29 July 2020

A Dragon menace lurking below the surface

Col Vinayak Bhat 
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This Chinese threat is underground, a missile garrison not too far from Leh.

The People's Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF), formerly the Second Artillery Corps, has a modern up-and-running missile storage facility barely 250 km from the Ladakh capital.

India Today's OSINT desk has delved into satellite images, as latest as July 11, for a fair understanding of this secret arsenal.

Location of Underground Missile Arsenal

Taliban Ready for Talks With Kabul After Eid Holiday

By Kathy Gannon

The Taliban say they are ready for talks with Afghanistan’s political leadership after the Muslim holiday of Eid ul Adha at the end of July, offering to hand over the last of the government prisoners in a week’s time, providing the government frees the last of its Taliban prisoners. 

The offer made by the Taliban’s political spokesman Suhail Shaheen in a tweet late Thursday follows one of the most significant shakeups in the Taliban in years. The group appointed the son of the movement’s fearsome founder to head its military wing and powerful leadership council members to its negotiation team.

In Kabul on Friday, the High Council for National Reconciliation, which was created in May to manage peace efforts with the Taliban, said it was still working through the Taliban’s prisoner list. 

Javed Faisal, spokesman for the Afghan national security adviser’s office, previously said nearly 600 Taliban prisoners whose release is being sought have been convicted of serious crimes. The government is reluctant to set them free, he said.

It seemed unlikely the government would free the remaining Taliban prisoners before the Muslim holiday.

Will Afghanistan’s Long-Delayed Peace Ever Arrive?

By Ezzatullah Mehrdad

In this April 8, 2020, file photo, an Afghan National Army soldier stands guard at a checkpoint near the Bagram base north of Kabul, Afghanistan.Credit: AP Photo/Rahmat Gul

In Afghanistan, February 2020 created a short-lived hope for the end of an 18-year war that has been brutal, intimate, and vicious. The one-week trial of a reduction in violence, followed by an agreement between the United States and the Taliban in February, was cherished as a major step toward peace. Yet in the five months since then, a dispute over actually enacting peace has eroded the people’s hope for an end to the endless war.

The U.S.-Taliban deal left the Taliban more victorious than the Afghan government, but the public enthusiasm was built around the forthcoming negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government. The months-long delay in the negotiations – originally supposed to begin in March – whittled away at public hope for an end to the war, though the peace process continued in slow motion.

Most recently, a Taliban spokesperson offered to begin negotiations at the beginning of August, after the Eid ul Adha holiday, but only if the Afghan government releases more Taliban prisoners. Kabul has previously been reluctant to do so; in the end, this may just be another proposed deadline that comes and goes to no effect.

The Two China Fires

By Bret Stephens

We’ll probably never know exactly what sorts of documents were incinerated at China’s Consulate in Houston in the days before the United States forced it to close on Friday, after accusing it of being a hub of espionage. We may also never know what caused this month’s catastrophic fire aboard the U.S.S. Bonhomme Richard, a massive amphibious assault ship that was being fitted out to double as a small aircraft carrier, in the port of San Diego.

What we should know is that the two fires are actually one. We are racing toward a conflict with China we may be ill-prepared to wage.

The closure of the consulate comes on the heels of a quad of bellicose speeches from top administration officials, collectively amounting to a declaration of Cold War against China. Robert O’Brien, the national security adviser, painted China’s leadership as unreconstructed Marxist-Leninists. The F.B.I. director, Christopher Wray, spoke of China’s practice in the art of “malign foreign influence.” Attorney General Bill Barr accused China of “economic blitzkrieg.” And Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hinted the free world may need a new version of NATO, this one aimed at Beijing instead of Moscow.

Balochi Militants Take Aim at Chinese Interests

By Yumi Washiyama

On June 29, four members of the Majeed Brigade, a faction of the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), launched an attack on the Pakistan Stock Exchange building in Karachi, Sindh province, resulting in 10 fatalities. The Majeed Brigade was founded in 2011 and is an elite unit within the BLA, with a modus operandi that regularly features suicide attacks. That an attack was carried out on the Karachi stock exchange is significant, given its high profile and location in the city’s central corporate district, which headquarters several multinational corporations. Early analysis indicates, however, that the militants were ultimately unsuccessful in their attempt to establish a days-long siege in the building – with the total operation reportedly lasting less than an hour.

