10 September 2019

Modi Reimagines the Indian Military

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In mid-August, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced his government’s decision to appoint a chief of defense staff (CDS), who will act as head of the Indian Army, Air Force, and Navy. The announcement, which was surprising since the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s 2019 manifesto barely made mention of defense reforms, much less committed the party to establishing a CDS, was long overdue.

The Indian strategic community had long sought the establishment of a CDS. The latest version of the idea was initially proposed in 2001 by a group of ministers tasked with reforming India’s national security apparatus in the aftermath of the 1999 conflict with Pakistan in Kargil, where the Indian response was hampered by a lack of coordination among the services. Supporters claimed that a CDS would help the armed services execute joint operations more effectively.

What We’re Reading: Thinking About Thinking and India’s Billionaires

By Allison Fedirka and Valentina Jovanovski

Thinking about thinking – that’s what this book is about. When it debuted in 2011, it became an instant best-seller and earned multiple awards. And it’s easy to see why, even if not all the content is still relevant today. Dr. Kahneman draws on his 40 years of progressive research and expertise to craft this book, which contains some of his most important psychological insights and understandings of human thought processes. Though academic by nature, “Thinking, Fast and Slow” was written with the non-academic but still intellectually curious in mind. He uses a personable first-person voice to provide a general description for each behavioral concept that he introduces. Then he includes examples of experiments that he actually conducted that helped confirm and illustrate this behavior. Last and perhaps most important, he provides current examples about where these behaviors and concepts play out in real life – negotiations, elections, etc.

Al Qaeda Is Ready to Attack You Again

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Eighteen years have passed since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, and al Qaeda is worse for the wear. The terrorist organization looks remarkably different today than the group that killed thousands of U.S. citizens on American soil. Intensive counterterrorism pressure in Afghanistan and Pakistan has left behind an aging and increasingly disconnected central leadership. The emergence of the Islamic State as a peer competitor, meanwhile, has left al Qaeda with a brand that, at times, has struggled to compete for global jihadist primacy.

With the group’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in bad health and isolated, most likely somewhere in Pakistan, and Hamza bin Laden, who may have been next in line, recently reported killed, al Qaeda’s most dedicated members seem to understand that its best chance to remain relevant is through its ongoing presence in Syria. To capitalize on the opportunities that the Syrian civil war has presented to al Qaeda, the group began moving significant assets from Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Levant in September 2014. This shift in the center of the group’s gravity constitutes a major change and one with implications still not fully understood by counterterrorism officials worldwide. After two turbulent decades following its most spectacular mission, al Qaeda has settled down and is again intensely focused on attacking the West.

The U.S.-China Cold War Is a Myth

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This week, the U.S. Navy conducted drills with ships from Southeast Asian countries in the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea—an apparent sign of Washington’s renewed interest in the region and in challenging China.

Close U.S. partners such as Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong have warned of growing tensions between the two superpowers and urged restraint by both sides. Washington has been deepening security and diplomatic relations in the region, even with former adversaries such as Vietnam, which has been locked in a tense maritime standoff with China since July.

In recent years, the notion of an emerging second Cold War, this time between the United States and China, has gained credence. As early as 1995, China scholar David Shambaugh warned of deteriorating relations in an article titled, “The United States and China: A New Cold War?” Last year, Cold War analyst Graham Allison, the Douglas Dillon professor of government at the Harvard Kennedy School, warned of a “new cold war,” and articles published in the Economist, Foreign Policy, the Washington Post, and across the mainstream media have built on this narrative. But the Cold War paradigm is not the best way to understand today’s strategic landscape.The Cold War paradigm is not the best way to understand today’s strategic landscape.

The End of the Afghan War?

By George Friedman
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The U.S. seems to be nearing a withdrawal from Afghanistan. After nearly a year of talks, U.S. and Taliban negotiators have in hand a draft agreement for a peace deal to end the 18-year war. The Trump administration, which has long wanted to withdraw forces from the country, still wants to maintain some combat capability there. Reports over the weekend indicate that administration officials have suggested expanding the CIA’s presence in Afghanistan, but Langley is resisting an increased role for the agency there. The CIA, technically speaking, does not represent combat capability. But practically, it could serve as a liaison to factions opposed to the Taliban, providing tactical information for airstrikes and carrying out a range of strategic actions. This suggests that whatever withdrawal the U.S. is considering is a political one.

