13 December 2019

Failed Agni III Test May Dent India’s Credible Deterrence

By Pranav R. Satyanath

India conducted the first night test of its Agni III surface-to-surface ballistic missile off the coast of the state of Odisha on Saturday, December 1. The test used a missile selected randomly from the production set. The test, however, ended in an alleged failure, as one report suggested that the missile tumbled into the sea during stage separation.

The intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM), pressed into service in 2011, services as a critical component of India’s nuclear deterrent. If the report, which quotes a highly placed source, is indeed true, then this is not only an acute concern for India’s Strategic Forces Command, but also sends mixed signals about India’s credible deterrent.

Development of the Agni III, a two-stage solid propellant missile, began as early as 2001 with the goal to build a highly mobile and survivable missile. Inducted into the Strategic Forces Command (SFC), the missile — designed and developed by the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) — is said to have a range between 3,000 and 5,000 kilometers, with the ability to carry warheads of up to two tons and possibly reach targets in China.

What Did the U.S. Get for $2 Trillion in Afghanistan?

By Sarah Almukhtar and Rod Nordland

All told, the cost of nearly 18 years of war in Afghanistan will amount to more than $2 trillion. Was the money well spent?

There is little to show for it. The Taliban control much of the country. Afghanistan remains one of the world’s largest sources of refugees and migrants. More than 2,400 American soldiers and more than 38,000 Afghan civilians have died.

Still, life has improved, particularly in the country’s cities, where opportunities for education have grown. Many more girls are now in school. And democratic institutions have been built — although they are shaky at best.

Drawing on estimates from Brown University’s Costs of War Project, we assessed how much the United States spent on different aspects of the war and whether that spending achieved its aims…

Hurdles Remain for Renewed Afghan Peace Talks

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Welcome to Foreign Policy’s Security Brief. What’s on tap today: Peace talks between Washington and the Taliban could be back on, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi steps down, and Russia begins selling natural gas to China.

Taliban Ready to Resume Negotiations

Both the Taliban and the Afghan government appeared caught off guard by U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement during a Thanksgiving Day visit to Afghanistan—his first since taking office—that the Taliban was ready to agree to a cease-fire deal. But the insurgent group responded quickly, with a spokesman saying on Friday that they were “ready to restart the talks.”

Trump abruptly canceled peace talks with the Taliban in September, but the surprise comments and the group’s positive response have raised hopes once more for a long-elusive peace deal to end the 18-year war in Afghanistan. The development comes a week after a prisoner swap between Washington and Kabul suggested the Taliban was still eager for a deal.

Cautious optimism. It’s not yet clear if the renewed discussions will lead to peace. Key disputes still need to be resolved, including the Taliban’s refusal to talk directly with the Afghan government. And, contrary to what Trump said last week, there are no signs the Taliban is ready for a cease-fire—a condition has long been a sticking point for the insurgent group, which primarily uses violence as leverage.

NATO’s China challenge

by Frederick Kempe

China has emerged as the most formidable challenge that has ever faced NATO. That is true as well for the North American and European economies upon which NATO rests, which account for roughly half of global GDP.

Lay aside all the theatrics of this week’s 70th anniversary summit of NATO now-29 members. The biggest news – though woefully underreported – was that NATO, history’s most enduring and successful alliance, for the first-time defined China as a strategic challenge.

That news was drowned out by French leader Emmanuel Macron, who came into town having declared NATO brain dead; by Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who responded that it instead was the French leader’s brain that was lifeless; by Canadian leader Justin Trudeau, who was caught mocking President Trump during allied cocktail hour; and by President Trump, who shrugged in response that the Canadian was two-faced.

As entertaining as all that was, more significant was that NATO allies have belatedly focused on the most significant challenge to world democracies and their market-driven economies in our new era of major power competition. However, although the closing NATO summit statement required unanimity, even more revealing is the ambiguity of its language, reflecting disagreement over whether Beijing is more of an economic opportunity than fundamental challenge.

