13 April 2020

The Scary State of Pakistan's Many Nuclear Weapons

by Caleb Larson

Unlike India, Pakistan lacks a sea-based nuclear delivery platform and thus does not have a three-pronged nuclear triad. Worst still for Islamabad, Pakistan is hindered by a lack of cash, and there are questions about how secure the nuclear missiles in Pakistan are from falling into non-state actor’s hands. 

First-Use Deterrence

Unlike India, Pakistan does not adhere to a no-first-use nuclear policy. That is to say, Pakistan reserves the right to use nuclear weapons first, rather than in retaliation after being struck first. India is Pakistan’s main geostrategic enemy, and their nuclear arsenal exists only to deter India. 

A Pakistani military officer, General Khalid Kidwai, mentioned in 2002 what Pakistan’s nuclear use strategy could look like, saying that Pakistan would willingly launch nuclear missiles if the existence of the state was at risk. He outlined the following points that would merit a nuclear response from Pakistan: 

Human Rights Are Under Attack. Who Will Protect Them?

Globally, human rights remain under assault, whether by populist movements desperate to gain power or authoritarian governments eager to maintain it. Technology has opened up new frontiers for curbing people’s ability to express and share dissenting ideas. And broad assaults are underway on institutions like the International Criminal Court, which was established not only to offer recourse for the victims of rights violations, but to establish an international human rights benchmark. Instead, it is being replaced by a dangerous intolerance.

Around the world, populist authoritarians have built their movements by demonizing minorities. In Brazil, for instance, President Jair Bolsonaro has reveled in his provocations calling into question women’s rights as well as those of the LGBT and indigenous communities. With their verbal assaults, these leaders and the movements that follow them are inspiring people to commit acts of physical violence. In just a matter of months last year, Jews were targeted in Pittsburgh, Muslims in New Zealand and Christians in Sri Lanka.

At the same time, the populist rise has invigorated civil society efforts to protect historically marginalized communities, including members of the LGBT community, religious minorities and indigenous groups.

Don’t Get Too Excited, ‘Quad Plus’ Meetings Won’t Cover China

By Derek Grossman

As first reported by the Times of India, on March 20th the “Quad” countries — Australia, India, Japan, and the United States — met via video teleconference to help each other amid the coronavirus pandemic. Interestingly, these like-minded democracies in the Indo-Pacific added several other, non-Quad, countries to the call, including New Zealand, South Korea, and Vietnam. This “Quad Plus” met again on March 27 at the vice-ministerial level and the group discussed not only coronavirus remedies, but also how to revive their economies once the threat subsides. The current plan is for the Quad Plus to convene on a weekly basis. 

Coronavirus dialogue is certainly a noble use of the Quad mechanism and harkens back to its roots of addressing the aftermath of the December 2004 tsunami disaster in Indonesia. Moreover, there are good rationales for adding each of these new countries — for example both South Korea and Vietnam have done well in fighting coronavirus and can impart lessons learned, while New Zealand’s outbreak is only just beginning. 

While the World Spends on Coronavirus Bailouts, China Holds Back

By Keith Bradsher
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BEIJING — The world is opening its wallet to fight the effects of the coronavirus outbreak. The United States unveiled a $2 trillion rescue package. European countries have announced their own spending blitz, and Japan approved a nearly $1 trillion economic stimulus plan.

Then there’s China.

The country that famously helped kick-start the world economy after the 2008 global financial crisis with a half-a-trillion-dollar spending splurge has been relatively restrained this time around. While it is helping companies keep workers and pushing its state-run banks to lend more, China has held back from spending on big packages or flooding its financial system with money.

In an odd juxtaposition, the communist country has also mostly refrained from giving money directly to its people. By contrast, President Trump — who once denounced the prospect of growing socialism in the United States — signed into law a package that includes $1,200 checks for all but the most affluent American adults.

