20 April 2019

India: Tranquillity At Risk In North East – Analysis

By M.A. Athul*

On March 30, 2019, a former District Council member, identified as Seliam Wangsa, who was campaigning for a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate, Honchun Ngandam, was killed by suspected militants at Nginu village in the Longding District of Arunachal Pradesh. Ngandam is the BJP candidate for the Arunachal Pradesh East parliamentary seat.

On March 29, 2019, suspected cadres of the Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) shot dead Jaley Anna, a National People’s Party (NPP) worker, at Kheti village in the Tirap District of Arunachal Pradesh.

Seven-phase general elections are in the process across the country, scheduled to be over by May 19, with counting of votes scheduled on May 23. Polling in eight States of the Northeast is scheduled in three phases, between April 11 and May 19.

The Afghan Endgame: What, When, and How

By Daud Khattak

The two-day intra-Afghan dialogue slated to commence in Doha, Qatar, on April 19 communicates a message of both hope and despair as the leaders of the warring Taliban are going to sit face-to-face with their compatriots for the second time in less than two months to deliberate on how to put an end to the 18 years of fighting in Afghanistan.

The Taliban’s willingness for a formal sit-down with Afghan political leadership — first in Moscow and now in Doha — reveals the group’s interest in a negotiated settlement, which, no doubt, could be termed a positive sign.

But their refusal to meet President Ashraf Ghani’s representatives specifically is likely to affect the progress achieved by U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad’s shuttle diplomacy over the past several months.

Currently struggling hard to win a second term in office, Ghani feels cornered and often reacts angrily whenever his political rivals voice support for an interim government ahead of the presidential election now proposed to be held on September 28 this year. Ghani’s term in office is coming to an end next month, but the Afghan constitution lets him continue in office until the election of new president.

China’s Crackdown on Uighurs in Xinjiang

by Lindsay Maizland

Human rights organizations, UN officials, and many foreign governments are urging China to stop the crackdown. But Chinese officials maintain that what they call vocational training centers do not infringe on Uighurs’ human rights. They have refused to share information about the detention centers, however, and prevent journalists and foreign investigators from examining them.

When did mass detentions of Muslims start?

Some eight hundred thousand to two million Uighurs and other Muslims, including ethnic Kazakhs and Uzbeks, have been detained since April 2017, according to experts and government officials [PDF]. Outside of the camps, the eleven million Uighurs living in Xinjiang have continued to suffer from a decades-long crackdown by Chinese authorities.

The Closing of the Chinese Mind


Lou Jiwei is a hard-charging reformer with an illustrious record of accomplishments. The Chinese government's decision to dismiss him from his post as chairman of the national social security fund underscores the dangerous ways in which President Xi Jinping has transformed decision-making in China.

WASHINGTON, DC – Lou Jiwei may not be a household name in the West, but the former Chinese finance minister is well known and highly respected among financiers and economic policymakers. Yet, earlier this month, China’s government announced Lou’s dismissal from his post as chairman of the country’s national social security fund. The move reflects a change in the Chinese leadership’s approach to governance that is likely to have profound implications for the country’s future.

The removal of Lou from his post represents a break from precedent: his three predecessors served 4.5 years, on average, and all retired after reaching 69. The 68-year-old Lou served for only a little over two years. China’s leaders did not provide a reason for sacking him, but a likely explanation stands out. Lou has recently emerged as an outspoken critic of China’s ambitious industrial policy agenda, Made in China 2025, calling it a waste of public money.

China Adds Coal Capacity Despite Pledge To Cut – Analysis

By Michael Lelyveld

After years of cutting overcapacity in the coal industry, China appears to be reversing course, raising environmental concerns as the government spurs economic growth.

On March 26, Reuters reported that China added 194 million metric tons of coal production capacity last year, citing a statement by the National Energy Administration (NEA).

The expansion came despite Premier Li Keqiang’s pledge to “get rid of” 150 million tons of capacity in 2018, announced in his work report to national legislators in March of last year. Li said nothing about adding new capacity to offset the cuts.

The additions may mark the end of China’s campaign for consolidation and capacity cutting in the coal industry, which was driven by overproduction and collapsing prices in 2012.

The increases may have consequences for greenhouse gas emissions and climate change if higher capacity leads to greater growth in production and consumption. China’s output of coal rose 5.2 percent last year.

Pentagon Developing Military Options to Deter Russian, Chinese Influence in Venezuela

by Barbara Starr, Ryan Browne and Zachary Cohen

The Pentagon is developing new military options for Venezuela aimed at deterring Russian, Cuban and Chinese influence inside the regime of President Nicolas Maduro, but stopping short of any kinetic military actions, according to a defense official familiar with the effort.

