22 January 2020

China Hopes UN Meeting Spurs India-Pakistan Talks on Kashmir

By Edith M. Lederer

China’s U.N. ambassador warned Wednesday against further escalation between India and Pakistan over the disputed Kashmir region and expressed hope that a Security Council meeting called by Beijing will encourage both countries to seek a solution through dialogue.

Zhang Jun told several reporters after the closed meeting that China remains “concerned about the situation on the ground” in Kashmir.

“I’m sure the meeting will be a help in both parties to understand the risk of further escalation and encourage them to approach to each other and to have dialogue and to seek means to seek solutions through dialogue,” Zhang said.

India’s Hindu nationalist-led government ended Muslim-majority Kashmir’s semi-autonomous status in August. The move was accompanied by a harsh crackdown, with New Delhi sending tens of thousands of additional troops to the already heavily militarized region, imposing a sweeping curfew, arresting thousands and cutting virtually all communications.

Trade Tensions Set to Continue in 2020

Megan Greene
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Global trade policy is not going back to the consensus that prevailed over the past few decades. Even if the growing cycle of tariffs and trade threats is tamed in 2020, the economic consensus that underpinned broad support for open trade is breaking down, and escalation in trade tensions is likely.

What next for the US and China?

The US and China are currently at the centre of these tensions. The equity and bond markets started 2020 off euphorically as news of a ‘phase one’ trade deal between the two dominated headlines. Such a deal involves the US reducing some previously imposed tariffs and tabling another round of threatened ones, while China agrees to buy more US goods, including agriculture. This represents a détente of sorts, but don’t expect it to last; trade between the two countries is not actually at the heart of their trade war.

Evaluating the Importance of Recent Events

By George Friedman
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There are moments when the entire world seems to be coming apart, as if Armageddon itself were upon us. Public attention tends to be able to handle just one Armageddon at a time, and even though the end of the world would probably entail more than one calamity, newspapers have room for only one alarmed headline a day, and Twitter seems confined to one overwhelming rage attack at a time. I am of course referring to the high-profile confrontation between the U.S. and Iran and the much lower profile Turkish deployment to Libya. Catastrophic though they may seem, it is prudent to consider their current state, just a week or two after the panic, and to consider other panic-ridden global processes. What, after all, happened to China and Brexit?

The pattern of informational flow and emotional intensity does not derive from the underlying issue – the issues are still there. History grubs its way forward ineluctably, but we only sometimes notice it, usually when something happens that is both unexpected and noisy. Since humanity tends to expect tomorrow not to be any different than yesterday, and since its attention is drawn by noise, it assumes what was once unnoticed is now catastrophic.

Consider the unexpected and noisy events in Turkey and between the United States and Iran. They are significant but the frantic noise drowns out their importance, which unfolds over years, decades and generations.

Addressing Risk in the Era of US-China “Great Power” Competition

Kyle Sullivan 

Even as the United States and China are set to formally sign a “phase one” trade agreement this week, the perception in Washington of the bilateral relationship has deteriorated to the point where US policymakers now openly assert that the two countries are engaged in a “new Cold War.” This more confrontational approach by US policymakers is driven by an overarching view that China represents a long-term economic and military competitor.

As US policymakers seek to address the perceived national security challenges, US companies, and their ties with China, will come under increased scrutiny for their potential involvement in aiding China’s military advancement, whether intended or not.

Civil-military integration blurs boundaries.

At the crux of the issue are concerns in Washington that US companies’ cooperation with China on dual-use technologies will assist China’s military modernization. Known as civil-military integration (CMI), Beijing’s strategy seeks to enlist civilian organizations—companies, universities, and research institutes, to name a few—to design and produce technologies for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Tech giants, such as Baidu and Alibaba, are getting involved, and although it is difficult to gauge the number of Chinese companies involved in the CMI program, US officials believe it is ubiquitous.

