5 January 2020

2019: A turbulent and eventful year for Indo-China relations

Even as China speaks of ‘early harvest’ in border negotiations, existing Confidence Building Measures need to be improved in 2020 for a good crop to both the countries.

This has been a turbulent and eventful year for Sino-Indian relations. The informal summits between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping, helped maintain a ‘sound momentum’ in 2019, reported PTI sounding an optimistic note.

Doval-Wang Yi meet

However, while preparing the balance sheet of 2019, it is not easy to objectively see the ‘sound momentum’. After the 22nd Meeting of the Special Representatives (SR) of India and China held in New Delhi on December 21, between National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, an Indian communiqué mentioned: “The talks were constructive with focus on taking forward the India-China Closer Developmental Partnership as per the guidance provided by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping at the 2nd Informal Summit at Chennai in October 2019.” The two spoke of “the importance of approaching the boundary question from the strategic perspective of India-China relations and agreed that an early settlement of the boundary question serves the fundamental interests of both countries.” This approach is not new.

During the meetings of the officials in 1960, while the negotiators of the two countries looked at the issue from a historic and juristic angle, in July 1961, China proposed a new ‘strategic’ approach. Zhang Wenji, director of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian Affairs Department met G Parthasarathy (GP), the Indian Chargé d’Affaires in Beijing. Zhang suggested that “each country presents a factual basis and, objectively compares them, looking to see whose information is relatively more logical, and finally parceling the land out to the country whose version is more beneficial to the two countries’ friendship.”

Why it is the right time to reclaim Gilgit-Baltistan

My article Why it is the right time to reclaim Gilgit-Baltistan appeared in Mail Today/DailyO

The India-China border is 4,056 km and not 3,488 km, as China would like to believe.

Recently, I came across an interesting announcement published in the 1948 London Gazette which mentioned that the King "has been graciously pleased… to give orders for… appointments to the Most Exalted Order of the British Empire…" The list included "Brown, Major (acting) William Alexander, Special List (ex-Indian Army)."

Who was he? What was this 'special list'? Brown is infamous for illegally 'offering' Gilgit to Pakistan in 1947.

As we debate the question of nationalities after the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, was passed by Parliament it raises several questions, including the question of the nationality of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan.

But first, a little bit of history.

An Outline for UK–China Cooperation on Afghanistan

Veerle Nouwens and Raffaello Pantucci

On 29 April 2019, representatives from the UK, the People’s Republic of China, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan held a seminar in Beijing to discuss cooperation on development in Afghanistan. Initially conceived as a trilateral format (between the UK, China and Afghanistan), the addition of participants from Pakistan and Uzbekistan expanded the format to help adequately address some of the regional connectivity questions.

The event was co-hosted by RUSI and the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR) and was attended by representatives from the UK embassies in Kabul and Beijing, representatives of the governments of China, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan, as well as representatives from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Aga Khan Foundation. The seminar focused on five key questions:

• How can the UK and China best prioritise areas of cooperation in Afghanistan?
• What are Afghanistan’s rail infrastructure needs?
• What is the connectivity landscape between Central and South Asia, and what role might Afghanistan play as a bridge between the two regions?
• How can Afghanistan engage with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)?
• How can the UK and China cooperate in the space of humanitarian aid in Afghanistan or other third countries?

Southeast Asia’s Water Troubles Underscore Climate Threat – Analysis

By Dan Southerland*
Source Link

Over the past year, growing environmental threats in Asia have had much to do with water—most importantly rising seas driven by global warming.

Southeast Asia is proving to be particularly vulnerable.

New studies show that climate change and rising sea levels will threaten the lives of tens of millions of people and much of the wildlife in East Asia sooner than had originally been expected.

A recent study referred to by some as a “Doomsday Report” suggests that rising sea levels could flood three times more land than previously predicted.

In Southeast Asia, if the study prepared by a United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued in late September 2019 proves accurate, parts of Ho Chi Minh City and Bangkok could be underwater by 2050.

