13 September 2019

The True Story of the Koh-i-Noor Diamond—And Why the British Won’t Give It Back

By Lorraine Boissoneault
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The diamond came from India’s alluvial mines thousands of years ago, sifted from the sand. According to Hindu belief, it was revered by gods like Krishna—even though it seemed to carry a curse, if the luck of its owners was anything to go by. The gem, which would come to be known as the Koh-i-Noor Diamond, wove its way through Indian court intrigues before eventually ending up in the British Crown Jewels by the mid-1800s. That was when a British amateur geologist interviewed gemologists and historians on the diamond’s origins and wrote the history of the Koh-i-Noor that served as the basis for most future stories of the diamond. But according to historians Anita Anand and William Dalrymple, that geologist got it all wrong.

“We found what every historian longs for,” Dalrymple says. “A story which is incredibly important to people, an object known around the world, but which is all built on a structure of myth.”

India: Citizenship Conundrum In Assam – Analysis

By Giriraj Bhattacharjee*

Approximately 31 million people (3,11,21,004), out of the 33 million (3,30,27,661) who had initially submitted their applications in August 2015, have been included in the final National Register for Citizens (NRC) list in Assam published on August 31, 2019. However, approximately 1.9 million (1,906,657 in total) have been left out of the published list.

The ‘first draft’ list was published on December 31, 2017, and it included approximately 19 million persons (1 9,010,932 in total), and excluded 14 million (1,40,16,729). The second list, termed as the ‘complete draft’, was published on July 30, 2018, and included approximately 28 million (2,89, 83,677 in total), leaving out four million (4,043,984) people. On June 26, 2019, an additional draft exclusion list, containing the names of 102,462 persons, was announced.

Trump’s Approach to Afghanistan ‘Confusing His Own Negotiators’

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Over the weekend, U.S. President Donald Trump abruptly derailed months of tense negotiations with the Taliban aimed at ending the nearly two-decade-long fight in Afghanistan. The U.S. talks with the Taliban have drawn controversy because they excluded direct negotiations with the Afghan government, with which the Taliban refuses to negotiate.

Foreign Policy spoke to Ryan Crocker, a former veteran career diplomat who served as U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan from 2011 to 2012, on what the sudden about-face means for the peace process and what likely will come next for the war-torn country. The interview was conducted before Trump on Tuesday announced that he had fired National Security Advisor John Bolton, who had pushed against the Afghanistan talks. 

This transcript has been edited for length and clarity. 

Foreign Policy: What was your reaction to the news that the president called off peace talks with the Taliban, and the secret meeting at Camp David?

After Trump Calls Off Talks, Afghanistan Braces for Violence

By David E. Sanger and Mujib Mashal

WASHINGTON — President Trump’s decision to break off peace talks with the Taliban, at least for now, left Afghanistan bracing for a bloody prelude to national elections this month, while the administration declined on Sunday to rule out a withdrawal of American troops without a peace accord.

In a round of television interviews, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed an attack by the Taliban for the cancellation of talks at Camp David this weekend that the administration had expected would lead to the signing of a peace agreement.

Mr. Pompeo said that the Taliban had “tried to gain negotiating advantage by conducting terror attacks inside the country,’’ resulting in the death of an American soldier in Kabul. “We’re going to walk away from a deal if others try to use violence to achieve better ends in a negotiation,’’ he said.

But after abruptly scrapping a diplomatic process that appeared to be inching toward a conclusion, it was unclear where Mr. Trump would go from here.

The Taliban Shoots Back at Donald Trump

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On Monday, U.S. President Donald Trump declared peace talks with the Taliban dead after an attack over the weekend left 12 people, including an American soldier, dead. Earlier on Sunday, he had rescinded an invitation to the Taliban to meet at Camp David. On Twitter, Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s spokesman, shot back, warning the United States of more harm to come.

The full translation of his statement is below.

We held fruitful and productive negotiations with the U.S. negotiation team, and an agreement was finalized. The U.S. negotiating team was satisfied about the progress made so far until yesterday, and we ended the talks in a good atmosphere. Both sides were prepared for announcing the agreement and for signing it.

