5 April 2020

The Lockdown Week-1: Mixed results amidst hope

Arvind Gupta, Director, VIF
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Announcing a nationwide, 3-week lockdown at four-hour notice requires courage and conviction. PM Modi displayed these qualities in full measure during his address to the nation on 24th March when he explained the reasons for this unprecedented step. Understanding the gravity of the situation and convinced by his argument for maintaining strict social distancing, the countrymen have fully supported him.

But, within a couple of days, it became apparent that the government had not made adequate preparation to implement the lockdown. Lakhs of informal sector workers who found themselves without accommodation, food and jobs, started migrating to their villages on foot to escape the lockdown hardship. The poignant visuals of thousands of people walking to their villages will stay in memory for a long time. Neither the central government nor the state governments had foreseen and planned for such an exigency. Some of these workers may have been infected. Undetected, they pose a risk to the populations in their villages. The impact of migration of workers on the spread of the virus in their communities is yet to be assessed. So dire was the situation that the Prime Minister publicly apologised for the hardship brought upon the poorest segments of the population due to the lockdown but justified the decision.

The religious congregation at the Tablighi Jamaat Markaz in Delhi on 13-15 March in Delhi, held in defiance of the Delhi government’s orders on the prohibition of large gatherings, showed the utter disregard of civic responsibilities by the organisers. Their actions have put at risk vast populations spread across the nation in danger of Covid 19 infection. Many of these people came from coronavirus infected countries. The surge of infection in the states has been traced to the people who attended the Tablighi Jamaat congregation. While the organisers have been booked for breaking the law, it is also surprising that the police station was located next to the Markaz where the religious gathering was being held. Yet, the police took no action to prevent the gathering. It remains to be seen what price the country will have to pay for this terrible act of negligence and criminality. Worse, the incident has been communalised. The lessons of communal riots in north-east Delhi in February seem to have been forgotten.

Only India, China will survive coronavirus, rest of the entire world economy will go into recession: UN

With two-thirds of the world's population living in developing countries facing unprecedented economic damage from the COVID-19 crisis, the UN is calling for a USD 2.5 trillion rescue package for these nations. 

In the face of a looming financial tsunami this year, the UNCTAD proposes a four-pronged strategy that could begin to translate expressions of international solidarity into concrete action. (Reuters photo)

The world economy will go into recession this year with a predicted loss of trillions of dollars of global income due to the coronavirus pandemic, spelling serious trouble for developing countries with the likely exception of India and China, according to a latest UN trade report.

With two-thirds of the world’s population living in developing countries facing unprecedented economic damage from the COVID-19 crisis, the UN is calling for a USD 2.5 trillion rescue package for these nations.

Waiting for Peace on the Front Lines


In late November 2019 in Nahr-e-Saraj, a contested district in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, Afghan Border Police (ABP) Col. Ahmad Sagoori, 36, draped a heavy woolen blanket over his uniform. Helmand is hot in the summer, but the evenings had turned crisp. Twenty days earlier, Sagoori and his men, along with local police, retook the sparsely populated agricultural district from a group of local Taliban militants, who frequently reappeared to harass the outpost with sporadic sniper fire.

“If the politicians can’t address the bigger issues in our country, there will be no end to this war.”

Despite the ABP forces being severely undermanned, the Taliban concentrated recent attacks on the local police, who have less training and equipment, making them easier targets. “Now that we’ve pushed them out of the district center, we’re able to hold the area much more effectively,” Sagoori said. Though it seemed that the tide of the war was beginning to turn in favor of the government forces, the colonel didn’t see a long-term military solution.

The Geopolitics of Southeast Asia’s Coronavirus Challenge

By Prashanth Parameswaran

After months of speculation about an understated coronavirus challenge in Southeast Asia, COVID-19 finally gone regional in Southeast Asia as expected over the past week: with all eleven countries finally registering at least one case. While evaluating COVID-19’s specific impacts on the region or assessing government performance is premature given the evolving nature of a global pandemic, it is nonetheless worth setting out what geopolitical impacts we should watch in the region in the coming months.

