6 February 2019

Asia's Three Futures and the Place of India and China in It

Shivshankar Menon

There is opportunity again for India’s transformation in the emerging global situation, if we take advantage of it.

This is the second article in a two-part series on the rise of China and its impact on world order, and India. Read the first part here.

At the systemic level, the Asia-Pacific faces at least three possible geopolitical futures: of a regional order centred on a single power, earlier the US and now China; of an open, inclusive multipolar concert of powers or collective security architecture; or, the pattern most familiar in history, of several powers of varying size and capability contending for primacy and influence and to maximise their individual interests. To me it seems that the last scenario is the most likely, the second the most desirable, and the first the least stable or likely.

End the War in Afghanistan

It is time to bring American soldiers back home.

On Sept. 14, 2001, Congress wrote what would prove to be one of the largest blank checks in the country’s history. The Authorization for Use of Military Force against terrorists gave President George W. Bush authority to attack the Taliban, the Sunni fundamentalist force then dominating Afghanistan that refused to turn over the mastermind of the attacks perpetrated three days earlier, Osama bin Laden.

In the House of Representatives and the Senate combined, there was only one vote in opposition: Barbara Lee, a Democratic representative from California, who warned of another Vietnam. “We must be careful not to embark on an open-ended war with neither an exit strategy nor a focused target,” she said. “We cannot repeat past mistakes.”

Days later, Mr. Bush told a joint session of Congress just how broadly he planned to use his new war powers. “Our war on terror begins with Al Qaeda, but it does not end there,” Mr. Bush declared. “It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.”

Getting Peace Right in Afghanistan: A Political Solution to a Military Problem

By Thang Tran, Leo Blanken & Philip Swintek

After seventeen years of war in Afghanistan, the NATO Mission Commander, U.S. Army Gen. Austin “Scott” Miller, provided a candid assessment of the situation, stating: “This [war in Afghanistan] is not going to be won militarily… This is going to a political solution.”

Last week, talks between Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, and the Taliban produced a tentative agreement that has generated hope for peace. What then are the mechanisms through which the military resources of the remaining thirty-nine troop-contributing nations can be translated into an enduring political resolution in Afghanistan?

Four lines of effort are distilled from the reorientation of the desired end state: reconciliation,reintegration, narrative shaping, and transition. While these concepts have been utilized in the past, they can only have the intended outcome when woven into a strategic coherence that incorporates operational art and intuitive judgment as applied by seasoned professionals, rather than the constraints of rigid bureaucratic planning. We sketch out this effort below. 

Why the Afghanistan Peace Process Requires an American Exodus

by Daniel R. DePetris 

It is unclear if Kabul is able to negotiate its future without falling prey to Taliban terrorism, but what is clear is that America needs to see its way out.

After seventeen years of incessant combat, Afghanistan is closer to peace than it has been since the remnants of the Taliban in Pakistan organized an insurgency to chip away at the Afghan government’s authority. While it would certainly be a stretch to conclude that “ peace is at hand ” as former National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger did in 1972 when briefing Americans on the Paris peace talks, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad’s intensive round of meetings with Taliban officials last week is at least a light at the end of the tunnel.

Myanmar: China on “Overdrive” to solve the Ethnic Question: Why?

By S.Chandrasekharan

From the flurry of activities of Sun Guoxiang, Special Envoy for Asian Affairs and the Chinese Ambassador at Yangon, it looks hat Chinese are in a desperate hurry to solve the question of the ethnic minorities and their armed organisations operating in the Kachin and the Shan areas on the Chinese border.

It is not that the China that has armed, encouraged and supported the ethnic armed organisations since Myanmar’s independence have suddenly realized that peace is essential for Myanmar. Their strategy had all along been to keep the ‘pot boiling’ to have leverage over Myanmar.

What has changed the strategic course of China is the implementation of the Belt and Road initiative where 6 of the 24 projects under the Belt Road are due to be initiated in 2019 for which the cooperation of Myanmar Government is essential. These include the 1700 Km road from Yunnan to Mandalay and then on to Yangon and their flagship project the Kyaukphyu Port and SEZ project, upgradation of three major roads in Kachin and Shan areas besides others.