China's Reliance On Foreign Technology Is Harming Its Air Force From The Inside

by Robert Farley
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Key Point: Despite these formidable obstacles, Chinese advancement in military aviation continues apace, and it is unlikely that China will lag behind in engine technology forever.

The Chinese defense industrial base is infamous for its tendency to “borrow” from foreign designs, particularly in the aerospace industry. Almost the entirety of China’s modern fighter fleet have either borrowed liberally from or directly copied foreign models. The J-10 was reputedly based on the Israeli IAI Lavi and by extension the United States’ General Dynamics F-16; the J-11 is a clone of the Russian Su-27; the JF-17 is a modern development of the Soviet MiG-21; the J-20 bears an uncanny resemblance to the F-22, and finally, the J-31 is widely believed to rely heavily on technology appropriated from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Appropriation saves China time and money on research and development, allowing it to modernize the PLAAF at a fraction of the cost of its competitors. However, the appropriation strategy remains constrained by bottleneck technologies due to lack of testing data and industrial ecology. This problem is starkly illustrated by China’s ongoing difficulty in producing a high-quality indigenous jet engine.

China Tightens Grips on North Korean Defectors

By Tae-jun Kang

Despite international efforts to tighten sanctions against North Korea, China has never fully participated, even though it vows to do so on the surface. One clear example are continuing news reports based on comments from witnesses and internal sources in China and the North that economic exchanges are still active between two countries — whether official or unofficial.

However, an interesting report emerged in June indicating that Beijing might be growing concerned about North Korean defectors living in China.

A source in China told Seoul-based online newspaper Daily NK that Beijing had strengthened its efforts to crack down on North Korea defectors flocking to China.

The source added that even brokers, who help North Koreans to defect in exchange for money, are reluctant to help defectors these days due to the rising number of arrest cases by the Chinese authorities.

Recent Developments Surrounding the South China Sea

A look at recent developments in the South China Sea, where China is pitted against smaller neighbors in multiple territorial disputes over islands, coral reefs and lagoons. The waters are a major shipping route for global commerce and are rich in fish and possible oil and gas reserves.

Beijing’s Xi to Visit ASEAN Ally Myanmar

Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit neighboring Myanmar this week amid efforts to strengthen relations with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Myanmar has also been a reliable backer, along with Laos and Cambodia, of China’s campaign to quash criticism within ASEAN of its claim to virtually the entire South China Sea. Beijing has of late been pushing the organization to approve a code of conduct among nations in the disputed waterway that could seek to forbid military operations in the area by rivals such as the U.S., Australia and Japan.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying announced Friday that Xi would visit Myanmar on January 17-18.

Beijing Wants to Preserve the Status Quo in Iran

After the recent U.S. drone strike on Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani and Iran’s subsequent counterattack on a U.S. military base, the prospect of another U.S.-led war in the Middle East has returned.

In response, some have posited that Beijing welcomes a U.S. war with Iran because it would distract the United States from its focus on strategic competition with China, provide Beijing with breathing space to continue to build its comprehensive national power, boost China’s image as upholder of the international order while diminishing the United States’ role as global leader, and weaken U.S. alliances. As one analyst put it, “The killing of Soleimani could present Beijing with a major opportunity, not only to prevent another disastrous war, but to increase its influence in the region, supplanting an increasingly unpredictable Washington.”

On the surface, this narrative is plausible.

In the wake of the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent dual invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, Beijing did indeed see an opening for what then-Chinese leader Jiang Zemin called a window of “strategic opportunity.” Sensing that the newly elected George W. Bush would adopt a harder line toward China, Beijing immediately offered assistance to the United States as it prosecuted its war on terrorism. Yet the Chinese leadership soon also realized that a distracted United States, bogged down in multiple wars in the Middle East, meant China had breathing room to further grow its economy and expand its military without concerted U.S. pressure.

