27 September 2020

Linkages between the Indian Innovation System and MNE R&D Centers in India

Ajinkya Shrish Kamat, Ambuj D. Sagar, Venkatesh "Venky" Narayanamurti 


The rise of developing economies (such as India and China) as new knowledge powers is reshaping the global innovation landscape. In a related vein, R&D has been increasingly globalizing beyond the triad region, multinational enterprises (MNEs) being the primary drivers of this shift, with India and China again emerging as prominent destinations for these transnational R&D activities. This article explores, through an analysis of scholarly and gray literature, along with semi-structured interviews of researchers and research managers in India, the landscape and dynamics of a broad range of linkages between MNE R&D centers in India and Indian higher education and research institutes, businesses, startups, and policy makers. We also focus on understanding how these linkages influence the technology innovation capabilities across the Indian innovation system. We then suggest key lessons and opportunities for Indian policy makers, university administrators, and MNEs, to expand and deepen the linkages and strengthen these capabilities.


Sino-Indian Himalayan Misadventures: What Now for Regional Geopolitics?

Nazia Hussain

TENSIONS ALONG the disputed Sino-Indian border have flared yet again, following a brief hiatus after one of the deadliest border clashes earlier this year in the Galwan Valley — an area between Indian-controlled Ladakh and Chinese-controlled Aksai Chin. At least 20 Indian soldiers were killed while Beijing has declined to confirm casualties on its side.

Despite five rounds of Corps Commander-level talks since the Galwan Valley clashes in June to discuss disengagement between the two armies along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), both Beijing and New Delhi have instead sent reinforcements to the area. With a high-altitude volatile and increasingly militarised border, it therefore came as no surprise when recent reports emerged of a fresh row between the nuclear-armed neighbours accusing each other of trying to seize territory across the disputed Himalayan border.

Fresh Spate of High-altitude Tension

The latest stand-off took place in the south bank of the Pangong Tso — a glacier lake that stretches from Tibet to Ladakh. An Indian army statement alleged that China had carried out “provocative military movements” in the border area and Indian troops pre-empted PLA activity on the Pangong Tso Lake.

Rejecting the accusations, China’s PLA regional command alleged that India was “seriously violating China’s territorial sovereignty”. Relations further deteriorated as the two countries contended that shots had been fired by the other side along the disputed border for the first time in 45 years, violating a 1996 no-fire agreement.

Aligning India’s Data Governance Frameworks



 India’s digital economy has changed dramatically since it undertook its last major legislative overhaul in 2008 with amendments to the Information Technology Act. Mobile devices, social media, and e-commerce are now ascendant. From a truly big-picture perspective, India’s digital economy can be characterized by these headline features: 

•Indian companies and startups compete alongside US, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and other companies—making India distinct as one of the world’s most diverse, large-scale digital economies.

 •India’s dynamic and vibrant digital economy hosts nearly half a billion citizens. This figure is set to reach 840 million by 2022 as a dizzying array of apps, services, and devices vie for Indians’ attention and wallets.1

 • For the first time ever, there are more rural Indians online than urban Indians.2 That is an indicator of the rapid growth in India’s digital ecosystem, but also of the potential of a new community with profoundly different life experiences and needs than early internet adopters. 

• Nearly half a billion Indians have yet to come online.3 Integrating them into the digital economy is a profound challenge for policy makers, but also a

Two Parties Too Wary for Peace? Central questions for talks with the Taleban in Doha

Christine Roehrs • Ali Yawar Adili • Sayed Asadullah Sadat

Saturday September 12 marks the start of the long-awaited peace talks in Doha, Qatar. The Taleban confirmed their presence, saying that “the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan would like to declare its readiness to partake in the inauguration ceremony of Intra-Afghan Negotiations.” The Palace in Kabul announced their representatives at the ceremony would be: the head of the High Council for National Reconciliation, Abdullah Abdullah; Acting Foreign Minister Muhammad Hanif Atmar; President Ghani’s Special Representative on Peace Affairs, Abdul Salam Rahimi and; Peace Minister Sayed Sadat Mansur Naderi. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will attend the opening ceremony as well (his statement is here). 

