22 June 2020

Locust Invasion in India

Maj Gen P K Mallick, VSM (Retd), Consultant, VIF

It has been a double whammy. As the nation is reeling under the effects of COVID-19 pandemic, India has to fight another menace: locust invasion. Massive swarms of desert locusts have devoured crops across seven states of western and central India including Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. The locust population might grow 400 times larger by end June 2020 and spread to new areas without action. It would be disrupting food supply, upending livelihoods and require considerable resources to address. India is facing its worst desert locust invasion in nearly 30 years.

India’s squeamish attitude towards China is a liability, the army should implement more violent rules of engagement and prepare for limited war

Bharat Karnad
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Developments on the border with China are taking a turn for the worst. The Indian government and army seem surprised by the vehemence of the intruding People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers when asked by patrolling Indian army jawans to keep to their side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC). That they have in the last two weeks, time and again, resorted to violence suggests this is not an outcome of local imbalance of forces, or a tense situation going akilter, as many retired Indian generals believe is the case. Alone among the major armed forces of the world, the PLA is comprehensively top-driven, with the lower field and unit commanders enjoying little discretionary power. There’s simply too much at stake for Beijing to leave it to local commanders to blunder about in what is plainly a hazardous policy terrain.

At the local level then the PLA troops are scrupulously following orders. There is little doubt their aggressive stance is prompted by the highest military authority in China — the Central Military Commission (CMC) — chaired by President Xi Jinping; this new found bellicosity as evident in eastern Ladakh as the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait. While exploiting the disjunctions in a COVID-19 ravaged world to advance its geopolitical goals, Beijing doesn’t want to tip the situation over into where everybody gangs up even more against it.

How India can combat Chinese guile in Ladakh

The core issue is that there is no agreed LAC today as both parties have failed to exchange maps; this leaves the space for Beijing to create problems.

We are told that the Ladakh front is more peaceful after Lt Gen Harinder Singh met Maj Gen Liu Lin, commander of the South Xinjiang Military Region, at Moldo near the Line of Actual Control (LAC) on June 6,

The troops would have started 'retreating a bit' (2-2.5 km) in 3 out of 4 sectors, namely, Patrolling Points (PP) 14 and 15 (in Galwan area) and 17 PP (near Hot Springs). However the Chinese remain adamant in the Finger 4 area, north of Pangong Tso (lake).
In the next few days, more meetings will take place at the Division and Battalion commanders' level. We can only pray and hope for the best, but it will probably take months for the issue to be sorted out, as some believe that General Zhao Zongqi, the big boss and commander of the Western Theater command overlooking the entire Indian border, is batting for a promotion to the Central Military Commission, the 'paradise' for a Chinese general; as long as he does not get what he wants, the issue may continue to remain hot.

Familiar pattern

In China-India Clash, Two Nationalist Leaders With Little Room to Give

By Steven Lee Myers, Maria Abi-Habib and Jeffrey Gettleman
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They are both ambitious, nationalist leaders, eager to assert greater roles for their countries in a turbulent world. With major challenges at home, neither wants to risk losing face, even in a dispute over mountainous territory that is all but desolate.

Xi Jinping of China and Narendra Modi of India probably did not intend to ignite a clash on their border on Monday, high in the Himalayas, that killed 20 Indian troops and may have resulted in Chinese casualties, too. Yet the leaders of the two nuclear-equipped countries now confront a military crisis that could spin dangerously out of control.

“The sovereignty and integrity of India is supreme, and nobody can stop us in defending that,” Mr. Modi said on Wednesday in a short televised speech, breaking his public silence over the incident. He vowed that “the sacrifice of our soldiers will not be in vain.”

“India wants peace,” he went on, “but if provoked India is capable of giving a befitting reply.”

Why Is China Downplaying Its Border Clash With India?

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Welcome to Foreign Policy’s China Brief. The highlights this week: Chinese media sidesteps the deadly clash at the border with India, parts of Beijing reenter coronavirus lockdown, and what to make of John Bolton’s revelations about Donald Trump and Xi Jinping.

How Many Chinese Soldiers Died in the Himalayas?

The bloody clash between troops on the disputed India-China border, which claimed at least 20 Indian soldiers’ lives and an unknown number of Chinese, is dominating Indian headlines this week—even as Chinese state media downplays the country’s most deadly military action in decades. The story has been relegated to fourth or fifth place in both Xinhua and the People’s Daily, which have led with President Xi Jinping’s phone call with his Ecuadorian counterpart and details of an upcoming China-Africa summit.