Japan Calls for Global Consensus on Data Governance

By Daniel Hurst

With vast amounts of data being created every day, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has declared that the next G-20 summit should wrestle with how to manage that digital information. In doing so, he argued that the engine for economic growth was “fueled no longer by gasoline, but more and more by digital data.”

Abe has previously indicated that the G-20 summit, to be held in the Japanese city of Osaka in June, should devote time to tackling climate change. Now he has nominated data governance as another “big issue” to be addressed.

“I would like Osaka G-20 to be long remembered as the summit that started worldwide data governance,” Abe said in an address to the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos on January 23. Referring to the World Trade Organization, he added: “Let Osaka G-20 set in train a new track for looking at data governance – call it the Osaka Track – under the roof of the WTO.”

Chinese scientists make progress on nuclear submarine communication

Liu Zhen

Researchers conduct test transmission of real-time data between deep ocean transponders and Beidou navigation satellite system in western Pacific

Analysts say it could benefit China’s fledgling nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine fleet

China’s nuclear submarines may be stealthier and better able to communicate in the deep ocean after progress was made on key technology, according to state media.

People’s Daily reported on Friday that a successful test transmission of real-time high-capacity data between deep ocean transponders and the Beidou navigation satellite system had been carried out.

Marine research ship Kexue, or “Science”, conducted the test in the western Pacific along with several other missions on a 74-day trip before returning to its home base of Qingdao, Shandong on Thursday.



Chinese President Xi Jinping’s January 2 speech on Taiwan triggered a new round of heated debates about China-Taiwan relations. Those who do not support Taiwan-China unification believe a democracy should not be devoured by an authoritarian regime, and remain skeptical that the Chinese government will honor the “One Country, Two Systems(一国两制)” model it has promised, citing Hong Kong’s shrinking liberty as a precedent. Xi suggested that unification with Taiwan would be different, offering to develop a new model for Taiwan based on political consultations with representatives from various political parties and walks of life in Taiwan; still, many people simply do not trust the Chinese government.

Aside from Beijing’s trust deficiency, there are three major obstacles blocking a Chinese unification with Taiwan. By all indications, the prospect for unification in the short term is very dim.

The US is worried about China spying via Huawei because it did the same in the past

By John Detrixhe

The US is again warning its allies about the risks of using telecom equipment made by China’s Huawei. American officials have briefed their counterparts in countries like Germany, Italy, and Japan about what they argue are potential cybersecurity risks, according to the Wall Street Journal (paywall). This follows previous warnings, such as a claim earlier this year that American citizens shouldn’t use Huawei’s phones.

The US may be concerned about Chinese government influence embedded in Huawei’s technology because America’s spy agencies have done the same thing in the past.

Western governments have long been wary of Huawei, which was founded by Ren Zhengfei, a former People’s Liberation Army soldier. (The recent arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, who is Zhengfei’s daughter, over allegations of violating of Iran trade sanctions is apparently separate to concerns about cyber espionage.)


WHEN ENRICO FERMI decided to leave Benito Mussolini’s Italy and emigrate to the United States, he changed the global balance of power. After arriving in the US, Fermi led the world’s first self-sustaining nuclear reaction at the University of Chicago and played an indispensable role in the Manhattan Project, which led to the end of World War II in the Pacific and laid the groundwork for a new world order and America’s prominent role.

So it is not surprising that some Americans think the same should be true with AI. Emigrant AI researchers like Geoff Hinton, Yann LeCun, Yoshua Bengio, Andrew Ng, and Fei-Fei Li are the Enrico Fermis of AI and should secure an American (and Canadian) hegemony in AI. Indeed, the US and Canada have 100 percent of the top 10 AI researchers, and 68 percent of the world’s best 1,000 or so researchers.

China's Slowdown Is Starting to Hit Where It Hurts: Employment

By Yu Zhongxin

The growing downward pressure on China’s domestic economy has made the employment situation particularly grim.

