25 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.

China and India’s Deadly Clash: Why You Should Be Worried

by Ian Hall

According to reports, no guns were involved, but the fight left at least 20 Indian soldiers dead from injuries caused by stones, makeshift clubs, and falls down the steep cliffs of the valley.

Although standoffs and even fistfights between Chinese and Indian troops have been relatively common in recent years, there have been no deaths on the disputed border for decades.

Such confrontations are usually defused by talks between commanders on the ground, leading to choreographed disengagements.

In this case, it appears those processes have failed, and at a moment when relations between China and India - both nuclear armed states - are already tense.

Origins of the dispute

When India gained its independence in 1947, it inherited unsettled frontiers with several neighbours.

World War 3 fears: China in menacing display of military power amid brutal India massacre


World War 3 fears have reignited as China and India reignited their bitter skirmish over the control of their shared border in the Ladakh region. Following the death of 20 Indian soldiers in bloody hand-to-hand combat, Dehli threatened Beijing with a "befitting" reprisal. But hours after the threat was issued, China showcased all its military might by airing live-fire military drills from the Tibetan plateau in an apparent show of strength.

Over 7,000 members of the Chinese infantry could be seen undergoing intense military exercises with some of China's most powerful weapons - including the Type 15 light tank and HJ-10 anti-tank missile. 

The footage showed the artillery and tanks blowing up the desert landscape as the soldiers simulated an assault of the fortified positions peppering the 600-mile border with India.

Beijing also confirmed losses, claiming 43 people had died since the resumption of clashes with India earlier this month.

China and India have been engaged in a dispute over their shared border in the region of Ladakh since 1947, with the two nuclear-armed countries repeatedly coming close to full-out conflict over the years.

How to Prevent a War in Asia

By Michèle A. Flournoy

Amid all the uncertainty about the world that will follow the pandemic, one thing is almost sure to be true: tensions between the United States and China will be even sharper than they were before the coronavirus outbreak. The resurgence of U.S.-Chinese competition poses a host of challenges for policymakers—related to trade and economics, technology, global influence, and more—but none is more consequential than reducing the risk of war. Unfortunately, thanks to today’s uniquely dangerous mix of growing Chinese assertiveness and military strength and eroding U.S. deterrence, that risk is higher than it has been for decades, and it is growing.

Neither Washington nor Beijing seeks a military conflict with the other. Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump both undoubtedly understand that a war would be disastrous. Yet the United States and China could all too easily stumble into conflict, sparked by a Chinese miscalculation of the United States’ willingness or capability to respond to provocations in disputed areas such as the South China Sea or to outright aggression against Taiwan or another U.S. security partner in the region.

China’s Surveillance Technology Is Keeping Tabs on Populations Around the World

By Hugh Harsono

The future of modern warfare increasingly emphasizes technology, with a fast-emerging field being the artificial intelligence (AI) space. AI is becoming increasingly critical when applied to military applications; a notion China is heavily invested in. Strategic-level announcements by the Chinese government have promised as much, with China pursuing a “strategy for development that concentrates on advancing innovation, the contestation of leadership in next-generation information technologies – particularly artificial intelligence.”

These artificial intelligence tools run the gamut in terms of application, from facial recognition technology to autonomous vehicles and weaponry. However, China’s focus is on exporting this home-grown technology, enabling placement in – and potential access to — foreign security apparatuses. This influence is especially concerning given the growth of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), as China is using the BRI to help boost exports of its home-grown AI tools to other countries, providing a window of opportunity for Beijing to influence other nations.

China and COVID-19: A Central-Local ‘Chess Game’

By Philipp Renninger

It is wrong to assume, like most Western media and Chinese propaganda alike, that COVID-19 in China is being contained by the central government, or “Beijing.” The vast majority of pandemic measures are local in nature. They have been enacted by provinces and cities and vary greatly. The strictest rules yet applied in the pandemic’s first epicenter: Wuhan city in Hubei province. Such local regulatory difference is anything but usual in China. The world’s most populous country rejects federalism as a political “taboo.” Both state and party are not constructed bottom-up but through “democratic centralism.” “Top-down governance” and “top-level design” have further increased under Xi Jinping. And in times of crisis, decision-making typically becomes even more centralized.