Some scientists caution that these could be “worst case scenarios.”

How the US trade war brings out China’s best hopes and worst fears for its economy

Cary Huang
Source Link

China’s economic growth fell to a multi-decade low of within a whisker of  6 per cent in 2019. But this will not be the worst level it will hit, as growth of the world’s second-largest economy looks certain to  decelerate further in 2020, breaking the politically and psychologically sensitive 6 per cent benchmark as it is dragged down by sluggish domestic demand and the US trade war. 

The ruling Communist Party might yet achieve its hefty goal of doubling the size of the economy from 2010, thanks to its recent move to significantly  revise upwards its previous gross domestic product estimates, after a census. But the once fastest-growing major economy will still face more pressure on growth in 2020, after a steady, decade-long slowdown.

This slowdown has accelerated since mid-2018 after US President Donald Trump launched and steadily escalated the tariff wars. China’s economic growth decelerated by about 0.1 percentage points per quarter in 2018 (from 6.8 per cent, to 6.7 per cent, 6.5 per cent and 6.4 per cent). In 2019, growth decelerated at a quarterly rate of 0.2 percentage points (from 6.4 per cent growth in the first quarter, to 6.2 per cent in the second and 6 per cent in the third). Growth is expected to slide further,to  5.8 per cent or lower in the fourth quarter.

All major indicators point to things getting worse rather than the better, suggesting the economy might fall further before bottoming out, as there is no clear sign of a short-term recovery.

This decade belonged to China. So will the next one

Martin Jacques

By 2010, China was beginning to have an impact on the global consciousness in a new way. Prior to the western financial crisis, it had been seen as the new but very junior kid on the block. The financial crash changed all that. Before 2008 the conventional western wisdom had been that sooner or later China would suffer a big economic meltdown. It never did. Instead, the crisis happened in the west, with huge consequences for the latter’s stability and self-confidence.

Europe needs China’s billions. But does it know the price?

Every year for the past decade, China, not the US, has been the main source of global economic growth. In 2014, according to the World Bank’s international comparison program, the Chinese economy overtook that of the US to become the world’s largest, measured by purchasing power parity. Although China’s growth rate over the past decade has declined to its present 6.2%, it is still one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. Today its economy is more than twice as big as it was in 2010.

How Russia and China Are Sowing Division and Gaining Influence in the Czech Republic

Tim Gosling 
PRAGUE—With its foggily lit Gothic alleyways, Prague has long had the image of a hotbed of international espionage. A recent report by the Czech Republic’s national intelligence agency, the Security Information Service, or BIS, does little to dispel that narrative.

It cautions that Russia and China are steadily increasing their efforts to sow division and win influence in this small country in the heart of Eastern Europe, which is a member of the European Union and NATO. Both Moscow and Beijing are widely suspected of seeking to provoke instability across the West, but in few countries are these tussles playing out more openly than in the Czech Republic.

“By utilizing a wide range of methods and activities, state, non-state, foreign and domestic actors tried to weaken Czech state institutions, influence official state positions related to international security and paint natural attributes of a democratic system as its weaknesses,” the report warned, pointing a figure primarily at Russia and China.

Both countries are suspected of seeking influence in Czech political circles and potential “cooperators and agents among the Czech population,” according to the BIS. The security assessment describes several attempted “hybrid warfare” operations, including details of a hacking hub set up by Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB. China’s intelligence agencies, it adds, were all operating in some form in the Czech Republic in 2018.

Around the halls: Experts discuss the recent US airstrikes in Iraq and the fallout

Ranj Alaaldin

U.S. airstrikes in Iraq on December 29 — in response to the killing of an American contractor two days prior — killed two dozen members of the Iranian-backed militia Kata’ib Hezbollah. In the days since, thousands of pro-Iranian demonstrators gathered outside the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, with some forcing their way into the embassy compound and setting some of the outbuildings on fire. Below, Brookings experts analyze the Trump administration’s decision to retaliate against Kata’ib Hezbollah and what it means for U.S.-Iraq relations, Iran’s influence in Iraq, Iraqis’ attitudes towards the United States and Iran, and more.