While there have been anxieties about how COVID-19 would affect Southeast Asia, the fact is that apart from Singapore and Vietnam, where cases were detected early and governments acted quickly, the region is now only waking up to the severity of the challenge, and it has affected countries to different degrees thus far. Though numbers tend to quickly change, as of this week, while eleven Southeast Asian countries have at least one case, the distribution of cases vary from a few to a few thousand: per ongoing data collected by CSIS Southeast Asia’s COVID-19 tracker, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia have cases in the thousands; Singapore, Vietnam, and Brunei and Cambodia are in the hundreds, while Myanmar and Laos (and Timor-Leste, not included in the tracker) have a few cases.

The U.S.-China Clash Question We Need to Ask: “How Does This End?”

by Michael Hall

The coronavirus fever gripping America will eventually subside, but its effects will linger. Though China and the U.S. have both responded poorly to the disease, many Americans are calling for China to be held accountable for not taking actions early on that would have mitigated this pandemic. In other words, coronavirus has put deteriorating U.S.-China relations on the fast track. In this emotionally charged environment, China hawks have found ample space to stretch their wings. But hawkishness has done much to weaken the U.S. and distract from our legitimate priorities at home—the growing consensus around this approach must be more closely examined.

Before having their way, these China hawks should answer some critical questions, not the least of which is, “How does this end?”

China’s response in those early days could have stemmed the tide. Silencing doctors and suppressing information were mistakes. Along similar lines, the U.S. could have had a more decisive response early on. Flights from China to the U.S. were not stopped in time (and domestic travel remains a vulnerability); the U.S. was caught unprepared to conduct wide-scale testing; Health and Human Services, under the leadership of Secretary Alex Azar—whose position has been de facto usurped by Dr. Fauci—made critical mistakes in the handling of American evacuees from Wuhan; Senators knew the severity of coronavirus as early as January 24, when there was a classified meeting that has made recent headlines for an alleged insider trading scandal—and let’s not forget Fox News host Tucker Carlson made a personal appeal to President Trump, imploring him to view the virus as a health problem, rather than a political one.

Not Enough: Why Social Media Companies Need to Do More to Stop Misinformation

by Bhaskar Chakravorti

As we practice social distancing, our embrace of social media gets only tighter. The major social media platforms have emerged as the critical information purveyors for influencing the choices people make during the expanding pandemic. There’s also reason for worry: the World Health Organization is concerned about an “infodemic,” a glut of accurate and inaccurate information about COVID-19.

The social media companies have been pilloried in recent years for practicing “surveillance capitalism” and being a societal menace. The pandemic could be their moment of redemption. How are they rising to this challenge?

Surprisingly, Facebook, which had earned the reputation of being the least trusted tech company in recent years, has led with the strongest, most consistent actions during the unfolding COVID-19 crisis. Twitter and Google-owned YouTube have taken steps as well to stem the tide of misinformation. Yet, all three could do better.

Coronavirus Highlights U.S. Strategic Vulnerabilities Spawned By Over-Reliance On China

Loren Thompson

President Trump has been criticized for highlighting the Chinese origins of the current coronavirus crisis. Whether such comments are constructive or not, the crisis has provoked a broader debate about the role that China plays in the American economy.

In the two decades since Beijing was admitted to the World Trade Organization, it has gradually eclipsed America’s preeminence as a manufacturing nation. For instance, the U.S. had two dozen aluminum smelters within its borders when the new century began; by the time President Trump took office, only five remained of which two were functioning at full capacity.

Chinese smelters have no inherent pricing advantage, so critics have correctly concluded that China became the world’s largest producer (and exporter) of aluminum through the use of subsidies and other trade-distorting practices. A similar pattern prevails in steel, which explains why both industries became early targets of Trump tariffs.

World Bank Sees Coronavirus Outbreak Hitting Asia Hard

By Martin Crutsinger

The World Bank is estimating that the cornavirus outbreak will cause economic growth to slow significantly this year in China and other East Asian-Pacific countries, throwing millions into poverty.

