24 December 2019

Can India Survive in a China-Centered Asia-Pacific?

By Lakhvinder Singh

India needs to drastically overhaul its current strategy – or risk ceding the region to Chinese control.

The successful completion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) with Asia-Pacific countries is more evidence that the center of gravity in the region continues to move toward China. The United States, which long dominated the region both economically and militarily, is being pushed back and the vacuum is being filled mainly by China, which is emerging as the largest trading partner with most counties in the region and is on the road to becoming the biggest military power as well. Given the growth of China’s economy and the developmental projects it is carrying out under the Belt and Road Initiative in recent years, more and more counties are aligning themselves with China.

China’s soft power is also on the rise. Increasingly regional students prefer to study at Chinese universities. Slowly the “American Dream” is being replaced by the “Chinese Dream.” This Chinese charm offensive is expected to accelerate in the coming years. The worldwide network of Confucius Institutes and Chinese-controlled international media are playing a major role in increasing and spreading its soft power influence. It is just a matter of time before all roads literally lead to Beijing.

India’s National Cybersecurity Policy Must Acknowledge Modern Realities

By Prateek Waghre and Shibani Mehta

Earlier this year, it was discovered that India was the target of two cyberattacks in the same month. The malware attacks at the Kundankulam Nuclear Power Plant and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) are believed to be the outcomes of phishing attempts on employees. In 2018, it was reported that an officer of the Indian Air Force was sharing sensitive information on Facebook with two women who had honey-trapped him. None of these incidents are known to have resulted in severe harm, but the possibility that they could have is reason enough for India to cultivate and shape international discussions on cyberspace.

As is the case with both international terrorism and protection of the environment, cooperation is a prerequisite to deal with cyberthreats given their borderless nature. India’s National Cyber Security Policy (2013) did not assign much weight to this aspect and defined no measurable outcomes against which progress could be judged. With its upcoming National CyberSecurity Policy (2020-2025), India has the opportunity to align its domestic policy with its global aspirations.

Warfare in Cyberspace Is Unique

The Significance of the Recent France-India Maritime Dialogue

France and India have shared maritime interests in the Indo-Pacific.

The recent France-India maritime dialogue is an indicator of things of come on the maritime front in the Indo-Pacific. A host of factors are bringing France and India closer in the maritime realm like never before.

First, the understanding that countries like France and India need to pool their resources in the light of the rise of China and an increasingly uncertain American foreign policy under a Donald Trump-led Washington is driving developments.

Second, both France and India have huge interests and a historical presence in the region. France has many overseas territories in the Indo-Pacific region, with a population of more 1.6 million, and a big presence of the French armed forces.

Already the two countries hold a series of joint exercises. They are also planning to conduct joint patrols in the Indian Ocean region and sign a secure communications agreement. Meanwhile, France under President Emmanuel Macron has been strengthening its relations with India. During the visit to India by Macron in March 2018, an agreement for “Exchange and Reciprocal Protection of Classified or Protected Information” between the two countries was signed. During the same visit, the two countries also agreed on an annual defense dialogue at the ministerial level.

Hizb ul-Ahrar: Pakistan’s Cross-border Taliban Problem Remains Critical

By: Animesh Roul

Following a notable lull in militant activity, Pakistan is now facing a unique militant escalation targeted against its security forces in the North Waziristan area and bordering regions. Despite the Taliban force largely being subdued following the concerted counter-terrorism efforts by Pakistan’s military, such as Operation Zarb-e-Azb and Radd-ul-Fasaad, a resurgent faction Hizb-ul-Ahrar (HuA) has been carrying out targeted attacks in regular intervals. Although these incidents are downplayed by the Pakistani military as being sporadic and low-scale violence, several Pakistani soldiers and police officers have been killed by HuA in daring targeted assaults in the past year.