The BLA is one of several militant groups pursuing an independent Baloch nation, or significantly greater autonomy. The group views both Pakistani and Chinese interests in the region as a threat, characterizing them as exploitative. Balochistan province is rich in natural resources, such as minerals, but remains one of the least developed and educated in the country. Hostility toward Chinese foreign workers and associated interests has peaked as local communities feel disconnected from the ongoing Chinese-backed infrastructure development linked to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). China’s investments in infrastructure in Balochistan have little practical benefit for local populations, while further integrating Balochistan with wider Pakistan through developing transport and power networks. 

Offshore Balancing: A Grand Strategy for the China Dream

By Andrew Latham

For years, the term “China’s rise” has provided a useful shorthand for conveying the arc of China’s recent history: its ascent from poor and powerless victim to wealthy, formidable, and proud global power; from bit player on the world stage to one of the more prominent lead actors.

Whatever the history and politics of the term, the fact is that it no longer captures or conveys the reality of China today. To put it bluntly, China is no longer rising – it has risen. No matter the metric – GDP, technological innovation, regional and global influence – China is at or near the top of the global league tables. It is no longer a global power-in-the-making. Instead, it is a power whose time has come.

This begs the question, now that China has arrived, how should it conduct itself on the world stage? Or, in somewhat more technical terms, what grand strategy should it adopt to advance and defend its national interests in a world order defined in large part by a risen China and a still-hegemonic United States?

China's Xinjiang: A Brief Overview

by Frank Li
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1. Xinjiang

Xinjiang (Uyghur: شىنجاڭ, SASM/GNC: Xinjang; Chinese: 新疆; pinyin: Xīnjiāng; alternately romanized as Sinkiang), officially the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region[8] (XUAR), is an autonomous region of the People's Republic of China, located in the northwest of the country. Being the largest province-level division of China and the 8th largest country subdivision in the world, Xinjiang spans over 1.6 million km2 (640,000 square miles).[1] The Aksai Chin region, administered by China mostly as part of Xinjiang's Hotan Prefecture, is claimed by India. Xinjiang borders the countries of Mongolia (Bayan-Olgii, Khovd and Govi-Altai Provinces), Russia (Altai Republic), Kazakhstan (East Kazakhstan and Almaty Provinces), Kyrgyzstan (Issyk Kul, Naryn and Osh Regions), Tajikistan (Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region), and Afghanistan (Badakhshan). The rugged Karakoram, Kunlun and Tian Shan mountain ranges occupy much of Xinjiang's borders, as well as its western and southern regions. Xinjiang also borders the Tibet Autonomous Region and the provinces of Gansu and Qinghai. The most well-known route of the historical Silk Road ran through the territory from the east to its northwestern border.

Testing the limits of China and Brazil’s partnership

Harold Trinkunas

Brazil is China’s most important economic and political partner in South America, as well as a key participant in the Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (BRICS) grouping of emerging powers that China increasingly leads. When it comes to global aspirations, China and Brazil have historically been in sync on their critiques of the liberal international order, if not on their preferred remedies. Historically, their prescriptions for foreign policy differ in important ways. China would prefer a world order that better accommodates its interests, and it is becoming less reluctant to use the threat of force in foreign policy to maintain its ascendancy in its geopolitical neighborhood. Brazil traditionally has preferred a rules-bound liberal international order that applies to everyone, especially superpowers. Unlike China, it foreswears the use of coercion in international affairs, even to protect its interests in its immediate neighborhood, South America.

Since President Jair Bolsonaro assumed office in January 2019, this historical pattern has been upended. Bolsonaro and his foreign policy team have adopted a strongly pro-U.S. (specifically pro-President Donald Trump) agenda internationally, including engaging in frequent critiques of China. Domestically, the partnership with China has been controversial with some sectors. Specifically, the partnership is criticized by the Brazilian manufacturing sector, which faces strong competition from Chinese products and lacks reciprocal access to Chinese market, and by nationalist-populist voters who support Bolsonaro. Agricultural export interests, by contrast, favor a strong relationship with Beijing because China is a major market for their products.