Ranj Alaaldin (@RanjAlaaldin), Visiting Fellow in the Brookings Doha Center and Director of the Proxy Wars Initiative: U.S.-Iran tensions have manifested themselves on Iraqi soil for a number of years. During the U.S. occupation of Iraq, in particular, American forces regularly targeted Shiite militias, and Iranian proxies launched some of their most audacious and brazen attacks on U.S. and other Western personnel. Kata’ib Hezbollah has long troubled the U.S. and Iraqi governments and has been at the forefront of efforts to violently suppress the civilian-led protests that have gripped Iraq in recent months, efforts that have killed and wounded thousands of civilians. Part of the challenge for Washington is that it still lacks a political strategy that allows it to leverage its military superiority over Iran and its Iraqi proxies, one that empowers U.S.-aligned groups in Iraq that have long desperately pleaded for a more assertive American presence in the country.

There are serious questions that have to be addressed in Washington and Baghdad: How is the U.S. working with its allies in Iraq to push back against Iran’s influence? Why did the Iraqi military allow Kata’ib Hezbollah militias to storm the U.S. embassy? What steps has the Iraqi government taken to ensure the U.S. and Iran do not use its territory as a launching pad for attacks on one another?

Around the halls: Experts react to the killing of Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani

Madiha Afzal

In a drone strike authorized by President Trump early Friday, Iranian commander Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who led the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, was killed at Baghdad International Airport. Below, Brookings experts provide their brief analyses on this watershed moment for the Middle East — including what it means for U.S.-Iran relations, for America’s overall position in the Middle East, and more.

Madiha Afzal (@MadihaAfzal), David M. Rubenstein Fellow in the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence and the Center for Middle East Policy: What worries me is how much (or little) thought was put into this decision by the Trump administration — and the connection of the strike with it being a re-election year, Trump’s obsession with Barack Obama (and Obama’s killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011), and the beating of war drums to drive American nationalism and distract from his domestic political troubles. This doesn’t require a colorful imagination: In 2011, Trump repeatedly said that Obama would go to war with Iran to get re-elected. Obama obviously didn’t, and the big difference between this strike and the decision that Obama did take in 2011, his bin Laden raid in Pakistan, is that it killed the world’s then-deadliest terrorist and beheaded his organization. And it embarrassed the country that he was found in. It was as clean a decision as a commander-in-chief could have made. Soleimani’s killing, on the other hand, is remarkably messy, because — rightly reviled as he was by many — he represented Iran’s military, and Iran will see this as an action of war. And there will be some form of retaliation. In the end, Trump may end up endangering more American lives through this strike, not fewer.

Qassem Soleimani and beyond

Michael E. O’Hanlon

Ifind it hard to oppose the Trump administration’s decision to target and kill Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s Quds Force within the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps organization. In effect, as my colleagues Dan Byman, Suzanne Maloney, and Bruce Riedel among others have explained, he was the most important military leader in Iran and perhaps the country’s second most powerful leader overall. Soleimani’s machinations had led to the deaths of hundreds of American troops in Iraq (since the Quds force funneled explosively-formed penetrator devices and other technologies to the militias and insurgents that were fighting us there during much of the 2000s and beyond). Killing him was more akin to shooting down the plane of Japanese Admiral Yamamoto in World War II than attacking a civilian leader.

Iran’s lack of restraint in killing Americans also removed one major argument against political assassination in general — the fear of legitimating a form of attack that will then be used against our own country or citizens. While there is clearly a heightened fear of retaliation at this juncture, it was Soleimani, not America, that crossed the assassination threshold first and often — attacking Americans (and others) with abandon. He succeeded earlier Iranian leaders who had done equally heinous things against Americans in Beirut in 1983 and at Khobar Towers, Saudi Arabia in 1996. America’s history towards Iran is checkered, to be sure, in our support for the shah before 1979, and in our support for Saddam (at times) during the Iran-Iraq war. But over the last 30 years especially, it is Iran that has used lethal force against us much more than the reverse. And for the last 22 years, Soleimani was the chief plotter and mastermind in much of this. Given the believable intelligence reports that he was planning additional attacks against U.S. assets and personnel in Iraq, and given his central role over the years in many similar atrocities, I cannot object to this U.S. action.

