8 November 2019

Asian Mega-Trade Deal Pushes Ahead, But India Drops out

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A 16-nation trade initiative backed by China is pushing ahead as India, facing fierce domestic opposition to its market-opening requirements, has dropped out.

Leaders of countries involved in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) said Monday that they had resolved differences, but India said it was out. Seven years after talks began, the signing of a final deal was pushed back to next year.

India has balked at exposing its farmers and factories to more foreign competition, especially from China. It decided not to join the initiative because of an “inadequate protection against import surge,” among a list of reasons the foreign ministry circulated after leaders met.

“India had significant issues of core interest that remain unresolved,” Ministry of External Affairs East Secretary Vijay Thakur Singh said at a news conference late Monday.

She said the agreement was not “fair and balanced,” and that Prime Minister Narendra Modi worried that it would pinch India’s most vulnerable people.

How an India-Pakistan nuclear war could start—and have global consequences

Alan Robock,Owen B. Toon,Charles G. Bardeen,Lili Xia,Hans M. Kristensen,Matthew McKinzie

This article describes how an India-Pakistan nuclear war might come to pass, and what the local and global effects of such a war might be. The direct effects of this nuclear exchange would be horrible; the authors estimate that 50 to 125 million people would die, depending on whether the weapons used had yields of 15, 50, or 100 kilotons. The ramifications for Indian and Pakistani society would be major and long lasting, with many major cities largely destroyed and uninhabitable, millions of injured people needing care, and power, transportation, and financial infrastructure in ruins. But the climatic effects of the smoke produced by an India-Pakistan nuclear war would not be confined to the subcontinent, or even to Asia. Those effects would be enormous and global in scope.

It is the year 2025, and terrorists attack the Indian Parliament. In December 2001, a terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament resulted in the deaths of 12 people, including the 5 terrorists. This time, however, the attacks kill many more members of the Indian government. As happened in January 2002, both sides mobilize and deploy their troops along the border between the countries and in the disputed area of Kashmir. Because of the high tensions on both sides, skirmishes break out, and there are deaths on both sides. Since the Indian government has lost so many leaders, the Indian Army decides to act on its own, crossing the border into Pakistan with tanks and also the de facto border, known as the Line of Control, in Kashmir.

Microsoft Is Taking Quantum Computers to the Cloud

Microsoft got where it is by ensuring that Windows ran on many different types of hardware. Monday, the company said its cloud computing platform will soon offer access to the most exotic hardware of all: quantum computers.

Microsoft is one of several tech giants investing in quantum computing, which by crunching data using strange quantum mechanical processes promises unprecedented computational power. The company is now preparing its Azure cloud computing service to offer select customers access to three prototype quantum computers, from engineering conglomerate Honeywell and two startups, IonQ, which emerged from the University of Maryland, and QCI, spun out of Yale.

Microsoft does not claim those quantum computers are ready to do useful work. Existing quantum hardware is too puny. But like rivals IBM and Google, Microsoft executives say developers and corporations should start playing with quantum algorithms and hardware now to help the industry learn what the technology is good for.

Assessing the EU-China-US Triangle

By Mercy A. Kuo
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Trans-Pacific View author Mercy Kuo regularly engages subject-matter experts, policy practitioners, and strategic thinkers across the globe for their diverse insights into U.S. Asia policy. This conversation with Dr. Frans-Paul van der Putten – senior research fellow at Clingendael and co-coordinator of the Clingendael China Center in The Hague – is the 211th in “The Trans-Pacific View Insight Series.”

Explain Brussels’ strategic objectives for EU involvement in China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The European Commission’s first significant response to the BRI was its agreement in September 2015 with China to set up a bilateral Connectivity Platform. As part of this platform, each year a high-level meeting takes place between the Chinese government and the European Commission. These meetings are aimed at improving Sino-EU cooperation on transport corridors within and between Europe and China. Although the connectivity platform continues to function, it does not appear to have resulted in any major practical instances of European engagement with or involvement in the BRI.

