16 August 2020

Indian Frustration With China Grows

By Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

Since August 2019, China has consistently raised the Kashmir issue at the United Nations Security Council. Last week, on August 5, China again sought a discussion on Kashmir under the “Any Other Business” category in the UN Security Council. This was the third time that China has done this, following earlier efforts in August 2019 and January 2020. 

Indian responses to such efforts, as well as Chinese comments, are becoming harsher, a possible indication that the Indian government is losing patience with Beijing. 

Kashmir has not been on the U.N. Security Council’s agenda since 1971. China resurrected the Jammu and Kashmir issue in the Security Council in August 2019 following the Indian decision to nullify Article 370, the special status given to the state of Jammu and Kashmir under the Indian Constitution. China has continued to describe the Indian action to remove the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcate the state into two union territories as affecting its territorial claims in the Ladakh region. In August 2019, China said the Indian decision was “unacceptable.” India rejected China’s criticisms, saying the decision was an internal matter with no impact on its external borders. China has persisted. 

With Final Prisoner Release, Afghanistan Takes a Giant Step Toward Peace

By Ahmad Mohibi

The Afghan Loya Jirga (grand assembly) approved the release of 400 Taliban prisoners on Sunday, and President Ashraf Ghani endorsed the decision. This hopefully paves the way for the intra-Afghan talks between Afghan delegates and the Taliban insurgency, aimed at ending the 19 years of war.

“I look forward to the intra-Afghan dialogues,” said Khalid Noor, the youngest member of the Afghan negotiating team. He added, “I believe it’s going to start in the next few days.”

On Monday, the Taliban and the Afghan government agreed on August 16 as the start date for the intra-Afghan dialogues. The 21 members of the Afghan negotiation team headed by Massoum Stanikzai (former chief of the National Directorate of Security) is likely to depart Afghanistan for Doha, Qatar once the prisoners are released — as early as tomorrow.

The 400 prisoners were the last of a group of 5,000 whose release was promised in the U.S.-Taliban peace deal, signed on February 29. The Afghan government was hesitant to release these last prisoners for various reasons, from a lack of presidential constitutional authority to a desire to hold the prisoners responsible for their actions as well as a need for leverage for the Afghan government after the U.S.-Taliban deal.

Climate Change Is a Security Threat to the Asia-Pacific

By Shiloh Fetzek and Dennis McGinn

This week the ASEAN Joint Task Force on Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) will meet via video conference, with the COVID-19 pandemic escalating just as some countries in the disaster-prone Indo-Asia Pacific enter their cyclone, drought, heatwave, or monsoon seasons. The overlaying of the pandemic with existing complex challenges is a timely reminder that planning for HADR capacities – and regional security – needs to be attuned to the increasing likelihood of multiple, overlapping hazards and converging security risks, especially in a future where climate change alters the context in which other disasters and crises take place. Developing a clearer recognition of how climate change can reshape the strategic environment will be essential for preserving regional security, stability, and prosperity in the face of complicated and interlocking challenges, as we argue in a new report on the Indo-Asia Pacific published by the International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS).

The Indo-Asia Pacific is highly exposed to climate change impacts. Climate change is likely to alter the local physical and strategic environment profoundly, and potentially catastrophically. More frequent or intense extreme weather, sea level rise, and ocean acidification (among other climate impacts) will create a range of threats to the well-being and security of countries in the region, many of which are already threatened by disaster vulnerability and increasingly complex security tensions.

I Was Sanctioned by China

Michael Abramowitz
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It is a bit disorienting to wake up early expecting to go out for a walk, and find that you have been personally targeted for sanctions by the most powerful authoritarian state in the world.

As friends began emailing and texting me Monday morning, I learned that I had been placed on a list of leaders of prodemocracy organizations and members of Congress to be punished by the Chinese government in retaliation for U.S. sanctions imposed last week on 11 Chinese and Hong Kong officials, for their role in diminishing freedom in the former British colony. The contrast between the U.S. and Chinese sanctions is telling: The former aim to punish human-rights violations, and the latter aim to punish speech about those violations.