The New Geography of Global Diplomacy

By Bonnie Bley 

As China’s rise has become a central force in global politics, analysts and policymakers have tracked its path to potential preeminence on a number of fronts: the size of its economy, the scale and reach of its investment and commercial relationships, the budget and capabilities of its military forces. But as of 2019, China has surpassed the United States in an underappreciated but crucial measure of global influence: the size of its diplomatic network.

For decades, Washington had the largest diplomatic network in the world. Now China does, boasting 276 diplomatic posts—including embassies, consulates, and permanent missions to international organizations. The United States’ network, meanwhile, stands at 273, down one post since 2017.

This shift could mark a turning point in great-power competition. As Beijing becomes more and more willing to deploy its global power, seemingly no longer interested in former leader Deng Xiaoping’s instruction to “hide your strength, bide your time,” it has invested in active and far-reaching diplomacy. Washington, meanwhile, has seen both a turn inward and a privileging of other tools. Where once the United States enjoyed global diplomatic primacy, the playing field is now leveling.


Do No Harm in Hong Kong

By Kurt Tong 

In the months after large-scale protests first broke out in Hong Kong last June, U.S. policy circles remained relatively quiet. Yet as demonstrations turned violent and rumors of a Beijing-directed crackdown spread, concern in Washington grew. Last week, President Donald Trump signed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which arrived at his desk with veto-proof backing from both houses of Congress. The legislation gives the U.S. government a stronger mandate to adjust its legal stance toward Hong Kong, as well as offering renewed sanctions authorities and a clearer expression of where the United States stands on the city’s future.

Yet the biggest questions for U.S. policy still lie ahead. At issue today in Hong Kong is not simply when and how the protests end. More consequential is whether Hong Kong’s uniquely autonomous status within China, as defined by the “one country, two systems” paradigm, can survive the current crisis. The most important focus for U.S. policymakers should be to do what they can to reinforce that paradigm, while avoiding steps that would undermine it.

Double Whammy for China

Frank Ching

HONG KONG: China was taken aback as news emerged of the pro-democratic landslide in Hong Kong’s district council elections. Chinese media, after preparing articles based on assumptions of a pro-Beijing victory, were shocked into silence. Then China suffered another setback – US President Donald Trump signed into law the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, approved overwhelmingly by both congressional chambers. The dual shock seems to have led China, for now, to adopt a conciliatory posture, asking the victorious democrats to help strengthen Hong Kong’s “one country, two systems.”

From China’s standpoint, both setbacks were grave. The US bill was introduced in June, and China fought it at every step – in the House, the Senate and as it waited on the president’s desk. After the bill was signed, Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng summoned the US ambassador, Terry Branstad, to protest “serious interference in China’s internal affairs” and demand that the United States refrain from implementing the law’s provisions to “avoid further damage” to the bilateral relationship.

China tells government offices to remove all foreign computer equipment

Kate Lyons

China has ordered that all foreign computer equipment and software be removed from government offices and public institutions within three years, the Financial Times reports.

The government directive is likely to be a blow to US multinational companies such as HP, Dell and Microsoft, and mirrors attempts by Washington to limit the use of Chinese technology, as the trade war between the countries turns into a tech cold war.

The Trump administration banned US companies from doing business with the Chinese telecoms company Huawei this year and Google, Intel and Qualcomm announced they would freeze cooperation with Huawei.

By excluding China from western knowhow, the Trump administration has made it clear that the real battle is about which of the two economic superpowers has the technological edge for the next two decades.

Huawei under fire in China over employee detained for eight months

AI judges and verdicts via chat app: the brave new world of China's digital courts

Kelly WANG

Artificial-intelligence judges, cyber-courts, and verdicts delivered on chat apps -- welcome to China's brave new world of justice spotlighted by authorities this week.

