2 July 2020

Modi Versus Xi: The Battle Of The Nationalist Strongmen

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With the world consumed by the coronavirus pandemic and backlash over the murder of George Floyd that has spread beyond American borders, a very significant altercation just occurred in the Himalayas between China and India. 

The two nuclear-armed countries came to blows in the high altitude climate of hotly contested Galwan Valley in Kashmir. Preliminary reports from news sources estimate that roughly 20 Indian Army troops and potentially 43 soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army died in the clash. The event holds the title for the most significant incident between Delhi and Beijing since the 1967 Nathu La and Cho La skirmishes

The dispute comes at a highly sensitive time in world affairs ongoing COVID-19 pandemic carries geopolitical implications that are significant but still unclear. The battle with Chinese forces along the Kashmiri Line of Control (LAC) could not have come at the worst time for Modi’s government. The coronavirus infection numbers are swelling throughout India despite strict lockdowns, damaging the country’s once-booming economy while posing a threat to Prime Minister’ Modi’s once secure tenure. 

After Galwan Valley Standoff, Does the Russia-India-China Trilateral Still Matter?

By Aleksei Zakharov

The China-India standoff at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Himalayas emerged as a serious test for Russia’s policy in Asia. Nurturing hopes for stability and prosperity in Eurasia, Russia’s diplomacy found itself in an intricate situation and forced to strike a balance.

Despite Moscow’s close proximity to Beijing, the Russia-China connection is still far from an alliance relationship, as both sides, even while deepening their military and political cooperation, often disagree when it comes to specifics. Still, it is hard to deny that overall Russia’s “pivot to Asia” has been overly dependent on its China policy. Unlike the glory days of Indo-Soviet friendship, today there is more room for doubt in New Delhi as to whether Russia can qualify as a shoulder to lean on.

Since India and China are both strategic partners, Moscow quite expectedly has been following a very cautious approach toward their border crisis. Until the beginning of June, Russian officials did not comment on the standoff at all, apparently trying to clarify the situation – since neither New Delhi nor Beijing had officially elaborated on the developments at the LAC.

What Does the China-India Standoff in Ladakh Mean for Pakistan?

By Muhammad Akbar Notezai

Understandably, due to its evolving ties with China and rivalry with India, Pakistan has been viewing the Ladakh standoff through a Chinese lens. The episode has gained substantial space in mainstream Pakistani media. As expected, there are India-bashing commentaries, analysis, and coverage on TV channels, along with official backing. The reason is obvious: Pakistan, like China, has its own long-standing territorial dispute with India. That has led to wars between the two countries, as well as frequent clashes along the Line of Control, dividing the disputed Kashmir between India and Pakistan. Civilians have lost their lives on both sides of de facto border.

During a violent face-off in Ladakh on the night of June 15 to 16, the Indian Army claimed to have lost 20 of its soldiers in the biggest clash between India and China in nearly 50 years. China’s Defense Ministry confirmed there had been casualties, without giving a number. There has not been independent reporting from either side. Instead, media in the two countries are largely reporting state propaganda, as usually happens with such border run-ins, calling the other side the aggressor.

In this context, it is interesting to note that India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has alienated more than one of its neighbors. Besides China and Pakistan, Nepal and Bhutan also have recent complaints over their borders with India.

Will the Afghan peace process be Pakistan’s road to redemption?

Madiha Afzal

About a year after President Trump publicly excoriated Pakistan for “lies and deceit” and cut off security assistance in early 2018, the country became the key third player in the U.S.-Taliban peace talks. It was a swift change of fortune, even by the standards of Pakistan’s typical ups and downs with the United States. By February 2020, when the U.S.-Taliban peace deal was signed, Pakistan had not only propelled itself back into America’s good graces, it was testing out an ambitious new approach to foreign policy, hoping that it could begin to shed its image of a state associated with terror. The pandemic has paused this new phase somewhat, as Pakistan and others have had to turn inward, but that may be temporary.


