29 July 2019

How Smaller States are Choosing Sides in the Indian Ocean


As India and China have intensified their geopolitical interestin the Indian Ocean, the region’s smaller states have aimed to balance their political relations with these major powers. But in at least one realm of engagement, countries have resisted balancing their relations. Since 2015, the island countries of Mauritius, Seychelles, and Sri Lanka have procured military equipment only from India, while the coastal countries of Bangladesh, Djibouti, Kenya, Myanmar, Pakistan, and Tanzania have bought solely from China. 

This timeframe is significant because it was in January 2015 that the U.S and India issued and unprecedented Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region. This was shortly after followed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s own announcement of India’s “Security and Growth for All in the Region,” or SAGAR, program a multifaceted effort to engage politically, diplomatically, economically and on security matters with Indian Ocean island states. 

Despite Khan’s Visit, U.S.-Pakistan Ties Aren’t Ready for a Reset

Michael Kugelman

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan enjoyed a warm visit to Washington this week, with his hosts, from President Donald Trump to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Sen. Lindsey Graham, all affirming the importance in particular of cooperation between the U.S. and Pakistan in Afghanistan. For a Pakistani government that viewed Khan’s visit as an opportunity to reset a relationship that suffered immensely during the early months of the Trump administration, it was an encouraging sign.

The bilateral relationship has indeed come a long way since 2017 and 2018, when Trump threatened a harder line on Pakistan, tweeted angrily about Islamabad’s “lies and deceit,” and suspended American security assistance. The main reason for this about-face is rooted in Trump’s increasingly urgent desire to end the long war in Afghanistan—a war he often criticized before becoming president and has never seemed comfortable continuing, even when he announced a new South Asia strategy in August 2017 that entailed staying the course.

FBI Director Names China the Nation’s Most ‘Severe Counterintelligence Threat’


Russia also shows no signs of stopping its election interference efforts ahead of 2020, Christopher Wray told lawmakers.

FBI Director Christopher Wray on Tuesday warned Russia remains “absolutely intent” on meddling in next year’s elections and named China as the greatest national security threat facing the country today.

Wray told lawmakers the Russian election interference efforts that helped galvanize Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation in 2017 are still operating at full force. While the Homeland Security Department is working to lock down the country’s election infrastructure, the FBI is focused on combating the misinformation and influence campaigns the Russians are waging online.

Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Wray said the FBI is working with federal agencies and the private sector to raise awareness about Russian misinformation, including social media ads, and to combat the country’s attempt to sway the electorate. Relatedly, he said the bureau is also working with the private sector to fight the spread of deepfakes, which he called a major concern for FBI leadership.

What’s Really Behind China’s Falling GDP

The headlines grabbed attention: “China’s economy grows at slowest rate in nearly 30 years,” noted the Financial Times in a typical example. China’s GDP growth in the second quarter had slowed to 6.2%, the smallest gain since 1992, back when the country’s economy was first shifting into high gear. But the recent drop was not such a big fall from the 6.4% GDP growth rate of the first quarter, nor from the 6.6% rate for all of 2018. The big picture shows that China’s GDP has been falling for a number of years and the new number is just the latest in a series.

And while some analysts were connecting the sluggish growth figure directly to the current trade spat with the U.S., that’s not the central problem, according to experts from Wharton and Stanford University. Rather, the challenges to China’s economy are deeper, structural, longer term, and have been building for years. They include over-investment, high savings and modest, if growing, consumer spending, high debt and low industrial productivity.

China accuses US of undermining global security in defence white paper

Kristin Huang

China’s latest defence white paper is the first since Chinese President Xi Jinping’s sweeping military reforms and takes a markedly more antagonistic tone towards the US and other countries than its predecessor. Photo: AP

China lambasted the United States on Wednesday for undermining global strategic stability in its first defence white paper since Chinese President Xi Jinping initiated a sweeping military reform in 2015.

The report, “China’s National Defense in the New Era”, said at the outset that international security systems and order were undermined by growing hegemonism, power politics, unilateralism and constant regional conflicts and wars.

The white paper named the US as primarily to blame for destabilising international security, stoking international strategic competition and speeding up an arms race by developing new types of combat forces. Nato, Russia and Japan were also criticised, but to a lesser degree.