The deterrence options are being ordered following a White House meeting last week where national security adviser John Bolton told acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan to develop ideas on the Venezuela crisis.

The official emphasized strongly that the initial work is being done by the Pentagon's Joint Staff, which conducts planning for future military operations along with the Southern Command, which oversees any US military involvement in the southern hemisphere.

And even though Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently said that "all options" remain on the table for dealing with Venezuela, several Pentagon officials continue to say there is no appetite at the Department of Defense for using US military force against the Venezuelan regime to try to force it from power…

Recycle Your Batteries, Before China Wins That Race, Too


With global demand rising for critical and rare earth materials in new tech, it's not too late for the U.S. to secure its own sources.

The advances in energy storage and the advent of the li-ion battery are fueling a new technology revolution – in our consumer products, the automotive industry, energy storage and grid management, and the internet of things. While headlines tout the newest smartphone release or advance in electric vehicle adoption, a race for the materials that power this innovation revolution has been underway for years. And as a country, we’re falling behind.

Cobalt is crucial to modern li-ion battery technology despite efforts to reduce its prevalence. But the cobalt supply chain presents numerous challenges for U.S. companies. As with many other critical minerals, China has established a near-stranglehold on the market, refining an estimated 80 percent of the world’s cobalt chemical products. Further, most cobalt is mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a weak state in which the mining industry has had difficulty keeping children and other laborers from hazardous “artisanal mining” — i.e., mining and washing the ore by hand. DRC is projected to supply nearly 70 percent of the world’s cobalt for the years to come.

The Belt and Road: The Good, the Bad, and the Mixed

By Angela Tritto and Alvin Camba

Much of the narrative on China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has been polarized. On the one hand, there is a hawkish countermobilization centered on the “debt-trap,” “Chinese colonialism,” and “yellow peril” narratives. The “debt-trap” conjuring was for the most part introduced by South Asian writers referring to Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port, and later adapted by some U.S. think tanks, popularized by mainstream media, and echoed by politicians across the world. The implications of indebtedness to China became a paradigm of Chinese diplomacy after a Center for Global Development report further popularized the argument. The “Chinese colonialism” dialectic evolved in parallel, often taking as example the Chinese presence in Africa, and connecting to the long-standing “yellow peril” phobia. On the other hand, Chinese official responses have been mostly on the defensive, trying to de-link the Belt and Road Initiative from geopolitical or hegemonic ambitions, arguing that BRI projects “benefit the local population” and are opportunities for “shared development.”

The U.S. Is Losing a Major Front to China in the New Cold War

A swathe of the world is adopting China’s vision for a tightly controlled internet over the unfettered American approach, a stunning ideological coup for Beijing that would have been unthinkable less than a decade ago.

Vietnam and Thailand are among the Southeast Asian nations warming to a governance model that twins sweeping content curbs with uncompromising data controls -- because it helps preserve the regime in power. A growing number of the region’s increasingly autocratic governments watched enviously the emergence of Chinese corporate titans from Tencent Holdings Ltd. to Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. -- in spite of draconian online curbs. And now they want the same.

The more free-wheeling Silicon Valley model once seemed unquestionably the best approach, with stars from Google to Facebook to vouch for its superiority. Now, a re-molding of the internet into a tightly controlled and scrubbed sphere in China’s image is taking place from Russia to India. Yet it’s Southeast Asia that’s the economic and geopolitical linchpin to Chinese ambitions and where U.S.-Chinese tensions will come to a head: a region home to more than half a billion people whose internet economy is expected to triple to $240 billion by 2025.

A Concise Guide to the Belt and Road Initiative

by Nadège Rolland

This backgrounder from NBR Senior Fellow Nadège Rolland, author of the book China’s Eurasian Century? Political and Strategic Implications of the Belt and Road Initiative, provides an overview of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) ahead of the second Belt and Road Forum on April 25–27. Read the backgrounder below.


The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was set in motion by Xi Jinping in two speeches. During his address to the Nazarbayev University in Kazakhstan in September 2013, Xi proposed the idea of a Silk Road Economic Belt, connecting China to Europe via land, in order to “forge closer ties, deepen cooperation and expand the development space in the Eurasian region.” One month later, as he was addressing the Indonesian parliament in Jakarta, Xi proposed the creation of a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, connecting China to Europe via sea, that would increase connectivity and maritime cooperation with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Iraq's Place in the Saudi Arabian-Iranian Rivalry

by Geneive Abdo

The skeptics questioning whether Saudi Arabia’s conspicuous overtures during the last year and a half to improve bilateral relations with Iraq will bear fruits, after twenty-five years of estrangement, may now have to reconsider their doubts.

