16 October 2020

Power Play, Morality and … a TikTok Ban in Pakistan

By Abhijnan Rej

Reuters reported on October 9 that Pakistan has blocked the popular social media app TikTok in the country. It quotes a statement from the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) as saying that the decision was taken “[i]n view of number of complaints from different segments of the society against immoral and indecent content” on the app. With this decision, Pakistan joins arch-rival India which blocked TikTok, along with a number of other apps of Chinese origin, on national-security grounds late June this year. The Trump administration too tried to ban the app, along with WeChat, on August 7 if they were not sold to an American firm by ByteDance and Tencent, respectively, within 45 days. A federal judge has blocked the ban from coming to effect.

Over a short span of three months, the short-video app famous for carrying dance videos has unexpectedly come under geopolitical spotlight. While India and the United States’ push was explicitly tied to both countries’ tense relationships with China, Islamabad and Beijing have long considered each other “iron brothers.” Pakistan, arguably, is China’s closest military ally, as both countries seek each other’s help to maintain sustained strategic pressure on India. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the flagship project of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

In a Rare Show of Power, Pakistan Opposition Elites Challenge the Generals

By Daud Khattak

Pakistan is heading toward an imminent political deadlock as leading opposition parties, with former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at the vanguard, have chalked out plans for a countrywide movement against the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

As per their plan, public gatherings will be held in different cities in October, November and December with the expected result of bringing the government to its knees, or at the negotiating table at the least. Beyond this, the opposition plans on a long march toward Islamabad and a sit-in protest in in the federal capital in January next year.

Turmoil is not new in Pakistan’s tumultuous politics. But what seems to be somehow atypical this time around is an across-the-board anger and discontent among opposition leadership against the military’s meddling in political affairs. What used to be discussed by politicians in drawing rooms or behind closed doors and off-the-record conversations with journalists is now being talked about in public meetings.

Moreover, what used to be criticized by ethnic Sindhi, Baloch, and Pashtun leadership in the three smaller provinces — Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan — is now being aired by mainstream political leadership in the mainland Punjab, the fourth federating unit often sarcastically referred to as the “big brother.”

Could Bangladesh and Pakistan Make Waves by Cooperating on Climate Change?

By Kashoon Leeza

In a rare instance of backchannel diplomacy between the two countries, Bangladesh and Pakistan have indicated a desire to advance cultural and economic ties. Previously, the two countries have been at odds with each other following the 1971 war. With the recent interaction initiating prospective reconciliation, fight against climate change could lend itself as a ground for building mutual trust and an impetus to resolve difficulties in the relationship.

However novel the idea may seem, history lauds the precedents that exist. While France and Germany shared a history of bitter ties, what brought the two adversaries on the same side of table was the threat of a common enemy, the Soviet Union. Similarly, in the case of Bangladesh and Pakistan the common enemy is climate change, given both are among top 10 vulnerable countries to climate change according to Global Climate Risk Index 2020. Even more relatable is the Sino-Japanese environmental cooperation that helped China and Japan reconcile their historic animosity.

Leaders on both sides have prioritized climate change response, evident from commitment to the cause even in 2018 election manifestos of the ruling parties in both countries. Redressal of the Pakistan-Bangladesh relationship promises two-way benefits, environmental and strategic. Mindful of the gravity of climate-change induced threats, a collaborative framework could not only help mitigate environmental threats but also address securitized regional issues.

In South Asia, a host of researches on the heels of climate-prone events rationalize that the issue of climate change has moved past from being an environmental concern to being a non-traditional national security threat. Climate change induced impacts, shared by Pakistan and Bangladesh, are coming to the forefront as underlying socioeconomic vulnerabilities.