HuA, a violent offshoot of Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA) and Pakistan’s Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP), claimed responsibility for at least four attacks in November 2019. On November 29, at least fourteen people were injured when a bomb planted in a stationary rickshaw detonated near Chauburji on Multan Road in Lahore (Dawn, November 30). On November 12, three Pakistan Army soldiers were killed in North Waziristan’s Miranshah. On November 14, a senior police official, Ghani Khan, was killed in the Mian Gujjar area of Peshawar city (Dawn, November 15). In early November, HuA also claimed responsibility for killing four Pakistani soldiers in North Waziristan’s Razmak area (Gandhara, November 4).

The Musharraf Verdict Challenges the Military’s Hegemony in Pakistan

By Jaffer Abbas Mirza

Even if the verdict against Musharraf is never carried out, formally labeling the former general a traitor could undo 60 years of unquestioned military supremacy.

The recent judgment by the Special Court on the former military dictator Pervez Musharraf has stirred up a heated debate wherein the whole discussion is centered around a single question: can a military officer be a traitor? Both the ruling government and the military are understandably not pleased with the decision, whereas a small section of society (including opposition parties) has welcomed the court’s ruling, calling it “historic” and “symbolic.” Indeed, it does not matter if Musharraf receives the death sentence; what matters is that justice has been served.

However, I contend the significance of this decision goes beyond symbolism. It is challenging the meta-narrative that has been undermining civilian supremacy in Pakistan. In other words, the ruling has criminalized the military’s tutelary politics.

Aqil Shah in his phenomenal book, The Army and Democracy, has traced the evolution of the Pakistan military from a border-patrolling force to a state-controlling institution. Like any other military, the Pakistan army was mandated to protect the country’s borders from external enemies. From 1958 onwards, the military became institutionally strong by securing more resources, cashing in on and exploiting the Indian threat.

Pakistan’s High-Stakes CPEC Reboot

Michael Kugelman

On Nov. 20, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi boldly declared that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)—the Pakistani component of China’s broader Belt and Road Initiative—was the country’s “top priority.”

Qureshi’s proclamation came just weeks after Yao Jing, China’s ambassador to Pakistan, announced that the first phase of CPEC—an infrastructure and connectivity project valued at $62 billion—was coming to a close, and that a second phase would soon begin.

Over the last month, Chinese and Pakistani officials have been strikingly specific about what this second phase will entail for CPEC, a project that is as opaque as it is expensive. While the first phase emphasized energy and roads, the second phase will focus on industrialization, agriculture, and socioeconomic development, with a particular emphasis on special economic zones. Chinese media reports have claimed that groundbreaking for one such zone, based in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, will take place this month and “directly employ 150,000 people” in industries that include light engineering and food processing.

Israeli spyware allegedly used to target Pakistani officials' phones

Stephanie Kirchgaessner

The mobile phones of at least two dozen Pakistani government officials were allegedly targeted earlier this year with technology owned by the Israeli spyware company NSO Group, the Guardian has learned.

Scores of Pakistani senior defence and intelligence officials were among those who could have been compromised, according to sources familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The alleged targeting was discovered during an analysis of 1,400 people whose phones were the focus of hacking attempts in a two-week period earlier this year, according to the sources.

All the suspected intrusions exploited a vulnerability in WhatsApp software that potentially allowed the users of the malware to access messages and data on the targets’ phones.

Afghanistan Is Not Vietnam

By Frederick W. Kagan

Afghanistan isn’t Vietnam. It isn’t even Iraq. George W. Bush did not lie America into this war. He, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and their generals and diplomats didn’t conceal the challenges and failures the U.S. was facing. The “revelations” in The Washington Post are only new to people who have forgotten front page news from a few years ago. The documents The Post obtained just aren’t the Pentagon Papers, however much some would like them to be.

The U.S. entered the war in Afghanistan following the most devastating terrorist attack in history, prepared and launched from that country. Support was overwhelmingly bipartisan; the AUMF passed the House in 2001 420–1. Public support for the war in October 2001 was 88 percent.