The U.S.-China Race and the Fate of Transatlantic Relations

Technological dominance is a key dimension of the competition between the United States and China, one that is further stressing transatlantic relations. This paper analyzes the narrative and reality around the nexus between new technologies, defense of shared values, and regulation. Values are a rising element in the transatlantic debate over technology, particularly with the proliferation of artificial intelligence (AI) surveillance systems and other aspects of exportable techno-authoritarianism. Both the United States and Europe must update their human rights approaches for the digital era, and clear values around new technologies must be defined.

The new European Commission in Brussels, as well as some EU member states, see the need to deal with great power competition as a strategic priority and as a way to achieve “technological sovereignty.” They have identified the nexus between the industrial and digital agendas and regulation as key. From this, three areas of competition and cooperation between the United States and Europe emerge, all of which relate to China’s capabilities: fifth-generation wireless technology (5G), AI, and web-based services. Differences in regulation will be a sticking point in transatlantic relations, but there need not be perfect alignment between the United States and the European Union. Nonetheless, both sides have to push for global regulations in fields such as AI ethics, cybersecurity, and internet governance to avoid China or others filling the void. The article offers some ideas for a transatlantic agenda on technology as it relates to China. A second, forthcoming part of this paper will discuss other geopolitical issues, beyond technology, related to the impact of U.S.-China competition on transatlantic relations and on European unity.


Does the ‘Phase One’ U.S.-China Trade Deal Pit Farming Against Manufacturing?

Kimberly Ann Elliott 

Unless President Donald Trump decides to blow things up, a “phase one” trade deal between the United States and China will finally be signed this week. The agreement has remained somewhat up in the air because its text still hasn’t been released and Chinese officials have been unwilling to confirm key elements that the White House asserts are in it. Assuming that things do go as planned, though, this is far from the end of the story. Trump and his advisers insist there will be a “phase two” deal that addresses the big, structural issues in China’s economic policies, from the government’s support for state-owned enterprises to forced technology transfers. But in the meantime, which could be rather long, American businesses and consumers will continue to face higher costs because most of the tariffs imposed on China over the past 18 months will stay in place.

How the Trump administration is secretly assisting Iranian protesters

by Tom Rogan

Complementing the president's rhetorical support for Iranian protesters, the U.S. government is engaged in less public programs to help Iranian protesters now taking to the streets. They provide the positive counterpoint to Trump's excesses, such as his recent threat to Iranian cultural sites.

The critical point here is that this is about giving Iranians the tools to campaign for their own freedom and future, rather than interfering with Iranian domestic politics or instigating protests. The U.S. programs are not a 1953 coup part deux, but a provision to help those already on the streets struggle for their freedom.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is the point man for these efforts, centered at the State Department and the U.S. intelligence community.

The story begins in early 2017, with then-CIA director, Pompeo. Determined to escalate the CIA's activities against Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's regime, Pompeo unified Iran operations under a specific mission center and aggressively minded chief. What followed were successful U.S. operations to obstruct Iranian nuclear activities, contest the regime's external activities, recruit Iranian officials (including senior officials), and identify those behind the repression of Iran's population. The mission center's activities now define Pompeo's push to see the CIA accept greater operational risks. The current director, Gina Haspel, has continued in this vein.

Oman’s Renaissance—and What Will Follow


For the most part, international news coverage of the Middle East suggests an endless cycle of instability, belligerence, and sectarianism. Incessant reports of war and crisis dominate headlines, with those pockets of relative tranquility mostly ignored. The most outstanding example of these is the Sultanate of Oman whose ruler, Qaboos bin Said, died on Jan. 10 at the age of 79 after a long illness.

Qaboos, the 14th generation of the ruling dynasty of Al Said, ascended to the throne on July 23, 1970, after overthrowing his father, Sultan Said bin Taimur, whose restrictive and isolationist policies had rendered the country among the poorer and most restrictive in the world. The 29-year-old Qaboos, a recent graduate of the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst, England, soon embarked on daunting task: laying out a vision for Oman’s future development and progress. In pursuit of his goals, he combined charisma and political acumen, uniting disparate factions throughout the country in common cause.