I’m the president of Freedom House, a nonpartisan, independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world; I’m no stranger to repressive governments. Even so, I was taken aback.

The War that Never Was?

By Admiral James A. Winnefeld, U.S. Navy (Retired), and Michael J. Morell
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The beginning of major state-on-state conflict is almost always a surprise . . . at least to one of the two sides. The China–Taiwan conflict of early 2021 was no exception. The overlapping factors that brought it about now seem so obvious in retrospect. First, the convergence of Thucydides’ three sources of conflict—fear, honor, and interest—was unprecedented at the time. On top of this, Chinese recognition of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and leader Xi Jinping’s eagerness to solidify his re-election in 2023 made it almost inevitable.

Why Now?

Regarding “fear” as a source of the conflict, we always knew the Chinese Communist Party, as an authoritarian regime, harbored as its principal concern a loss of control over its own population. As the roller coaster year of 2020 dragged into its second half, a resurgence of COVID-19—this time scattered throughout the country and again initially covered up by the regime—began to cast real doubt among the Chinese population of the competence of the Party and its leader Xi Jinping. The crash of the Chinese economy, due partly to COVID and to secondary sanctions imposed by the United States on China’s banks after the crackdown in Hong Kong (itself the result of a U.S. administration wanting to look tough on China during an election campaign), only exacerbated Xi’s concerns. Watching protests break out and fully aware of the historical fragility of the so-called “Mandate from Heaven,” Xi began to look for an external cause to distract the population from its mounting anger and anxiety.

From Taiwan to the Philippines, Chinese Illegal Dredging Ships Wreak Environmental Havoc

By Wen Lii
Amid public concern in Taiwan over thousands of illegal Chinese sand dredging ships in the Taiwan Strait, particularly those that swarm alarmingly close to Taiwan’s offshore islands, the Taiwanese government is considering new regulations that would facilitate sinking Chinese dredgers seized by Taiwan’s coast guard, including for use as artificial reefs or as target ships in military exercises. However, Taiwan is not in this alone, as the vast scale and scope of Chinese illegal dredging has made it a multinational issue.

Sinking the seized illegal dredgers would signal a marked change from Taiwan’s past practices of auctioning impounded ships, which critics say have been insufficient in deterring illegal activities. This is seen as an attempt by the Taiwanese government to contain the harm caused by illegal dredging, which touches upon a multitude of issues ranging from maritime resources, marine ecology, and even the maintenance of infrastructure such as underwater cables.

On a clear day, up to hundreds of Chinese dredging ships illegally mining for sand can be spotted from the Matsu Islands. The islands, administered as Lienchiang County by Taipei, are located 200 kilometers from the main island of Taiwan, but only 20 kilometers off the coast of China’s Fujian province. Once on the frontlines of the Cold War between the Communists and the Taiwan-based Nationalists, the islands currently face a different type of threat. People in Matsu are concerned about the increasing numbers of illegal dredgers pumping tons of sand from the seabed, often invading waters within 6,000 meters of the islands, which are considered restricted waters by Taiwan’s coast guard.

China’s Blown Investment Opportunities On World Stage – Analysis

By Todd Royal

Gui Congyou, China’s ambassador to Sweden, where China has successful investments recently said: “We treat our friends with fine wine, but for our enemies we have shotguns.” This self-defeating behavior from Beijing is now the norm, and contributes to “rapidly deteriorating reputations” globally for Chinese investment opportunities and economic recovery. 

Using “wolf diplomacy” that brushes aside established diplomatic protocols has ratcheted up geopolitical tensions in Pakistan, Hong Kong, India, Japan, and the U.S. Chinese escalations are why all investors should question any global investments where China has influence. Beijing’s escalating moves are curtailing their chances for becoming the global investment leader.

That China still takes issue with bearing culpability for the COVID-19 pandemic decimating trillions and itself slowly recovering from the coronavirus is puzzling behavior. Chinese nationalism and polarizing actions from the Chinese Communist Party should bring pause to any investor(s), country, nation, or continent seeking closer financial ties with China. 