Under a worse-case scenario, the region could suffer its sharpest downturn since a devastating currency crisis more than two decades ago, the bank said in an updated forecast released Monday.

The bank’s report projects that growth in the region would slow to 2.1 percent this year from 5.8 percent in 2019 under a “baseline” forecast in which economic recovery takes hold this summer.

But under a worse case, in which the adverse effects of the virus spillover into next year, the region’s economy would contract 0.5 percent, the bank estimates. That would represent the weakest performance for the region since the 1997-98 Asian currency crisis, which plunged 40 percent of the globe into recession.

Character and Leadership: COVID-19 in US-China Relations

By Mercy A. Kuo

Trans-Pacific View author Mercy Kuo regularly engages subject-matter experts, policy practitioners, and strategic thinkers across the globe for their diverse insights into U.S. Asia policy. This conversation with Admiral James Stavridis (USN Ret.) – Operating Executive with The Carlyle Group and Chair of the Board of Counselors at McLarty Associates; Supreme Allied Commander, NATO and commander of U.S. European Commander (2009-2013); Combatant Commander of U.S. Southern Command in Miami (2006-2009); and author of Sailing True North: Ten Admirals and the Voyage of Character (Penguin Press 2019) – is the 230th in “The Trans-Pacific View Insight Series.”

Explain the relationship between character and leadership.

Think of leadership as a huge door that swings through the world – it is how we influence others. That “door” of leadership can swing for good or for ill. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) was a terrific leader who guided the USA through the Great Depression and WWII. But Pol Pot of Cambodia was also a strong leader who mobilized the population of Cambodia for a massive genocide. We should remember that big doors swing on small hinges, and the door of leadership swings on a small hinge called “character.” It is the essence of the human heart, which determines whether a leader serves others sincerely, has empathy and good humor, remains honest, and in the phrase of my book, “sails true north.”

‘Choppy Waters’ Await US Navy as Virus Strikes Aircraft Carrier

By Baldor and Robert Burnbs

In this April 10, 2018, file photo, a U.S. Navy crewman monitors on the deck of the U.S. aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt in international waters off South China Sea.

The U.S. Navy, the U.S. military service hit hardest by the coronavirus, scrambled to contain its first at-sea outbreak, with at least two dozen infected aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, one of 11 active aircraft carriers whose mission is central to the Pentagon’s strategy for deterring war with China and Iran.

The Roosevelt and its contingent of warplanes may be sidelined for days, sitting pier side in Guam as the entire crew — more than 5,000 — is tested. Navy leaders say the carrier could return to duty at any time if required, but the sudden setback is seen as a harbinger of more trouble to come.

“The Navy is headed into choppy waters in terms of readiness in the months ahead,” says retired Adm. James Stavridis, a former ship commander who rose to become NATO’s top commander in Europe.

Biological Weapons the Focus of China’s Military Research in the Last 20 Years

Monika Chansoria

Independent Chinese media outlet Caixin Global revealed that Chinese laboratories had in fact identified a mystery virus — later identified as COVID-19 — to be a highly infectious new pathogen by late December 2019. But they were ordered to stop further testing, destroy samples, and suppress the news to the fullest extent possible.

The regional health official in Wuhan City, the epicenter of the pandemic, demanded the destruction of the lab samples, which established the cause of an unexplained viral pneumonia since January 1, 2020. China didn’t acknowledge that there was human-to-human transmission until more than three weeks later.

Caixin Global provides the clearest evidence yet of the scale of this fatal cover-up in the very crucial early weeks, when the opportunity was lost to control the outbreak — a contagion that spread throughout the world thereafter, and has caused a global shutdown, literally.

Warfare Beyond Rules

COVID-19 has thrust universities into online learning⁠—how should they adapt?

Paul LeBlanc

There is one golden rule for flying with an infant or toddler: Do whatever it takes to get through the flight peacefully with no harm done. Every parent knows this means relaxing their standards. Planting your kid in front of an iPad screen or giving them not so healthy treats might not win you a “parent of the year” award, but it’s what is needed in the moment.

