1 November 2019

Security | Questions the alleged cyber-incident at Kudankulam Nuclear Plant raises

On October 29, authorities at the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP), in Tamil Nadu, issued a statement denying (Image 1) the speculation of a cyber incident at the power plant. The Indian Express reported senior government officials saying that an audit had ‘confirmed that an “incident” had occurred (in early September), though not to the main operations of the plant’. The accumulated evidence, however, tells a far more disturbing story, albeit circumstantial, and the KKNPP denial raises more questions than it answers.

There are three pieces of circumstantial evidence that point to a significant cyber event having taken place.

Indian Nuclear Power Facility Denies Unverified Reports of a Cyber Attack

By Ankit Panda

On Tuesday, India’s largest nuclear power station, the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant, pushed back on unconfirmed reports that it had suffered a cyber attack. The plant, located in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, issued a statement that said reports of a cyber attack were “false information … being propogated (sic) on the social media platform, electronic, and print media.”

A statement attributed to R. Ramdoss, the training superintendent and information officer at the plant, clarified that “Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) and other Indian Nuclear Power Plants Control Systems are stand alone and not connected to outside cyber network and Internet,” apparently asserting that physical separation from global networks—or “air-gapping”—would suffice as a protective measure.

U.S. Afghanistan Peace Envoy Takes Efforts to Pakistan

by Kathy Gannon 

A U.S. peace envoy remained in Pakistan on Tuesday as part of efforts to find a negotiated end to Afghanistan’s 18 -year war, even though President Donald Trump has not expressed any interest in resuming talks with the Taliban.

The envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, met with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday and was expected to hold talks with the country’s powerful military chief on Tuesday.

Officials in Pakistan, where the Taliban governing council is believed to be headquartered, have been pushing for a resumption of direct U.S.-Taliban talks since they collapsed in early September after Trump halted talks with the Taliban and cancelled what had seemed an imminent deal. Trump’s move followed a series of violent attacks in the Afghan capital that killed several people, including a U.S. soldier.

During their meeting Monday, Khan called on all sides in Afghanistan’s protracted war to “take practical steps for the reduction of violence,” according to a statement…

Xi Jinping’s Nepal Visit: Looking For Strategic Partnership? – Analysis

By Dr. S. Chandrasekharan
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Xi Jinping, President of China visited Nepal on his way back from Mamallapuram for two days from 12th October.

Prime Minister Oli in his twitter message described the visit as “immensely successful”. On the other hand, the Chinese side would have been disappointed that they could not get Nepal sign the extradition treaty on which they were very keen.

During Xi Jinping’s visit over 20 agreements and memorandum of understandings were signed that covered a whole gamut of issues with a focus on connectivity on ports, roads, railways, aviation, communication under a new term “overarching framework of “Trans Himalayan Multi-dimensional Connectivity Network”. The key words in most of the projects though not mentioned was “strategic connectivity”.

The agreements also included the Kathmandu-Kerung Railway project and a commitment to Kathmandu- Pokhara-Lumbini Railway project, reconstruction of Arniko Highway, roads leading to Kerung from Syburbesi and Tatopani leading to Khasa on the two frequently used border points. Three economic corridors aligned with the three major River systems of Nepal- the Karnali, Gandaki and the Kosi were also considered. Significantly, the Nepalese side sought Chinese help in a construction project on the Kimathanka( the lowest part of the Himalayan Chain on the Nepal Tibet border ) Leguwaghat section of the Kosi Highway.

Nepal got a clearance for another consulate in Chengdu.

A Conflict Without End? The US-China Tech War – Analysis

By Adam Segal*
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President Trump’s campaign targeting Chinese technology companies is motivated primarily by concerns about economic competition and security threats. This has been expanded to include democratic values and human rights. Framing the technology rivalry as one over ideology and political values, however, means the US-China tech war is likely to intensify and expand.

For the last two years, the Trump administration has waged a broad campaign pushing back against Beijing’s use of industrial policy and targeting Chinese technology companies. In the beginning, Washington’s efforts were motivated primarily by concerns about economic competition and security threats.

Over time, however, the United States has expanded the competition to include democratic values and human rights, and US officials and Western analysts have promoted an increasingly expansive and threatening view of the tech sector’s relationship to the Chinese Communist Party. As Christopher Ford, Assistant Secretary Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, put it:, “On balance the Chinese technology giants are not purely private actors, but instead function as at least de facto tools of the Chinese Communist Party when it matters most.”