Saudi Arabia and Iraq are engaging in a flurry of activity that is proof both sides are now fully on board efforts to establish stronger ties. Saudi Arabia opened a consulate in Baghdad April 4th. Perhaps the most geopolitically significant gift to date from the Saudis is a promise, reportedly made on April 4, to hook Iraq up to the Saudi electrical grid as part of a Saudi investment project.

Trump's Foreign Policies Are Better Than They Seem

Robert D. Blackwill

Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy

President Donald J. Trump “is not given sufficient credit for his foreign policies,” writes Robert D. Blackwill, Henry A. Kissinger senior fellow for U.S. foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. “All the chaos generated by this flawed president does produce actual policies, the substance of which in many cases is likely to be more consequential than the ways by which the policies arrived and the character of the man who formulated them,” asserts Blackwill. “What matters most is the effectiveness of U.S. policy over time and its consistency with U.S. national interests, not the personal qualities of its leaders.”

In a new Council Special Report, Trump’s Foreign Policies Are Better Than They Seem, Blackwill assesses the Trump administration’s foreign policy—including the United States’ ties with allies, relations with China and Russia, and policies toward the Middle East, North Korea, Venezuela, trade, and climate change—halfway through the president’s first term. The author assigns a letter grade to each of President Trump’s major foreign policies, as well as a final grade for his overall foreign policy, and concludes that some of Trump’s “individual foreign policies are substantially better than his opponents assert.”

Brzezinski’s Warning To America – OpEd

By Mike Whitney

The liberal world order, which lasted from the end of World War 2 until today, is rapidly collapsing. The center of gravity is shifting from west to east where China and India are experiencing explosive growth and where a revitalized Russia has restored its former stature as a credible global superpower. These developments, coupled with America’s imperial overreach and chronic economic stagnation, have severely hampered US ability to shape events or to successfully pursue its own strategic objectives. As Washington’s grip on global affairs continues to loosen and more countries reject the western development model, the current order will progressively weaken clearing the way for a multipolar world badly in need of a new security architecture. Western elites, who are unable to accept this new dynamic, continue to issue frenzied statements expressing their fear of a future in which the United States no longer dictates global policy.

At the 2019 Munich Security Conference, Chairman Wolfgang Ischinger, underscored many of these same themes. Here’s an excerpt from his presentation:

Hate Speech on Social Media: Global Comparisons

by Zachary Laub

A mounting number of attacks on immigrants and other minorities has raised new concerns about the connection between inflammatory speech online and violent acts, as well as the role of corporations and the state in policing speech. Analysts say trends in hate crimes around the world echo changes in the political climate, and that social media can magnify discord. At their most extreme, rumors and invective disseminated online have contributed to violence ranging from lynchings to ethnic cleansing.

The response has been uneven, and the task of deciding what to censor, and how, has largely fallen to the handful of corporations that control the platforms on which much of the world now communicates. But these companies are constrained by domestic laws. In liberal democracies, these laws can serve to defuse discrimination and head off violence against minorities. But such laws can also be used to suppress minorities and dissidents.
How widespread is the problem?

Lessons of the War in Ukraine for Western Military Strategy

By Niklas Masuhr 

In this article, Niklas Masuhr writes that NATO is prioritizing conventional military capabilities to deter Russian encroachment on the Alliance. Further, Western planners and strategists view the war in Ukraine as a key benchmark that defines future capability requirements. As a result, various adaptive processes are underway within national armed forces.

This article was originally published in the CSS Analyses in Security Series by the Center for Security Studies on 3 April 2019. The article is also available in German and French.

When Russian intervention forces occupied the Crimean peninsula in February 2014 in a coup de main, NATO was still committed in Afghanistan. After more than ten years of counterinsurgency and stabilization operations, the crisis in Ukraine triggered a reorientation towards its original purposes of defense and deterrence. During the same year, at the NATO summit in Wales, it was decided to enhance the speed and capability with which NATO forces could respond to a crisis. The subsequent Warsaw summit in 2016 added rotating multinational contingents in its eastern member states in order to signal the entire alliance’s commitment to their defense. Below these adaptations at the level of NATO, national armed forces are being reformed and rearranged because of the shift in threat perception. This analysis focuses on the military forces of the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany. The tactics and capabilities Russia has brought to bear in eastern Ukraine in particular serve as the benchmark according to which these Western forces are being shaped. 