China’s Tactics for Targeting the Uyghur Diaspora in Turkey

By: Ondřej Klimeš

Introduction: Sino-Turkish Relations and the Uyghur Diaspora

Relations between Turkey and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) have been strained by the situation in China’s northwestern region of Xinjiang (also known as East Turkestan), where the party-state has been subjecting over 14 million Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other (mostly Turkic) Muslims to heavy-handed policies—including mass incarceration, political reeducation, forced labor, enhanced social control, and technological surveillance, as well as the forced suppression of linguistic, religious, and cultural practices (China Brief, November 5, 2018; China Brief, February 1). Turkey has so far tolerated and offered symbolic support to the 35,000-strong Uyghur diaspora in the country, allowing free operation of Uyghur press outlets, advocacy organizations, public protests, and political lobbying. Earlier this year, rumors about the death of the popular Uyghur musician Abduréhim Héyit in PRC state custody prompted the Turkish government to condemn China’s Xinjiang policy (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, February 9; Hürriyet, 11 February; UN Web TV, 25 February).

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan adopted a more conciliatory tone during his July visit to Beijing (CCTV, 2 July). At the subsequent China-Turkey Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum held in Izmir in September, PRC Ambassador Deng Li (邓励) and Turkish Minister of Trade Ruhsar Pekcan signaled the intent of both countries to improve their economic ties (Xinhua, September 6; Cumhuriyet, September 8). These developments indicate that Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP) has decided to prioritize economic ties with the PRC over support to Turkey’s Uyghurs. This policy will likely complicate the situation of the Uyghur diaspora in Turkey—which has been the target of the PRC’s intensified pressure over the past two years, ever since intensified repression in Xinjiang began damaging China’s position in global politics.

China’s Military Biotech Frontier: CRISPR, Military-Civil Fusion, and the New Revolution in Military Affairs

By: Elsa Kania, Wilson VornDick


China’s national strategy of military-civil fusion (军民融合, junmin ronghe) has highlighted biology as a priority. [1] It is hardly surprising that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is looking to leverage synergies among defense, scientific, and commercial developments in biological interdisciplinary (生物交叉, shengwu jiaocha) technologies. Chinese military scientists and strategists have consistently emphasized that biotechnology could become a “new strategic commanding heights of the future Revolution in Military Affairs” (军事革命, junshi geming) (PLA Daily, October 2015). Certainly, the PRC is not alone in recognizing the potential of biotechnology on the future battlefield, but the ways in which Chinese research is seeking to integrate developments among industry, academic institutions, and military-oriented programs—including through research collaborations and the procurement of dual-purpose commercial technologies—may prove striking. In particular, China is at the forefront of today’s breakthroughs in CRISPR-Cas, a new technique for gene editing that has demonstrated unique potential and precision despite its current limitations. [2] 

The Biological Revolution in Military Affairs 

Who Wins in China’s Great Central Asia Spending Spree?

By Sam Bhutia

China’s Belt and Road Initiative seems to benefit only Central Asia’s richer countries.

Cynics often ask if China’s flagship Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has increased trade between China and its neighbors, or if it threatens to trap participants in debt. There are myriad reasons why countries sign on to the BRI. Some seek to plug gaps in domestic infrastructure, some to improve global trade ties, and some because China, with its population of 1.4 billion, is an attractive market for their goods.

Central Asia shares a long border with China. Located between China and Western markets, the region has been key to the BRI vision since Xi Jinping unveiled it in Kazakhstan in 2013. China pitches the BRI as a quick road to infrastructure development, integration, and economic growth.

But what about trade? Has trade with China risen in sync? The answer is yes – for some.

Taiwan at the Crossroads of History

By Chih-Wei Chen

China’s “sharp power” has increased significantly in recent years, challenging both the regional and international orders by influencing economies and threatening the national security of democratic countries. This has given rise to both anxieties and vigilance throughout international society. As China’s neighbor, Taiwan stands on the front lines of confrontation with this sharp power. Taiwan suffers intensified pressures daily. Under such circumstances, what could Taiwan do to safeguard the common values of liberty and democracy as well as to respond to national and international changes unseen in decades?

The people of Taiwan have for decades enjoyed a free and democratic way of life, which was forged through the sustained efforts and enormous contributions of numerous democratic pioneers. However, changes in the political environment and economic development, as well as differing mindsets between generations and social groups in Taiwan, together with increasingly severe regional and international situations, all have made it critical to promote transformation in Taiwan.

Saudi Aramco, World's Most Profitable Company, Will Make First Public Offering


President and CEO of Saudi Aramco Amin Nasser and company chairman Yasir al-Rumayyan at a press conference in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia on Sunday. The privately-owned oil giant announced it will IPO next month.AFP via Getty Images

The world's most profitable company will make its first public stock offering next month, in what could be the biggest IPO ever.