Yet, it is precisely amid the coronavirus crisis that Xi Jinping himself refuses to “cut with one knife.” China’s central level has not enacted “blanket policies” for the whole country. This is even more surprising because in the face of COVID-19, highly decentralized countries like Switzerland and Austria resorted to national “one-size-fits-all” regulations.

Leveraging Vietnam’s COVID-19 Success

By Trien Vinh Le and Huy Quynh Nguyen

The political stability of many countries has been challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic. As authoritarian governments in countries like China and Vietnam strive to maintain the fruits of economic growth, questions about their legitimacy arise in the face of compounding crises. These governments use their authoritarian control to legitimize societal rules and regulations in service to a shared belief system that maintaining centralized control can not only mitigate chaos in the market but also secure public safety in a pandemic crisis. 

The Communist Party in each country is thus raising the stakes on economic recovery by betting the political capital earned in managing the pandemic to justify their monopoly on securing societal order. While China’s early response to the outbreak has been widely criticized for its lack of transparency and the loss of life, the atypical openness and transparency in the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) has strengthened the legitimacy of the CPV’s political system aligned with the power of the people’s shared beliefs in communal values. The question is how might the CPV take advantage of this earned legitimacy to springboard the economy and accelerate social reforms for long-term resilience. 

Why a US-China Détente Is Coming in 2021: The COVID-19 Factor and the Turn Inward

By Dingding Chen

Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 global pandemic, the major task of governments around the world for the near future is and will be to restore their ravaged national economies. This will include solving domestic unemployment problems, revitalizing tertiary industry, and restoring the supply chains of various industries. In addition to economic issues, many of America’s traditional allies and partners, led by the European Union, will face a domestic political shakeup during this year or the next. For example, many European Union member states, led by Italy and Austria, have been caught in the political conflicts between populist parties and elite parties. Frequent turnover in ruling parties also makes it difficult for these countries to maintain consistency and continuity in policies.

Therefore, it is not only the United States, but most countries around the world that will need to work on alleviating domestic political tensions and revitalizing national economies in the post-pandemic era ahead. In addition, they will need to deal with the increasingly severe climate change problem. Within the diplomatic field, reducing conflicts between countries and focusing on reorganizing their own domestic problems is also the choice most countries will take, which also fits the interests of their citizens. In this background, even if the United States hopes to continue to contain China, it would be really hard for Washington to find any partner will to join it in the world — a partner who is willing to spend the opportunity cost and national resources to team up against China. Therefore, it will be even more difficult for the United States to build an international united front, geopolitically and globally, to contain China in the short term.

Why a War With China Would Be a Terrible Thing

by Robert Farley 

Key Point: A conflict between these two giants would risk going nuclear. Either way, the each side is high-tech and has the industrial might for a truly devastating conflict.

The United States and China are inextricably locked in the Pacific Rim’s system of international trade. Some argue that this makes war impossible, but then while some believed World War I inevitable, but others similarly thought it impossible.

In this article I concentrate less on the operational and tactical details of a US-China war, and more on the strategic objectives of the major combatants before, during, and after the conflict. A war between the United States and China would transform some aspects of the geopolitics of East Asia, but would also leave many crucial factors unchanged. Tragically, a conflict between China and the US might be remembered only as “The First Sino-American War.”

How the War Would Start

China Won’t Win the Race for AI Dominance

By Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne

Once upon a time, Japan was widely expected to eclipse the United States as the technological leader of the world. In 1988, the New York Times reporter David Sanger described a group of U.S. computer science experts, meeting to discuss Japan’s technological progress. When the group assessed the new generation of computers coming out of Japan, Sanger wrote, “any illusions that America had maintained its wide lead evaporated.”