The Trump-Putin Relationship, As Dictated by the Kremlin


In December 2017, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke with President Donald Trump at least twice by phone, ostensibly about economic and counterintelligence issues. Americans first learned about both calls from the Kremlin. When then–CIADirector Mike Pompeo met with Russian intelligence officials subjected to sanctions in January 2018 at Langley, Americans learned about it first from the Russian Embassy—via Twitter.

A couple of months later, when Trump congratulated Putin on an election victory widely deemed a sham, the Kremlin disclosed the conversation first. And in July and November 2018, in Finland and then Argentina, Trump and Putin reportedly met with no U.S.aides or interpreters present. A leaked Russian document said they discussed arms control at the private meeting in Finland, forcing the White House to respond. “There were no commitments to undertake any action,” a spokesman said at the time.

Oil Market Update: Checking in on Venezuela

In recent days, while oil markets have reacted to fast moving developments in Algeria, Sudan, and Libya, the governance stalemate in Venezuela has continued. The country’s humanitarian crisis continues to devolve, and neighboring nations are feeling the impact of increasing numbers of refugees. Given our previous reporting on the state of play in Venezuela, we thought it useful to update our assessment of market impacts as we move into spring post-maintenance season and examine the implications of recent crude oil and product shipments.

It’s been almost three months since Juan Guaido, the then-newly elected leader of the National Assembly, invoked Article 233 of the country’s constitution and assumed Venezuela’s presidency, pending new elections. On February 11, we published a commentary assessing potential impacts on the global oil market and outlining a series of scenarios for what the coming months were likely to bring in Caracas.

Don’t Believe the Doomsayers: NATO Has a Future

by Nikolas K. Gvosdev

ANXIETY ABOUT the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) future is older than the actual alliance. Its founders worried about the prospects for its survival before the Washington Treaty was fully drafted, much less signed and ratified. Today’s concerns about NATO’s future are, in a sense, old hat.

From another perspective, however, the NATO of 2019 is profoundly different from that of 2009, 1999 and 1989, not to mention the newly-minted alliance of 1949. In fact, 1989 was the true turning point for NATO, and we are only now confronting the accumulated consequences of haphazard U.S. and Western policy choices over the past three decades, which help to explain why NATO faces the problems it now confronts, including challenges to its mission, its capabilities and its values.

America’s Misuse of Its Financial Infrastructure

by Henry Farrell Abraham Newman

THREE DECADES ago, a German history professor listed 210 proposed explanations for the fall of the Roman Empire. The remarkable array included such fanciful causes as Bolshevism, public baths, hedonism, the pressure of terrorism and, most famously, lead poisoning.

The last explanation has been discredited. It is highly unlikely that lead water pipes caused the empire to collapse in a tumult of brain damage, gout and madness. Yet exploded theories can point towards important truths. Like classical Rome, America’s empire today depends less on pomp than on plumbing. Instead of roads, aqueducts and seaports, it relies on pipelines conveying financial flows and torrents of data, as well as vast distributed supply chains. These look like a global public infrastructure, but can readily be redirected to private national strategic advantage. America’s domination of obscure, seeming technical structures is generating its own forms of hubristic folly among imperial administrators, who have begun to think that there is nothing they cannot do with it.

Haven’t We Done This Before? Lessons From and Recommendations for Strategic Competition in Sub-Saharan Africa

By Judd Devermont 

Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, 2015 (Source: Flickr/Government of South Africa)

A trio of White House strategies have heralded the return of strategic competition between the United States and its adversaries, China and Russia, in sub-Saharan Africa. In the National Security Strategy, National Defense Strategy, and President Trump’s Africa Strategy, the U.S. government committed itself to countering threats posed by its global rivalries. In December 2018, National Security Adviser John Bolton claimedBeijing and Moscow’s activities “stunt economic growth in Africa; threaten the financial independence of African nations; inhibit opportunities for U.S. investment; interfere with U.S. military operations; and pose a significant threat to U.S. national security interests.”

This is a back-to-the-future moment for U.S.-Africa policy. We are witnessing African leaders draw on an old playbook, pitting the United States, China and Russia against each other to increase access to new resources, generate new leverage and lessen dependency on any single foreign patron. African political elites are very adept at telling U.S. officials what they want to hear; for instance, nine African leaders told President Trump that “we would prefer to do business with the United States and other western countries” over China. Or, African leaders will dangle the possibility of greater cooperation with U.S. adversaries to soak the United States for additional support. Former Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua, for example, ordered his petroleum minister to explore deals with Chinese and Russian oil companies as “bait to extract value and concessions” from Western companies, according to a memoir by one of his aides.