Saudi Aramco, the oil giant owned by the Saudi government, said on Sunday it will sell an unspecified number of shares, thought to be between 1% and 3% of the company. It did not specify a price range.

The company's initial offering will be on Saudi Arabia's Tadawul exchange. "We are proud of the listing of Aramco," said CEO and President Amin Nasser said. "It will increase our visibility internationally."

The Deadly Protests Shaking Iraq: What to Know

By Max Boot

Iraq’s struggling economy and government corruption sparked the protests, in which hundreds have died. The governing elite appears shaky, and the stability of the country is at stake.

October has been a month of protests around the world, from Hong Kong to Chile. Nowhere have they been as bloody as in Iraq. Tens of thousands of demonstrators have tried to swarm the Green Zone, the area in central Baghdad where Iraq’s governing class lives, enclosed by massive concrete walls built by U.S. troops. They have been met by Iraqi security forces and Iran-backed militias firing tear gas and live ammunition. At least 240 people have been killed, and the protests have spread to the city of Karbala.

This is the severest crisis of Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi’s year-long tenure, and unless he can mollify the protesters, he may not survive in office.
A Crumbling Petrostate

Security has improved dramatically since the end of the war with the self-proclaimed Islamic State in 2017, but Iraq’s economy remains in bad shape. Roughly 90 percent of government revenue comes from oil, and the government spends nearly half of its budget to pay bureaucrats who do little work. The country has grown to roughly forty million people, and about eight hundred thousand people reach working age every year without the prospect of meaningful employment. The government stopped releasing unemployment statistics in 2017, when, according to the Wall Street Journal, “the jobless rate was 13% and youth unemployment nearly double that.” The economic situation has only gotten worse since then. Electricity, water, health-care, and education systems remain antiquated and ramshackle.

The Islamic Zealots Who Seized U.S. Embassy 40 Years Ago Today Weren't 'Students'

by A.J. Caschetta

Originally published under the title "The Iranian Hostage-Takers in 1979 Were Not 'Students'."

The Islamist operatives recruited to seize the U.S. embassy in Iran in 1979 weren't exactly screened for valid student IDs.

Listen carefully to the inevitable flood of 40th-anniversary retrospectives on the November 4, 1979, takeover of the U.S. embassy in Iran, and you'll hear an unusual choice of words to describe the hostage-takers. From the very first moment of the hostage crisis, Walter Cronkite and most other American journalists referred to the men who climbed walls, faced down Marine guards, broke into buildings, seized diplomats, and held them for 444 days as "students," uncritically adopting the moniker used by both the hostage-takers themselves and Iran's new revolutionary regime, which was anxious to avoid U.S. retaliation.

When the embassy was stormed and briefly occupied on Valentine's Day 1979, it was an amateurish affair, quickly broken up by the provisional revolutionary government. But the November 4 takeover was a far more professional job. The attackers disguised their intentions with banners proclaiming "We do not wish to harm you. We just want to set in."

The hostages themselves were suspicious of their captors' campus bona fides.

Terrorism Boosts Military Involvement in Politics (And Why It Matters for Democracy)

By Vincenzo Bove, Mauricio Rivera and Chiara Ruffa
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Terrorism does more than kill people and spread fear. We already knew that terrorism damages economies and weakens human rights; now we also know that it boosts military involvement in politics. This occurs because, in protracted struggles against terrorism, military actors may exploit their informational advantage over civilian authorities to “push” their way into politics and policymaking; or the military may be “pulled” into politics by decision makers.

Of course, militaries have often played a critical role in counterterrorist strategies, but involvement in politics goes beyond traditional, behind-the-scenes counterterrorism. In the United States, for example, President Trump nominated a retired Marine Corps General, James Mattis, to be Secretary of Defense, in an example of what some experts suggest is a politization of the US military since 9/11. Mattis received an exception from Congress and was allowed to serve in a top civilian position. Additionally, “President-elect Donald Trump began to speak regularly about ‘my generals,’ placing a personal stamp of ownership,” on the military, write David Barno and Nora Bensahel.