Why Cyberspace Is the Next Front in the Iran-US Conflict

by Bryan Cunningham
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Iran and other nations have waged a stealth cyberwar against the United States for at least the past decade, largely targeting not the government itself but, rather, critical infrastructure companies. This threat to the private sector will get much worse before it gets better and businesses need to be prepared to deal with it.

As in the days of pirates and privateers, much of our nation’s critical infrastucture is controlled by private companies and enemy nations and their proxies are targeting them aggressively.

The U.S.-Iran cyberconflict has simmered for years, but the current crisis boiled over with Iranian attacks on U.S. interests in Iraq that led to the Jan. 3 U.S. drone strike that killed a senior Iranian general and terrorist leader. Iran’s supreme leader threatened “harsh revenge,” but said Iran would limit those efforts to military targets.

But even before Iranian missiles struck U.S. military bases in Iraq on Jan. 7, pro-Iranian hackers reportedly attacked at least one U.S. government-related website, along with a number of private company sites. Of greater concern, a new report details significant recent efforts by Iran to compromise the U.S. electric, oil and gas utilities.

The Gulf and Iran’s Capabilities for Asymmetric Warfare

By Anthony H. Cordesman

Much of the reporting on the clashes between Iran and the United States that began in late December 2019, that led to the strikes that killed the commander the Iran’s Quds force, Qasem Soleimani, and led to Iranian missile strikes on U.S. bases in Iran, have focused on the Quds force and treated it as the dominant element of Iraq’s military forces and Iran’s asymmetric capabilities. The Quds force is only part of a much broader and steadily growing mix of Iranian asymmetric warfare capabilities. Its role must be kept in careful perspective in evaluating the threat of any major escalation in the tensions and military exchanges between Iran and the United States and the risk of a major war in the Gulf.

Furthermore, much of the recent news reporting on Iran has misstated the nature of Iran’s forces and capabilities. It is critical to assess Iran’s actual military capabilities, and the developments in its approach to asymmetric warfare, as accurately as is possible at the unclassified level and put them in the broader context of the capabilities that the U.S. and its Arab strategic partners can bring to bear in deterring and defending against Iran.

The Burke Chair at CSIS has developed a briefing entitled The Gulf and Iran’s Capabilities for Asymmetric Warfare that is available on the CSIS web site at https://csis-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/publication/200113_GULF_MILITARY_BALANCE.pdf?.

Escalation and Deterrence in Syria

By Itai Shapira
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The chances of military escalation between Israel and Iran have steadily risen in recent months. Israel has struck Iranian targets in Syria and Iraq; Iran has retaliated, and Russia has done little to actively minimize Iranian presence in Syria while trying to limit Israeli freedom of action. The longer these dynamics continue unabated, the more likely a confrontation between Israel (probably backed by the United States), Iran and its proxies, Hezbollah, the Syrian military, and perhaps even Russian forces might seem. In the aftermath of the U.S. killing of Soleimani, Iranian Quds Force Commander – these chances might even increase. This creates the possibility of an unintended escalation – such as the one Israel had already experienced in the past.

However, Iran, Syria and Russia are rational, avoid unnecessary risks, know how to differentiate between vital and ad-hoc interests, and are sensitive to all forms of American and Israeli power tools. They can be deterred from reacting to Israeli and American actions relating to Syria, and perhaps even from using Syria to respond to the killing of Soleimani. However, rolling them back from preserving their mere presence and influence in Syria might prove harder.

Australian Bushfires: A Government in Disarray

By Joshua Mcdonald

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been criticized as “missing in action” even as bushfires raging across the country have burned more than 12 million hectares, killed at least 27 people, and killed or injured around 1 billion animals.

The blowback began with a holiday to Hawaii. Australia was in the grip of consecutive 35- to 40-degree days, which exacerbated the already out-of-control fires, when it emerged that Morrison was vacationing overseas. Under intense media criticism and following the deaths of two volunteer firefighters, Morrison returned home a day early, but for many, the damage was already done.

