16 October 2019

What’s India Doing in Russia’s Far East?

By Sudha Ramachandran

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Russia in early September saw the two sides sign several pacts in the fields of defense, nuclear energy, natural gas, maritime connectivity, and trade. India and Russia pledged to triple bilateral trade to $30 billion by 2025 and also signed a five-year roadmap for cooperation in the hydrocarbon sector.

However, it was India’s initiatives vis-à-vis the Russian Far East that was the highlight of Modi’s time in Russia. At the fifth summit of the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) on September 4-6 in Vladivostok, Modi pledged a $1 billion Line of Credit for development of the Russian Far East.

A vast region, the Russian Far East stretches from Lake Baikal, the world’s largest freshwater lake, to the Pacific Ocean and comprises roughly a third of Russia’s territory. Although it is rich in natural resources including minerals, hydrocarbons, timber and fish, it is an economically underdeveloped region. The region faces several challenges, including a harsh climate, sparse population, increasing outmigration, poor infrastructure and lacking connectivity. These have contributed to keeping the Russian Far East largely underdeveloped.

Behind the Second Modi-Xi Informal Summit, the Wuhan Spirit Is Fraying

By Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan
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The second informal summit between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping is set to take place in Mamallapuram, a coastal town in south India from October 11-12. The meeting between the leaders of the two Asian giants will be closely watched, with consequences not only for their countries but the wider Indo-Pacific region and the world as well.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) made a formal announcement of the visit just a couple of days before the visit. The statement added that the agenda was discussing “issues of bilateral, regional and global importance and to exchange views on deepening India-China Closer Development Partnership.” The two sides appear to be setting expectations low, with good reason.

Prior to the announcement, the Indian media was full of speculation that the summit could even be cancelled. Despite the Wuhan Summit in 2017 and the so-called “Wuhan spirit,” India-China relations have been characterized by a growing number of disputes.

The most serious of these, at least from Delhi’s perspective, is the strengthening Chinese support for Pakistan. Just days before the summit, the Chinese ambassador in Pakistan, Yao Jing, expressed strong support for Pakistan’s position on the Kashmir dispute, saying, “We are also working for Kashmiris to help them get their fundamental rights and justice. There should be a justified solution to the issue of Kashmir and China will stand by Pakistan for regional peace and stability.” This was a red flag for India and led to India lodging a strong protest with China and seeking clarification on what appears to be a change in Beijing’s stated stand on Jammu and Kashmir.

China, India, Pakistan: Who’s really pulling the strings in Jammu and Kashmir?

Brahma Chellaney
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The media spotlight on India-Pakistan tensions over the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) has helped obscure the role of a key third party, China, which occupies one-fifth of this Himalayan region. Kashmir is only a small slice of J&K, whose control is split among China, India and Pakistan.

Sino-Indian border tensions were exemplified by a reported September 11-12 clash between troops from the two countries in the eastern section of J&K, where Beijing’s territorial revisionism has persisted for more than six decades.

Meanwhile, ever since India revoked the statehood and autonomy of its part of J&K in August, Pakistan has stepped up its bellicose rhetoric, with military-backed Prime Minister Imran Khan vowing to “teach India a lesson” and promising a “fight until the end”. Khan has even raised the threat of nuclear war with India.

Taliban: From Pariah to Diplomatic Reception

By Daud Khattak

Sitting face to face with top Pakistani officials at the country’s spacious Foreign Office under the glowing lights of a conference hall that regularly hosts meetings between visiting diplomats and Pakistani officials, the 12-member Taliban delegation seemed no less than a foreign mission carrying out state business.

The only exception was their dress – the neatly-pressed black waist-coats over white shalwar kameez with white and black turbans in instead of suits with matching ties. 

Adding warmth to the “brotherly” ties with hugs and beaming smiles, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi also donned a shalwar kameez, although the color of his dress was not as brightly white as that of his Taliban interlocutors.