Doomed: Why the Soviets Failed to Conquer Afghanistan

by Warfare History Network

In late 1979, the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan was torn apart by a civil war pitting the weak Communist government of Hafizullah Amin against several moderate and fundamentalist Muslim rebel armies. The war had been brought about by Amin’s incompetence and corruption, his vicious program of political repression, the massacre of entire village populations, and a ham-handed agrarian “reform” program that disenfranchised tribal leaders. Fearing that Amin would be defeated and replaced by a government of Muslim fundamentalists or—even worse—pro-American intellectuals, the Soviet Union launched an invasion on Christmas Eve aimed at removing Amin and replacing him with a more reliable strongman.

To pave the way for the invasion, Soviet advisers with the Afghan Army tricked their clients into incapacitating themselves. In one case, the Soviets told an Afghan armored unit that new tanks were about to be delivered but that, due to shortages, the gas in the old tanks would have to be siphoned out. The Afghans obligingly siphoned gas out of their tanks, rendering them useless. In another instance, Soviet advisers told an Afghan unit to turn over all their ammunition for inspection, something that likewise was done without question.

A Former Prime Minister Declares Himself President

China Sets Economic Strategy For Next Five Years – Analysis

By Michael Lelyveld

While analysts puzzle over the meaning of China’s latest economic slogan, the government appears poised to adopt President Xi Jinping’s “dual circulation” strategy as its guiding principle for the next five years.

According to state media, the term was first used in May but only drew attention in late July after Xi tried to explain it to a symposium of business leaders in Beijing.

In simplest terms, dual circulation would promote the domestic market as the mainstay of economic growth at a time when China’s exports face “waning external demand and rising anti-globalization sentiment,” Commerce Minister Zhong Shan told the official Xinhua news agency.

The concept calls for upgrading domestic consumption to boost demand for goods and technologies that are now sold abroad, so that “the domestic and external markets can complement each other,” said Zhu Min, head of Tsinghua University’s National Institute of Financial Research in comments to the official English-language China Daily.

But the convoluted message has been complicated by concerns that the government might turn away from foreign trade and its policy of subsidizing exports, endangering the interests of millions of workers and exporting firms.

China Turning Russia’s Taiga Into a Desert, Enriching Moscow but Outraging Siberians

By: Paul Goble

Since Vladimir Putin became president, Russia’s forests have declined in size by 45 million hectares, some 6 percent of the country’s total. The shrinking forest cover has been the result of the spread of uncontrolled forest fires (80 percent) as well as increased harvesting (20 percent), much of that for export. That distinction between losses from fires and regular cutting, however, is less sharp than one might expect: many Russians allege that some of the fires, especially in Siberia and the Russian Far East, were set deliberately to conceal illegal cutting (Newizv.ru, September 9). True or not, the issue is becoming ever more political for two reasons. First, a large part of the new logging operations are being carried out by Chinese firms or Russian subcontractors working for them. And second, the profits from exports of wood (processed and unprocessed) to China are going almost exclusively to oligarchs in Moscow rather than to people in the regions that are being left without forests and more at risk of fires and flooding than ever before.

The main drivers of this development, Russian experts say, lie in the new legal code governing forests, the Putin government’s commitment to supply China with lumber both to earn money and to cement ties between the two Eurasian giants, as well as the fact that in the most-affected regions, the governors are not local people but appointed outsiders. Those Kremlin-imposed non-local governors tend to show less concern for putting the interests of their federal subjects first (Rusmonitor.com, October 2).

Both Soviet legislation and Russian laws adopted in the 1990s provided significant protection to Russian forests. But the forestry code adopted under Putin’s tenure eliminated most restrictions on the use of forests, shut down fire-watch and fire-fighting centers, and handed over large segments of the country’s seemingly endless forests to businessmen, whose only interest has been to profit from them even if stripping the timber increased the chronic risk of catastrophic fires and floods. The Kremlin took these steps to ensure that it would continue to enrich itself and its private-sector allies as well as to please Beijing, which looks north to Siberia and the Russian Far East for wood and pulp. China is currently responsible for logging and exporting 90 percent of all timber products from those regions for its own needs. This conversion of areas forested from time immemorial into what some call “lunar landscapes” is becoming a political issue, with local politicians demanding a return of local control over the use of forest, while Moscow plays defense.