Within hours, murals depicting the prime minister wearing a traditional Hawaiian lei around his neck while holding a cocktail as flames emerged from behind him began popping up around the country, across social media, and printed on T-shirts.

The Backwash of War

By Johannes Allert

Following the Great War, several books and writings chronicling military medicine were published. Notable among them were Dr. Richard Derby’s Wade in Sanitary!: The Story of a Division Surgeon in France (published in 1919) and the classic by Army Nurse Julia Stimson, Finding Themselves: The Letters of an American Army Chief Nurse in a British Hospital in France (published in 1918). While each acknowledged the brutality of war and the challenges faced by medical personnel, the authors remained generally upbeat and confirmed the Allies’ just cause in prosecuting the war against Germany. In Wade in Sanitary!, Derby—the brother-in-law of Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt—specifically warns readers of the failure of preparedness and encourages vigilance against future threats.[1]

Conversely, Cynthia Wachtell has wisely resurrected the provocative composition of Ellen La Motte’s The Backwash of War. This work conveys an entirely different perspective of the World War during the low ebb period of the Allied war effort against the Central Powers. Enamored by La Motte’s personal story, Wachtell combed through the author’s book and numerous articles written during and after her involvement in the conflict, and provides insight into her unconventional, nonconformist life story.

The Sickening Power of Putin


I’m not sure which is sadder — that the “president” of Russia approvingly alludes to Joseph Stalin in speeches, or that the Russian people respond with huzzahs.

Nearly every scene of the documentary Citizen K carries some such depressing detail as the film probes the ongoing conflict between tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his former ally Vladimir Putin. The Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney (whose many credits include Going Clear and Sinatra: All or Nothing at All) tweaks a common documentary formula — little guy who gets railroaded. This one is the story of a giant who got railroaded. In Russia, billionaires are victims of gross injustice too.

Khodorkovsky, who in the days following the demise of the Soviet Union launched Russia’s first commercial bank after reading a book on the subject, rapidly amassed shares in newly privatized industries in the Nineties, becoming one of the seven “oligarchs” who held half of Russia’s wealth. Amid economic turmoil, he and the others steered the country away from a relapse into Communism and backed the gangster capitalism embodied by Vladimir Putin. So why did Khodorkovsky spend a decade in jail, why is he now living in London, and why does he have excellent cause to fear Putin’s thugs even now? Pull up a chair and Gibney will tell you, in a doc that is frightening, bizarre, and comic. “Russian democracy” is, for now, largely an oxymoron, though the film concludes with hopeful sketches of some political figures who might help to restore it. Don’t hold your breath.

What Is The FISA Agenda As The New Decade Begins? – Analysis

By George W. Croner*

(FPRI) — The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) enters 2020 under the microscope in a way seldom seen in the four decades in which it has served as the touchstone for conducting foreign intelligence electronic surveillance in the United States. Consequently, as the calendar has turned to January, now is as good a time as any to see what is on the FISA agenda for the new year.
An Update on FISA’s Present Posture

In 2019, the most significant FISA-related issue was the question of Congress renewing three FISA authorities facing sunset on December 15, 2019. Those three provisions were the (1) “lone wolf” surveillance authority, (2) the “roving wiretap” authority, and (3) the “access to business records” authority, which includes the “call detail record (CDR)” provisions that were the subject of congressional reform following the Edward Snowden disclosures. In November 2018, as 2019 approached, I wrote about the anticipated debate that I expected to surround the decision on whether or not to extend these authorities.[1]

The absence of any material activity on the reauthorization issue until late 2019 was no surprise given the crowded congressional calendar. But, the traditional legislative logjam was exacerbated in 2019 by deep partisan divide and major developments impacting the congressional agenda including, inter alia, the release and subsequent fencing over the Mueller Report, the controversies that ultimately led to the impeachment of Donald Trump, and, on December 9, 2019, the release of Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report titled Review of Four FISA Applications and Other Aspects of the Crossfire Hurricane Investigation (the “Horowitz Report” or “Report”). These matters, particularly the House impeachment inquiry, left the legislative calendar in tatters, so it was no surprise that, in late November before the Horowitz Report was even issued, Congress added a little-noticed provision to an appropriations bill that extended the sunset date for the aforementioned FISA authorities until March 15, 2020.[2]

