18 October 2018

Decoding the Rafale controversy

Rakesh Sood

The controversy over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to go in for an outright purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jet aircraft, after scrapping the old negotiations, is unlikely to die down. The Congress party has yet to find a smoking gun and hopes that a joint parliamentary committee probe might reveal it. The government has meanwhile tied itself up in knots by making opaque, and often, contradictory statements, in turn raising more doubts and questions.

From 126 to 36

Nepal and the Regional Giants: Geography, Deliverables and Leadership

By Udayan Das

Three developments over the last month have enforced a renewed take on Nepal’s policies towards India and China. First, in a protocol treaty for the follow-up of the Transit and Transportation agreement, Nepal got access to Chinese ports, ending its dependency on India for third-party trade. Second, Nepal canceled the West Seti hydropower project with the Chinese organisation, Three Gorges Corporation, while restoring the Budhi Gandaki project back to the Gezhouba Group, reversing its decision to scrap the project 10 months ago. Third, while Nepal pulled out of the maiden Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation’s (BIMSTEC) military exercise organized in Pune, India, it joined China in the second Sagarmatha Friendship exercise.

The Trump Administration Has Escalated Its Conflict with China Even Further. Here’s What Needs to Happen to Stay Out of War

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Those preoccupied last week with concerns over the effect Justice Brett Kavanaugh would have on the Supreme Court for decades were actually, it turns out, being too near-sighted — as the Trump Administration made a move that could significantly affect an international relationship that will last centuries. In a little-noticed pivot, the Administration set up China as the major geopolitical opponent of the United States in no uncertain terms, led by a speech from Vice President Mike Pence. This change in position — not to be confused with the far more benign “Pacific Pivot” of the Obama Administration — has set off alarm bells ringing from Tokyo to Melbourne.

Why Containing China Is Easier Said Than Done

by Peter Harris

What does Mike Pence’s recent speech on China signal about the future of U.S. foreign policy toward Beijing? On its face, the vice president’s speech at the Hudson Institute was a harsh rebuke to the leaders of America’s nearest geopolitical competitor. Pence took the Chinese to task on issues ranging from trade and investment to industrial espionage and human rights. But his speech was conspicuously short on detail, suggesting that the administration has not yet mastered the practicalities of translating harsh rhetoric on China into a meaningful, effective, and enduring foreign policy.

How to Goad China into a War in the South China Sea

by Mark J. Valencia

Some analysts have a particular flair for proposing U.S. military moves that would goad China into a military confrontation with collateral damage for Asia. To do this consistently probably takes a special mindset that includes a phobia of China and a desire to use the United States’ current superior military power to bully and punish it. Judging by Tuan Pham’s articles, he seems to be one of these individuals. Indeed, with his latest proposal in the National Interest for the United States to hold the 2020 multilateral but China-less Rim of the Pacific exercise (RIMPAC) in the South China Sea, Pham has become a contender for the warmonger’s fictional equivalent of the Nobel Peace Prize.

China's great leap forward in biotech

HONG KONG -- At 28, Dai Wenyuan quit his job developing artificial intelligence software for Chinese internet giant Baidu to launch his own company. It was a smart move: his AI start-up quickly attracted an initial $4 million investment from Sequoia Capital China in 2015. Three years later, Dai's company is capturing attention for developing a medical tool that uses AI to predict whether patients are at risk of developing diabetes. His company, 4Paradigm, said its accuracy rate was 88%. Key to that success is access to reams of patient data. 4Paradigm's AI software scanned medical information -- including gender, blood sugar levels and weight -- collected from 170,000 patients by researchers at Shanghai's Ruijin Hospital. From there, it used machine learning to predict which patients were most at risk of developing the disease.

Saudi Vision 2030: A Progress Report – Analysis

By Neville Teller

The kingdom of Saudi Arabia is such an established feature of today’s Middle East that it comes as something of a surprise to realize that it is less than a hundred years old. It was only in 1932 that Abdul Aziz ibn Saud emerged from many years of political and military struggle against other local chieftains and the Ottoman empire and was able to name the area that he had conquered “Saudi Arabia”, and proclaim himself monarch. It was doubtless with an eye to the eventual centenary celebrations of the monarchy and the kingdom that in April 2016 Saudi’s dynamic young crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman (known as MBS), launched Saudi Vision 2030, an ambitious plan to revitalize the nation. If it succeeds, by 2032 Saudi Arabia will have been transformed from its current dependency on oil revenues into a modern, liberalized, thriving, entrepreneurial society, its prosperity underpinned by flourishing industrial, financial, economic and commercial sectors.

