16 September 2020

India’s Path to the Big Leagues

Ashley J. Tellis

Even before the coronavirus pandemic swept through the country, India was at a crossroads. Its sustained economic expansion, accelerated by pathbreaking reforms in 1991, slowed significantly. Convulsions around religion and citizenship roiled domestic politics under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Meanwhile, the aspirations of international leadership that India has harbored since independence remain unrealized.

For all its recent shortcomings, however, India should not be counted out. At a time when China’s myriad pathologies have left many countries thirsting for an alternative exemplar, India could again become the world’s fastest-growing free market democracy. But it will need a new approach to revive its hopes of joining the league of great powers.

India could again become the world’s fastest-growing free market democracy.


India’s economic growth has contracted since 2018, alongside a larger global slowdown driven by falling commodity prices, declining international trade, intensifying U.S.-China tariff wars, and decreasing manufacturing output across the developed world. If these cyclical factors alone accounted for India’s weakening performance, New Delhi could get by on provisional remedies while waiting for global conditions to improve.

The unpalatable reality, however, is that the Indian economy’s structural weaknesses intensified these cyclical headwinds. Investments slowed because heavily indebted Indian companies left India’s major public sector banks saddled with huge nonperforming loans and other Indian financial intermediaries fell victim to bad investments, thus bringing credit expansion to a halt.

The Road to Peace In Afghanistan no Longer Runs Through Pakistan

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Toward the end of August, a delegation from the Afghan Taliban led by the group’s deputy, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, travelled to Islamabad. There, they met with Pakistan’s foreign minister and head of its Inter-Services Intelligence, the military’s intelligence wing. The first gathering, held at Pakistan’s Foreign Office, was meant to give boost to an intra-Afghan negotiation process that has been racked by persistent delays, including over the release of Taliban inmates by Afghan authorities.

Baradar’s meetings seem to have been helpful. A Taliban negotiating team is now in Doha, Qatar, and is set to hold its first direct peace talks with representatives of the Afghan government. But in these talks, the Taliban will be led by Mullah Abdul Hakim, a hardline cleric and the Taliban’s de facto chief justice, and not Baradar, who was central to the Taliban signing a peace deal with the United States back in February. The change is part of a broader trend of Pakistan losing influence over a conflict it was once seen to script.

For years, Islamabad has maintained an uneasy relationship with Baradar, who, now in his fifties, leads the Taliban office—essentially its political arm—from Doha. Before 2018, Baradar spent eight years in Pakistani custody. His eventual release came at the behest of U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who had been tasked with finding a way to get talks between the Taliban and Washington going. Deft maneuvering by both Islamabad and Washington subsequently paved the way for nine rounds of negotiations, culminating in the earlier February deal this year. That first Doha agreement provided for drawing down approximately 7,000 NATO forces in Afghanistan and the lifting of U.S. sanctions on the Taliban this August. But talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government, which were to follow in the summer, have taken longer than expected. The coronavirus—and the public airing of internal political disagreements between Afghanistan’s political powerbrokers—have led to worries that Kabul may not have what it takes to strike, let alone sustain, a provisional power-sharing deal with the Taliban.

Al Qaeda’s Leader Is Old, Bumbling—and a Terrorist Mastermind

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Nineteen years after 9/11, al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri has yet to achieve the household notoriety evoked by his immediate predecessor, Osama bin Laden. In part that’s because the United States hasn’t cared enough to focus attention on him. Aside from massive financial overtures for intelligence on his whereabouts—there’s currently a $25 million bounty offered for his head, higher than the reward for any other terrorist in the world—the U.S. government has been relatively blasé about al Qaeda since Zawahiri took over in 2011. Some terrorism analysts even claim a living Zawahiri has done more harm to al Qaeda than a dead one ever could.

But that conclusion doesn’t square with the recent trajectory of the group. While al Qaeda has not been able to replicate an assault like 9/11, that’s also a naive metric of success. Al Qaeda maintains affiliates in regions across Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. And though he’s conjured less of a personality cult, al Qaeda’s current leader is just as dangerous to the United States as its old one.