At a meeting in July 2018, the Chinese Communist Party’s Politburo analyzed the current economic situation and proposed stabilizing employment, finance, foreign trade, and investment to tackle external changes and ensure stable economic operations effectively. Within that list, the Politburo ranked “stabilizing employment” as the first and most important task. In addition, the report of the 19th National Congress of the CCP also stated that employment is pivotal to people’s well-being, noting that instability in employment will affect the standard of living and may ultimately affect social stability.

From this perspective, stabilizing employment is tantamount to safeguarding social stability from economic risk. China’s employment situation is generally stable and improving, but there are changes and difficulties in maintaining stability, Zhang Yizhen, vice minister of human resources and social security, said at a regular policy briefing of the State Council on December 5. The Hong Kong media said that the rare use of the phrase “difficulties in maintaining stability” was a grim omen for China’s employment situation.

ISIS could reclaim territory in months without military pressure, warns Pentagon in draft report

By Courtney Kube, Josh Lederman and Carol E. Lee

WASHINGTON — A draft Pentagon report warns that without continued pressure, ISIS could regain territory in six to 12 months, according to two U.S. officials familiar with the draft.

The finding is in a draft of the Department of Defense Inspector General Quarterly Report about Operation Inherent Resolve that is expected to be released early next week. The report draws on information from the U.S. military, U.S. government agencies, and open source reports.

The draft says ISIS is intent on reconstituting a physical caliphateand that with ungoverned spaces in Syria and no military pressure, the terror group could retake land in a matter of months, according to the officials familiar with the report.

The report covers the three months from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, 2018. President Donald Trump announced on Dec. 19 that the U.S. military would be leaving Syria.

Why Saudi Arabia Joining CPEC Matters

By Sabena Siddiqui

From the beginning, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has been a strictly bilateral project between Pakistan and China. Even though other countries have been invited to join in at various times, control of the project remained with the original partners. According to the contracts, other countries can join CPEC-related projects but the policymaking and implementation is to remain a bilateral arrangement between China and Pakistan.

In the past, Pakistan had invited both Iran and the United States to join CPEC as well, so in that sense inviting Saudi Arabia is nothing new

Becoming an important stakeholder in the Pakistani seaport of Gwadar in the province of Balochistan, Saudi Arabia has long-term plans that also carry geopolitical implications for the region as it embarks on this new foreign policy.

Russian General Staff Chief Valery Gerasimov’s 2018 Presentation to the General Staff Academy Thoughts on Future Military Conflict—March 2018

Russian General Staff Chief Valery Gerasimov’s March 2018 address to the Academy of Military Sciences was titled “The Influence of the Contemporary Nature of Armed Struggle on the Focus of the Construction and Development of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. Priority Tasks of Military Science in Safeguarding the Country’s Defense.” It contained several new or contentious issues, while adhering to the five basic elements that help describe how a Russian general staff officer frames his thought (trends, forecasting, strategy, forms [organizations], and methods [weapons and military art]), exceeding their use by twice as many from his 2017 presentation.

10 Years on, Tymoshenko’s Ill-fated Deal Still Haunts Ukraine’s “Gas Princess”

By Theodoros Papadopoulos

This month marks the 10th anniversary of the infamous gas deal brokered with Russia by Ukrainian politician Yulia Tymoshenko. The anniversary, which fell on January 18, came at a particularly inopportune time for the charismatic populist, just days before she formally announced her candidacy in Ukraine’s upcoming presidential elections. Tymoshenko is striving to show voters that she can drive progress in a country still blighted by conflict. But, in the eyes of her detractors, the gas deal demonstrates the exact opposite: that she in fact represents the very same conservative, pro-Russian interests she promises to overthrow.

Gas, in fact, is central to Tymoshenko’s platform. The two-time prime minister, famous for her pugnacious oratory and braided blonde hair, says she wants to drive down gas prices, defying Ukraine’s recent commitment to the International Monetary Fund. She thinks the market, rather than government decrees, should determine prices. This is part of a wider commitment to economic growth, increasing salaries and pensions while blitzing graft. On the international front, she pledges to confront Russian aggression and move closer to the EU and NATO, pulling Ukraine from beneath “the hand of the Kremlin” that wishes to impose “devastation and chaos, corruption and poverty” on Ukraine.