Leadership in a Multipolar World

J. Stapleton Roy

The U.S. National Security Strategy released in December 2017 identifies China and Russia as key rivals of the United States. The formulation of a strategy to address the challenges they pose requires a clearheaded understanding of the relationship between Moscow and Beijing, which is cemented by common strategic interests but marred by historic mistrust and differing national trajectories. U.S. policies have at times inadvertently driven China and Russia closer together, to the detriment of U.S. interests. Policymakers should neither exaggerate the degree of convergence between Chinese and Russian interests nor ignore the significant factors that underlie their cooperation. Skillful U.S. diplomacy can moderate the adverse impact of Sino-Russian solidarity, identify areas where trilateral cooperation is possible, and through careful management of relations with Moscow and Beijing, influence the future direction and nature of Sino-Russian relations. Similarly, potential congressional actions focused on U.S. relations with Russia and China need to be weighed carefully in the light of these considerations.

The State of Sino-Russian Relations

The United States Owes the World $1 Trillion


Even as international efforts to address climate change have gathered momentum, emissions of heat-trapping gasses have risen, reaching a new peak last year. The next major opportunity to reverse the trend will be the United Nations’ Climate Action Summit in New York this coming September. But a necessary element that could break the deadlock—U.S. leadership—will be absent.

Back in 2016, at the end of U.S. President Barack Obama’s tenure, the United States formally joined the Paris agreement, which he believed was the “most ambitious climate change agreement in history.” By signing on, Obama argued, the United States had become a global leader in the fight against climate change. He was right—at that time, the United States was on track to cut carbon emissions by up to 26 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, in line with the objective it had set under the agreement.

But that moment has passed. In 2018, emissions growth resumed as the Trump administration rolled back the Obama-era environmental protections. This wasn’t the first time such a thing had happened. In fact, the cycle is relatively well established.

Asynchronous Warfare, Part 2: Strategy and Phases

by Dr. Bjoern Dennis Prange 

NOTE: This is part 2 of a 4-part series on Asynchronous Warfare. Please watch for other segments over the next several weeks.

In part 1 of this blog series, we described the roots of the cyberwar that we’re already fighting, which lie in proven, historic conventional warfare tactics that give the advantage to what appears to be an underpowered enemy. In today’s post, we describe the strategy behind asynchronous warfare usage and the three phases of protracted conflict that lead to ultimate victory.

Asynchronous Warfare Strategy

Could artificial intelligence save the Pentagon $15 billion a year?

By: Mike Gruss  

U.S. Air Force aircraft maintainers perform post-flight maintenance on an E-3 Sentry AWACS. (Senior Master Sgt. Roger Parsons/U.S. Air National Guard) The first time Chinese government officials came to visit Tom Siebel in hopes of convincing him to work on artificial intelligence projects it was 2011. Then delegations of mayors and senior leaders came back in 2012, and in 2013, and in 2014.

Siebel is a businessman based in Silicon Valley. He founded business application software company Siebel Systems in 1993, sold it for $5.9 billion in 2006, and in 2011 started another company: C3IOT, which is known as C3.ai.

An artificial intelligence company specializing in predictive analytics, C3.ai has helped Baltimore Gas Electric save $20 million annually by checking the health of the utility’s meters and reducing the amount of unbilled energy usage. The company’s web site also boasts testimonials from Fortune 500 giants, such as 3M and Shell. Since its founding, C3 has invested more than $500 million in a software stack that performs artificial intelligence tasks.

Breaking Defense eBrief: Army Aviation Modernization

After 15 years of hovering in place, upgrading old helicopters without buying new designs, Army aviation is now hurtling forward — but will their ambitious new programs soar or crash?

The Army’s track record on big weapons programs is not encouraging, with three cancelled helicopters projects alone since 2004. But it has now united its feudalized bureaucracy into a new Army Futures Command and devoted $57 billion to modernizationover the next five years. About $4.7 billion of that money goes for new drones and manned aircraft, with funding for what’s called Future Vertical Lift quadrupling from 2019 to 2020.

The Army plan calls for two new “optionally manned” aircraft capable of flying pilotless if necessary — an assault/utility transport and a small, nimble scout — and a family of drones in different sizes. All are meant to work together with each other, with Army long-range missiles, and with the other services’ jets to crack open the high-tech layered defenses being built by Russia, China, and lesser powers.

We’ve broken down all the latest developments in a new eBrief, available to all as a free download now.