Al Qaeda’s current leader is just as dangerous to the United States as its old one.

The Hard Truths About 9/11’s Aftermath and America’s Legacy in Afghanistan

Candace Rondeaux 

In the 19 years that have passed since I watched the twin towers of the World Trade Center collapse, not a single moment of that day has faded from memory. It was my second day on the job as a cub reporter for the New York Daily News, and I am still a bit embarrassed to admit I was running a little late that morning. I had stopped at the elementary school polling station near my apartment in Queens to cast my vote in the mayoral primaries at around 9 a.m. A few minutes later, as I hustled to catch the Manhattan-bound F train, my favorite deli guy—the same one who gave me a free cup of coffee and a bagel, two years earlier, when I had excitedly told him I’d won a scholarship to go to journalism school—asked if I had heard about a plane crashing into one of the towers. “You better get a move on,” he said.

Dumbstruck, I remember running down the stairs to catch the next train—and then the eerie silence when it pulled up to Rockefeller Center in Midtown and the conductor told us all to get off. Upstairs, at the corner of 6th Avenue and 47th Street, the siren red Fox News ticker blared: “New York and Washington Under Attack!” All of Manhattan at that moment seemed to be looking up and south. A girl in a phone booth I ran past was crying. Tears streaking her cheeks, she screamed into the receiver, “Oh my God. I think mommy is in there! She’s working today.” ...

The Controversies and Security Concerns Surrounding TikTok

By: David Volodzko


In July, the music and lip-syncing short-video app TikTok (蒂克托克, DikeTuoke)—popularly used by dancers, singers, magicians and fashion bloggers—became another point of tension in the growing conflict between the United States and the People’s Republic of China (PRC). On July 31, U.S. President Donald Trump told reporters that he planned to ban TikTok in the United States. Microsoft immediately suspended talks to buy TikTok’s U.S. operations, but resumed talks days later, after Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella reportedly spoke to the U.S. President and agreed to close a deal by September 15 (Microsoft, August 2).

The PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs has accused the United States of threatening TikTok without evidence, and the Chinese government will no doubt retaliate. Beijing’s general response to such actions has been quid pro quo: for example, it closed the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu following the closure of the PRC Consulate in Houston, and it revoked press passes for journalists representing several U.S.-based news outlets after the U.S. State Department designated five Chinese state-run media outlets as units of the Chinese government (U.S. State Department, February 18; PRC Foreign Ministry, March 18; PRC Foreign Ministry, July 30).

On August 3, Hu Xijin (胡锡进), the editor-in-chief of the PRC state-run Global Times, called the potential purchase “open robbery” (Twitter, August 3). On the same day, the English-language press outlet China Daily, which is owned by the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Propaganda Department (中宣部, Zhongxuanbu), stated in an editorial that efforts to pressure TikTok into a purchase by Microsoft “were tantamount to inviting potential U.S. purchasers to participate in an officially sanctioned ‘steal’ of Chinese technology,” and vowed that “China will by no means accept the ‘theft’ of a Chinese technology company, and it has plenty of ways to respond if the administration carries out its planned smash and grab” (China Daily, August 3).

The climate risks of China’s Belt and Road Initiative

By Sagatom Saha

China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is not the green project that Beijing claims it is. Leading up to the first BRI forum in May 2017, the Chinese government published official documents declaring BRI would promote the Paris Agreement and UN Sustainable Development Goals (Chen 2019). At the forum itself, Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping advertised BRI as a “vision of green development and a way of life and work that is green, low-carbon, circular, and sustainable” (Xinhua 2017). BRI, which promises sustainable development for all participating countries, hinges on the truth of this premise. General Secretary Xi accrued significant international support and global participation for BRI with this claim. China established the International Green Development Coalition on the Belt and Road in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme, increasing BRI’s international legitimacy (Liqiang 2019).