The US Recently Made a Smart Move Toward Iran. Killing Soleimani Wasn’t It


As the New Year begins, it is abundantly clear that Washington’s policies designed to bend Iran to its will have failed. Yet Tehran’s’s recalcitrant responses have similarly failed to improve its own security, and the disastrous prospect of open war has drawn closer with recent events. This is truer than ever with the assassination of Qassem Soleimani, a leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The Trump administration had taken a step in the right direction with its recent focus on Iran’s proxies; it would be wise to return to this course.

Since April, when the State Department designated the IRGC and its special operations component, Soleimani’s Quds Force, as foreign terrorist organizations, the United States and its allies have endured a series of setbacks and human losses. Iran seized a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, very likely attacked a Saudi oil facility, and shot down a U.S. drone. On Dec. 27, Iranian proxy Kata’ib Hizballah killed a U.S. citizen and wounded at least four others in a rocket attack in Iraq. Yet the year was hardly an unbridled success for Iran’s leaders. Protests have ungirded the regime at home and abroad, where its proxies in Lebanon and Iraq have suffered political setbacks.

The Killing of Qassem Suleimani Is Tantamount to an Act of War

On orders from President Trump, the United States killed Major General Qassem Suleimani, the leader of Iran’s élite Quds Force and the mastermind of its military operations across the Middle East, in an overnight air strike at Baghdad’s International Airport. The assassination was the boldest U.S. act in confronting Iran since the 1979 revolution, tantamount to an act of war. A brief statement from the Pentagon described it as a “decisive defensive action” designed to protect U.S. personnel abroad. But the strike represented a stunning escalation between Washington and Tehran, and it may well have the reverse effect. Iran almost certainly will want to respond in some lethal form, whether directly or through its powerful network of proxies in the region. U.S. embassies and military bases—and thousands of American personnel across the Middle East and South Asia, and potentially beyond—were instantly vulnerable. On Friday, the State Department ordered all Americans to leave Iraq.

On Friday, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, declared three days of public mourning and warned that “harsh vengeance awaits those criminals behind martyrdom of General Suleimani.” He moved quickly to name Brigadier General Esmail Gha’ani, who had worked closely with Suleimani, as the new Quds Force commander. Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s U.S.-educated Foreign Minister, who spent two years negotiating the 2015 nuclear deal with the United States, called the American air strike an act of international terrorism. “The US bears responsibility for all consequences of its rogue adventurism,” he tweeted. Iran’s state-controlled television characterized the assassination as the U.S.’s “biggest miscalculation” since the Second World War. “The people of the region will no longer allow Americans to stay,” it said.

Iranian Commander Soleimani Killed: RAND Experts React

Militia members hold a portrait of Iranian Commander Major General Qassem Soleimani during a protest of an air campaign in Yemen by a Saudi-led coalition, Baghdad, March 31, 2015

Last night, the White House confirmed that a U.S. airstrike authorized by President Trump killed Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani just outside the Baghdad airport in Iraq.

The strike came less than 24 hours after Secretary of Defense Mark Esper warned that the United States could take “preemptive” action in response to signs that Iranian-backed militias in Iraq were planning further attacks after violent demonstrations earlier this week at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has called for three days of mourning for Soleimani, followed by retaliation.

This story is still developing, and there is much we don't yet know. But in the interest of providing expert insights before the weekend, we've rounded up how some RAND researchers reacted to the news.

