countries who attended the PTSS in July 2018 were tasked to use their informed imagination and to think ofplausible ways that terrorism might evolve within the next ten years. Participants were asked to provide their assessments in three main areas: motivations, tactics / weapons / technology and likely targets.

Kurds Who Fought ISIS Now Hunted by Iran’s Regime

by Seth Frantzman

“Malek was a great guy, he was always laughing. When I heard he had been killed I teared up. It gutted me,” recalls one of the men who served alongside Said Kazim Kalhur, known as “Malek” to his friends and comrades in the Kurdistan Freedom Party (PAK). The small group of dedicated fighters in the PAK played a key role in fighting ISIS at several frontlines held by Kurdish forces between 2014 and 2017. Now some of those veterans have been kidnapped and killed by Iran’s regime, members say. Kurds who joined PAK are from Iran but fled the Islamic Republic’s repression and found refuge in the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government areas of northern Iraq. According to PAK, four of their members have been targeted by Tehran in the last month.

No Matter Who Wins the Syrian Civil War, Israel Loses


If you want to understand Israel’s ambivalence about the outcome of Syria’s war, look no further than Avigdor Lieberman. In 2016, Lieberman, Israel’s hawkish defense minister, condemned Bashar al-Assad, the president of Syria, as a “butcher.” He asserted Israel’s moral imperative to oppose genocide, born from the Holocaust, as a reason to oppose the Syrian government’s massacres. It is in Israel’s interest, he added, that Assad and his Iranian allies “be thrown out of Syria.” Fast forward to earlier this month. While touring Israeli air-defense units, Lieberman struck an optimistic note about Assad’s gaining strength, saying it means “there is a real address, someone responsible, and central rule” in Syria. Asked whether he believed this would decrease the possibility of clashes on Israel’s northern border, he said: “I believe so. I think this is also in Assad’s interest.”

A decade after the global financial crisis: What has (and hasn’t) changed?

By Susan Lund, Asheet Mehta, James Manyika, and Diana Goldshtein

It all started with debt.

In the early 2000s, US real estate seemed irresistible, and a heady run-up in prices led consumers, banks, and investors alike to load up on debt. Exotic financial instruments designed to diffuse the risks instead magnified and obscured them as they attracted investors from around the globe. Cracks appeared in 2007 when US home prices began to decline, eventually causing the collapse of two large hedge funds loaded up with subprime mortgage securities. Yet as the summer of 2008 waned, few imagined that Lehman Brothers was about to go under—let alone that it would set off a global liquidity crisis. The damage ultimately set off the first global recession since World War II and planted the seeds of a sovereign debt crisis in the eurozone. Millions of households lost their jobs, their homes, and their savings.

The Choice Facing a Declining United States


In Nairobi National Park, a succession of concrete piers rises over the heads of rhinos and giraffes, part of a $13.8 billion rail project that will link Kenya’s capital with the Indian Ocean. It’s a project with the ambition and scale of global leadership, and the site safety posters are in the language of its engineers and builders: Chinese. Four hundred miles further north, in one of Kenya’s city-sized refugee camps, there’s another sign of what global leadership used to look like: sacks of split peas, stamped USAID; a handful of young, quiet Americans working on idealistic development projects. I saw both this month, but one already looks like a relic of the past. The baton of global leadership is being passed from the U.S. to China. 

Land redistribution in South Africa, Trump’s tweet, and US-Africa policy

Witney Schneidman and Landry Signé

Appropriately, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa hit back at Trump within hours of the tweet, in a clear and forceful message in the Financial Times. The essence of Ramaphosa’s statement is that South Africa is a profoundly unequal society and the distribution of land is at the heart of that inequality, along with education, income, jobs, and skills. As president of South Africa, Ramaphosa has pledged to address this inequality resulting from land dispossession during the colonial and Apartheid eras. In light of the attention on South Africa’s land distribution issue, it is important to present the facts The inequality of land distribution in South Africa is rooted in the 1913 Natives Land Act that reserved almost 93 percent of the land for the white minority. This act legalized the historical dispossession of the African population. The 1936 Native Trust and Land Act slightly decreased that share to 87 percent, but the vast inequality of land ownership persists today.