For a moment, it seems hard to believe that many, if not all, of the delegation members were once part of the Taliban’s regime in the mid-90s that would order the chopping of hands and stoning to death of alleged thieves and adulterers in front of awe-stricken crowds in the Kabul soccer stadium. Have they changed?

Is Democracy Dying in Afghanistan?

By Jumakhan Rahyab

The latest presidential election in Afghanistan on September 28, witnessed only 26 percent turnout, the lowest since 2001. Aside from serious questions about whether such a dismal turnout can grant enough legitimacy to the forthcoming president elect, it reminds Afghans of a crucial fact that they direly need to rethink the democratization process in the country. 

The low turnout was not a fluke. It needs to be acknowledged that the reasons underpinning such a low turnout can be found in grievances that have built up over a long period of time, at least since the contentious 2014 presidential election. By and large, the performance of National Unity Government (NUG) in the past five years has yielded endemic corruption, adverse poverty, pervasive insecurity, undermined rule of law and, most importantly, undemocratic practices, all of which in turn have caused distrust in the government and democratic institutions. 

How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, offers a rich and critical insight on how democracies have been driven to death by elected governments since the end of the Cold War, and not by generals and soldiers. The book argues that “today’s democratic backsliding begins at the ballot boxes” rather than by the tanks on the streets. In the same light, one can safely argue that the nascent Afghan democracy has been weakened to the verge of death by an elected government, in this case the NUG. The reason is clear: There have been rises in the poverty rate, the unemployment rate, insecurity, and migration during the rule of the NUG. In light of those struggles democracy and freedoms have become only a second priority for the populace. Rafael Caldera, at the time ex-president of Venezuela, in 1992 embraced Chaves and the rebels’ cause and declared “it is difficult to ask the people to sacrifice themselves for freedom and democracy when they think that freedom and democracy are incapable of giving them food to eat, of preventing the astronomical rise in the cost of substance, or of placing a definitive end to the terrible scourge of corruption that, in the eyes of the entire world, is eating away at the intuitions of [the country] with each passing day.” 

Don’t make us choose: Southeast Asia in the throes of US-China rivalry

Jonathan Stromseth

China also presents a binary choice to Southeast Asia and almost certainly aims to create a sphere of influence through economic statecraft and military modernization. Many Southeast Asians are deeply worried about this possibility. Yet, what they are currently talking about isn’t China’s rising influence in the region, which they see as an inexorable trend that needs to be managed carefully, but the hard-edged rhetoric of the Trump administration that is casting the perception of a choice, even if that may not be the intent. In Southeast Asia, this approach is likely to be self-defeating for U.S. interests as countries look to the future, estimate China’s economic footprint in 20 or 30 years, and calculate their likely interdependencies and opportunities with Beijing. Ultimately, U.S. allies and regional partners prefer to have constructive relations with both the United States and China. They are also resisting U.S. pressure to distance themselves from Beijing.

Remarks by regional leaders are instructive on these points. In a bold keynote address at the Shangri-La Dialogue, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong cautioned that the “world is at turning point” as U.S.-China tensions continue to grow. He said proposals for “Indo-Pacific cooperation” are welcome if they are inclusive and deepen regional integration, but they shouldn’t undermine ASEAN arrangements or “create rival blocs, deepen fault lines or force countries to take sides.” For his part, Indonesian President Joko Widodo has called for a vision of the Indo-Pacific that includes China, declaring that ASEAN and China have no choice but to collaborate. Even Australia, the staunchest of U.S. allies, has said it won’t take sides between Washington and Beijing: “Our relationships with each of these major partners are different, and they’re both successful,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said when visiting Singapore in November 2018. “Australia doesn’t have to choose and we won’t choose.”

Himalayas Leveled: How China-Nepal Relations Have Defied Geopolitics

By Krzysztof Iwanek

Years ago, I undertook the journey from Beijing to Delhi by land, with three legs. The first involved a quick one by trains and buses from Beijing to Lhasa. This was followed by two longer ones: by jeep from Lhasa to Kathmandu and finally by bus from Kathmandu to Delhi. The middle leg of this trip made me witness how much the Himalayas served as a formidable barrier between Nepal and China-controlled Tibet. It also made me skeptical about the idea of the Nepal-China train one hears about from time to time.