When Zalmay Khalilzad was appointed U.S. envoy to the Afghan peace process in September 2018, Pakistanis were worried. Khalilzad, a former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, was known for his skepticism on Pakistan. Over the next year and a half, almost each one of Khalilzad’s trips to the region included a visit to Islamabad.

Tracing his statements over time, you can see his reliance on Pakistan increasing, and his tone softening. In many ways, Pakistan was uniquely positioned to take advantage of the two-phase structure of the peace process — the Taliban refused to negotiate with Kabul until a U.S.-Taliban deal was signed — because of Pakistan’s relationships with both the U.S. and the Taliban. It seems to have done so masterfully, producing Mullah Baradar, the deputy leader of the Taliban who had been in Pakistani custody, and engaging in behind-the-scenes maneuvering that the U.S. has repeatedly acknowledged (and appreciated). Pakistan helped bring the Taliban to the table, ultimately resulting in a deal. Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi was present at the peace deal signing in Doha on February 29, warmly congratulating both sides.

Who Benefits from China’s Cybersecurity Laws?

By Lauren Maranto 

China’s ambition to be a global leader in technology development, combined with an increasing digital reliance in day-to-day life, means that a heightened focus on data security is crucial for protecting citizens’ information. Yet the country’s regulations on data collection often fail to safeguard citizens’ privacy, instead giving the government wide leeway to interpretate laws. From the deliberate ambiguity of new cybersecurity and data protection laws, public reports of data leakages, and the government’s monitoring of Chinese citizens, it’s clear that China puts a greater emphasis on government access to data than it does on protecting individual and company privacy. Because of this, Beijing will gain further control over Chinese society, while leaving the privacy and security of its citizens and foreign investors vulnerable to exploitation.

Policymakers in China are placing insufficient emphasis on adapting clearly defined policies to keep pace with China’s push for technological innovation. When compared to the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), for instance, China’s data security regulations are more vague, outlining the acceptable usage and exploitation of data in a way that does not clearly specify how companies can rightfully use consumer data. These unclear guidelines leave companies guessing where the line is drawn between appropriate and legal usage of consumer data and the unlawful exploitation of this information. This creates greater risk that companies will be penalized for the unintentional violation of consumer rights, while others may exploit loopholes to use citizens’ data for personal gain. For consumers, the lack of clear data security guidelines increases the risks of their personal information is leaked, exploited, or used in an unauthorized manner. The ambiguous language used in China’s cybersecurity laws leave companies and individuals ill-equipped to protect their information, while also creating space for government subjectivity in interpreting these laws.

South China Sea: US Air Force ‘heads out again on search for Chinese submarines’

Lawrence Chung

A Chinese think tank says a P-8A aircraft was among the planes sent out by the US Air Force to track Chinese submarines on Friday. Photo: US Navy/Boeing Aircraft/AFP
The US Air Force sent military planes to the Bashi Channel en route to the South China Sea for a sixth day in a row on Friday in what observers said was a mission to track mainland Chinese submarines.

The South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative, a mainland Chinese think tank under Peking University, said three American warplanes – a EP-3 reconnaissance plane, a P-8A anti-submarine aircraft and a KC-135 aerial refuelling aircraft – appeared in the Bashi Channel between 10am and noon.

In charts posted online, the think tank said the three planes flew briefly into the southwestern part of Taiwan’s air defence identification zone towards the Bashi Channel and then headed to the 

“US EP-3E (AE1D91) is reconnoitring in the #SouthChinaSea, June 26. A P-8A and a KC-135 are following up, June 26,” the think tank said in a tweet.

China’s Answer to GPS Is Now Fully Complete

By Abhilash Halappanavar

Technological independence and superiority have long been hallmarks of superpowers; China too, in its quest to be a dominant force in the world, has invested heavily in state-of-the-art communication and transmission systems. On June 23, China concluded its decades-long project to build its own global navigation satellite system, a venture that will make it self-sufficient and avoid dependence on foreign rivals when it comes to a network that undergirds modern business, technologies and the military.