None of that support was based on a lie, questionable intelligence, or some modern Gulf of Tonkin incident. It was based on video of the smoking ruins of the World Trade Center and the knowledge, never questioned then or since, that al Qaeda conducted the attack from a safe haven in Afghanistan.

Malaysia’s New Game in the South China Sea

By Nguyen Hong Thao

What to make of Kuala Lumpur’s new claim to an extended continental shelf in the South China Sea.

On December 12, 2019, Malaysia warmed up another round of the diplomatic row in the South China Sea (SCS) by making a new submission on an extended continental shelf (ECS) beyond 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS). It was an individual partial submission after the Vietnam-Malaysia joint submission of an ECS beyond 200 nm in 2009.

Malaysia’s move surprised regional watchers. The key question is why Malaysia undertook this measure at this time. The submission was handed over at the end of the 51st session of the CLCS. It is clear that interest in clarifying Malaysia’s claims is not the main motivation.

In the SCS region, Indonesia was the first country to submit information on the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nm in the northwest area of Sumatra Island on June 16, 2008. However, the turning point for the race for an ECS was the Vietnam-Malaysia joint submission relating to an area in the south of the SCS, which was made a couple of days before the deadline of May 13, 2009 fixed by UNCLOS and related agreements. At the same time, Vietnam also lodged a partial submission on the northeast area of the South China Sea (VN-N) to the CLCS. Both submissions dismissed the possibility of continental shelves generated by the insular features in the Spratly and Paracels.

The US-China Trade Deal Phase Two – Digital Trade, Intellectual Property, Cyber Intrusions, and a Bilateral Investment Treaty

The second phase of the US-China Trade Agreement is coming into focus after the agreement on the Phase One deal was reached this weekend. That agreement, which we covered in some detail and focused on China lessons learned, was outlined in our previous article US-China Trade War Reaches Truce, China Market Lessons to be Learned.

As most readers will know by now, in the Phase One agreement, the US agreed to a rollback of half the tariffs imposed on US$350 billion of Chinese imports, while the Chinese made commitments to buy US$200 billion of US agricultural products over the next two years, among other as yet unannounced concessions.

As US-China bilateral trade is expected to reach US$560 billion this year, the implication is that adding back another US$100 billion of agricultural products, energy, and other goods China did not purchase in 2019 would see US-China bilateral trade in goods hit US$660 billion in 2020. If so, that would be a new trade in goods record. (Adding in bilateral services adds about another US$70-80 billion to the overall figure.)

PLA Watching: A Beginner’s Guide to Analyzing China’s Military Tech

By Rick Joe

Two J-20 stealth fighter jets of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force performs during the 12th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, also known as Airshow China 2018, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Zhuhai city, south China’s Guangdong province.

The Chinese military (People’s Liberation Army, or PLA) has been receiving growing coverage and media interest over the past decade as China’s national profile has grown and as new weapons systems have progressively become unveiled. However, the nature of tracking new Chinese weapons developments – or “PLA watching” as it is sometimes called – is not a straightforward task for new military enthusiasts, and more than a handful of journalists and professional academics publish information on the PLA that may be out of date, or even outright false in some instances.

This piece will seek to provide a foundation and structure for beginners interested in testing the waters of PLA watching, and is primarily oriented for individuals with English as their primary language. The recommendations provided will reflect this author’s own experiences over the past decade of PLA watching, and in the absence of other similar guides, it will be significantly anecdotal in nature. While not exhaustive, the system described below is one that this author himself practices and has found great utility in.


What the End of the INF Treaty Means for China

Beijing perceives the U.S. withdrawal from the INF and possible deployment of ground-based missiles to Asia as part of Washington’s broader campaign to contain China. Overall, China can be fairly confident regarding its chances in a potential missile race in Asia, thanks to several advantages.

For many years, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) acted as a security guarantee for China: Beijing successfully made use of the mutual limitations imposed by the treaty on Russia and the United States to minimize the military threat to itself.