Don’t stop reading here; this is not just another article by a guy-that-has-seen-a-region-once-and-thinks-he-now-understands-its-politics. I am aware that “I’ve been there, I’ve seen that” does not count as a proper sampling. What I want to discuss is in fact counter-intuitive: the reality of Nepal’s current international position is largely opposite to what I could have concluded only by observing the country’s geographic position.

If there is one country that admirers of geopolitics should love as an example of the importance of geography to politics, it is Nepal. Being a landlocked, relatively small country with two giant neighbors, completely open to India through its southern plains, and seemingly closed to China through the highest mountains in the world to the north, Nepal should serve as a perfect example of how much geography matters. And, of course, it does matter tremendously. And yet Kathmandu’s relations with Beijing have defied geopolitics and geography.

Stunning Huawei Confirmation—1 Million Cyberattacks Every Day

Zak Doffman

China’s under fire Huawei is being attacked by more than just the U.S., says a company exec. The Chinese tech giant endures around a million cyberattacks per day on its computers and networks—and that’s according to its security chief, John Suffolk. This will be the most unexpected Huawei cyberattack story of the year so far.

As reported in the Japanese press, Suffolk implied such attacks are focused on IP-theft, which given Huawei leads the world for 5G network innovation and files more patents than any other company in the world, will come as little surprise. That said, the company has also accused the U.S. government of mounting cyberattacks as part of its concerted campaign against them.

In September, Huawei alleged in the media that U.S. law enforcement has "threatened, coerced and enticed" existing and former employees, and has executed "cyberattacks to infiltrate Huawei's intranet and internal information systems."

Hong Kong Is the Latest Tripwire for Tech Firms in China

On Wednesday morning, Mark Kern sat down with his 12-year-old son to tell him the guild was breaking up. Kern had been involved with World of Warcraft from the very beginning—a game developer himself, he was the original team leader for the title when Blizzard Entertainment launched it in 2004—and was a steadfast player of WoW Classic, a throwback version of the game that launched in August. Yet, things had changed. Over the weekend, an esports player for another Blizzard title, Hearthstone, had shouted a Hong Kong protest slogan on the game's official Taiwanese livestream; in response, Activision Blizzard suspended the player from high-level competitive play for a year and said it would not pay out his past winnings, claiming that he had violated rules barring acts that "offend a portion or group of the public."

For Kern, who was born in Taiwan and spent time in Hong Kong, the studio he'd called home for nearly eight years had changed. He told his son that he had decided to cancel his WoW subscription, putting an end to their family tradition. "I explained how … people [in Hong Kong] were very concerned about their freedom and China's history of human rights abuses," Kern tells WIRED on Discord. "I told him that Blizzard had punished a Hearthstone player for supporting Hong Kong and what that punishment entailed." His son decided to do the same.

China's stealth drones and hypersonic missiles surpass — and threaten — the U.S.

By Sébastien Roblin
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The celebration of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China at the beginning of this month promised plenty of pomp and power projection. In the days leading up to the grandiose parade through Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, Chinese citizens began sharing photos of tarp-covered vehicles and missiles being rolled into Beijing for a rehearsal.

The event Oct. 1 didn’t disappoint. The People’s Liberation Army unveiled brand new high-tech drones, robot submarines and hypersonic missiles — none of which have an equivalent in operational service elsewhere on the planet.

China’s new military capabilities are tailored to its plans to become the dominant military power in Asia and the western half of the Pacific.

China’s rapid modernization is increasingly forcing the Pentagon to face the sclerosis in its own procurement pipeline arising from shifting program goals, endemic cost overruns and delays. Despite starting technologically well behind the United States, China has developed new systems faster and more cheaply.