During today’s tumultuous times, geopolitics determines economics and should be understood. The Chinese governance model in Pakistan using its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) via the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEK) theoretically, combines economic growth with global diplomacy, but is fraught with problems. As an example, over two-thirds of the projects are electrical generation projects that have focused on the dirtiest forms of coal-fired power plants; instead of the high efficiency low emission (HELE) ultra-supercritical plants currently being built in “China, Japan, India, and elsewhere.”

How China’s Crackdown On Hong Kong Will Affect America

In China's most recent step to crackdown on Hong Kong, Beijing has imposed a new national security that strips Hong Kong of its unique legal status and autonomy. This has unclear implications for American interests and raises many questions for Washington and its Asian allies. How does Taiwan view this latest fait accompli, following Beijing’s unilateral declaration of South China Sea sovereignty, its dredging operation to create new features in the Spratly Islands, and its militarization of these new features? What are the political and security implications for the United States in the region?

The Center for the National Interest has gathered three very well-qualified speakers to discuss these trends and their prospects:

· Ambassador Steve Young, formerly our Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, served as U.S. Consul General in Hong Kong, and later as Director of the American Institute in Taiwan, our de facto embassy there. Born in Washington, D.C., he moved to Taiwan at age twelve while his father served as an advisor to Taiwan’s Army in Kaohsiung during the early 1960s. His State Department service includes the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, and Director of the Office of Chinese and Mongolian Affairs. He is a veteran of two tours in Moscow and a tour in Beijing. He holds a B.A. from Wesleyan University, and an M.A. and Ph. D from the University of Chicago.

Why Is China Coming After Americans Like Me in the U.S.?

By Samuel Chu

WASHINGTON — On Thursday, July 30, I fell asleep watching reruns of “Law and Order.” The next morning, I woke up a fugitive.

Chinese state television said that the Hong Kong authorities had issued arrest warrants for six activists who promote democracy for that supposedly semi-autonomous region.

I was one of the six. The charges? “Inciting secession” and “colluding with foreign powers” — part of the National Security Law imposed on July 1 by the Chinese Communist Party. Both crimes are punishable by up to life in prison.

It doesn’t matter that I’ve been an American citizen for 25 years — having left Hong Kong in 1990 to live in the United States.

I had violated Article 38 of the new law, which states: “This Law shall apply to offenses under this Law committed against the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region from outside the Region by a person who is not a permanent resident of the Region.”

China’s Emerging Middle Eastern Kingdom


American policymakers have long assumed that Chinese and American goals in the Middle East are largely complementary. Beijing, so the prevailing wisdom holds, is fixated on commerce, with a special emphasis on oil and gas. “China’s strategy in the Middle East is driven by its economic interests,” a former senior official in the Obama administration testified last year before Congress. “China … does not appear interested in substantially deepening its diplomatic or security activities there.” According to this reigning view, China adopts a position of neutrality toward political and military conflicts, because taking sides would make enemies who might then restrict China’s access to markets.

This oft-repeated shibboleth ignores clear signs that China is very actively engaged in a hard-power contest with the United States—a contest that the Chinese occasionally acknowledge and are capable of winning. In 2016, Xi Jinping toured the Middle East for the first time in his capacity as president of the People’s Republic of China, visiting Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Iran. Chinese propaganda hailed the trip as a milestone. The Chinese Foreign Ministry issued a white paper on its Arab policy, the first of its kind. “We will deepen China-Arab military cooperation and exchange,” the paper read. “We will … deepen cooperation on weapons, equipment and various specialized technologies, and carry out joint military exercises.”

Let’s Face It, China Is Its Own Worst Enemy

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In hopes of winning reelection, President Donald Trump is launching a new Cold War against the People’s Republic of China. Still focused on trade, however, his heart does not appear to be in his campaign—in contrast to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who obviously enjoys launching rhetorical broadsides against Beijing. Pompeo also has been seeking allies willing to join a veritable economic war against China.

So far Pompeo has met with only indifferent success. The PRC’s economic reach makes countries reluctant to risk their relationship with China. Nations in East Asia, including allies such as Australia and South Korea, worry about security as well as economic ties. And no one has any confidence in a Washington administration that has leavened arbitrary incompetence with arrogant hypocrisy. If there is one U.S. president no one is inclined to follow, it is Donald Trump.