The latest satellite in China’s BeiDou Navigation Satellite System is a third-generation satellite known as BeiDou-3, now in geostationary orbit after having lifted off earlier this week from the Xichang Center in southwestern China. This final satellite of the system will give it full global capability. At this point, China’s completed system is poised to rival America’s GPS, Europe’s Galileo, and Russia’s GLONASS. BeiDou is a prototype of Beijing’s push to build and offer commercial surrogates to Western tech platforms. The system is meant to provide error-free global positioning services, as well as a means to transfer limited amounts of data, for commercial and military users.

Hagia Sophia and Erdogan

Hagia Sophia is not part of the Greek-Turkish agenda. It is a world heritage site located in Turkish territory. However, its possible reconversion into a mosque would poison relations between the two countries and peoples for many years.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has his own perspective on the issue. He reads the polls and sees that a large part of the Turkish public wants the “Great Church” to become a mosque once more. He is under pressure from polls and his far-right allies. This is an opportunity to overturn a historic decision taken by Kemal Ataturk 86 years ago that is still controversial in the neighboring country. Erdogan is well aware that such a symbolically weighted move on Hagia Sophia would divide our peoples, possibly more than anything else. He knows that Greeks feel very strongly about this monument and that transforming it into a mosque will not only anger the rabid nationalists but all Greeks, stoking extremist sentiment and further limiting the scope of diplomacy.

I don’t know how we got from the Erdogan of the early days, who did not have Greek-Turkish relations on his “radar,” to today’s; from an Erdogan who believed that the deep state consistently stokes tensions with Greece to strengthen its role and undermine his position, to the current marriage of the traditional deep state with the “Palace” in Ankara. But here we are. It’s possible we missed important opportunities for the two countries 15 or eight years ago.

What do Republicans and Democrats Find Common Ground On These Days? Promoting Democracy In Iran

by Majid Rafizadeh

Bipartisan agreement in U.S. politics is extremely rare these days. But democracy for Iran is one cause that effortlessly unites the left and the right in unprecedented ways. On Wednesday, senior lawmakers from both parties joined leaders of Iranian-American communities in a Congressional briefing to introduce House Resolution 374.

The bipartisan resolution, endorsed by a strong majority in the House, condemns Iranian state-sponsored terrorism and expresses unambiguous support for the Iranian people’s desire for a democratic, secular, and non-nuclear republic in Iran.

H. Res. 374 has a growing list of Democratic and Republican co-sponsors, recently reaching 221 before it was presented to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The initiative involves representatives in Congress from forty-one states and twelve committees. It received enthusiastic support from the State Department as well.

During Wednesday's online conference, senior-ranking members of Congress, including Republican Tom McClintock and Democrat Brad Sherman, spoke to Iranian-Americans and lent their support to their cause.

Just Transition Concepts and Relevance for Climate Action

With climate change posing unprecedented threats to the planet and society, there is a growing focus on “just transitions” to help achieve the economic and social changes necessary for sustainable development, while protecting workers and communities and ensuring a more socially-equitable distribution of benefits and risks. However, there is no single, universally acceptable definition of just transitions to achieve and manage these changes. This paper seeks to explain the just transitions concept, including its origins and relevance. We offer a preliminary framework to describe the range of definitions among stakeholders and their underlying perspectives. We also identify several areas that would benefit from additional research, including more robust case studies and better tools and planning strategies for policymakers.

This report and the Just Transition Initiative are made possible by funding from Climate Investment Funds.

Is the United States Losing the African Space Race?

Africa’s space programs account for a very small part of the world’s space activity. But the continent’s profile in space is growing, and if decisionmakers in Washington don’t start paying closer attention to Africa’s orbital ambitions, the United States will see itself outpaced in this critical space race by China and Russia.