However, evidence abounds of the environmental harm the Chinese government wreaks beyond its borders. China has long been the world’s largest exporter of coal power equipment, exporting twice as much as Japan, its nearest competitor (United Nations 2020). Chinese banks are financing more than 70 percent of all coal plants outside of China, with Chinese firms constructing many of them, including in countries like Egypt and Pakistan that previously burned little to no coal (Quartz 2019). At current rates, Chinese coal equipment exports and financing make it virtually impossible to limit global warming to safe levels, which would require retiring one coal plant per day globally (Hilton 2019). BRI’s environmental damage is not limited to the energy sector. Transportation infrastructure, mining, and land reclamation for mega-cities carry their own environmental and climate risks that are harder to

China Is Hostage to a Rules-Based Multilateral System


The broad campaign attacking China during a U.S. presidential contest, launched by the administration of President Donald Trump, has traction because of widespread popular support in the United States for disengaging with China. This has fostered a competition between Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden about who would be tougher in dealing with Beijing.

Disengagement, however, is not a realistic option—the costs are simply too great for both sides. But the path to better outcomes is exceptionally narrow, as the required compromises go against the instincts of both countries’ current leaders. The United States would have to concede that China’s rise necessitates a fundamental reset in great power relations, and China would need to moderate its behavior and ambitions.

From the U.S. side, any such reset will likely have to await the outcome of the elections, given the Trump administration’s reported intention “to leave a lasting legacy of ruptured ties between the two powers,” as the New York Times summarizes. Meanwhile, a change in Beijing’s trajectory would require Chinese President Xi Jinping to rethink whether he has overreached in his vision for China. If there is a basis for forging a more constructive relationship, it will likely come from China’s dependency on a rules-based multilateral system to become a more prosperous and innovative great power. By recognizing China’s needs, the United States can forge a new strategy of engagement that would benefit both nations.

The Strategic Implications of Chinese UAVs: Insights from the Libyan Conflict

By: Ryan Oliver


In recent years, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has emerged as a leading producer of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) platforms for both commercial and military use, and its technologies are being used in unprecedented ways. For example, as the COVID-19 pandemic began to unfold in the early months of this year (China Brief, January 17; China Brief, January 29), UAVs started to appear in the skies across China. Public officials employed these UAVs to monitor the population, and to enforce restrictions (such as mandatory wearing of masks) intended to slow the spread of COVID-19 (Global Times, January 31). UAVs have also been used to monitor water levels and property damage amid the severe flooding that China has experienced this summer (China Brief, July 29; CGTN, August 15). Such innovative—if sometimes controversial—practices reflect China’s growing capabilities in the field of UAV technology.

Beyond its domestic employment of commercial UAVs, the PRC has also made rapid progress in the development and sale of military UAVs, which are increasingly prevalent in contemporary conflicts. China’s growth in this field reflects comments made by President Xi Jinping in 2016, when he emphasized that UAVs are a critical element of combat on the modern battlefield (PRC Defense Ministry, March 14, 2016). Chinese UAVs, such as the CH-5 Rainbow (彩虹-5, Cai Hong-5), reportedly operate at relatively low altitudes with more modest payloads than comparable U.S. systems. Newer UAVs in development, such as the forthcoming Wind Shadow (风影, Feng Ying), aim to expand the capabilities of China’s indigenous systems (Janes, August 4).

Sterilizations, IUDs, and Mandatory Birth Control: The CCP’s Campaign to Suppress Uyghur Birthrates in Xinjiang

Dr. Adrian Zenz is one of the world’s leading scholars on People’s Republic of China (PRC) government policies towards the country’s western regions of Tibet and Xinjiang. Research performed by Dr. Zenz in 2017-2018 played a significant role in bringing to light the Chinese government’s campaign of repression and mass internment directed against ethnic Uyghur persons in Xinjiang (China Brief, September 21, 2017; China Brief, May 15, 2018; China Brief, November 5, 2018). Dr. Zenz has also testified before the U.S. Congress about state exploitation of the labor of incarcerated Uyghur persons (CECC, October 17, 2019), and was the author earlier this year of an in-depth analysis of the “Karakax List,” a leaked PRC government document relating to repressive practices directed against religious practice among Uyghur Muslims (Journal of Political Risk, February 17, 2020).