Anighttime raid. Helicopters. Special forces. A high-value terrorist target. Concerns about identifying him. All this would have been on the list of challenges facing the Bin Laden raid planners in 2011. On Sunday morning, it was another group of Americans hunting ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, which had to go through the same complex set of obstacles to kill the bearded extremist hiding out in Idlib province near the Turkish border.

The raid began just after midnight when locals in towns near Barisha, just a few kilometers from the Turkish border, reported hearing helicopters. Drones were already in the air from just before midnight. Newsweek says that US President Donald Trump had approved the strike nearly a week ago. Members of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta – the Delta Force – were brought in to take down the target. Observers at night are not that great at determining how many helicopters are landing next to them, but locals said that they heard as many as six “chasing” a convoy of vehicles. Two of the choppers landed.

The End of Neoliberalism and the Rebirth of History


NEW YORK – At the end of the Cold War, political scientist Francis Fukuyama wrote a celebrated essay called “The End of History?” Communism’s collapse, he argued, would clear the last obstacle separating the entire world from its destiny of liberal democracy and market economies. Many people agreed.

Today, as we face a retreat from the rules-based, liberal global order, with autocratic rulers and demagogues leading countries that contain well over half the world’s population, Fukuyama’s idea seems quaint and naive. But it reinforced the neoliberal economic doctrine that has prevailed for the last 40 years.

The credibility of neoliberalism’s faith in unfettered markets as the surest road to shared prosperity is on life-support these days. And well it should be. The simultaneous waning of confidence in neoliberalism and in democracy is no coincidence or mere correlation. Neoliberalism has undermined democracy for 40 years.

Flock 93 is Russia’s dream of a 100-strong drone swarm for war

By: Kelsey D. Atherton  

At a security exposition in Moscow in late October, researchers from Russia’s oldest Air Force academy presented a vision of the future of war: a swarm of drones, more than 100 strong, each carrying a small explosive payload, designed to destroy convoys of vehicles.

The display is a called shot.

While a far cry from reality today, the technology stands as a significant statement of intent. Projections of future capability matter because they shape the development of weapons and tools in the present. That Russia sees armed drones swarms as a future part of its battle plans could shape how nations develop counter drone tools, even if the plans never materialize.

Dubbed Flock-93, the swarm concept on display at Moscow’s Interpolitex-2019 security exhibition, is being developed by the Zhukovsky Air Force Academy, along with Autonomous Aerospace Systems - GeoService, based in Krasnoyarsk, and Group Kronstadt, based in St. Petersburg. Kronstadt has worked on Russia’s Orion medium altitude long endurance military drone. The Zhukovsky academy built, and then iterated upon, the internet-famous owl-shaped drone.

Assessing the New US Free and Open Indo-Pacific Progress Report

By Prashanth Parameswaran

US President Donald Trump speaks on the final day of the APEC CEO Summit, part of the broader Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders’ summit, in the central Vietnamese city of Danang on Friday Nov. 10, 2017. World leaders and senior business figures are gathering in the Vietnamese city of Danang this week for the annual 21-member APEC summit. (Anthony Wallace, Pool via AP)Credit: AP Photo

This weekend, the U.S. State Department released a new progress report on the U.S. free and open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) concept in conjunction with the latest round of ASEAN-led summitry in Bangkok. While the report is just one of several inflection points in the development of the U.S. FOIP approach and is not without its limitations, it nonetheless bears careful examination in terms of what it reveals about U.S. government thinking on the evolution and future shaping of the regional vision.

Since U.S. President Donald Trump first laid out a vision for the Indo-Pacific during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit (APEC) in Hanoi in 2017 and in line with guidance from other documents including the National Security Strategy and the National Defense Strategy, the U.S. government has been attempting to translate what has been termed “FOIP” into reality across the security, economics, and governance pillars. And that has continued on into 2019 as well, including through the release of documents such as the Indo-Pacific Strategy Report which we saw unveiled at the last iteration of the Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD) in Singapore.

Revisiting the climate collapse: The view from Nuuk in the year 2070

David Spratt
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Planetary warming is one of several existential threats to human civilization. We are now in the climate end-game, facing a choice between dramatic action or a world plunged into outright chaos. The consequences of a failure to respond appropriately to the risks are explored in a scenario that illustrates the impacts of poorly-mitigated fossil fuel use over the next 50 years, including massive disruption of human societies, and identifies the main causes of the epochal failure of governments to protect the people and their future.