In like fashion, much of the global higher education community is suddenly thrust into an unplanned, unwanted, and fraught experiment in online learning with the COVID-19 pandemic. For many of those participating—institutions of higher education (IHEs), faculty members, and students⁠—it’s not what they want, but it’s what they are stuck doing through the end of this academic year. How should they proceed?

As president of Southern New Hampshire University, which had a large online learning presence even prior to COVID-19, I offer four guiding rules.


Higher education rightly prides itself on high standards, carefully crafted learning, experienced faculty, and measured consideration of things like curriculum, resources, and learning space design. In software development there is the opposite concept of Minimum Viable Product (MVP), the minimal functioning version that gets the basic functions done well enough for now. Those IHEs new to online learning should be in MVP mode right now, remembering that the great is the enemy of the good when urgency and lack of time to prepare is the order of the day.

How 3-D Printers Are Helping to Fight the Coronavirus

By Sue Halpern

Alittle more than a week ago, Isaac Budmen heard that a coronavirus testing site was going to be set up in Syracuse, New York, not far from where he lives with his partner, Stephanie Keefe. The couple, who are both artists, own a company that makes 3-D printers. They knew that medical workers had a shortage of face shields, one kind of personal protective equipment (P.P.E.), and they wondered if they could help. On a recent Saturday evening, after a few hours of research, Budmen and Keefe designed and printed a face-shield prototype. It wasn’t very good, Budmen told me. They modified the design, adding sizes for different face shapes, making sure there would not be a space between the shield and the wearer’s forehead, where microbes might be able to reach the eyes, nose, or mouth. With their printers running all night, they figured they could make a total of fifty shields. The office of the Onondaga County executive asked them to make three hundred.

According to a survey released by the U.S. Conference of Mayors on Friday, about ninety-two per cent of the group’s members (two hundred and thirteen mayors, from forty-one states and Puerto Rico, representing forty-two million Americans) do not have enough testing kits or face masks for first responders and health-care workers; eighty-five per cent said that their hospitals do not have enough ventilators. The U.C.S.F. Health hospital system, in San Francisco, is running out of nasal swabs for testing, and a health-care system in Texas that serves a million people is in danger of shutting down testing sites because of a shortage of protective gear. In New York, where people are now waiting in long lines outside of emergency rooms and refrigerated trucks have been deployed as temporary morgues, Governor Andrew Cuomo asked the federal government to help the state get thirty thousand ventilators. But that help doesn’t appear to be coming anytime soon. In a recent interview on Fox News, Donald Trump said, “I don’t believe you need forty thousand or thirty thousand ventilators. You go into major hospitals sometimes, and they’ll have two ventilators. And now all of a sudden they’re saying, ‘Can we order thirty thousand 

Without Mass Testing, the Coronavirus Pandemic Will Keep Spreading


When a patient arrived at a Chinese hospital with acute respiratory distress in mid-December 2019, there was uncertainty about what was causing these symptoms. Known pathogens were quickly ruled out: It was not SARS, MERS, or influenza—and, quickly, a novel coronavirus was detected. When doctors tried to raise the alarm, police threatened them, and health officials initially said they had no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission.

When China finally informed the World Health Organization of the outbreak through its China office on Dec. 31, 2019, it was clear the government was privately worried that it was not going to be easy to contain or manage.

By Jan. 23, China had 571 cases and a death toll of 17. Infectious disease specialists who create predictive models of epidemics immediately sounded the alarm about the new coronavirus disease—known as COVID-19—noting that China could experience 100,000 new infections per day with hundreds of millions of people becoming infected. By the following day, the central government of China had imposed a lockdown in Wuhan and other cities in Hubei province affecting 56 million people.

US awol from world stage as China tries on global leadership for size

Julian Borger 

When the UN security council and the G7 group sought to agree a global response to the coronavirus pandemic, the efforts stumbled on the US insistence on describing the threat as distinctively Chinese.