China is encouraging digitisation to streamline case-handling within its sprawling court system using cyberspace and technologies like blockchain and cloud computing, China's Supreme People's Court said in a policy paper.

The efforts include a "mobile court" offered on popular social media platform WeChat that has already handled more than three million legal cases or other judicial procedures since its launch in March, according to the Supreme People's Court.

The paper was released this week as judicial authorities gave journalists a glimpse inside a "cyber court" -- the country's first -- established in 2017 in the eastern city of Hangzhou to deal with legal disputes that have a digital aspect.

In a demonstration, authorities showed how the Hangzhou Internet Court operates, featuring an online interface with litigants appearing by video chat as an AI judge -- complete with on-screen avatar -- prompts them to present their cases.


By Craig Whitlock
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Aconfidential trove of government documents obtained by The Washington Post reveals that senior U.S. officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan throughout the 18-year campaign, making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable.

The documents were generated by a federal project examining the root failures of the longest armed conflict in U.S. history. They include more than 2,000 pages of previously unpublished notes of interviews with people who played a direct role in the war, from generals and diplomats to aid workers and Afghan officials.

The U.S. government tried to shield the identities of the vast majority of those interviewed for the project and conceal nearly all of their remarks. The Post won release of the documents under the Freedom of Information Act after a three-year legal battle.

In the interviews, more than 400 insiders offered unrestrained criticism of what went wrong in Afghanistan and how the United States became mired in nearly two decades of warfare.

All the King’s Consultants

By Calvert W. Jones 

“Does a Lebanese kid from Harvard know more about the streets of Riyadh than I do?” a Saudi business developer asked me in 2016, bemoaning the scores of highly paid foreign consultants whispering into the ears of his country’s leaders. The phenomenon isn’t unique to Saudi Arabia, and neither are the complaints. “All their eyes are on our money,” an Emirati adviser said in an interview. “Too many strategies, not enough getting done.”

Experts play valuable and highly visible roles advising leaders in wealthy liberal democracies and international institutions. But far less is known about what they do—and to what effect—for authoritarian regimes and developing countries. That’s a problem, because autocratic leaders from China to Saudi Arabia increasingly rely on experts, especially from top consulting firms, universities, and think tanks in the West. In 2017, the consulting market in the Gulf monarchies topped $2.8 billion, with Saudi Arabia accounting for almost half of that amount, according to Source Global Research. Experts and the institutions they work for have sometimes appeared unprepared to handle the potential pitfalls of operating in authoritarian contexts. In recent months, experts who assist regimes associated with human rights violations, corruption, and other wrongdoing—and often charge hefty fees—have provoked growing public criticism, both in the United States, where many are based, and in the countries where they operate.

Mohammed bin Salman Is Having a Fire Sale of His Political Power

by Steven A. Cook
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If not for protests in Iraq and Lebanon and the still unfolding drama in northeastern Syria, Saudi Aramco’s pending initial public offering (IPO) would be by far the biggest story in the Middle East. Perhaps history will still remember it as such.

The two most important facts about Aramco are now directly in tension with one another. It has been central to the power of the House of Saud precisely because the royal family has had it under tight control. At the same time, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has made it central to his plan to transform the country, known as Vision 2030, by promising to sell shares of the company to investors—thus giving them greater control over it.

So how to make sense of Mohammed bin Salman’s decision? The easy answer is money. Despite its reputation for vast wealth, Saudi Arabia needs more cash. But there is something else going on here: the political rehabilitation of the crown prince. His supporters will argue that he does not need to be rehabilitated because he has always enjoyed broad support in Saudi Arabia. That may be true, but to pull off Vision 2030, Mohammed bin Salman needs some of the international good will he enjoyed until mid-2017. There’s just one problem: The Aramco IPO is far riskier than the Saudis are letting on.