The talks were supposed to have started several times since the US-Taleban agreement was signed on 29 February. Six months have passed since the first date was set for 10 March, with both the Taleban and the Afghan government accusing each other of delaying the process. The main obstacle was over prisoner release (5,000 Taleban prisoners in exchange for 1,000 prisoners held by the Taleban). The last batch of 400 fighters (deemed especially dangerous by the government) held things up, as did the slow establishment of a central body of the government’s peace architecture, the High Council for National Reconciliation (see a recent AAN analysis here). The first session is expected to be “an icebreaker,” according to sources in Kabul. A contact close to the Taleban in Doha said they expected the meeting to “set conditions and procedures for the next ones.” 

Time to look at a few central questions regarding the process ahead. 

From Blind Reliance to Contractual Convenience: The Recent Pakistani-Saudi Rift

Arhama Siddiqa

One of the most talked about things from Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman’s visit to Pakistan in early 2019 was when, with the aim of inspiriting brotherly ties between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, he stated, “Consider me Pakistan’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia.”(1).

This proclamation was however brought to bear on 5 August 2020.

In a televised discussion on this date, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, inveighed against, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) lackluster response to the Indian brutalities being carried out in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IoK). Exactly a year prior to this interview, India had abrogated articles 370 and 35 A of its constitution, thereby revoking IoK’s autonomy. During the same conversation, Qureshi stated that if, the OIC failed to “convene the meeting of the council of foreign ministers” (2) soon, Pakistan would be predisposed to turn towards countries which are willing to unhesitatingly stand against the sufferings of the Kashmiri people.

Here, it is important to point out last year’s Kuala Lumpur summit which was co-hosted by Malaysia, Turkey and Iran. The aim was to find plausible solutions to the perplexities facing Muslims today. However, the summit was perceived as an affront and a direct challenge to the OIC. Due to Saudi pressure, Pakistan had to cancel its representation at the meeting at the eleventh hour. (3)

No New Cold War: Why US-China Strategic Competition will not be like the US-Soviet Cold War

Thomas J. Christensen 


China’s central position in a globalized transnational production chain that includes many US allies and the absence of an active struggle for ideological supremacy between Chinese authoritarianism and liberal democracy both mean that we are unlikely to see the rise of globally opposed alliance systems as we did in the Cold War. Especially given China’s continued weakness in military power projection compared to the United States and its global alliance system, without China actively sparking or joining an ideological struggle between authoritarianism and democracy in far-flung sections of the world, we should not see something akin to the global US-USSR Cold War. For the foreseeable future, barring a massive escalation of tensions on the Korean peninsula, the US-China strategic competition will likely continue to take place at sea and in the air, not on land. As Tunsjo argues, domination or total control of the sea is difficult at best, and early, offensive action or sharp escalation in areas with unpopulated reefs and rocks provides little strategic advantage to the aggressor. Therefore, crises over these disputes should be manageable even as they become more frequent, as Tunsjo argues.

US-China phase one tracker: China’s purchases of US goods

Chad P. Bown 

This PIIE Chart, originally published on May 18, 2020, tracks China’s monthly purchases of US goods covered by the phase one deal between the United States and China.

Hexuan Li provided outstanding data assistance, and William Melancon and Oliver Ward assisted with graphics.

On February 14, 2020, the Economic and Trade Agreement Between the United States of America and the People’s Republic Of China: Phase One went into effect. China agreed to expand purchases of certain US goods and services by a combined $200 billion over 2020 and 2021 from 2017 levels. This PIIE Chart tracks China’s monthly purchases of US goods covered by the deal, relying on data from both Chinese customs (China’s imports) and the US Census Bureau (US exports). It then compares those purchases with the legal agreement’s annual targets, prorated on a monthly basis, above two baseline scenarios (see methodology below). As set out in the legal agreement, one 2017 baseline scenario allows for use of US export statistics and the other allows for Chinese import statistics. Note that prorating the 2020 year-end targets to a monthly basis is for illustrative purposes only. Nothing in the text of the agreement indicates China must meet anything other than the year-end targets.

China’s BRI: The Security Dimension

David Gordon, Haoyu Tong, Tabatha Anderson

The report explores the risks in operating across environments fraught with political, economic and social instability. Beyond this, it delves into the actual and potential challenges that the BRI faces from Islamic extremism and terrorism. The report also assesses the ways in which the Maritime Silk Road (MSR) fits into China’s growing strategic interests in Southeast Asia, and the development of the Digital Silk Road (DSR) at the forefront of the technological and geopolitical competition between China and the United States. Finally, the report explores the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as a case study of the security risks and governance challenges present in what is probably the single most important country-wide BRI endeavour. 