The World Must End The US’ Illegal Economic War – OpEd

By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers

The United States is relying more heavily on illegal unilateral coercive measures (also known as economic sanctions) in place of war or as part of its build-up to war. In fact, economic sanctions are an act of war that kills tens of thousands of people each year through financial strangulation. An economic blockade places a country under siege.

A recent example is the increase in economic measures being imposed against Iran, which many viewed as more acceptable than a military attack. In response to Iran retaliating for the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani and seven other people, Iran used ballistic missiles to strike two bases in Iraq that house US troops. President Trump responded by saying he would impose more sanctions on Iran. Then he ended his comments by urging peace negotiations with Iran. The United States needs to understand there will be no negotiations with Iran until the US lifts sanctions that seek to destroy the Iranian economy and turn the people against their government.

Like The Air Force, America's Navy Plans To Operate Drone Swarms

by Jared Keller
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On Feb. 13, the Navy awarded Boeing a $43 million contract to produce four of the 51-foot Orca Extra Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicles (XLUUVs) that are capable of traveling some 6,500 nautical miles unaided, the U.S. Naval Institute reported.

According to USNI, the Navy could potentially deploy the Orcas from existing vessels to conduct "mine countermeasures, anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, electronic warfare and strike missions."

But as Popular Mechanics points out, the Orca's modular design and relatively inexpensive price tag make the robo-subs a potential game-changer for a Navy that's struggling to grow to 335 hulls:

Orca could even pack a Mk. 46 lightweight torpedo to take a shot at an enemy sub itself. It could also carry heavier Mk. 48 heavyweight torpedoes to attack surface ships, or even conceivably anti-ship missiles. Orca could drop off cargos on the seabed, detect, or even lay mines. The modular hardware payload system and open architecture software ensures Orca could be rapidly configured based on need.

Japan to the Rescue: Can Abe Defuse Tensions in the Middle East?

By Thisanka Siripala

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is on a five-day trip to the Middle East hoping to bring a “unique” brand of “peace diplomacy” amid escalating threats of retaliation between the United States and Iran.

Last week, local media cited government officials who predicted Abe would cancel his diplomatic tour in the wake of the U.S assassination of Iranian Quds Force Commander General Qassem Soleimani. But Abe stuck to his original schedule. Before flying to Saudi Arabia, followed by the United Arab Emirates and Oman, Abe told reporters at Haneda airport he hoped to ease flaring tensions by “promoting dialogue, self-restraint and persistent peaceful diplomacy.”

Resource-poor Japan relies on the Middle East for 90 percent of its oil supply and there are concerns rising tensions could jeopardize Japan’s energy security. In June last year a Japanese commercial ship carrying 25,000 tons of methanol was attacked by a drone in the Gulf of Oman, even as Abe was in Tehran.

Can the US Strengthen Its Economic Arsenal in Asia?

By Robert Farley
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The Center for New American Security has issued a report titled “Strengthening the Economic Arsenal,” designed to refine thinking on the economic toolkit that the United States can use to achieve its goals in the international community. Elizabeth Rosenberg and Jordan Tama caution against the new consensus on the lethality of sanctions, which has reversed a decades-long consensus on the weakness of blunt economic measures. But they also provide a series of arguments on how to make U.S. sanctions more effective.

The report focuses heavily on sanctions, and in particular the increasing sophistication and “lethality” of sanctions over the past two decades. The authors draw a stark contrast between thinking on sanctions in the 1990s, when Iraq and Cuba offered glaring examples of failed sanctions regimes, and the much more carefully targeted regimes of the 2010s, which have directly attacked the sinews of national economies, as well as the finances of regime elites.

