23 March 2020

India Wins Defense Deal With Armenia in Bid to Chasten Turkey

By Shishir Upadhyaya

In a major success for India’s defense sector, India reportedly outbid Russia and Poland to win a $40 million defense deal to supply four indigenously-built military radars to Armenia. These radars, known as SWATHI, were developed by India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and manufactured by Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL).

Indeed, this deal is a major achievement for the “Make in India” program in the defense sector as it could open new opportunities in Europe for the sale of India’s indigenous systems, at lower costs than equivalent European systems. It could also help the Indian defense industry to make inroads into markets in Southeast Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. But this deal has other strategic implications. It is clearly aimed at countering increasing hostility from Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan toward India.

In September 2019, speaking at the 74th session of the UN General Assembly, Erdogan – who has aspirations to position himself as a strong leader in the Muslim world – raised the issue of Kashmir at the behest of Pakistan. The residents of Jammu and Kashmir have been kept “virtually under blockade,” Erdogan, told the UN General Assembly, referring to the measures taken by New Delhi to maintain law and order in Kashmir following the revocation of Article 370. Erdogan also stated that the Kashmir issue has awaited a solution for 72 years and that a solution can only be found through dialogue between India and Pakistan — a position that India has strongly rejected, maintaining that Kashmir is an integral part of India.

Finding ‘The End’ to Our Story in Afghanistan May Be The Best We Could Do

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For years in the Afghanistan war, many experts complained that the United States was “moving the goalposts,” adding objectives, and allowing “mission creep.” If that’s true, then the peace agreement signed with the Taliban on Feb. 29 moves the goalposts all the way back to the one-yard line, and relies on the other team to score the touchdown for us.

The accord formally gives up on the out-of-fashion U.S. goals of building a democracy based on the rule of law, and promoting civil organizations to bolster the society for the future. Even the desire to provide Afghan women with western-style rights, or anything close to that, is being left to the Afghans to determine.

It’s important to remember that the United States did not invade Afghanistan to help the Afghan people. We invaded to protect ourselves — to prevent Afghanistan from again becoming a base for attacks on the United States as it was on 9-11. For decades, the belief had been that the only way to do that over the long term was to add the “mission creep” goals. The “Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan” is an admission that it is beyond our ability to achieve those goals. We leave them to the Afghans. But what’s really worrying is that we would also leave the original, core objective — American security — to the Afghans.

Master the Message: How Trump Can Win the Coronavirus Information War

by Beverly Hallberg
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What we know: coronavirus is highly contagious, and thousands have died from it.

What we don’t know: how long should we practice social distancing to actually make a difference? Is flattening the curve important if most of us are expected to contract it? Should we avoid groups of people until more medical devices are made available or until they develop a vaccine?

Though the U.S. response has been well-received, the unknowns are vast and scary. Good communication is now our greatest weapon to fight the fear at home until tangible solutions are developed.

So, here’s what President Trump and his administration can do to stop the spread of misinformation and win this war we seem to be waging.

We’re all learning about coronavirus together, so it’s understandable that “what should we do?” is a moving target. But fighting a war when we don’t know what winning looks like is impossible.

The Post-Pandemic World

Until the COVID-19 pandemic, the rise of nationalist and populist forces seemed inexorable, threatening to deal a fatal blow to rules-based multilateralism. Could the current global crisis spur a new wave of international cooperation of the sort that emerged after World War II?

In this Big Picture, Federica Mogherini, a former EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, says COVID-19 exposed the flaws of zero-sum nationalism, and argues that “solidarity is the new selfish.” Likewise, former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd regards the pandemic as a perfect example of why multilateralism is needed, and urges political leaders not to pander to racist stereotypes. And Arvind Subramanian, a former chief economic adviser to India’s government, says the current country-focused international aid system must be revamped to favor global public goods such as preventing pandemics and tackling global warming.

Picking up on that theme, Kemal Derviş and Sebastián Strauss of the Brookings Institution argue that both COVID-19 and climate change highlight the necessity of much closer forward-looking international cooperation to reduce and manage global threats. The key point in that regard, says New York University’s Gernot Wagner, is that small, immediate reductions in the growth rate of infections or greenhouse-gas emissions will increasingly pay off over time.