An intra-Afghan meeting and dialogue would have been scheduled for Sept. 23 after the announcement of the signing of the deal.

Al-Qaida today, 18 years after 9/11

Bruce Riedel

Eighteen years after the 9/11 attacks, the al-Qaida organization that carried them out is a shell of its previous self. The global campaign against Osama bin Laden’s creation has achieved notable success. The ideas that inspired bin Laden and his followers have lost some, but not all, of their attractiveness. There is no place for complacency, but the threat is different.

Bin Laden and his deputy Ayman Zawahiri built the core al-Qaida infrastructure in Afghanistan and Pakistan in the 1990s with the protection of the Afghan Taliban and Pakistan. The group functioned as a de facto state within the Taliban Islamic Emirate. It survived the American assault on Afghanistan after 9/11 by moving its leadership and infrastructure to Pakistan where it thrived until 2009. America took its eye off the ball by invading Iraq.

From Pakistan, the al-Qaida core planned and conducted attacks like the Madrid train bombing in 2004, a wave of attacks on targets in Saudi Arabia in 2003-06, and the civil war in Iraq led by Abu Musaib al Zarqawi, bin Laden’s lieutenant. The results were a wave of violence across the world.

Trump’s National Security Team Splinters Over Taliban Meeting

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Update: Hours after this story was published, U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted that John Bolton had resigned. Read our latest coverage here

The collapse of U.S. President Donald Trump’s plans for a potentially historic summit at Camp David with Taliban leadership and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani reveals new fractures in his foreign-policy team as a lasting peace deal for the war-torn country appears ever more elusive. 

Trump’s impromptu plan to invite leaders of the Afghan insurgent group to the presidential retreat at the same time as the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks set off heated deliberations last week between the members of his national security team, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo supporting the move and National Security Advisor John Bolton arguing against it.

Al Qaeda Is Ready to Attack You Again

by Colin P. Clarke and Charles Lister
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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.

Bhutan: Sankosh Mega Project’s Problems Resolved – Analysis

By Dr. S. Chandrasekharan
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In the world today, the controversy between big dams versus small dams, between economic development and environmental protection has not been solved as yet. Bhutan is no exception with its ambitious 2560 mega reservoir project on the Sankosh River and its Government sees the project as one of financial and political benefit to the country.

Bhutan has over 70 percent of its area covered by forests and so far, the numerous “run of the river” projects which have brought in enormous revenue by way of sale of power to India has not had any major adverse impact on its environment. But the proposed Sankosh project is a “reservoir type” of dam which though assures of constant supply of power even during the lean season, will have an adverse impact on the wildlife and flora in the forested regions of Bhutan. Here is the dilemma of Bhutan government in going ahead with the project though it is now said to be at the final stages of approval after examination by an “Experts Committee” not on the feasibility of the project but on the modalities of construction and sharing of costs! 

The Sankosh Hydroelectric Project is one of the biggest economic projects envisaged by Bhutan and is included in the ambitious programme of reaching 10,000 Megawatts by 2020.

Asia Has Three Possible Futures

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Ispent the last week of August in South Korea, attending a conference on security studies sponsored by the Korea National Defense University and giving lectures at the Chey Institute for Advanced Studies and at Sungkyunkwan University. As you might expect, the trip got me thinking about the evolving strategic environment in Asia. There’s a lot at play these days: an escalating trade war between the United States and China, North Korea’s growing nuclear arsenal and improved missile capabilities, deteriorating relations between South Korea and Japan, and increased cooperation between the United States and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Toss in the Afghanistan peace talks and India’s heavy-handed actions in Kashmir, and you have a pretty full diplomatic agenda.

At times like this, it’s useful to step back from today’s headlines and look at the big picture. And for a realist like me, the most important factors to consider are, first, the balance of power between the United States and China and, second, the likely response of other Asian countries to any significant shifts in that balance. These elements aren’t the only things that matter, of course, but the relative capabilities of the world’s two most powerful nations—one of which happens to be located in Asia—are bound to cast a long shadow over all the other countries in the region.

