25 September 2018

India Is Still Losing to China in the Border Infrastructure War

By Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

It has been a year since India and China ended the 73-day border crisis in Doklam. And for all the focus on the crisis itself and its implications for Sino-Indian relations, it is worth recalling that along their border, Doklam is arguably an exception where the Indian military may be perceived to have a slight advantage over the Chinese military because of its slightly better infrastructure there.

Relatively speaking, however, the infrastructure on the rest of the border is quite appalling. Indeed, unless India accelerates the pace of the physical border infrastructure build-up, New Delhi will face serious difficulties in any future confrontation with China.

US unlikely to succeed in weaning India away from military ties with Russia

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By Sandeep Unnithan

Russian president Vladimir Putin flies into New Delhi in his customised IL-96 jet on October 4 to participate in the 19th instalment of what will be one of the most closely watched Indo-Russian summits. Geopolitical shifts this year have fuelled such uncertainty-India’s perceived tilt towards the US after a recently concluded ‘Two Plus Two’ dialogue in New Delhi last month and the prospect of US sanctions being applied to India if it buys Russian defence equipment. This would explain why New Delhi is currently working out the modalities of what will be a vastly symbolic photo-op during President Putin’s visit-the gift to Russia of a flight-worthy Indian-built MiG-21 during the 19th Indo-Russian Summit on October 5.

The Sino-Russian Entente and India’s Choices

By Harsh V. Pant

Last week saw Russia joining hands with China to conduct its largest military exercises since the Soviet era. Chinese President Xi Jinping was in Russia as well to attend the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok and he bonded with Russian President Vladimir Putin over pancakes, caviar, and shots of vodka. They were sending messages to multiple audiences: to those back home in Russia and China as the two leaders use military nationalism to consolidate their positions at home and then to the West and the U.S. in particular that two major powers are seemingly joining hands.

SCARY! What Pakistan and China's nuclear weapons mean for India

'Once the military starts to draw up plans for using nuclear weapons, then nuclear weapons could be used earlier in a crisis than otherwise.'

Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is growing at a faster rate than predicted, with a reliable report from the non-profit Federation of American Scientists putting the figure at about 150 warheads now.

In the FAS's Nuclear Notebook: Pakistani Nuclear Forces, 2018, the authors, Hans Kristensen and Robert Norris, suggest that this could mean the country is not only on target to have up to 250 warheads by 2025, but that its production of tactical nuclear weapons risked a quicker slide from conventional clashes to a nuclear war.

The Nepalis Fighting America’s Wars

By Peter Gill

In his farewell address days before vacating the Oval Office in 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned Americans about an emerging “military-industrial complex,” saying, “In the councils of government, we must guard against [its] acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought.” The former five-star general added, “The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.”

Eisenhower was concerned that the rising influence of the weapons industry amid a Cold War arms race would unnecessarily divert government funds from domestic priorities like education, health-care, and infrastructure. In the over-a-half-century since his speech, the role of private defense companies in America’s wars — from Vietnam to Afghanistan and Iraq, and the smaller conflicts in between — has grown immensely. In addition to arms suppliers, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) now relies on contractors to manage most of its bases abroad and to run and guard the bases’ supply lines for everything from diesel to water, food, and laundry services. The DoD receives nearly one-fifth of the U.S. federal budget. In 2013, it spent roughly one-half of this on contractors — in other words, approximately 9 percent of the entire U.S. federal budget went directly to for-profit contractors who arm, supply, feed, and guard the military.

The US-China Trade War is Steering the World into the Unknown


A new Cold War is a possibility — but not the most likely one. 

“New U.S.-China Tariffs Raise Fears of an Economic Cold War,” proclaimed a Washington Post headline. The New York Times alleged that the United States and China were already “on the cusp” of such a “new Cold War.” Driving this hysteria was the Trump administration’s Monday announcement unveiling tariffs on an additional $200 billion of Chinese imports, followed nearly immediately by a Chinese promise to retaliate. This back-and-forth has been ongoing since January, and a resolution does not seem anywhere close, if one’s even possible.

As the U.S.-China competition expands across multiple domains, there are even worries that trade tensions could, over the long term, make the prospect of a military confrontation between the two more likely. Which raises the urgent question: How does this end?