Suleimani Killing Sparks Fear of War and Economic Turmoil


Crude oil prices soared after Iran vowed “harsh retaliation” for a Friday morning U.S. airstrike that killed the Iranian general Qassem Suleimani, one of the most powerful officials in Iran and the architect of Tehran’s terrorist campaigns around the region.

The escalation in recent days between the United States and Iran is now entering a dangerous new phase, with Iran expected to launch both short-term reprisals, especially against U.S. forces in Iraq, and a longer-term acceleration of its efforts to acquire nuclear weapons.

Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said that Iran would respond to the U.S. strike with “harsh retaliation,” while a former commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps vowed “vigorous revenge.” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif lambasted on Twitter what he called a “dangerous & a foolish escalation” of tensions between the two countries.

“The strike that killed Qassem Suleimani is a significant escalation in the current tensions between Iran and the United States,” said Michael Mulroy, who until last month served as the Middle East policy chief for the U.S. Department of Defense.

Petraeus Says Trump May Have Helped ‘Reestablish Deterrence’ by Killing Suleimani


As a former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and a former CIA director, retired Gen. David Petraeus is keenly familiar with Qassem Suleimani, the powerful chief of Iran’s Quds Force, who was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Baghdad Friday morning.

After months of a muted U.S. response to Tehran’s repeated lashing out—the downing of a U.S. military drone, a devastating attack on Saudi oil infrastructure, and more—Suleimani’s killing was designed to send a pointed message to the regime that the United States will not tolerate continued provocation, he said.

Petraeus spoke to Foreign Policy on Friday about the implications of an action he called “more significant than the killing of Osama bin Laden.” This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Foreign Policy: What impact will the killing of Gen. Suleimani have on regional tensions?

Israel and Iran Have Been Waging a Secret War – German Media

In 2019, a "war of words" in the Middle East came close to a "war of weapons" over attacks on Saudi and Iranian vessels, drone assaults on Saudi state oil company facilities – for which Yemen's Houthi movement claimed responsibility, and the downing of a US surveillance drone. However, the tensions are allegedly not limited to visible activities.

The US and, especially, Israel are waging a secret battle against Iran, the German broadcaster n-tv reports, citing security specialists. Amid this “shadow war”, the US is said to be acting covertly with Israeli intelligence in carrying out operations in response to attacks allegedly sponsored by Iran.

The report says that Washington and Tel Aviv declared a "cyberware” war on Tehran and its allies more than a decade ago. As former intelligence officer of the Israel Defence Forces' 8200 reconnaissance unit Roy Barzilay told the outlet, US President Donald Trump reacted to this summer’s attacks, which Washington and its allies have blamed on Iran, by ordering "to use a cyber attack to shut down the Iranian missile system and its intelligence agencies’ computers".

CSIS Bad Idea: Assuming the ‘Small Wars’ Era is Over


The return of ‘Great Power Competition.’ It’s practically a mantra these days from defense policymakers and military leaders. The 2021 budget is expected to be the nail in the coffin of The War on Terror, with the services all pouring funds instead into reorganization and new equipment for combatting peer adversaries Russia and China (and sometimes Iran is thrown in the mix, despite the fact that it is in no way a military peer.) Not so fast, say Alexandra Evans of RAND Corp. and Alexandra Stark of New America Foundation. In this installment of the Center for Strategic and International Studies “Bad Ideas in National Security” series, Evans and Stark caution that all those so-called ‘small wars’ of the last couple of decades are simply going to fade away. 

To see where the foreign policy winds in Washington are blowing, look to DC’s graduate schools, where aspiring civil servants and future defense strategists compete for national security jobs. In 2010, entering students studied counter-insurgency strategies and terrorist networks, polishing language skills in Arabic, Pashto, and Dari. In 2015, their successors enrolled in classes on grey-zone warfare and limited interventions in order to get to the field’s cutting edge. Security studies students matriculating in 2020, however, know the market demands have shifted. What Washington wants now is expertise in strategic competition.