Turkey’s military drones: an export product that’s disrupting NATO

By Dan Gettinger

Just over a decade ago, the prototype of an unmanned aircraft that would become the Bayraktar TB2 took off for its maiden flight at Sinop Airport on the Black Sea. There were few signs then that the mid-sized, twin-boom aircraft would become Turkey’s first indigenously produced armed drone and the backbone of its unmanned air force. At the time, domestic drone manufacturers struggled against technical difficulties and foreign competition. Ten years on, however, the situation is radically different: Ankara’s drone program has morphed into a successful industry that’s already exporting products. It’s also a potent military force that’s further straining the NATO alliance.

Turkey is wielding its new arsenal in a military campaign against Kurdish fighters in Syria, part of a long-standing conflict that has taken on new significance since US President Donald Trump announced a controversial decision to withdraw troops from northern Syria this fall, opening up allied Syrian Kurds to Turkish attacks. The president of France, another NATO ally of Turkey’s, recently accused Turkey of “fighting against those who fight with us.” Turkey’s drones have enabled a conflict in an already volatile region; more worrisome, Ankara’s successful drone program is an example that several other countries hope to emulate.

Iran’s Protests Are Not Just About Gas Prices

By Mohammad Ali Kadivar, Saber Khani, and Abolfazl Sotoudeh 

Awave of protest swept across Iran last week. The government had abruptly hiked gas prices in order to offset its budget deficit at a time of high inflation and negative economic growth. Angry protesters clashed with security forces, set government buildings and banks on fire, and blocked roads. The government responded with an iron fist, killing more than 200 protesters, arresting thousands, and shutting down the Internet across the country for about a week.

In a country where anti-government demonstrations are not allowed, widespread protests with an explicit anti-regime tone are significant. But to understand the meaning of these protests—to know what motivated protesters and why—is exceedingly difficult, given the restrictions on free expression and international communication that currently prevail in Iran. The identities and agendas of the protesters matter for their own sake. They also matter because Iran is a country eternally in the spotlight and often misunderstood.

Russia has strong hand to play at Paris meeting on eastern Ukraine

A group of European leaders meeting in Paris on Monday aims to revive progress on terms for peace in eastern Ukraine, an effort that has largely stalled since the second Minsk agreement was signed in February 2015.

Why it matters: It’s the first such meeting in more than three years among France, Germany, Ukraine and Russia — the so-called Normandy Four. Russian President Vladimir Putin enters the talks with his greatest leverage yet, which does not bode well for Ukraine.

Between the lines: International developments have converged to strengthen Russia's hand.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his team are new to the diplomatic game and likely ill-equipped to confront the experienced Russian delegation — particularly Putin, who prepares thoroughly for high-level meetings and knows his French and German counterparts well. Back home, Zelensky faces falling approval ratings and protests against a feared "capitulation" to Russia on the Donbas.

French President Emmanuel Macron is pursuing his Russia "reset." He has vetoed further enlargement of the EU to the Balkans (an unhelpful signal for Ukraine’s accession aspirations), undermined NATO solidarity with comments about the alliance's "brain death" and announced that Russia is not a threat to Europe.

Trump Is Ratcheting Up His Trade Wars, Targeting Brazil and Argentina

Kimberly Ann Elliott 

It came in a predawn tweet, like so many things from President Donald Trump: The announcement of new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Brazil and Argentina. It was just the start of another wild week in Trump’s trade wars.

He then threatened to retaliate against France for its new tax on American technology companies with tariffs on French exports of wine, cheese and handbags. Later in the week, Trump said he might prefer to wait until after the election to reach the “phase-one” trade deal with China he announced as all-but done back in October. The comments raised the specter—again—of new tariffs taking effect on $160 billion in additional Chinese imports, mainly consumer products, after the duties were delayed from Sep. 1 to Dec. 15. Finally, during a NATO leaders’ meeting outside London, Trump suggested he might use tariffs to punish countries not meeting their defense spending targets in the alliance. ...