Since 1999, 11 African countries (Algeria, Angola, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, and Sudan) have successfully launched 38 unilateral and three multilateral satellites into orbit. Space in Africa, which was co-founded and managed by one of the authors, estimates that by 2024, at least 19 African countries will have launched at least one satellite into space, with the total number of satellites launched by African countries rising to over 90. In 2017, the African Union passed legislation to establish the African Space Agency and recently approved Egypt as host country for the new agency’s headquarters. South Africa’s ambassador to the United Nations recently declared that “Africa’s demand for space products and services is among the world’s highest as the continent’s economy becomes increasingly dependent on space.”

Covid-19 and the Global Financial Safety Net

The CSIS Economics Program is tracking commitments, approvals, and disbursements by major international financial institutions (IFIs) to meet the massive financing needs generated by the Covid-19 pandemic and its economic fallout. These IFIs include the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, and regional development banks. We also include select regional financing arrangements (RFAs), which, together with the IFIs, central bank bilateral swap lines, and individual countries’ foreign reserve holdings, comprise the Global Financial Safety Net (GFSN).

Updated data as of June 19 show several key trends:
We estimate IFIs have approved $117 billion in Covid-19-related support since January 27. The IMF has approved $77.1 billion, including emergency assistance and precautionary lines of credit, while the multilateral development banks (MDBs) combined have approved a total of $39.3 billion. Among the MDBs, the World Bank has approved $13.0 billion, followed by the European Investment Bank, which has approved $7.7 billion, and the Asian Development Bank, which has approved $7.2 billion.

Covid-19 and the Global Financial Safety Net

The CSIS Economics Program is tracking commitments, approvals, and disbursements by major international financial institutions (IFIs) to meet the massive financing needs generated by the Covid-19 pandemic and its economic fallout. These IFIs include the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, and regional development banks. We also include select regional financing arrangements (RFAs), which, together with the IFIs, central bank bilateral swap lines, and individual countries’ foreign reserve holdings, comprise the Global Financial Safety Net (GFSN).

Updated data as of June 19 show several key trends:
We estimate IFIs have approved $117 billion in Covid-19-related support since January 27. The IMF has approved $77.1 billion, including emergency assistance and precautionary lines of credit, while the multilateral development banks (MDBs) combined have approved a total of $39.3 billion. Among the MDBs, the World Bank has approved $13.0 billion, followed by the European Investment Bank, which has approved $7.7 billion, and the Asian Development Bank, which has approved $7.2 billion.

The World Isn’t Ready for Peak Oil

Amos Hochstein

Two months ago, the world experienced a historic collapse in oil prices, as coronavirus-related shutdowns cratered global demand, briefly turning prices for May delivery negative. Prices have since rebounded modestly, but they remain unsustainably low for countries that depend on oil exports to generate government revenue.

The resulting instability, from the Middle East to Africa to the Americas, raises a flurry of immediate national-security concerns. But the current crisis also offers a stark preview of the challenges the world will face if it negotiates a climate accord without also moving to stabilize the more than a dozen countries that depend on oil exports as their primary source for generating government revenue.

In Iraq, for example, oil revenues account for 90 percent of the government’s budgetary income and two-thirds of its economy. This year’s falling oil prices have already reduced the country’s revenues by half.

Tomgram: Mandy Smithberger, Prioritizing the Pentagon in a Pandemic

Mandy Smithberger 

Since it began in 2002, TomDispatch has been following the twenty-first-century rise of the Pentagon and the rest of the U.S. national security state, amid distant wars that simply never seem to end. While much has, in this Covid-19 era of ours, been in the process of going down (billionaires aside), the military-industrial complex (as well as the revolving door that connects its parts) seems always to be on the rise (if lack of success in war-fighting isn’t counted into the formula). As early as 2011, in a moment when a Republican Congress and the Obama administration both had their eyes on cuts to the domestic budget, I wrote about how the Pentagon and war budgets just grew and grew, even if, as one analyst then reported, that institution was “planning ambitious increases, paring them back, and calling this a cut.” There were, for example, the gleaming new headquarters like a nearly Pentagon-sized complex for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency then being built in Virginia at the cost of $1.8 billion (to take just one tiny example). In 2017, at this site, Pentagon expert William Hartung first laid out the then-trillion-dollar national security state budget. By 2020, according to the calculations of TomDispatch regular Mandy Smithberger, it had already topped $1.2 trillion and, as she and Hartung reported in September 2019, military officials were starting to imagine a Pentagon budget alone that might reach nearly a trillion dollars. There’s a phrase for this in our language: highway robbery.