Quantum USA Vs. Quantum China: The World's Most Important Technology Race

Paul Smith-Goodson

Many analysts, researchers, politicians, and military leaders believe as I do - the United States has allowed China to take the lead in many areas of quantum research. Once quantum technology matures, it will have a profound effect on almost every facet of our lives. A Chinese lead in quantum science could also tilt the future strategic military balance in their favor.

The January 2019 Worldwide Threat Assessment report to the Senate conceded the United States’ lead in science and technology had been significantly eroded, mainly because of Chinese gains.

Over the past two years, China has aggressively stepped up its pace of quantum research. In 2016, President Xi Jinping established a national strategy for China to become technologically self-reliant. One of China’s main goals is to surpass the United States and to become the global high-tech leader.

Russia Exports Its Missile Early-Warning Knowhow to China

By: Pavel Felgenhauer

Russo-Chinese relations continue to improve (see EDM, July 25, 30) as both countries’ ties with the United States have grown increasingly strained. Moscow and Beijing describe their bilateral relationship as a “strategic partnership,” constantly adding new adjectives to emphasize its evolving strength. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has insisted it does not formally ally with anyone. But recently, Russian President Vladimir Putin has begun publicly speaking about an “alliance”—first in front of a domestic audience on September 6, 2019, in Vladivostok, and then, on October 3, 2019, in Sochi, in front of an international gathering of the so-called Valdai Club (see EDM, October 7).

During the Valdai proceedings, Putin lauded the “unprecedented level of mutual trust and cooperation in an allied relationship of strategic partnership.” Moreover, the Kremlin leader listed a number of prominent Russo-Chinese joint technological projects, pointed to growing trade, and notably disclosed that the Russian defense industry is helping the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) build a modern missile-attack early-warning system (Systema Preduprezdenya o Raketnom Napadenii—SPRN). According to Putin, only Russia and the US have a fully developed SPRN; and now, the PLA will, too, with Russian help, “seriously expanding the PRC’s defense capabilities.” Putin denounced as hopeless US attempts to constrain China by economic pressure and by building up Asia-Pacific alliances with other local states (Kremlin.ru, October 3). According to the pro-Kremlin news site Vzglad, Moscow and Beijing will not be signing a formal military/political alliance treaty anytime soon; but de facto the two countries are allies already, closely coordinating their activities in different areas, building together a new world order that may lead to the eviction of US influence from Asia (Vzglad, October 3).

High Expectations as China’s Xi Lands in Nepal

By Peter Gill

Over the past week, Kathmandu’s streets have been transformed. Potholes have been fixed and whole roads repaved. An empty, trash-strewn lot was turned into a public park overnight. Streetlamps were adorned with portraits of Nepal’s ceremonial head of state, President Bidhya Devi Bhandari, and Chinese President Xi Jinping, due to arrive on October 12.

Xi’s visit to Nepal — following on the heels of his unofficial summit with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday and Friday — will be the first from a Chinese head-of-state since Jiang Zemin in 1996. The large-scale, feverish preparations for Xi’s arrival indicate the importance the Nepali government has placed on the visit. Kathmandu hopes to sign a number of agreements to begin infrastructure projects funded under Xi’s signature Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

To date, Chinese funding for Nepal has been small compared to the billions of dollars it has invested in other South Asian countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives. But that could soon change. In preparation for Xi’s visit, the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) released a draft of 11 priority infrastructure projects for joint consideration with the Chinese. The projects are primarily related to transportation and hydro-electricity, with top priority placed on a railroad connecting Kathmandu to the Chinese border. Nepal officially joined the BRI several years ago, but projects have been delayed because of disagreement about the funding modality — Nepal wants mostly grants, while the Chinese prefer to recoup their investments through loans. 

EXCLUSIVE: Twitter executive for Middle East is British Army 'psyops' soldier

Ian Cobain
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The senior Twitter executive with editorial responsibility for the Middle East is also a part-time officer in the British Army’s psychological warfare unit, Middle East Eye has established.

Gordon MacMillan, who joined the social media company's UK office six years ago, has for several years also served with the 77th Brigade, a unit formed in 2015 in order to develop “non-lethal” ways of waging war.