The open confrontation between Washington and Beijing that has begun under U.S. President Donald Trump has changed all that. The United States needed to free itself of restrictions to its military potential, and this was one of the factors in the collapse of the INF treaty. Washington’s focus on containment of China was not unexpected for Beijing, but the new military dimensions of that policy compel China to take measures in response.

The INF treaty prohibited the United States from deploying ground-based intermediate-range missiles in Asia. This restriction on Washington’s actions helped Beijing to maintain a nuclear deterrence strategy based on a relatively small number of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). 

China´s Maritime Silk Road Initiative

China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has both a land-based and a maritime component. This graphic provides an overview of the maritime element, the Maritime Silk Road Initiative (MSRI) which connects connects China to Europe and Africa via the Middle East. For an insight into the BRI in the Middle East, including its implications for China’s impact on the region, read Lisa Watanabe’s recent CSS Analyses in Security Policy here.

Why It Won’t Matter Who Pays for Trade Protection


The media’s obsession with the ongoing saga of the U.S.-China trade war has given people skewed impressions of how the two economies interact. Most journalists have focused on the minutiae of tariff levels and who is actually paying for them. But this obsession is based on an outdated understanding of global trade.

The real problem is that the United States’ open capital markets keep the U.S. trade balance from adjusting regardless of what level tariffs are set at and who pays for them. The recent phase-one trade deal won’t change that fact, nor will the tariffs that the deal has left in place. If Washington actually wants to move the needle on the trade front, it should pay more attention to the U.S. capital account.


In late November 2019, Liberty Street Economics, a publication sponsored by the New York Federal Reserve, released a paper that has added fuel to one of the most contentious trade-related debates in Washington: who is paying for President Donald Trump’s tariffs on Chinese goods? The paper argues that because prices on imported goods from China have not fallen, U.S. consumers and businesses clearly must be footing the bill:

U.S. businesses and consumers are shielded from the higher tariffs to the extent that Chinese firms lower the dollar prices they charge. U.S. import price data, however, indicate that prices on goods from China have so far not fallen. As a result, U.S. wholesalers, retailers, manufacturers, and consumers are left paying the tax.

Europe and China after Brexit: The 5G question

Janka Oertel

A decision looms for Britain on 5G and Huawei. London’s choice will signal whether it wishes to stay close to Europe when dealing with Beijing – or to go its own way.

Now that we know that Britain really is leaving the European Union, it is time to seriously think through the future of EU-UK coordination on China. Boris Johnson’s government may be inclined to reinforce trade with China to hedge against the economic impact of Brexit. But, already, the question of whether or not Chinese company Huawei will be allowed to remain a player in Britain’s mobile telecommunications networks is demonstrating how this could put the United Kingdom at odds with the United States and further complicate its relations with Europe. And while the UK decision on Huawei’s future role in 5G networks has been debated extensively within the British government over the past few months, a final decision was postponed in November because of the general election and deferred to the next parliamentary term. The issue will now return to the top of the government’s agenda – with potential repercussions for the entire European debate.

Violence Is a Dangerous Route for Protesters


In “Violence Is Sometimes the Answer,” Kai Thaler argues that the use of violence by protesters is sometimes necessary, particularly in the face of aggressive regime violence, and critiques those “preaching nonviolent resistance” from the outside. These are familiar critiques.

We agree with a number of Thaler’s points. First, he is right to question those on the outside who tell activists what to do or offer strategic or tactical advice. Local activists know their context best, and specific instructions from outside actors can place activists at great risk. People struggling under such conditions often say they learn the most from being in touch with other activists. But when activists approach scholars or practitioners for information or resources, it is crucial to make sure that a broad range of experience and evidence are publicly available and accessible. That was the purpose of a recent event hosted by the United States Institute of Peace that featured various scholarly and activist perspectives on how movements respond to repression.

Conflicts to Watch in 2020

Paul B. Stares
Source Link

Each year since 2008, the Council on Foreign Relations’ Center for Preventive Action (CPA) asks foreign policy experts to rank thirty ongoing or potential conflicts based on how likely they are to occur or escalate in the next year, and their possible impact on U.S. interests.