How William Gibson Keeps His Science Fiction Real

By Joshua Rothman

Suppose you’ve been asked to write a science-fiction story. You might start by contemplating the future. You could research anticipated developments in science, technology, and society and ask how they will play out. Telepresence, mind-uploading, an aging population: an elderly couple live far from their daughter and grandchildren; one day, the pair knock on her door as robots. They’ve uploaded their minds to a cloud-based data bank and can now visit telepresently, forever. A philosophical question arises: What is a family when it never ends? A story flowers where prospective trends meet.

This method is quite common in science fiction. It’s not the one employed by William Gibson, the writer who, for four decades, has imagined the near future more convincingly than anyone else. Gibson doesn’t have a name for his method; he knows only that it isn’t about prediction. It proceeds, instead, from a deep engagement with the present. When Gibson was starting to write, in the late nineteen-seventies, he watched kids playing games in video arcades and noticed how they ducked and twisted, as though they were on the other side of the screen. The Sony Walkman had just been introduced, so he bought one; he lived in Vancouver, and when he explored the city at night, listening to Joy Division, he felt as though the music were being transmitted directly into his brain, where it could merge with his perceptions of skyscrapers and slums. His wife, Deborah, was a graduate student in linguistics who taught E.S.L. He listened to her young Japanese students talk about Vancouver as though it were a backwater; Tokyo must really be something, he thought. He remembered a weeping ambulance driver in a bar, saying, “She flatlined.” On a legal pad, Gibson tried inventing words to describe the space behind the screen; he crossed out “infospace” and “dataspace” before coming up with “cyberspace.” He didn’t know what it might be, but it sounded cool, like something a person might explore even though it was dangerous.

What EU “Geopolitical” Power Will Cost

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LONDON – With former German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen assuming the presidency of the European Commission, the European Union now has a new executive. Von der Leyen has promised to lead a “geopolitical” Commission, believing that Europe needs to be more assertive in its relations with other countries, and more hard-nosed in pursuing its own interests around the world, particularly vis-à-vis the other large powers.

Because the EU lacks an army or a central secret service, it must use economic policies to achieve its geopolitical aims. But the way Europe’s policy toolkit works in practice suggests that it is not well suited for exercising power abroad.

The EU’s most important policy tool is trade, which is one of the few areas where the bloc acts as one. The EU has traditionally run its trade policy along conventional commercial lines, with the goal of maximizing market access for European exporters and protecting certain domestic sectors (particularly agriculture). Could this policy be tweaked for geopolitical purposes?

How the Energy World of Tomorrow Reshapes Geopolitics

By Antonia Colibasanu

To understand geopolitics we need to understand power, which in turn derives from the perception of national wealth. The way nation-states use their wealth to defend their interests helps to shape our perception of their place and their role in the world. Soil resources are among the most important elements of wealth. But it is the human being who evaluates those elements -- as such, the human resource is superior to them.

Hydrocarbons played a vital role in World War II, and the use of energy has evolved in the decades since. In order to understand the way the energy sector is perceived today, as well as the geopolitical consequences of this perception, we must understand how World War II redefined the world itself. The strategies developed by the two opposing world powers during the Cold War, inspired by the lessons of the Second World War, were based on access to energy resources and the use thereof. This is no longer the case today, although energy security remains an important part of shaping a national strategy. What has changed is the way we perceive reality today. We’re increasingly individualistic, which grows our importance as human beings and communities in defining the role of the nation-state in an increasingly “not-so-global” world. 

Energy nodes: redefining the world

How Poverty Ends

By Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo 

For all the worries today about the explosion of inequality in rich countries, the last few decades have been remarkably good for the world’s poor. Between 1980 and 2016, the average income of the bottom 50 percent of earners nearly doubled, as this group captured 12 percent of the growth in global GDP. The number of those living on less than $1.90 a day—the World Bank’s threshold for “extreme poverty”—has dropped by more than half since 1990, from nearly two billion to around 700 million. Never before in human history have so many people been lifted out of poverty so quickly. 