China, Italy, and Coronavirus: Geopolitics and Propaganda

By Theresa Fallon

Italy has been an alluring geopolitical prize throughout the ages because of its strategic location in the middle of the Mediterranean, its wealth, and the useful skills of its people. Now it’s the turn of today’s rising power, China, to seek to extend its influence there.

Last year, Italy signed a Memorandum of Understanding with China on participation in China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Italy was the first and so far the only G-7 country to do so. Laboring under many years of economic stagnation, Italy hoped to bring about a much-needed stimulus to growth thanks to business with China. The move was sneered at by Italy’s Western allies and was also contentious domestically, with one part of the government coalition of the time (Matteo Salvini’s right-wing Lega) opposing it. At the end of the day, however signing the MoU did not bring Italy more contracts from China compared to other countries that had not done so — for instance, France.

Fast-forward to March 2020. Italy is in the grip of the coronavirus crisis. As of March 20, the disease has killed more than 3,400 Italians – more than the death toll registered in China, where the pandemic began in late 2019. At the beginning of March, Italy asked for help from its European Union partners though the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. No EU member state responded. In addition, France and Germany imposed a ban on the export of face masks. Many Italians feel deceived and humiliated by their European partners.

As Its Coronavirus Outbreak Abates, China Is Trying out a New Look. Is It Working?

As the coronavirus spreads globally, China’s government is working aggressively to change its international image. In the span of just a few weeks, China has gone from the embattled epicenter of the coronavirus epidemic to presenting the country as an experienced, charitable international player seeking to stem a worldwide pandemic. China has shipped medical supplies to Italy; one of its richest citizens, Jack Ma, offered to donate testing kits and face masks to the United States. China’s ambassador to the U.N. has written two letters to U.N. member states since the onset of the crisis, the latter one, from March 3, framing China as a key player in stemming the virus’ transmission. There is a darker side to this effort, however, perhaps best exemplified by Chinese diplomats amplifying conspiracy theories that suggest the virus originated in the United States, a tilt in China’s posture toward the U.S. made more stark when its Foreign Ministry announced the expulsions of American journalists from three leading U.S. newspapers.

How will these efforts affect international opinion? How is the outbreak and China’s response to it shaping the country’s standing on the global stage? —The Editors

It’s entirely unsurprising that the Chinese government would seek to shift attention from the origins of the virus or the cover-up that gave it a head start, and instead build a narrative extolling first its decisive containment actions at home and second its altruistic beneficence abroad. Rumblings of anti-Chinese sentiment from Southeast Asia to Africa in response to the outbreak suggest this may be an uphill battle.

Coronavirus and older people: 6 tips for families

As communities plan for possible Covid-19 infections, they need to consider the risks of older people – this group is at greater risk;

Actions everyone, including older people, can take include keeping regular medications and other supplies well-stocked and staying sanitized;

Those who live in multigenerational homes or who have caregiving responsibilities should make additional plans.

Data from China, where Covid-19 first spread suggests older people and people with chronic medical conditions may be at higher risk of severe illness from it. The potential danger, along with the fear of its spread in communities across the world, has left many older people and families nervous and in search of answers.

While we have no control over certain risk factors such as age and while questions remain unanswered, there is much we can do to prepare and protect ourselves, our families and our communities.

This is how much the coronavirus will cost the world's economy, according to the UN

The UN's trade and development agency says the slowdown in the global economy caused by the coronavirus outbreak is likely to cost at least $1 trillion.

UNCTAD says the fall in oil prices has been a contributing factor to the "growing sense of unease and panic".

Apart from the tragic human consequences of the COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic, the economic uncertainty it has sparked will likely cost the global economy $1 trillion in 2020, the UN’s trade and development agency, UNCTAD, said on Monday.

“We envisage a slowdown in the global economy to under two per cent for this year, and that will probably cost in the order of $1 trillion, compared with what people were forecasting back in September,” said Richard Kozul-Wright, Director, Division on Globalization and Development Strategies at UNCTAD.

What the coronavirus reveals about the digital divide between schools and communities

Nicol Turner Lee

President Donald Trump declared a national emergency over the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, which will provide $50 billion to the states working to accelerate virus screenings and deploy other emergency responses. But the funding may have come too late as concerns over COVID-19 have already injected chaos into American society, from concerns over the economy to empty grocery store shelves, inadequate access to testing, and clogged airports for those returning from abroad.