Looking ahead, one can imagine three main possibilities.

Trilateral arms control initiative: A Chinese perspective

By Wu Riqiang

On April 10, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the Trump administration wanted to include China in the New START treaty. New START is a bilateral arms control agreement between Russia and the United States that caps the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads at 1,550 each. Later, it was reported that President Trump ordered his administration to prepare a push for more ambitious arms control agreements with Russia and China. Unsurprisingly, China’s response was not enthusiastic. The spokesperson of China’s Foreign Ministry said China “will not participate in any negotiation for a trilateral nuclear disarmament agreement.”

Traditionally, nuclear arms control agreements have involved the United States and Russia, allowing both countries to steadily decrease the size of nuclear arsenals. Washington thinks this traditional template governing arms control is old Cold War thinking, and a new trilateral approach to arms control would be a more productive strategy moving forward. New strategy aside, Washington’s new approach to arms control seems odd.

Trump’s Trade War With China Comes Home to American Consumers

Kimberly Ann Elliott 

It didn’t take long for the U.S.-China trade war to get worse. Even though negotiators have agreed to meet in Washington next month, they are unlikely to see a breakthrough. If things continue on their current course, they will keep getting worse from now until the end of the year, when there will be tariffs of 15 to 30 percent on almost everything the United States imports from China. In part because of the trade war, Chinese economic growth is now expected to fall below 6 percent later this year. Slowing global trade is also hitting the export-driven German economy, which may be slipping into a recession—perhaps to be followed by other parts of Europe and the United Kingdom with the chaos of Brexit.

Despite what President Donald Trump seems to believe, the U.S. economy is not immune to what happens in the rest of the world. And his protectionist trade policies are making things worse, both abroad and in the United States. The latest round of tit-for-tat tariffs came after Trump announced at the end of July that he would impose additional 10 percent tariffs on Sept. 1 on most of the $300 billion in Chinese exports that had previously been spared. The administration subsequently announced that tariffs on around $160 billion in imports of toys, smartphones and other electronics would be delayed to Dec. 15, the first time that Trump has conceded that the tariffs are hurting American consumers, not just Chinese producers.

How an Alliance System Withers

By Bonnie S. Glaser and Oriana Skylar Mastro 

For more than half a century, U.S. power in Asia has rested on the alliance system that Washington built in the years after World War II. Now, a dispute between Japan and South Korea—the two most important pillars of that system—threatens to undo decades of progress.

But instead of seeking to actively mediate between its allies, Washington has largely watched from the sidelines—leaving the field to China, which has moved quickly to benefit from U.S. inaction. At a trilateral summit with the Japanese and South Korean foreign ministers in late August, for instance, China encouraged the two sides to at least put aside their differences long enough to make progress on a trilateral trade deal. This should give Washington pause. If, in the years ahead, the U.S. alliance system collapses, it is moments like this that will mark the beginning of the end: moments when Beijing, long intent on breaking U.S. alliances in Asia, proved more capable of managing and reinforcing regional order than a distracted United States.


China’s Great Game in Iran

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Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s visit to the G-7 summit in France late last month was a surprise to many in the West. Some even viewed it as a good omen. But for the Iranian leadership, Zarif’s quick trip to Biarritz was always a long shot and with little chance to turn the tide in the U.S.-Iranian standoff. Such doubts were confirmed in the days that followed. U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration still refuses to lift sanctions on Iranian oil, and Tehran will not engage in direct talks with Washington until some unequivocal relief from sanctions is first provided by the U.S. side.

Feel-good symbolism aside, Zarif departed Biarritz empty-handed. His next trip held more promise, anyway. Before he even arrived in Beijing, Zarif had already put pen to paper for China’s prominent Global Times. His call in that op-ed for consolidating what he labeled a “strategic partnership” with China is a recurrent aspiration of the leadership in Iran. But despite Tehran’s deep need for Beijing to come to its rescue, the prevailing view there is that a qualitatively different relationship with the Chinese government is needed before Iran can commit itself to becoming China’s anchor in Western Asia. The question is how China sees its own long-term interests in Iran.