In this special Jamestown Foundation report, Dr. Zenz presents detailed analysis of another troubling aspect of state policy in Xinjiang: measures to forcibly suppress birthrates among ethnic Uyghur communities, to include the mass application of mandatory birth control and sterilizations. This policy, directed by the authorities of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP), is intended to reduce the Uyghur population in Xinjiang relative to the numbers of ethnic Han Chinese—and thereby to promote more rapid Uyghur assimilation into the “Chinese Nation-Race” (中华民族, Zhonghua Minzu), a priority goal of national-level ethnic policy under CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping.

Based on research in original Chinese-language source materials, Dr. Zenz presents a compelling case that the CCP party-state apparatus in Xinjiang is engaged in severe human rights violations that meet the criteria for genocide as defined by the U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

The Long Shadow of Xinjiang

By Nithin Coca

For years, evidence has accumulated of Chinese atrocities against minority groups in Xinjiang, the northwestern province that is home to the mostly Muslim Uighur people. Investigative journalists, researchers, and refugees paint a grim picture of mass surveillance, arbitrary arrest, forced labor, sprawling detention camps, torture, and murder. The Chinese government has not only engaged in political and cultural repression but taken specific aim at the Muslim faith: it has destroyed mosques, confiscated Korans, forbidden halal diets, and banned fasting during the holy month of Ramadan.

And yet the countries and entities that regularly criticize Israel, Myanmar, the United States, and other nations for their actions against Muslims have kept quiet about China’s treatment of the Uighurs. The governments of Muslim-majority states, Muslim religious leaders, and international institutions such as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation have avoided calling out the litany of abuses in Xinjiang. Some have accepted Chinese funds in support of infrastructure projects and even signed on to letters supporting China’s behavior in Xinjiang.

Civil society groups in Muslim-majority countries, however, are increasingly uncomfortable with their governments’ reticence. Activists are organizing boycotts, protests, and media campaigns in a bid to bring the plight of the Uighurs to broader attention. Their efforts are slowly shifting the behavior of their governments: Chinese investment and political influence may prevent many leaders from openly criticizing China, but opposition figures and officials at lower levels of government have begun to speak out in response to pressure from below.

Kevin Rudd on ‘an Infinitely More Assertive China’ Under Xi Jinping

“What we’ve seen is an infinitely more assertive China,” says Kevin Rudd, president of the Asia Society Policy Institute and former prime minister of Australia, in assessing the country’s evolution under Xi Jinping. As a result, Mr. Rudd is not surprised by how rapidly the consensus view of China has shifted, with strategic competition having replaced win-win cooperation as the buzzword in the capitals of Western and Asian democracies.

“The principle dynamic here has been China’s changing course itself,” he says, as well as China’s emergence as a global power. “We have a new guy in charge who has decided to be more assertive about China’s interests and values in the world beyond China’s borders. And secondly, a more powerful China capable of giving that effect.”

A highly regarded observer and analyst of China’s domestic politics and foreign policy, Mr. Rudd spoke with WPR editor-in-chief Judah Grunstein about the challenge China poses to the West, the impact and implications of Xi Jinping’s rule, and the future prospects of both China’s rise and America’s global leadership role.Listen to the full interview with Mr. Rudd on the Trend Lines podcast.

Disney’s ‘Mulan’ Disaster Highlights Dangers of China Deals

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Disney’s Mulan has had a cursed run. First came the comments of its star Li Yu, who praised Hong Kong’s police amid the city’s pro-democracy demonstrations, causing outrage in the city. Then there was the pandemic, pushing back the film’s release date and leaving it stuck as an expensive add-on for home screening. When the movie was finally available, it turned out that its credits thanked the Chinese authorities in Xinjiang, where a few of the outdoor shots were filmed. Unfortunately, those authorities are also active participants in an ongoing genocide.