There have also been massive improvements in quality of life, even for those who remain poor. Since 1990, the global maternal mortality rate has been cut in half. So has the infant mortality rate, saving the lives of more than 100 million children. Today, except in those places experiencing major social disruption, nearly all children, boys and girls alike, have access to primary education. Even deaths from HIV/AIDS, an epidemic that once seemed hopeless, peaked soon after the turn of the millennium and have been declining ever since. 

Ukraine’s Leader to Face Down Putin for First Time


While Washington has been fixated on U.S. President Donald Trump’s interactions with his Ukrainian counterpart—and whether those conversations represent an impeachable offense for the American leader—Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been focused on ending the war in his country’s east, where more than 13,000 people have been killed in a five-year-long battle against Russian-backed separatists.

Now Zelensky finds himself somewhat hobbled by the impeachment controversy back in Washington as he prepares to hold his first-ever meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Paris on Monday. There, the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany, and France, collectively known as the Normandy group, will meet together for the first time in three years to discuss ways to resolve the conflict. 

The talks are not expected to yield any breakthroughs, but the stakes could hardly be higher for Ukraine’s neophyte president as he contends with a distracted Washington and a stubborn Moscow—as well as a French president who has sought rapprochement with Putin

And the prize for global nuclear security goes to… China

By Sara Z. Kutchesfahani

In the mass media lately—and in presidential tweets—China has often come off poorly, due in part to the Chinese government’s authoritarian stance on human rights, its trade practices, its reliance on heavy-handed surveillance of its population, and its recent history of suppressing debate.

But in at least one area, the Chinese government shines: nuclear security.

In fact, when it comes to nuclear security policies and practices, as well as laws, regulations, management, monitoring, and the structure of emergency response, the country is unusually transparent—and readily meets international standards. As a result, China is poised to play a leading role in global nuclear risk reduction efforts in the coming decades, at home and abroad. This trend can be seen by China’s many commitments within the Nuclear Security Summit process, its cooperation in bilateral nuclear security structures with the United States, and its efforts to remove highly enriched uranium from a Nigerian research reactor (that China itself played a role in building).

But what do recent Chinese nuclear security efforts reveal about how China will approach setting the agenda for the future? And how is China’s approach likely to evolve in the coming decades as arms control becomes less prominent, China becomes a larger exporter of nuclear technology and materials, and China asserts its own priorities in other forums?

How the Brexit Election Was Reduced to Trivia

By Steve Bloomfield 

Days before the United Kingdom heads to the polls for its most consequential election in a generation, the lead stories on the country’s two most-read newspaper websites summed up the pettiness of British politics. “Boris Johnson denies joking about Donald Trump at NATO reception and not taking him seriously,” cried The Guardian in a reference to the prime minister’s appearance in a video that appeared to show world leaders deriding the U.S. president at the recent NATO summit. “You don’t watch the Queen’s Speech, do you Jeremy Corbyn?” the Daily Mail screamed in response to the Labour leader’s unwillingness to confirm whether he sat down with his family to watch the monarch’s annual televised Christmas Day address.

The election on December 12 is a choice between two very different—and very radical—visions of what the United Kingdom should be. The opposition Labour Party is led by Jeremy Corbyn, a 70-year-old campaigning socialist who spent his entire political career on the margins of the party before dramatically winning the leadership in 2015. He is proposing nothing less than a fundamental realignment of the British economy, taking a series of utilities and services out of private hands, investing hundreds of billions of pounds in a British version of the Green New Deal, and promising an end to some of the more egregious Conservative cuts to public services and the welfare state.