In their examination of the security aspect of the BRI, the authors find that:

The BRI’s westward and southward expansion into environments marked by limited governmental capacity, corruption and weak institutions creates a set of risks and difficult policy dilemmas that Beijing must consider for the current and future viability of the initiative.

By the nature of their cooperation with local regimes, BRI stakeholders and their assets may inadvertently become targets for discontent among disenfranchised and vulnerable populations with long-standing grievances.

In certain environments where terrorism and extremist groups operate, BRI projects face a heightened risk to their security given China’s internal discriminatory behaviour towards its religious and ethnic minorities.

China’s Three Gorges Dam a military target in war with Taiwan and India?

Dr Christina Lin


In the face of a recent uptick in Chinese sabre rattling against Taiwan and India, the topic of the Three Gorges Dam as a military target has come to the fore. Taiwan defence planners have long discussed bombing the dam in the case of a Chinese invasion of the island, and with concurrent deterioration in Sino-Indian relations over border skirmishes, there is increased risk the dam could be in the crosshair that would devastate China’s population as well as its reserve military forces downstream.


This past week there has been an uptick of Chinese fighter jets violating Taiwan airspace.1 Multiple Chinese Su-30 and J-10 fighters had entered Taiwan’s “response zone” to its southwest, prompting the island’s defence ministry to condemn this “destabilizing action which threatened regional peace.”2 Indeed, these provocative actions elevate the risks of miscalculation and escalation of military conflict. On September 4 when a Chinese Su-35 crashed in Guangxi in southern China, Indian press and social media began reporting that Taiwan’s patriot missile defence system had shot it down. 3

Chinese Technology Acquisitions in the Nordic Region

Heather A. Conley

There are strong mutual economic interests between China and Europe, and specifically the Nordic region. The Nordic region enthusiastically welcomes free and open trade as well as foreign direct investment (FDI) and views it as a matter of national pride. This economic openness is attractive to Chinese investors. Although there is growing awareness across the Nordic region of the risks of Chinese investment, this awareness is reluctant and episodic. The CSIS Europe, Russia, and Eurasia Program and Technology Policy Program set out to better understand why and how three Nordic countries—Sweden, Finland, and Denmark—approach Chinese investment in small, indigenous technology start-ups and identifies concerns about Chinese investments providing access to technology, infrastructure, and markets.

PACAF: Chinese Propaganda Targeting Andersen AFB is an Attempt to Intimidate

By Brian W. Everstine

Pacific Air Forces is pushing back against a Chinese military propaganda video depicting an H-6K bomber targeting Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, calling it attempted intimidation in the region.

The video, released Sept. 19, shows the bombers flying alongside fighter aircraft, and firing a missile at a Google Maps-style picture of Andersen’s flight line.

“It is yet another example of their use of propaganda in an attempt to coerce and intimidate the region,” PACAF said in a Sept. 23 statement. “Maintaining the safety of our personnel and resources, as well as our allies and partners, is of the utmost importance and we remain committed to ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific for all nations.”

The video shows targeting crosshairs aiming at an empty portion of the apron on the south side of Andersen’s flight line, where refueling tankers are typically seen at the base. In addition to the image of Andersen, the Chinese video uses footage from the American action movies “The Hurt Locker,” “The Rock,” and “Transformers” to dramatically show explosions.

Andersen was the home of the Air Force’s continuous bomber presence mission, which the service ended in April in a shift to dynamic force employment. Now, smaller bomber task forces are sent to the region for shorter, more unpredictable deployments. A task force of B-1s from the 34th Bomb Squadron at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., is currently deployed to the base.

Hybrid CoE Trend Report 5: Trends in China’s Power Politics

The future direction of China, under the increased economic and institutional pressure both domestically and internationally, means that the use of hybrid threats in its modes of power projection are likely to intensify.This Hybrid CoE Trend Report looks at China’s strategic emergence in global affairs by highlighting three interrelated trends which inform the rationale and main determinants of China’s conduct of hybrid threat activity and strategic policy. The Trend Report underlines that:

1) China increasingly asserts its power in areas not strictly economic through a spillover effect;

2)Economic statecraft is the primary practice through which China seeks to advance its strategic interests and

3) Regime preservation remains the chief purpose of Chinese geostrategic statecraft.