The U.S. main force will be withdrawn, but the U.S. will still know what’s going on tactically and will retain the ability to launch selective strikes. Uniformed troops will be replaced by ununiformed officials. This is, of course, certainly not the first time the U.S. has used CIA and special operations forces in collaboration with local forces to manage the situation in a country; the U.S. withdrew from Somalia and Lebanon but retained capabilities there. If we’re to learn anything from those instances, it’s that the level of violence will decline, but there will still be deaths, just with far less publicity.

China’s Growing Interest in Ukraine: A Window of Opportunity or a Point of Concern?

By: Alla Hurska

During his recent visit to Ukraine, on August 28, United States National Security Advisor John R. Bolton forcefully argued against Kyiv permitting the selling of a controlling stake in Motor Sich—one of the world’s largest manufacturers of advanced engines for civil and military airplanes and helicopters—to China’s Beijing Skyrizon Aviation. Such a decision would be a strategic mistake that might lure Ukraine into a Chinese “debt trap,” Bolton asserted. He also warned of China’s proclivity to steal cutting-edge technology, pointing to the suspicious similarities between the Chinese fifth-generation stealth aircraft and the US’s F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter (Interfax.com.ua, August 28). In response, the Chinese ambassador to Ukraine said that Beijing does not interfere in private commercial deals like the one involving Motor Sich (Pravda.com.ua, August 30).

Nevertheless, Bolton’s assertions were echoed by Ihor Smeshko, the former head of the Security Service of Ukraine (SSU). Writing for Gordonua.com, Smeshko contends that selling Motor Sich to the Chinese might pose an immediate threat to the defense and national security of Ukraine and would be tantamount to a “national betrayal” (Gordonua.com, August 29). According to the editor-in-chief of the online investigative platform Censor.NET, Yuri Butusov, China actively seeks to attract Ukrainian scientists, especially those with a Soviet technical background; however, China has so far not been able to master the entire technological cycle of various Soviet-legacy military products. Thus, the potential purchase of an entire Ukrainian plant would allow Beijing to overcome this weakness and, arguably, achieve a qualitative leap toward becoming the world’s leading producer of helicopters, for example (Gordonua.com, August 26).

Chinese Covert Social Media Propaganda and Disinformation Related to Hong Kong

By: John Dotson

Introduction: “Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior” Related to the Protest Movement in Hong Kong

On August 19, the microblogging platform Twitter announced the suspension of 936 accounts originating in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), which the company identified as part of an “information operation focused on the situation in Hong Kong.” The company stated that these accounts “were deliberately and specifically attempting to sow political discord in Hong Kong, including undermining the legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement on the ground,” and further asserted that “we have reliable evidence to support that this is a coordinated state-backed operation” (Twitter Blog, August 19).

On the same day, Facebook announced that—acting on information provided by Twitter—it had taken down fifteen accounts, pages, or groups “involved in coordinated inauthentic behavior as part of a small network that originated in China and focused on Hong Kong.” The company further asserted that the organizers “behind this campaign engaged in a number of deceptive tactics… to manage Pages posing as news organizations, post in Groups, disseminate their content, and also drive people to off-platform news sites… Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our investigation found links to individuals associated with the Chinese government” (Facebook Newsroom, August 19).

Cognitive Domain Operations: The PLA’s New Holistic Concept for Influence Operations

By: Nathan Beauchamp-Mustafaga

As information becomes ever more central for Chinese warfighting, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is developing a new concept for psychological warfare in the information era called “cognitive domain operations” (认知域作战, renzhiyuzuozhan). [1] This next-generation evolution of psychological warfare seeks to use information to influence an adversary’s cognitive functions, spanning from peacetime public opinion to wartime decision-making. The concept is largely inspired by the U.S. military’s emphasis on the cognitive domain’s decisive role in modern warfare, and the belief among the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) that the U.S. government has already used social media to foment political revolutions against authoritarian governments during events such as the Arab Spring. After several years of concerns over China’s vulnerabilities in the cognitive domain, the PLA is now developing offensive strategies and capabilities to influence adversary public opinion—as recently evidenced in its political interference in Taiwan’s November 2018 elections, and its summer 2019 disinformation campaign against Hong Kong protesters (China Brief, September 6).