China takes aim at U.S. and Taiwan in new military blueprint

By Gerry Shih

BEIJING — China sharpened its hostility toward the United States and Taiwan in a new high-level report on its future military strategy in which it accused Washington and its allies of undermining global stability.

Releasing the document Wednesday, officials of the People’s Liberation Army repeatedly warned that Beijing would be willing to use military force to assert its claims over Taiwan. The self-ruled island has pulled closer to the Trump administration and agreed this month to buy $2.2 billion in weapons, including M1A2T Abrams tanks and Stinger missiles.

Taiwan’s governing Democratic Progressive Party favors a formal declaration of independence from China, a move that could spark a confrontation in the Taiwan Strait, one of the world’s most heavily militarized areas. China’s navy this month sailed its sole aircraft carrier into the strait in a show of force reminiscent of similar U.S. operations two decades ago that showcased American military dominance in Asia.

China warns of war in case of move toward Taiwan independence

Michael Martina

This month, the United States approved sales of weapons requested by Taiwan, including tanks and Stinger missiles, estimated to be worth $2.2 billion.

China responded by saying it would impose sanctions on U.S. firms involved in any deals.

Defence Ministry spokesman Wu Qian told a news briefing on a defense white paper, the first like it in several years to outline the military’s strategic concerns, that China would make its greatest effort for peaceful reunification with Taiwan.

“However, we must firmly point out that seeking Taiwan independence is a dead end,” Wu said.

“If there are people who dare to try to split Taiwan from the country, China’s military will be ready to go to war to firmly safeguard national sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity,” he said.

China defense white paper singles out Japan over security shift and blasts U.S. for undermining global stability


China has singled out Japan for its shifting security policies and lambasted the United States for undermining global stability, noting rising strategic competition among major powers, in its first defense white paper in seven years.

The white paper, released Wednesday and titled “China’s National Defense in the New Era,” comes amid Beijing and Washington’s souring relations over military and trade issues, and as Tokyo casts a cautious eye on improving Sino-Japanese ties.

“The U.S. has adjusted its national security and defense strategies, and adopted unilateral policies,” the paper said. “It has provoked and intensified competition among major countries, significantly increased its defense expenditure, pushed for additional capacity in nuclear, outer space, cyber and missile defense, and undermined global strategic stability.”

As for Tokyo, which has seen its relations with Beijing thaw after a long period of chilly ties, the white paper focused on Japan’s unshackling of the Self-Defense Forces and evolution of a more independent and muscular security policy.

China says US ‘power politics’ undermines global stability


BEIJING (AP) — China on Wednesday accused the United States of undermining global stability with unilateral policies and “power politics” as the Defense Ministry issued the first comprehensive outline of its policies since President Xi Jinping came to power more than six years ago.

The U.S. was the first country mentioned in the document’s opening section about “prominent destabilizing factors” and “profound changes” in the international security environment.

“The U.S. has adjusted its national security and defense strategies, and adopted unilateral policies,” China said in the document. “It has provoked and intensified competition among countries, significantly increased its defense expenditure ... and undermined global strategic stability.”

It’s the 10th white paper of its kind since 1998. The last one was published in 2011, two years before Xi became president.

China’s Dissidents Can’t Leave


In early July, the New York Times broke the news that the Chinese government has stepped up its use of exit bans against U.S. citizens. As trade tensions between the United States and China have escalated, Chinese officials have increasingly targeted American businesspeople, especially those of Chinese descent, subjecting them to various forms of harassment, including refusing to allow them to leave the country. The problem is not limited to the United States: Several other countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia, have warned their citizens traveling to China about the dangers that exit bans pose.

The Times reported on a small but growing number of cases, but the full scope of the problem is not known; privately, State Department officials speak of dozens more unreported cases. The Chinese government’s use of American citizens as potential pressure points in its trade dispute with the U.S. government is deeply disturbing. Both U.S. companies doing business in China and the Trump administration need to send a clear signal to the Chinese government that such moves are deeply unacceptable—as a matter of principle, America’s leading trade partner should not be blocking U.S. citizens from entering and leaving China. Doing so, as one of us has written elsewhere, is a violation of China’s obligations under international law.