Then came the coldest blow. China, Disney’s last, best hope to turn the movie into a hit, silenced all coverage of the film on the mainland a couple of days before its release. All Disney’s pandering to Chinese authorities meant nothing as soon as there was a whiff of political trouble. With the movie already rated a grim 4.7 out of 10 on Douban, the most popular Chinese film review site, the chance of a word-of-mouth hit was small.

How Is the SCO’s ‘Shanghai Spirit’ Faring in 2020?

By Catherine Putz

Foreign ministers from across the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) are in Moscow this week for meetings. The organization’s headline yearly summit, the gathering of the heads of states, was originally planned for July 21-23 and was postponed along with the BRICS summit earlier this year. Those meetings have yet to be rescheduled.

Russia, which holds the SCO’s rotating presidency for 2019-2020, managed to gather the foreign ministers in Moscow despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. With Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov playing host, the attendees included Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Wi, Kazakh Foreign Minister Mukhtar Tleuberdi, Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Chingiz Aidarbekov, Tajik Foreign Minister Sirodjidin Aslov, Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov, Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar, and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, as well as the SCO’s Secretary General Vladimir Norov and others.

Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke to the group via videolink. 

10 Ways Trump Is Becoming a Dictator, Election Edition

By Stephen M. Walt

Even before U.S. President Donald Trump took the oath of office in 2017, serious observers were worried about the fragility of the United States’ democratic order and Trump’s all-too-obvious dictatorial proclivities.

It was partly his evident narcissism and contempt for the truth, but also his willingness to run roughshod over long-standing norms, his long record of fraud and shady business dealings, and his evident admiration for dictators in other countries. Trump’s arrival helped make books such as How Democracies Die and On Tyranny bestsellers, while journalists and political scientists (including yours truly) began compiling lists of “warning signs” of creeping authoritarianism.

Looking back, I was too optimistic. I was pretty sure Trump would be terrible at managing both domestic and foreign policy—and on that score I was correct—but I believed his age, short attention span, lack of knowledge, and other liabilities would limit his ability to consolidate power. Unlike some optimists, I didn’t expect him to grow into the responsibilities of the office, but I believed the system of checks and balances built into our constitutional order would rein him in sufficiently to protect the core features of U.S. democracy. How wrong I was.

No Gas, No War in the Mediterranean

By Paul Hockenos

In the Eastern Mediterranean, Greece, Cyprus, and Turkey are in the midst of a bitter joust, on the precipice of violence, over rights to drill for natural gas. That’s despite the fact that gas is a fossil fuel that is neither environmentally sustainable nor a lucrative business proposition for the region. The parties involved can kill two birds with one stone by calling a moratorium on the exploitation of new hydrocarbon reserves in the Hellenic Trench, where the gas fields lie. This would eradicate the source of conflict as well as serve Europe’s long-term goal to rein in greenhouse gas emissions.

The notion of a drilling ban—which could begin with a two-year moratorium on all undersea energy exploration—isn’t sheer fancy, as much of the Western and Central Mediterranean is already off limits to gas and oil exploration, on diverse environmental grounds. In the Aegean, most hydrocarbon exploration has been prohibited in the sea shared by Greece and Turkey since 1976.

Foremost, new gas and oil production undermines the aims of the United Nations’ Paris climate treaty to curb global warming by 2050; and it also poses an immediate threat to the sea’s highly sensitive marine environment. Moreover, the economic prospects of deep-water natural gas are extremely poor, even if gas bounces back from the dizzying price collapse prompted by the coronavirus pandemic. Should drilling ever really happen in the Hellenic Trench—a 400-mile-long, 17,000-foot-deep marine canyon that stretches from northwestern Greece to southernmost Turkey—the area would surely become the burial site of billions in stranded assets, say experts.

The Genetic Engineering Genie Is Out of the Bottle


Usually good for a conspiracy theory or two, U.S. President Donald Trump has suggested that the virus causing COVID-19 was either intentionally engineered or resulted from a lab accident at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China. Its release could conceivably have involved an accident, but the pathogen isn’t the mishmash of known viruses that one would expect from something designed in a lab, as a research report in Nature Medicine conclusively lays out. “If someone were seeking to engineer a new coronavirus as a pathogen, they would have constructed it from the backbone of a virus known to cause illness,” the researchers said.