China-US Power Politics in the Pacific

Saber Salem

The Pacific region is becoming a pawn in the game of power politics among traditional and regional powers over recent years. The assertive and bold Chinese behaviour in the region has triggered the US to make a strong comeback to its backyard waters. Regional powers such as Australia, New Zealand and Japan bandwagon with the US to curtail Chinese expansionism and threatening power posturing in the Blue Pacific in general and South China Sea (SCS) region in particular. China on the other hand has exploited the isolationist foreign policy adopted by the inward-looking US president Trump to expand its global reach as quickly and effectively as possible, especially during the spread of COVID-19. The outbreak of COVID-19, originating in China and causing a global pandemic, has brought the world to its knees with no signs of abating in sight. Nevertheless, the outbreak has created an opportune moment for the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to flex its military muscles and expand its maritime reach particularly in the SCS and ‘harass’ its neighbours with Taiwan being particularly targeted. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) sunk a Vietnamese fishing trawler in March. Also in March, Beijing conducted military exercises in the SCS.

These renewed Chinese posturings comes at a time when both regional and extra-regional powers are grappling with the fast-pace outbreak of the COVID-19 and are intensively preoccupied to arrest the transmission of the disease. In April, US warships halted their routine operations in the Asia-Pacific waters after the outbreak of COVID-19 aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier where nearly 800 of its personnel were infected and one sailor died. Regardless of its strong denials the COVID-19 outbreak has provided PRC with the opportunity to ensure military gains beyond its continental shelf given that the US, would likely not react immediately due to the pandemic. For Beijing the situation was ripe to cast its net as wide as it possibly could given its close proximity to the region – giving it a comparative advantage over the US.

Australia Is Having a Strategic Revolution, and It’s All About China

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At the beginning of July, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison declared that “our region is in the midst of the most consequential strategic realignment since the Second World War.” He wrote that in the introduction to his government’s “Defence Strategic Update” and “Force Structure Plan,” which many are hailing as a fundamental shift in Australia’s strategic approach.

Australian defense planning might seem remote, but the shift could alter the basic security dynamic in the Indo-Pacific region—and correspondingly, the U.S. approach to competition in this region. The questions now is whether Washington will notice the significant change in its most trusted Pacific ally’s posture, whether it will choose to cooperate with Canberra’s efforts to pull off its new strategy, and whether it will treat this as a useful model for other allies and partners.

The 2020 Defence Strategic Update is a revision of Australia’s 2016 Defence White Paper. The quick revision signifies that Australian leaders believe their security environment has rapidly deteriorated. Although the documents seldom call out Beijing specifically, the cause of the erosion is hardly a mystery. The strategic update notes: “Military modernisation in the Indo-Pacific has accelerated faster than envisaged.” Asian defense spending as a percentage of gross domestic product has actually decreased over the last five years. Only in China has there been a serious increase in overall defense spending.

Xi Wants Chinese Students Back in the Countryside

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As the novel coronavirus outbreak waned in China, millions of wary students in select provinces and cities have gradually returned from their bedrooms to their classrooms. Myriad health safety measures await them, as does a new policy designed to promote their physical activity. The cause isn’t COVID-19 but a renewed ideological campaign barely noticed outside the country.

China’s cabinet, the State Council, and the powerful Central Committee quietly announced joint guidelines on March 26 to improve China’s “labor education.” Once referred to as the “biggest shortcoming” in China’s education system by a top official, the measures look to reverse declining physical activity among Chinese youth while instilling “the Marxist view of labor.” “Over the years, some youth have become less appreciative, less willing, and less able to perform manual labor,” the document states.

The newly released rules call for more manual labor activities in curriculums across academia to inculcate students with a “hard-working spirit.” Schools from the elementary to the university level must provide mandatory labor classes, including vague activities that “work up a sweat” and household chores like doing laundry. While the policy is short on specific activities, it hints that students will do work at companies, farms, and factories.

Was China’s Houston Consulate Trying to Steal the Coronavirus Vaccine?

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China may have been using its now-closed consulate in Houston as a base of operations for industrial espionage as it seeks to be the first to hit the market with a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, Trump administration officials indicated on Friday.

The Houston facility is near the largest medical complex in the world and a bevy of research universities and critical infrastructure projects. Officials said the consulate has been used at least 50 times in the past 10 years to help recruit members of the Thousand Talents Program, China’s effort to target top Chinese and foreign experts from around the world in cutting-edge fields to bring their skills back to Beijing.

In recent years, China has made a concerted effort to leap ahead in scientific research and technology by targeting Chinese nationals and foreign experts. Chinese Consulate officials in Houston had been directly involved in communications with researchers and guided them on what information to collect, the officials said.

What China-Iran deal means for Washington

Daniel Hoffman
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Iran is reportedly in the final stages of agreeing to a $400 billion economic and security deal with China, which includes infrastructure investment, discounted Iranian oil and enhanced cooperation on both defense and intelligence. Iran, suffering from the horrific impact of COVID-19 and with its economy in free fall since the Trump administration reimposed sanctions after withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2018, is in desperate economic straits.