China is seeking great power status and it is significantly expanding its global influence. The outbreak of the COVID-19 has underlined the country’s centrality in globalized economic and trade relationships. In this context China will continue to use hybrid threats as force multipliers and coercion tactics to compensate for difficulties the country has been facing as well as to balance under-performing policies and strategies. China deploys a combination of means to secure its influence and control over critical sources of economic growth. The use of ambiguous and ubiquitous modes of operation by China to create confusion to obfuscate meaningful responses will continue to structure the country’s pattern of projection of power.Download

Russia and China’s Quiet Rivalry in Central Asia

Niva Yau Tsz Yan
Source Link

Executive Summary

How does the People’s Republic of China use multilateral institutions in Central Asia? In the 1990s and early 2000s, multilateral bodies were a means of working with the Russian Federation and other countries in the region collaboratively. More recently, however, multilateral bodies, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which includes China, Russia, India, Pakistan, and the Central Asian states, have become spaces for competition between China and Russia. The Belt and Road Initiative has led to intensified Chinese engagement with Central Asia, which has alarmed leaders in Moscow, who see their sphere of control shrinking. Through the SCO, China is writing the rules of the game that will define future development in areas such as logistics and technology.

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, a non-partisan organization that seeks to publish well-argued, policy-oriented articles on American foreign policy and national security priorities.

How to Counter China’s Disinformation Campaign in Taiwan

Linda Zhang

China wants to shift Taiwan’s public opinion to adopt a pro-unification stance. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has held the goal of unifying with Taiwan since the Chinese Civil War of 1945–1949, and Beijing’s toolkit has expanded since the days of Mao Tse-tung’s periodic initiation of cross-strait artillery fire. Today, Taiwan experiences near-constant threats from China, including those to its media and social media landscape. Taiwan receives the most foreign government disseminated disinformation out of all the countries in the world.1 The risk of conventional war is real, but Taiwan’s more urgent threat comes from China’s attacks on its media independence and distribution of disinformation targeting Taiwanese elections.
Definition and Objective

For the purposes of this article, we will use Science Magazine’s definition of disinformation as “false information that is purposefully spread to deceive people.”2 This definition, incidentally, is popular among PRC netizens and scholars and is helpful for understanding the PRC’s disinformation campaign in Taiwan.3 The objective of Chinese disinformation in Taiwan is to convince Taiwan’s people that unification with China is their best (and only) option. This takes form in terms of economics, where the Chinese argue that Taiwan would be better off financially under unification; foreign relations, where China claims that the Taiwanese government cannot offer adequate diplomatic services and protection to its citizens; and culture, where China spreads disinformation about eligibility for the Olympics if athletes competed under “Taiwan” rather than “Chinese Taipei.”4 The PRC also uses disinformation to discredit individuals who, in the PRC’s perception, threaten its agenda. The targets of these disinformation campaigns range from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen to diplomatic allies, celebrities, journalists, and prominent supporters of Taiwan’s independence.5

179 Arrested in Massive Global Dark Web Takedown


IT’S ONE OF the largest global dark web takedowns to date: 179 arrests spread across six countries; 500 kilograms of drugs seized; $6.5 million in cash and cryptocurrency confiscated. And while it was announced this morning, Operation Disruptor traces its roots back to May 3, 2019. That’s the day that German police seized Wall Street Market, the popular underground bazaar that gave international authorities everything they needed to upend the dark web drug trade.

COVID-19 Amplifies the Threat from ISIS and Its "Family Networks"

by Farooq Yousaf

Following its territorial losses in Iraq and Syria and in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has led to tighter territorial, border and air controls, the Islamic State may seek to use unconventional methods for its radicalisation and recruitment drives. Two such methods are stepping up its online presence and propaganda and exploiting family ties to expand its networks.

In a 24 August 2020 meeting of the UN Security Council on pressing global security issues, counterterrorism experts reiterated the importance of repatriating terrorist families to prevent IS spreading its influence across countries and regions. The meeting also noted a spike in IS’s online activities targeting people confined to their homes amid Covid-19 lockdowns. For example, the June 2020 ‘lockdown’ edition of The Voice of Hind, an English-language online magazine published by IS supporters in India, even encouraged IS supporters to use children to spread coronavirus among disbelievers.

Family terror networks have been a prominent feature in IS’s global operations. Those networks present major global security threats largely because of legal, social and privacy concerns that make it challenging to monitor the activities of family units. Several high-profile terrorist attacks under the banner of IS in recent times have involved people related by marriage and by blood. In one such instance, on 24 August 2020, the ‘widows’ of two prominent IS militants carried out twin suicide bombings in Jolo in the Philippines, killing 15 people.