Yet another problem that deserves greater attention is the large number of students being asked to stay at home to further contain the spread of the virus. With a disproportionate number of school-age children lacking home broadband access, the breadth of the U.S. digital divide has been revealed as schools struggle to substitute in-school resources with online instruction, electronic libraries, streaming videos, and other online tutorials.

Every U.S. student could eventually be impacted by extended school closures. New York City, whose public-school system serves more than 1.1 million students, has announced the closure of its 1,800 schools. These mounting circumstances have administrators scrambling to migrate courses online and create some level of accountability between students and teachers. However, the U.S. digital divide makes any effort fallible for certain individuals, households, and communities that are not sufficiently connected.

Before Virus Outbreak, a Cascade of Warnings Went Unheeded

By David E. SangerEric LiptonEileen Sullivan and Michael Crowley
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WASHINGTON — The outbreak of the respiratory virus began in China and was quickly spread around the world by air travelers, who ran high fevers. In the United States, it was first detected in Chicago, and 47 days later, the World Health Organization declared a pandemic. By then it was too late: 110 million Americans were expected to become ill, leading to 7.7 million hospitalized and 586,000 dead. 

That scenario, code-named “Crimson Contagion” and imagining an influenza pandemic, was simulated by the Trump administration’s Department of Health and Human Services in a series of exercises that ran from last January to August.

The simulation’s sobering results — contained in a draft report dated October 2019 that has not previously been reported — drove home just how underfunded, underprepared and uncoordinated the federal government would be for a life-or-death battle with a virus for which no treatment existed. 

Yes the Coronavirus Pandemic Could Come for the Gulf States Next

Seth J. Frantzman

They have the busiest airport in the world, key hubs of international commerce and are a conduit for twenty percent of the world’s oil supply. Now the Gulf states and all their rapid economic success in recent years are threatened by the advance of the coronavirus pandemic. Amid the concerns about shutdowns in Europe and the United States, as well as death tolls in Iran and China, the Gulf countries’ challenges facing the pandemic have been underreported. The ramifications of what is happening in the Persian Gulf will reverberate globally as the virus spreads. 

The Gulf states consist of a group of small monarchies, most of them U.S. allies where U.S. troops, CENTCOM and the Fifth Fleet are based. Along with Saudi Arabia, these states are also members of the Gulf Cooperation Council and they play a key role connecting the West to Asia, both in terms of air traffic, and in foreign policy. Now they also stand out as hard-hit by the pandemic, with Bahrain and Qatar having some of the highest per-capita infection rates. Saudi Arabia is so concerned it has canceled pilgrimages and locked down its Qatif region. 

How Government Failure Gave Birth to the Coronavirus Crisis

by Paul R. Pillar

The several ways in which President Donald Trump’s methods of operation—including his lies, refusal to accept responsibility, and downplaying problems to protect his personal image and political standing—have spelled a failure of leadership in the current coronavirus crisis have already become familiar. Columnists and commentators have had much to say about this, as have the financial markets. Another now-familiar pattern has been that a significant number of other countries have out-performed the United States in their response to the crisis, according to such measures as the speed of responding, the comprehensiveness of testing, and the appropriateness of protective steps taken. Those strong performers have included states hit hard by the virus as well as ones that—thanks in large part to their effective responses—have been spared the worst of the pandemic.

One of the strongest of these performers is Singapore. The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) has praised Singapore’s handling of the crisis and has singled it out as a model for other countries to follow. Singapore faces significant vulnerabilities to the virus as a high-density city-state in East Asia with many personal and commercial connections to China. But at last count, it had not recorded any deaths from coronavirus, with just over two hundred of its people infected and about half of those already recovered.

US intrusions in S.China Sea can be stopped by electromagnetic weapons: …

Chinese military experts on Tuesday suggested the use of non-lethal electromagnetic weapons, including low-energy laser devices, in expelling US warships that have been repeatedly intruding into the South China Sea in the past week.

Ships from the Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier strike group and America amphibious assault ship expeditionary strike group sailed together in the South China Sea on Sunday for expeditionary strike force drills, the US Pacific Fleet said on its Twitter account on Monday.

This is the third time in just a week US warships are known to have trespassed into the South China Sea: US guided missile destroyer McCampbell on March 10 trespassed into China’s territorial waters in the Xisha Islands, and amphibious assault ship America and littoral combat ship Gabrielle Giffords sailed in operations in the South China Sea on Friday.