Weeks of clashes between Indian and Chinese troops culminated on Monday night in an angry meeting between patrols on a narrow ridge that grew into a brawl. Chinese and Indian patrols on the border customarily go unarmed to avoid escalation—but both sides turned to improvised weapons such as clubs, stones, and iron rods.

Why China and India are locked in a dangerous stand-off

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Chinese and Indian troops have been locked in a tense confrontation along their disputed Himalayan border since early May, and the situation has taken a turn for the worse. In a brutal clash, at least three Indian soldiers, including a colonel, have reportedly been killed somewhere near the Galwan river in India’s Ladakh region. Subsequent reports from Indian officials suggest more than 20 Indian soldiers have died. (There are also believed to have been Chinese casualties, but no numbers have been released.)

This escalation is an unwanted surprise. A dialogue between the two countries was underway, and reports of a limited disengagement of troops had begun to circulate. The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is now in a quandary; India’s options are limited, but maintaining the status quo with China is not likely to be one of them.

Sino-Indian relations had been troubled since the late 1950s, primarily because of a disagreement over where their border lay. A series of skirmishes led to a month-long war in late 1962 in which Chinese forces trounced India’s. The war ended the hopes of India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, that the shared colonial legacy of the two Asian giants would make the countries comrades in a campaign for a more just international order. It also tarnished Nehru’s legacy. The defeat remains an open wound in the Indian psyche, salted by the conviction that China had betrayed India. Time has done little to heal the relationship. 

UAE Expands its Influence in the Horn of Africa

Brian M. Perkins
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The UAE has significantly increased its engagement in the Horn of Africa over the past several years, using security, development, and humanitarian projects to boost its regional diplomatic and economic influence. Some of these efforts have proved rather fruitful, such as the UAE’s role in ending the conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea while securing a deal to build an oil pipeline between the two countries. However, other efforts have come with significant complications, most notably in Somalia, where Abu Dhabi is vying for influence and upsetting the fragile political balance between Mogadishu and the semiautonomous regions of Somaliland and Puntland.

The UAE has long had a strategic interest in Somalia and has worked to establish a string of ports across its strategically located coastline. The country trained thousands of Somali soldiers between 2014-2018 (Al Arabiya, April 16, 2018). The fragmented nature of Somalia’s territories, however, has proven difficult for Abu Dhabi to navigate. The UAE’s strategic interests cover the internationally recognized Somali state and the semi-autonomous regions of Somaliland and Puntland. From its former training mission in Mogadishu to the Port of Bossaso in Puntland and the Port of Berbera in Somaliland, the Emiratis have attempted to spread influence across Somalia while tying to navigate the complex national politics.

Nonsense About China That ‘Everybody’ Knows – OpEd

By Dean Baker

I want to do a bit more beating up on a NYT piece this morning on breaking ties with China. There is a widely held view in policy circles that the pandemic showed that our extensive economic ties with China are a bad thing. I will ask a simple question, how?

First to get over some obvious points, yes, China has an authoritarian government that does not respect basic human rights. That is true, but what exactly do we hope to do about it? If we cut our imports from China by half or even put a complete embargo on them, do we think it will improve their human rights record?

I suppose we could have more impact if we got most of the rest of the world to go along, but apart from a few puppet states, no one would follow the U.S. in banning trade from China. Everyone knows that the U.S. doesn’t give a damn about democracy. Just last year we helped to overthrow a democratically elected government in Bolivia and installed someone who got almost no votes. No one here cared.

So the question is if the U.S. and a few inconsequential puppets stopped buying stuff from China, would it prompt its leadership to show more respect for human rights? Be serious.

Will China’s “imperial overstretch” lead to its decline and fall in the way the Soviet empire imploded?

Brahma Chellaney
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President Xi Jinping, seeking to press China’s advantage while its neighbors are distracted by the coronavirus pandemic, has lately opened multiple fronts in his campaign to make China the world’s foremost power — from Hong Kong and Taiwan to the South and East China Seas to the Himalayan frontier.

The globally paralyzing pandemic has reinforced Xi’s efforts to realize his “Chinese dream” by the 2049 centenary of communist rule. Xi said in a speech at Xi’an Jiaotong University in April that “great steps in history have always emerged from the crucible of major disasters.”

This may explain why China has sought to make the most of the pandemic. From breaking Beijing’s binding commitment to Hong Kong’s autonomy and attempting to police the waters off the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands to picking a nasty border fight with India by encroaching on its territory, Xi has pushed the boundaries.