Will Xi Jinping Deploy the PLA Garrison to Quell Hong Kong’s “Turmoil”?

By: Willy Wo-Lap Lam

Introduction: The CCP Confronts “Turmoil” in Hong Kong

A central question surrounding the Hong Kong protests is whether People’s Republic of China (PRC) President and Commander-in-Chief Xi Jinping will deploy the local People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Garrison to quell the “turmoil” in the Special Administration Region (SAR). Under the instructions of late patriarch Deng Xiaoping, who negotiated Hong Kong’s 1997 change of sovereignty with then-British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a garrison of an estimated 6,000 troops is permanently stationed in the territory. The anti-government agitations in Hong Kong started in early June against the introduction of an “Extradition Bill,” which would send suspected fugitives hiding in the SAR back to the mainland for trial (China Brief, June 26). Given that SAR Chief Executive Carrie Lam has indefinitely shelved the bill—although she has refused to irrevocably withdraw it—the goals of the protestors have morphed into two broad demands: to investigate police violence, and more importantly, to realize the civil and democratic rights guaranteed in the Beijing-approved Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution.

Although the number of protestors—who climaxed at 2 million in a June 16 march—has declined to the hundreds of thousands, they have fine-tuned their actions and put their emphasis on strategic targets such as staging rallies at the Hong Kong Airport, blocking up highways and tunnels, and barricading police stations. The identity of the protestors has been well hidden, but there is a consensus among observers that Hong Kong’s college and even high-school students are presenting the biggest challenge to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) since 1997. While most of the demonstrators have hewed to a strict ethos of non-violence, a radical fringe believes in using varying degrees of force to make their point—especially during confrontations with anti-riot squads from a police force prone to excessive violence. So far, the police have fired more than 2,000 tear-gas canisters and detained a few hundred protestors for alleged crimes including illegal assembly, attacking law-enforcement officials, and rioting. On August 5, when protestors attempted to stage a territory-wide strike, 148 of the “trouble-makers” were arrested (Ming Pao [Hong Kong], September 11; South China Morning Post, August 9; Hong Kong Economic Times, August 6).

Putin Tries to Find Asia Beyond China

By: Pavel K. Baev

The Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok last week (September 4–6)—the fifth one since the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in 2012—was traditional in its pompous proceedings but rather unusual in the content. Originally, the main purpose of this high-level gathering was to energize economic development in the Russian Far East by opening it up to dynamic neighbors in the Asia-Pacific and encouraging their investments. Despite years of high-level diplomacy, however, the Far East is presently in a deeper depression than at the start of the decade, owing in no small measure to devastating corruption and resulting in its progressive depopulation (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, September 5). Two Hyatt hotel towers in Vladivostok, built specifically for the 2012 APEC summit, have decayed sadly since then—a poignant symbol of Moscow’s wider development failure in this region (Kommersant, September 6). Chinese investors were supposed to arrive en masse to the resource-rich Far East; but they did not. And it was the absence of an appropriately numerous Chinese delegation that made the recent Vladivostok forum rather unconventional (Novaya Gazeta, September 6).

Instead, the guest of honor was Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and President Vladimir Putin entertained him for a full day before the opening of the event (Kommersant, September 5). The Russian leader avoided any mention of the tensions between India and Pakistan after Modi’s decision to change the status of Indian Kashmir, inviting him instead to visit Moscow next May for Victory Day celebrations (Interfax, September 4). Nevertheless, the Indian prime minister declined to sign the long-negotiated deal on purchasing 200 Russian Ka-226T air force utility helicopters (RIA Novosti, September 4). Russia’s offer to build India six diesel-electric submarines on the basis of an inter-governmental agreement instead of partaking in the already-announced Indian tender was also left unanswered (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, September 5). Multiple assurances of the traditional bilateral friendship can barely hide concerns in Moscow about Indian preferences for cultivating military-technological ties with the United States (Russiancouncil.ru, August 20).