But if genetic engineering wasn’t behind this pandemic, it could very well unleash the next one. With COVID-19 bringing Western economies to their knees, all the world’s dictators now know that pathogens can be as destructive as nuclear missiles. What’s even more worrying is that it no longer takes a sprawling government lab to engineer a virus. Thanks to a technological revolution in genetic engineering, all the tools needed to create a virus have become so cheap, simple, and readily available that any rogue scientist or college-age biohacker can use them, creating an even greater threat. Experiments that could once only have been carried out behind the protected walls of government and corporate labs can now practically be done on the kitchen table with equipment found on Amazon. Genetic engineering—with all its potential for good and bad—has become democratized.
One technology in particular makes it almost as easy to engineer life forms as it is to edit Microsoft Word documents.

3,000 Dead on 9/11 Meant Everything. 200,000 Dead of Covid-19 Means Nothing. Here’s Why.

Jon Schwarz

LOTS OF PEOPLE have ridiculed President Donald Trump for telling journalist Bob Woodward that he “wanted to always play [Covid-19] down … because I don’t want to create a panic.” That’s hilarious, because Trump obviously loves creating panics — about Mexican immigrants, antifa, single-family zoning, and, scariest of all, low-flow toilets.

But Trump was, as he often does, telling us by accident something profound about American politics.

Nineteen years ago today, a group of men from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates hijacked four passenger jets. They successfully flew three of them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. All in all, they murdered 2,977 people in one day.

By March 19, the day Trump explained his reasoning to Woodward, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had already predicted that the coronavirus would kill hundreds of thousands of Americans and possibly as many as 1.7 million.

In the first situation, George W. Bush, then the president of the United States, actively fomented panic. Americans could not sleep safely in their beds unless we invaded Afghanistan. The FBI should be able to obtain the bank records or internet activity of citizens anytime it wanted without a warrant. Saddam Hussein was hiding anthrax in his mustache.

Europe’s Global Test

Rosa Balfour

It took a virus to bring Europe out of its recent interregnum—a time when, as Antonio Gramsci wrote in his Prison Notebooks, “the old is dying and the new cannot be born.” Post–Cold War optimism had led to a major step toward political unity in the 1992 Treaty on European Union. But the EU, unable to continue reforming, was then haunted by unfinished business throughout the crisis-ridden 2010s. It was left brittle, lame of mission, and bereft of the United Kingdom.

After the coronavirus pandemic, the continent will be different. Global instability will force Europeans to find comfort in the relative resilience of their own system, bolstered by a coronavirus recovery plan approved in late July 2020. The EU can seek opportunities from the freefall of global leadership to find new allies and a different space in the world.

But rhetoric about a “Hamiltonian moment” is misleading: European integration is not following the linear trajectory imagined by its founding fathers to become the United States of Europe. EU leaders bounced back during their summer 2020 marathon summit, but the hard-fought negotiations revealed persistent fractures. Still, the first steps toward transformation were taken.

Europe’s success will depend on its ability to reinvent its democratic processes and renew its engagement in the world.

Europe will be hard-nosed in countering its economic recession, exploiting domestic and international opportunities. In the long term, Europe’s success will depend on its ability to reinvent its democratic processes and renew its engagement in the world.

The Lost Generation in American Foreign Policy

by James Dobbins, Gabrielle Tarini, Ali Wyne

The authors trace the decline of U.S. international influence over the past two decades, explore reasons for this decline, and suggest ways in which it might be reversed. They conclude that post–Cold War unipolarity bred hubris that, when provoked by the attacks of September 11, 2001, resulted in overreach and consequent setbacks. These, in turn, led to geopolitical retrenchment. The 2008 Great Recession fed U.S. disenchantment with international economic policies that produced national and global growth but failed to raise living standards for many Americans. To regain the willing collaboration of international partners, U.S. leaders will need to once again align American interests with those of the rest of the world, practice competent statecraft, adopt prudent policies, pursue realistically achievable objectives, and demonstrate continuity of policy across successive administrations.