The US and China Tussle Over Hong Kong

Frank Ching
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HONG KONG: President Donald Trump’s announcement that the United States would sanction China for ending Hong Kong’s autonomous status is unlikely to have much impact on the ground, but does reflect the depth of deterioration in the bilateral relationship during the weeks since March 27, when he last spoke with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping.

“Possession is nine-tenths of the law,” as the adage goes, and China undoubtedly possesses Hong Kong. No one challenges that. The United States and other countries, including Britain, may challenge the legality of China’s actions but since there is no way to enforce international law, the most any can hope for is that Beijing will be more circumspect in its actions. Immediately, this means drafting the national security law for Hong Kong narrowly to avoid unduly affecting the vast majority of the city’s residents.

Trump has indicated a lack of personal support of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and in 2019 referred to them as “riots.” He earlier referred to the 1989 pro-democracy protests in Beijing as “riots” and called the Chinese leaders “strong” for having put the uprising down.

Will Hong Kong Be Tiananmen 2.0?


SEOUL – Hong Kong is on a knife’s edge. Once one of Asia’s freest and most open cities, it now faces the specter of a new China-imposed security law that would curtail its people’s liberties and create a climate of fear. The law is in flagrant breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which is registered at the United Nations, and would open the way for widespread human-rights violations. The UN cannot let this stand.

The United Kingdom returned Hong Kong to China 23 years ago on the promise that the territory would enjoy a “high degree of autonomy” under the “one country, two systems” principle for at least 50 years. For the first decade or so, China largely fulfilled that promise. But its commitment to doing so soon began to wane.

By 2014, Hong Kong’s people were protesting the government’s failure to deliver on the guarantee, included in the Basic Law, that the city’s chief executive would be elected by “universal suffrage.” In the ensuing years, booksellers offering titles critical of China’s rulers were abducted to mainland China. Pro-democracy legislators and candidates were harassed and disqualified from elections. Foreign journalists and high-profile human-rights advocates were expelled from Hong Kong or denied entry. Simon Cheng, a Hong Kong citizen who worked for the UK government, was detained for 15 days after a trip to mainland China, where he was tortured until he “confessed” to soliciting prostitution.

Hot Issue – Is This the Beginning of the End of the War in Yemen?

By: Michael Horton
Executive Summary: Defeats, plummeting oil prices, and a global pandemic are forcing Saudi Arabia to rethink its involvement in Yemen. Ironically, the end of overt Saudi involvement in Yemen may help it achieve some of its aims as new alliances dilute Houthi control and minimize Iranian influence. While Yemen faces years of low-intensity conflict, the beginning of the end of its interlocking wars may be in sight.

On April 9, Saudi Arabia announced a two week unilateral ceasefire in its war with the Houthis and their allies (al-Jazeera, April 9). The ceasefire follows a renewed offensive by the Houthis and their allies across multiple fronts, most notably in the governorate of Marib. The ceasefire also comes after Saudi Arabia offered direct talks with the Houthis in Riyadh (The National, March 31).

After five years, billions of dollars, and little success, the government of Saudi Arabia seems to understand what was clear from the beginning of the Saudi and Emirati-led intervention—defeating the Houthis is not going to happen. The Houthis and their allies, which include a broad and growing base of old and emergent northern elites, have excelled on both the martial and political battlefields. Little doubt exists that the Houthis are the predominant political and military force in northwest Yemen. This will be the case for years to come.

Operation Iraqi Heroes in Kirkuk

By: Andrew Devereux

On June 2, Iraqi forces launched the second phase of operation ‘Iraqi Heroes,’ a military operation aimed at clearing Islamic State (IS) remnants from areas of southwestern Kirkuk (Kurdistan24, June 4). The Iraqi Security Media Cell stated the operation was a success, as two suspected terrorists were neutralized, and weapons caches, resources and hideouts were seized (al-Monitor, June 4). The first phase of the operation was launched in February, focusing on IS cells in Anbar province.

The joint operation was managed by Iraq’s Counter-Terrorism Service (ICTS) and involved input from the army, air force, the anti-IS coalition, intelligence agencies, the Shia-led Popular Mobilisation Units (PMU), and Peshmerga forces (Alkhaleej, June 3). Newly inaugurated Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi visited Kirkuk during the operation to monitor progress and repeated his intention to force all remaining IS fighters from the area.