The Future of Hong Kong’s Autonomy

By Brian C.H. Fong

The “Water Revolution” in Hong Kong that began in June continues to hit global headlines. Many people are wondering why Hong Kongers are so united and willing to carry on their fight for over four months, with no indication of retreat so far.

We should start with this premise: Hong Kongers are a stateless nation struggling for autonomy. Only by grasping this basic truth can we interpret the significance of the Water Revolution in a wider context, as the latest chapter of Hong Kongers’ continuous struggle for autonomy. With that in mind, how will China and the West respond to the autonomist demands of Hong Kongers?

Hong Kongers: A Stateless Nation Struggling for Autonomy

In contemporary nationalism literature, the “state” and the “nation” are fundamentally two different concepts. The former refers to “a system of political actions” built upon sovereignty, while the latter means a political community based on either common ethnicity or common civic values pursuing the “right to self-government,” as defined by nationalism scholar Michael Keating in his classical book Nations Against the State. Conceptually, a nation may or may not possess a state. When nation‐ness and state‐ness largely coincide, we can call it a nation-state, such as Japan, but it is not uncommon that a nation lacks a state of its own. Examples of stateless nations include Catalans, Scots, and Quebecois struggling for a greater degree of autonomy or outright independence.

China wants state media to peddle its “soft power” in Africa, but tech platforms are a better bet

By Celine Sui
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China’s increasing state-backed media presence in Africa has stoked fears among Western observers. But current evidence shows the plan to increase Chinese soft power through official outlets who portray the Asian giant in a positive light has had limited impact. Instead, it is Africa’s rapidly evolving landscape of digital technology that offers Chinese media influence the most room for growth.

Since coming to power in 2012, president Xi Jinping has repeatedly instructed Chinese state media organizations to tell “compelling Chinese narratives,” and “better communicate China’s message to the world.” The African continent—a major destination for China’s Belt and Road projects, international trade, and private businesses—is at the forefront of this effort.

The Chinese state news agency Xinhua had 28 bureaus across Africa as of February 2018. Though inside sources say that number has dropped to around 20 due to a lack of assignment, it is still a regular contributor of stories to local newspapers and news websites across Africa.

“Honestly, the only real change I see right now is that there was no Chinese media before, but there are some now.”

Chinas Disturbing Vision

by John Mauldin

That it has been common knowledge - something we all knew that we all knew - since the Nixon years that by simply exporting capitalism and free enterprise, we would unshackle the forces of freedom in China.

Today, we all know that we all know that the influence of the Chinese Communist Party over what you and I do has been aided, not thwarted, by the nominal Chinese embrace of capitalism. I think that this - not the NBA, or Hearthstone, or Disney, but common knowledge about the distorting effects of concentrated power on the efficiency of market outcomes - is the real main event.

I have been writing about China for almost the entire 20-year history of this letter. We have had multiple intense and focused sessions on China at the Strategic Investment Conference. It is highly likely that we will do so again next year.

China’s growth has been one of the most important economic events in human history. It has moved more than 300 million people from what was essentially a medieval bare-bones existence to fabulous cities, built one of the most incredible transportation and railroad systems in the world, all the while allowing entrepreneurs (what a concept for a communist regime) to create some of the world’s largest and most creative companies. All this is staggering.

Inside Hong Kong’s Leaderless Uprising

By Magnus Ag

HONG KONG — The desperation and contempt of the authorities are rising after close to five months of mass demonstrations and escalating violence. 750 children have been arrested. Many young Hong Kongers face a terrifying choice: Continue a grotesquely uneven battle against a superior power or acknowledge that the rest of their lives are going to be without civil liberties, without democracy and under Beijing’s strict and brutal control.

“In 10 years, I hope Hong Kong is a place with freedom of democracy instead of more and more crackdowns. That is the reason for us to keep on our fight,” 23-year-old Joshua Wong, one of the pro-democracy movement’s most prominent young voices, told me over the phone on his way between meetings in another part of town

Wong started his political activism as a 15-year-old when his initiative brought 100,000 Hong Kongers to the streets. His defining role in the 2014 protests known as the Umbrella Movement is captured in the Netflix documentary Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower. 