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).

“Key Individuals Management” and the Roots of China’s Anti-Muslim Surveillance System

Emile Dirks


The repression of Xinjiang’s Uighur population by the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) continues to horrify world opinion. Along with interning an estimated one million people in a network of re-education camps, the Chinese state has built extensive systems of daily surveillance directed at the region’s Muslims (China Brief, March 14, 2017; China Brief, November 5, 2018). [1] Police inspections of local homes, blacklists of suspect Muslims, and biometric data collection are widespread.

Previous research has illustrated how such policies have their roots in earlier (and ongoing) repression campaigns against Falun Gong and other religious groups (China Brief, February 1). However, evidence now suggests that these systems of social surveillance and repression also originated in programs directed at wider groups of Chinese citizens, identified as “key individuals” (重点人员, zhongdian renyuan). Systems of “key population management” (重点人口管理, zhongdian renkou guanli) possess many of the features associated with Xinjiang’s security state: profiling, extensive personal and biometric data collection, and location-based tracking.

Drawing on dozens of local government notices, government bid tenders and promotional material from Chinese technology companies, a composite picture of key population management can be assembled. By examining key individuals management, we can learn more about the roots of the PRC’s anti-Muslim surveillance programs—programs that one day may be directed against ever-increasing new segments of the Chinese public.

Eighteen Years On: The War on Terror Comes of Age

Abstract: The United States has scored impressive successes against al-Qa`ida, the Islamic State, and other jihadi groups, decimating their leadership and limiting attacks on the U.S. homeland. At the same time, the jihadi cause has far more local and regional influence than it did in the years before 9/11; it is better able to inspire individuals in the West to act on its behalf; and groups have proven resilient despite the fierce U.S.-led onslaught against them. The movement as a whole is likely to persist, but the strongest groups will be limited operationally due to U.S. and allied counterterrorism efforts and probably will be caught up with the pressing demands of the civil wars in their countries and regions. The United States, Europe, and other stable regions will face continued but low-level attacks from inspired jihadis or those with some coordination from abroad, but the greatest dangers, and impact, will be felt on U.S. interests in the Muslim world.

Later this year, a U.S. service member is likely to be deployed to Afghanistan who was not yet born on September 11, 2001, when al-Qa`ida terrorists launched the most devastating terrorist attack in history and killed almost 3,000 people, mostly Americans. The years in between have seen wars in Iraq and Syria justified in the name of counterterrorism as well as more limited U.S. interventions against jihadi groups in Libya, Somalia, and other countries. Hundreds of thousands have died in these conflicts—some from terrorism, but most from combat and the associated ravages of war. Yet even as this body count soared, neither al-Qa`ida nor other jihadi groups have proven able to conduct a repeat of 9/11 or even anything close to it.a

Is it time to ditch the NPT?

By Joelien Pretorius, Tom Sauer

In 2020, the participants in the 1970 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) will congregate for the treaty’s 10th review conference. Which means that it may be a good time to re-examine the relevance of the NPT, and even consider the idea of dropping this treaty in its entirety, in favor of the new kid on the block: the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, also know as the Ban Treaty. At the risk of grossly oversimplifying, one treaty seeks to stop the further spread of nuclear weapons, while the other goes further and seeks to get rid of them entirely. This difference is reflected in their formal titles.

Why should we ditch the former in favor of the latter? To answer that, let us look at history.

In the half-century of its existence, the broader objective of the NPT—to restrict the spread of nuclear weapons—has been corrupted. Instead, states possessing nuclear weapons have used the NPT to legalize their own nuclear weapons and criminalize everyone else’s. The result is a one-sided and duplicitous nuclear order that is unstable, dangerous, and contrary to the expectations on which non-nuclear weapon states joined the NPT. The nuclear weapon states have squandered a number of opportunities to fulfill their end of the bargain embedded in the treaty. These include reneging on commitments given at the 1995 Review and Extension Conference, the 2000 and 2010 Review Conference conclusions, and boycotting the UN-mandated multilateral negotiations of a legal prohibition on nuclear weapons. These failures line up as proof that nuclear weapon states have no intention to give up their nuclear weapons.