Amid Coronavirus Pandemic, China Seeks Larger Role on World Stage


Summary: China’s drastic measures helped contain the coronavirus outbreak, which continues to spread rapidly across the United States. Beijing has seized the moment to expand its global leadership and advertise its governance model.

Donald Trump likes to claim that he is the first U.S. president to “get tough” on China. Trump, along with his advisers and supporters, argues that his trade war and export controls have made him Beijing’s worst nightmare. Whereas previous presidents carried out policies that allowed China to take advantage of the United States, the narrative goes, Trump is the first chief executive to stand up to China and robustly defend America’s interests.

But this narrative does not withstand scrutiny. On the contrary, a growing number of Chinese government officials and strategic thinkers believe Trump’s policies offer China significant strategic benefits; as a result, they would in fact prefer to see Trump reelected in November. These Chinese observers have analyzed Trump’s weakening of the United States’ reputation and leadership in global governance institutions, destruction of the its post–World War II alliance structures, and exacerbation of domestic political polarization and concluded that these trends not only harm Washington’s international position but also boost Beijing’s global standing.

Sam Bresnick

Geopolitical jockeying in a time of pandemic

Michael Auslin
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You might think a global pandemic and the worst crisis since World War Two would lead to a welcome, if temporary tamping down of military activity in already tense and contested environments. Yet even as the novel coronavirus ravages the world, old fashioned geopolitical jousting continues in Asia, reminding us that the passing phase of COVID-19 will simply return much of the world to the status quo ante of great power competition.

In a strange way, the ongoing military activities and geopolitical jockeying of China and the United States in Asia’s vital waterways is almost comforting. If the terrifying uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic shatters old illusions about security and the future, the sight of US Navy ships plying strategic waters and Chinese military exercises is at least something understandable to which we have become accustomed.

No one should welcome or discount, however, the seriousness of the geopolitical game being played out in Asia. It long predates US-China coronavirus tensions and will long outlast them. Indeed, a new era of suspicion and distrust between Washington and Beijing engendered by the corona crisis could have spill-over effects in the seas and skies of East Asia, leading to miscalculation or accident that could add an armed conflict to an unprecedented public health emergency.

Why the Coronavirus Is a Hinge for the Future of U.S.-China Relations

by Paul Heer

It is too soon to tell what net impact the COVID-19 pandemic crisis will have on the U.S.-China relationship. Several indicators point toward an accelerated deterioration as the two sides point fingers of blame at each other and compete for credibility and influence amidst the global response. But the crisis is also highlighting the opportunity—and the need—for Beijing and Washington to join forces against the virus, and thus open a path toward greater bilateral cooperation and the building of mutual trust.

Recall the trajectory that U.S.-China relations were on when 2020 began, just as COVID-19 was escaping from Wuhan. Washington and Beijing were in a downward spiral, fueled by several geopolitical trends. First was the growing divergence between the perceived “rise of China” and relative decline of the United States—especially since the global financial crisis of 2008-9. This prompted Beijing to press its material advantages in an effort to expand its global influence, while Washington started grappling simultaneously with domestic dysfunctionality and the emerging limits on its international clout. Second was the presumption—largely due to the baggage of the Cold War—that this divergence reflected and reinforced an existential ideological contest between the two sides. Third was the escalation of bilateral tensions over the past three years, fueled by the trade war and growing U.S. attention to expansive Chinese economic diplomacy, military deployments, and influence operations.

How the 5G coronavirus conspiracy theory tore through the internet

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It started with one doctor. On January 22, Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws published an interview with Kris Van Kerckhoven, a general practitioner from Putte, near Antwerp. “5G is life-threatening, and no one knows it”, read the headline. One scientifically-baseless claim in this article, published in a regional version of the paper’s print edition and since deleted from its website, sparked a conspiracy theory firestorm that has since torn through the internet and broken out into the real world, resulting in fires and threats. Van Kerckhoven didn’t just claim that 5G was dangerous: he also said it might be linked to coronavirus.