COVID-19 Has Dimmed Xi’s Approval Ratings Abroad – But Not in China

By Sungmin Cho

When the as-yet unnamed coronavirus began to spread across China from December 2019, many people outside the country speculated that the pandemic would trigger a legitimacy crisis for the country’s leader, Xi Jinping. As the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) claims supremacy over every aspect of Chinese life, Xi was responsible for the regime’s failure to contain the virus. Indeed, Chinese people were initially outraged over the government’s inadequate responses. However, the public attitude flipped from anger to support over time. Xi now seems to enjoy even more popularity than before the outbreak.

How can we explain the changes in Chinese people’s attitude toward the Xi regime? Why have Chinese citizens shown even stronger support for the government during the COVID-19 crisis? These are important questions to have a better understanding of the CCP’s survival strategy under Xi.

Public Opinion: From Criticism to Support

During the initial phase of the pandemic, from January to March this year, Chinese people openly expressed their anger and frustration with the government. The scale and intensity of the pushback against state propaganda was unprecedented, peaking when Li Wenliang, the whistleblower doctor, died from the coronavirus in February.

Which Countries Support China on Hong Kong’s National Security Law?

By Shannon Tiezzi

On Tuesday, the United Nations was treated to another clash between China’s critics and its supporters. As my colleague Catherine Putz noted, on October 6 “German Ambassador Christoph Heusgen presented a statement to the U.N., within the context of the General Assembly’s Third Committee (on Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Issues) on behalf of 39 countries,” criticizing China for “the human rights situation in Xinjiang and the recent developments in Hong Kong.” China had two of its staunchest supporters, Pakistan and Cuba, lined up to refute those remarks immediately afterward, by giving their own lists of countries backing China.

Interestingly, while the German bloc was united in calling themselves “gravely concerned” about both issues, China had to divide its supporters into two groups: countries that explicitly backed its Hong Kong policy and countries that supported its Xinjiang policy. As you would expect, there is a great deal of overlap between those two, but the differences are telling. (Putz gives an overview of the Xinjiang signatories in her analysis, along with a comparison to the 2019 lists of countries expressing concern vs. support.)

For reference, here are the two blocs:

Heusgen listed 39 countries expressing concern about China’s Hong Kong policy: Albania, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Haiti, Honduras, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Monaco, Nauru, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Norway, Palau, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Behind Xi Jinping’s Steely Façade, a Leadership Crisis Is Smoldering in China

By Sarah Cook

Even after years of intensifying authoritarian rule under Chinese Communist Party (CCP) chief Xi Jinping, the 18-year prison term handed down in late September to real estate mogul and social media commentator Ren Zhiqiang — a de facto life sentence for the 69-year-old man — came as a shock to many inside and outside China.

Although Ren’s penalty was unusually harsh for a party insider with no political power or ambitions of his own, it fit a recent pattern in which the regime has lashed out with greater intensity against Xi’s perceived enemies within the ruling elite. The punitive actions and targets — particularly those in the party’s propaganda, education, and security systems — indicate that the party chief’s grip on power may not be as firm as it appears.

Purging a Vocal Internal Critic

Ren Zhiqiang, an influential tycoon and veteran CCP member, is hardly a typical dissident. He first gained international attention in February 2016, when he criticized a now infamous speech by Xi Jinping on tightening party control over the media. Within days, the tech company Sina — at the direction of the Cyber Administration of China — shuttered Ren’s Weibo microblogging account, wiping out in an instant his ability to speak to 37 million followers. Since then Ren has largely kept a low profile, only periodically speaking out about Xi’s leadership. But his comments often echo critiques believed to be bubbling beneath the surface among many party cadres and officials. 