However, Washington has found an unexpected ally of extraordinary importance. This government could end up providing essential services in winning adherents to America’s cause. It is Beijing, which has been acting like, well, the Trump administration, maladroitly offending even those who should be China’s friends. The PRC seems to have decided to heed Machiavelli’s advice that it is better to be feared than loved. But China, also rather like the Trump administration, has pushed too hard, ending up loathed more than feared.

Another Gas Spat Between Belarus and Russia Underway

By: Mateusz Kubiak

On July 21, the Russian privately owned news agency Interfax reported that Belarus’s natural gas debt to Russia has risen, since May, from $165 million (as was disclosed then by Gazprom) to as much as $273 million (Interfax, July 21). Two days later, the news was confirmed by the independent Belarusian outlet Tut.by, meeting no denial from Minsk (Tut.by, July 23).

The gas spat between the two countries has been simmering for several months already, thus raising two important questions: whether the dispute is likely to translate into disruptions of Russian oil and gas deliveries to Belarus, and whether the present quarrel differs in notable ways from previous such disputes over the past decade.

The last major gas row between Minsk and Moscow occurred four years ago, in 2016. Belarus unilaterally decided then to pay less than initially agreed for that year, arguing that the gas prices in Belarus and Russia should be equal—as both countries purportedly agreed to a few years earlier (Gazeta.ru, May 16, 2016). Russian Gazprom resolutely rejected Minsk’s argument and, in turn, demanded that Belarus settle its debt and return to the previous pricing formula. When the aggregate sum of underpayments reached around $270 million, the Russian side decided to pressure Belarus by reducing the flow of crude oil to the Novopolotsk and Mazyr refineries, starting in July 2016 (Rns.online, July 8, 2016). The gambit did not pay off immediately: the two countries only reached an agreement in April 2017, after Belarus’s total “gas debt” already reached $726 million (TASS, April 13, 2017).Oil pipelines shown in green; natural gas pipelines in red. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

No, Now Is Not the Time for Another Russia Reset

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The following open letter was signed by 33 foreign-policy experts, whose names and affiliations appear below.

The authors and signers of the open letter calling for a “rethink” of America’s Russia policy that was published in Politico Magazine on August 5 include people we know, like and respect. We agree that U.S.-Russia relations are in a poor state. But we disagree strongly about the reasons why and what should be done in response. Our colleagues’ arguments require forceful response.

We are a bipartisan group of former diplomats, military and intelligence professionals, and experts who have worked on Russia issues for decades. We believe firmly that now is not—as the letter’s authors suggest—the time for another reset with Moscow. Rather, the actions and behavior of Vladimir Putin’s regime pose a threat to American interests and values, requiring strong pushback.

London in limbo: can the capital survive this crisis?

We should worry about what is happening to London. Our capital is, after all, the country’s economic powerhouse. It accounts for just under a quarter of Britain’s GDP. In fact, three of its now most deserted locations — the City, the West End and Canary Wharf — account collectively for an eighth of the nation’s output. There is a danger that short-term damage to London’s economy could become permanent unless the right steps are taken.

This was supposed to be the week when things would start returning to some sort of normality, as the government encouraged more people to go back to the office. Yet uncertainty prevails. The announcement last week that Greater Manchester and parts of Lancashire and West Yorkshire would be put under tighter restrictions with little warning has led to speculation that London could be locked down again. This would be bizarre given that cases in London are running at around 75 a day, compared with 1,073 at the peak, and that there are only 150 or so calls per day to 111 from Londoners with possible Covid symptoms, in contrast to more than 3,000 per day in late March.

Public confidence is not helped by lockdowns being openly discussed. Speculative fear can remove the spontaneity from shopping, discourage firms from investing and deter people from returning to the office. While I do believe that the lockdown in March was initially necessary, the government should now rule out another lockdown nationally or in London, given its population and economic might. To view this pandemic as a binary of health vs economics would be misguided. We now know that lockdown causes severe economic and wider health costs.