At the time, the outbreak was a comparative speck. It had claimed nine lives and infected 440 people, almost all of them in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Under the heading “Link met coronavirus?” the Het Laatste Nieuws journalist pointed out that since 2019 a number of 5G cell towers had been built around Wuhan. Could the two things be related? “I have not done a fact check”, Van Kerckhoven cautioned, before piling in. “But it may be a link with current events”. And so the fuse was lit.

Will COVID-19 Remake the World?


CAMBRIDGE – Crises come in two variants: those for which we could not have prepared, because no one had anticipated them, and those for which we should have been prepared, because they were in fact expected. COVID-19 is in the latter category, no matter what US President Donald Trump says to avoid responsibility for the unfolding catastrophe. Even though the coronavirus itself is new and the timing of the current outbreak could not have been predicted, it was well recognized by experts that a pandemic of this type was likely.

SARS, MERS, H1N1, Ebola, and other outbreaks had provided ample warning. Fifteen years ago, the World Health Organization revised and upgraded the global framework for responding to outbreaks, trying to fix perceived shortcomings in the global response experienced during the SARS outbreak in 2003.

In 2016, the World Bank launched a Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility to provide assistance to low-income countries in the face of cross-border health crises. Most glaringly, just a few months before COVID-19 emerged in Wuhan, China, a US government report cautioned the Trump administration about the likelihood of a flu pandemic on the scale of the influenza epidemic a hundred years ago, which killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide.

The Long Hard Road to Decoupling from China

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The era of globalization may finally be coming to an end. The Wuhan Virus and the attendant misery that the Chinese communist state has unleashed upon the world (very much including its own people) has laid bare a core structural flaw in the assumptions underpinning globalization. It turns out that the radical interweaving of markets—which was supposed to lead to the “complex interdependence” that IR theorists have been predicting for the better part of the century would lead to an increase in global stability as countries’ fates are proven to be dependent on each other’s fortunes—has instead created an inherently fragile and teetering structure that is exacerbating uncertainty in a time of crisis.

That this has turned out to be so should not be surprising. The logic that has driven globalized supply chains has all but eliminated redundancies across the world in the pursuit of efficiency. That efficiency has been found by locating links of the supply chain in places where labor costs have been low. In theory, anyway, this should not have been problematic: as one country grew its economy and ascended out of poverty, its low-wage sector would get outcompeted by other poor countries, by which it could be replaced in the supply chain. Similarly, by this logic, if robots become permanently competitive with low-skilled workers, so be it. A more efficient way of producing something is always favorable in this way of thinking.

Russia’s Military Exploitation of Outer Space

By: Roger McDermott

In December 2019, President Donald Trump formally created the United States Space Force, a development that Moscow has been following with keen interest. As the US takes additional steps to develop this newest military branch, the Russian military continues to further strengthen its own space-based assets—particularly those related to expanding orbital electronic warfare (EW) capabilities, boosting communications systems, and developing space infrastructure for attacking the ground-based targets of hypothetical adversaries (Rossaprimavera.ru, April 3). Moreover, Moscow is tying these efforts to enhancing its strategic air defense, especially against an enemy air-and-space campaign involving unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), cruise missiles and hypersonic missiles combined with air force platforms. These efforts to advance the power and reach of Russia’s military in future operations will be closely linked to its exploitation of outer space and its ongoing efforts to catch up with other actors or to offset its comparative weaknesses in this domain (Gazeta.ru, April 3).

Russia’s political-military leadership frequently expresses concern about the potential “militarization of space.” On February 25, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, speaking at a disarmament conference in Geneva, said that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) plans to launch weapons into space and that mutually-acceptable measures must be worked out among all parties to prevent a military confrontation in near-Earth space. “The plans of the United States, France and the North Atlantic Alliance as a whole to launch weapons into space are gaining more and more real shape. We are convinced that it is not too late to work out universally acceptable measures that can prevent a military confrontation in outer space,” Russia’s top diplomat claimed (Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye, March 15).