And as it happens, though for so many Americans these pandemic months have been a time of loss, as Smithberger reports today, for the Pentagon and the giant weapons makers, the good times have simply never ended. It should be a scandal, of course, but no such luck. Tom

Dispersion of Labor and the Novel Coronavirus

By Able Magwitch

The military principle of dispersion will prevent a second shutdown of American industry, prompting leaders to begin re-classifying laborers as "essential," "critical," or "necessary" to operations. 

In combat, armies spread troops and materiel across a large battlefield for the purpose of reducing vulnerability to concentrated firepower. This “dispersion of troops” does not necessarily change the likelihood of an enemy attack or prevent loss of lives, equipment or tactical advantage. Rather, by placing capabilities in multiple locations, dispersion forces the enemy to choose one of many capabilities against which it will focus the attack, thereby preserving the balance of capabilities and mitigating the risk of catastrophic losses once the attack occurs.

The concept of dispersion is not new; it has been a mainstay of operational art since the advent of the standard issue rifle and the invention of smokeless powder.

The American Civil War provides an example of this principle in action. Early in the war, most infantry commanders deployed their troops in tightly closed formations, marching brigade-sized elements across battlefields and into the enemy’s rifles and bayonets. This had been the practice of national armies since at least the eighteenth century. However, the high-volume effectiveness of modern firearms, such as the Lee-Enfield rifle and the Springfield Model 1861, proved to Union commanders that relying on such concentrated troop formations would result in enormous casualties, and accelerated the transition toward a more durable tactical paradigm.

Here’s why Britain is struggling to form a fully effective carrier strike group

By: Andrew Chuter  

LONDON — Britain’s Royal Navy took delivery of two new aircraft carriers, but a government report on the ships achieving operational capability has laid bare some obstacles toward making a fully effective carrier strike group.

In a report released June 25, the National Audit Office pointed to delays in developing the Crowsnest airborne early warning radar and contracting to build the logistics ships destined to support the 65,000-ton carriers as ongoing problems for the Royal Navy. The NAO also raised questions about future funding.

The Ministry of Defence is making slow “progress in developing the crucial supporting activities that are needed to make full use of a carrier strike group, such as the Crowsnest radar system and the ability to resupply the carriers. In addition, it has not established a clear view on the future cost of enhancing, operating and supporting carrier strike, which creates the risk of future affordability pressures,” the NAO said.

Added the head of the watchdog: “The MoD also needs to get a firmer grip on the future costs of carrier strike. By failing to understand their full extent, it risks adding to the financial strain on a defense budget that is already unaffordable.”

South Korea’s Digital New Deal

By Troy Stangarone

As the world continues to recover from the COVID-19 induced economic recession, the Moon administration has proposed spending 76 trillion won ($62 billion) over the next five years on the Korean New Deal to prepare the South Korean economy for the future.

The Korean New Deal is centered on two pillars – the Green New Deal and the Digital New Deal. While the Green New Deal is focused on transitioning South Korea to a net-zero emissions economy, the Digital New Deal would lay the foundations for a digital economy that will spur economic growth and innovation.

Information and communications technologies (ICT) are transforming the global economy. The new digital economy that is emerging is underpinned by technologies such as 5G, big data, and artificial intelligence (AI). IHS Markit estimates that by 2035 the 5G global value chain will be worth $3.6 trillion and support 22.3 million jobs. AI and big data are expected to have similar economic impacts.