Global gas and LNG outlook to 2035

Detailed market research and continuous tracking of market developments—as well as deep, on-the-ground expertise across the globe—informs our outlook on global gas and liquefied natural gas (LNG). We forecast gas demand and then use our infrastructure and contract models to forecast supply-and-demand balances, corresponding gas flows, and pricing implications to 2035.
Executive summary

The past year saw the natural-gas market grow at its fastest rate in almost a decade, supported by booming domestic markets in China and the United States and an expanding global gas trade to serve Asian markets. While the pace of growth is set to slow, gas remains the fastest-growing fossil fuel and the only fossil fuel expected to grow beyond 2035.

Five key findings

‘Severe Instability:’ Trump Boots Bolton, Third National Security Advisor


WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump today fired John Bolton, the fire-eating National Security Advisor who pressed for conflict with Iran and many other places. The next advisor, who Trump tweeted today would be picked next week, will be the mercurial president’s fifth (OK– technically the fourth, since Keith Kellogg was acting) since taking office in January 2017.

As appears to be the case with his press secretaries — and perhaps everyone who works for him — Trump ultimately only trusts himself to make decisions and, often, to run things. Given that delegation is a key ability for a president to be able to use the immense machinery of government to his advantage, this raises questions not just about the president’s policy judgements, but also about the government’s ability to plan for and implement those decisions.

Bryan Clark, a defense expert at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, explained how the instability in the White House can ripple through the government.

Sneak Preview: First Draft of Russia’s AI Strategy

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The draft, produced by the country's largest bank, focuses on data, training, and ethics. The final version is due next month.

The final version of Russia’s national artificial-intelligence strategy isn’t due until next month, but a draft prepared by the country’s largest bank appears to focus on science, academia, and healthcare. It also outlines a regulatory framework for AI development.

In May, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Sberbank, one of the main proponents of using AI in the financial industry, to pull together the various ideas floated for accelerating the country’s development and application of artificial intelligence. 

Now various Russian news outlets and tech-oriented websites have covered a draft sent to Putin for review this summer. The draft, which appears to track with the AI “roadmap” released last year by the ministries of defense, education and science and the Academy of Sciences, asks for government funding to create research centers, laboratories, and specialized training programs, as well as measures to stimulate AI research and development.

Human Rights in a Shifting Landscape: Recommendations for Congress

Human Rights are part of the American DNA. Congress has long advocated for human rights to play an integral role in U.S. foreign policy, with significant success. However, rising authoritarianism and the gross human rights violations taking place around the world call for immediate and stronger U.S. leadership and Congressional action. To that end, the Human Rights Initiative of CSIS worked with CSIS scholars, who developed recommendations relevant to their expertise that identify how Congress can build on its past human rights leadership to meet today’s challenges.

This report is made possible through general support to CSIS. No direct sponsorship has contributed to its publication.

The Russian Sale of S-400 Missiles to Turkey May Change Power Equilibrium in the Middle East

By: Pavel Felgenhauer

For centuries, Russia has spent vast amounts of blood and treasure and fought multiple wars in the hopes to either directly annex the Turkish Straits—the Bosporus and the Dardanelles—or to establish a friendly vassal regime there that would control the strategic waterway and allow only Russian warships to pass. Moscow’s control over the Straits is vital to ensure secure Russian access to the Mediterranean region and to effectively move southern Russia’s line of defense from the littoral waters near Sochi and Taman all the way out to the Aegean Sea.