Iran rejected the US offer to negotiate lifting sanctions in return for a new agreement that would remove JCPOA sunset clauses and address Iran’s state-sponsored terrorism and ballistic missile program. In an effort to induce the United States to return to negotiations, Iran began escalating attacks on the United States and its allies in the summer of 2019 by attacking oil tankers in the Gulf; seizing the Stena Impero oil tanker; shooting down a US drone; and launching a missile attack against Saudi Aramco facilities.

In July 2019, Iran began exceeding the limit on its stockpile of low enriched uranium set under the JCPOA. Iran has also nearly tripled its stockpile of enriched uranium since November 2019, also in violation of the JCPOA, according to the UN International Atomic Energy Agency. Iran’s current stockpile brings it dangerously close to the amount needed to produce a nuclear weapon.

POLITICO’s guide to the EU budget deal

After more than two years of negotiations and a global pandemic, EU leaders have agreed on their spending plans for the next seven years.

The 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) will be €1.074 trillion and will be accompanied by a €750 billion EU recovery fund, under the groundbreaking plan that will also see countries jointly borrow on the financial markets for the first time.

But who gets what — and under what conditions? POLITICO has the breakdown.
Crisis recovery 

Most of the coronavirus recovery fund — €312.5 billion in grants and €360 billion in loans — will be spent through a new Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) to help countries get their economies through the crisis. The grant portion is linked to national recovery plans, meaning it is tied to economic reforms: Countries will get payouts based on their progress toward certain targets. Under pressure to save euros, leaders discarded the idea of a €26 billion “solvency instrument” that was intended to prop up companies in danger of failing due to the crisis.


The Coronavirus Exposed the West’s Weakest Link


In Europe, Italy was hit hardest by the pandemic because it was hit first. Hospitals filled up with patients; one local newspaper was so overwhelmed with obituaries that it published only thumbnail-size ones. The entire country was subject to draconian restrictions, the strictest in the West.

Still, Italy rallied: Infections are now under control, a contact-tracing system is in place, and its economy and borders have reopened, although not to visitors from the United States. Tourist-dependent cities like Rome, Florence, and Venice are still suffering, but Milan, the country’s economic engine, is slowly coming back to life.

Italy is not out of the woods, though. It has the third-largest economy in the European Union, after Germany and France, and the second-highest public debt as a percentage of the economy, after Greece. It is led by a weak coalition government. Its middle class is struggling, its social mobility declining, and its poverty rising. Its gross domestic product is expected to drop by about 11 percent this year. The country’s interior minister recently warned of possible social unrest this fall if businesses fail and lay off workers. In the meantime, organized crime is poised to pick up some of the slack by offering loans at usurious rates. Its population is declining—the country registers more deaths than births, while the percentage of citizens emigrating rose 16 percent from 2018 to 2019, even before the pandemic hit. It has among the lowest female-employment levels in the EU. Its faith in the EU project is flagging, and a right-wing populist opposition party, which is leading in polls, is under investigation for illegal dealings with Russia.

Space War: US To Meet With Russia; Rolls Out Warfighting Doctrine


WASHINGTON: A US delegation, including DoD officials, on July 27 in Vienna, Austria will hold a first Space Security Exchange (SSE) with Russia. It’s the first formal bilateral meeting on space security since 2013, says Chris Ford, assistant secretary of State for International Security and Non-Proliferation.

The purpose is to “help advance the cause of setting responsible norms of behavior in that vital domain,” Ford told reporters in a phone briefing today. In addition, he said, the US hopes to open a regular bilateral communications channel in order to avoid misperceptions and miscalculations about on-orbit activities.

Yet at the same time, the US military has just finalized a new warfighting doctrine defining how it will fight in space, said Gen. Jay Raymond, who currently heads both the Space Force and Space Command.

“One of the things I’m really excited about is that we’ve drafted our first-ever ‘Capstone Warfighting Doctrine’ for space; it’s at the printers,” he told the Center for A New American Security today. “We’re expecting that to get delivered here in the next couple of days, and we’re going to roll that out either next week if it comes in on time, or the week after, but it’s imminent.”