There are other reasons for the lack of collaboration in the face of a global crisis, but the focus on labelling the virus Chinese and blaming China pursued by the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, helped ensure there would be no meaningful collective response from the world’s most powerful nations.

For some US allies, the fixation on words at a time when the international order was arguably facing its greatest challenge since the second world war encapsulated the glaring absence of US leadership.

And that absence was illustrated just as vividly by news coverage of planes full of medical supplies from China arriving in Italy, at a time when the US was quietly flying in half a million Italian-made diagnostic swabs for use in its own under-equipped health system and Donald Trump was on the phone to the South Korean president pressing him to send test kits.

China’s misplaced pandemic propaganda


CLAREMONT, CALIFORNIA – Barely a month ago, China was in the grip of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. Thousands of new infections were confirmed every day. Hospitals were overwhelmed. People were dying by the hundreds. People couldn’t leave their homes. But the government’s draconian lockdown seems to have worked: The outbreak now seems to be under control. And, apparently, China’s leaders have ignored its most essential lessons.

To see this, it’s worth reviewing how they handled the crisis. Upon hearing that a new coronavirus had emerged in Wuhan in the Hubei province, local authorities’ first instinct, as we know, was to suppress the information. Police reprimanded whistleblowers like the Wuhan-based doctor Li Wenliang, who subsequently died of the disease. (The Wuhan police recently apologized to Li’s family.)

This should have motivated Chinese leaders to weigh the costs of censorship and reconsider the appointment of unqualified party members to key public-health positions. The head of the Hubei Provincial Health Commission, dismissed during the crisis, had no medical training or experience in the public-health sector.

An IMF Bailout Won't Help The Iranian People Fight Coronavirus

by Marina Lorenzini

As Iran’s leadership debates how to respond to the health and economic crises ensuing from the coronavirus (COVID-19), the country has put forth a request for a $5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Rapid Financial Investment fund. Since the United States is the largest shareholder, Washington has an effective veto over whether Iran’s request will be fulfilled. Even in these dire circumstances, Iran has refused humanitarian aid from the United States unless the Trump administration first lifts all sanctions on the country. With the humanitarian crises unfolding, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) has called upon the Trump administration to temporarily alleviate sanctions for a few months and deliver humanitarian aid, similar to a Bush administration precedent in response to the 2003 earthquake in Bam, Iran.

Iran’s government is notably a bad actor. Lifting the sanctions, albeit temporarily, would give the green light to individuals and entities identified by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Financial Assets Control (OFAC), which enforces the sanctions, as actors linked to militant groups, such as Hamas, Hezbollah, and ISIS. Not to mention, lifting sanctions would generally allow the Iranian government to receive an influx of financial resources and healthcare supplies, which may only go to groups favorable to the government instead of doing the most good for the greatest number of Iranian citizens.

Here Comes Saudi Arabia’s African Offensive

by Ilan Berman Jacob McCarty

Africa represents a comparative bright spot—one that holds out the promise of greater security and prosperity for the kingdom as it seeks to adapt to changing global conditions. It is for that reason, more than any other, that Saudi Arabia’s interest in Africa, and its presence there, is sure to continue to grow in the years ahead. 

Slowly but surely, Riyadh is beginning to look west. After years of comparatively modest engagement with the countries of East Africa, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is today putting in motion and ambitious strategy for engagement with the continent.

In January, the heads of five East African nations (Sudan, Djibouti, Somalia, Eritrea, and Egypt) and three Middle Eastern ones (Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Jordan) gathered in the Saudi capital to sign the Red Sea Pact, a new framework for enhanced trade and diplomacy along the Red Sea corridor. The agreement, some three years in the making, lays the groundwork for what Saudi officials hope will become a new cooperative regime for the area.

The US and South Korea Need a Stopgap SMA

By Troy Stangarone

With the world in the middle of a global pandemic and an economic crisis, the United States and South Korea should set aside their disagreements on burden sharing in the talks for a new Special Measures Agreement (SMA) and consider a stopgap agreement.