Who’s Who in Northern Syria?

By Lindsay Maizland

In a new escalation in Syria’s civil war, Turkey has launched a military operation aimed at removing Kurdish fighters from areas in northern Syria near the Turkish border. Here’s what you need to know about the many actors in the region: 

New Report Available — How to Defend the Baltic States

Since at least 2014, the United States’ National Security Strategy and almost every major US think tank has called attention to the parlous state of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) eastern flank. There, some of NATO’s newest and smallest member states are threatened by an aggressive and revanchist Russian Federation. In particular, the three Baltic States—Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania—face powerful Russian forces with tiny armies and modest defense budgets. Despite presidential guidance contained in the US National Security Strategy, these frontline countries remain all but undefended. For Russian President Vladimir Putin, the prize is tempting: an opportunity, at low risk, to seize NATO territory and fracture the Alliance. As an urgent priority, Washington, as leader of NATO, should take on defense of the Baltics as a critical priority. Indeed, without effective defense, there can be no effective deterrence.

In How to Defend the Baltic States, Jamestown Distinguished Senior Fellow Richard D. Hooker, Jr., long-time defense scholar and Theodore Roosevelt Chair in National Security Affairs at the National Defense University, lays out the military units and force posture, along with changes to Alliance command and control, that would be needed to prevail in case Russia were to spark hostilities in the Baltic States. His report is a must-read for all US and NATO defense policymakers, military planners as well as on-the-ground commanders who are daily tasked with the responsibility of ensuring credible defense and deterrence on the Alliance’s northeastern flank.

Thirty years after the end of history: Elements of an education

By Constanze Stelzenmüller

When the revolution happened, I was not there for it. To be exact, I was 3,776 miles away in Somerville, Massachusetts. On the clear, chilly afternoon of November 9, 1989, I was sitting at my desk in the drafty wooden double-decker house whose upper-level apartment I shared with three other graduate students, mulling over an early chapter of my doctoral thesis on direct democracy in America. Hunched over library books on Puritan town meetings, I clasped a mug of steaming tea, swaddled in scarf and sweater, and beneath it all, very probably wearing my L.L. Bean double-layered thermal long underwear, essential for survival in a New England winter.

The house phone rang, and continued to ring insistently. It was another West German student. We were used to ribbing each other about our politics, hers crisply conservative, mine vaguely liberal. She said, without preface: “Turn on the TV, the wall is gone.” Annoyed that I’d lost my train of thought, I retorted grumpily that she’d have to be more creative if she wanted to play one of her right-wing political jokes on me. She merely repeated: “Turn. On. The. TV.” Shocked, I did as I was told, and stared in disbelief at the inconceivable, the impossible: fuzzy shots, in grainy black and white, of tens of thousands of people waving sledgehammers and champagne bottles, dancing and singing — on top of the Berlin Wall, for 28 years one of the most deadly borders on the planet. Many people were chanting “Wir sind das Volk,” we are the people.

Why Japan Lost Its Comparative Advantage In Producing Electronic Parts And Components

by Willem Thorbecke
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Japanese exports in electronic parts and components dramatically fell in value after the Global Crisis and have not recovered until today. This column investigates why Japan lost this comparative advantage. It argues that capital inflows seeking safe havens during the crisis led to a sharp appreciation of the yen and caused yen export prices to tumble relative to production costs. Plummeting profits then hindered Japanese firms from investing enough in capital and innovation to compete with rivals.

Japanese researchers began studying transistors three months after they were invented at America’s Bell Labs in 1947. Japanese companies then used transistors and other electronic parts and components to produce radios, television sets, Sony Walkmans, video cassette recorders, and computers. As the yen appreciated by 60% following the 1985 Plaza Accord, Japanese companies lost competitiveness in final electronics goods and moved upstream in electronics value chains. They focused on exporting electronic parts and components and capital goods to producers of final electronics goods abroad.
Japan’s declining comparative advantage in electronic parts

Why Is The U.S. Trade Deficit Worsening?

by Dan Steinbock

How Trump Tariff Wars Worsen US Trade Deficit and Increase China's Surplus

Since 2018, Trump's trade wars have made US trade deficit only worse, while hurting the poorest economies the most and penalizing global prospects.

According to the new IMF outlook, global growth is forecast at 3.0% for 2019. That’s the lowest since the global crisis of 2008-9. The decline is largely due to the US tariff wars, which have contributed to the projected slowdown in the US and China.