The 77th Brigade uses social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, as well as podcasts, data analysis and audience research to wage what the head of the UK military, General Nick Carter, describes as “information warfare”.

Carter says the 77th Brigade is giving the British military “the capability to compete in the war of narratives at the tactical level”; to shape perceptions of conflict. Some soldiers who have served with the unit say they have been engaged in operations intended to change the behaviour of target audiences.

The Origins of New US-Turkish Relations

By George Friedman 

For several years, there has been a significant shift underway in U.S. strategy toward the Middle East, where Washington has consistently sought to avoid combat. The United States is now compelled to seek accommodation with Turkey, a regional power in its own right, based on terms that are geopolitically necessary for both. Their relationship has been turbulent, and while it may continue to be so for a while, it will decline. Their accommodation has nothing to do with mutual affection but rather with mutual necessity. The Turkish incursion into Syria and the U.S. response are part of this adjustment, one that has global origins and regional consequences.

Similarly, the U.S. decision to step aside as Turkey undertook an incursion in northeastern Syria has a geopolitical and strategic origin. The strategic origin is a clash between elements of the Defense Department and the president. The defense community has been shaped by a war that has been underway since 2001. During what is called the Long War, the U.S. has created an alliance structure of various national and subnational groups. Yet the region is still on uneven footing. The Iranians have extended a sphere of influence westward. Iraq is in chaos. The Yemeni civil war still rages, and the original Syrian war has ended, in a very Middle Eastern fashion, indecisively.

Iranian oil tanker hit off Saudi coast, may have been missiles: Iranian media reports

Parisa Hafezi, Sylvia Westall

DUBAI (Reuters) - An Iranian-owned oil tanker was struck, probably by missiles, in the Red Sea off Saudi Arabia’s coast on Friday, Iranian media said, an incident that if confirmed will stoke tension in a region rattled by attacks on tankers and oil sites since May.

An undated picture shows the Iranian-owned Sabiti oil tanker sailing in Red Sea. National Iranian Oil Tanker Company via WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY

The Sabiti was hit in the morning about 60 miles (96 km) from the Saudi port of Jeddah, Iranian media reported. The National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) said the ship was damaged but now heading to the Gulf, denying reports it was set ablaze.

The incident, which has yet to be independently confirmed, is the latest involving oil tankers in the Red Sea and Gulf area, and is likely to ratchet up tensions between Tehran and Riyadh, long-time regional foes fighting a proxy war in Yemen, which lies at the southern end of the Red Sea.

The reports offered sometimes diverging accounts. Iranian state-run television, citing the national oil company, said it was hit by missiles while denying a report they came from Saudi Arabia.

How to Save Iraq

By Ranj Alaaldin

Iraqis have had enough. After years of poor governance, the Iraqi people have run out of patience with the failures of their governing elites to deliver basic services or to reduce unemployment and corruption. Tens of thousands have come out in protests in Baghdad and parts of southern Iraq since last week. More than 100 protesters have been killed and thousands have been injured by security forces. Broadcasting stations have been attacked and social media platforms and the internet have been blocked.

The scale and magnitude of the protests is unprecedented, as is the violent reaction from the Iraqi government. Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi has failed to prevent Iraq’s worst crisis since the Islamic State seized Mosul in 2014. He must take responsibility and ensure that the officials responsible for the large scale killings of protesters are prosecuted.

The crisis places Mr. Abdul Mahdi in a precarious position. Protesters want jobs and services, accountability and, in some cases, a complete overhaul of the Iraqi political class. The prime minister has failed to offer concessions — an increase in salaries, a basic wage for poorer families and interest-free housing credit programs — that could placate them. In a televised address, Mr. Abdul Mahdi expressed willingness to respond to the “rightful demands” of the protesters but warned that there was no “magic solution” to Iraq’s problems.

Iran says oil tanker struck by missiles off Saudi Arabia

By: Nasser Karimi and Jon Gambrell

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Two missiles struck an Iranian tanker traveling through the Red Sea off the coast of Saudi Arabia on Friday, Iranian officials said, the latest incident in the region amid months of heightened tensions between Tehran and the U.S.