This year, “perhaps as an indication of rising concern about the state of the world, respondents rated more threats as likely to require a U.S. military response for 2020 than in any other Preventive Priorities Survey (PPS) from the last eleven years,” notes Paul B. Stares, CPA director and General John W. Vessey senior fellow for conflict prevention. “Of the thirty conflicts in this year’s survey, only two were judged as having a low likelihood of occurring in 2020.”

Experts continue to rank threats to the U.S. homeland as top concerns. For the second year in a row, a highly disruptive cyberattack on critical infrastructure, including electoral systems, was the top-ranked homeland security–­­related concern. A mass-casualty terrorist attack was a close second. A confrontation between the United States and Iran, North Korea, or with China in the South China Sea remain the biggest concerns overseas.

Three New Year’s Wishes for Britain and the EU


The United Kingdom's general election this month settled the matter of Brexit: the UK will leave the European Union on January 31, 2020. It will then be up to the two sides to lay the groundwork for a future relationship based on mutual trust and shared interests.

BRUSSELS – The end of the year is a time for closure and new beginnings. As 2019 winds down, that is certainly the case with Brexit. Following the victory of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Tories in the general election this month, it is now clear that the United Kingdom will leave the European Union on January 31, 2020.

For many, including me, the occasion will be tinged with regret. But it also represents an opportunity to forge a new UK-EU partnership. And besides, things could have been much worse. Owing to the withdrawal agreement that was concluded this past October, a destructive “hard” Brexit has been averted.

Since the beginning of the Brexit negotiations, we on the EU side – the 27 member states and the European Parliament – have not strayed from the bloc’s core interests nor lost sight of the need for unity and solidarity. Our priority was first and foremost to secure the rights of European citizens, including by finding a solution for the people of Northern Ireland and Ireland, for whom the negotiations were about peace and stability, not just trade and the economy. Throughout the process, we have protected the EU single market and its guarantees for consumers, public and animal health standards, and safeguards against fraud and trafficking. But we also did our utmost to preserve a climate of trust between the EU and the UK, and to lay a solid foundation for a new partnership.

Should the West be Wary of an Imminent ‘Union’ of Russia and Belarus?

By: Andrew Wilson

Executive Summary

Speculation that Belarus might be the next flash-point for tensions with Russia has recurred periodically since the war in Ukraine began in 2014. The latest scenario sees Russia trying to use the twentieth anniversary of the nominal “Union Treaty” signed between the two states in 1999 to upgrade it into something more substantial in 2019, using economic pressure on Minsk to force concessions of sovereignty. Belarus was never likely to break with Russia as sharply as Ukraine, but Russia may be seeking to bind it close before it even tries. This study argues that the old pattern of relations is indeed shifting, but a true “Union” faces too many practical difficulties; that said, internal and external pressures on Belarus are likely to accumulate from 2020 onward.


In September 2019, the Russian newspaper Kommersant published claims that Russia and Belarus planned to establish an “economic confederation,” with a common currency, customs union and supranational institutions.[1] Moreover, the paper claimed the plan would be unveiled at a special summit on December 8, 2019, on the twentieth anniversary of a previous “Union Treaty” between the two countries, signed in 1999. Belarus, the paper argued, would submit because of the threat of losing $2 billion a year from changes to Russia’s oil tax regime.

China’s Trade With Europe Bypasses Russia in Both the North and the South

By: Paul Goble

Russia has long counted on its geographic location between the Asia-Pacific region and Europe to cement its relationship with China. However, Beijing increasingly views Russia as merely a supplier of raw materials (Svobodnaya Pressa, April 27)—a view reinforced anew on Monday (December 2), by the official start of flows of natural gas from eastern Russian fields to China via the Power of Siberia pipeline (Meduza.io, December 2). And perhaps even more importantly, the Chinese now also generally dismiss Russia’s utility as a transportation link given systemic problems with Russian infrastructure that make using Russian railways or highways extremely inefficient (Profile.ru, November 3, 2015; Nezavisimaya Gazeta, April 25, 2016). The latter difficulties were highlighted late last month, when the first ever cross-border bridge between Russia and China was finally opened (Znak.com, November 29).