Countries Should Mind Their Own Business

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What’s the dumbest idea affecting the foreign policy of major powers? There are plenty of candidates—the domino theory; the myth of the short, cheap war; the belief that a particular deity is “on the side” of one nation and will guarantee its success; etc. But right up there with those worthy contenders is a country’s belief that it has found the magic formula for political, economic, social, and international success and that it has the right, the responsibility, and the ability to spread this gospel far and wide.

In some cases, this impulse arises from (mostly) benevolent aims: The leaders of some country genuinely believe that spreading (through force, if necessary) their ideals and institutions to others will genuinely benefit the recipients. Defensive motives may also be operating: A state may believe that it cannot be reliably secure unless other countries have similar if not identical institutions. U.S. leaders once worried that America could not survive alone in a world dominated by fascism, and Joseph Stalin believed the Soviet Union needed “friendly” countries on its borders, by which he meant countries governed by Leninist parties patterned after the Soviet model.

A Better Globalization

MADRID – The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted much reflection on the state of globalization, its drawbacks at a time of worldwide disruption, and the supposed benefits of retreating to the national sphere. In this sense, as in many others, the current crisis has accelerated pre-existing tendencies. The global trade-to-GDP ratio – one of the main indicators of globalization – has followed a downward trend since 2012, and anti-globalist political movements have been gaining in popularity for some time.

These movements have good reasons to mistrust globalization, and even more so now. The scarcity of vital materials – from face masks to yeast – highlighted the low resilience of the global supply chains that produce so much of what we use, owing to their excessive concentration in a few countries and the lack of essential stockpiles. Moreover, globalization has created many losers within individual countries, especially in the developed world.

This phenomenon has been particularly marked in the United States, where the average income of the poorest 50% actually fell between 1980 and 2010. The delocalization of production is certainly not the only reason (the effects of automation on inequality are often overlooked), but it is a significant one.

But we must resist the temptation to amend globalized production in its entirety. Adam Smith’s axioms about specialization, and David Ricardo’s regarding comparative advantage, are as true today as they were 200 years ago. Overall, globalization has clearly been beneficial, lifting billions of people out of poverty, so our focus should be to reform rather than destroy it.

Europe and the New Sino-American Cold War

By Nicolas Regaud

For two years, the United States has been engaged in a global confrontation with China, based on the Trump administration’s assessment that the policy of engagement pursued for decades has failed; that the growing assertiveness of China’s authoritarian regime is driving a policy disrespectful of international law, with revisionist designs for the international order; and that China’s government is coercive both toward its own population as well as countries daring to oppose or criticize its policy, like Australia is experiencing today.

The speech of Vice President Mike Pence at the Hudson Institute in October 2018 was a marker of the radical turning point in American posture, adding crude words to a more polished December 2017 National Security Strategy. Pence spoke of an “Orwellian system” of population control, the desire for Chinese domination of the technologies that will be at the heart of tomorrow’s global economy, massive industrial espionage, and a China aimed at “pushing the United States out of the West Pacific” and breaking the system of alliances in the region. The “United States Strategic Approach Towards the People’s Republic of China,” issued by the White House on May 20, detailed the nature of the challenges posed by China in terms of values, security, and economics, and presents the guidelines of American policy aimed at taking them up.

Infographic Of The Day: Tracking The Growing Wave Of Oil And Gas Bankruptcies In 2020

2020 hasn't been kind to the energy sector, and a growing wave of energy bankruptcies has started to build. After a difficult year marred by rising geopolitical tensions in the Middle East and crude prices in the $50-60 per barrel range, analysts warned that the energy sector needed a strong recovery to offset a rising (and expiring) mountain of debt.

Opinion – Can Joe Biden Revive Transatlantic Relations?

Kareem Salem

The bulk of European leaders hope that in four months time Joe Biden will be victorious in the next American presidential election, given the unilateralist and isolationist foreign policy pursued under Donald Trump. Transatlantic relations have been strained on numerous occasions by the current American leader’s reluctance to place NATO at the centre of American foreign policy. This has recently been demonstrated by Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty and his decision to pull 9500 American troops from Germany. With the very foundations of transatlanticism undermined by Trump, Europeans, notably the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and French President Emmanuel Macron, are calling on their European allies to deepen European defence integration in the face of growing threats to Europe’s external and internal security. Heightened geopolitical competition in the Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa, including the growing risk of the resurgence of jihadist groups in the Sahel and the Levant, are part of the central argument of Paris and Brussels for securing greater European support for defence autonomy.