Russia’s Western High Command and the Role of Belarus in Russian Strategic Planning

By: Nicholas J. Myers

Executive Summary

Russia’s last friend on its border with Europe, Belarus acquired new significance for Russian strategy after the emergence of an anti-Russian regime in Kyiv in 2014. However, Moscow takes little interest in Minsk’s policies even as Russia’s Western High Command relies upon Belarusian cooperation in its contingency planning for conflict in continental Europe. Analysis of Russian military exercises and diplomatic patterns since 2017 shows how the Western High Command is thinking about future war with NATO in each of its three strategic directions.

In the northwestern direction—encompassing the Baltic States and coastal Poland—a compliant Belarus plays into the Russian high command’s planning as a staging area from which to take control of east-west rail links to isolated Kaliningrad Oblast. In the western strategic direction, mainly targeting Poland, Russian radars on Belarusian soil and Belarusian air-defense assets as well as Belarusian forces may be expected to defend supply lines through Belarus during a broader Russia-NATO confrontation. Losing Belarus would significantly impact Russian power projection, removing Warsaw from the reach of Russian ground forces without committing virtually its entire armed forces to the task. Belarus appears to play the most indirect role in the southwestern direction, covering Ukraine: mainly serving for Moscow’s war planners as a Russian salient, complicating European military support for Ukraine in wartime conditions given the presence of CSTO air-defense assets in Belarus. At the same time, if Russian land forces are able to use Belarus as a staging ground for escalated conflict with Ukraine or simply threaten to do so, this would force Kyiv to withdraw its military front line significantly further westward, leaving the capital region significantly more vulnerable.

A Problem for Putin: Belarus Is Not Ukraine Either Now or If Moscow Annexes It

By: Paul Goble

Belarus is not Ukraine either now or should Moscow try to annex it, Russian analysts are warning. It is far more integrated as a society than Ukraine is, with far fewer regional, linguistic or even religious divisions than exist in Ukraine; and it is far more European because so many of its people have visited Poland and other neighbors or even gone there to work for a time. As a result, Moscow has little hope of repeating the strategy it used in Ukraine to play one region or linguistic group against another (see EDM, August 13; Krizis-Kopilka, September 9; Sovershenno Sekretno, August 30).

That argument accounts for much of the Kremlin’s present halting approach toward Belarus, where it has not been able to use the playbook Vladimir Putin employed in Georgia in 2008 or in Ukraine since 2014. And it also helps to explain why a growing number of Russians fear that while Moscow could annex part of Ukraine more or less successfully, it would face disaster if it sought to annex Belarus as a whole. In that event, Belarusians within Russia would link up with anti-Moscow protests like those in Khabarovsk, change the demographic balance in the Russian Federation, and confront the Kremlin with a challenge the latter would find difficult if not impossible to deflect.

Belarus is far more homogeneous ethnically and linguistically than is Ukraine. One-fifth the size of the Ukrainian nation, Belarusians are far less divided by language than Ukrainians are. Most speak Russian but do not see speaking Belarusian as a problem; whereas in Ukraine, language remains a divisive issue that splits the country regionally, with western Ukraine overwhelmingly Ukrainian-speaking and people in the east, including the occupied territories of Donbas and Crimea, predominantly speaking Russian. Those linguistic divisions reinforce cultural differences, given that the western Ukrainians look back to their historical legacy as part of Austria-Hungary while the eastern Ukrainians more often look to the Russian state. Moreover, the regional borders within Ukraine in many cases follow these divisions, unlike in Belarus. Not surprisingly, Moscow exploited such cleavages in Ukraine in 2014 and continues to do so now.

Biden’s Domestic Priorities Should Guide His Foreign Policy

By Robert B. Zoellick
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If Joe Biden wins the presidency in November, his foreign policy team will present him with a staggering to-do list. Given his significant international experience, the former vice president will be tempted to dive in. But he should pause to consider his priorities.