The Catholic Church’s Biggest Crisis Since the Reformation

By Massimo Faggioli

The Catholic Church is facing its most serious crisis in 500 years. In these last few months, a new wave of clerical sexual abuse revelations left the world in shock. From Australia to Chile to Germany to the United States, horrifying reports revealed thousands of cases of child molestation by members of the clergy. One U.S. grand jury report documented 1,000 children abused by 300 priests in the state of Pennsylvania alone over seven decades.

U.S. Needs a Global Alliance Against Russia’s Cyberattacks

James Stavridis
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While Russian hacking has been a persistent threat for several years now, the past few days shed new light on the vast scale of Moscow’s cybercrimes directed against the U.S., NATO and nongovernmental organizations around the world. At the top of the list was the revelation of an attempted attack on the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which has led the effort to investigate the use of banned munitions by Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian dictator supported by the Kremlin. The plot was foiled by Dutch and British intelligence agencies, and resulted in the arrest of four men said to be members of the Russian military’s massive spy agency, the GRU.

Germany’s Strategic Repositioning

By Gunther Hellmann

Editor’s Note: For many years, Germany and the United States cooperated to advance mutual foreign policy goals while Germany embedded itself in the European Union. This mutually beneficial arrangement is now in crisis as the Trump administration questions the German alliance and as Europe turns on itself. Gunther Hellmann of the University of Frankfurt gives us a picture of Germany at a crossroads and discusses the perils of each possible path.

Daniel Byman

German foreign policy is currently undergoing its most dramatic strategic repositioning since the 1950s. The “idea of a balanced partnership,” which German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas laid out recently in a widely discussed newspaper article, is the most articulate expression of a fundamental reorientation vis-à-vis the United States. Never before has a German foreign minister advocated a role for Germany to serve as a soft balancer that would “form a counterweight when the U.S. crosses the line.” This reorientation coincides with an increasingly prominent role for Germany in European affairs with the European Union facing an increasingly assertive Russia and continuing internal divisions. For Germany (and Europe) this boils down to a dramatic realignment of the European balance of power. It also carries risks.

What Is a Rogue State?

by Paul R. Pillar

The concept of a rogue state (or outlaw state, or any equivalent term) cannot just refer to a state pursuing interests that we do not happen to like or do not identify with. States must be expected to pursue their interests, and every state on the globe has at least some interests that differ from those of the United States. Rather, rogue or outlaw behavior has to do with how a state pursues its interests. To be a “rogue” means pursuit through methods contrary to accepted standards of international behavior and contrary to international law. It means cheating or reneging. It often means the use of violent methods when peaceful ones are available.

Climate report understates threat

By Mario Molina, Veerabhadran Ramanathan, Durwood J. Zaelke

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius, released on Monday, is a major advance over previous efforts to alert world leaders and citizens to the growing climate risk. But the report, dire as it is, misses a key point: Self-reinforcing feedbacks and tipping points—the wildcards of the climate system—could cause the climate to destabilize even further. The report also fails to discuss the five percent risk that even existing levels of climate pollution, if continued unchecked, could lead to runaway warming—the so-called “fat tail” risk. These omissions may mislead world leaders into thinking they have more time to address the climate crisis, when in fact immediate actions are needed. To put it bluntly, there is a significant risk of self-reinforcing climate feedback loops pushing the planet into chaos beyond human control.



Late last week, as most of America’s political class was transfixed by the denouement of the Kavanaugh confirmation battle, Vice President Mike Pence gave a wide-ranging address on the U.S. relationship with China, and why the Trump administration is committed to opposing its expansionist designs. For the most part, it was a familiar litany of complaints about China’s efforts to coerce its neighbors in the western Pacific, its trade abuses, its hostility to religious freedom, and its support of unsavory regimes around the world. Yet halfway through his remarks, the vice president shifted his emphasis, turning from all the various ways the Chinese party-state was acting in the world outside America’s borders to how it was seeking to influence political and cultural life inside them.

How America Can Repair Its Damaged Relationship with Russia

by Nikolas K. Gvosdev

George Beebe’s recent analysis has presented the policy community with a very useful paradigm for understanding recent alleged actions taken by the Russian special services in a number of Western countries: the Skripal Rorshchach test Beebe is referring specifically to the attempted murder of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal on British soil by use of a Soviet-developed nerve agent that sickened him and his daughter and killed several British citizens—amidst growing evidence of the involvement of officers of Russian military intelligence (the GRU). That case can be broadened to encompass a series of computer hacking/information warfare operations that were uncovered in the last several weeks in the UK, the United States, Canada and the Netherlands, which also have been attributed to the GRU. Now the discussion revolves around whether those who have been accused of taking action were doing so in contravention of or in support of the instructions of the Russian state.