How Russia Is Strong-Arming Apple


The Russian security services could soon have access to the personal data of thousands of Apple users in Russia, following the tech giant’s decision to comply with Russian law and store user data on servers in the country.

Roskomnadzor, the Russian government agency that oversees media and telecommunications, has confirmed for the first time that Apple Russia is to adhere to a 2014 law that requires any company handling the digital data of Russian citizens to process and store it on servers physically located in Russia. Under Russian counterterrorism laws, Apple could be compelled to decrypt and hand over user data to security services on request.

With Apple products now able to gather vast quantities of information on their customers’ lives, the company has publicly positioned itself as a champion of data privacy, and CEO Tim Cook has condemned the “weaponization” of personal data. In 2016, the tech giant refused to unlock the iPhone of one of the shooters involved in the San Bernardino, California, terrorist attack in December 2015.

How the Baltic states resist Russia

In the early 1990s the president of newly independent Estonia gave a speech in Hamburg. In it, he disparaged the Soviet occupation of the Baltic states. A little-known Russian official was so outraged that he stormed out. It was Vladimir Putin.

This story, recounted in Neil Taylor’s new history of Estonia, is instructive. Mr Putin has called the break-up of the Soviet Union the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the [20th] century”. To Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians, that label applies better to the Soviet Union itself. Discussions of history often start with the phrase “Stalin murdered my grandparents.” The sense that their giant neighbour does not truly respect their independence—let alone their membership of the eu and nato since 2004—pervades Baltic politics to this day.

Exclusive: EU considers proposals to exclude Chinese firms from 5G networks

Robin Emmott, Foo Yun Chee, Joanna Plucinska

BRUSSELS/WARSAW (Reuters) - The European Union is considering proposals that would effectively amount to a de-facto ban on Huawei Technologies Co. equipment for next-generation mobile networks, four senior EU officials said, adding to mounting international pressure on the world’s largest maker of telecom gear.

While efforts by the EU’s executive are still at the very early stages, and could prove complicated to implement, the move marks a shift in the EU’s stance amid growing security concerns in the West about China.

A move to exclude Chinese firms such as Huawei would likely be welcomed by the United States, which has been trying to prevent American companies from buying Huawei infrastructure equipment and has been pressing allies to do the same. U.S. security experts are concerned the gear could be used by China’s government for espionage - a concern Huawei calls unfounded.

US would be crippled by an EMP attack, which we pioneered nearly 60 years ago


In 1983, a young Matthew Broderick played a young hacker named David Lightman who accidentally discovers a military supercomputer and gets it to play “Global Thermonuclear War” with him in the movie ‘War Games.’ The computer stages a first strike involving hundreds of missiles, bombers and submarines, and the U.S. military, believing the Soviets are attacking us, prepare to respond with real nukes.

Fortunately, global thermonuclear war is averted by the end of the movie. But the perpetuation of the belief that complete and total destruction will be the result of massive nuclear strikes continues to this day. And it’s wrong.

A little more than 21 years before the movie, a more real and worrisome event was taking place. The Air Force Special Weapons Center delivered a preliminary plan in November of 1961 under the entirely unassuming name of Operation FISHBOWL. This operation was a “proposed series of high altitude nuclear effects tests.”

The Threat of Threat Assessments

Peter Beinart

On Tuesday, the intelligence community published its “Worldwide Threat Assessment,” which concluded—in sober, measured tones—that President Donald Trump is lying: North Korea is not abandoning its nuclear weapons, Iran has not violated the nuclear deal it signed under President Barack Obama, and America’s southern border does not pose a national-security crisis. Trump responded by ranting, “They are wrong! … Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!” And America’s top newspapers covered the melee as yet another round in the battle between Trump and Washington’s grown-ups.

So far, so familiar. But lost in the ruckus is a deeper problem: the threat assessment itself, which epitomizes much of what’s wrong with the way Beltway grown-ups discuss foreign policy. For all his lies and crimes, Trump over the past several years has asked some legitimate questions about America’s expansive role in the world, questions shared by many Americans in both parties. The threat assessment is a case study in how to evade them.