Russia’s Oil Production Is Incapable of Making Needed Cuts to Stabilize Price

By: Pavel Felgenhauer
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The oil price fixing pact known as “OPEC+”—between the original oil-producing members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and some non-members, primarily Russia—was agreed in December 2016 and implemented in 2017. By limiting oil production, OPEC+ helped keep global prices relatively high. But this cartel price fix all along had a powerful opponent in Moscow: President Vladimir Putin’s old-time associate and close confidant from St. Petersburg, Igor Sechin (59), a professional translator with a murky Soviet-era intelligence background. Sechin was the deputy chief of the Kremlin administration and a presidential aide during Putin’s first two presidential terms; he became deputy prime minister when Putin chose to be head of government from 2008 to 2012. In May 2012, Putin began his third presidential term, while Sechin was appointed to head Russia’s biggest state-controlled oil company, Rosneft. Sechin publicly opposed the OPEC+ agreement, arguing it only benefited shale-oil producers in the United States. As time passed and US oil production bypassed that of Russia and Saudi Arabia, opposition to OPEC+ expanded within the Kremlin ruling elite. In December 2019, Moscow reluctantly agreed to continue OPEC+, but Energy Minister Alexander Novak announced that the production-limitation deal “is not forever” and will eventually be terminated (Interfax, December 27, 2019). In fact, Russia was already surpassing its agreed OPEC+ quotas, producing and exporting almost at full capacity. In the beginning of March 2020, Saudi Arabia demanded Russia join OPEC members in more cuts and stop cheating. But after the March 6 meeting of OPEC+, in Vienna, Novak told journalists that the deal had been terminated (Interfax, March 7).

The Normal Economy Is Never Coming Back


As the coronavirus lockdown began, the first impulse was to search for historical analogies—1914, 1929, 1941? As the weeks have ground on, what has come ever more to the fore is the historical novelty of the shock that we are living through. As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, America’s economy is now widely expected to shrink by a quarter. That is as much as during the Great Depression. But whereas the contraction after 1929 stretched over a four-year period, the coronavirus implosion will happen over the next three months. There has never been a crash landing like this before. There is something new under the sun. And it is horrifying.

As recently as five weeks ago, at the beginning of March, U.S. unemployment was at record lows. By the end of March, it had surged to somewhere around 13 percent. That is the highest number recorded since World War II. We don’t know the precise figure because our system of unemployment registration was not built to track an increase at this speed. On successive Thursdays, the number of those making initial filings for unemployment insurance has surged first to 3.3 million, then 6.6 million, and now by another 6.6 million. At the current rate, as the economist Justin Wolfers pointed out in the New York Times, U.S. unemployment is rising at nearly 0.5 percent per day. It is no longer unimaginable that the overall unemployment rate could reach 30 percent by the summer.

Can the United Nations Survive the Coronavirus?


Faced with a lack of U.S. proposals to battle the coronavirus pandemic at the United Nations, French President Emmanuel Macron sought in recent weeks to step into the breach, soliciting support for a virtual summit of leaders of the U.N.’s five big powers to coordinate a plan to prevent the virus from fueling greater conflict.

The French initiative—which included a push to adopt a resolution calling for a halt to fighting in conflicts monitored by the 15-nation Security Council—was one of multiple efforts to fill the political vacuum left by a U.S. administration that has apparently grown weary of its role as the world’s organizer-in-chief. But the proposal has stalled amid a dispute between the United States and China over who is to blame for unleashing the deadliest pathogen in nearly a century. The hospitalization of Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was infected by the coronavirus, has put the plan on ice.

That may also be the fate of the U.N. itself at this juncture. Since the World Health Organization declared a pandemic on March 11, a host of international dignitaries, including U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres and leaders from China and Estonia to Tunisia, France, and Russia, have vied with one another to fill the geopolitical vacuum, putting forward a succession of plans to address the health crisis.

A Make-or-Break Test for American Diplomacy

William J. Burns

Over the course of my diplomatic career, I learned to be humble about America’s ability to anticipate the consequences of crises like the coronavirus pandemic. I also learned that massive jolts to the international system, like the virus, tend to exacerbate preexisting conditions and clarify future choices. 