Replace “computers” with “artificial intelligence,” and “Japan” with “China,” and the article could have been written today. In AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order, which unsurprisingly became an instant bestseller, former Google China President Kai-Fu Lee argues that China’s unparalleled trove of data, culture of copying, and strong government commitment to artificial intelligence give it a major leg up against the United States. The Harvard University political scientist Graham Allison has recently argued that China’s embrace of what most Americans view as a nightmare surveillance state gives it a significant data advantage over the United States.

The COVID-19 crisis has revealed Taiwan’s resilience

Ryan Hass

In the months since its effective response to the outbreak of COVID-19, the world has gained a greater appreciation of Taiwan’s capacity for confronting problems. Previously known for its exacting standards in producing the world’s most sophisticated semiconductor chips, Taiwan now also is known for its technocratic competence in protecting its own people. Taiwan is led by competent and trusted leaders who use science to inform their decisions.

We all know, though, that an effective response to COVID-19 is not inoculation against other strategic challenges. Taiwan likely will face more times of testing in the months to come, even if the exact time and place of those tests is not yet knowable.

It is little secret that Chinese officials nurture grievances about Taiwan’s early decision to halt shipments of medical supplies and refer to COVID-19 as the “Wuhan virus.” It also should not come as a surprise that officials in Beijing harbor jealousy about the acclaim that Taiwan is receiving from the rest of the world for its handling of the COVID-19 crisis. They also have been smarting over Taiwan voters’ indifference to Beijing’s political preferences.

The Key to Stability in Syria: Renewing Relations with Kurds

by Diliman Abdulkader

The Assad regime's presence has led to chaos in Syria. Assad not only brought civil war but allowed Iran to use Syrian territory to bolster its influence. If that wasn’t enough, Russian and Turkish interference expanded, too. Syria—and the entire Middle East—cannot afford to be drawn further towards instability. Peace and stability in the Middle East benefit the United States and our regional allies like Israel. The key to this is re-engagement with the Kurds in Syria. 

U.S. engagement with Kurds in Syria is not an endless war strategy. Before the U.S. withdrawal in Syria in October 2019, there were 2,000 U.S. forces based alongside the Kurdish-majority Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The Americans had a clear mission; to train, equip, and advise the SDF. The additional role was to patrol the Syrian-Turkish border. This strategy was successful. Daesh (sometimes referred to as ISIS) was losing its strength. 30 percent Syrian territory was out of Assad, Russia, and Iran's hand, 90 percent of Syria’s oil was under our control. And major agricultural fields and access to the Euphrates River was under our watch.

Admitting the Hard Reality of US Influence in Iraq

By Elliot Stewart
Source Link

The United States is again considering escalating the conflict in Iraq, threatening to repeat a familiar mistake rooted in overconfidence. Instead of focusing support behind the anti-corruption and economic reforms millions of Iraqis demand, the United States is intent on continuing its use of threats and military force to achieve short-term victories against unwanted Iraqi Shia Islamists – despite the long-term diminishing effect these have on US influence.

Signs of impending escalation began with the leak of classified communication in late March regarding Pentagon plans to eliminate Kata’ib Hezbollah, a hardline, anti-US Islamist organization in Iraq. The United States views Kata’ib Hezbollah and several other Iraqi Islamist groups operating within Iraq’s security services as Iranian proxies engaged in “terrorist” opposition to the US military presence. Also in late March, a senior Iraqi official described being informed by the US that it would “strike 122 targets in Iraq simultaneously” in the event of any American death.

If implemented, such plans would represent a continuation of recent disproportionate and counterproductive acts of US escalation in Iraq. In early January, A US drone strike killed the high-ranking Iraqi security official and founder of Kata’ib Hezbollah, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, and Iranian Brig. Gen. Qassem Soleimani. This dramatic escalation prompted broad condemnation from Iraqi officials, diminished US influence over key political actors, and incited more attacks on US installations in the country.

Why the Russians Would Have Won a War in Europe in the Early Days of the Cold War

by Robert Farley 

Key Point: Moscow's forces were more powerful and could concentrate higher numbers before the 1970s. But NATO was able to restore some sense of deterrence and balance--something that might once again be slipping.