Bringing AI to Bear on the Battlefield

By Stephanie Chenault; Maj. Scott Kinner, USMC (Ret.); and Maj. Kurt Warner, USA (Ret.)

The U.S. Defense Department lags the hype cycle for artificial intelligence, machine/deep learning and implementations like natural language processing by years. It needs to uncover the root causes contributing to this delay and create winning strategies to overcome institutional obstacles to get ahead of industrial partners and adversaries who are further along the adoption curve.

Possessing technology is neither deterministic nor decisive when waging war. The effective employment and deliberate application of technologies to enhance warfighting capabilities implies advantage over an adversary when suitably coupled with offensive and defensive tactics.

With the big data bang of the 2000s, a global need arose to create sophisticated computational models and deploy new tools to better understand massive volumes of information. It is now a prevailing urgency to spin international data saturation into financial gold on an industrial scale. Having tremendous purchasing power, the military is in a position to shape new technologies to its needs.

Mexico’s Fuel Crisis Throws a Wrench in AMLO’s Big Plans

Paul Imison

Only six weeks into his presidency, Mexico’s Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador already faces his first major crisis. In part self-inflicted, in part a consequence of the corrupt and weak institutions he inherited from his predecessors, it is nevertheless a sign that governing Mexico will be a formidable challenge for the man who promised nothing less than a fundamental transformation of the country and on whom millions of Mexicans are resting their hopes.

Citizens across western and central Mexico, which includes the 25 million people living in Mexico City and the surrounding State of Mexico, have been waiting in line for hours for gasoline over the past month. The situation is the result of a federal crackdown on oil and gas theft by organized gangs, which has seen the government shut down pipelines and switch to transporting fuel by truck and rail, prompting both the closure of hundreds of gas stations and panicked buying throughout the region.

Putin Orders Up a National AI Strategy


Russian President Vladimir Putin has instructed his government to create a national strategy for research into and development of artificial intelligence, according to state media. The order follows a year of various efforts to better coordinate Russian government, academic, and private-sector work on AI.

Delivered Thursday in a list of instructions approved by Putin following a Jan. 15 meeting of the supervisory board of the Agency for Strategic Initiatives, the order sets a delivery deadline of Feb. 25, TASS reported.

“The Government of the Russian Federation, with the participation of Sberbank of Russia and other interested organizations, should develop approaches to the national strategy for the development of artificial intelligence and submit appropriate proposals,” the instruction says.

Taking digital transformation to the limits at Koç Holding

The CEO and HR director of Turkey’s largest industrial conglomerate describe how a leadership-development program is preparing the company for a digital future—and shaking up the status quo.

Digital transformation requires the full support of a company’s top leaders. But how do you instill a sense of urgency and purpose in leaders who believe they are already at the top of their game? This was the case at Koç Holding, Turkey’s $27 billion conglomerate with divisions in energy, automotive, finance, consumer goods, retail, food, tourism, and other industries. In 2016, CEO Levent Çakıroğlu, with his top team, launched a digital-transformation program aimed at remaking each of Koç’s 25 major businesses—most of which were already market leaders in their respective sectors.

Knock, knock. Who’s there? This AI combat system might already know

By: Adam Stone

If the U.S. military is going to fight alongside robots, it better include them in mission planning.

Early this year DARPA’s Squad X technology development program held a week-long series of tests at Twentynine Palms, Calif. While Marines demonstrated the powerful ISR potential of emerging autonomous technologies, they also proved a less-obvious point about the need for pre-planning at the intersection of autonomy and combat.

“We demonstrated that the artificial intelligence starts in mission planning and rehearsal. That’s key,” said Army Lt. Col. Phil Root, program manager for the agency’s tactical technology office.

Killer 5G warning: Expert warns superfast broadband could cause CANCER in humans

By Matt Drake

He founded the independent campaign group the Celluar Phone Task Force and since 1996 he has argued in numerous publications that wireless technology is dangerous.

In his 1997 book Microwaving Our Planet: The Environmental Impact of the Wireless Revolution, he claimed: "The telecommunications industry has suppressed damaging evidence about its technology since at least 1927."

Speaking to the Daily Star Online, he explained: "There is about to be as many as 20,000 satellites in the atmosphere.