Would a new Iran deal be tougher than the one Trump left?

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WASHINGTON – Speaking at a fundraiser in New Jersey over the weekend, U.S. President Donald Trump predicted that he would have a new nuclear deal within four weeks if re-elected in November. In one sense, this is typical bluster from a president who has recently mused that his face should be carved on Mount Rushmore. At the same time, it highlights both a risk about a second Trump term and a truth about the Iranian regime his administration has pressured since taking office.

First, consider the risk. Trump has always explained his maximum pressure campaign as an effort to coerce Tehran to submit to better terms. By itself, there is nothing wrong with that. The 2015 nuclear deal forged by Trump’s predecessor was weak. Key limitations on the technology and scale of Iran’s enrichment program expired over time.

And Trump’s campaign has steadily increased pressure on the regime. The remaining loopholes in U.S. sanctions against Iran have been closed, and Iran’s most important general has been killed. Meanwhile, the United States is planning to introduce a U.N. Security Council resolution to extend an arms embargo on Iran set to expire in October.

But Trump is also prone to flattery, and has expressed desperation for a diplomatic win. As former National Security Adviser John Bolton wrote in his memoir this year, the president was interested in “making a deal he could characterize as a huge success, even if it was badly flawed.”

Reading the Dollar Doldrums


LAGUNA BEACH – A near-10% drop in the value of the US dollar since its March high has given rise to two distinct narratives. The first takes a short-term perspective, focusing on how a depreciation could benefit the US economy and markets; the second takes the long view, fretting over the dollar’s fragile status as the world’s reserve currency. Both narratives contain some truth, but not enough to justify the emerging consensus around them.

Several factors have combined to put downward pressure on the greenback (as measured by the DXY index of trade-weighted currencies) in recent weeks, resulting in a depreciation that has reversed almost half of the appreciation of the last ten years within the space of just months.

As the US Federal Reserve has loosened monetary policy (actually and prospectively) in response to a worsening economic outlook, the income accruing to dollar-denominated safe havens, such as US government bonds, has declined. And with US-based investments having lost some of their relative attractiveness, there has been a shift in holdings in favor of emerging markets and Europe (where the European Union last month agreed to pursue deeper fiscal integration).

Avoiding the Japanification of Europe

BOLOGNA – As monetary and fiscal authorities have acted aggressively to blunt the COVID-19 pandemic’s economic impact, public debt and central-bank balance sheets have swelled rapidly. In the European Union, this trend is compounded by a new €750 billion ($886 billion) COVID-19 recovery fund, which includes the issuance of so-called “recovery bonds” guaranteed by the EU’s multiyear budget and, possibly, by Europe-wide taxation.

This is a whole new world for all advanced countries except one: Japan. It is not the “nice” world of the 1990s, characterized by stable inflation, steady output, fiscal prudence, and a narrow central-bank focus on manipulating short-term interest rates to meet inflation targets. But nor does our turbulent world resemble that of the 1970s, marked by high inflation, volatile output, fiscal profligacy, and excessively accommodative monetary policy.

In today’s world, inflation is very low and is expected to remain so, and monetary authorities enjoy significant credibility – much more than in the past. Advanced countries are headed for a situation in which the distinction between monetary and fiscal policy is merely academic, and debt consolidation is unrealistic.

The U.S. Vice President and Foreign Policy

by Jonathan Masters
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For most of U.S. history, the vice presidency was an office of little power or prestige. The incumbent’s chief responsibilities were to preside over the Senate, voting only in the case of a tie, and, on the rare occasion, replace a fallen president. By contrast, vice presidents in the twenty-first century are likely to be integral members of an administration, directly involved in shaping policy at home and abroad. Many historians say the office has been elevated to such a status in recent decades, particularly since Walter Mondale in the 1970s, that its occupant now functions more like an “assistant president” or “super advisor.” Some political analysts say recent vice presidents have become too great a power center in the White House.