A 2017 RAND wargame on a potential Russian offensive into the Baltics brought talk of a “new Cold War” into sharp focus. The game made clear that NATO would struggle to prevent Russian forces from occupying the Baltics if it relied on the conventional forces now available.

These wargames have great value in demonstrating tactical and operational reality, which then informs broader strategic thinking. In this case, however, the headlines generated by the game have obscured more about the NATO-Russian relationship than they have revealed. In short, the NATO deterrent promise has never revolved around a commitment to defeat Soviet/Russian forces on NATO’s borders. Instead, NATO has backed its political commitment with the threat to broaden any conflict beyond the war that the Soviets wanted to fight. Today, as in 1949, NATO offers deterrence through the promise of escalation.

The Early Years

America's Cold War Endgame Plans Called For Nuking Both Russia And China

by Michael Peck

Here's What You Need To Remember: Pentagon war plans already included the destruction of cities as a way to destroy the urban and industrial backbone. “This should result in greater population casualties in that a larger portion of the urban population may be placed at risk.”

“Bomb them back into the Stone Age,” ex-Air Force general Curtis LeMay is reported to have once urged as a way to defeat North Vietnam during the Vietnam War.

But it turns out that had global nuclear war erupted during the early 1960s, it would have been the Russians and Chinese who would have reverted to living like the Flintstones.

U.S. nuclear war plans called for the destruction of the Soviet Union and China as “viable societies,” according to documents revealed by the non-profit National Security Archive.

After Brexit: Will the U.S.-UK Deal Get Tariffs Down to Zero?

by Simon Lester

U.S.-UK trade talks are in progress, although conducting them over Zoom or Skype (or however they are doing it), rather than in person, is likely to slow things down. At a House Ways and Means Committee hearing yesterday, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer indicated that these talks were “unlikely” to be completed this year.

Nevertheless, these are real, substantive talks, and it’s worth paying attention. When it gets done, what kind of trade deal will this be exactly? Some of the Trump administration’s early trade re‐​negotiations (NAFTA, the Korea‐​US FTA) added more protectionism than liberalization, and its completed negotiations (with Japan and China) did not liberalize very much. What would a U.S.-UK trade agreement do?

One of the strongest pro‐​trade voices in Congress, Senator Pat Toomey, tried to get at this point in a Senate Finance Committee hearing with Lighthizer yesterday (he had a busy day!). In particular, Senator Toomey want to know the degree to which tariffs would be cut in a U.S.-UK FTA. Here’s what he asked (1:18:40 of the video):

How America’s Credibility Gap Hurts the Defense of Rights Abroad

by David J. Scheffer

“America the irrelevant.” That is the message the United States risks conveying in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, economic collapse, and racism dominating 2020. Even before these recent events, Washington was hardly the beacon of stellar governance. But it is fresh incidents of racism, a problem in American society for hundreds of years, that could irreparably harm U.S. credibility to defend fundamental rights abroad.

Slavery and its evil twin, racism, define the past and the present in the United States. Americans struggled to evolve beyond these two legacies, even as adoption of the Reconstruction amendments to the U.S. constitution and a powerful civil rights movement led to legal reform and moral uplifting since the 1950s. Along the way, Jim Crow laws set the stage for racist policies; and segregation, discrimination, mass incarceration, and police brutality have daily violated the bedrock principle that “all men [humanity] are created equal.”

Is this the incentive we need? — IPCC Climate Report

Dave Olsen

Now, this report is highly controversial, for several reasons. Many question the feasibility of keeping warming under 1.5 degrees for the century, and the methods that the IPCC is likely to suggest are unpopular. On top of that is the element of politics: researchers from oil-rich regions are likely to defend fossil fuels and declare that we are past the point of no return, while scientists from resource-poor nations will declare that we can reach the 1.5 degrees mark.

But the IPCC is certainly credible. It uses all of the available literature to make reports, and sends drafts out to government and scientists for comment. All of this is taken on board, and a broad consensus is reached. So, if this report does find that keeping temperature rises under 1.5 degrees is possible this century, we should believe it. Governments can’t really avoid that.