Strategically Important

The province of Kirkuk is of strategic importance to the central government, not least because of its abundant oil reserves. The area is the site of a long-standing dispute between Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), despite the province being in the hands of the central government since 2017, when it was reclaimed from IS control. Security deficiencies intensified by the disputed nature of the province have been exploited by IS. The area near the Sunni heartland of Kirkuk and the wider Hamrin basin is known as the ‘Triangle of Death,’ owing to the presence of IS loyalists and the difficulty in combing the rough terrain for militant refuges (Arab Weekly, May 18). Mountains, valleys, tunnels, and caves in the Hamrin Mountains are used by IS cells as effective hideouts to plan and execute attacks.

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.

The Rise of Strategic Corruption

By Philip Zelikow, Eric Edelman, Kristofer Harrison, and Celeste Ward Gventer

Graft is nothing new; it may be the second-oldest profession. Powerful people and those with access to them have always used kickbacks, pay-to-play schemes, and other corrupt practices to feather their nests and gain unfair advantages. And such corruption has always posed a threat to the rule of law and stood in the way of protecting basic civil and economic rights.

What is new, however, is the transformation of corruption into an instrument of national strategy. In recent years, a number of countries—China and Russia, in particular—have found ways to take the kind of corruption that was previously a mere feature of their own political systems and transform it into a weapon on the global stage. Countries have done this before, but never on the scale seen today.

The result has been a subtle but significant shift in international politics. Rivalries between states have generally been fought over ideologies, spheres of influence, and national interests; side payments of one kind or another were just one tactic among many. Those side payments, however, have become core instruments of national strategy, leveraged to gain specific policy outcomes and to condition the wider political environment in targeted countries. This weaponized corruption relies on a specific form of asymmetry. Although any government can hire covert agents or bribe officials elsewhere, the relative openness and freedom of democratic countries make them particularly vulnerable to this kind of malign influence—and their nondemocratic enemies have figured out how to exploit that weakness.

Why No One Ever Really Wins a Proxy War

by Brittany Benowitz and Alicia Ceccanese

(Editor’s Note: This is the first of a three-part series addressing the challenges associated with proxy warfare, in particular as it plays out in the Middle East and North Africa, and ways to address these issues at the national and international levels. See also Part 2 on civilian casualties and Part 3 on the U.N.’s role.)

As the world struggles to marshal the resources needed to contain the coronavirus, the need to resolve long-simmering conflicts around the world has become all the more pressing, if for no other reason than the need to re-direct resources to the health crisis and to rebuilding devastated economies. It was therefore somewhat surprising that in the midst of the epidemic, the U.S. State Department notified Congress of its intent to continue to advance multi-billion dollar arms deals with India. These deals have been in the works for some time, but they include the sale of Stinger missiles and other small arms and light weapons that may be of particular interest to the Indian government now, considering the flare-up in the conflict with Pakistan in Kashmir over the past year. The irony is that such missiles might one day be used to shoot down American-made F-16s that were sold to Pakistan on the condition that they would not be used in Kashmir, but nonetheless were deployed there last year. While the direct conflict between India and Pakistan has subsided for the moment, both sides continue to support proxies aimed at containing the other side.

A study by an expert working group convened by the American Bar Association Center for Human Rights, where we work (one of us was on the working group), examined the dynamics of such proxy conflicts — and the role of arms sales. It concluded that such conflicts are particularly likely to become protracted and deadly for civilians. Yet, despite those risks, governments continue to engage in proxy warfare, because they believe the perceived positives — ability to influence events far afield, lower risk to their own personnel, lower cost, less political blowback — outweigh the negatives.



Last summer, we traveled to India with a team of West Point faculty and cadets to study the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks. Those attacks revealed lessons about the challenges of urban warfare. They also highlighted—as we learned during our two weeks there conducting dozens of interviews, site visits and detailed research—a number of lessons about the use of proxies in the 21st century. Combined with lessons we also learned during a similar cadet and faculty research trip to Ukraine the year before, our research yielded important conclusions that should inform the way the U.S. Army conceptualizes the role of proxies in modern war.

When 10 Pakistan-based terrorists infiltrated Mumbai and laid siege to targets across the city in November 2008, they brought the city of 18 million to a standstill for nearly four days. The world watched, shocked by the duration and impact of the attack from so few terrorists with limited training.