Overview of Cognitive Domain Operations

Huawei signs deal to develop 5G in Russia, on sidelines of meeting between Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin

Agreement was signed on sidelines of meeting between Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin in Moscow Huawei will work with Russian telecoms company MTS to develop network over the next year Huawei has been in turmoil since the Trump administration banned US companies from selling hi-tech equipment to the Chinese telecoms giant over suspicions it is spying for Beijing.  

China’s Huawei, considered a security threat in the US, signed a deal on Wednesday with telecoms company MTS to develop a 5G network in Russia over the next year.

The agreement was signed on the sidelines of a meeting between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

The deal will see “the development of 5G technologies and the pilot launch of fifth-generation networks in 2019-2020”, MTS said in a statement.

China Set Traps To Capture Dangerous NSA Cyberattack Weapons: New Report

Zak Doffman

When it was alleged earlier this year that secretive Chinese hacking group APT3 had used vicious NSA cyber weapons to attack U.S. allies in 2016 and 2017, there was embarrassment, surprise and consternation in equal measures. The same tools had been leaked online in 2017 by the clandestine Shadow Brokers—but, according to Symantec, APT3 had been using the NSA tools beforehand. And that left a major question unanswered—how had the Chinese stolen such dangerous cyber weapons?

Now, a report published on Thursday [September 5] by rival cyber powerhouse Check Point sets out to resolve the mystery. And their answer is potentially just as damaging—because Check Point's research team believes the Chinese set deliberate traps to capture American cyber weapons, they were not discovered and seized by accident.

"The Chinese want the same capabilities as the U.S.," Check Point researcher Mark Lechtik explains to me, "to infiltrate victim machines through exploitation—but they want to be equal not by investing, but by cheating."

This Is How a War With China Could Begin

By Nicholas Kristof

TAIPEI, Taiwan — If the United States gets embroiled in a war with China, it may begin with the lights going out here in Taipei.

Tensions are rising across the Taiwan Strait, and there’s a growing concern among some security experts that Chinese President Xi Jinping might act recklessly toward Taiwan in the next few years, drawing the United States into a conflict.

Xi’s hard line toward Hong Kong is alarming Taiwanese and further reducing the chance, if there ever was any, of a peaceful unification of China. China seems to be abandoning its effort to win hearts and minds on Taiwan, and it has steadily improved military capabilities — thus prompting the fear that Xi might eventually use them.

“We are very concerned,” Taiwan’s foreign minister, Joseph Wu, told me. He said that one concern was that a slowing economy and other troubles in China might lead Xi to make trouble for Taiwan as a distraction. “This is the scenario that is constantly playing in the minds of the key decision makers” on Taiwan, he said.

Book reveals how Chinese intelligence steals U.S. tech secrets to dominate world

By Bill Gertz 
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‘Hey there, do you sell the ‘Poisonivy Program’? How much do you sell it for? i wish to buy one which can not be detect and killed by the Anti-Virus software.”

The email was sent to a Chinese cyber security company from a military officer in a special part of China’s People’s Liberation Army intelligence service, formally known as the Third Department of the General Staff Department.

American intelligence officials know the spy service simply as 3PLA, and it has been one of Communist China’s most successful tools for stealing American military technology through cyber means. A second Chinese military intelligence-gathering arm is called the Second Department of the General Staff Department, or 2PLA. The Fourth Department, or 4PLA, conducts both electronic spying and electronic warfare.

Together the PLA intelligence units have placed China at the forefront of the most significant foreign intelligence threat to American security. All three cooperate closely in stealing a broad array of secrets from the United States. If the information is in digital form, the Chinese steal it.

UPSynergy: Chinese-American Spy vs. Spy Story

By: Mark Lechtik


Earlier this year, our colleagues at Symantec uncovered an interesting story about the use of Equation group exploitation tools by an alleged Chinese group named Buckeye (a.k.a APT3, or UPS team). One of the key findings in their publication was that variants of the Equation tools were used by the group prior to ‘The Shadow Brokers’ public leak in 2017. Moreover, it seems that APT3 developed its own in-house capabilities and equipped its attack tool with a 0-day that targeted the Windows operating system.

Following these revelations, we decided to expand on Symantec’s findings and take a deeper look at Bemstour, the group’s exploitation tool. In our analysis, we try to understand the background environment in which it was created, and provide our perspective of how it was developed. Our observations from the technical analysis allow us to provide evidence for a speculation that was formerly suggested by Symantec – APT3 recreated its own version of an Equation group exploit using captured network traffic. We believe that this artifact was collected during an attack conducted by the Equation group against a network monitored by APT3, allowing it to enhance its exploit arsenal with a fraction of the resources required to build the original tool.