Due to the global slowdown, world growth prospects now hover at levels where they were last amid the darkest moments of 2008/9.

Trump tariffs widen US trade deficit

Russian Defense Spending

These graphics provide an overview of the trend in Russia’s defense spending, outlining spending between 2010 and 2018 as well as forecasts for the defense budget up to 2021. For an insight into the prospects for Russia’s defense spending and more, see ‘Russian Analytical Digest No. 237: Security Issues’.

Hot Issue – The Race for Bases, Ports, and Resources in the Horn of Africa Heats Up

By: Michael Horton

Executive summary: The battle for access and influence in the Horn of Africa is intensifying as the Gulf States, Turkey, and China race to secure footholds. At the same time, rivalries between Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, and Turkey are shaping how these countries interact with state and non-state actors in the Horn. The insertion of the Gulf States’, Turkey’s, and Iran’s regional disputes into the politics of the countries that make up the Horn will exacerbate instability in what are already fragile states.

Over the last five years, the battle between outside powers for influence in—and access to—the Horn of Africa has intensified. The Gulf States, Turkey, and China, in particular, are all competing for footholds in what is one of the world’s most strategic regions. After years of relatively little interest in the countries that make up the Horn of Africa, outside powers are investing billions of dollars in the region.

The race for bases and ports in the Horn of Africa is well underway. Somalia hosts Turkey’s largest overseas military base and Turkish companies run Mogadishu’s port and airport. Turkey’s ally and benefactor, Qatar, is also working to establish itself in southern Somalia. Further north in the independent but unrecognized Republic of Somaliland and in the autonomous region of Puntland, United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based companies operate the ports of Berbera and Bosaso. The UAE has also built a naval and air base at Assab in Eritrea. Djibouti, wedged between Somaliland and Eritrea, hosts bases for the United States, Japan, France, Italy, and China. Saudi Arabia has an agreement with Djibouti to build its first overseas base in the country, but construction of the base has not begun.

The Realists Are Wrong About Syria

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The news of the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi during a raid by U.S. special operations forces on Oct. 27 capped a dizzying three weeks in the Trump administration’s Syria policy. The turmoil began on Oct. 6, with President Donald Trump’s peremptory decision to pull back about 100 U.S. soldiers from their positions embedded with Kurdish forces in northern Syria. A few days later, he ordered the withdrawal from the north of the country of the entire U.S. presence of 1,000 troops, and then in late October he partially reversed that decision, redeploying several hundred U.S. troops back into northeast Syria to “take the oil.”

No doubt more news is yet to emerge, and perhaps more policy shifts, too. In the midst of all the breaking developments and about-faces, an important debate has emerged about U.S. policy and force deployments. Trump’s original decision to withdraw was met with scathing criticism across the political spectrum: from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Rep. Liz Cheney, from Sen. Chuck Schumer to Sen. Ted Cruz, from the Center for American Progress to the American Enterprise Institute, and on editorial pages from the New York Times to the Wall Street Journal. Many of Trump’s senior officials seemed to disagree with the decision as well, according to their anonymous conversations with reporters, and the Defense Department had long tried to prevent it.

DISA’s 10 tech focuses for 2020

By: Andrew Eversden
The Defense Information Systems Agency wants to improve the military’s cybersecurity posture in 2020 and that focus is evident in the agency’s top priorities for emerging technologies.

Stephen Wallace, systems innovation scientist at the agency’s emerging technology directorate, outlined 10 technologies for the upcoming year during DISA’s annual Forecast to Industry event Nov. 4.

The priorities include:

Assured identity. DISA is taking another look at how the Common Access Card, which currently operates as a point in time authentication, is used today. Over the next year, DISA wants to apply assured identity to its mobile and desktop devices. In addition, officials want to know how they can continuously monitor the user’s identity "in the background. “How can we build a profile of that user’s identity and their day-to-day actions,” Wallace said. “We’ve had a few successful prototypes so far and we expect to do more as time progresses.”

Israeli spyware: WhatsApp hack raises global fears


In the middle of October this year, the world’s biggest messaging platform, WhatsApp, started sending out alerts to select users advising them that their security had been compromised. The messages were sent after security researchers found that an Israeli company had been supplying spying software that specifically targeted WhatsApp users.