China's defense industry is exploding onto the scene as its top arms makers push past Western powerhouses


The Chinese defense industry is growing rapidly, with a handful of Chinese firms displacing Western defense powerhouses. A list of the world's top 100 defense firms published by Defense News revealed that 6 of the top 15 companies are Chinese. Last year, there wasn't a single Chinese company among the top 100. The appearance of eight Chinese defense firms among the top 25 comes as China invests heavily to upgrade its military and build a world-class fighting force.

The Chinese defense industry is making some waves as several Chinese firms have begun displacing traditional Western defense powerhouses in global rankings.

Last year, not a single Chinese company had even cracked the world's top 100 defense firms, according to a list published annually by Defense News. This year, six Chinese defense firms are among the world's top 15, with Chinese companies occupying eight of the top 25 spots.Aviation Industry Corporation of China, with its annual defense revenue just shy of $25 billion, ranks fifth, outpacing US and UK defense giants General Dynamics and BAE Systems. AVIC, the top Chinese company on the list, is trailing closely behind Raytheon and Northrop Grumman, two leading US defense firms.

China military spend jumped 1459 percent in 5 years

Sanjib Kr Baruah

Undertaking an ongoing programme of speedy modernisation of its military architecture, the Chinese government had increased its defence spending by a whopping 1459 per cent in five years from 2012 to 2017, a white paper ‘China's National Defense in the New Era’ released by the Chinese government on Wednesday morning has revealed.

“From 2012 to 2017, China's defense spending increased from 669.192 billion yuan to 10,432.37 billion yuan. China’s GDP grew at an average annual rate of 9.04 percent at the current year’s price, the national fiscal expenditure grew at an average annual rate of 10.43 percent, the national defense expenditure grew at an average annual rate of 9.42 percent, and the national defense expenditure accounted for an average of 1.28 percent of GDP,” the document said.

A Timeline of Tensions in the Persian Gulf

Every day, roughly one-third of the world's seaborne oil flows through the Strait of Hormuz, a chokepoint connecting the Persian Gulf with the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea. But mounting tensions threaten to disrupt traffic through the strategic waterway.

Joe Sestak: We're to blame for escalating tensions with Iran

Joe Sestak

President Trump called Iran "nothing but trouble" after saying he heard from the U.K. that tankers were seized in the Strait of Hormuz. USA TODAY

Tensions between Iran and the United States have recently reached dangerous new heights — which could result in spiraling reprisals devolving into war. 

Having served in the military, I know that militaries can stop a problem, but they can’t fix a problem. This is why I supported the Iran nuclear accord, and still support it today as the best framework for maintaining peace and security for us and our allies. As tensions continue to ratchet up, we must own up to the fact that we are to blame. We broke our word.

The latest development is the recent announcement from Tehran that Iranians have begun enriching uranium above limits agreed upon in 2015. This does not mean Iran is significantly closer to developing a nuclear weapon, but it does mean they no longer comply with the agreement.

Trump is Right About Iran, Yet Wrong


President Donald Trump is correct in expressing that Iran’s growing power is concerning.[1] He is also right that the administration of President George Bush has worsened the power and stability of Iran, not least because of its strategically disabling mistake of invading Iraq, which resulted in power vacuum that enabled and empowered Iran since 2003. Trump is quite right in positing that Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran has strengthened Iran and entrenched its political stance.[2] These factors are undermining Trump’s anti-Iranian policies in contemporary foreign relations, and the double-faceted strengthening of Iranian influence challenges Trump’s attempt to demonise Iran and thereby justify US military action against the Islamic Republic. Today Trump is left with few options on the table except for the further imposition of economic sanctions designed to confront Iran’s growing power in the region. These sanctions are arguably important constraints on Iran but are simply insufficient to compel Tehran to reverse its increasing desire for influence in regional politics.

The One Percent Problem: Muslims in the West and the Rise of the New Populists

Despite Muslims comprising only one to eight percent of the population in various Western countries, their very presence has become one of the defining issues of the populist era, dividing left and right in stark fashion. Right-wing populist parties differ considerably on economic and social policy. But nearly every major right-wing populist party emphasizes cultural and religious objections to specifically Muslim immigration as well as to demographic increases in the proportion of Muslim citizens more generally.