Researchers believe that we are on track for 1.5 degrees by 2040. As such, the 2050 zero emissions targets seem useless now. Therefore, the report is expected to say that the pace must be quickened, and that we should actively take CO2 from the air with carbon capture technologies.

Putin Is Not Smiling

By Anna Arutunyan

Schadenfreude is a staple of propaganda, and so one might expect that Russia’s state media is enjoying the spectacle of the most serious American unrest since the 1960s. Surely, one might assume, Russian pundits are seizing the opportunity to tap into American grievances, foment conflict, and call out U.S. hypocrisy.

There has indeed been some of that. But far from delivering any unified message to the world or to its domestic audience, Russian state media, through some of its popular television talk shows, has been airing debates about Black Lives Matter that betray a great deal about how the Kremlin views itself and the fragility of state power.


The word for unrest in Russian is bezporyadki—literally, “disorder.” Much like the similar myatezh, or “rebellion,” the word carries deeply negative connotations. Many Russians see protests and rebellions as likely to end poorly, even if they do occasionally accomplish their aims: such, after all, has been Russia’s experience. The Kremlin views both the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 as catastrophes for Russia, from points of view domestic and geopolitical. Russian President Vladimir Putin has said as much. Moreover, the thinking goes, if protests are unlikely to yield good things, then they are unlikely to be driven by genuine sentiment. The prevalent, cynical view holds that protests are usually the product of shadowy subterranean conspiracies aimed at capturing state power.

When the System Fails

By Stewart Patrick
The chaotic global response to the coronavirus pandemic has tested the faith of even the most ardent internationalists. Most nations, including the world’s most powerful, have turned inward, adopting travel bans, implementing export controls, hoarding or obscuring information, and marginalizing the World Health Organization (WHO) and other multilateral institutions. The pandemic seems to have exposed the liberal order and the international community as mirages, even as it demonstrates the terrible consequences of faltering global cooperation.

A century ago, when pandemic influenza struck a war-torn world, few multilateral institutions existed. Countries fought their common microbial enemy alone. Today, an array of multilateral mechanisms exists to confront global public health emergencies and address their associated economic, social, and political effects. But the existence of such mechanisms has not stopped most states from taking a unilateral approach.

It is tempting to conclude that multilateral institutions—ostensibly foundational to the rules-based international system—are, at best, less effective than advertised and, at worst, doomed to fail when they are needed most. But that conclusion goes too far. Weak international cooperation is a choice, not an inevitability.

A farewell to the Open Skies Treaty, and an era of imaginative thinking

Bonnie Jenkins

Last month, President Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the 1992 Open Skies Treaty (OST). The OST allows for members — the United States, Canada, Russia, and various European countries — to conduct unarmed surveillance flights in each others’ air space. The treaty was designed to enhance mutual understanding, build confidence, and promote openness and transparency of military forces and activities.

I was one of two lawyers in the U.S. delegation that negotiated the treaty. Thinking back on that time, I’m struck that our current lack of imagination is so unlike the spirit of possibility we had then. In spite of the challenges amid political upheaval in Europe, we were committed to completing multilateral engagements and agreements. Now, I doubt our ability to understand that we can strengthen existing agreements to address the shifting threats we face today.


The Open Skies Treaty has 34 parties and builds on the original concept of “mutual aerial observation” proposed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1955. Flights per country are based on quotas, both active (those a country can conduct) and passive (those a country must accept). The types of aircraft and cameras used must pass specific certification requirements. During the negotiations, I realized that the OST is different from most traditional arms control treaties: Its issues pertain to types of cameras, their exact placement on planes, their resolution, arrangements for sharing airplanes, and other such details. After having just worked on the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty — which outlined provisions aimed at establishing a military balance of conventional arms between NATO and the former Warsaw Pact countries, with detailed and complicated explanations for how to destroy each type of conventional weapon — working on the OST was definitely a change.