New Study Estimates Global Extent Of River Ice Loss As Earth Warms

More than half of Earth’s rivers freeze over every year. These frozen rivers support important transportation networks for communities and industries located at high latitudes. Ice cover also regulates the amount of greenhouse gasses released from rivers into Earth’s atmosphere.

A new study from researchers in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Department of Geological Sciences found that annual river ice cover will decline by about six days for every one degree Celsius increase in global temperatures. This decline will have economic and environmental consequences. The study, “The past and future of global river ice,” was published in the journal Nature. It is the first study to look at the future of river ice on a global scale.

“We used more than 400,000 satellite images taken over 34 years to measure which rivers seasonally freeze over worldwide, which is about 56% of all large rivers,” said Xiao Yang, a postdoctoral scholar in the UNC-Chapel Hill geological sciences department and lead author on the paper. “We detected widespread declines in monthly river ice coverage. And the predicted trend of future ice loss is likely to lead to economic challenges for people and industries along these rivers, and shifting seasonal patterns in greenhouse gas emissions from the ice-affected rivers.”

Syria Isn’t Just About Syria

Only last week the president was demanding that U.S. generals draw up plans to pull all assets out of Syria as soon as possible. But on April 7, almost as if to force the U.S. not to withdraw, Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian army attacked a civilian population with chemical weapons and laid siege to Eastern Ghouta, on the outskirts of Damascus. Scores were murdered, including civilian men, women, and children. Hundreds were admitted to hospitals with grievous signs of poisonous gas inhalation.

Whether Trump’s public statements about withdrawing from Syria provoked Assad into using chemical weapons cannot be known, and western commentators and politicians should avoid implying that anyone but Assad is responsible. The timing is notable for reasons other than Trump’s recent comments: Almost exactly one year before the latest chemical attack—on April 4, 2017—Assad’s forces attacked residents of Khan Shaykhun using sarin gas, provoking an almost immediate U.S. missile attack on the Syrian army’s Shayrat airbase.

The Decline of Global Value Chains


LONDON – For more than a decade, China has been haunted by the prospect of getting stuck at an income level below that of the developed world (the “middle-income trap”). But the country’s economy is well on its way to eliminating this fear: growth has been faster, and driven by more innovation, than in most other middle-income countries. And yet, a key aspect of China’s growth model, the economy’s integration into global value chains, is now being undermined from several directions. How China responds to this challenge will shape the speed and nature of its own growth and that of the global economy.

In the period leading up to the 2008 financial crisis, global value chains expanded rapidly, eventually accounting for around 70% of international trade. But in the years since, GVCs have stagnated and declined slightly in importance. Most of this change has actually been driven by China, which has radically reduced its use of foreign inputs, by producing more of these domestically, and exported more intermediate goods.

As a result, Asia, previously an important supplier of intermediate goods to China, now accounts for a smaller share of GVCs than it once did. At the same time, European dependence on China has increased at the expense of value chains within Europe. And the United States has absorbed some of the increase in Chinese intermediate exports, reducing its share of GVCs. The net effect of all this, notes Bruegel’s Alicia García-Herrero, is that China has become less dependent on the world, and the world more dependent on China.

Trump Wants a ‘Big Deal’ on Arms Control, Even If It Sinks the New START Treaty

Thomas Countryman

A key arms control treaty that limits the number of strategic nuclear weapons the United States and Russia can deploy is set to expire in February 2021. Without it, the two countries could be locked into a nuclear arms race not seen since the height of the Cold War. Fortunately, the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, known as New START, is popular in both Washington and Moscow, and it can be extended for an additional five years with just the signatures of Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.

Renewing it should be the easiest foreign policy decision Trump can make. However, he is holding out in hopes of getting a bigger deal, one that covers other types of nuclear weapons and also involves China. While this is a worthwhile goal in principle, focusing on it and letting the existing deal lapse could have disastrous consequences.