To counter US’ repeated trespasses into Chinese territorial waters, the Chinese military has the option of using new approaches, including the deployment of electromagnetic weapons, Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and commentator, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Asia’s Best Strategies Against Coronavirus: Track, Isolate, Communicate

By Ee Ming Toh and Elaine Kurtenback

Singapore, a tiny city-state of less than 6 million people, had one of the earliest and biggest clusters of cases of the coronavirus in early February, before it began its rapid, inexorable expansion around the globe. 

Within weeks, the country’s tally of infections with the highly contagious virus that causes COVID-19 was overtaken by skyrocketing caseloads in South Korea, several European countries and the United States. 

Some strategies are proving more effective than others in containing the pandemic: pro-active efforts to track down and isolate the infected, access to basic, affordable public health care, and clear, reassuring messaging from leaders. East Asia’s experience with the 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which also originated in China, has likewise helped. 

Since testing rates vary widely, it’s hard to know for sure. But with the global number of infections approaching 200,000, Singapore appears to be among the handful of places that tick all those boxes, though recent spikes in new cases show that any lapses can have dire consequences. 

What the G20 Must Do


LONDON – Saudi Arabia, this year’s chair of the Group of Twenty (G20), will convene a virtual summit next week to discuss a global response to the COVID-19 crisis. The emergency meeting could not come too soon. Because global health is a collective public good, any threat to it requires a multilateral response.

The health emergency also threatens to trigger a global recession and financial crisis. As we learned in 2008, global economic crises must also be met with a multilateral strategy. Timid, uncoordinated, or unilateral actions by individual countries will be ineffective, at best, and could lead to a downward spiral of “beggar-thy-neighbor” policies.

The G20 is the obvious candidate to play the role of global coordinator. Accounting for around 90% of global GDP, it comprises the world’s largest advanced and emerging economies. And as a forum without a permanent secretariat, it is agile enough to bring the international community together quickly, as it did in November 2008, at the height of the financial crisis.

On that occasion, G20 leaders gathered in Washington, DC, to organize a coordinated response, and then met again in April 2009 in London, where they took steps to stabilize the global economy and restore confidence. It worked: a public display of collective leadership and shared responsibility averted a deeper economic collapse.

The Blue House Blueprint: How South Korea Contained Its First Coronavirus Outbreak

by Justin Fendos
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Local authorities will be loath to admit it, but South Korea has contained its first large-scale coronavirus outbreak. This outbreak began in the city of Daegu, centering on the infection of 5,011 members of the Shincheonji religious group. Along with another 347 cases infected through secondary contact, the Daegu outbreak accounts for a staggering two-thirds of all Korean COVID-19 cases. 

I call this outbreak South Korea’s “first” because there will likely be additional outbreaks. One can always hope future events will be limited to small, isolated clusters (like the Sindorim call center cluster in Seoul) but odds remain high that another major outbreak will occur, comparable in size to Daegu. Many challenges will lie ahead regardless, for South Korea and other countries, as the world begins its fight against the pandemic.

Numbers Indicating Success

Boris Johnson Delivered Brexit, but Britain’s Future Remains Just as Uncertain

Three years after British voters narrowly voted to leave the European Union in a 2016 referendum, Boris Johnson assumed the office of prime minister amid a political environment characterized by anger, turmoil and confusion. But despite initial stumbles that led some observers to predict he would suffer the same dismal fate as his predecessor, Theresa May, Johnson managed to deliver on his promise to renegotiate the Brexit withdrawal agreement with the European Union. His subsequent decisive victory in December’s parliamentary elections, built in part on successfully wooing traditional Labour party voters, gave Johnson the ample majority he needed to see his deal through.

Before Johnson’s December triumph, Brexit had been a disaster for both of the country’s two main political parties. The referendum outcome immediately brought down the Conservative government of former Prime Minister David Cameron, who had called for the vote in the first place. His successor, May, was felled by her inability to get the withdrawal agreement she negotiated with Brussels through Parliament, mainly due to opposition by extremist Brexiteers within her own Tory ranks. For his part, Johnson achieved what May couldn’t, arriving at a Brexit deal that a majority of Parliament could agree on—and then building on that majority in December. But now he will own the consequences of having delivered Brexit.