"The FCC approved Elon Musk's project for 12,000 satellites in November 15th and he's going to launch his in mid-2019.

"I'm getting reports from various parts of the world that 5G antennas are being erected all over and people are already getting sick from what's there now and the insect population is getting affected.

Are Multinationals Eclipsing Nation-States?


BRUSSELS – When much of the world’s business elite gathered in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos last week, the assembled CEOs, hedge fund managers, and other business titans pontificated on many issues, except one: the extent to which they are wielding powers once reserved for governments. At a time when the capacity of governments to deliver for their constituents is shrinking, large corporations’ political clout is expanding, sometimes dramatically so, as in the case of Big Tech companies like Facebook and Google.

In the face of today’s most urgent challenges – including cybersecurity, climate change, geopolitical turmoil, and migration – nation-states seem incapable of marshaling both the will and the resources to mount an adequate response. Will big business be the solution, or is it part of the problem?

Consider the issue of election security. In response to the growing threat of foreign interference, Google recently unveiled a plan to prevent online meddling with the upcoming European Parliament elections. To compensate for the absence of an EU framework governing the process, the company announced that it was “creating a pan-European policy” of its own. Likewise, Facebook and Twitter used last November’s midterm elections in the United States to test new technologies for detecting and removing fake news and misinformation from their platforms.

Venezuela, A “Black Swan” Hot Spot

A superpower whipped … 10 percent of the police force of a Third World nation. You are supposed to be able to do that. It was done well, and I credit those who did it. But it is important that we draw the right lessons from it.

—Anonymous U.S. Marine commenting on Operation Just Cause

A black swan is a metaphor for a theory that aims to describe unexpected events of large magnitude and consequence and their dominant role in history. Such events, considered extreme outliers, collectively have played disproportionately larger roles than regular occurrences.1 Recently, I was tasked with reviewing worldwide flash points with potential implications for the United States. During that review, and much to my surprise, a country that kept appearing as a potential outlier (i.e., a black swan) on the list was Venezuela. Although the prospects for a potential U.S. intervention were universally considered low, it was clear from a review of the available information that any intervention (large or small) could easily have broad implications from a regional or hemispheric standpoint.

Military trends and predictions: 2020

Doug Livermore

Military trends in the near future

Doug Livermore is an Army National Guard Special Forces Soldier, Contracted Advisor in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and National Capital Region Ambassador for the Green Beret Foundation. 

Increased focus on great power competition 

The most prominent shift in US defence strategies in the last two decades is captured within the 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS). The 2018 NDS directs a shift away from the counterterrorism focus of the “Global War on Terror” and back toward “great power competition”. Specifically, the new strategy focuses on China, Russia, and to a lesser extent, Iran and North Korea.

"The strategies of our adversaries will focus on methodologies and technologies with which most Americans are not closely familiar"

Army Completes Biggest Reorg In 45 Years: Can Futures Command End Weapons Disasters?


"Ultimately that is what this is all about, why I get up every morning, that’s why AFC exists: to make sure, not today’s soldier, but our kids and our grandkids have the core concepts, the organizational structures, and the capabilities they need to fight and win on a future battlefield," Gen. Murray said, "or even better yet not to fight at all, because there is nobody in the world in the future that would ever take on the United States in ground combat, because we have done our job so well."

WASHINGTON: Tomorrow, the Army completes its biggest reorganization since 1973. It’s a high-stakes, all-or-nothing gamble to stop wasting billions on failed weapons programs, ripping apart its sprawling acquisitions bureaucracy and putting the key pieces together in a single, streamlined Army Futures Command.

Gen. John Murray, first chief of Army Futures Command, speaks at its formal activation in Austin.

Now comes the hard part. AFC, just five months old, must make up for a quarter-century of lost time and modernize the Army for a great-power war against Russia and China — or both. That means getting prototypes of potentially revolutionary weapons – robotic tanks, high-speed aircraft, 1,000-mile cannon, VR gunsights – into the hands of soldiers ASAP. That way they can give feedback on what needs work and what isn’t worth the effort, before the Army wastes another $32 billion on cancelled programs.