Is Abbas Rival Mohammed Dahlan Plotting a Comeback, With the UAE’s Help?

Frida Ghitis

After the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain broke with most Arab countries and established diplomatic relations with Israel, there are already signs of growing tensions in the Palestinian territories. Mahmoud Abbas, the longtime president of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, is apparently trying to foreclose a potential challenge to his leadership from an old rival. Forces loyal to Abbas have been rounding up supporters of Mohammed Dahlan, once a powerful player in Abbas’ ruling Fatah party, who is now living in exile in the UAE. He and Abbas had a dramatic falling out nearly a decade ago.

According to the Democratic Reform Current, a faction within Fatah that is loyal to Dahlan, in recent days security forces have detained dozens of its members across the West Bank, from Jericho to Ramallah. The Palestinian Authority would not comment on them, but the arrests are the most tangible development in the swirl of intrigue that followed the August announcement that the UAE and Israel would bring their ties out into the open. Their agreement, along with Bahrain’s, dealt a crushing blow to the Palestinian strategy of relying on support from Arab states to deny Israel normalization until the conflict with the Palestinians is resolved. ...

The shifting chessboard of international influence operations

Sarah Kreps

Microsoft recently announced that it had detected efforts by Russia, China, and Iran to influence the upcoming U.S. election. The discovery should not come as any surprise. In his 2019 testimony, former FBI Director Robert Mueller cautioned that Russia’s foreign election interference “wasn’t a single attempt. They’re doing it as we sit here.”

The reason the Russians attempted to influence the election outcome in 2016 is simple: They think that domestic politics matters for foreign policy. That calculus hasn’t changed, so it’s no surprise that Russia is again interested in influencing the U.S. electoral outcome. What’s different this time around is the chess board of the international system: the actors, their preferred outcomes, and their preferred mechanisms of influence.

The reprise Russians

In the last election, although the Russians appeared to have a general preference for candidate Trump, they were primarily interested in sowing confusion, widening political divides, and exacerbating racial tensions. The benefit of a polarized U.S. domestic political landscape is straightforward: The more divided the United States is internally, the weaker it will be internationally and the less likely it will be to challenge and constrain Russian interests.

Coherent foreign policy is predicated on shared reference points, fundamental agreements across the aisle about U.S. international commitments. During the Cold War, the United States fashioned a bipartisan consensus that remained largely intact until the fall of the Berlin Wall and the break-up of the Soviet Union, perhaps with a blip during the post-Vietnam period. Containing Communism, in particular, generated overwhelming, consistent support that translated into a successful strategy. But the relative unity of purpose that marked American views toward the country’s role in the world has not persisted in the post-Soviet era.


by Michael E. Linick, John Yurchak, Michael Spirtas

U.S. defense strategists and policymakers have the perennial challenge of developing capstone documents that can coherently articulate and guide how the U.S. Department of Defense will deliver and maintain combat-credible military forces to deter war and provide national security in alignment with national strategy. These forces must be ready to fight and prevail should deterrence fail against a variety of threats in an evolving and uncertain global security environment, and they must be able to do this with acceptable risks — both in the present against today's threats and in the future against threats that might emerge. Key audiences for these capstone documents include defense planners, programmers, budgeters, managers, analysts, and policymakers who support the development and management of forces that can be postured and employed in alignment with a given defense strategy to accomplish objectives.

Against this backdrop, RAND researchers developed Hedgemony, a wargame designed to teach U.S. defense professionals how different strategies could affect key planning factors in the trade space at the intersection of force development, force management, force posture, and force employment. The game presents players, representing the United States and its key strategic partners and competitors, with a global situation, competing national incentives, constraints, and objectives; a set of military forces with defined capacities and capabilities; and a pool of periodically renewable resources. The players are asked to outline their strategies and are then challenged to make difficult choices by managing the allocation of resources and forces in alignment with their strategies to accomplish their objectives within resource and time constraints.

A short video featuring interviews with U.S. defense professionals that played Hedgemony and the RAND researchers that developed it is available here.

What is the Kremlin up to in Belarus?