China’s Surreptitious Advance in Afghanistan

By Shubhangi Pandey

Given the dysfunctional state of affairs in war-torn Afghanistan for the past decades, and the country’s strategic location on the world map, it is unsurprising to witness China’s fast-growing interest in the region. The progressively deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, and the potential risks that could pose to Beijing’s long-term economic and strategic endeavors, is an unsettling prospect for China. However, the geographical proximity between Afghanistan and Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China is arguably the most crucial motivation for greater Chinese involvement in the region.

International media outlets and intelligence agencies worldwide have been circulating reports pointing toward the creation of a Chinese military base in the Wakhan Corridor of Afghanistan’s Badakhshan province for a while now. Although China has not embarked on militarization programs on foreign soil historically, and has profusely denied the rumors about building an Afghan “mountain brigade,” China’s first overseas military base in Djibouti provides an example of China’s newly adopted strategy of leveraging economic influence to further its strategic objectives.

Political Turmoil Throws Australia Off Balance

With a razor-thin majority in parliament, new Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison will struggle to build a consensus among members of his Liberal-National coalition and prevent the Labor Party from winning elections next year.

Until Australia solves the problem of parliamentary fragmentation, it will encounter difficulty in balancing economic ties with China and political ties with the United States.

Due to Canberra's mixed signals on its ties with Beijing, China may choose to put engagement on hold until Australia's elections next year.

For the past decade, Australia has been politically adrift. Like some counterparts in the Western world, it has been experiencing a cycle of deep fragmentation, polarization and swings in the political balance that have put its governments off kilter. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's downfall in late August ushered in the country's sixth prime minister in less than a decade — with that period nearly evenly split between the country's two political pillars: the Australian Labor Party and the Liberal-National coalition.

China’s Sea Control Is a Done Deal, ‘Short of War With the U.S.’

By Hannah Beech

NEAR MISCHIEF REEF, South China Sea — As the United States Navy reconnaissance plane banked low near Mischief Reef in the South China Sea early this month, a Chinese warning crackled on the radio.

“U.S. military aircraft,” came the challenge, delivered in English in a harsh staccato. “You have violated our China sovereignty and infringed on our security and our rights. You need to leave immediately and keep far out.”

Aboard the P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, flying in what is widely considered to be international airspace, Lt. Dyanna Coughlin scanned a live camera feed showing the dramatic evolution of Mischief Reef.

China could be exposed in trade war as US allies choose compromise

Wendy Wu

Wendy Cutler, vice-president of the Asia Society Policy Institute and a former deputy US trade representative, made the assessment from the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Tianjin, northeast China, following sustained pressure from Trump on US allies to compromise in trade negotiations.

Trump has touted the success of negotiations with Mexico to revise the North American Free Trade Agreement, while Canada is showing signs it may make concessions in its Nafta talks with the US. In July, meanwhile, the EU and US reached a deal pledging zero tariff and zero barriers on non-car products.

Despite efforts by South Korea and Japan to diversify trade patterns, Seoul is about to sign a trade deal with Washington in the coming weeks and Tokyo, a close ally, is also on Trump’s agenda in trade talks.

How China's GPS 'rival' Beidou is plotting to go global

By Pratik Jakhar

China has ambitions for its rapidly expanding Beidou satellite navigation system to serve the whole world, not just Asia, but will it really be able to rival the well-established - and US-owned - GPS system?

Dalintai - a herder in northern China - used to travel miles every day on his motorcycle to deliver water for his livestock.

Now, according to the the Xinhua news agency, all he has to do is send a text message to operate an automated water delivery system.

"I am able to deliver water to my sheep and cattle wherever and whenever I want via this system," he says.

The message is relayed over China's expanding Beidou satellite navigation system, which is already being used used for transport, agriculture and even precision missiles.

U.S. sanctions China for buying Russian fighter jets, missiles

Lesley Wroughton, Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Trump administration imposed sanctions on the Chinese military on Thursday for buying fighter jets and missile systems from Russia, in breach of a sweeping U.S. sanctions law punishing Moscow for meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.

In Beijing, the Chinese government expressed anger and demanded the sanctions be withdrawn.

The U.S. State Department said it would immediately impose sanctions on China’s Equipment Development Department (EDD), the military branch responsible for weapons and equipment, and its director, Li Shangfu, for engaging in “significant transactions” with Rosoboronexport, Russia’s main arms exporter.

Time for Peace Talks With ISIS and Al Qaeda?