The post-pandemic world will pose a massive test for American statecraft, the biggest since the end of the Cold War. If policy makers are able to see the landscape before them as it is, and not as they want it to be, and are also able to draw the right lessons from our missteps over the past three decades, recovering a healthy and disciplined foreign policy is still possible. It is also essential to navigating the aftermath of this terrible storm. 

In recent days, I looked through old commentaries from the last global shock—the financial crisis of 2008. They are full of confident predictions: America would consolidate its leadership, China would remain inward-focused, Europe would grow more unified, and closed political and economic societies would open. For all the talk of an axis of upheaval” emerging across the developing world, commentators largely failed to foresee how the same winds of nationalism, xenophobia, and anti-globalization would batter our own backyard, or how our rivals would turn America’s crisis into their strategic opportunity. 

Colin Gray and the Revival of Classical Geopolitics

By Francis P. Sempa

Colin S. Gray, who died in late February after a long battle with cancer, was one of the great strategic thinkers of our time. He authored more than 30 books and 300 articles, founded the National Institute for Public Policy, served as a defense advisor to American Presidents and British Prime Ministers, and taught international relations and strategic studies at the University of Reading in England.

His greatest contribution to Anglo-American strategic thought was to revive interest in, and apply and update to the contemporary analysis of international politics, the ideas and concepts of the great classical geopolitical thinkers, such as Britain’s Halford Mackinder, and America’s Alfred Thayer Mahan and Nicholas Spykman.

He began that process in 1977, with the publication of The Geopolitics of the Nuclear Era: Heartland, Rimlands, and the Technological Revolution. The date of publication is important. In 1977, the new U.S. President Jimmy Carter told the world that the United States had lost its “inordinate fear of communism,” at a time when the Soviet Union was engaged in a massive military (conventional and nuclear) build-up and was on the geopolitical offensive around the world in the wake of America’s defeat in the Vietnam War. The only member of Carter’s national security team who understood classical geopolitics was Zbigniew Brzezinski (who later wrote several books on the subject, including Game Plan and The Grand Chessboard), but Carter listened more to the dovish Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, at least until the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Marine Corps Doctrine: The Model for American Pandemic Policy

By Richard Protzmann
In times of national crisis, the instinct of federal and state governments is to command and control the situation from the uppermost echelons. Information is consolidated to high-level officials and departments. Legislation and regulations are passed to preempt all lower institutions and policies. Executive orders get issued to cast the widest net possible and cover the largest number of people. The apparent intent is to give the senior state and federal government officials the most direct access to all decision-making and control over execution.

Unfortunately, in a country of over 300 million people that spans over 3.8 million square miles, the ability to effectively command and control nationwide pandemic policy at the federal (or even the state) level is virtually impossible. For example, Doctor Deborah Birx, the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, has stated multiple times that each state and each city will experience its own COVID-19 outbreak and its own bell curve. Similarly, each state and each local community will have its own corresponding economic fallout. The aggregate of each city, county, and state public health emergency and economic fallout makes up the national state of emergency.


Todd Schmidt 

O divine art of subtlety and secrecy! Through you we learn to be invisible, through you inaudible; and hence we can hold the enemy’s fate in our hands.

Sun Tzu

In December 2018, the US Army Training and Doctrine Command published a document—The U.S. Army in Multi-Domain Operations, 2028—outlining how the Army will “compete, penetrate, disintegrate, and exploit” adversaries in future conflict. The document predicts that in an era of great-power competition, where our enemies seek to avoid conventional military conflict, they will confront and challenge US power unconventionally and asymmetrically to fracture and erode our strategic advantages. The document also describes how adversaries are developing and deploying capabilities “in all domains—Space, Cyber, Air, Sea, and Land” to fight and defeat US forces.