As a result, Chinese officials and businessmen have more and more focused on finding ways to transit Europe-bound goods around Russia, circumventing the world’s largest country along its north and, now, to the south. The former strategy has already attracted a great deal of international attention, with China’s drive to pursue dominance on the Northern Sea Route. These Chinese activities in the High North are disturbing for Moscow given that the Kremlin had long viewed that Arctic maritime corridor—more than any other—as uniquely under its own control (Regnum, December 1, 2019; see EDM, July 12, 2018, June 12, 2019, September 3, 2019).

Battle of Grozny: 25 Years Ago the Russian Military Hit Rock Bottom

by Sebastien Roblin

How did they bounce back?

On New Year’s Eve, 1994 Russian tanks and infantry fighting vehicles poured into the streets of Grozny with an assault expected to snuff out the self-declared Chechcen Republic of Ichkeria, as black smoke poured into the sky from oil tanks set ablaze by a dawn artillery bombardment. 

Defense Minister Pavel Grachev had claimed the upstart Chechens would be swept away in “a bloodless blitzkrieg” with minimal forces. But the forces entering Grozny from four axes were far from minimal, counting elements from seven motorized rifle regiments and one independent brigade mounted in wheeled BTR-80 armored personnel carriers and tracked BMP-2 fighting vehicles, two tank battalions with T-72 and T-80 main battle tanks, and two parachute regiments.

Surely such firepower would brush away the estimated 100 or so Chechen fighters supporting an upstart pro-independence government based in Grozny. But the New Year’s Eve surprise that unfolded in Grozny thirty years ago would set the course for post-Soviet Russia in ways that continue to haunt world politics today.

The Top Ten Geopolitical Risks for 2020 (North Korea, Elections, China and Much More)

by Robert A. Manning, Mathew Burrows

What will happen next year in global politics? We have some ideas.

2019 did not offer any great surprises or ‘Black Swans,’ but the fragile world order did move further down the path of unraveling. 2020 will likely bear more resemblance to the 1930s, as some of the developments which did not reach a denouement in the past year cross the finish line. Several simmering conflicts, symptoms of a global system under strain from US President Donald J. Trump’s “anti-globalist” America First doctrine, could well reach breakpoints in 2020. This may include a shift from the mere corroding of multilateral institutions and US alliances toward total dysfunction. Growing global populist and nationalist outbursts are likely to dampen the potential for global cooperation, despite authoritarians facing more pressure from their citizens. 2020 could also see US allies and partners continuing to move beyond just hedging against US uncertainty towards pursuing global diplomacy and establishing new institutions without the United States following a potential Trump reelection.

Israel Threatens Iran, Says Syria Could Become Their Version of Vietnam

by Seth J. Frantzman

Israel’s new Defense Minister Naftali Bennett has warned Iran that Syria will become its version of Vietnam, where its forces will sink in the sand under Israeli airstrikes. 

Israel’s new Defense Minister Naftali Bennett has warned Iran that Syria will become its version of Vietnam, where its forces will sink in the sand under Israeli airstrikes.

“There’s nothing for you in Syria,” he said during a late November trip to northern Israel. “Whatever you try to do, you will encounter a strong and determined IDF that will strike you.” The Israel Air Forces have already been striking Iran frequently in Syria, with more than a thousand air strikes against hundreds of targets. Israel has also been more open about recent airstrikes, mentioning the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps specifically and uncovering Iran’s role, from “killer drones” to precision missiles.

Bennett appears to want to add to what Israel is already doing. Named Defense Minister on November 13, he has previously been Minister of Education but has encouraged Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to take a tougher stance against Hamas in Gaza and Iranian threats. This is a bit ironic considering that Netanyahu has been one of the loudest voices globally against Iran’s role in the Middle East, opposing the Iran Deal and seeking an arrangement with both Moscow and Washington regarding Israel’s attempts to prevent Iranian entrenchment in Syria.