After almost 17 years of focusing on the threat from terrorists, the U.S. defense community has, under President Donald Trump, set its sights back on powerful states. But that might be myopic; terrorism committed by jihadi groups or inspired by jihadi propaganda remains a potent threat. If anything, the future is likely to bring more conflicts that combine transnational terrorism and civil war, more collaboration between jihadis and local non-jihadi rebels, and more splintering and diffusion within the jihadi universe—not less. It will be impossible to eradicate terrorism through military force, as the United States should have already learned all too well, but feasible alternatives for the management or containment of the threat are in short supply. It might therefore be timely to consider negotiations. The United States is prepared to back talks with the Afghan Taliban. It is worth considering whether the same spirit of accommodation—or, more accurately, resignation—could be extended to other groups associated with al Qaeda or even the Islamic State.

Idlib Province and the Future of Instability in Syria

While some claim that an end to the conflict in Idlib marks the final stage of the Syrian war, there are three major factors that will shape the future of instability in Syria:

An estimated 70,000 opposition militants with legitimate grievances against the Assad regime are positioned for a low-level insurgency that could last for years to come. Moreover, an estimated 12 million displaced Syrians offer a potential pool of recruits for this insurgency.

Humanitarian and economic costs totaling an estimated $200-350 billion will require serious outside investment. A failure to address these conditions will almost certainly result in continued instability and a future relapse into civil war.

The presence of outside and non-state military forces —including Russia, Turkey, Iran, the United States, Hezbollah, Syrian Kurds, and others—will continue to pose an obstacle to stability in Syria and exacerbate ethnic and sectarian tensions.

Washington’s Endless Sanctions Are Finally Backfiring


Washington is filled with talk of American exceptionalism. Policymakers insist that the U.S. has a unique mission in the world: to represent the aspirations of all mankind. This hubris has become the foundation of American foreign policy, especially when it comes to economic sanctions.

Sanctions proponents routinely extol the supposed benefits of their policies, without ever providing much evidence. Studies have found that sanctions are most likely to work when restrictions are international, applied to a limited number of products, and intended to achieve modest goals. Even then, governments rarely sacrifice fundamental interests in response to economic pressure. Rather, they respond like Washington would in a similar situation, resisting concessions even more fiercely.

Is the World Becoming a Jungle Again? Should Americans Care?

By Steven Erlanger

BRUSSELS — President Trump seems determined to upend 70 years of established American foreign policy, especially toward Europe, which he regards as less ally than competitor.

The Trump turnabout has set off a fervent search on both sides of the Atlantic for answers to hard questions about the global role of the United States, and what a frazzled Europe can and should do for itself, given a less reliable American partner.

The German foreign minister, Heiko Maas, speaking before a conference of all Germany’s ambassadors last month, argued for a stronger European foreign and defense policy in the face of a suddenly uncertain future.

“The rules-based international order” is eroding in a world where “nothing can be taken for granted any more in foreign policy,” he said.

America and China are in a proper trade war

ANOTHER week, a further ratcheting up of trade tensions between America and China. On September 17th President Donald Trump announced that he had approved a further wave of tariffs on Chinese imports. From September 24th, imports of products which in 2017 were worth as much as $189bn, including furniture, computers and car parts, will be hit with duties of 10%. The Chinese have promised to retaliate on the same day with duties on $60bn of American exports. Unless peace breaks out before the new year, the American rate will increase to 25% on January 1st.

The Trade War Just Started


With the US stock market near its all-time high and having a solid year, it’s easy to miss out on the global growth deceleration. The global economy is by no means terrible, but it has seen deceleration as the global synchronized growth narrative disappeared, with emerging markets feeling a significant burden from the new reality.

White House rolls out new national cyber strategy

By Derek B. Johnson

The Trump administration released its long-awaited cyber strategy to the public on Sept. 20, promising a more aggressive willingness to deploy offensive operations against nation-states and criminal groups in the digital domain.

In a call with reporters, National Security Advisor John Bolton cited a number of high-profile cyberattacks over the past two years, such as 2017 WannaCry and NotPetya, as well as a 2018 attack that shut down much of the IT operations for the city of Atlanta, as examples of how the U.S. and other governments are under siege from both nation-states and criminal hacking groups.

Bolton confirmed press reports that President Donald Trump had officially rescinded PPD-20, an Obama-era presidential directive that laid out a complex interagency process governing offensive cyber operations, earlier this month. A new classified directive will replace it that lays out a “very different” process. While he declined to discuss specifics citing national security concerns, Bolton indicated that the Pentagon, U.S. Cyber Command and “other relevant departments” will be charged with taking the fight to malicious cyber actors in order to deter future attacks.