China’s Military Ambitions in Southeast Asia: Much Bigger than Cambodian Bases

By Prashanth Parameswaran

This week, we saw another round of headlines regarding China’s basing plans in Cambodia, with the country’s demolition of U.S.-funded facility at Ream Naval Base exacerbating earlier fears about the country’s possible granting of basing privileges to the Chinese navy. While a focus on this development is important in and of itself given its broader geopolitical implications, it is also critical to ensure that an excessive emphasis on rhetorical “base wars” does not distract attention from the broader military inroads Beijing is already making in the region.

As I have noted before, including in a research report for The Wilson Center, while episodic attention to individual Chinese inroads in defense relationships with Southeast Asian states over the past decade or so – from new China-Philippines coast guard mechanisms to Malaysia’s unprecedented purchase of Chinese naval vessels – is important for its own sake, it can also obscure the bigger picture, wherein Beijing has been systematically building the outlines of a regional security architecture of its own as part of its growing influence in the Indo-Pacific through a series of exercises, dialogues, and facilities. Southeast Asia is the region where this has manifested most clearly.

China’s System of Oppression in Xinjiang: How It Developed and How to Curb It

Dahlia Peterson

How should the United States understand and respond to China’s technologically driven mass surveillance, internment and indoctrination in Xinjiang? Dahlia Peterson offers a set of policy recommendations in a coauthored report for the Brookings Institution.Download Full Report

Chinese Communist Party (CCP) policies towards Xinjiang have increased colonial development, further eroded Uyghur autonomy through force and ethnic assimilationism, and co-opted the “Global War on Terror” framing to portray all Uyghur resistance as “terrorism.” Since 2016, an intensified regime of technologically-driven mass surveillance, internment, indoctrination, family separation, birth suppression, and forced labor has implicated the provinces and municipalities of eastern China that fund the Xinjiang gulag through the Pairing Assistance Program, as well as potentially thousands of Chinese and international corporations that directly and indirectly supply and benefit from the system.

Today, more than 1,400 Chinese companies are providing facial, voice, and gait recognition capabilities as well as additional tracking tools to the Xinjiang public security and surveillance industry. While a handful of these companies have been placed on the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security’s (BIS) Entity List, limiting their access to imported components, this sanctioning has not yet significantly arrested these companies’ development. While it is infeasible to sanction every company operating in or associated with Xinjiang, it is still of great concern that many companies have evaded scrutiny and continue to perpetuate oppression today. Furthermore, Western companies continue to sell Chinese firms core hardware such as chips and storage solutions, for which China currently lacks viable homegrown alternatives.

Tajikistan: Why Authoritarian Elections Also Matter

By Steve Swerdlow

With a bloody war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, months of unprecedented grassroots protests for democratic change in Belarus and the Russian Far East, and a third revolution in 15 years underway in Kyrgyzstan, the former Soviet space has rarely seen so much political and social upheaval at one time. But as scenes of Belarusians marching bravely in the streets and of a raucous power vacuum currently underway in Kyrgyzstan captivate our attention, we should not lose sight of the more than 9 million people in another corner of Eurasia who in a few days will face the next chapter in a largely unseen and ongoing human rights catastrophe.

Elections, Shmections

Tajikistan’s presidential elections, set for October 11, are poised to reinstall Emomali Rahmon for another seven-year term in office. He has been the country’s president or its equivalent since 1992 and is the only post-Soviet dictator in power longer than Belarus’ Alexander Lukashenko. Easily dismissed as a hollow, authoritarian exercise, the Tajik elections leave no doubt about who will prevail.

Tajikistan security services conceded as much last month when they hounded out of the race Faromuz Irgashev, a 30-year-old lawyer from the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO) and a newcomer to the political scene, after he posted a video on YouTube announcing his intention to run. One day later, security officers appeared at Irgashev’s family’s home where they took him out “to have a long walk.”