Ukraine’s Divided House Still Stands

By Brian Milakovsky 

Ukrainians register the deepening scandal around the alleged quid pro quo—U.S. President Donald Trump’s pressuring of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky—as a sideshow to the mind-bending problem that has hung over their country since 2014: Should Ukraine reintegrate the territories of its eastern region, known as Donbas, that are controlled by Russia and its separatist clients? If so, when? And how?

The war is now in its fifth year. During this time, the Donbas has split in two. One part, centering on the industrial cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, is administered by separatists installed by the Kremlin. The other part remains under the administration of the Ukrainian government in Kyiv. Heavy fighting is confined to a narrow strip along the front, and thousands of people cross back and forth between Russia-controlled and government-controlled areas every day. But trade is extremely limited, because Kyiv imposed a blockade in 2017 when separatist authorities “nationalized” factories and mines.

Authority and Regulation in an Interconnected World


In 1975, the United States and the USSR launched a space mission to dock an Apollo module with a Soyuz module.[1] The mission was a carefully orchestrated scientific mission that was intended to show how science for peaceful purposes could bridge ideological gaps and to further détente between the two nations. The effectiveness of the mission in political terms is a story for another day. The object here is to draw an insight from a small sidebar of the narrative surrounding the mission. The two states both had their respective docking systems. Each relied on, technically speaking, a female side which received the male side of the docking apparatus, much like a headphone jack. In the tense political atmosphere, neither side wanted to become the female side of the other’s docking system. As a result, the two countries developed an androgynous docking system that was interoperable with itself.[2] The point here is not to highlight the misogyny inherent in these terms and Cold War politics, which is a continuation of an international relations discourse that often characterizes dominance as male.[3] Instead, it is to point out that the standardized docking mechanism, which is purely a technical specification, holds a great deal of political content. The standardization creates technical interoperability, but the technical standard is the mediator of state-to-state communication. In the Apollo-Soyuz mission, it was a question of technical connection that defined the parity of the states involved as they brought their quasi-territories into proximity.

Russian forces enter former Islamic State stronghold in Syria after U.S. pullback

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian forces have entered Raqqa, the former de facto capital of the Islamic State caliphate, in one of the starkest examples yet of how Moscow has filled the vacuum created by President Donald Trump’s decision to pull U.S. forces from northern Syria.

Russian troops were shown in footage on the defense ministry’s Zvezda TV channel shaking hands with Syrian children and unloading humanitarian aid bundles with the slogan “Russia is with you” from the back of trucks.

Raqqa was captured two years ago by U.S. troops and their Kurdish-led Syrian allies in the biggest victory of Washington’s campaign against Islamic State in Syria. But since Trump abruptly ordered a pull-out in October, Moscow has swiftly advanced into territory where U.S. troops had operated.

Russia is a close battlefield ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government, which was invited by the Kurds into territory they controlled after Trump pulled his forces out of the way of a Turkish assault against Kurdish-held areas.

Unbordered Rights: The Geography of Cyberspace


At the end of World War I, states gathered together to negotiate a structure for international governance intended to prevent conflicts like the one they had just experienced. The result of this negotiation was the Covenant of the League of Nations and an international organization that failed to live up to that promise.[1] While the League of Nations was primarily concerned with ensuring peace, there was an emerging theme in international governance endorsing the right of the self-determination of peoples. This was fueled in part by Point V of US President Woodrow Wilson’s 14 Points, which called for an “adjustment of colonial claims” that weighed the “interests of the populations concerned” equally with the interests of colonial powers.[2] As the League of Nations was being formed, numerous activists courted Wilson and others in an attempt to move the role of human rights to the fore of the emerging international system.[3] Human rights, however, did not make the cut in the final covenant.