It would be a mistake, however, to view the debate over Islam and Muslims as only that. The rise of anti-Muslim sentiment signals a deeper shift in the party system away from economic cleavages toward “cultural” ones. With this in mind, attitudes toward Muslims and Islam become a proxy of sorts through which Western democracies work out questions around culture, religion, identity, and nationalism.

Focusing on nine European countries and the United States, this project—The One Percent Problem: Muslims in the West and the Rise of the New Populists—will examine how the growth of Muslim minority communities and fears around Islam’s public role are shaping the formation of new “populist” identities and ideologies in Western democracies. This unique focus offers an important entry point to address increasingly salient questions around what it means to be a nation—and who constitutes its members—at a time when elections are increasingly fought around so-called “who we are” questions.

Senators Break Ranks Over Saudi Arabia


The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, traditionally a haven of bipartisan cooperation on Capitol Hill, has become ensnared in a bitter and rare dispute between its top Republican and Democrat over separate bills on Saudi Arabia.

Both Sen. James Risch, the Republican chairman of the committee, and Sen. Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the committee, have accused each other of breaking agreements on how to proceed with two bills that would ramp up pressure on Saudi Arabia following the kingdom’s role in the deadly conflict in Yemen and Saudi officials’ culpability in the 2018 murder of the Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The dispute between Risch and Menendez risks unraveling the bipartisan nature of the committee, congressional aides say, and some experts fear it could also undercut Congress’s critical voice on Saudi Arabia over human rights violations in Yemen. 

Can Huawei Work on 5G in the UK? Government Dodges the Question

By Adam Smith

Whether or not UK telecom companies will be able to use Huawei technology in developing their 5G networks remains in limbo, as a government report says it cannot decide what to do.

"The government is not yet in a position to decide what involvement Huawei should have in the provision of the UK's 5G network," said Jeremy Wright, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

This is, ultimately, because the US government has not made a clear enough statement on whether Huawei will remain on the blacklist that has plagued it since May. Currently, Huawei is on an "entity list" that bans US companies from selling sensitive technologies to the Chinese manufacturer. This includes Google, ARM (which is not a US company but has close links to the US) and, for a spell, FedEx.

Russian Hackers Build Fake Skype, Signal, Pornhub Apps to Lure Victims


Be careful what apps you download, especially if you are in the Caucasus. Someone is packaging powerful malware in fake versions of popular Android applications such as Skype, Signal, and PornHub, according to a report released Wednesday by the Lookout cybersecurity firm. 

Dubbed Monokle, the malware can “exfiltrate data from third party applications by reading text displayed on a device’s screen at any point in time,” the report said. 

Monokle seeks root access, the most privileged level of control. When it achieves that access its able to overwrite security certificates to intercept—and potentially change— incoming and outgoing information, sometimes called a man-in-the-middle attack. But it can operate and steal data even when it can’t access root (because of systtem configuration.) “This allows the software to be incredibly flexible and useful in multiple operational scenarios,” they note. 

US attorney general says encryption creates security risk

By: Tami Abdollah

NEW YORK — Attorney General William Barr said Tuesday that increased encryption of data on phones and computers and encrypted messaging apps are putting American security at risk.

Barr's comments at a cybersecurity conference mark a continuing effort by the Justice Department to push tech companies to provide law enforcement with access to encrypted devices and applications during investigations.

"There have been enough dogmatic pronouncements that lawful access simply cannot be done," Barr said. "It can be, and it must be."

The attorney general said law enforcement is increasingly unable to access information on devices, and between devices, even with a warrant supporting probable cause of criminal activity.

Can Boris Johnson Survive Contact With Brexit Reality?

Aleks Eror 

The long-running Tory leadership contest has finally come to an end, producing the result that everybody expected all along: Boris Johnson has become the new leader of the British Conservative Party and, by extension, the 77th prime minister of the United Kingdom.