Despite Economic Turmoil, Indonesia-Australia Trade Agreement Pushes Ahead

By Kyle Springer

This year is going to be a tough one for trade. The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted an unprecedented cessation of economic activity. The shock is two-pronged, hitting both supply and demand. Travel restrictions and social distancing measures have disrupted the fundamental tools of international business: travel, face-to-face meetings, and large events. Supply chains are collapsing. 

But amid the chaos, an unlikely agreement has broken through. The Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA), which has been over a decade in the making, will enter into force in July 2020

The state of their bilateral economic ties is what makes the agreement a breakthrough. For two neighboring G-20 economies, their trade and investment ties are surprisingly weak. No two G-20 countries trade as little as Australia and Indonesia do, absent a sanctions regime. Indonesia’s share of Australia’s total trade has stagnated at around 2 percent over the past two decades while Australia’s overall trade with Asia has increased. 

The investment numbers are equally uninspiring. Australia’s investment in Indonesia is less than 1 percent of its outward flows, and accounts for 1.5 percent of Indonesia’s inward investment. 

Russia Wants to Keep Mongolia in Its Place

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On June 24, Russia held a massive military parade, technically to mark the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe (V-E) Day—delayed for over a month due to COVID-19—but also to provide a suitably militaristic backdrop for voting in the constitutional referendum that will conclude next week, paving the way for the extension of Vladimir Putin’s presidency until at least 2036.

On the same day, Mongolia held its regular, democratic parliamentary elections.

Now these two unrelated events have triggered an uncharacteristic diplomatic row between Moscow and Ulaanbaatar that highlights Russia’s self-defeating propensity to bully its neighbors and Mongolia’s rapidly shrinking room for maneuver as it faces pressure from both Moscow and Beijing. Mongolia, a robust democracy in a deeply authoritarian neighborhood, faces a difficult future as its two giant neighbors and former imperial overlords, China and Russia, seek to reorder Eurasia in their image.

Mongolia, a robust democracy in a deeply authoritarian neighborhood, faces a difficult future as its two giant neighbors and former imperial overlords, China and Russia, seek to reorder Eurasia in their image.

Will the Air Force's New Stealth Fighter Use AI?

by Kris Osborn

Should the Air Force and Navy prioritize the engineering of an entirely new platform with paradigm-changing technologies for a 6th-Generation fighter, or simply keep upgrading the state of the art 5th-Gen aircraft in the near term?

These questions seem to be informing the current Navy-Air Force rationale, which is to look at both new airframes as well as adaptations of the best of what’s available. The latter option brings its own advantages, because various industry developers are already building prototypes of 6th-Gen fighters with newly designed, stealthier airframes

Looking at applications of AI, miniaturized long-range sensors, targeting technology and drones operating with improving autonomy lead some to contend that perhaps some of the most essential ingredients of some of the long-term transformational technologies are, in effect, already here to varying extents. This would be the basis upon which a nearer-term aircraft, drawing from some off-the-shelf-items, would be pursued.

There is widespread consensus that applications of AI appear to provide the framework for the most defining expected technological progress. For instance, a 2017 paper from a sixteen-nation NATO conglomerate of analysts, called the Joint Air Power Competence Center, raises questions about when, and how, AI may outpace the human ability to keep up. The essay, titled “Air Warfare Communication in a Networked Environment,” quotes Air Force Acquisition Executive William Roper from his previous role directing the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office, saying “AI is progressing beyond the human ability to interface with it.”

Smart Artificial Intelligence Needs An Open (Source) Classroom

Adrian Bridgwater
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As schoolchildren and students of all ages will widely confirm after the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic with the imposition of home-schooling for many, it’s harder to learn in a vacuum. It’s not impossible, but it’s generally agreed that we humans learn better in groups through mutual discovery, intercommunication on problem-solving and through the general process and pursuit of team-based challenges and goals. This, after all, is why we have schools.