If Joe Biden is serious about resetting transatlantic relations, it will be imperative that his administration addresses these concerns. Yet evolving geopolitical dynamics in the Indo-Pacific region could impede Joe Biden from focusing fully on improving ties with European allies. China’s growing military assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific poses a serious threat to U.S hegemonic interests in the region. Tensions between Washington and Beijing have simmered over the coronavirus pandemic, the South China Sea and human rights violations in Xinjiang province. Democratic party centrists therefore see the need for U.S foreign policy to be conducted on the basis of defending U.S values and interests by standing up to China’s hardening authoritarianism and military assertiveness. 

Looking towards the future: Automation, training, and the middle class

Marcus Casey

Automation and artificial intelligence (AI) are projected to either replace or fundamentally change human effort in many occupations. Some jobs may become obsolete. But the potential gains in productivity and efficiency from these technologies will likely transform legacy industries and lead to the emergence of new industries, generating new tasks and jobs. Displaced workers and new labor market entrants alike will therefore need to invest in skills and knowledge that complement these technologies.

Even before the recent employment crisis triggered by the COVID-19 outbreaks, we saw glimpses of these future labor market concerns. In particular, the difficulty many firms face in filling vacancies has raised broader concerns that our skilled labor force is not growing fast enough to keep up with demand. Businesses often cite skill mismatches between their workforce needs and those possessed by potential workers as a principal cause for these unfilled positions. Advances in automation and artificial intelligence will likely exacerbate this problem.

In response, some large employers have moved to invest in training and upskilling programs for their employees. Notwithstanding these important private-sector developments, most firms lack the resources, infrastructure, or desire to make these investments themselves. Ignoring this issue will have long-term consequences for labor markets, firms, and worker mobility. Public policy matters here.

Memes, the pandemic and the new tactics of information warfare

Mark Pomerleau
WASHINGTON — The COVID-19 pandemic is evidence that Russia and China have accelerated adoption of their age-old influence and disinformation tactics to the modern era, national security experts and military leaders said.

Those countries are leveraging U.S. laws, social media platforms and divisions within society to their larger strategic advantage and as a way to weaken the United States.

“This pandemic crisis has made it very, very clear that Russia, China and others intend to strategically use cyber-enable information operations against the U.S.,” Lt. Gen. Mary O’Brien, deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and cyber effects operations, said during a Joint Service Academy Cybersecurity Conference webinar June 11.

“They’re injecting disinformation, which is not a new concept in itself, but now by incorporating cyber means, they’re reaching millions of people to exacerbate existing tensions within the U.S. and between us, our allies and partners.”

She said these efforts include spreading conspiracy theories and confusing messages about the virus such as its origins and risks.


Patrick Savage

After two decades of focusing on counterinsurgency and counterterrorism, the US Department of Defense has worked to reorient toward the possibility of conflict with a near-peer competitor. While the department has progressed in this area, one sub-set of preparation has been largely ignored: the defense enterprise needs to confront the non-zero possibility that it may have to fight not only a conventional war, but a protracted conventional war against another great power in the coming decades. To that end, the Department of Defense needs to revisit and question assumptions that it may still maintain about protracted warfare in order to prepare the United States for the potential of extended conflict with a near-peer adversary.

While the definition of conventional war is widely understood, that of protracted conventional war has been harder to come by. Conceptualizing it is even more difficult now, as the US understanding of war appears to have baked-in assumptions that it will be—because it is objectively desirable—a short war. In the late 1980s, RAND researchers considered any war with the Soviet Union that lasted more than thirty days to be protracted. More recently, Office of Net Assessment alum Dr. Andrew Krepinevich set a standard of any war lasting more than eighteen months as being protracted. This article considers any war between sovereign states that is measured in months or years as opposed to weeks or days as a protracted conventional war.

Military to Leverage New Biotech Fields to Gain an Edge

By Mandy Mayfield

Agencies throughout the Defense Department are investing in biotechnologies and working initiatives to harness nature’s processes to better support warfighters.

Biotech is an engineering discipline that uses living systems to create a wide range of products, said Michelle Rozo, assistant director for biotechnology at the office of the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering. “We can use that technology to produce an enormous range of things from food and medicines to textiles and fuels,” she said.

It will have a large impact on the defense sector, Rozo said during the Biotechnology for Materiel and Defense Symposium. “The same core competencies that can unlock products and capabilities [have] the potential to transform military systems and mission spaces.”

The need to develop new and more advanced biotech is identified as a modernization priority in the 2018 National Defense Strategy, which focuses on great power competition with advanced adversaries China and Russia