The world has changed significantly since the burden sharing talks began last year. Travel is coming to a halt and countries are increasingly isolating their populations in an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19. The ongoing nature of the crisis and its impact on economic life and national security merits a rethink to both countries’ approaches to the SMA talks.

However, in the most recently concluded round of talks the United States continued to seek a reported $4 billion annually from South Korea. While this is down from Washington’s initial ask of $5 billion, it remains a significant increase over the most recent one year agreement, which set Seoul’s contribution at a little over $900 million, itself an 8.2 percent increase over the prior five year agreement. With South Korea reportedly only willing to accept a 10 percent increase, that still leaves a significant gap between the two sides.

America Has a History of Pandemic Denial

by Joseph Loconte

As soon as Donald Trump described himself as a “wartime president” in his effort to combat the coronavirus, historians and others rushed to compare him unfavorably to Franklin D. Roosevelt during World War II. They may want to revise that judgment.

FDR, we are told, realized early the threat of Nazi Germany and worked relentlessly to shake the United States out of its isolationist slumber. David Nasaw described in a book review for the New York Times that “almost from the moment he entered office, Roosevelt set out to educate the nation to the fact that the United States was threatened not only by economic depression at home, but also by fascist aggressions abroad.” Likewise, Doris Kearns Goodwin claimed that long before America went to war, Roosevelt could “recognize the future” and sought to prepare the United States for its role as the “arsenal of democracy” against fascism.

This is hagiography masquerading as history. From almost the moment FDR became president, in 1933, he adopted a foreign policy of denial, deception, and indecision: a vain attempt to insulate the United States from a new pandemic—the scourge of totalitarianism—that was spreading around the globe.

America's Future: Coronavirus Health Emergency to a Recession?

by Milton Ezrati

President Donald Trump has given up his “hope” that the nation can return to work by Easter following a bout with a deadly pandemic. The official Washington recommendation of social distancing, lockdowns, and quarantines designed to prevent people from spreading the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, now extends to April 30. Nothing says that Washington will not have to extend the directive again. Everything says that the longer this shutdown lasts the deeper into recession the U.S. economy will fall and the more trouble it will face recovering quickly.

Beyond this, forecasting in this environment is a fool’s game. After all, economic projections involve insight into the course of this virus and its lethality, both of which remain largely a mystery even after weeks of intensive study. But at least now, the economy has the help of huge fiscal and monetary policy responses. If these actions cannot ensure a recession-free future, both—in their scope and nature—do promise to mitigate the economic damage and promote a faster recovery than would otherwise have been possible. As Washington began to develop its responses, there was a risk that policy might miss the unique nature of the economy’s economic predicament and adopt measures out of the standard anti-recessionary playbook. To the credit of both the government and the Federal Reserve, that has not happened. Some policies are of the standard sort, but most do focus on the situation’s special needs. 

The End of OPEC or a New Beginning?

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The immediate reaction by governments everywhere is to strengthen barriers at the border. This has not stopped the pandemic. At the same time, the pandemic highlights the relative weakness of global institutions of governance coordination. The major international institutions—the United Nations, World Health Organization, International Monetary Fund, International Civil Aviation Organization, and so on—have little to offer to mitigate the scourge.

Within the United States, we are seeing both the strains and the benefits of the federalist architecture of our government. Health care is a local responsibility but requires a competent and responsive national support structure. Like every natural emergency, we stumble at first, sometimes badly. But we learn. Fortunately, we have an exceptionally robust private sector—both profit-seeking and nonprofit—that has stepped into the void of weak government response.

This pandemic potentially changes everything. But where will it take us? How will the landscape of economic and social life change in months and years ahead?

To address these questions, CSIS has launched a new commentary series called “On the Horizon.” Our scholars offer their insights into the more fundamental changes we might anticipate for our future social and economic world.

Space Threat Assessment 2020

Space Threat Assessment 2020 reviews the open-source information available on the counterspace capabilities that can threaten U.S. space systems and which countries are developing such systems. The report is intended to raise awareness and understanding of the threats, debunk myths and misinformation, and highlight areas in which senior leaders and policymakers should focus their attention.