Beijing’s Next Big Problem

By Stephen Smith

Power transition in Asia is now complete. China’s annual military expenditure, which bloated to nearly $230 billion in 2017, is now larger than all other countries in Asia combined (excluding Russia). For states on China’s periphery, salvation is not to be found in paltry American alternatives to the Belt and Road Initiative nor in embracing “shared values” with the West. Balancing overwhelming Chinese power is no longer an option. The future involves navigating new and very real power asymmetries. 

Managing asymmetry is a new problem for the People’s Republic of China, a byproduct of the country’s extraordinary development over the past four decades, but imperial China has ample historical experience dealing with such complex dynamics. Before the violent arrival of European international law in the mid-19th century, inequalities in wealth, power, and status between regional powers were mediated through practices of asymmetric exchange. Imperial China demanded deference to its superior position, while smaller states required a tacit promise of freedom from aggression. These lessons may offer a blueprint as China learns once again how to be a great power. 

Benevolent Developmentalism and Sinocentric Regional Order

China Revises Economic Data Law Under Pressure – Analysis

By Michael Lelyveld
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Dogged by doubts about exaggerated economic claims, China’s government is moving to raise penalties for statistical fraud.

On Oct. 8, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) announced an extensive series of revisions to its basic data gathering and reporting law.

The proposed amendment would hold officials and their supervisors directly responsible for the data they submit and increase fines for falsification, according to state media and draft revisions on the NBS website.

In a statement cited by the official English-language China Daily, the agency appeared to acknowledge that a series of earlier reform efforts had fallen short.

“We revised the law this time because we hope to build a modern statistics system in the new era and to improve the accuracy, integrity and promptness of the statistical materials,” the NBS said.

Is a New Arab Spring Unfolding in the Middle East?

By Jeremy Bowen 

As the last of the Middle Eastern summer fades away, is the region slipping into a new Arab spring?

In Iraq, demonstrators are being shot dead in the streets. In Lebanon, protesters have paralysed the country and seem set to bring down the government of Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri. In recent weeks the Egyptian security forces crushed attempts to protest against the police state of President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi.

Iraq, Lebanon and Egypt have plenty of differences. But the protesters have grievances in common, and they are shared by millions of people, particularly the young, across the Arab Middle East…

The Myth Of The Secular: Religion, War, And Politics In The Twentieth Century – Analysis

By Walter A. McDougall*
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(FPRI) — On December 31, 1977, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi hosted Jimmy Carter at a state dinner in Tehran.

The President took the occasion to laud Iran, a reliable U.S. ally in the Persian Gulf and the greater Middle East, as “an island of stability in one of the more troubled areas of the world. . . . This is a great tribute to you, your majesty, and to your leadership and to the respect and the admiration and love which your people give to you.”[1]

Just a few weeks later, strikes and protests erupted, which metastasized over the coming year into a revolution led by Shi’ite Muslims loyal to their exiled Ayatollah Sayyid Ruhollah Khomeini. Nobody saw it coming, least of all the Central Intelligence Agency, but just thirteen months after Carter’s visit the Shah was in exile and his regime replaced by a theocratic Islamic Republic, whose leaders denounced the United States as the Great Satan.

Why did it come as a terrible shock? The revival of religious influences on international politics was already evident in the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian, Indian-Pakistani, and Northern Irish conflicts. Indeed, Carter himself made an ecumenical appeal for peace when the devout Southern Baptist brokered the 1978 Camp Accords between Israel and Egypt. Events in the subsequent decade repeatedly underscored the growing role of faith-based movements.

Is Israel Equipped to Win a War Against Iran

by Anna Ahronheim 

Tensions are rising between Israel and Iran and senior Israeli defense officials are warning of increased threats posed by the Islamic Republic. Israel needs to be prepare for war, but one question has to be asked: Does the IDF have what it needs to win?

In an attempt to degrade the Iranian threats, Israel has been carrying out a war-between-wars campaign since 2013 against Iranian and Hezbollah targets. This past year saw the most operational activity in that campaign since it began, on all borders and beyond.

It’s an effective campaign, but the increased instability in the Middle East as well as Iran’s continued work on their long-range precision missile project, has led the IDF to assess that the chances for direct confrontation has gone up significantly.