Morrison reveals malicious 'state-based' cyber attack on governments, industry

By David Crowe and Max Koslowski
Australian governments and industry are being targeted by major cyber attacks that could put pressure on critical infrastructure and public services, with China understood to be a likely source of the threat.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed the "malicious" attacks on Friday morning after briefing state premiers as well as Labor leader Anthony Albanese on Thursday night, saying the threat showed a level of sophistication that could only come from a state-based actor.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has spoken about a major cyber attack that hit the government and private sector.

"Based on advice provided to me by our cyber experts, Australian organisations are currently being targeted by a sophisticated state-based cyber actor," Mr Morrison said.

"This act is targeting Australian organisations across a range of sectors including all levels of government, industry, political organisations, education, health, essential service providers and operators of other critical infrastructure."

Coronavirus: Why Did One Country Ignore an Army of Existing Contact Tracers?

by Jackie Cassell

The coronavirus contact tracing app for England will not be rolled out until winter, the minister responsible for overseeing it has said. Meanwhile, the NHS Test and Trace system, in which individual contact tracers follow up with people who have been in close proximity to positive cases of COVID-19, has been plagued by difficulties.

The New York Times has reported that despite the UK having had nearly 300,000 cases of the disease and more than 40,000 deaths, some contact tracers have not yet spoken to a single person.

But when the coronavirus pandemic broke out, there was already a group of people who were very well prepared to help the government’s tracking efforts – the NHS workers who carry out contact tracing in cases of sexually transmitted infections.

In the world of sexually transmitted infections, contact tracing is known as partner notification. The task of health advisers, employed in sexual health clinics since the 1950s, is to support people who have been diagnosed with sexually transmitted infections to get their sexual contacts tested and treated as well.

North Korea’s Military Capabilities

by Eleanor Albert

The United States and its Asian allies regard North Korea as a grave security threat. North Korea has one of the world’s largest conventional military forces, which, combined with its missile and nuclear tests and aggressive rhetoric, has aroused concern worldwide. But world powers have been ineffective in slowing its path to acquire nuclear weapons.

While it remains among the poorest countries in the world, North Korea spends nearly a quarter of its gross domestic product (GDP) on its military, according to U.S. State Department estimates. Its brinkmanship will continue to test regional and international partnerships aimed at preserving stability and security. Recent U.S.-North Korea summits have deepened direct diplomacy. But the negotiations so far demonstrate that the dismantling of North Korea’s arsenal will remain a lengthy and challenging process.
What are North Korea’s nuclear capabilities?

North Korea has tested a series of different missiles, including short-, medium-, intermediate-, and intercontinental- range, and submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

What the Optimists Get Wrong About Conflict

By Tanisha M. Fazal and Paul Poast

The political turmoil of recent years has largely disabused us of the notion that the world has reached some sort of utopian “end of history.” And yet it can still seem that ours is an unprecedented era of peace and progress. On the whole, humans today are living safer and more prosperous lives than their ancestors did. They suffer less cruelty and arbitrary violence. Above all, they seem far less likely to go to war. The incidence of war has been decreasing steadily, a growing consensus holds, with war between great powers becoming all but unthinkable and all types of war becoming more and more rare.

This optimistic narrative has influential backers in academia and politics. At the start of this decade, the Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker devoted a voluminous book, The Better Angels of Our Nature, to the decrease of war and violence in modern times. Statistic after statistic pointed to the same conclusion: looked at from a high enough vantage point, violence is in decline after centuries of carnage, reshaping every aspect of our lives “from the waging of wars to the spanking of children.”

Here’s what to expect from the Army’s new electronic warfare effort

Mark Pomerleau
Source Link

The first phase of prototyping for the Army's Terrestrial Layer System will last for 16 months, after which one of two companies will be selected to move on. (Army)

With a pair of contract awards over the last two months, the Army has kicked off the first phase of its program to deliver to brigades the first ground-based integrated signals intelligence, electronic warfare and cyber capability — the Terrestrial Layer System.

This first phase will last 16 months, Paul Turczynski, director of Boeing’s missions and payloads global sales and marketing, told C4ISRNET.

The first phase will involve a preliminary design review in early July as well as operational tests with units.