The vice presidency was largely an afterthought at the Constitutional Convention. The founding fathers only introduced the office because a double ballot system was needed to ensure that a majority candidate emerged from the Electoral College. (Electors were required to cast two votes for president, at least one of which had to be for an out-of-state candidate.) The runner-up became vice president.

America’s Dual Recession


BERKELEY – Americans heading into the fall and the new school year are grappling with interrelated upheavals in health, the economy, family life, and race relations. The COVID-19 crisis is falling hardest on the most vulnerable: people of color, people with disabilities, immigrants, women, the less educated, and other workers trapped in precarious, non-standard, and low-wage jobs without health insurance or benefits. Worse, the jobs susceptible to the pandemic-induced recession overlap with those that will be susceptible to accelerating digitization and automation as the economy recovers.

All of this points to a “dual” recession in which America’s “haves” suffer a much softer blow than its “have-nots.” At the beginning of 2020, workers earning less than the hourly median wage comprised an estimated 44% of all workers, despite record-low unemployment rates and rising wages at the bottom of the income distribution (owing largely to many states’ minimum-wage increases). Low-wage workers are twice as likely as middle- and high-wage workers to have no more than a high school diploma. Around 54% are women and 45% are people of color, who are overrepresented relative to their share of the total workforce.

Russia’s Problems Grow Into Big Trouble, but Putin Remains Aloof

By: Pavel K. Baev

The Russian Security Council held a virtual session last Friday (August 7), and President Vladimir Putin opened with the proposal to discuss the “international situation in general”; if his subordinates had any other business, it could be discussed “in a routine manner” (Kremlin.ru, August 7). This setting of the agenda thus projected the impression that Russia’s ruler sees no serious problems in foreign or domestic affairs and merely wanted his loyal lieutenants to confirm the perfectly smooth start of August, which in Russia often devolves into a month of troubles (Newsru.com, July 5). The content of their presentations was not revealed, but there is no reason to doubt each functionary was eager to say exactly what the boss wanted to hear. Days earlier, Putin’s diffident top subordinate, Dmitry Medvedev, reassured a gathering of young activists that all pressing issues affecting Russia, such as tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan, were under control (Rossiiskaya Gazeta, August 5). The reality, however, is much more disturbing.

The COVID-19 pandemic in Russia continues to spread, and the official data of about 5,500 new infections daily hides the true scale of the disaster. The mortality rate is purportedly quite low, but the demographic statistics show that, in June, the number of excess death reached 25,500 people compared with last year (Kommersant, August 7). Opinion polls show that 66 percent of respondents mistrust the government’s figures, of which 27 percent do not trust them at all; 49 percent worry about catching the coronavirus (Levada.ru, July 31). Restrictions on public gatherings across the country have been relaxed or outright lifted, but Putin continues to take his personal safety extremely seriously: every person is subjected to two weeks in strict quarantine before coming near the president, who prefers to conduct state business from his “bunker” (Nv.ua, July 31).

Soviet Invasion of Manchuria (1945), based on Glantz's maps in Levenworth Paper No 7 - Feb 1983. CC BY-SA 3.0

By Jonathan Power*
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Seventy-five years ago the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima on August 6 and on Nagasaki on August 9 was premeditated mass murder.

President Harry Truman had a workable alternative to using the atom bomb – to cooperate with Stalin, as Roosevelt and Churchill had done on the Western front, in the Soviet advance on Japan, rather than making it a race for control.

Indeed, it was the Soviet advance that convinced Japan to surrender.** Although unaware of each other’s thinking both Truman and the Japanese leadership shared a common cause – they both wanted to pre-empt the possibility of the Soviet Union occupying parts of Japan before the U.S. had got its boots on Japanese ground. Truman did not want to be compelled to concede Soviet participation in the government of post-surrender, occupied, Japan.

But the atom bombing of the two cities was always explained by President Harry Truman as a necessary step that was only taken because there remained no other way of forcing capitulation and saving the lives of hundreds of thousands of American troops. But it is simply not true. A good part of his motivation to use the first nuclear bombs was to pre-empt the Soviet advance.