Despite the fact that Israel’s enemies are not interested in war, the IDF has “increased it’s pace of preparations” for confrontation, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi told journalists on Wednesday. “On both the northern and southern fronts the situation is tense and fragile and deteriorate into a confrontation,” he said…

The Conditions That Created ISIS Still Exist

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As the world begins to process what the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the infamous head of the so-called Islamic State, means, there is a temptation to believe that the group has finally been eradicated. While there’s reasonable cause for celebration—not least for the group’s victims in the region—the threat of the Islamic State will remain as long as the world fails to address why it arose in the first place.

In life, Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed “caliph of all the Muslims,” was meant to serve as a symbolic figure who could claim leadership over an actual territorial entity, in the name of religion, with the corresponding duty of Muslims worldwide to pay him allegiance. But that narrative was always flawed.

Empirically, the overwhelming majority of Muslims worldwide rejected him and failed to take his leadership seriously. His victims included mostly fellow Muslims, as well as Yazidis (subjected to an attempted genocide), Christians, Kurds, Iraqis, Syrians, Turks, and others. The peoples of this region, Muslim and non-Muslim, were the ones who were most targeted by the Islamic State; they were the ones who sacrificed the most in fighting against the Islamic State; and it is they who will be feeling the most relief today.

Baghdadi Is Dead But His Legend Lives On

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Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was never able to match the spectacle of al Qaeda’s 9/11 attack, but his legacy as a jihadi may equal or outshine Osama bin Laden’s. In spring 2010, he became the leader of what was then called the Islamic State of Iraq, after 34 of its top 42 leaders had been killed or captured. Over the next several years, under Baghdadi’s leadership, the group became the most important jihadi organization in the world, surpassing its former partner al Qaeda.

His influence surged in late June 2014, when the group’s official spokesperson, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, announced that it had resurrected the caliphate. It was a goal that the international jihadi movement had aimed to achieve since its inception decades ago. Baghdadi managed to turn that dream into reality. It’s an achievement that will inspire future jihadis for generations—likely more than the accomplishments of any of his jihadi contemporaries. Would-be jihadis can now point to a caliphate project that was achieved in their lifetimes.

Soon after Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi ascended to become the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq in 2010, he continued the organizational ethos of his predecessor, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, by not being omnipresent in its propaganda. This contrasts with the synonymy between bin Laden and the al Qaeda brand. In the nine and a half years that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and then later the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham and the Islamic State, he only appeared twice on camera. The first was in July 2014, when he accepted the role as caliph. The second was more recently—this April, following the Islamic State’s loss of territory—to show that he was still involved in the day-to-day leadership of the organization. In total, he only issued 14 public messages. This all serve the Islamic State movement’s idealism—the sense that it is singularly committed to its ideas, above all the caliphate project.

Baghdadi’s Martyrdom Bump

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It is clear that the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi will damage the organizational and strategic capacity of the already beleaguered Islamic State. But will it meaningfully undermine the popularity of Baghdadi’s militant ideas? Data we analyzed from jihadi websites suggests that the answer is no.

The death of al Qaeda head Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011, sparked a debate about whether his death might help lessen the appeal of his ideas or inadvertently make them more popular than ever. Commentators such as Abdel Bari Atwan warned of the “danger that post-Bin Laden, al-Qaida may emerge even more radical, and more closely united under the banner of an iconic martyr.” While others, such as Robin Simcox writing in the Los Angeles Times, rebutted that “Rather than making him a martyr, Bin Laden’s killing demonstrated that he was, like the rest of us, mortal.”

Events since don’t clearly show which of these arguments is right. On one hand, jihadism has hardly waned since bin Laden’s death in 2011. On the other, it is the upstart Islamic State group that has seized the mantle of violent jihad, not a more unified al Qaeda. Yet the question still matters: If killing bin Laden reinvigorated his ideas, then we might worry that the death of Baghdadi will invigorate a defeated but regrouping Islamic State.

The Key To Iran’s Success In The Face Of Sanctions

By Simon Watkins
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One of the most humiliating aspects for Iran of the last sanctions era was that it was dependent on the whim of the U.S. for gasoline just to keep its vehicles moving, Mehrdad Emadi, head of risk analysis and energy derivatives markets consultancy, Betamatrix, in London, told OilPrice.com. “At the time that the new sanctions were introduced last year [by the U.S.], Iran was absolutely determined not to be in the dependent position again, which is why it has pushed ahead so determinedly with the PGSR [Persian Gulf Star Refinery], and why Iran is now not just self-sufficient for gasoline but is actually looking to ramp up its export capacity,” he added.