There was no word from Saudi Arabia on the reported attack and Saudi officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Oil prices spiked by 2% on the news.

"This latest incident, if confirmed to be an act of aggression, is highly likely to be part of the wider narrative of deteriorating relations between Saudi and the U.S. and Iran," private maritime security firm Dryad Maritime warned.

"It is likely that the region, have being stable for the last month, will face another period of increasing maritime threats, as the Iranian and Saudi geopolitical stand-off continues," it added.

Trump, Syria, And The Betrayal Of The Kurds – Analysis

By Adrian Ang U-Jin*
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On Sunday October 6, 2019, the White House announced abruptly that the United States would withdraw its forces in northeastern Syria to accommodate a long-threatened Turkish offensive in the region. The Trump administration’s decision must be considered within the context of strained US-Turkish relations.

While this is so, it also threatens America’s strategic interests in Syria, calls into question policy making within the White House, strains the president’s relations with Republican allies at a crucial time for him, and casts doubt about America’s commitments and loyalty to its allies.

Syria, the Kurds, and Strained US-Turkish Relations

The decision to withdraw US troops from northeastern Syria is occurring in the midst of US-Turkish relations strained by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s suspicions of American complicity in the 2016 failed military coup; his courting of Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s decision to purchase Russian S-400 missiles; the US decision to expel Turkey from the F-35 project in retaliation; and the fight against Islamic State (IS) in Syria.

EU warns of 5G cybersecurity risks, potential attacks from 'state-backed' hackers

By Brooke Crothers 

Fox News Flash top headlines for Oct. 10 are here. Check out what's clicking on Foxnews.com

The European Union is fearful that 5G networks could cause "security challenges" if they're exposed to state-backed companies.

In a statement, the E.U. said that “security challenges” are likely to be more “prominent” on 5G networks, but did not single out any companies from China, including Huawei.

“Among the various potential actors, non-EU States or State-backed are considered as the most serious ones and the most likely to target 5G networks,” the E.U. said in the release.

The U.S. has explicitly cited Huawei as the most serious threat and a state actor. Earlier this year, the U.S. government put Huawei on an entity list saying "there is reasonable cause to believe that Huawei has been involved in activities contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States."

Reducing NSC staff places Trump on right side of history


The downsizing of the National Security Council (NSC) staff by President Trump and national security adviser Robert C. O’Brien is a policy initiative that is long overdue. The NSC staff should not be confused with the National Security Council itself, which is defined by statute to include the president and the vice president along with the Secretaries of State, Defense and Treasury. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence also attend NSC meetings as advisers to the principals. 

The NSC staff, however, is composed of individuals who are assigned to support the president and the Council in their deliberations. In recent years, the staff has expanded its purview to include coordinating interactions among the various cabinet departments and agencies. The latter, especially under the Obama administration, has been the justification for much of the staff’s growth in recent years.

Russia’s Energy Diplomacy Brings Geopolitical Dividends

by Dimitri Alexander Simes
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This year’s Russian Energy Week forum in Moscow took place under considerably different circumstances. As foreign officials and business people descended on the Russian capital last week, the Kremlin had reason to be satisfied. Notwithstanding fervent opposition from Washington and several Eastern European countries, Russia is set to complete two new gas supply pipelines to Europe by the end of this year. Moscow is also expected to launch its long-awaited Power of Siberia gas pipeline to China before the start of 2020.

Some of Washington’s policies have inadvertently provided Moscow with new energy opportunities to expand its energy influence. Sanctions against Venezuela and Iran have weakened prominent Russian competitors in the oil market. Moreover, as the U.S.-China trade war continues to intensify, Beijing is increasingly looking to its northern neighbor as a reliable energy supplier. 

In his speech at the forum, Russian president Vladimir Putin sought to both reassure and warn Moscow’s European gas clients. The Russian leader pledged that his country would continue to demonstrate “a responsible, businesslike approach in relations with our long-standing partners in Europe” regardless of the disagreements between Moscow and Brussels.