Turkey Looks for Ways Around the U.S. Sanctions on Iran

As it reinstates sanctions on Iran, the United States will try to close loopholes in the measures that Tehran has previously exploited to make it more difficult for other countries such as Turkey to continue trading with the Islamic republic. The currency and debt crises facing the Turkish economy will make banks and companies reluctant to risk defying the measures and incurring the associated costs. The Turkish administration's desire to challenge the United States on sanctions and tariffs won't outweigh these concerns for most firms and financial institutions.

New IDF strategy to focus on missiles

Ben Caspit 

Israel’s military-strategic advantages over its adversaries are many, but no one doubts that Israel’s air force is the true game-changer. For dozens of years already, Israel’s top decision-makers and army chiefs refer to the air force as “the insurance policy of the State of Israel and the Jewish people.” The Israel Defense Forces invests the better part of its funds, its energies and its qualitative human resources in the air force, and has become the first foreign army to have tested the United States' F-35 stealth fighter jets under real combat conditions. The missions and sorties the Israeli air force had accomplished in two weeks of fighting in the Second Lebanon War can now be carried out in a 24-hour timeframe. The air force is viewed as Israel’s awe-inspiring strategic arm and its most effective instrument of deterrence.


Steve Leonard 

Few books are worthy of a one-word review, but Jeffrey Lewis’s The 2020 Commission Report is certainly one of them. With a narrative that captures the gradual de-evolution of long-running geopolitical patterns, Lewis takes readers on a dystopian literary adventure that is maddening one minute and gut-wrenching the next. What makes this book unforgettable, however, is its plausibility. Although Lewis subtitles The 2020 Commission Report as “A Speculative Novel,” the events unfold in a manner readers with any familiarity of the standoff with North Korea will find absolutely plausible. The result is a provocative military thriller that will draw the reader into a fictional world on the precipice of nuclear extinction.

Reviewing The Fate of Rome

By Williamson Murray

Both Thucydides and Clausewitz give great emphasis to the role of chance or luck plays in the course of military events. The former, however, uses chance in a far wider sense, as much more than just the impact of luck on a particular battle or the appearance of some factor that represents an immediate surprise to those concerned. The Greek word Thucydides uses to describe chance is tyche. Interestingly translators more often than not fail to translate tyche, but simply leave it out as being of no importance.[1] In fact, it is of enormous importance, because tyche interferes with human affairs from the lowest to the highest levels. In 431 BC, the Thebans launched a surprise attack on their smaller neighbor Platea. It should have worked. A small commando force crossed the mountain between the two cities and gained entrance into the city at dusk. The Plateans panicked and the Thebans seized control of the city. A large force was supposed to follow in its wake, but in the night an unexpected heavy spring downpour occurred; the rain extinguished the torches; the guides lost their way; and the army floundered its way to Platea only to arrive so late that the Plateans had shut the gates and captured the commando force. The unexpected, chance or tyche, robbed the Thebans of their expected victory.

The Plan to End the Korean War


First Donald Trump called off his secretary of state’s planned trip to North Korea this week. Then Defense Secretary James Mattis suggested on Tuesday that the U.S. might no longer suspend military exercises the North Koreans view as provocative. It’s starting to look like nuclear talks are grinding to a standstill, and a top adviser to South Korea’s president has provided the most detailed description yet of one of the key sticking points: a declaration to end the Korean War. This is not the same thing as peace. But it is a step in that direction. The Korean War never really ended; the fighting just stopped with a truce in the form of the 1953 Armistice Agreement, which has governed the Korean conflict ever since. What the South Korean government has been advocating for is a political statement that the war is over, which would serve as a kind of bridge between the chronic hostility of the past and a permanent peace in the future.