There is a missing domain, however, and it will be decisive in modern war and the future strategic environment. The cognitive domain of war has been explored and contested for centuries. Chinese strategist and philosopher Sun Tzu believed that wars are won through intelligence, information, and deception; attacking enemies where they are least prepared; and breaking resistance and subduing adversaries indirectly without fighting.

Space-Based Nuclear Command and Control and the ‘Non-Nuclear Strategic Attack’

By Ankit Panda

The Trump administration’s 2018 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) drew much attention for the inclusion of language expanding the scope under which the United States might employ nuclear weapons. Specifically, the document observed that certain “extreme circumstances,” which “could include significant non-nuclear strategic attacks,” would rise to the level of meriting a nuclear response. 

In remarks delivered during an online video conference this week, Christopher Ford, U.S. assistant secretary at the State Department’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, discussed this language in the context of space security. Ford emphasized that for the purposes of parsing that bit of the 2018 NPR, American adversaries should understand that U.S. space-based dual-use (nuclear and nonnuclear) command and control assets qualified as what the 2017 National Security Strategy had dubbed a “vital U.S. interest.” 

The Private Sector Steps Up


NEW YORK – If the 2008 global financial crisis laid bare the worst of capitalism, the private sector’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic is already showcasing the very best.

COVID-19 cases have now surpassed one million worldwide, with the death toll above 70,000 and rising. The full extent of the global economic impact remains unknown. What we do know is that the world urgently requires a herculean response from both governments and the private sector to avert a devastating recession.

Since the 2008 crisis, corporations have faced harsh criticism and even accusations of maximizing profits without due consideration of society’s broader needs. Today, however, we see corporations stepping up in response to the global health crisis. While some companies will need government assistance to survive, given the severity of the crisis, others can ease the overall burden on government by becoming part of the solution.

For starters, leading pharmaceutical companies have redirected resources toward the development of COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics, and, one hopes, a vaccine. The Swiss health-care giant Roche, for example, created the first commercially approved COVID-19 test. The US Food and Drug Administration’s decision to give the company emergency permission to sell its test to labs in the United States will enable a significant improvement in the country’s lagging capacity for testing. Google’s health subsidiary Verily, for its part, reportedly redirected 1,700 engineers to develop a web-based COVID-19 screening test.

Lessons on Leadership From the USS Theodore Roosevelt

By John L. Chapman

The media-fed conflagration surrounding the removal of U.S. Navy Captain Brett Crozier as commander of the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-72) has finally claimed its intended scalp: Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas B. Modly resigned yesterday afternoon, after meeting with Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. Modly had made the decision to relieve Crozier of command on Thursday, April 2; on Friday, virally-spread video footage of the crew of the ship known as the Big Stick depicted wild and raucous cheering in support of Crozier, as their departing commanding officer exited the gangway for the last time. This set in motion the Beltway chattering classes’ screams for Modly’s scalp, and these were unabated over the weekend even as first President Trump, and then Secretary Esper on CNN Sunday morning voiced support for Acting Secretary Modly.

Alas, Mr. Modly’s remarks aboard the Roosevelt Monday morning, where he’d traveled to talk to the crew directly about the change in command, went over poorly, even as they were candid and heartfelt. But in giving the crew the detailed background to the events leading to the change in command, Modly criticized Captain Crozier harshly while questioning his judgment; these remarks were audiotaped and released to the media by mid-day Monday, igniting a firestorm calling for Modly’s immediate removal from office. A wide variety of critics, including Democratic officeholders in both the House and Senate, media personalities across the political spectrum [e.g., Bill Kristol and Rachel Maddow], and former senior officers in the armed forces [e.g., U.S. Army 4-star Barry McCaffrey] all demanded Modly’s ouster.

A New Role for Joint Civil-Military Interaction

Thomas Matyók and Srečko Zajc
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Global crises, such as the spreading of the novel corona virus (COVID-19), hybrid threats and asymmetric warfare require civil-military interaction responses guided by a unity-of-aim approach to build-up capacity for successful conflict transformation. No single activity has a monopoly on responses. All of society is required to act collaboratively in replying to demands placed on it by emerging threats.