Joerg Forbrig

Against the background of ongoing mass protests in Belarus, a critical meeting will take place this Monday in the Russian Black Sea city of Sochi. Alexander Lukashenka, the Belarusian strongman struggling to hold on to power, meets with Vladimir Putin, his key supporter. This first personal meeting since a popular uprising began against Lukashenka’s massively falsified reelection is an important indicator of where the political crisis in Belarus is headed. The fate of Lukashenka is at stake, as is that of the democratic movement in Belarus and the continued existence of an independent Belarusian state. Russia undoubtedly plays a central role in all these respects. However, the EU can and must bring to bear its influence more decisively than before.

The Belarusian summer surprised Russia no less than most in Europe and even in Belarus itself. The Kremlin had assumed that Lukashenka would assert his power but would be weakened, given rising discontent in Belarusian society. Moscow reckoned that this would finally force Minsk to make concessions in the direction of closer political integration between the two countries, which Putin had long called for, but which Lukashenka had so far rejected to preserve his own power. The fact that the continued existence of the Lukashenka regime would be seriously questioned by a popular uprising was unexpected for the Russian leadership. Mirroring that, Russian reactions to the events in Belarus were contradictory. Putin's congratulations on Lukashenka's election victory were accompanied by clear criticism from high-ranking Moscow politicians of the Belarusian ruler's actions, and the Russian state media reported unusually openly on election fraud, mass protests, and police violence.

It was not until about a week after election day that a Russian policy crystallized that, at least for the time being, aims at supporting the Lukashenka regime. Moscow dispatched dozens of its propagandists to the Belarusian state media, which had been weakened by strikes. Putin announced the formation of a police reserve to support Lukashenka in case of need. Pro-Russia executives were installed at the top of the Belarusian security apparatus, likely at Moscow's insistence. An urgently needed refinancing of Belarusian debts to Russia was promised, and the Kremlin urged Russian banks to ensure the liquidity of Belarusian financial institutions. In addition, there is clear political backing of Minsk by Moscow, not least in form of a rejection of the Coordination Council, the platform for the many Lukashenka opponents in Belarus, or through accusations of alleged Western interference in the country.

The Russian Way of War: Threat Perception and Approaches to Counterterrorism

Anna Borshchevskaya
Source Link


From the moment Vladimir Putin officially took the reins of power in 2000, he focused on the promotion of the Russia Federation’s great power status through zero-sum competition with the West in favor of a multipolar world. This is the broader context that stands in the backdrop of his military intervention in Syria in September 2015. Putin had multiple goals in Syria, but fundamentally, his September 2015 intervention was part of this same pursuit: the erosion of the U.S.-led global order.

Putin calculated correctly that the West would not oppose his military intervention in Syria. The Kremlin interpreted years of Western policies towards Russia as an expression of weakness. In Syria, the West had consistently signaled disinterest in getting involved beyond fighting the Islamic State (ISIS). Putin also supported Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in multiple ways for years before the military intervention. Moscow’s deep and multifaceted ties to Syria, together with Putin’s strategic posture toward the West, put the Kremlin on a path towards supporting Assad to the bitter end. The Syria intervention offers important lessons about Russia’s way of war and the links between Russia’s political aims and military tactics—indeed, Moscow used both to achieve its aims in Syria, where Moscow’s diplomatic campaign supported its military objectives. These efforts showed more continuity than change in the Kremlin’s approach to war and counterterrorism, as well as its broader threat perceptions, with adaptations to new realities. Moscow is unable and unwilling to lead reconciliation in Syria and can live with low-level conflict to the detriment of international stability.

Download the report here

Russia’s Intervention in Syria: Historical and Geopolitical Context

Robert E. Hamilton

“It’s your turn, doctor.” Those words, scrawled on a wall by teenagers in the southern Syrian city of Der’a in March 2011, were the harbingers of what has become the bloodiest war started in the 21st century. Within days, the teenagers were arrested, and thousands of people poured into the streets to demand their release. A police crackdown killed at least 100 of the protestors, and unrest spread. By July, protests had erupted in other cities, and Syrian military officers began to defect to form the Free Syrian Army, the first organized opposition to the Bashar al Assad regime. That same month, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of a still obscure al Qaeda splinter group in Iraq, sensed an opportunity in the chaos unfolding in Syria. Baghdadi dispatched operatives to recruit fighters for the group that eventually rampaged across Syria and Iraq under the banner of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

In July 2012, opposition forces captured eastern Aleppo and named it their de facto capital. The next spring, an opposition coalition that included ISIS and the Al Nusra Front, at the time al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, captured Raqqa. The desperate Syrian government turned to chemical weapons, killing hundreds of people in a chemical attack in East Ghouta in August 2013 and crossing a “red line” established by U.S. President Barack Obama the previous year. The Russian Federation, which had been watching nervously as one of its few partners in the Middle East teetered on the verge of collapse, brokered a deal with the United States for the Assad regime to turn over its chemical weapons to avert a U.S. strike.