Google’s AI Can Help Predict Where Earthquake Aftershocks Are Most Likely

by Kristin Houser

THE SECONDARY SHOCKS. The destruction that a large earthquake can cause often doesn’t end when the ground stops shaking. Many produce aftershocks, smaller tremors hours or even days later caused by the ground’s reaction to the first quake. These aftershocks can sometimes cause more damage than the primary quake. And though we can usually predict the size of an aftershock, we haven’t been so great at predicting its location. Now, that could change. Researchers from Harvard University and Google’s AI division have created a neural network that can assess how likely it is that a particular location will experience an aftershock. The best part? It’s more accurate than the best existing model.

Marines 3D-print concrete barracks in just 40 hours

By James Rogers

The Marine Corps, Army and Navy Seabees teamed up to 3D print a concrete barrack in just 40 hours. Marines have used a specialized 3D concrete printer to print a 500-square-foot barracks room in just 40 hours. The innovative project created the world’s first continuous 3D-printed concrete barracks, according to the Marine CorpsThe barracks room was built earlier this month at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center in Champaign, Ill. Army and Navy Seabees were also involved in the construction effort.

Why It Is Time For a U.S. Cyber Force

By Travis Howard, Dave Schroeder

Since 2009, incremental improvements have been made to the nation’s ability to operate in cyberspace during this period. The establishment ofU.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) — first subordinate to U.S. Strategic Command, and then elevated to a Unified Combatant Command (UCC) — and the formation of the 133 teams that comprise the Cyber Mission Force (CMF) are chief amongst them. Yet despite all of the money and attention that has been thrown at the “cyber problem” and for all of the increased authorities and appropriations from Congress, the nation’s offensive and defensive cyber capabilities suffer from inefficiency and a lack of a unified approach,slow to non-existent progress in even the most basic of cybersecurity efforts, and a short leash that is inconsistent with the agility of actors and adversaries in cyberspace. Our adversaries continue to attack our diplomatic, information, military, economic, and political systems at speeds never before seen.

AI Ethics: Silicon Valley Should Take A Seat At The DoD Table

 by Jonathan D. Moreno

In the wake of objections from employees, Google withdrew from its Project Maven contract with the Pentagon, designing software to improve the analysis of drone imagery. Worried that it might lose access to critical technology, part of the military’s response to Silicon Valley is creation of a new Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC), which includes a focus on “ethics, humanitarian considerations, and both short-term and long-term A.I. safety.” The ethics of weapons and their use isn’t limited to A.I., nor is it new. Albert Einstein regretted his role in encouraging President Roosevelt to create the Manhattan Project, which designed and built the first nuclear weapons. Defense funding of university-based research was a flashpoint in anti-war protests in the late 1960s. In my book Mind Wars I recount a 2003 debate in the pages of the prestigious science journal Nature spurred by an editorial called “The Silence of the Neuroengineers.” The journal urged neuroscientists to be more aware of the implications of work that might be funded by agencies like DARPA, sparking an angry response by a senior member of the Defense Science Office noting the benefits to civilians of their work, including in medical care.

How the US Is Preparing to Match Chinese and Russian Technology Development


Until this week, U.S. Defense Department leaders had publicly described their technology race against China and Russia mostly as a bullet list of research priorities. Now a top research-and-engineering official has added detail about efforts to surmount key technical and physical challenges. At a Wednesday event put on by the National Defense Industry Association, Mary Miller, the assistant defense secretary for research and engineering, discussed directed-energy weapons, AI, quantum science, next-generation communications, and more.

Directed Energy

The Army is testing deceptive cyber technology despite past struggles

By: Justin Lynch  

The stark warning has been quietly presented for years in cybersecurity conferences and tucked away in slides by government officials. But that same idea has also led to tens of millions of dollars in investment in cyber deception methods, ones that trick attackers into believing that they have compromised a computer network. Yet, despite the Pentagon funding, defense researchers, the intelligence community and experts say that cyber deception capabilities are struggling to gain traction within the department. “The military does a better job than most, but it’s still just not adequate,” Scott DeLoach, head of the computer science department at Kansas State University, told Fifth Domain.