M.I.T. Plans College for Artificial Intelligence, Backed by $1 Billion

By Steve Lohr

Every major university is wrestling with how to adapt to the technology wave of artificial intelligence — how to prepare students not only to harness the powerful tools of A.I., but also to thoughtfully weigh its ethical and social implications. A.I. courses, conferences and joint majors have proliferated in the last few years. But the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is taking a particularly ambitious step, creating a new college backed by a planned investment of $1 billion. Two-thirds of the funds have already been raised, M.I.T. said, in announcing the initiative on Monday. The linchpin gift of $350 million came from Stephen A. Schwarzman, chief executive of the Blackstone Group, the big private equity firm. The college, called the M.I.T. Stephen A. Schwarzman College of Computing, will create 50 new faculty positions and many more fellowships for graduate students.

A New Theory Linking Sleep and Creativity

In 1920, the night before Easter Sunday, Otto Loewi woke up, seemingly possessed of an important idea. He wrote it down on a piece of paper and promptly returned to sleep. When he reawakened, he found that his scribbles were illegible. But fortunately, the next night, the idea returned. It was the design of a simple experiment that eventually proved something Loewi had long hypothesized: Nerve cells communicate by exchanging chemicals, or neurotransmitters. The confirmation of that idea earned him a Nobel Prize in medicine in 1936. Almost a century later after Loewi’s fateful snoozes, many experiments have shown that sleep promotes creative problem-solving. Now, Penny Lewis from Cardiff University and two of her colleagues have collated and combined those discoveries into a new theory that explains why sleep and creativity are linked. Specifically, their idea explains how the two main phases of sleep—REM and non-REM—work together to help us find unrecognized links between what we already know, and discover out-of-the-box solutions to vexing problems.

It looks like China just laid out how it wants Google to help it persecute its Muslim minority


Chinese regional authorities recently laid out the kind of speech suppression that Google will likely have to facilitate for the country's persecuted Muslim ethnic minority to launch its new product in China. Regional authorities in China passed new laws on how to crack down on its Uighur ethnic minority, which includes heavy surveillance, policing, and censorship from tech companies. Google has received a lot of backlash from rights activists and even the Trump administration for its China plans. 
Chinese regional authorities recently laid out the kind of speech suppression that Google will likely have to facilitate for the country's persecuted Muslim ethnic minority to launch its new product in China.

Global hotspots are getting hotter

Lost amid the understandable public and media focus on domestic political issues of late has been a sharp uptick in tensions in several troubled areas of the world, many with direct security implications for the United States. Put these boiling crises together with a cooling global economy and there is a growing risk of real international instability. In Iran, the looming return of punishing U.S. oil sanctions, which are scheduled to go into effect in early November, has threatened Iranian economic stability, fueling a flight from the Iranian rial and triggering a series of public protests. Tensions inside Iran have also been exacerbated by an attack late last month on an Iranian military parade in the southwestern city of Ahvaz, which killed two dozen people and wounded 70 others, and which Tehran blamed on a group supported by the Gulf States. The recent torching of the Iranian consulate in Basra, Iraq, by a mob of protestors has added to the sense of uncertainty in Tehran. These developments have rattled Iranian leaders and appear to have left them as uncertain of their footing as at any point in the past decade.

Proxy Wars and the Demise of Conventional Warfighting

Within a decade, Australia must anticipate greater economic, political and military competition in the Indo-Pacific and, as power balances shift, the ADF will struggle to sustain the technological advantage it maintained during the Cold War. In this increasingly multipolar security environment, the high-technology, high-lethality, high-cost conventional warfighting platforms we’re acquiring will be of decreasing use. These exquisite acquisitions will, paradoxically, increase the likelihood of low-cost proxy conflict, as we see in Syria. Indeed, this situation has led Daniel Byman to note that all of today’s major wars are in essence proxy wars.

Proxy wars are not a new phenomenon. During the Cold War, the threat of mutually assured destruction drove major nuclear powers to achieve political ends through indirect means—as when the U.S. fought Vietnamese forces that were heavily backed by China and Russia.

The Cybersecurity 202: Kanye West is going to make password security great again

By Derek Hawkins

“We at war,” Kanye West warns in his song “Jesus Walks” from 2004. “We at war with terrorism, racism, but most of all we at war with ourselves.” The all-star rapper put a fine point on that message Thursday, when he inadvertently exposed his iPhone passcode to a crowd of news cameras during an Oval Office meeting with President Trump.  Now the world knows his six-digit security key: “000000.”  The clip of West mashing the “0” button as he unlocked his iPhone to show Trump a picture of a hydrogen-powered airplane he said could replace Air Force One went viral, prompting a wave of ridicule. Motherboard writer Joseph Cox was quick to say it's "literally the worst password you can have." 