Inside NATO's Crazy Cold War Plan to "Win" a War Against Russia

by Robert Farley 
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Even before the guns fell silent in Europe in 1945, it became apparent to American and British planners that the Soviet Union would hold a massive advantage in land power along the Central front. In the early post-war years, Western planners hoped that nuclear weapons would keep the Soviets at bay. As the USSR’s own missile and nuclear programs accelerated, however, it became apparent that NATO (which came into existence in 1949) would need to come to some understanding of how to fight Warsaw Pact forces.

The Nuclear Option

During the 1950s and 1960s, NATO and the Warsaw Pact agreed about two things regarding combat on the Central front. First, Warsaw Pact forces would quickly overrun NATO forces, achieving rates of advance across Western Europe that exceeded even those of World War II. Second, both NATO and the Warsaw Pact would make plentiful use of tactical nuclear weapons, both to break up enemy formations and also to pave the way for advancing forces.

The Ottoman Empire: Centuries of Expansion and Contraction

This week, we’re digging into the archives with a map we produced back in September 2016, when Geopolitical Futures was less than a year old and Hillary Clinton seemed a lock to win the U.S. presidency. The map tells a very simple story. It shows the reaches of the Ottoman Empire in 1683, stretching from Morocco to Iraq, and Belgrade to Aden. It also shows the Ottoman Empire on the eve of World War I, significantly weakened but still a Middle Eastern hegemon. Finally, it shows Turkey today, shorn of its empire and its caliphate.

It’s an especially important map to revisit this week, after Turkey launched its invasion of Kurdish-controlled parts of northeastern Syria. In a sense, the containment of Turkish power within the borders drawn by World War I’s victors always had an unnatural quality to it – like a teenager in suspended animation, never allowed to reach maturity. Turkey is now asserting its military power in Syria, as it slowly and subtly works its political and economic power through parts of Southern Europe and Central Asia. Since 1683, the entity we now call Turkey had been steadily contracting. Now, it’s expanding again – and if there’s such a thing as geopolitical deja vu, this throwback GPF map attempts to capture it.

Around the halls: Brookings experts’ reactions to Turkey’s incursion into Syria

Amanda Sloat, Kemal Kirişci, Michael E. O’Hanlon, Ömer Taşpınar, Jeffrey Feltman, and Suzanne Maloney

Amanda Sloat (@A_Sloat), Robert Bosch Senior Fellow in the Center on the United States and Europe: As I recently wrote elsewhere, the policy of assisting a faction of Syrian Kurds, the YPG, to fight the Islamic State has been a ticking time bomb since it began under the Obama administration, in 2014. The short-term imperative to combat ISIS created a strategic contradiction with foreseeable consequences that are now on painful display. Turkey, a NATO member, never accepted U.S. support for the group, which is directly linked to a terrorist organization that has long fought an insurgency against the Turkish state. Nor did every politician now criticizing Trump — whose decisionmaking has been characteristically chaotic — think this alliance was wise in the first place. The main surprise here is that U.S. diplomats and military officers made this untenable situation work as long as it did.

Trump’s hasty decision to withdraw U.S. advisers from the Syrian border, and at least tacitly approve a Turkish military operation, was sloppy and cruel. The lack of a coherent policy process and garbled messaging made a dangerous situation even worse. Renewed fighting will harm civilians in a now peaceful part of a war-torn country, enable the Islamic State to regroup, and empower Russia and Iran, who are backing the Assad regime and hungry for more influence.

The world economy’s strange new rules

Rich-world economies consist of a billion consumers and millions of firms taking their own decisions. But they also feature mighty public institutions that try to steer the economy, including central banks, which set monetary policy, and governments, which decide how much to spend and borrow. For the past 30 years or more these institutions have run under established rules. The government wants a booming jobs market that wins votes but, if the economy overheats, it will cause inflation. And so independent central banks are needed to take away the punch bowl just as the party warms up, to borrow the familiar quip of William McChesney Martin, once head of the Federal Reserve. Think of it as a division of labour: politicians focus on the long-term size of the state and myriad other priorities. Technocrats have the tricky job of taming the business cycle.