According to comments last week from the chief executive officer of the PGSR (also more generically called the Bandar Abbas Gas Condensate Refinery), Mohammad Ali Dadvar, the plant earned US$100 million by exporting petroleum products in the just the first seven months of the current Iranian calendar year, which began on 21 March. Plans are afoot, though, to increase both the export volume and revenues within the coming 12 months or so, by initially increasing the PGSR’s output to 540,000 barrels per day (bpd) from the current 360,000 bpd, a figure that appears entirely realistic given the breakneck speed of the PGSR’s development to date.

Islamic State Leader’s Death Does Little to Ease Syria Concerns

By Philip H. Gordon

A U.S. military operation that eliminated Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is welcome but fails to allay worries about the security vacuum caused by the removal of U.S. troops from northern Syria.

How significant for counterterrorism efforts is the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the self-proclaimed Islamic State?

It is obviously gratifying to have eliminated a despicable terrorist responsible for so much suffering all around the world, and U.S. military and intelligence personnel deserve great credit for their skill and bravery in doing so. But there is little reason to believe that Baghdadi’s death will have a significant effect on the Islamic State or counterterrorism efforts in general. Baghdadi was on the run and reportedly in bad health for years, limiting his leadership role. The Islamic State is in any case a relatively flat organization, analogous to a global network of franchises, and it likely did not depend significantly on Baghdadi’s activities or strategic direction. Just as in previous cases, such as that of the head of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, in 2006, one terrorist boss can be quickly and easily replaced by another. It is even possible that Baghdadi’s death will complicate counterterrorism efforts by providing new inspiration to Islamic State members determined to avenge his death—and deliberate humiliation by U.S. President Donald J. Trump. 
How important is a continued U.S. presence in Syria to counter the remnants of the Islamic State and stabilize the region?

Russia's Risky Game Plan for Syria

by Colin P. Clarke William Courtney
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Russia’s intervention in Syria has led to claims of a win, but the blessing may be mixed. Although Russia has cemented its status as a Middle Eastern great power, economic weakness at home is eroding support for the intervention and Syria is a failed state trapped in a civil war. 

After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Russia largely withdrew from the Middle East. By ramping back up its involvement, President Vladimir Putin has stroked the longing of many Russians for their country to be in the first rank of global powers.

Outsized military and energy power are key to this. Russia uses force even against civilian targets and arms clients. It plots with Saudi Arabia to affect the world oil market. In the Middle East, the Kremlin has a knack for skillful diplomacy—it has ties with all key players—and for taking calculated risks that have paid off. 

Russia’s intervention in Syria in 2015 helped rescue the regime of President Bashar Assad, which was reeling from defeats at the hands of various rebel groups, including ISIS and Al-Qaeda-linked groups. As a reward, Russia may be allowed to base more naval and air power in Syria, capable of holding at risk NATO forces throughout the eastern Mediterranean region. This is a key Russian goal.

Debt Bomb Ready to Blow: The Greatest Threat to America (All in One Chart)

by Hunter DeRensis 
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There’s a constant whine throughout Washington D.C. that there’s nothing Republicans and Democrats can agree on. They’re so opposed on every issue, that there’s no more bipartisanship. However, going back at least forty years, there’s one policy that both parties are determined not to change: growing the U.S. national debt.

The debt currently stands at a steadily increasing $22,925,000,000,000. A person could spend hours staring at the debt clock as tens of thousands of dollars are added every second. But they’re more than just numbers on a screen. Their the financial future of this nation, the future looks bleaker than ever.

The highest debt-to-GDP ratio in American history was in 1946, just after the end of the second world war. Our debt equaled 104% of our gross domestic product. From this peak, it declined as a percentage until the 1980s, where it began growing again. This was primarily due to President Ronald Reagan’s military buildup, which increased the Pentagon’s budget by 35%. This budget-busting action led to the resignation of Reagan’s Director of the Office of Management and Budget David Stockman.