“New” Realities of Twenty-First Century Asymmetric Conflict

Max G. Manwaring

A multi-polar world in which one or a hundred non-state and state actors are exerting differing types and levels of power, within a set of cross-cutting types and levels of power, is extremely volatile and dangerous. The security and stability of the global community is threatened, and the benefits of globalism could be denied to all. Thus, it is incumbent on the United States and the rest of the global community to understand and cope with the unconventional threats imposed by the diverse actors engaged in the destabilizing conflicts that are called asymmetric or hybrid conflict, or Grey Area Phenomena (GAP)—or what John Sullivan has called a ‘bazaar of violence’ that fuels the convergence of crime and war.

These conflicts range from acts of terrorism and illegal drug trafficking to warlordism, militant fundamentalism, ethnic cleansing, intra-national conflict, major refugee flows, and other transnational threats and consequences of global instability. Within this so-called GAP, one or another belligerent entity is not simply attempting to destroy an “enemy” military or security force in the classical sense. In addition to the conventional “shooting war,” there may be combinations of as many as five, six, or more unconventional wars (dimensions) being conducted at the same time. These wars may include, for example: 1) guerrilla war/drug war/media war; 2) conventional war/economic war/diplomatic war; 3) drug war/financial war/information war; 4) cyber war/biological war/terrorist war; 5) etc.

Remote work, especially in IT, could become a permanent trend

by Esther Shein 

Many of us chuckled over the now famous video of the BBC interview with a professor whose children wandered into his remote office a couple of years back. Expect scenes like this to become more commonplace with experts saying remote work may continue long after the need to stay at home subsides.

According to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 29% of workers have the ability to work from home on an average day. That number fell to 20.6% for wage and salaried workers. These figures will undoubtedly rise in the weeks and months ahead.

A shortage of workers prompted many employers to offer the option to work remotely part time or a couple of days a week and this has long been a desirable perk to attract workers. Now, it may become the norm, especially in IT, which has the experience and the wherewithal to continue working remotely.
IT is particularly well-suited for working remotely

Thanks to the off-shoring of technical resources and distributed team structures a decade ago, working remotely has been a long trend in IT, observed Art Zeile, CEO of DHI Group, the parent company of IT talent firm Dice.

How to Practice Social Distancing

By Isaac Chotiner

As Americans and people around the world are being asked to help halt the spread of the coronavirus, we have frequently been told to practice social distancing. The idea is to “flatten the curve,” or slow the spread of the virus, decreasing the number of people who get sick at one time and the risk of overwhelming our medical system. In practice, social distancing mostly means avoiding close contact with people who do not live with you, and also public spaces, where surfaces may be contaminated. But, no matter how often we have been given such advice, it can be hard to totally change our habits, and the specific advice about how to behave can be confusing and overwhelming.

In order to get some tips on how we should all be going about our daily lives, I spoke by phone with Asaf Bitton, a primary-care physician, public-health researcher, and the director of the Ariadne Labs, at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. He has produced a handy sheet outlining the best social-distancing practices, and most of my questions for him were about how to follow them. In our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity, we discussed what to do when you go outside, how often to shower, the importance of walks, how to respond if someone you are sheltering with gets sick, the pros and cons of ordering food, and the unsung heroes at American medical facilities.

Life Under Lockdown: Here’s a Glimpse of What’s Coming for You, America

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I’d taken the dog down, too, and the kids, since they hadn’t been outside in days. It was midnight—right after we finished dinner—and I figured they could carry a trash bag and get a breath of air. The dog had barely peed when the patrol car did a U-turn, blue lights flashing. I explained that I needed helpers with the trash bags (and, let’s be honest, recycling all the bottles). “No hay excusas, caballero,” the officer told me. “Kids inside.” We were lucky; fines for violating the lockdown can go as high as 30,000 euros.

It’s day three, but feels like day 30, of a nationwide shutdown meant to curb, if not arrest, the spread of coronavirus in what has now become one of the worst-hit countries in the outbreak. Confirmed cases in Spain are up to 11,681, with 525 deaths—scratch that: Since I started writing, cases are up to 13,716 and deaths to 558. The curve is steeper than Italy’s.

The prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, told a near-empty parliament Wednesday morning that the “worst is yet to come.” His wife has already tested positive for the coronavirus; King Felipe, who will address the nation Wednesday evening, has been tested as well, through his came up negative. There’s no Liga soccer matches; the Real Madrid team is in quarantine, which, given how they’ve been playing, is probably for the best. There’s no Holy Week in Seville, no Fallas in Valencia.