Should the United States and Israel Make It Official?

Steven Simon

In the long-running melodrama of the U.S.-Israel relationship, certain plot devices have a way of periodically reappearing. For example, successive U.S. administrations have gently insisted that settlement construction be frozen or otherwise limited. No White House was ever willing to go to the mat over settlement activity, as two of the architects of the peace process recently wrote, but expressions of concern were nonetheless a recurring motif.

Another example might be the perennial agitation, usually by Israeli officials, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or members of Congress, in favor of moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Such demands used to be linked automatically to a ritual waiver of U.S. legislation, enacted in 1995, requiring the State Department to carry out the move. But President Donald Trump’s administration departed from tradition last year and actually made the move, amid a lot of wailing and breast-beating by skeptics who expected the sky to fall as a result.

Yet another of these leitmotifs has been the periodic flirtation by U.S. and Israeli observers with idea of a U.S.-Israel defense treaty. Most recently it has been raised by Israel’s embattled prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to boost public support for his effort to keep his job.

Who are America’s allies and are they paying their fair share of defense?

Lindsey Ford and James Goldgeier

The Vitals

The word “ally” has been in the news a lot in recent months. Members of Congress have criticized President Trump for abandoning our Kurdish “allies” in Northern Syria and complained that the president was undermining our “ally” Ukraine. Meanwhile, President Trump reiterated his belief that “our allies take advantage of us far greater than our enemies,” and in advance of the December NATO Leaders Meeting, the United States announced cutbacks in its support for common funding at the headquarters. Americans have frequently been told that allies matter, but what exactly does it mean to be a U.S. “ally”? And why are relationships deemed so vital to American security frequently so contentious?

America’s alliances in Asia and Europe have formed the backbone of what has become known as the “liberal international order.” Over the past 70 years, this order has helped protect American interests and values.

Not every country that is referred to as an “ally” meets the formal definition of a country that America has said it is willing to defend in case of attack.

The question of how to create “fair” burden-sharing arrangements has been a long-standing issue in U.S. alliances, but on balance, the United States has reaped enormous benefits from these relationships. 

Chained to Globalization

By Henry Farrell and Abraham L. Newman 

In 1999, the columnist Thomas Friedman pronounced the Cold War geopolitical system dead. The world, he wrote, had “gone from a system built around walls to a system increasingly built around networks.” As businesses chased efficiency and profits, maneuvering among great powers was falling away. An era of harmony was at hand, in which states’ main worries would be how to manage market forces rather than one another.

Friedman was right that a globalized world had arrived but wrong about what that world would look like. Instead of liberating governments and businesses, globalization entangled them. As digital networks, financial flows, and supply chains stretched across the globe, states—especially the United States—started treating them as webs in which to trap one another. Today, the U.S. National Security Agency lurks at the heart of the Internet, listening in on all kinds of communications. The U.S. Department of the Treasury uses the international financial system to punish rogue states and errant financial institutions. In service of its trade war with China, Washington has tied down massive firms and entire national economies by targeting vulnerable points in global supply chains. Other countries are in on the game, too: Japan has used its control over key industrial chemicals to hold South Korea’s electronics industry for ransom, and Beijing might eventually be able to infiltrate the world’s 5G communications system through its access to the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei.

Why It Won’t Matter Who Pays for Trade Protection


The media’s obsession with the ongoing saga of the U.S.-China trade war has given people skewed impressions of how the two economies interact. Most journalists have focused on the minutiae of tariff levels and who is actually paying for them. But this obsession is based on an outdated understanding of global trade.

The real problem is that the United States’ open capital markets keep the U.S. trade balance from adjusting regardless of what level tariffs are set at and who pays for them. The recent phase-one trade deal won’t change that fact, nor will the tariffs that the deal has left in place. If Washington actually wants to move the needle on the trade front, it should pay more attention to the U.S. capital account.