Why Does America Inflate Threats from the Middle East?

by Paul R. Pillar
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Among the roles that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff plays is that of “global force integrator,” which entails setting priorities in addressing threats around the world and recommending where to deploy U.S. military forces to meet those threats. Gen. Joseph Dunford, who completed his term as chairman last month, sought this role, which Congress conferred on him in legislation three years ago. A major drawback of having the Joint Chiefs, or any part of the military, take the lead in prioritizing threats and the disposition of resources to meet them is that there naturally will be a bias toward tending to the military’s own institutional needs in preference to other national interests. Paul Shinkman, a reporter at U.S. News and World Report, recently wrote about the “global force integrator” role and described in his story how a planned surge earlier this year of an additional fifteen hundred U.S. troops to the Middle East elicited concern among civilians in the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) about the escalatory optics of such a move. But the military defended the move as necessary “to protect U.S. forces in the Middle East.”

This type of circular reasoning has become typical in discussions of U.S. force deployments, especially in the Middle East. The main dangers from state or nonstate adversaries of the United States are attacks on the U.S. military itself. U.S. forces get deployed to a region to protect U.S. forces already in the region. The situation is an excellent example of a self-licking ice cream cone.

Obama, Trump and the Wars of Credibility

By George Friedman

The United States is in the process of shifting a core dimension of its strategic doctrine. In the past, the U.S. resorted to the use of force to address international threats. Barack Obama was the first president to argue that the use of force, particularly in the Middle East, was costly and ineffectual and that other means had to be used to exercise foreign policy. He ran his first campaign for president on this basis. He was only partially able to shift the direction of U.S. strategy. Donald Trump has extended Obama’s policy and applied it more consistently by refusing to strike at Iran over the Persian Gulf crisis and the Saudi oil facilities attack and, most recently, withdrawing from the Syria-Turkey border.

The shift in strategy was something I predicted in my 2011 book, “The Next Decade.” The basic argument was that the United States is now a global power with no global challenger, only regional ones of various sizes. Having a strategic doctrine of responding to challenges with military force would leave the decision on when to go to war up to the adversary. John F. Kennedy once said, “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” This doctrine made sense in dealing with the Soviet Union, but in a less orderly world, it reads like a blank check on U.S. military power and an invitation to other nations to draw the U.S. into combat at their will. I reasoned that a more nuanced foreign policy would emerge in the 2010s, one that would compel the U.S. to become more disciplined and selective in committing U.S. forces to combat.

How the United States Could Lose a Great-Power War

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The U.S. armed forces are now preparing for an age of great-power competition and rightly so. The 2018 National Defense Strategy shows the Defense Department is focused on the threats posed by Russia and especially China to U.S. interests, allies, and established partners such as Taiwan.

For now, U.S. forces appear poorly postured to meet these challenges. That’s because both Russia and China have developed formidable networks of missiles, radars, electronic warfare systems, and the like to degrade and potentially even block U.S. forces’ ability to operate in the Western Pacific and Eastern Europe to defend allies and partners in those regions. China in particular is developing increasingly impressive capabilities to project military farther afield, including through systems such as aircraft carriers, long-range aviation, and nuclear-powered submarines. Together, these forces have tilted the military balance over places such as Taiwan and the Baltic states from unquestioned U.S. dominance to something much more competitive.

Russia will disconnect itself from internet this week in world-first test to ‘defend against US cyberattack’

Harry Pettit

RUSSIA is poised to disconnect itself from the internet as part of its escalating cyber war with the United States.

The dramatic shutdown planned for this week is part of a scheme by Moscow officials to sever the entire nation from the global internet.
3Russia is preparing for a potential international cyber attackCredit: Getty - Contributor

Instead, Russia's web will operate on an internal network isolated from the rest of the world.

Dubbed RuNet, the setup is intended to shield Russian communications from cyber attacks from government hackers from the US and UK.

It's also part of preparations for a potential cyber war with the US that could see Donald Trump shut down Russia's web access.

Playing with fire: Global offensive cyber operations


In late-September, and in unison with the United Nations General Assembly's General Debate, 27 countries signed an agreement on Advancing Responsible State Behavior in Cyberspace. A joint statement on the agreement states that offensive cyber measures are being used by malicious actors to “target critical infrastructure and our citizens, undermine democracies and international institutions and organizations, and undercut fair competition in our global economy by stealing ideas when they cannot create them.”