How China Really Sees the Trade War

By Andrew J. Nathan 

When Presidents Xi Jinping and Donald Trump meet on the margins of the G-20 summit in Osaka later this week to seek a trade deal, Xi is likely to soften the customary formality of Chinese diplomacy by calling the U.S. president “my friend.” Beneath the cordial surface, however, Xi will yield nothing. Trump must then decide whether to accept the Chinese offer that has been on the table ever since early 2017 and end the trade war or to allow the U.S. and Chinese economies to drift further toward decoupling.

“We’re going to win either way,” Trump likes to say. But according to two Chinese colleagues who contributed to this article but cannot attach their names, Beijing policymakers believe he is either misinformed or bluffing.


China’s Belt and Road Initiative: Debt Trap or Soft Power Catalyst?


The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), announced in 2013 and formerly known as the ‘One Belt, One Road’, is arguably Xi Jinping’s flagship project to cement his name and ambitions in China’s history, while rebalancing the global order towards the Middle Kingdom. Many argue that this colossal endeavor could make or break China’s future, at least from a foreign policy perspective, but domestic skepticism seems to be already present. The scale is unprecedented, as much as the inclusion of a multitude of countries all around the globe, with more expected to join. The stakes are high, and the attention that this project has been receiving drew visionary praise as much as harsh criticism and dismissal. While praises are sparse and varied, coming from pundits, ministers, and heads of states who claim that their country is already benefiting from the initiative, the criticism ­–ranging from inefficiency to plain corruption– has eventually converged into one precise term: ‘Debt Trap’. The number of articles mentioning this concept in relation to China’s foreign policy, as much as the effects in the receiving countries, have skyrocketed in the past few years. At first, most articles might have originated from the so-called ‘Western media’. Yet the trend quickly caught the attention of countries involved in the BRI. An often-cited example of the ‘debt-trap diplomacy’ is the case of Hambantota in Sri Lanka, where the local “government was forced to sign the port away on a 99-year lease after failing to repay Chinese loans”. A statement that has later been confuted, but the news had already spread widely by then.

Iran’s Space Program Won’t Get Off the Ground While Under Sanctions

Shahryar Pasandideh 

After a four-year pause, Iran resumed its satellite program earlier this year, although two attempted launches in January and February both failed, followed by a third failed launch in late August. Together, they are a major setback for a space program that has long been hampered by the strains of international sanctions, including the ones these tests provoke, like the latest U.S. sanctions on Iran’s space agencies imposed this week. Even though a failed test is an opportunity for Iranian engineers to troubleshoot their rocket designs, the series of failures this year demonstrate the challenges that Iran must overcome before it can realize its civilian and military ambitions in space.

In 2009, Iran successfully placed into orbit its first satellite on an indigenous satellite launch vehicle, or SLV, making it the ninth country in the world to do so. Despite the fact that the crude Omid satellite weighed just 27 kilograms—barely 60 pounds—the launch marked the first step of an ambitious space program that aimed to put into orbit larger satellites of greater civilian and military use. In the decade since then, Iran has placed three additional satellites into orbit, all small experimental designs like the Omid, demonstrating the country’s nascent space capabilities. Yet its ambitions are held back by the rocket design it relies on.

Revisiting “Open,” Andre Agassi’s Classic Memoir About the Loneliness of Tennis

By Carrie Battan

This year’s U.S. Open, the grand finale of the major tennis tournaments, has had no shortage of storybook moments. There was the heartwarming post-match interview that found the reigning women’s champion, Naomi Osaka, consoling the fifteen-year-old rising star Coco Gauff, both in tears. There’s the burgeoning romance between the men and women’s singles challengers Gaël Monfils and Elina Svitolina, who’ve created a playful Instagram account designed to stoke interest in their relationship. And then there are the villains: the maddeningly dominant Novak Djokovic, who was booed off the court as he retired from his third-round match with a shoulder injury; and Daniil Medvedev, a twenty-three-year-old Russian who rode “a wave of hostility,” in the words of the New York Times, to a victory in his third-round match, against Feliciano López. After losing a difficult point, Medvedev aggressively ripped a towel from a ball man’s hands, provoking a chorus of boos from the stands. Rather than repent, he flipped the crowd a middle finger and channelled the frisson toward a win. By the next round, media coverage of the incident had turned him into a modern tennis folk hero—someone capable of infusing a stiff and mannered sport with irreverence and uncensored passion.