Once the targeted device is hacked through WhatsApp, it makes all the data on the phone available to the spies. Everything on the phone, be it email or other messaging platforms or photographs and documents, can then be easily accessed by the spy agency using the Israeli spyware. For WhatsApp, which features end-to-end encryption, the hack was a devastating blow to the security of its users.

In an uncharacteristic opinion piece in The Washington Post published last week, Will Cathcart, the head of WhatsApp, wrote about this massive attack on the platform.

NATO’s Response to Hybrid Threats

By Michael Rühle
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Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014 was the greatest challenge for the post-Cold War European security architecture. After two decades of focusing on crisis operations abroad, NATO was forced to return to its original core task of collective defense, manifested, inter alia, in the rotational deployment of troops in the Alliance’s East. However, Russia’s approach in Ukraine also revealed that NATO needed to do more than enhancing its military posture. NATO also had to deal with the phenomenon of “hybrid warfare” – a type of warfare that combines overt and covert military and non-military means, and thus creates ambiguity that could severely complicate a unified response.

The concept of “hybrid warfare” is not new. What is new, however, is the seamless orchestration of military and non-military tools, as was demonstrated in Ukraine: Russia built up an impressive military threat close to Ukraine’s borders, deployed paramilitary units, launched cyberattacks against Ukrainian infrastructure, interrupted gas supplies, and supported the East Ukrainian separatists with military equipment. This was accompanied by a massive disinformation campaign intended to create the impression that Moscow had nothing to do with the events on the ground.

Nile Basin Water Wars: The Never-Ending Struggle Between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan


A Conflict through the Decades

Known for being the longest river on the African continent, the Nile River has served as a key source of water for all the countries residing in its basin, with Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan representing the three countries most reliant on this water source. This natural resource has been a point of conflict for over a century, often serving as the root cause for inter and intra-state wars, as political leaders and citizens fight for what they believe is inherently theirs. Dating back to 1821, this motivation to establish maximum control over the Nile pushed Egypt to invade Sudan and in 1875 led to the Egyptian occupation of Ethiopia, with the basin experiencing social and political tensions ever since. The histories of these three countries are filled with the development of several treaties between their colonial power-holders, including the building of dams and rights to minimum amounts of water, however most of these treaties gave preference to Egypt, as exemplified by the Nile Waters Agreements of 1929 and 1959. The struggle for Nile waters is also considered to be one of the most important causes of the proxy wars of the 1960s to the 2000s in and around Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan.

Another factor contributing to these countries’ inability to cooperate and negotiate equitable terms is the belief that each of them has a right to the majority of the water’s shares. Egypt, having the most ancient population of the three countries and therefore the longest record of usage, believes it has historical rights to the waters, while Ethiopia claims geographical rights, since 95% of the Nile waters run naturally through the Ethiopian wetlands. Sudan on the other hand claims it is entitled to the waters given its geographical location between Ethiopia and Egypt – stating that cooperation between those two countries, and in turn peace in the basin, is not possible without their involvement. As a result, these countries have been unable to negotiate fair and equitable terms as to how the water should be distributed, and therefore have been unable to ease tensions in the basin.

Military-Civil Fusion and Electromagnetic Spectrum Management in the PLA

By: John Dotson

Introduction: EMSM as a Key Element of “Military-Civil Fusion”

Modern battlefield environments will contain a greater proliferation of electromagnetic emitters than ever before—including but not limited to radars, communications networks, and jamming systems—employed by many different platforms across multiple warfare domains. As a result, electromagnetic spectrum management (EMSM) is a discipline growing steadily in importance for modern military forces. The U.S. Department of Defense defines EMSM as “planning, coordinating, and managing joint use of the [electromagnetic spectrum] through operational, engineering, and administrative procedures… [intended] to enable EMS-dependent capabilities and systems to perform their functions in the intended environment without causing or suffering unacceptable interference.” [1]

Amid the course of Chinese military modernization and reform, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is well aware of the importance of electronic warfare in modern battlefield environments (China Brief, April 9, 2018; China Brief, February 1). PLA writers are also fully aware of the importance of electromagnetic spectrum management (电磁频谱管理, dianci pinpu guanli), and have stated that “electromagnetic space is the ‘sixth domain of battle’ alongside the land, sea, air, space, and internet, and is of critical function for victory or defeat in war.” [2]