Rosenberg and Tama argue that the United States needs greater clarity on how sanctions end in order to generate more effective compellence. Sanctions cause pain, with the point being for the target to change its behavior in order to relieve that pain. But while the United States can readily decide to inflict pain, the mechanisms for relieving pain (both executive and congressional) often fail to end sanctions even after the target has capitulated. This criticism cuts deep, as the foreign policy community in the United States can rarely agree on whether the goal of coercion is to change the behavior of Iran/North Korea/Russia/China, or to fundamentally undercut the regimes that rule those countries. But when leaders do not believe that the pain will end even if they change behavior, they are unlikely to go to the trouble of changing their ways.

What to Watch in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2020

2020 will be another pivotal year for sub-Saharan Africa. The region will hold presidential or general elections in as many as 11 countries. It will be a make-or-break moment for key transitions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, and Sudan. Conflicts will fester in Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Mozambique, Nigeria, the Sahel, Somalia, and South Sudan. The region’s governments, opposition, and private sector will continue to leverage claims of “great power competition” to exact economic concessions, silence external criticism, and challenge contradictions in U.S. policy toward sub-Saharan Africa.

To preview some of the top stories in 2020, the CSIS Africa Program presents its annual list of key countries and issues to watch this year. (Read last year’s forecasts.)

1. Publics Oppose Third Term Extensions in Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire (Jon Temin)

Popular resistance to efforts by Guinean president Alpha Condé and Ivoirian president Alassane Ouattara to extend their terms in office will grow. In both countries, there is considerable public hostility to the idea of third terms. According to Afrobarometer polling, 86 percent of citizens support a two-term limit in Cote d’Ivoire and 84 percent in Guinea—two of the highest figures on the continent. This support for leadership rotation will probably spur protestors to continue to mount rallies in Guinea, where Condé has already unveiled his plan to revise its constitution. Similarly, it could unite a divided opposition in Cote d’Ivoire if Ouattara follows through on his vow to enter the race if his longstanding political rivals run for the presidency. West Africa has long performed relatively well in democratic governance, with leaders showing a commitment to term limits, exemplified by Nigerien president Mahamadou Issoufou and Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari’s recent pledges to step down in 2021 and 2023, respectively. As democracy activists in Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire hit the streets to block third terms bids, they will appeal to the region and broader international community for support.

The future is intelligent: Harnessing the potential of artificial intelligence in Africa

Youssef Travaly and Kevin Muvunyi

Below is a Viewpoint from Chapter 5 of the Foresight Africa 2020 report, which explores six overarching themes that provide opportunities for Africa to overcome its obstacles and spur inclusive growth. Read the full chapter on capturing the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The future is intelligent: By 2030, artificial intelligence (AI) will add $15.7 trillion to the global GDP, with $6.6 trillion projected to be from increased productivity and $9.1 trillion from consumption effects. Furthermore, augmentation, which allows people and AI to work together to enhance performance, “will create $2.9 trillion of business value and 6.2 billion hours of worker productivity globally.” In a world that is increasingly characterized by enhanced connectivity and where data is as pervasive as it is valuable, Africa has a unique opportunity to leverage new digital technologies to drive large-scale transformation and competitiveness. Africa cannot and should not be left behind.

There are 10 key enabling technologies that will drive Africa’s digital economy, including cybersecurity, cloud computing, big data analytics, blockchain, the Internet of Things, 3D printing, biotechnology, robotics, energy storage, and AI. AI in particular presents countless avenues for both the public and private sectors to optimize solutions to the most crucial problems facing the continent today, especially for struggling industries. For example, in health care, AI solutions can help scarce personnel and facilities do more with less by speeding initial processing, triage, diagnosis, and post-care follow up. Furthermore, AI-based pharmacogenomics applications, which focus on the likely response of an individual to therapeutic drugs based on certain genetic markers, can be used to tailor treatments. Considering the genetic diversity found on the African continent, it is highly likely that the application of these technologies in Africa will result in considerable advancement in medical treatment on a global level.