Support From Pakistan

SIPRI Yearbook 2020

This text summarizes the findings of SIPRI’s Yearbook 2020. As in the past, the Yearbook provides original data on world military expenditures, international arms transfers, arms production rates, the size and composition of nuclear forces, armed conflicts and multilateral peace operations. This edition provides evidence of an ongoing deterioration in the conditions for international stability. This publication outlines how this trend is reflected in the continued rise of military spending, the estimated level of global arms transfers, a crisis in arms control, the persistently high number of armed conflicts worldwide and more.

The Pandemic Must End Our Complacency


PARIS – A sudden shock upends routine decision-making and forces leaders to take urgent action. A combination of mistrust, misperception, and fear dissolves the bonds that sustain modern civilization.

The year is 1914, when Europe spent its summer mobilizing for war. But the description could just as well apply to the summer of 2020. The worst pandemic since the 1918-20 influenza outbreak is rapidly morphing into a systemic crisis of globalization, potentially setting the stage for the most dangerous geopolitical confrontation since the end of the Cold War.

In the space of just weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic has shut down one-third of the global economy and triggered the largest economic shock since the Great Depression. Looking ahead, the most important factor that will shape how this crisis evolves is collective leadership. But that crucial component remains absent. With the United States and China at each other’s throats, global leadership will have to emerge from somewhere other than Washington, DC, or Beijing.

Is Nigeria Losing the War Against Terrorists in Borno State?

By: Michael Horton

There are few places as conducive to insurgency and terrorism as Borno state in northeastern Nigeria. Grinding poverty, ethnic and religious tensions, illicit networks, environmental degradation, porous international borders, and vast tracts of lightly governed and ungoverned spaces are all features of Borno state. On account of these, Borno has acted as an incubator for various insurgent and terrorist groups, most notably Boko Haram, Africa’s most deadly terrorist organization. [1] The Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), Boko Haram, and al-Qaeda affiliate Ansaru, are all active in Borno state and surrounding areas. [2]

Despite the deployment of—at times—over 70,000 Nigerian troops to Borno state alone, all three groups, but most particularly Boko Haram, have maintained their operational tempo. Recent reports indicate that the frequency and complexity of Boko Haram’s attacks are, yet again, on the increase. On May 26, Boko Haram attacked homes, a church, and shops in three villages in the Biu local government area of Borno state (Vanguard, May 26). This attack followed an attempt by Boko Haram to overrun a Nigerian Army forward operating base in Gajigana, a town located only fifty kilometers north of the capital of Borno state, Madiduguri (Sahara Reporters, May 18). In this attack, Boko Haram used at least ten technicals mounted with heavy machine guns and recoilless rifles. On June 2, Boko Haram launched near simultaneous attacks using female suicide bombers on villages located across five different local government areas (Daily Post, June 2). In addition to the reported attacks, Boko Haram and other groups carry out robberies, kidnappings, and assaults on an almost daily basis across large swaths of northeastern Nigeria.


Jeff Goodson 
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Author’s note: This article evolved from a paper delivered at a March 2019 conference on the role of US special operations forces in the era of great-power competition. The conference was sponsored by the Joint Special Operations University and the Special Operations Research Association.

Rooted in Francis Fukuyama’s idea that the end of history was near, the end of the Cold War saw renewed enthusiasm for the liberal international order. That notion proved both illusory and short lived. By 2014, marked by China’s territorial aggression in the South China Sea and Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the reality of great-power competition in a multipolar world had returned to define how the world is ordered in fact.

First acknowledged in the 2015 US National Military Strategy, great-power competition became the conceptual framework upon which current US security and defense strategies are predicated. These strategies represent a departure from those that underpinned much of America’s post-9/11 wars—with their heavy components of irregular warfare—but that does not mean a departure from irregular warfare itself. Instead, this strategic emphasis on great-power competition is changing when, where, and how the United States conducts irregular warfare—counterterrorism, unconventional warfare, counterinsurgency, foreign internal defense, and stability operations. The changes most directly affect US special operations forces.

US Security and Great-Power Competition

Considering Military Culture & Values When Adopting AI

By Marta Kepe

The advent of autonomous technologies and artificial intelligence (AI) may lead to an unprecedented shift in the military profession, and the values normally associated with it. Technology could distance humans even further from the battlefield and demote their primacy in making decisions about war. It could also upend the culture of the U.S. military. The changed relationship between the military and technology may trigger fissures within the Armed Forces, as well as between the military and the rest of the society. These tensions could leave the U.S. and its Allied forces vulnerable to exploitation and may lead to a reduction in military effectiveness and the ability to project power.

As the U.S. military contemplates increasing the number and diversity of AI and other autonomous systems, it should consider timely means of mitigating any potential negative side-effects.