The Shoals of Ukraine

By Serhii Plokhy and M. E. Sarotte 
At first, it might seem surprising that Ukraine, a country on the fringes of Europe, is suddenly at the turbulent center of American politics and foreign policy. With an impeachment inquiry in Washington adding further detail to the story of the Trump administration’s efforts to tie U.S. security assistance for the country to Ukrainian cooperation in investigating President Donald Trump’s Democratic opponents, Trump’s presidency itself hangs in the balance. And the repercussions go even further, raising questions about the legitimacy and sustainability of U.S. power itself.

In fact, that Ukraine is at the center of this storm should not be surprising at all. Over the past quarter century, nearly all major efforts at establishing a durable post–Cold War order on the Eurasian continent have foundered on the shoals of Ukraine. For it is in Ukraine that the disconnect between triumphalist end-of-history delusions and the ongoing realities of great-power competition can be seen in its starkest form.

Gas giant Gazprom, Ukraine finalise deals to ship Russian gas to Europe

MOSCOW (BLOOMBERG) - With just a day to spare, Russia and Ukraine signed all agreements necessary to continue gas flows to Europe for the next five years, averting a winter supply crisis.

"After five days of non-stop bilateral talks in Vienna, final decisions have been taken and final agreements reached," Gazprom PJSC Chief Executive Officer Alexey Miller said in an e-mailed statement, adding that the package of agreements ensures that Russia ships its natural gas via Ukraine beyond Dec 31. The current gas-transit deal between the two nations expires on Jan. 1.

Natural gas flows are a key feature in the fraught relationship between the two countries and getting a final deal done before the end of the year will appease energy traders across Europe. Supplies to the region have been cut twice during in the past 13 years at times of peak demand because of financial and political disputes between the two former Soviet allies.

Dreams of Westphalia

By Suzanne Maloney 

The year 2019 may be remembered as an inflection point for the Middle East, when the seemingly intractable violence and instability that have beset the region finally exhausted the United States’ prodigious confidence in its capacity for problem solving. Fifty years ago, the United States began to fill the void left by the British withdrawal from the Persian Gulf and, tentatively at first, take on the role of regional peace broker. For all its flaws—and there were many—U.S. leadership during this period generated some historic dividends, including the 1978 Camp David accords between Israel and Egypt, the 1991 liberation of Kuwait, and the preservation of oil exports in times of intense conflict. 

Now, however, the presumption of a vital U.S. interest in promoting peace and security in the Middle East is crumbling under the weight of changing energy markets and the human and financial toll of Washington’s seemingly endless wars in the region. “Let someone else fight over this blood-stained sand,” U.S. President Donald Trump said in October 2019, explaining his abrupt decision to remove U.S. troops from northeastern Syria. The president has long decried the $8 trillion he says the United States has spent on wars in the region, and he has passed the responsibility for his much-touted Middle East peace plan to Avi Berkowitz, a 31-year-old law school graduate with no diplomatic experience.

The 2019 UK PONI Papers

The 2019 UK PONI Papers examine contemporary civil and military nuclear issues and are written by emerging experts from academia, government and industry who presented at the 2019 UK Project on Nuclear Issues (UK PONI) Annual Conference.

The 2019 UK Project on Nuclear Issues (UK PONI) Annual Conference gathered established and emerging experts from academia, industry, government and the military to share insights and debate a broad range of civil and military topics. Emerging experts who gave presentations at the conference have adapted those presentations for this publication.

There are two primary factors which make this conference different from many others. First, UK PONI is a broad church – it prides itself on transcending many of the barriers between the various nuclear communities, including those between the deterrence and disarmament communities, and the technical and policy communities. The authors within this publication cover an extremely diverse array of positions.

Second, this conference specifically focuses on developing the next generation of nuclear experts in academia, industry, government and the military by giving emerging experts a platform to present and publish their research. And because these experts are emerging, their research is often more novel than that of established experts.

All views expressed in this publication are the authors’ own, and do not necessarily reflect those of the authors’ institutions, UK PONI or RUSI.