Japan’s Bullet Trains Are Hitting a Speed Bump

Sarah Sieloff

It’s hard to overstate the power and significance of Japan’s bullet trains. A global symbol of the nation's technological sophistication for more than 50 years, the network of high-speed trains known as “Shinkansen” (or “new trunk line”) is both a source of national pride and a critical element in the country’s transportation infrastructure. The trains can hit 200 miles per hour on more than 1,800 miles of tracks, knitting together an archipelago that, if lined up against North America, would stretch from British Columbia to Baja, California. Since launching in 1964, the bullet trains have proved to be remarkably safe, resilient and lucrative: Not only do many of the lines turn a healthy profit, but Shinkansen technology, including the software that supports the trains’ famous punctuality, is a valuable Japanese export

No amount of technology, however, can withstand the disruptive tide of the global pandemic, which has severely reduced travel to and within Japan. Beyond the immediate ridership and revenue hit, longer term challenges loom. Japan’s aging population is in decline: By 2065, it is projected to shrink by up to 35%, and already-low birthrates are continuing to fall as young people move away from smaller towns and rural areas and concentrate in major cities like Tokyo, where birthrates are lowest. A 2014 report issued by an independent think tank offered the dire prediction that by 2050, half of Japan’s regional cities and towns would be extinct.

Trump’s Helter Skelter


NEWARK – Strange as it is to say, but it is no longer uncommon to hear talk of insurrection, martial law, and civil war in the United States. The arrest of militia leaders in Michigan on charges of planning to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer and incite the overthrow of the state’s government suggests how far far-right politics in America is prepared to go.

Apocalyptic warnings that next month’s election will descend into crisis are coming hard and fast. US President Donald Trump, now far behind in most polls, will not commit to a peaceful transfer of power. Instead, he encourages white-power militias and extremists, and sows disinformation about everything from mail-in ballots to COVID-19.

While the atmosphere in the US is already alarming, it is worth considering just how bad things could become. There is ample reason to worry that an election-related conflict could devolve into atrocity crimes against black and brown civilians on US soil. As someone who has spent his career studying genocide and mass violence, I fear that the chances of such violence are higher than most people think.

There are six reasons why Americans should prepare for the worst. First, the political, social, and economic situation in the US is deeply unstable. Such instability is a leading factor in all the robust models that researchers have developed over the past few decades to assess the risk of atrocities (including crimes against humanity, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and genocide).

Why The Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict Matters – Analysis

By Neville Teller

Few conflicts in what may loosely be termed the Middle East have managed to remain self-contained ‒ certainly none of those currently being played out. The participants in each dispute in Syria, Libya, Yemen and Iraq have attracted the armed forces, or at least the logistical support, of states in pursuit of their own geopolitical interests – states prepared to play out their rivalries on foreign fields. The Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict is no exception, and the position adopted by some of the countries involved ‒ including Israel ‒ are ambivalent to say the least.

In the heart of a remote region ‒ the wooded and mountainous neck of land separating Turkey from the Caspian Sea ‒ the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh lies between landlocked Armenia to its west and Azerbaijan, with its long coastline to the Caspian Sea, to its east. 

The seeds of the current dispute were sown by the old Soviet Union. When Armenia and Azerbaijan were absorbed into the USSR in the 1920s, the Soviets handed control of Nagorno-Karabakh, territory which lies between them, to Azerbaijan, even though most of the population was Armenian. Decades of dispute followed and in the late 1980s, as the iron grip of the Soviet Union began to loosen, Nagorno-Karabakh’s regional parliament voted to become part of Armenia.

Azerbaijan tried to suppress the separatist movement, but its efforts led to fighting in the streets and, after Armenia and Azerbaijan finally broke from Russia and declared independence, full-scale war followed. Tens of thousands died and up to a million people were displaced amid reports of massacres and ethnic cleansing. 

What Happens If the U.S. Withdraws From the W.H.O.?