Regulating free speech on social media is dangerous and futile

Niam Yaraghi

We know that an overwhelming majority of technology entrepreneurs subscribe to a liberal ideology. Despite the claims by companies such as Google, I believe that political biases affect how these companies operate. As my colleague Nicole Turner-Lee explains here, “while computer programmers may not create algorithms that start out being discriminatory, the collection and curation of social preferences eventually can become adaptive algorithms that embrace societal biases.” If we accept that the implicit bias of developers could unintentionally lead their algorithms to be discriminatory, then, with the same token, we should also expect the political biases of such programmers to lead to discriminatory algorithms that favor their ideology.

Data Manipulation: How Security Pros Can Respond to an Emerging Threat

Industry leaders are scrambling to address the issue, which will take new thinking to overcome.

This year, the US government paid out its largest bug bounty yet — during the government run "Hack the Air Force" program — for a vulnerability in its software. The flaw, if not proactively found, would have allowed hackers to run malicious code on its systems and manipulate data. It's the latest example of an emerging threat that has industry leaders scrambling and requires new thinking from security professionals.

Former national intelligence chief James Clapper warned as early as 2015 that "the next push of the envelope" in cyber warfare was likely to involve data manipulation. Now, financial services companies, healthcare organizations, and other industries in which data integrity is critical to business are running cyber war games to figure out how to prepare for such threats.

Inside Facebook’s Election ‘War Room’

By Sheera Frenkel and Mike Isaac

MENLO PARK, Calif. — Sandwiched between Building 20 and Building 21 in the heart of Facebook’s campus, an approximately 25-foot-by-35-foot conference room is under construction.

Thick cords of blue wiring hang from the ceiling, ready to be attached to window-size computer monitors on 16 desks. On one wall, a half-dozen televisions will be tuned to CNN, MSNBC, Fox News and other major networks. A small paper sign with orange lettering taped to the glass door describes what’s being built: “War Room.”

Although it is not much to look at now, as of next week the space will be Facebook’s headquarters for safeguarding elections. More than 300 people across the company are working on the initiative, but the War Room will house a team of about 20 focused on rooting out disinformation, monitoring false news and deleting fake accounts that may be trying to influence voters before elections in the United States, Brazil and other countries.

Britain launches £250m cyber‑force to wage war on terrorists

Lucy Fisher
An offensive cyber-force to combat hostile states, terrorist groups and domestic gangs will be set up by the Ministry of Defence and GCHQ, The Timesunderstands.

The £250 million unit will comprise about 2,000 digital warriors, with experts recruited from the military, security services and industry. It will quadruple the number of personnel in offensive cyber-roles and marks a step change in the nation’s ability to disrupt and destroy computer networks and internet-connected devices.

The creation of the force comes as the threat from Russia is escalating and follows successful UK cyber-attacks against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Recruits will also target criminal gangs, including people-traffickers and paedophile rings.

The force is expected to be announced soon and follows a review ordered by Gavin… 

Remembering A Professional Soldier


There is a lot of talk about the profession of arms and what a professional soldier should look like.

I would like to share a little about a professional I once had the honor and privilege to serve with.

The Professional was a non-commissioned officer that everybody came to see at one time or another. Regardless of rank or position, the Professional treated everyone with respect and courtesy. When somebody needed a part, or services coordinated, or fluids or tires or a tool; they came to the Professional. If it concerned a piece of military equipment it most certainly concerned the Professional. He didn’t care if you were a line grunt, a driver, a cook with an MKT trailer or a Commander whose vehicle was down.

The Ivory Tower And Academic Ignorance Of What The Armed Forces Actually Do


I have heard a number of my colleagues at the University of Kansas voice their dissatisfaction with the defense budget and the armed forces. They tend to believe the nation spends too much on defense, and that the armed forces are involved in foreign lands doing things they should not be doing.

What bothers me most about these complaints is their ignorance of what the armed forces actually do, and how they benefit. They also tend to equate political decisions made in Washington with the actions of the men and women who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps.

Since I am sure this situation is not unique to KU — when it comes to the military, people in Ivory Towers tend to be divorced from reality—I think a few facts would be valuable for all. 
The armed forces are considerably smaller than they were during the Reagan years. During the Reagan years the Army had 16 active duty combat divisions, now it has 10. The Army had almost 800,000 soldiers, now it has fewer than 500,000. The Navy had 16 fleet carriers, now it has 11. The Navy used to talk about a fleet of 600 ships, now it has fewer than 300. The Air Force has suffered similar cuts.