Why a Cool War May Be Worse than a Cold One


HONG KONG – In recent years, fears of a new cold war between the United States and China have been proliferating. But the tensions between the two powers would be better described as a “cool war,” characterized not by old-fashioned spheres of interest, proxy wars, and the threat of “mutually assured destruction,” but by an unprecedented combination of wide-ranging competition and deep interconnection.

Even without the threat of nuclear annihilation that marked the Cold War, a “lose-lose” outcome is likely in this cool war – not least because, in a scenario where either the US or China begins to gain an advantage over the other, the loser could well act rashly to bring their opponent down with them. But a win-lose or even win-win outcome is also possible. Whatever happens, the effects will reverberate globally.

The ongoing trade war, which US President Donald Trump initiated in the summer of 2018, offers a straightforward example of cool-war dynamics. Whereas the Soviet Union was a closed economy, China has, over four decades of “reform and opening up,” established itself as one of the world’s top three global supply-chain hubs, along with the US and Germany.

Cyber, Intelligence, and Security

o The Space Arms Race: Global Trends and State Interests

o Sectoral Ability to Manage Cyber Risks in the Supply Chain

o Technology and Intelligence: Changing Trends in the IDF’s Intelligence Process in the Post-Information Revolution Period

o Cyber Influence Campaigns in the Dark Web

o Social Change Through Computerized Accessibility of Legal Rules

o The Use of Biometric Technologies—Normative and Legal Aspects

How good is the government at threat information sharing?

Andrew Eversden

Over and over cybersecurity officials in the civilian government, the intelligence community and the Department of Defense say the same platitude: information sharing is important. Often, however, little insight, or metrics, back up exactly how well they are doing it. But a new joint report from inspectors general across the government found that information sharing among the intelligence community and the rest of government “made progress.”

The report, titled “Unclassified Joint Report on the Implementation of the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015” and released Dec. 19, found that cybersecurity threat information sharing has improved throughout government over the last two years, though some barriers remain, like information classification levels.

Information sharing throughout government has improved in part because of security capability launched by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s Intelligence Community Security Coordination Center (IC SCC) that allowed the ODNI to increase cybersecurity information all the way up to the top-secret level. The capability, called the Intelligence Community Analysis and Signature Tool (ICOAST), shares both indicators of compromise and malware signatures that identify the presence of malicious code. According to the report, the information from the platform is available to “thousands” of users across the IC, DoD and civilian government.

VIEWPOINT: Taking the Right Steps - Understanding 5G for the DoD

By James S.B. Chew 

A recent Pentagon announcement focusing on 5G network capabilities — based on a Defense Science Board 5G study — will no doubt create many overnight “experts” in the telecommunications field. However, the office of the undersecretary for research and engineering wisely stated that the significant commercial investment in this area should be leveraged.

The importance of leveraging this investment cannot be overstated — the commercial mindset is to be first to market with a reliable, affordable, “crazy great” product and/or capability. It would be fair to say that this is not the Defense Department acquisition process mindset.

For all those clamoring to climb aboard this 5G train, it would behoove all to carefully read the report and take note of this finding: “5G capability is inexorably intertwined with leading-edge microelectronics.”

The historical mismatch between trust and assurance policies versus national investment in advanced semiconductor manufacturing has led to a fundamental capability deficit.

Cybersecurity in 2020: Eight frightening predictions

by Jack Wallen 

The coming year looks promising on many levels; however, there could also be an inordinate rise of security breaches, attacks, and incidents. What will make 2020 such a banner year is that hackers will start turning technology against the companies that deploy it. 

Confused? Let's dive in so I can explain what I believe will make 2020 reset the bar for security attacks.

1. A voting machine hack

Much of what will ail technology will center around the 2020 US presidential election. It's been proven how easy network-attached voting machines can be hacked, so it should come as no surprise that this coming election will see numerous machines breached and votes changed. Because of this, it will also be the year when the leaders of the country understand that the technology supporting our elections is not up to the task of keeping our votes safe.

2. Deepfakes will cloud the 2020 US presidential election