Boris Johnson’s Make-Believe Brexit Negotiations

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LONDON—Boris Johnson’s brief premiership—and his vows to take the United Kingdom out of the European Union by Oct. 31 “do or die”—both suffered a near-fatal hammering Wednesday after the House of Commons approved a bill forcing the U.K. government to seek a delay in Brexit if no new deal was struck with Brussels before the Halloween deadline.

Even more perilous for Johnson, he doesn’t seem to be putting forth any new negotiating position on how to get to Brexit, even if he could get Parliament to agree.

Johnson has long promised that a more vigorous negotiating position than that of his predecessor, Theresa May, would push the EU into offering last-minute concessions on the terms of Britain’s scheduled exit from the union. But according to a senior official source in the U.K. Foreign Office, under Johnson’s administration the U.K.’s Brexit negotiating team has in reality been “completely hollowed out” with “key people reassigned.” Despite Johnson’s promises of new proposals to solve the nearly intractable problem of the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, in the run-up to a crunch EU summit on Oct. 17, the Johnson team has “nothing remotely new on the table,” the official told Foreign Policy.

Putin the Great

By Susan B. Glasser 

On January 27, 2018, Vladimir Putin became the longest-serving leader of Russia since Joseph Stalin. There were no parades or fireworks, no embarrassingly gilded statues unveiled or unseemly displays of nuclear missiles in Red Square. After all, Putin did not want to be compared with Leonid Brezhnev, the bushy-browed septuagenarian whose record in power he had just surpassed. Brezhnev, who ruled the Soviet Union from 1964 to 1982, was the leader of Putin’s gritty youth, of the long stagnation that preceded the empire’s collapse. By the end, he was the butt of a million jokes, the doddering grandfather of a doddering state, the conductor of a Russian train to nowhere. “Stalin proved that just one person could manage the country,” went one of those many jokes. “Brezhnev proved that a country doesn’t need to be managed at all.”

Can America Still Protect Its Allies?

By Michael O’Hanlon 

Since the end of World War II, U.S. strategic thinking has been dominated by the doctrine of deterrence. At its most simple, deterrence refers to one state’s ability to use threats to convince another that the costs of some action—say, invading one of its neighbors—will outweigh the benefits. Such was the logic behind the Cold War concept of mutual assured destruction: if either the United States or the Soviet Union used nuclear weapons, the other would respond with nuclear strikes of its own, resulting in the total devastation of both. By making the costs of war intolerably high, both sides hoped to keep the peace. 

Yet for Washington, deterrence was never merely about protecting the U.S. homeland. As it built the postwar system of alliances that today forms an essential part of the global order, the United States developed a strategy of “extended deterrence.” According to this strategy, the United States would use its military power, including its nuclear arsenal, to defend its treaty allies—among them Japan, South Korea, and the states of NATO. The point was not only to discourage Soviet adventurism in Asia and Europe but also to reassure U.S. allies. If Germany and Japan (to take just two examples) knew that Washington would guarantee their security, they would not need to take actions—such as building a nuclear bomb—that might destabilize the international system. 

Depth of Field: Coco Gauff and the Future of Women's Tennis

The US Open culminates Sunday—where Serena Williams again has a chance to seize tennis immortality—but the tournament's real crowning moment came last weekend, on Day 6, between Naomi Osaka, the No. 1 ranked women's player, and Cori "Coco" Gauff, a 15-year-old rising talent of unforgettable resolve. The third-round match ended with Osaka routing Gauff by tapping into the same determined, cerebral play she used to unseat Williams the previous year. Still, it was what came next, during the post-match interview—the tears, the sisterhood, the kind of compassion that can  only be born of flesh and heart—that presaged the future of sport.

For Gauff, in that moment, the defeat was too much to bear. It was written all over her face, which she held in the cup of her hand, audibly crying. Osaka looked on, and because she had once been there too, an earnest rookie thwarted by a studied mentor, she knew how to respond: She consoled her, offered a deep embrace, and extended words of encouragement. Breaking from tradition, Osaka asked Gauff to join her for a joint interview, which is typically only afforded to the winner. “These people are here for you,” Osaka told her. “We have to let these people know how you feel.” Everything that followed is now history, elements forged into tennis lore: the teenage grace of Gauff, the humanity of Osaka, the glowing respect shared between two women who will eventually carry the sport, post–Williams Sisters, into a fresh, exciting era.