In late November 2019, Liberty Street Economics, a publication sponsored by the New York Federal Reserve, released a paper that has added fuel to one of the most contentious trade-related debates in Washington: who is paying for President Donald Trump’s tariffs on Chinese goods? The paper argues that because prices on imported goods from China have not fallen, U.S. consumers and businesses clearly must be footing the bill:

U.S. businesses and consumers are shielded from the higher tariffs to the extent that Chinese firms lower the dollar prices they charge. U.S. import price data, however, indicate that prices on goods from China have so far not fallen. As a result, U.S. wholesalers, retailers, manufacturers, and consumers are left paying the tax.

US Council on Foreign Relations survey: a disruptive cyber attack on critical infrastructure is the top concern for 2020

The threat of a highly disruptive cyber attack on US critical infrastructure is the top-ranked concern for the second straight year, according to the Council on Foreign Relations’ (CFR) twelfth annual Preventive Priorities Survey (PPS). The survey identifies potential conflicts for the United States in the year ahead. A confrontation with Iran or an altercation with North Korea are the two highest-rated overseas threats.

The survey, conducted by CFR’s Center for Preventive Action (CPA), asked foreign policy experts to rank thirty ongoing or potential conflicts based on their likelihood of occurring or escalating in the next year and their potential impact on US national interests.

“Perhaps indicating rising anxiety about the state of the world, respondents had more fears for 2020 than in any PPS in the past decade. Of the thirty concerns, only two were judged as having a low likelihood of occurring next year. This is why the PPS is critical in helping to direct efforts by policymakers,” said Paul B. Stares, CPA director and General John W. Vessey senior fellow for conflict prevention.

This year, a mass-casualty terrorist attack on the US homeland replaced tensions on the Korean Peninsula as a top-three concern. In total, thirteen conflicts were considered significant risks:

Scientists Develop ‘Absolutely Unbreakable’ Encryption Chip Using Chaos Theory

by Davey Winder

The trouble with encryption is that everyone needs it, and every threat actor wants to break it. Thankfully, current cryptographic techniques are still at least one step ahead of the cracking curve. That could, scientists say, all change in the not too distant future as quantum computers enter the encryption battlefield. But what if there were a method of enabling data to be sent using an “absolutely unbreakable” one-time communication technique? What if that technique could achieve perfect secrecy cryptography via correlated mixing of chaotic waves in an irreversible time-varying silicon chip? An international team of scientists claims that’s exactly what it has done, developing a prototype silicon chip that uses the laws of nature, including chaos theory. With no software or code to manipulate, traditional methods of cracking computer encryption are irrelevant, the scientists claim. What’s more, it is also claimed to overcome the threat of quantum computers and can do so using existing communication networks.

How does the chaos theory encryption chip work?

An international team of scientists from the School of Physics and Astronomy at University of St Andrews, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and the Center for Unconventional Processes of Sciences (CUP Sciences) has today published a paper to demonstrate perfect secrecy cryptography in classical optical channels.


Rodrigo Ochigame

THE IRONY OF the ethical scandal enveloping Joichi Ito, the former director of the MIT Media Lab, is that he used to lead academic initiatives on ethics. After the revelation of his financial ties to Jeffrey Epstein, the financier charged with sex trafficking underage girls as young as 14, Ito resigned from multiple roles at MIT, a visiting professorship at Harvard Law School, and the boards of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and the New York Times Company.

Many spectators are puzzled by Ito’s influential role as an ethicist of artificial intelligence. Indeed, his initiatives were crucial in establishing the discourse of “ethical AI” that is now ubiquitous in academia and in the mainstream press. In 2016, then-President Barack Obama described him as an “expert” on AI and ethics. Since 2017, Ito financed many projects through the $27 million Ethics and Governance of AI Fund, an initiative anchored by the MIT Media Lab and the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. What was all the talk of “ethics” really about?