We ask: What can civil and military leaders and operators responding to crises, hybrid threats, and asymmetric warfare learn from medical approaches to disease prevention and intervention? Like the drunk looking for lost keys under the streetlight because the light is better there irrespective of the fact that they were dropped in the dark lot across the street, we often fail to search for answers in places because of the dark. We seem content to continue doing what is comfortable, not what is required.

We also question what crisis response actors, medical experts, politicians, civil protection volunteers, etc. can learn from military responses to confronting complex and potentially dangerous situations? And more generally, are we looking into the face of ignorance, lack of will, and hidden agendas supported by those who might profit the most from different crises or is it simply a lack of a systematic approach (we may call it comprehensive) at national and international levels (for example EU, NATO, UN)? Lastly, how do crisis management curricula and pre-crisis exercises fail at all levels of education?

Hackers Are Homing In On Finding Flaws In Video Teleconferencing Service Zoom To Cash In On Bug Bounties; And Selling Exploits On The Black Market; A Worrisome Connection To China — Makes This App A Reason For Concern

With the stay-at-home movement and video teleconferencing boom underway due to the coronavirus pandemic, it is little wonder that cyber thieves and the darker digital angels of our nature are seeking to exploit this target rich environment. James Pero posted an April 8, 2020 article to the DailyMail.com noting that “hackers are trying to cash in on a spate of security flaws with the increasignly popular video teleconferencing service Zoom.”

“According to a report from Motherboard, hackers both ethical and not, have begun trawling the service for [digital] vulnerabilities/flaws, that they can sell to either governments or Zoom itself, both of which pay ‘bug bounties’ for disclosing gaps in their security,” protocols Mr. Pero wrote. “In some cases, those flaws — which may compromise everything from webcam to microphone security, to sensitive data lke passwords, emails, or device information — and sold on theblack market, [Dark Web] to other hackers looking to use them on victims.” 

“One hacker, interviewed by Motherboard, who claims to have traded exploits found in Zoom on the black market,said that Zoom flaws typically sell for between $5000-$30,000 — a relatively low sum compared to other [similar] bugs that compromise web browsers like Chrome, or operating systems like iOS or Android,” the DailyMail noted.

German Military Cyber Operations are in a Legal Gray Zone

By Matthias Schulze

In 2016, Germany created its military cyber command, the Cyber and Information Domain Service (German: Kommando Cyber- und Informationsraum; KdoCIR), tasked with cyber defense, limited offensive cyber operations, and defending against hybrid threats such as influence operations or disinformation. With the KdoCIR, the German Ministry of Defense claimed its stake in the whole-of-government approach to cybersecurity.

However, cybersecurity in Germany remains the prerogative of the Department of the Interior. Due to constitutional constraints, the KdoCIR has little room to maneuver to contribute to cybersecurity. The KdoCIR has always had to navigate legal gray zones that exist due to both the unclear status of cyber- and hybrid-warfare operations and the German constitution. These constraints could ultimately decrease the flexibility and the operational effectiveness of German military cyber operations.

Civil Cyber Defense vs. Military Cyber Defense?

Interview: Ben Lowsen on Chinese PLA Ground Forces

By Franz-Stefan Gady

Franz-Stefan Gady speaks to Ben Lowsen about the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) ground forces, including their status within the wider PLA hierarchy, their current state of operational readiness following a set of reforms, and the possible future development trajectory of the service. 

Ben Lowsen is a specialist in Chinese political and security affairs working as a China adviser for the U.S. Air Force’s Checkmate office. He previously worked as an Asia advisor for the U.S. Navy and served in the U.S. Army as a field artillery officer and military attaché in Beijing. He is also a regular contributor to The Diplomat. 

The Diplomat: First of all, a more capable People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is thought to be a fundamental part of the “China Dream.” However, the PLA is the armed wing of the Chinese Communist Party rather than a national military. What is the difference and why is this distinction important?