Could the same need for interconnected cross-fertilization also help computers to ‘learn’ as they build their data-powered Artificial Intelligence (AI) knowledge bases and software-driven analytics engines?

Openness in machine learning

More examples of open AI are surfacing all the time. This June saw news of Databricks take its open source machine learning to join the Linux Foundation’s ranks of open technologies. Known as MLflow, Databricks chose this name to reflect the Machine Learning (ML) abilities it is engineered to deliver — and (the flow part) to explain the end-to-end nature of the functions it delivers i.e. it can flow throughout a complete development lifecycle.



Naval officers pray at the altar of “more ships.” We demand more of them, fantasize about new ways to use them, and assume that the fleet will only grow. In the navalist faith, the post-Cold War period — which saw the fleet fall to an all-time low of 279 ships in 2007 — was an aberration, but happily the “return to great-power rivalry” has obliterated such shortsightedness.

The navalists have reasons to cheer. The 2018 National Defense Authorization Act calls for 355 ships by 2030, an increase of 18 percent from today’s 299. The Navy’s FY2021 five-year shipbuilding plan funds another 42. Novel realms are demanding the Navy’s attention. Retreating sea ice in the Arctic, for instance, has fueled new competition with Russia. At the same time, near peers have modernized their navies with highly capable surface and subsurface platforms. For the navalists, the fleet’s strain under these growing responsibilities is not a reason to reduce commitments, but simply to add more ships.

The Aircraft Carrier We Need


On April 24 the U.S. Navy announced that a fifth weapons elevator had been certified for use onboard the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78). (A weapons elevator lifts munitions, such as bombs and missiles, from the storage area to the flight deck.) Six more elevators remain uncertified, requiring additional testing and modifications before the carrier can be deployed. Originally estimated to cost $10.5 billion to build, the ship was officially “delivered” to the Navy in May 2017, some 18 months behind schedule, at an eye-popping cost of $12.9 billion. However, even those cost numbers and dates are misleading, as the ship still does not have all of its essential systems certified, owing to major difficulties with its ship-service turbine generators, electromagnetic aircraft-launch systems, advanced arresting gear (the apparatus that slows down aircraft as they land on deck), and finally its weapons elevators. The upshot of all of these difficulties is that the Navy has been forced to use dollars from its crucial operations-and-maintenance accounts to “repair” a brand-new ship, for which it had already paid $13 billion, that has yet to deploy operationally, despite having officially been in the fleet for nearly three years.

Ranked: 5 Most Powerful Battleships In All of History

by James Holmes

Key Point: It's not just about technical specs—human leadership can make or break a battleship.

Ranking the greatest battleships of all time is a tad easier than ranking naval battles. Both involve comparing apples with oranges. But at least taking the measure of individual men-of-war involves comparing one apple with one orange. That's a compact endeavor relative to sorting through history to discern how seesaw interactions shaped the destinies of peoples and civilizations.

Still, we need some standard for distinguishing between battlewagons. What makes a ship great? It makes sense, first of all, to exclude any ship before the reign of Henry VIII. There was no line-of-battle ship in the modern sense before England's "great sea-king" founded the sail-driven Royal Navy in the 16th century. Galley warfare was quite a different affair from lining up capital ships and pounding away with naval gunnery.

One inescapable chore is to compare ships' technical characteristics. A recent piece over at War Is Boring revisits an old debate among battleship and World War II enthusiasts. Namely, who would've prevailed in a tilt between a U.S. Navy Iowa-class dreadnought and the Imperial Japanese Navy's Yamato? Author Michael Peck restates the common wisdom from when I served in mighty Wisconsin, last of the battleships: it depends on who landed the first blow. Iowas commanded edges in speed and fire control, while Yamato and her sister Musashi outranged us and boasted heavier weight of shot. We would've made out fine had we closed the range before the enemy scored a lucky hit from afar. If not, things may have turned ugly.