Sorry, America, the Full Lockdown Is Coming

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Afew days ago I shared wine, cheese, and camaraderie with a small group of close friends, and sadly, after five excellent bottles of Côtes du Rhône wine, we said goodbye to one another, knowing we shall not again share company for many weeks, perhaps months. Yesterday my dearest neighbors knocked on the door, carts loaded with suitcases and boxes in tow, to wish me well for the duration of the great pandemic. We air-hugged, and I sadly watched them tromp off to their packed vehicle, abandoning New York City for their country home. As they wandered off, I said, “See you in September, I hope—or whenever things are normal again.”

For some countries—Italy, South Korea, and Singapore for example—the moment of decision and personal preparation has long since passed, and millions of people are stuck in place, watching their epidemic unfold. On the eve of St. Patrick’s Day, the mayor of San Francisco ordered her entire population to “shelter in place” for a few weeks: The window of opportunity to relocate has closed for residents of the Bay Area.

Only Multilateralism Can Save Us


WASHINGTON, DC – The global economy was ripe for a recession even before the coronavirus pandemic struck. Many commentators have been warning that stock markets were overheated, that advanced economies were heading for a slowdown, and that US President Donald Trump’s protectionist policies had disrupted supply chains and ushered in an era of heightened uncertainty. Now, the stock market has finally crashed, and a recession has become almost inevitable.

In the past, the international community has successfully mustered a coordinated response to similar crises. The threats posed by SARS in 2003, H1N1 (swine flu) in 2009, MERS in 2012, Ebola in 2014-2016, and the 2008 global financial crisis were all contained through rapid multilateral action. But Trump has shown nothing but contempt for multilateralism, which helps to explain why a global response to the COVID-19 crisis has yet to materialize.

Trump’s flailing response to the outbreak is a sharp departure from that of his predecessor. According to former Vice President Joe Biden, now the leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, Barack Obama’s administration helped to contain multiple previous outbreaks by convening health officials from around the world in the White House Situation Room, where they mapped out a coordinated response. Earlier economic downturns were likewise addressed through multilateral channels. At the height of the global financial crisis, the G20 repudiated trade protectionism and committed to pursuing simultaneous fiscal and monetary expansion. We now know that this coordinated response played a major role in preventing the downturn from getting significantly worse.

Under The Nuclear Shadow: Situational Awareness Technology and Crisis Decisionmaking

Improvements to strategic situational awareness (SA)—the ability to characterize the operating environment, detect and respond to threats, and discern actual attacks from false alarms across the spectrum of conflict—have long been assumed to reduce the risk of conflict and help manage crises more successfully when they occur. However, with the development of increasingly capable strategic SA-related technology, growing comingling of conventional and nuclear SA requirements and capabilities, and the increasing risk of conventional conflict between nuclear-armed adversaries, this may no longer be the case. The Project on Nuclear Issues (PONI) at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the University of California, Berkeley’s Nuclear Policy Working Group undertook a two-year study to examine the implications of emerging situational awareness technologies for managing crises between nuclear-armed adversaries.

This report is made possible by support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

After Nine Years, Syria’s Conflict Has Only Become More Complicated

Mona Yacoubian

The engagement of external actors has protracted the conflict and Syrians civilians continue to bear the brunt.

In March 2011, as the Arab world was roiled by demonstrations, protests broke out in Syria to demand political reform after four decades of Assad rule. Nine years later, the Assad regime is on the offensive against the last rebel stronghold of Idlib, with Russia, Turkey and Iran all heavily invested in the conflict. The humanitarian consequences for Syrians cannot be overstated and a political solution to conflict seems as distant as ever. USIP’s Mona Yacoubian discusses the dreadful toll on the Syrian population and what the battle for Idlib means for the trajectory of the conflict.

Nine years since the Syrian uprisings first began, what has the toll been on the country and its population?

This week marks the ninth anniversary of the war in Syria, which has evolved from peaceful protests in 2011 as part of the "Arab Spring" to a multi-level conflict involving both regional and major power players. It is the most complex conflict to have emerged from the Arab uprisings. (For a timeline of events since the Syrian uprising began, see below.) Today, no fewer than six interlocking conflicts are being waged inside Syria:

Financialization: Why The Financial Sector Now Rules The Global Economy – OpEd

By Ryan McMaken*

To read or watch the news in today’s world is to be confronted with a wide array of stories about financial organization and financial institutions. News about central banks, interest rates, and debt appear to be everywhere.