Brexit endgame: Boris Johnson loses control

Amanda Sloat

During another dramatic week in British politics, Parliament—facing an imminent five-week suspension as the clock ticks towards the October 31 Brexit deadline—seized control of the agenda, introduced legislation to prevent a no-deal Brexit, and blocked early elections. It was a stunning series of defeats for Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who lost his one-seat parliamentary majority when a member of parliament (MP) defected, then expelled 21 MPs from his party for voting against him, and finally saw his own brother quit as Tory MP and minister. September 9 is the next date to watch, when parliament is expected to finalize the bill blocking no-deal and reconsider fall elections.


Not exactly. But it is trying to pass legislation that would prevent the government from pursuing this outcome.

In a short statement outside Downing Street on September 2, Johnson threw down the gauntlet: He pledged not to request a Brexit extension from the EU “under any circumstances” and implicitly threatened elections if rebels forced his hand. Parliament responded when it returned from its summer recess on September 3, with a cross-party group of MPs introducing an emergency debate motion—which Speaker John Bercow allowed in an unprecedented decision—to seize control of the agenda and fast-track a private member’s bill blocking a no-deal Brexit. It passed in a 328-301 vote.

How Daniil Medvedev Became the Antihero of the U.S. Open

By Louisa Thomas

Daniil Medvedev is tall and gaunt, with a patchy mustache under his long, sharp nose and a scrappy goatee on his chin. He is twenty-three, and his light-brown hair is retreating at the temples. He has said that he resembles Quentin Tarantino. He has high cheekbones and hooded eyes, and sometimes wears a faint smirk, although he is capable of appearing angelic. He likes to play video games, and he likes to play chess. He looks more like a professor than like a professional athlete, and he acts more like a professional wrestler than like a tennis star. He can seem like the perfect villain, and then he will turn around and talk about love. He is a figure of an indefinite, indeterminate sort, like a character from Dostoyevsky, perhaps, or someone willed into being by the collective imagination of New York.

Medvedev will play in the semifinals of the U.S. Open on Friday, a result that seems at once inevitable and improbable. In the third round of the tournament, this past week, he faced Feliciano López, and he appeared exhausted, and on the brink of defeat. This was understandable: after reaching three consecutive finals since the start of August, at tournaments in Washington, Toronto, and Cincinnati, he had played more singles-tennis matches in the month than anyone on the tour. And it wasn’t just the number of matches but the manner in which he won them. He has said “my tactic is to make my opponent suffer” by prolonging points, but often he seems to be the one hurting the most. After the semifinal in Cincinnati, against Novak Djokovic, Medvedev said, “Every tough exchange we had, I thought, O.K., I’m going to fall down. That’s it. The match is finished.” He won in three sets.

Rare Earth Elements: Australia’s Resource Potential

Australia is pushing to challenge China’s dominance in the supply of materials commonly used in the defense and high-tech industries.

The International Politics of Energy and Resource Extraction

Despite concerns over the environmental impact of industrial mining and the contribution that fossil fuels make to global warming, resource extraction continues to be a major source of revenue for both developing countries and wealthier nations alike. In fact, new data show that the amount of resources being pulled from the earth has tripled since 1970, though the global population has only doubled in that time.

Amid global efforts to reduce carbon emissions as part of climate change diplomacy, fossil fuels remain among the most prized extractives, for a simple reason: Global demand combined with the wealth they generate continues to give some countries, including members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, outsized global influence.

Tactical nuclear weapons, 2019

By Hans M. Kristensen, Matt Korda

The Nuclear Notebook is researched and written by Hans M. Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project with the Federation of American Scientists, and Matt Korda, a research associate with the project. The Nuclear Notebook column has been published in the since 1987. This issue’s column examines tactical nuclear weapons in world nuclear arsenals. Since the end of the Cold War, inventories have declined by an order of magnitude from 20,000–30,000 to about 2,500 today. Both the United States, Pakistan, and Russia are modernizing their tactical nuclear arsenals, adding new types to the inventory and increasing the role and salience of tactical nuclear weapons in their military strategies. Moreover, tactical nuclear weapons are being used to undermine existing arms control agreements. These trends threaten to re-create some of the dynamics that during the Cold War triggered an arms race and dangerous escalation strategies that increased the risk of nuclear war.