Anne Applebaum

Back in May, when President Donald Trump called for America to stop funding the World Health Organization, he presented a list of the WHO’s recent failures: the organization’s initial failure to flag the spread of the novel coronavirus; its initial failure to follow up when Taiwan—a country excluded from the WHO because of Chinese objections—inquired about evidence that seemed to indicate that the virus could be transmitted from one human to another; its initial failure to press China to accept an international investigation into the source of the virus. At the beginning of the pandemic, the WHO, which operates as a specialized agency of the United Nations, seemed to be one beat behind. It also seemed overly reliant upon biased information provided by the government of China.

Trump did not make this list because he hopes to fix or improve the world’s most important guardian of public health. This, along with his administration’s announcement in September of its intention to begin withdrawing money and personnel from the WHO, was just electoral politics. Given his own administration’s failure to react adequately to warnings from the WHO when they did finally arrive, Trump needed a scapegoat. What could be better than an unfamiliar organization whose acronym looks like a pronoun?

But although much of what the WHO does is of no interest to Trump, its achievements are real. Aside from its role in pandemics, the organization facilitates scientific exchange, compiling and distributing the results of international research. It provides medicines, vaccines, and health advice to the developing world, and is especially important in countries that don’t have their own pharmaceutical industry. It has had many genuine successes—the elimination of smallpox is probably the most famous—and wields enormous influence and prestige. The removal of American funding would damage its ability to help countries cope with the new coronavirus and fight many other diseases.

Report: A Robust Tech Sector Is Critical To U.S. National Security

Loren Thompson

Tech dominates business news these days the way Trump dominates political news. And with good reason: technologies spawned by the information revolution such as the internet and smartphones are transforming every feature of the global economy.

This tidal wave of change is comparable to the coming of steam power and electrification in its potential to shape the course of civilization. We are just at the beginning and thus can barely imagine what innovations like artificial intelligence, gene editing and quantum computing may mean for the future, but it is already clear that the impact will be profound.

Like any other upheaval, the information revolution will produce winners and losers. One area where the shift could be pronounced is national security. America’s ability to remain the world’s leading military power is by no means assured. Other countries, most notably China, are leveraging new technology to become credible rivals.

Against that backdrop, my think tank, the Lexington Institute, this week released a report—we call it a white paper—entitled “Why U.S. National Security Requires A Robust, Innovative Technology Sector.” It is an attempt to concisely capture the challenge that America faces in trying to stay ahead of other military players during an era of unprecedented technological ferment.

Funding for the study was provided by the American Edge Project, which is focused on the importance of sustaining a world-class domestic technology sector. Lexington Institute is a participant in the project, and has long espoused the role of technology as a key determinant of success in securing peace and prosperity.

America’s Cyber Security, Insecurity

By Gregory T. Kiley

In the last few days, we have learned of one of the most massive cyber-attacks in history, targeting hospitals across the nation. Cybercrime is a growing problem, and rapidly advancing technology to enable mobile devices, smart homes, buildings, and industries is outrunning the security needed to protect our lives, privacy, and resources. These advancements offer millions of access points for bad actors to inflict significant damage or threaten lives.

We must also take steps to ensure the safeguards we use to protect ourselves are, in fact, secure. An added risk in this field of cybersecurity is also our reliance on foreign owned companies.

Aware of this threat to America’s safety, in 2018, Congress established the Cyberspace Solarium Commission (CSC) to "develop a consensus on a strategic approach to defending the United States in cyberspace against cyber-attacks of significant consequences." The finished report was presented to the public on March 11, 2020, and Congress is in the process of turning many of the recommendations into law. Thankfully, of the 54 legislative recommendations within the report, over 20 are included in the House and Senate versions of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act. 

Keep in mind that securing America's cyber systems requires complex collaboration between security experts in numerous industries across the private and public sectors to develop a holistic approach, not limited to vendor, product, or system, but also includes management and oversight of those that maintain systems. Currently, as pointed out by the Solarium Commission, we do not have the processes or entities in place nationally to develop comprehensive solutions.