Johnson’s coronation is the culmination of a lifetime of inherited entitlement and personal ambition, a path to the premiership that began at Britain’s most elite private school and its most prestigious university, then passed via plum jobs in its right-wing press. Ever since he was elected mayor of London in 2008, there’s been a feeling of inevitability about today’s outcome. Johnson has essentially been a prime minister-in-waiting for over a decade. But he could hardly have assumed the role at a worse time, as he inherits a poisoned chalice where every major decision he must make could potentially sink his government.

No, Mr. Godrej, You Are Way Out of Line – This Just Won’t Do

Jay Bhattacharjee

A few days ago, Adi Godrej, one of the patriarchs of the well-known and respected Godrej business conglomerate stepped into a minefield when he launched a totally unnecessary salvo on socio-political issues that was contrived and hyped.

Indeed, when we read aapro Adi’s speech carefully, it sounds like a harangue and a bogey all in one. It certainly doesn’t behove a business magnate of his stature and position as a member of one of India’s most respected and admired industrial groups. I propose to assess the entire contretemps in this essay and to tell Adi Godrej (AG) why his exercise is a complete charade and a wild goose chase.

According to the English media, both print and electronic, AG hectored the powers that be on the spectre of “rising intolerance, hate crimes and moral policing”, which he feels will “seriously damage” the Indian economic growth path. Nothing wrong at all in principle, in this pronouncement. In fact, it is a well-proven doctrine in theory and facts. So far, AG is on the right track. Where he is grievously wrong and incorrect is his partial perspective and the Nelsonian eye that he uses. Now, why would I say this?

Cyber War News: German Companies Siemens, BASF Hit By Alleged Chinese Cyberattacks

By Wesley Dockery

Multiple German companies, such as energy technology company Siemens (SIEGY), chemical firm BASF (BASFY) and consumer goods company Henkel have been targeted by cyberattacks that were allegedly connected to the Chinese government. 

German media has reported that at least eight companies have been targeted by hackers. It wasn't only German firms that were targeted. Swiss pharma giant Roche, Indonesian airline Lionair and U.S. hotel chain Mariott were also attacked. 

The attacks have been connected to a Chinese state-backed hacking group, known as Winnti. There is also a form of malware with the same name.

"Any DAX company that hasn't been attacked by Winnti must be doing something wrong," one IT expert said, according to a German publication. The DAX refers to 30 major German companies that trade on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange

US 'Five to Ten Years Behind' in Battling Threats Posed by Cyber Warfare

Eric Philips

WASHINGTON – Cyberwar is the new battleground. While generally non-lethal, it can be more damaging than many physical conflicts simply because the attacks can go unnoticed until it's too late. That's why the FBI is busy retooling to meet this security challenge at home. 

When the FBI formed in 1908 there were no cyber-crimes because there was no cyber. Only over the last decade has the bureau taken the potential of cyber-attacks seriously, and now it's a game of catch-up.

"Today it's really about weaponizing very particular software with the goal of trying to extort money from you or take you out of business," said Don Murdoch, a cyber expert with the Institute for Cyber Security at Regent University. "Just completely eliminate you."

Teaching Next Generation of Cyber-Defenders

NSA Launches Cybersecurity Directorate


The group is charged with defending the country’s national security infrastructure and defense contractors against digital threats.

The National Security Agency on Tuesday announced the launch of a new division aimed at protecting the country’s intelligence and defense apparatus against foreign cyber threats.

The newly minted Cybersecurity Directorate will bring the agency’s foreign intelligence and cyber operations together under the same roof, helping the agency “operationalize [its] threat intelligence, vulnerability assessments and cyber defense expertise,” according to a post on the NSA website.

The group, which NSA Director Gen. Paul Nakasone officially made public at the International Conference on Cybersecurity, is scheduled to be up and running by Oct. 1. 

The directorate will “redefine [NSA’s] cybersecurity mission,” Nakasone said in a statement. “What I’m trying to get to in a space like cyberspace is speed, agility and unity of effort.”

Should Cyber Arms Be Treated Like Bioweapons?


A recent paper suggests that the two are more closely related under international law than previously thought. But the analogy, while useful, is not exact.