Trump says US 'better at cyber than anyone in the world’

Chiara Vercellone

President Donald Trump said the United States “is better at cyber than anyone else in the world” in a Jan. 9 interview with a Toledo television station, marking one of the rare times during his administration he appears to be speaking about military cybersecurity operations.

Trump spoke about a possible cyberattack from Iran with 13ABC’s Lee Conklin while in Ohio for a rally. Conklin asked the president what the White House was doing to protect the nation’s computer systems from an attack.

“Cyber is a whole thing. It’s a whole new field. We have some tremendous people. We’re better at cyber than anybody else in the world," he said. "But we weren’t really using that power, that intellect, on cyber. We weren’t doing it. And now we are. And we have – I have – incredible people in charge of cyber. If we ever get hit, we’ll hit very hard. We’ll be able to hit very hard. But it’s a new form of war – warfare – and I think we have it very well under control.”

Will Trump’s Trade Wars Reshape the Global Economy?

Once relatively staid, the global economic and trade system has been anything but since U.S. President Donald Trump took office.

The United States and China seem to have hit the pause button yet again on their on again, off again trade war that began last year. Trump launched the series of tit-for-tat tariff hikes over China’s perceived unfair trade practices, including forced technology transfers and the theft of intellectual property. After bringing the world to the brink of a global trade crisis and damaging producers—particularly U.S. farmers—the two sides appeared to be inching toward a deal over the summer. Negotiations then stalled again, and Trump returned to the threat of raising tariffs on a broad range of Chinese imports to the U.S. After a subsequent round of talks, however, Trump announced a limited “phase one” agreement that gives both sides more time to try to iron out their broader differences. That stopgap deal was finally signed today.

Trump’s unpredictable negotiating style and his willingness to brandish the threat of tariffs for leverage in trade talks cannot be particularly reassuring to European officials, who have yet to start their own trade negotiations with the U.S. Trump has already decried what he sees as unfair trade deficits with European Union countries, particularly Germany, and he imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from some allies, without seeming to understand that the EU negotiates trade terms as a bloc. A U.S.-Europe trade war could do lasting damage to both sides.

Prime Leverage: How Amazon Wields Power in the Technology World

By Daisuke Wakabayashi
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SEATTLE — Elastic, a software start-up in Amsterdam, was rapidly building its business and had grown to 100 employees. Then Amazon came along.

In October 2015, Amazon’s cloud computing arm announced it was copying Elastic’s free software tool, which people use to search and analyze data, and would sell it as a paid service. Amazon went ahead even though Elastic’s product, called Elasticsearch, was already available on Amazon.

Within a year, Amazon was generating more money from what Elastic had built than the start-up, by making it easy for people to use the tool with its other offerings. So Elastic added premium features last year and limited what companies like Amazon could do with them. Amazon duplicated many of those features anyway and provided them free.

In September, Elastic fired back. It sued Amazon in federal court in California for violating its trademark because Amazon had called its product by the exact same name: Elasticsearch. Amazon “misleads consumers,” the start-up said in its complaint. Amazon denied it had done anything wrong. The case is pending.


Brandon Morgan 

Company command. Like so many young officers before me, I looked forward to and worked hard for the opportunity to lead a company of American soldiers. But also like many before me who earned that privilege, I had to do something else first: serve as a staff officer—in my case, at the division, brigade, and finally battalion level. Each of these experiences was uniquely rewarding and fundamental in my development as an Army officer.

After serving twenty-five months “in the queue” of multiple staff positions before assuming command, I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to learn, grow, develop, and serve as a staff officer to some of the most lethal, capable, and professional formations in the Army. My singular advice to anyone with the prospects of assuming a new position within a unit staff is that bringing daily positive energy, vitality, and commitment to the task at hand will yield both deep personal and professional satisfaction, even during the longest days and nights behind the desk and at the keyboard. Beyond that, in practical terms, I offer five recommendations based on my experience.