The call for self-determination would be ignored until 1945, when the world was again reeling from a world-scale conflict coupled with the horror of the Holocaust. The newly negotiated UN Charter established a new international organization, the United Nations, which would serve as the central international fora in which states could interact. The UN Charter also implemented a role for human rights in the system of international governance. While the prevention of conflict maintained priority,[4] Article 1(2) of the Charter says that states are to have “respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples.”[5] This was a sea change moment in the development of international law in that it made human rights part of the political geography of states. While the Charter has many gaps that keep the UN from directly enforcing those rights, it made human rights a valid inquiry for international governance. Article 1(2) was followed by a bevy of documents that supported this new international identity for the individual, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Genocide Convention, the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Covenant on Economic and Social Rights. This expansion of political geography also included the slow development of international criminal law used to hold perpetrators of international crimes individually criminally liable for acts that violated international law.[6]

FBI: No link found between cyberattack and Navy base attack

By: Bobby Caina Calvan
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The FBI said Monday it has found no signs of any link between a cyberattack on computer systems of a Florida Panhandle city and last week’s attack at the naval air station there in which a Saudi flight student killed three sailors and wounded eight others.

Officials in the city of Pensacola became aware of the cyberattack early Saturday, hours after Friday's shooting at the Pensacola Naval Air Station. Much of the city's computer system remained offline Monday morning, and federal authorities were alerted to the cyberattack as a precaution.

The FBI tweeted in a brief statement that its initial investigation has not identified any connection between the cyberattack and the shooting. "Our preliminary investigation continues," the FBI statement said without elaboration.

Earlier Monday, Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson asked for patience in a community still grieving over the shooting at the Navy installation, a central part of the local economy and public life.

Thinking in Space: The Role of Geography in National Security Decision-Making

Andrew Rhodes
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Only statesmen who can do their political and strategic thinking in terms of a round earth and a three-dimensional warfare can save their countries from being outmaneuvered on distant flanks.

-Nicholas Spykman1

Leaders who fail to think in space do so at their own peril. Nicholas Spykman published the above warning on the importance of mental maps in the context of World War II and the global challenges it presented, but his argument regarding the importance of spatial thinking to the nation’s security has never been more relevant. Thinking in space has long been an essential tool for thinking critically and communicating clearly when it comes to national security decision-making. The importance of mental maps and geographic communication are only growing in an era of new global challenges and renewed great power competition. Strategists and diplomats would benefit from gaining greater insight into the ways geographic information shapes national security decision-making. Moreover, understanding this impact can help produce recommendations for how American strategists can more effectively think in space.

The tools and resources needed to elevate the spatial thinking of those charged with conducting America’s foreign policy and securing the national interest are all available. Unfortunately, American strategists are currently not making full use of geographic information, inhibiting the policymaking process as well as the government’s ability to communicate global policy. Despite national security decision-makers having unprecedented access to geographic information and tools with which to visualize the world, this is not the golden age of spatial thinking in national security policymaking. The challenges confronting the national security community require learning new ways of spatial thinking — and relearning old ones — on a global scale.

Turkey’s military drones: an export product that’s disrupting NATO

By Dan Gettinger

Just over a decade ago, the prototype of an unmanned aircraft that would become the Bayraktar TB2 took off for its maiden flight at Sinop Airport on the Black Sea. There were few signs then that the mid-sized, twin-boom aircraft would become Turkey’s first indigenously produced armed drone and the backbone of its unmanned air force. At the time, domestic drone manufacturers struggled against technical difficulties and foreign competition. Ten years on, however, the situation is radically different: Ankara’s drone program has morphed into a successful industry that’s already exporting products. It’s also a potent military force that’s further straining the NATO alliance.

Turkey is wielding its new arsenal in a military campaign against Kurdish fighters in Syria, part of a long-standing conflict that has taken on new significance since US President Donald Trump announced a controversial decision to withdraw troops from northern Syria this fall, opening up allied Syrian Kurds to Turkish attacks. The president of France, another NATO ally of Turkey’s, recently accused Turkey of “fighting against those who fight with us.” Turkey’s drones have enabled a conflict in an already volatile region; more worrisome, Ankara’s successful drone program is an example that several other countries hope to emulate.