In an important contribution, Jeffrey T. Biller and Michael N. Schmitt argue that cyber capabilities are not “weapons” or “means of warfare,” but can be “methods of warfare” under international humanitarian law (IHL). These conclusions challenge the prevailing notion, contained in the Tallinn Manual 2.0 on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Operations, that cyber capabilities can be weapons and means of warfare. Biller’s and Schmitt’s claim is that, unlike other military technologies, cyber capabilities do not cause direct harm to people or property. “Having a damage mechanism with the ability to directly inflict the damaging or injurious terminal effect on a target is,” they write, “the litmus test for qualification as a means of warfare.” When computer code is deployed, “the harmful effects are … indirect; they are not terminal vis-à-vis the code.” Harmful effects directly arise from the operation of the target system infected with the code, rather than from the code itself. “Therefore,” they conclude, “computer code and associated systems cannot qualify as means of warfare.”

For much of article, I nodded in agreement as the argument unfolded. With one exception, which produced a quizzical tilt of the head.

Senate Intelligence Report Recommends Overarching 'Cyber Doctrine'


A report released by the bipartisan leadership of the Senate Intelligence Committee Thursday (July 25), one of the more bipartisan committees in Congress, says the government should come up with an "overarching cyber doctrine." 

That was one of the recommendations in a voluminous report on Russian election meddling focused on infrastructure.

The report concluded that the U.S. should make it clear to its adversaries, in a sort of "this could mean war" declaration, that it will treat an attack on election infrastructure as a hostile act, whose response may not be limited to cyber activity. 

Further, it said, "[i]deally, this principle of deterrence should be included in an overarching cyber doctrine for the U.S. Government. That doctrine should clearly delineate cyberespionage, cybercrime, and cyber attacks. 

"Further, a classified portion of the doctrine should establish what the U.S. Government believes to be its escalation ladder in the cyber realm—what tools does it have, what tools should it pursue, and what should the limits of cyber war be. "[P]olicymakers should consider what steps the U.S. will need to take to outstrip the capabilities of Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, and other emerging hostile actors in the cyber domain," it said. 

The Cybersecurity 202: Senate Intelligence Committee still can't agree on best way to secure the 2020 election

By Joseph Marks

Senators on the Intelligence Committee who spent two years probing every facet of Russia’s attempts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election still can't agree on a path forward to secure the next one.

The long-awaited 67-page report released yesterday contains dozens of recommendations for securing elections. But most artfully sidestep a boiling policy battle between Republicans and Democrats over whether the federal government should ensure they actually happen.

The report endorses a slew of voting security improvements championed by Democrats, for example — including having paper records of votes, buying new secure voting machines and conducting post-election audits. But it also endorses “states’ primacy in running elections” — a key talking point from Republicans who argue it would violate states’ rights if the government mandates those fixes.

Robot Roadmap: US Army’s Newest Command Sketches Priorities


As the new U.S. Army Futures Command begins to develop a variety of small, medium, and large ground robots, its commander says he wants to avoid a common mistake: pushing new gear on field commanders who don’t really need it.

“I’m not going to force anything on a unit or soldiers that they don’t want,” Gen. Mike Murray told reporters on Thursday. “Not that that’s ever really happened in the past, but we tend to push stuff out in experimentation that doesn’t fit the mission profile that they’re after.” 

“It’s going to have to be more of a pull than a push as we start to really develop knowledge across the Army in some of the things that we are working in. If a commander expresses a need for it, we’ll be happy to provide the capability,” Murray said.

For example, a top U.S. officer in Afghanistan is interested in bringing supply robots back to the front lines. 

What happened at the military’s biggest cyber training exercise to date

By: Mark Pomerleau   

When soldiers are preparing to deploy, they head to the Army’s National Training Center at Fort Irwin in California. There, they can replicate an entire campaign during a two-week rotation against a world class force.

But in the cyber world, no such training environment exists. That means cyber forces train in ad hoc cyber ranges and are limited by the number of teams that can dial in. Moreover, there is no space to rehearse for an upcoming mission.

The Persistent Cyber Training Environment (PCTE), managed by the Army, seeks to change all of that. PCTE is an online client in which members of U.S. Cyber Command’s cyber mission force can log on from anywhere in the world for training, either of individuals or of groups, and to rehearse missions.

Working through the agile development process, the Army is not sure what the finial vision for the persistent cyber training environment will look like.