The Chipmakers: U.S. Strengths and Priorities for the High-End Semiconductor Workforce

Remco Zwetsloot

Technical leadership in the semiconductor industry has been a cornerstone of U.S. military and economic power for decades, but continued competitiveness is not guaranteed. This issue brief exploring the composition of the workforce bolstering U.S. leadership in the semiconductor industry concludes that immigration restrictions are directly at odds with U.S. efforts to secure its supply chains.

Executive Summary

Technical leadership in the semiconductor industry has been a cornerstone of U.S. military and economic power for decades. Semiconductor innovation is a key driver of progress in critical technologies such as artificial intelligence, while the Internet of Things has introduced ever-more sophisticated computer chips into everything from toasters to highways. But continued competitiveness is not guaranteed: top American firms face foreign competitors, often backed by concerted government support, in a number of high-value parts of the semiconductor supply chain.

To remain competitive and ensure access to secure and leading-edge computer chips, the United States will need to leverage one of its greatest strengths: its capacity to attract, develop, and retain the deepest bench of science and engineering talent in the world—both at home and from abroad. This report explores the composition of the talented workforce that undergirds continued U.S. leadership in the semiconductor industry, and assesses workforce policy options for protecting and promoting technological competitiveness going forward.

Israel’s Use of Artificial Intelligence Will Change the Future of War

by Seth J. Frantzman

War is always going to be fought with people and weapons. It is also always going to involve “platforms,” such as tanks and the capabilities they have. It is important to understand that in discussions of the future of warfare the issue is not just about the person or the platform but also tying it all together. At the heart of that effort today are attempts to develop better algorithms and artificial intelligence. This will play an increasing role in war, especially in hi-tech militaries, in the future. As Washington gears up for more contests with near-peer competitors, such as Russia or China, and moves away from the global war on terror, the need for this kind of technology and envisioning the future of warfare increases.

There is no shortage of discussion on the topic of future warfare. An article at the Heritage Foundation in 2018 noted that “to achieve a significant increase in military effectiveness, the new item must be married to an appropriate organization, concept of operations, set of tactics, command and control system, and supporting infrastructure.” Others have questioned whether the future will involve small, smart swarming munitions or exquisite and expensive platforms, such as the F-35 stealth jet fighter and Global Hawk drone. Packing electronic information equipment onto the platforms with the best electro-optics and computers is part of transformation that militaries have gone through in the last decades.

Innovation and National Security: Keeping Our Edge

James Manyika and William H. McRaven Adam Sega

“Addressing the challenge from China and other rising science powers requires an ambitious plan of national investment in science and technology.”

The United States leads the world in innovation, research, and technology development. Since World War II, the new markets, industries, companies, and military capabilities that emerged from the country’s science and technology commitment have combined to make the United States the most secure and economically prosperous nation on earth. This seventy-year strength arose from the expansion of economic opportunities at home through substantial investments in education and infrastructure, unmatched innovation and talent ecosystems, and the opportunities and competition created by the opening of new markets and the global expansion of trade. It was also forged in the fire of threat: It was formed and tested in military conflicts from the Cold War to the war in Afghanistan, in technological leadership lost and regained during competition with Japan in the 1980s, and in the internal cultural conflicts over the role of scientists in aiding the Pentagon during the Vietnam War. Confronted with a threat to national security or economic competitiveness, the United States responded. So must it once again.

This time there is no Sputnik satellite circling the earth to catalyze a response, but the United States faces a convergence of forces that equally threaten its economic and national security. First, the pace of innovation globally has accelerated, and it is more disruptive and transformative to industries, economies, and societies. Second, many advanced technologies necessary for national security are developed in the private sector by firms that design and build them via complex supply chains that span the globe; these technologies are then deployed in global markets. The capacities and vulnerabilities of the manufacturing base are far more complex than in previous eras, and the ability of the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) to control manufacturing-base activity using traditional policy means has been greatly reduced. Third, China, now the world’s second-largest economy, is both a U.S. economic partner and a strategic competitor, and it constitutes a different type of challenger.1 Tightly interconnected with the United States, China is launching government-led investments, increasing its numbers of science and engineering graduates, and mobilizing large pools of data and global technology companies in pursuit of ambitious economic and strategic goals.