In the Second Nuclear Age, Information Advantage Defines the Balance of Power

Paul Bracken
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More than a massive nuclear arsenal, says Yale SOM strategy expert Paul Bracken, information technology and shifting alliances drive post-Cold War military advantage in an unpredictable, multipolar world.

In the opening years of the Cold War, the world was one misunderstanding away from a nuclear war. But eventually the United States and the Soviet Union entered arms-control talks and developed a set of shared expectations. The stabilization of the decades-long standoff became possible in part because of the comparative simplicity of a bipolar conflict between two superpowers. 

In the years since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, an era that Yale SOM strategy expert Paul Bracken calls the second nuclear age, the world has become multipolar, with a growing number of nuclear powers, including Pakistan, North Korea, India, and Israel, joining Russia, China, and the United States and its Cold War allies the UK and France. The increasing number of power centers has added significantly to strategic complexity and the danger of conflict, Bracken says. 

The other global power shift

Since 2017, America’s National Security Strategy has focused on great power competition, and today much of Washington is busy portraying our relationship with China as a new cold war.

Obviously, great power competition remains a crucial aspect of foreign policy, but we must not let it obscure the growing transnational security threats that technology is putting on the agenda.

Power transitions among states are familiar in world politics, but the technology-driven shift of power away from states to transnational actors and global forces brings a new and unfamiliar complexity.

Technological change is putting a number of issues – including financial stability, climate change, terrorism, cybercrime, and pandemics – on the global agenda at the same time that it tends to weaken governments’ ability to respond.

The realm of transnational relations outside of government control includes, among others, bankers and criminals electronically transferring funds, terrorists transferring weapons and plans, hackers using social media to disrupt democratic processes, and ecological threats such as pandemics and climate change.

The Strategic Vision Behind the TikTok, WeChat Bans

By Jim Dempsey 

One could be forgiven for looking at the frenzy of administration actions to ban TikTok and WeChat and wondering whether they’re connected to any broader plan. But a statement last week by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo situates the latest moves as part of a comprehensive strategy to purge anything Chinese from the U.S. telecommunications and internet ecosystem and to degrade the attractiveness of Chinese-made communications products and services to overseas buyers as well.

On August 5, Pompeo announced a set of five initiatives:

● Clean Carrier: Ensuring that Chinese carriers are not connected with U.S. telecommunications networks.

● Clean Store: Removing Chinese applications from U.S. mobile app stores.

● Clean Apps: Preventing Chinese smartphone manufacturers from pre-installing U.S. apps or making them available for download on their apps store.

● Clean Cloud: Preventing U.S. data from being stored and processed on cloud-based systems offered by Chinese companies.

● Clean Cable: Ensuring that undersea cables connecting the U.S. to the global internet are not subject to compromise.

Internet or Splinternet? The Consequences of European Tech Sovereignty

Sitting atop resounding commercial success in the domestic as well as the global marketplace, the CEOs of four U.S. digital behemoths appeared last week before the House of Representatives to respond to public and congressional concerns about market domination.

The size and success of these champions, under fire for lack of transparency and anticompetitive practices, have triggered similar, more exaggerated concerns in Europe, which are playing out in a frenzy of proposed rulemaking at both the Commission and member-state level. As Congress probes the market behavior of U.S. digital companies, it is important for U.S. legislators to consider parallel rising pressure for digital and industrial protectionism in Europe, particularly in Germany and France. This flurry of regulatory activity endangers transatlantic data transfers—the lifeblood of many innovative U.S. firms—and will hurt U.S. business success globally while simultaneously distracting both Europe and the United States from the broader threat posed by China’s authoritarian state capitalist system.

Many Europeans are deeply worried about the continent’s ability to compete long term in the global digital economy, given its challenges in developing competitors to the U.S. and Chinese tech giants. Yet European economies have tremendous strengths—highly educated workforces, depth in engineering, advanced technologies, and a leadership role in a host of industries that are rapidly digitizing, such as agriculture, infrastructure, transportation, logistics, manufacturing, and knowledge-intensive services, for example, financial, business, environmental, and engineering services. Constructing new European regulations for the digital era should be guided first by the do no harm warning.