Historically, combat has expressed human values and reflected cultural attitudes. In ancient Greece, combat was considered a test of character. Greeks infused their battle with the Hellenic characteristics —personal freedom, discipline, technological development, camaraderie, initiative and adaptation —that stemmed from the Hellenic culture itself. Homer described the military leader as a hero who rides alone into the battle, thus symbolizing the separation between the leader and soldiers. The blind bard’s definition of heroism reflected the societal separation of the aristoi (or the best men, the wealthiest members of the society), who were expected to be superior warriors not only because of the training available to them but also because of the equipment they were able to afford.

Averting a Cold War of Choice


MADRID – Western societies are currently gripped by the ominous idea that we are entering a new cold war, this time between the United States and China. This narrative started coming to the fore as a result of the Sino-American trade dispute, and now the COVID-19 crisis has given it the final nudge to center stage. Better to brace ourselves, the argument goes, than naively to ignore the hegemonic clash that will define the “new normal.”

But these intended wake-up calls disguise fatalism as realism, and choices as facts. America and China may be rival superpowers, but they are not necessarily reenacting the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union.

Today, however, even official documents contain implicit cold-war references. United States Strategic Approach to the People’s Republic of China, a report issued by US President Donald Trump’s administration in May, states that, “Beijing openly acknowledges that it seeks to transform the international order to align with CCP [Chinese Communist Party] interests and ideology.” The Chinese system, adds the report, “is rooted in Beijing’s interpretation of Marxist-Leninist ideology and combines a nationalistic, single-party dictatorship; a state-directed economy; deployment of science and technology in the service of the state; and the subordination of individual rights to serve CCP ends.”


Zachary Kallenborn 
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In 2017, artificial-intelligence researcher Stuart Russell presented the “Slaughterbots” video at a meeting of the UN Convention on Conventional Weapons. When Dr. Russell and the Future of Life Institute released the video on YouTube, it quickly went viral. In the video, fictionalized swarms of drones recognize, target, and kill opponents autonomously. The drones assassinate activists and political leaders, and a slaughterbots manufacturer claims that $25 million of drones can wipe out half a city.

Although slaughterbots are fiction, numerous states are developing both drone-swarm technology and autonomous weapons. Every leg of the US military is developing drone swarms—including the Navy’s swarming boats and the Air Force’s plan to employ swarms in a wide range of military roles, from intelligence collection to suppression of enemy air defenses. Russia, China, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and others are developing swarms too. At the same time, a range of states have developed or are developing autonomous (primarily stationary defensive) weapons, from South Korea’s SGR-A1 gun turret to the United States’ Phalanx close-in weapon system. Combining these technologies creates a slaughterbots­-style weapon: an armed, fully autonomous drone swarm—or AFADS. (For the purposes of this article, I define “fully autonomous” to mean weapon systems that are both self-targeting and self-mobile; “drone” as any unmanned platform operating on land, sea, air, or space; and “drone swarms” as the use of multiple drones collaborating to achieve shared objectives.)

Moscow Complains About NATO Military Exercises

By: Roger McDermott

Russia’s political-military leadership regularly complains about the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) military exercises, especially any staged close to the Russian borders. This year, the Alliance planned to conduct Defender Europe 2020, its largest exercise on the European continent since the end of the Cold War; and Moscow predictably voiced concerns (see EDM, January 29). However, the scale of the NATO exercise as well as its timing was modified at the last minute by the global outbreak of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus. Russia’s Armed Forces have also had to scale back on combat training due to this pandemic, which has limited its capacity to maintain the exercise schedule in the current combat training year (see EDM, April 15, 21, 22). In Russia, that process will culminate this year in the strategic command-staff exercise (strategicheskiye komandno-shtabnyye ucheniya—SKShU) Kavkaz 2020, centered on Southern Military District (MD). However, as the modified version of Defender Europe 2020 began on June 5, Moscow has intertwined public criticism of the North Atlantic Alliance with an apparent offer to de-escalate tensions in relation to military exercises on both sides (Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye, June 8).

According to Kommersant, Moscow made an offer to NATO to suspend all major military exercises during the coronavirus pandemic, which was allegedly rejected by the Transatlantic alliance. Kommersant claims that Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov suggested this in a letter to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenburg, asking that the Alliance “show military restraint” for the duration of the pandemic. He added that, in the midst of the health crisis, this could be presented as a “constructive, positive healing step” (Novaya Gazeta, May 26).