This report focuses on five specific countries that are either avidly pursuing counterspace capabilities or that present the greatest risk to the United States' National Security: China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and India. A sixth section analyzes the counterspace capabilities of select other countries, including some allies and partners of the United States, and some non-state actors. This report is not a comprehensive assessment of all known threats to U.S. space systems because much of the information on what other countries are doing to advance their counterspace systems is not publicly available. Instead, it serves as an unclassified assessment that aggregates and highlights open-source information on counterspace capabilities for policymakers and the general public.

America's Arctic Moment: Great Power Competition in the Arctic to 2050

In July 2018, CSIS embarked on a major analytical assessment that centered on the following research question: 

What will be the strategic consequences for the United States by 2050 if America’s two near-peer military competitors, China and Russia, continue to develop their long-term economic and security interests in the Arctic, but the United States does not? 

Russia’s growing economic and military ambitions in the Arctic, as well as China’s increased physical presence in the region, underscore that both nations have long-term strategic designs for the Arctic region. Data analysis, satellite imagery, and scenario development all demonstrate the continued growth of Russian and Chinese presence in the Arctic and heighten the sense of stasis in the U.S. military and economic presence. Unless the United States wishes to lose access to portions of the Arctic and have increasingly diminished capabilities to defend and deter attack against the homeland, the United States must return to the Arctic.

The Coronavirus Closes Borders

By George Friedman

The border between the United States and Canada has been closed. I don’t recall that ever happening before; I’m not sure what it is supposed to achieve, given that the coronavirus is rampant in both countries, and I don’t know how to close a border that is wide open for miles and miles. I only know that Ottawa and Washington are satisfied with the arrangement.

One of the most important consequences of the pandemic is that borders have been becoming barriers. Borders have always mattered, of course, but as international trade intensified, they were in some cases more checkpoints than barriers, and in other cases more mile markers than checkpoints. By no means was this universal or universally accepted, but the principles of unhindered international trade, what some called globalism, were pressing toward the kind of border the U.S.-Canada frontier typified.

Nowhere was this principle embraced more than in Europe. As Europe recovered from World War II, the notion of economic integration became more powerful and, with it, so too did the idea that borders were not to be barriers. In 1991, the Maastricht treaty was signed, institutionalizing the idea of open borders. The European Union embraced four freedoms: the free movement of goods, the free movement of capital, freedom to establish and provide services, and the free movement of people. Europe also established the Schengen zone, which allowed citizens to move between nations as if they were actually a single country. Nations continued to exist, and national governments were elected, but at the same time the borders became markers. That movement has now been interrupted and national borders have once again become barriers.

Will Trump’s Trade Wars Reshape the Global Economy?

Though it’s been overshadowed by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S.-China trade war has not been definitively resolved. In January, the two countries hit the pause on the on again, off again dispute, which began in 2018 when Trump launched a 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 several rounds of talks stalled over the course of the following 18 months, the two sides signed a limited “phase one” agreement in January, giving them more time to try to iron out their broader differences. But the terms of the stopgap deal, particularly China’s required purchases of a range of U.S. products and goods, were already going to be difficult to achieve under normal circumstances. The economic impact of the Coronavirus outbreak will now call them even further into question, with no guarantees for an agreement in broader “phase two” talks.

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.

The coronavirus is the worst intelligence failure in US history

Micah Zenko

Last September, I met the vice-president for risk for a Fortune 100 company in Washington DC. I asked the executive – who previously had a long career as an intelligence analyst – the question you would ask any risk officer: “What are you most worried about?” Without pausing, this person replied, “A highly contagious virus that begins somewhere in China and spreads rapidly.” This vice-president, whose company has offices throughout east Asia, explained the preventive mitigating steps the company had subsequently adopted to counter this potential threat.

Since the novel coronavirus has swept the world, I have often thought about this person’s prescient risk calculus. Most leaders lack the discipline to do routine risk-based horizon scanning, and fewer still develop the requisite contingency plans. Even rarer is the leader who has the foresight to correctly identify the top threat far enough in advance to develop and implement those plans.