This long overdue document attempts to outline what is acceptable — and what is not — in cyberspace, as well as mentioning that there will be consequences for behavior deemed unacceptable. However, specifics regarding what these repercussions might look like are absent.

Russia and China, who are frequently accused of “bad behavior” — like influencing political elections and stealing valuable intellectual property — did not sign the agreement.

Hopefully this agreement serves as a much-needed wakeup call. Cyber warfare is already here, and a few organizations have unfortunately suffered the crippling consequences.

Is Russia Headed for Trouble In Syria?

by Dimitri Alexander Simes

In a rare show of unity, major Western media outlets and Russian state-media came together to proclaim the agreement reached earlier this week by Russian president Vladimir Putin and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Syria as a major triumph for Russia. But is it?

Many in Moscow are offering a far more cautious appraisal of the deal, emphasizing that while Russia succeeded in averting a confrontation with Turkey over Syria, many challenges and risks lay ahead.

“You can only talk about victory when it is final, but in this case, the most important problems still remain,” said Alexei Malashenko, research director at the Dialogue of Civilizations think tank.

“Risks exist and all the dividends Russia received [from this deal] are not so significant as to outweigh them. A certain balance now exists, but it is quite fragile,” said Kirill Semenov a Middle East expert at the Russian International Affairs Council.

Pentagon preparing first electronic warfare report for Congress

By: Mark Pomerleau  
The Pentagon’s newly created cross functional team for electronic warfare is gearing up to submit its first report to Congress.

Mandated by the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, the task force must deliver a report to Congress every 180 days. It also must provide an update on the DoD strategy’s electronic warfare strategy.

Congress hopes to bolster the Defense Department's strategic posture in an area of increasing strategic importance.

Brig. Gen. Lance Landrum, deputy director of J8 requirements and capability development on the Joint Staff, said that the team is in its finals stages of this first report. Landrum spoke Oct. 28 at the annual Association of Old Crows International Symposium,

Overall, the cross functional team is focused on electromagnetic superiority to assure military advantage across all domains.

The zero-day war? How cyber is reshaping the future of the most combustible conflicts

As tensions rage beneath the Middle East cauldron, the expanded employment of cyber operations is preventing the region from boiling over. An October 17 Reuters report detailing the United States’ covert cyber operation against Iran, in response to the September 14 attacks on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, underscores the inclination of states to utilize cyber operations and points to broader strategic implications in the region. Israeli-Saudi security cooperation quietly incubated over mutual intolerance toward an expansionist Iran is blossoming into a gradually open relationship, with cyber at its heart. Bonds such as these, forged behind closed doors, provide options for de-escalatory approaches to regional conflict.

Conventional wisdom would suggest that scaled-up capabilities, growing competition, and the proliferation of malware across cyberspace presents a legitimate risk of escalation in state conflict, transcending the cyber domain toward the kinetic. However, recent history has shown that states have more often availed themselves of their offensive cyber arsenals to achieve surprisingly de-escalatory effects. Offensive cyber operations sit low on the escalation ladder— the figurative scale ranging from diplomatic engagement to all-out nuclear war—and provide states with means of signaling adversaries without using force, and potentially even deescalating tense or provocative situations. Through this lens, there is a case to be made for the responsible diffusion of malware as a tool of diplomacy and statecraft to de-escalate regional conflict.

Quantum leap: why the next wave of computers will change the world

In 1936, Alan Turing proposed the Turing machine, which became the foundational reference point for theories about computing and computers. Around the same time, Konrad Zuse invented the Z1 computer, considered to be the first electromagnetic binary computer.

What happened next is history, and in our world today, computers are everywhere. Our lives are dramatically different from how they were even at the end of the 20th century, and our mobile phones have far more powerful CPUs than desktop computers did only few years ago. The advent of the Internet of Things brings computer power into every minute detail of our lives. The world wide web has had such a transformative effect on society that many people can't even remember a life before they were online.

The major catalyst behind this transformation was the discovery of silicon, and its use in the production of good transistors. This occurred over a period of more than 100 years, dating from when Michael Faraday first recorded the semiconductor effect in 1833, via Morris Tanenbaum, who built the first silicon transistor at Bell Labs in 1954, to the first integrated circuit in 1960.