Biden will face vast demands at home. COVID-19 will continue to endanger American lives and livelihoods and spotlight inequities in the nation’s health-care system. The new president will need to direct an inclusive economic recovery. He will face frustrations over racism and criminal justice. Democratic constituencies will demand action on climate change, the environment, energy, and immigration.

Biden’s staff will want to rely on his skills as a dealmaking legislator—no president since Lyndon Johnson has had his experience working in and with Congress—even as he faces a diverse and impatient caucus. Biden will understand that he needs to demonstrate effectiveness, not just stand for causes, because many Americans will have voted against President Donald Trump, not necessarily for Biden’s program. He and his inner circle know the experience of newly elected Democratic presidents who have taken power along with a Democratic-controlled Congress after an era of Republican rule: Presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter all faced high expectations and then suffered midterm defeats after two years. A wise White House will set priorities and pursue specific accomplishments.

Rapidly Evolving Missile Threats Require Modern, Multilateral Approaches

By Izumi Nakamitsu

At the same time that the bilateral legal regime on missiles is crumbling, more states are acquiring missiles, for more reasons. More states in Asia than in any other region have deployed or flight-tested ballistic missiles capable of reaching intercontinental ranges. The increasing interest in hypersonic weapons may create new demand for medium and intermediate-range missiles. Shorter-range ballistic missiles continue to be actively acquired, both as nuclear-weapon delivery systems and as conventionally armed strike weapons.

Chief among the changes in recent decades is the development of new missile technologies. The prevailing absence of constraints has enabled and even driven governments to counter the defenses of other countries by developing maneuverable re-entry vehicles, jamming devices, advanced cruise missiles and hypersonic weapons. 

The implications of new missile technologies extend beyond strategic competition between states, however, they also endanger international stability and civilian life.

Foreign Technological Interests Increasingly Threaten U.S. Security

By James Stavridis and Frances Townsend

As the battle for global tech dominance intensifies, so too does the threat to America’s national security interests.

For years, the United States has experienced a collective assault on its technological edge from other countries. Companies, many of which are state-sponsored, have significantly increased the number of resources they invest in research and innovation with an eye toward usurping America's position as the world's leader in the high-tech space. China, for example, has been particularly aggressive in its investment in developing new technologies and, according to a report from the Council on Foreign Relations, will likely lead the world in R&D spending by the next decade.

It is undeniably dangerous for the U.S. to fall behind our potential adversaries in this space. Deterring growing threats from nations such as Russia, China, Iran, and others will depend on America's ability to rapidly advance in the spheres of artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, robotics, and big data. To do this, we must keep our internet open and accessible, protect U.S. intellectual property to promote innovation in the private sector and avoid adopting policies that harm American tech companies' global competitiveness. We must also simultaneously adopt smart policies that make it easier for the Department of Defense and intelligence community to acquire advanced technologies developed by the private sector.

The dawn of military 3D printing

J.R. Wilson

In some ways reminiscent of Star Trek’s replicators, 3D printers seem to create something out of nothing, shaping a powdered construction material into whatever object the user needs. The possible applications keep growing as new materials, beyond plastics, become available for ever-larger 3D printers.

Although the technology is still in its early stages of development as something beyond its early years as a curiosity, it already is being used in aerospace and defense, primarily for prototyping under the term “additive manufacturing,” but also for the temporary replacement of non-critical parts as 3D printing. According to GE Additive in Auburn, Ga., those are two of the pioneering sectors for additive manufacturing.

“These sectors are characterized by small batch sizes and manufacturer-specific adaptations. At the same time, these products are renowned for having very longNavy Petty Officer 3rd Class Daniel Pastor examines a 3-D printer during a 3-D design and production course at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., to service members how to design and print objects and parts that can help the fleet. life cycles, and extremely high safety requirements. High levels of thermal or mechanical loading, especially during take-off and landing or if there is air turbulence, are one of the special features of the requirements profiles for most components,” according to the company.