Drone Wars: In Nagorno-Karabakh The Future Of Warfare Is Now – Analysis

By Mike Eckel*

(RFE/RL) — Out of the sky, whirring its distinctively terrifying buzz, a drone zipped over the arid landscape as soldiers fired rifles at it and then slammed into a small bus, sending up a fiery plume.

“Where are you, bastards?” one of the soldiers yells in Armenian as others try to shoot it down.

Unmanned aerial vehicles, like the one shown in a video that circulated widely on social media last week, aren’t new to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Four years ago, when the last spasm of serious fighting erupted, so-called “kamikaze drones” were employed. It was the same again in July, when there was another small outbreak of shooting.

Recognized internationally as part of Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces since the 1994 cease-fire that brought an end to full-scale war that broke out two years earlier.

Now Armenian and Azerbaijani forces are engaged in the fiercest fighting since a 1994 cease-fire. And drones are being used to a far greater extent than ever before, helping to shape the battlefield and offering a glimpse of how future wars are likely to be fought in the Caucasus and elsewhere.

Trouble in Kyrgyzstan: Assessing the October 2020 Crisis

By Ankit Panda

The Diplomat’s Asia Geopolitics podcast host Ankit Panda (@nktpnd) speaks to Katie Putz, The Diplomat’s managing editor, about the aftermath of Kyrgyzstan’s October 2020 parliamentary elections.

Click the play button to the right to listen. If you’re an iOS or Mac user, you can also subscribe to The Diplomat’s Asia Geopolitics podcast on iTunes here; if you use Windows or Android, you can subscribe on Google Play here, or on Spotify here.

If you like the podcast and have suggestions for content, please leave a review and rating on iTunes and TuneIn. 

The Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict hints at the future of war

Azerbaijan’s armed forces may be busy waging war over Nagorno-Karabakh, a disputed enclave run by Armenia. That did not stop them from setting aside scarce helicopters and tanks to star in a music video, complete with khaki-clad singers, guitarists and a drummer. The bellicose heavy-metal tune, accompanied by a montage of bombing raids, would not be out of place in the Eurovision song contest, and is part of a crude attempt by Azerbaijan’s corrupt and autocratic government to rally people round the flag.

The real war, which began on September 27th, has been less telegenic. Hundreds of people, most of them soldiers, are already believed dead. The fighting is the worst since 1994, when ethnic Armenian forces seized Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding Azerbaijani districts after a conflict that saw tens of thousands killed and a million people displaced. Azerbaijan claims to have taken a dozen villages in the Jabrayil district, one of seven that ring Nagorno-Karabakh and were occupied by Armenian forces. Azerbaijani cluster munitions have struck Stepanakert, the capital of the breakaway province. Armenian forces have shelled Ganja, Azerbaijan’s second-biggest city. Both sides seem to have used ballistic missiles, and a few stray rockets have landed in next-door Iran.

Why the Army Is Doubling Down on Drones to Win Future Wars

by Kris Osborn

The Army’s use of manned-unmanned teaming, wherein human operators control air and ground robotic vehicles to conduct reconnaissance, carry supplies or even launch attacks has long been underway. This developmental trajectory is demonstrated by the Army’s most recent successes with unmanned-unmanned teaming. 

Progress with drone to drone connectivity, from ground to ground and ground to air is fast gaining momentum following successful recent experiments where the Army passed key targeting data from larger drones to smaller mini-drones in the air. This happened in September at Yuma Proving Grounds, Ariz., during the Army’s Project Convergence experiment, wherein the ability to massively shorten sensor-to-shooter time and network time-sensitive combat information was demonstrated between drones.