Sevastopol Port in Russian-Occupied Crimea Near Bankruptcy

By: Paul Goble

An old Soviet joke had it that if Saudi Arabia ever became communist, Riyadh would be importing sand within five years. The situation around the once-prosperous Ukrainian port in Sevastopol suggests a similar dynamic: if the Russians occupy something, as they have in Crimea, it will rapidly slide toward bankruptcy. The port’s insolvency is a combined result of sanctions, mismanagement and the inevitable scramble for assets between various parts of the Russian government that want to extract what income they can from it before it dies and Russian firms, which appear more interested in value stripping than in making the port a success.

Following the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, the Ukrainian government invoked international law and closed Sevastopol and other Crimean ports to international shipping. Under the terms of this ban, any captain who docks his ship there would face massive fines and even imprisonment under international law. As a result, activity at Stavropol port collapsed from 4.8 million tons of cargo in 2013 to just 312,670 tons in 2015—a contraction of 97 percent that shifted the port into the red because it could no longer pay its workers, provide money to the local government or service its debts (Meridian.in.ua, February 5, 2016).

Social Media: Senior Leaders Need to Get on the Bus

By General Robert B. “Abe” Abrams
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The emergence of social media over the last decade has impacted just about every facet of life, reshaping the ways in which we interact, socialize, and communicate. Digital natives – like my 24-year old son – navigate multiple social media platforms near simultaneously, day and night. For digital immigrants – those of us born before 1985 – not so much. Some are uncomfortable with the technology, or the content, and believe there is a high risk of engaging. Others lack the intellectual curiosity to explore the vast potential social media has to offer.

If you are a senior leader in the military, being engaged on social media is becoming more of an imperative by the day. There are many reasons why this is essential, but here are my top 10: 

10) Social media is another great way to stay connected with friends and family, especially when deployed or living overseas. Gone are the days of letter-writing. Today, you can keep in touch with loved ones at the push of a button.

9) If you are a Flag Officer, there are and will continue to be imposters seeking to impersonate you, as frequently as 4-7 times every week. You need to assist in stamping them out, and claiming a presence online is the first step in promoting truthful, valuable interactions over the internet.

Distorting Ben-Gurion

by Efraim Karsh

David Ben-Gurion is the most revered of Israel's founders.

It is only recently that David Ben-Gurion ceased to be, for the sake of the official record books, Israel's longest-serving prime minister. That honor now belongs to Benjamin Netanyahu, even as his political future becomes ever more uncertain. Ben-Gurion's stature as Israel's founding father, however, would seem to be eminently secure, given his crucial, perhaps indispensable, role in salvaging the Jewish people from political oblivion and reinstating it in its ancestral homeland.

A host of biographies over the years—largely complimentary though by no means uncritical—have recorded the details of Ben-Gurion's busy life without diminishing his almost ­mythological status. Still, a group of "revisionist" Israeli academics and journalists seem determined to tarnish his reputation as part of their ­decades-long project to reinterpret Israel's founding period. Tom Segev's A State at Any Cost is the latest such effort.

Meet America’s newest military giant: Amazon

by Sharon Weinberger

In July, when President Donald Trump was in the Oval Office with the Dutch prime minister, he took a few moments to answer questions from reporters. His comments, in typical fashion, covered disparate subjects—from job creation to the “squad” of congresswomen he attacks regularly to sanctions against Turkey. Then a reporter asked him about an obscure Pentagon contract called JEDI, and whether he planned to intervene in it.

“Which one is that?” Trump asked. “The Amazon?”

The reporter was referring to a lucrative and soon-to-be-awarded contract to provide cloud computing services to the Department of Defense. It is worth as much as $10 billion, and Amazon has long been considered the front-runner. But the deal was under intense scrutiny from rivals who said the bid process was biased toward the e-commerce giant.