How to protect jets, missiles and ships from cyberattacks

By: Justin Lynch  

Hackers pierced the weapon system’s terminal, giving them the ability to feed operators false commands or spoof logistics. But instead, the intruders opted to display a taunting message across the screen, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office. They chose a time-tested instruction.

"Insert two quarters to continue operating.”

In this case, the the hackers in question were red-team testers discovering vulnerabilities in Pentagon weapons systems under development. The prank was just one example that was included in a 50-page report that that underscored just how susceptible American military weapons are to cyberattacks. The report did not name the particular weapon system that offered arcade style instruction, but it fit the description of a drone.

Cryptocurrency theft hits nearly $1 billion in first nine months: report

Gertrude Chavez

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Theft of cryptocurrencies through hacking of exchanges and trading platforms soared to $927 million in the first nine months of the year, up nearly 250 percent from the level seen in 2017, according to a report from U.S.-based cyber security firm CipherTrace released on Wednesday. A small toy figure is seen on representations of the Bitcoin virtual currency in this illustration picture, December 26, 2017. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration The report, which looks at criminal activity and money laundering in the digital currency market, also showed a steadily growing number of smaller thefts in the $20-60 million range, totaling $173 million in the third quarter. Digital currencies stolen from exchanges in 2017 totaled just $266 million, according to a previous report from CipherTrace.

How Would the United States Cope If It Lost the Next War?

Steven Metz 

Last week, I argued that while the U.S. military, the Pentagon and most national security experts expect that the United States will always win the wars it is forced to fight, America could in fact lose one if an astute enemy capitalizes on the nation’s weaknesses and vulnerabilities. I sketched out three ways that might happen: if an enemy found a way to drag out a war past the limits of American patience; if a nuclear-armed enemy invaded another nation and then dug in; or if an adversary used what security experts call “gray zone” aggression to present the United States with a fait accompli. But there are three other ways America could lose its next war, all of which expose how the country has become weaker politically despite its military dominance.

The Modernization the Army Needs Can Be Found at the AUSA Annual Conference

By Dan Gouré

The Association of the United States Army (AUSA) held its annual meeting and exhibition this week in Washington, DC. It is one of the largest and most comprehensive events in the world showcasing the breadth of military technologies relevant to ground operations. In recent years, AUSA meetings became the seminal venues where Army leaders unveiled major conceptual and organizational reforms. Similarly, industry and the research establishments used the opportunity to display some of their most innovative new ideas in everything from meals and uniforms to small arms, ammunition, unmanned air and ground platforms, and even prototypes of new combat vehicles.

How Strong is the United States Military?

After a long needed boost in defense spending, does the United States military have what it needs to protect our interest at home and abroad? Heritage just released it's 2019 Index of U.S. Military Strength, an annual deep dive into our military's capabilities. On this episode of "Heritage Explains," Dakota Wood, a senior research fellow in Heritage's Center for National Defense and editor of the Index, walks us through some of the reports most important findings.

RONALD REAGAN: “Deterrence means simply this, making sure any adversary who thinks about attacking the United States or our allies or our vital interests concludes that the risks to him outweigh any potential gains. Once he understands that, he won't attack. We maintain the peace through our strength. Weakness only invites aggression.”

Special Report: Army Analyzes Detailed Plans for Future Tank

by Warrior Maven

Could there be a lightweight armored attack vehicle able to speed across bridges, deploy quickly from the air, detect enemies at very long ranges, control nearby robots and fire the most advanced weapons in the world - all while maintaining the unprecedented protection and survivability of an Abrams tank? Such questions form the principle basis of rigorous Army analysis and exploration of just what, exactly, a future tank should look like? The question is fast taking-on increased urgency as potential adversaries continue to present very serious, technologically advanced weapons and attack platforms. “I believe that a complete replacement of the Abrams would not make sense, unless we had a breakthrough...with much lighter armor which allows us to re-architect the vehicle,” Col. Jim Schirmer, Program Manager for the Next Generation Combat Vehicle, told reporters at the Association of the United States Army Annual Symposium.


Garri Hendell

As budget pressure causes the US Army to shrink, our national unwillingness to scale back the scope of our mission causes tension between warfighting doctrine and what the Army feels it can reasonably achieve with the tools at hand. This is exemplified in the transformation of “deterrence” from a strategic goal to a tactical task. Deterrence as a task reflects a failure to do the staff work necessary to translate a desired end state articulated by a higher headquarters into a clear task for a subordinate unit. In US joint doctrine deterrence is “the prevention of action by the existence of a credible threat.” Deterring “opportunistic aggression” during wartime and deterring “nuclear and non-nuclear strategic attacks” feature prominently in the National Defense Strategy.