Since the 15th century, Russia has presented itself as the only true successor of the Byzantine Orthodox Roman Empire; indeed, the double-headed eagle on the coat of arms of the House of Palaiologos—the last Byzantine imperial dynasty—today makes up the national coat of arms of the Russian Federation. Capturing Istanbul (Constantinople), restoring the Orthodox cross on the Hagia Sophia (the Ottoman Turks turned it into a mosque; at present, it is a museum), taking the coveted Straits, and ultimately uniting the Balkan and Middle Eastern Orthodox people under Russian rule seemed close at hand several times in the last couple of centuries. But each time, as Russian forces invaded and marched to Constantinople or planned to land troops on the Bosporus, something went wrong. Nonetheless, in 1833, the Russian navy actually succeeded in landing some 30,000 troops on the Bosporus to stop the advancing forces of Egyptian ruler Mehmed Ali and saved the Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II. The Russian forces withdrew only after the Turks signed a mutual defense compact—the Treaty of Hünkâr İskelesi—effectively turning Turkey into a Russian protectorate with a secret clause requiring the closure of the Dardanelles to all foreign warships at Russia’s command. The modern-day equivalent of such a treaty is arguably the ultimate goal of Moscow’s present Middle Eastern policy.

Russian Disinformation, Psy-Ops Operations Target New Ukrainian Government

By: Yuri Lapaiev
Despite various hints and declarations of progress in Moscow’s dialogue with the new Ukrainian government, Russia has nonetheless maintained its aggressive behavior. The shelling of Donbas persists, and the Ukrainian General Staff reports almost daily on new casualties—wounded or killed. Simultaneously, the Kremlin’s information operations against Ukraine have not ceased.

On August 23, several media outlets from the occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk published a fabricated news story about Lieutenant Colonel Robert Tracy, the United States Army commander of the Joint Multinational Training Group–Ukraine. The disinformation claimed Lt. Col. Tracy complained about the conditions at Ukraine’s Yavoriv training center and purportedly accused Ukrainian military personnel of stealing equipment, widespread alcoholism, corruption and lack of control. The story was based on a post the commander supposedly made on his personal blog (which was also fake and soon deleted) and swiftly amplified by a number of top Russian information outlets (Vzglyad, August 28).

I Work for N.S.A. We Cannot Afford to Lose the Digital Revolution.

By Glenn S. Gerstell

The National Security Operations Center occupies a large windowless room, bathed in blue light, on the third floor of the National Security Agency’s headquarters outside of Washington. For the past 46 years, around the clock without a single interruption, a team of senior military and intelligence officials has staffed this national security nerve center.

The center’s senior operations officer is surrounded by glowing high-definition monitors showing information about things like Pentagon computer networks, military and civilian air traffic in the Middle East and video feeds from drones in Afghanistan. The officer is authorized to notify the president any time of the day or night of a critical threat.

Just down a staircase outside the operations center is the Defense Special Missile and Aeronautics Center, which keeps track of missile and satellite launches by China, North Korea, Russia, Iran and other countries. If North Korea was ever to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile toward Los Angeles, those keeping watch might have half an hour or more between the time of detection to the time the missile would land at the target. At least in theory, that is enough time to alert the operations center two floors above and alert the military to shoot down the missile.

Telecom operators: Surviving and thriving through the next downturn

By Miguel Fonseca

It has been a decade since the last economic downturn—the longest gap between downturns in 50 years—and some companies are beginning to prepare for the next one. The most recent downturn made for extremely tough operating conditions for telecom operators. Customers sought to pay less and canceled contracts more easily in an environment of more intense competition. From 2007 to 2009, many European operators’ average revenue per user (ARPU) dipped by more than 15 percent, and churn rates rose by the same amount for operators in both North America and Europe. 1

To understand what operators can and should do to prepare for the next downturn, we studied what resilient operators in North America and Europe—those in the top quintile of the industry by total shareholder returns (TSR) and economic profit during the most recent recession—did differently (see sidebar, “About the research”). These winners saw up to 48 percent greater revenue growth over the subsequent ten years than the rest of the telecom industry as well as stronger margin performance and greater economic profit by 17 percentage points.

Hostile Social Manipulation

by Michael J. Mazarr

Are these techniques effective?

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.