But it was not always the case that the financial sector and financial institutions were considered so important. Public policy in general was not always designed with a focus toward propping up banks, keeping interest rates low, and ensuring an ever greater flow of cheap and easy loans. Reporting on the minutiae of central banks—with the assumption that these changes directly impact nearly every facet of our lives—wasn’t always the norm.

But that is where we are now.

The change is real and it’s a thing called “financialization.” It has arisen from of an economy that is increasingly focused on the financial sector at the expense of other areas of the economy. And it’s relatively new. Scholars have suggested many causes for financialization, but they often end up just blaming markets. In fact, the true cause is decades of government and central bank policy devoted to inflating asset prices in financial markets and bailing out the financial sector again and again.

What Is Financialization?

A new label to better protect critical infrastructure

Andrew Eversden

Federal agencies should help defend the networks that run critical infrastructure, a new comprehensive report on the government’s cybersecurity suggested.

The Cyberspace Solarium Commission’s final report, released March 11 by a group of experts from in and out of government, recommended Congress implement the concept of “systemically important critical infrastructure," a designation for entities that operate systems that, if disrupted, “could have cascading, destabilizing effects on U.S. national security, economic security, and public health and safety.”

The new label means the U.S. government would become more involved in the defense of critical infrastructure, especially those “directly threatened by nation-states” and other cyber criminals, according to the report. For example, the report calls for the intelligence community update its processes to collect and share more information with systemically important critical infrastructure operators.

According to the report, the government “can and should bring to bear its unique authorities, resources, and intelligence capabilities to support these entities in their defense.”

Rethinking Media’s Role in Conflict and Peace in the Middle East

Elie Abouaoun and Alberto Fernandez

How can the power of media be better employed to resolve conflict in the region?

In 2014, the world watched in disbelief, as global news networks covered the stream of gruesome and horrific beheading videos released by the so-called Islamic State. For the first time, by bringing the terror of the Islamic State directly to the devices in the palm of our hands, it felt personal and close by, rather than across the world in a mysterious land.

Without question, the role of the media in peace and conflict is becoming ever more important. While terror groups like IS have been proven effective in their use of media for their sinister agendas, has the rest of the world caught up?

As media technologies advance, so too must our strategies to responsibly and effectively harness their power. Sadly, in some cases in the Middle East and North Africa, media have been employed, by both regimes and terrorists, as a tool to cause harm, incite violence and fuel dangerous narratives.

Intel, Cyber Soldiers ‘Duking It Out’ Daily With Enemy

“Our intelligence professionals and our cyber operators are duking it out,” Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier said. “I kind of think of ourselves, cyber and military intelligence, as sort of combat arms. I know it’s hard to get your head around that, but we’re the ones who are kind of doing that right now.”

Berrier spoke Wednesday as part of the Association of the U.S. Army’s breakfast series on threats the Army is facing in today’s era of great power competition.


Since the end of the Cold War, the general said Russia has transformed its army to be smaller with new capabilities that it has been able to test in operations in nearby countries.

Using those lessons, he said Russia now uses those capabilities in Syria, which include air and air defense, precision targeting, special operations and contract forces, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, or ISR.

The capabilities have also created standoff for Russia as it presses back against NATO presence in Europe, he said.

Use of Military Forces in the COVID-19 Emergency

As the effects of COVID-19 are increasingly felt around the United States, many officials and commentators have asked what role the U.S. military might play as part of the response. Several state governors have already called up elements of the National Guard as part of their emergency measures. This analysis addresses the distinctive roles of U.S. federal military forces and state National Guard units, the ways U.S. forces could be most helpful, the limitations on military forces, and the potential cost of employing the military to help fight the coronavirus.

Q1: Can U.S. military forces be used for domestic emergencies?

A1: Yes, U.S. military forces can be used for domestic emergencies and have seen such usage throughout U.S. history. For example, military units fought forest fires in the Western United States when local and forest service capabilities were inadequate. Troops have provided disaster relief, including after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Troops have deployed for many years to the Southwest border. Though that mission has become controversial, the president’s authorities to use troops for this purpose has been upheld in the courts.