In summer 2014 ISIS, which had been steadily gaining strength, tore across much of Syria, crushing government forces and other opposition groups alike. Al-Baghdadi, who had moved from Iraq to Syria the previous year, announced the establishment of a caliphate across large parts of both countries, declared himself its leader, and rebranded his movement the Islamic State. By September, Islamic State fighters had besieged Kobani, along the Turkish border, causing many of its residents to flee. U.S. policy on Syria, which had to this point been ambiguous and uncertain, suddenly had a clear objective: defeat the Islamic State. The United States and its coalition partners launched airstrikes on Islamic State fighters in Syria, and the U.S. military began a program to train and equip so-called “moderate opposition groups” to fight the Islamic State. The United States relied on a separate, clandestine train-and-equip program to put pressure on the Assad regime to compromise and allow for a governing body to take his place.

Three Ways to Clean Up the Toxic Minefields of Social Media


Social media is not just a communication space, but a new kind of battle space. And although the forces of good are beginning to pay more attention to this problem, the hard reality is that they are still losing. 

A toxic witch’s brew of disinformation, conspiracy theory, and hate continues to plague the platforms through which much of our modern information networks run, hitting literally every important issue. Public health professionals say our fight against the coronavirus pandemic has been rendered far more difficult by the accompanying “infodemic.” A recent Oxford University study of disinformation concerning the disease and government responses documented 225 distinct conspiracy theory campaigns, 88 percent of which used social media as their hub. Meanwhile, protests over systemic racism and injustice continue to be warped by online efforts to push false stories and conspiracy theories. And that doesn’t even begin to talk about the historic levels of disinformation surrounding the upcoming U.S. election. 

Recent actions taken by platforms like Facebook and Twitter to ban political ads, demonetize hateful content, and put disclaimers on certain types of content that is broad reaching and verifiably false, show that social media companies can, in fits and starts, make changes for the better. 

Yet their approach is woefully late and lacking. It is often characterized by an ex-post response, lack of sustained action, and insufficient sense of urgency. Misinformation about the western wildfires, for example, had already gone viral by the time the companies began to try to rein it in. And Facebook’s much-ballyhooed oversight board has announced that it would likely not be operational in time for the 2020 election. Civil rights organizations remain rightly appalled at the situation, while the firms’ own employees lament in leaked internal documents that “We are failing. And what's worse, we have enshrined that failure in our policies.”

Impact of Digital Technologies and the Fourth Industrial Revolution on Trade in Services

Nigel Cory

Digital technologies are cutting trade costs for services, turning more services from non-tradables into tradables, and putting trade in services on a stronger relative growth path than trade in goods. Digital enablement of services depends on inputs of cross-border data flows, which are themselves growing exponentially. The shift to the digital economy has intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic as goods producers connect with customers via online platforms, and services like health, education, and entertainment are delivered online. Purchasing services offshore is not far behind, so e-service trade will likely continue to accelerate. However, regulatory frameworks are lagging, putting productivity gains at risk. We offer eight recommendations to the Group of Twenty (G20) leaders to start shaping a trade policy agenda for a digital future. For every nation to reap the benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, sustained openness to international services trade, investment, and data flows is essential.

Droned Out of Action: The Distortion of US Counter-Terrorism in Somalia

by Bilva Chandra 

Since 2017, the United States has ramped up its airstrike operations in order to fight the prevalence and influence of Al-Shabaab, an Al-Qaeda affiliate terrorist organization operating in Somalia. In 2019 alone, it conducted 63 airstrikes in Somalia, which have resulted in several reports and allegations of civilian casualties. [1]

The March 10, 2020 airstrike in Somalia was reprisal for Al-Shabaab’s Manda Bay attack, which resulted in the deaths of one servicemember and two US contractors. [2] AFRICOM (United States Africa Command) received several allegations of unreported civilian casualties from online media sources as a direct result of the airstrike. [3] Despite these claims, AFRICOM did not report any civilian casualties, though it was aware of the allegations. [4]

Using Zignal’s Media Intelligence Cloud, we illuminated the information operations and narrative amplification stemming from the US military’s airstrike in Somalia on March 10, 2020.