There is no Plan B for dealing with the climate crisis

By Raymond T. Pierrehumbert

Lack of progress towards decarbonization of world energy systems has created justifiable panic about the climate crisis. This has led to an intensified interest in technological climate interventions that involve increasing the reflection of sunlight to space by injecting substances into the stratosphere which lead to the formation of highly reflective particles. When first suggested, such albedo modification schemes were introduced as a “Plan B,” in case the world economy fails to decarbonize, and this scenario has dominated much of the public perception of albedo modification as a savior waiting in the wings to protect the world against massive climate change arising from a failure to decarbonize. But because of the mismatch between the millennial persistence time of carbon dioxide and the sub-decadal persistence of stratospheric particles, albedo modification can never safely play more than a very minor role in the portfolio of solutions. There is simply no substitute for decarbonization. This article is free-access through October 31, 2019.

After a cyberattack, the waiting is the hardest part

By: Jan Kallberg 

We tend to see vulnerabilities and concerns about cyber threats to critical infrastructure from our own viewpoint. But an adversary will assess where and how a cyberattack on America will benefit the adversary’s strategy. I am not convinced attacks on critical infrastructure, in general, have the payoff that an adversary seeks.

The American reaction to Sept. 11 and any attack on U.S. soil gives a hint to an adversary that attacking critical infrastructure to create hardship for the population might work contrary to the intended softening of the will to resist foreign influence. It is more likely that attacks that affect the general population instead strengthen the will to resist and fight, similar to the British reaction to the German bombing campaign “Blitzen” in 1940. We can’t rule out attacks that affect the general population, but there are not enough offensive capabilities to attack all 16 sectors of critical infrastructure and gain a strategic momentum.

An adversary has limited cyberattack capabilities and needs to prioritize cyber targets that are aligned with the overall strategy.

Hostile Social Manipulation

by Michael J. Mazarr

The role of information warfare in global strategic competition has become much more apparent in recent years. Today's practitioners of what this report's authors term hostile social manipulation employ targeted social media campaigns, sophisticated forgeries, cyberbullying and harassment of individuals, distribution of rumors and conspiracy theories, and other tools and approaches to cause damage to the target state. These emerging tools and techniques represent a potentially significant threat to U.S. and allied national interests. This report represents an effort to better define and understand the challenge by focusing on the activities of the two leading authors of such techniques — Russia and China. The authors conduct a detailed assessment of available evidence of Russian and Chinese social manipulation efforts, the doctrines and strategies behind such efforts, and evidence of their potential effectiveness. RAND analysts reviewed English-, Russian-, and Chinese-language sources; examined national security strategies and policies and military doctrines; surveyed existing public-source evidence of Russian and Chinese activities; and assessed multiple categories of evidence of effectiveness of Russian activities in Europe, including public opinion data, evidence on the trends in support of political parties and movements sympathetic to Russia, and data from national defense policies. The authors find a growing commitment to tools of social manipulation by leading U.S. competitors. The findings in this report are sufficient to suggest that the U.S. government should take several immediate steps, including developing a more formal and concrete framework for understanding the issue and funding additional research to understand the scope of the challenge.

Can Soldiers Refuse to Fight? The Limitations of Just War Theory


Justin Colby deserted the US military due to his belief that the war in Iraq was unjust. “The army did a lot of good things for me. It taught me responsibility. But I won’t bite my tongue anymore and continue doing something I think is wrong.”[1] Colby is deemed a deserter, having refused to return to the war in Iraq, a war he no longer believed to be just. His case represents one of 3,101 US soldiers who refused to fight in the US Coalition in Iraq between 2005 and 2006 alone.[2] Thus representing a growing phenomenon for active military personnel as they act on their moral agency by refusing to fight. The alternative course of action is to apply for conscientious objection status. However, applicants face a steep burden of proof demonstrating “firm, fixed and sincere objection to participation in the war in any form or the bearing of arms, by reason of religious training and belief.”[3] From 2003-2005, the US approval rate was just over fifty per cent.[4] A core dilemma for combatants is that there is no option for selective conscientious objection; a refusal to fight on the grounds of “political, philosophical or sociological beliefs,”[5] permitting the unwillingness to fight on moral grounds. Due to restricted legal avenues and lack of rights associated with military refusal, combatants are left with no other choice but to desert.