25 October 2020

Is the Naval Blockade of the Straits of Malacca a Realistic Option for India: An Assessment

Major General PK Mallick, VSM (Retd), 


The Straits of Malacca is the shortest sea route between Persian Gulf suppliers of oil and key Asian markets. It links major economies such as Middle East, China, Japan, South Korea, etc. Being the 500 nautical mile funneled waterway, the Strait is only 1.5 nautical miles (2.8 km) wide at its narrowest point─ the Phillips Channel in the Singapore Strait. The Strait is not deep enough to accommodate some of the largest ships, mostly oil tankers, but it is significant as through the South China Sea it connects the Indian Ocean with the Pacific Ocean. Very often, the blockade of the Straits of Malacca for disruption of Chinese energy sources and trade is being offered as a possible Indian strategic deterrence option against China in a conflict scenario. 1 With hardly any other deterrence Continue Reading

Digital Cash Transfers for Stranded Migrants: Lessons from Bihar’s COVID-19 Assistance Program

Anit Mukherjee

India’s COVID-19 Lockdown and its aftermath

On March 24, with little advance notice, India’s federal government announced a strict countrywide lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19. Within two days, it also announced a relief package providing cash transfers to women, elderly and farmers, as well as food grains through the Public Distribution System (PDS). In spite of these measures, millions of migrants – mostly urban informal sector workers - made a desperate attempt to return to their villages, often walking several hundred kilometers over many days to get there. The chaotic scenes witnessed during the first week of India’s lockdown underscored the precariousness of their livelihoods and highlighted the shortcomings in India’s extensive social safety net that caters to nearly 80 percent of its 1.3 billion people.

For nearly a decade, India has invested in building a digital infrastructure to transfer social benefits to its citizens directly to their bank accounts. Known as the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) platform, it currently includes 380 schemes run by 52 ministries of the federal government. State governments can use the DBT platform for their own cash transfer schemes as well. India also has a clear strategy in place to enable digital delivery of public services, subsidies and transfers. Known as the “JAM trinity”, the objective is to utilize universal coverage of its biometric ID system, Aadhaar, to expand bank account ownership through the Jan Dhan financial inclusion program and leverage mobile technology to reach final beneficiaries of social assistance. The COVID-19 lockdown provided a test of whether these investments in digital infrastructure would pay off and help the government deliver relief quickly and efficiently.

Early assessments suggest that this was indeed the case. The government transferred cash to over 200 million women-owned Jan Dhan bank accounts within a week of the announcement. However, the reasons for the migrant crisis soon became clear. It has been pointed out that while the government knows ‘how to pay’, it does not have an integrated view of ‘who to pay to’. Unlike countries such as Brazil or Pakistan, India does not have a unified beneficiary database or social registry that could be used to identify, target, register and pay those in need of assistance. Administration of benefits is fragmented – they are a mix of in-kind, voucher and cash transfer schemes run by different ministries, departments and agencies. More importantly, India’s states have their own social assistance programs while at the same time coordinate, supplement and implement federal schemes. This patchwork of financing and delivery of social assistance means that even though some states have implemented in-state portability for certain programs such as the Public Distribution System for foodgrains (PDS) and social pensions, in general benefits are not transferable across state jurisdictions.

US Experts Consider China a Shifting and India a Stable Friend to Russia

By: Arik Burakovsky, Dina Smeltz, Brendan Helm

With both Russia and China facing increasingly confrontational relations with the United States, the two countries have increased ties with each other and have pursued similar approaches in opposition to the US government concerning Iran, Syria, and Venezuela. Steve Biegun, US Deputy Secretary of State, recently characterized the developing relationship between Russia and China as one built on “mutual determination to challenge the United States.”

To better understand how experts think about Russia’s relations with the other great powers, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs recently conducted a survey of 201 American experts on Russia. The survey finds that a majority describe the relationship between Russia and China today as one of mostly partnership. They also describe India as primarily a partner to Russia, both today and in the future. By contrast, they say that Russian relations with the United States and the European Union are mostly competitive. But they anticipate that in 20 years, rivalry between Russia and China will grow, perhaps creating space for reducing tensions with the United States.

Key Findings:

A majority (68%) of experts believe Russia and China are currently mostly partners. Opinions on whether this trend will continue in 20 years are mixed, with 49 percent of experts saying they will remain mostly partners and 46 percent saying they will be mostly rivals.

India is seen by experts as even more likely (78%) than China to be mostly partners with Russia. Experts see this trend continuing two decades from now, with 76% predicting they will stay mostly partners.

While experts currently see Russia and the EU as more rivals (84%) than partners (14%), they predict that ties between Russia and the EU will thaw and that they will be more partners (54%) than rivals (39%) in 20 years. One reason for this prediction is the belief held by most experts (57%) that EU sanctions will be removed within the next decade.

Nearly all experts (96%) believe the United States and Russia to be mostly rivals. A slightly lower majority predict that they will remain mostly rivals 20 years from now.

The U.S. Once Surged into Helmand Province. Now the Taliban Is, Too.


KABUL, Afghanistan—In the last three weeks, Bibi Koh has lost at least three family members to renewed fighting between Taliban and Afghan forces in the southern province of Helmand. Three weeks ago, her oldest brother was killed in the crossfire between the warring sides. A few days later, her two sons, aged six and eight, went missing.

“I don’t know where they went. I don’t know if someone took them,” Bibi said. The ongoing clashes between the Taliban and government troops made it impossible to search for them, but not to keep her three remaining children safe. Last weekend, she gathered the last money she had left—about $60—and brought her family to a makeshift refugee camp in Kabul by way of Helmand’s neighboring province, Kandahar.

The travails of Bibi Koh and her children are common at Camp Shina, an informal settlement on the eastern outskirts of the capital that houses more than two dozen Helmandi families that have arrived in the last week. All the arrivals—mostly widows with children—have lost family members in recent fighting; the men who stayed behind are unreachable thanks to spotty telephone service.

“We don’t know if they’ve been martyred or if they fled, too. We just have to hope for the best,” said another mother in the camp.

Camp Shina and the ongoing battle for Helmand are emblematic of the many challenges Afghanistan continues to face as U.S. President Donald Trump pushes for a complete withdrawal of U.S. forces by the end of the year. His Democratic rival, Joe Biden, also favors pulling out, as does the American public.

Pakistan Remains in the UN Terror Financing Grey Zone

By Husain Haqqani

Although Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has assured his countrymen that Pakistan would soon get off the pre-sanctions watchlist of the U.N. money laundering and terror financing watchdog, it is unlikely that the international community will let Pakistan completely off the hook any time soon.

The United Nations Financial Action Task Force (FATF), is holding its virtual plenary on Wednesday and Thursday (October 21-22) and once again Pakistan’s case is likely to receive most attention.

Pakistan has, for years, not fulfilled the international organization’s standards against money laundering and has failed to shut down financing of terrorist groups operating on its soil.

But several countries have been reluctant to add Pakistan’s name to the FATF “blacklist,” which entails global economic sanctions currently imposed only on Iran and North Korea. Given the country’s poor track record in shutting down terrorist groups, Pakistan has been on FATF’s “grey list,” which has resulted in “enhanced monitoring” off and on for years.

The grey list is normally meant to force governments into tightening their legal regimes against money laundering and terrorist financing in order to get off it. But for Pakistan, it has become a way to indefinitely escape the blacklist. Avoiding the blacklist has become a goal in itself for Islamabad and after every FATF meeting that gives Pakistan a reprieve, its leaders celebrate the failure of its enemy, India, in securing the imposition of full sanctions.

Chinese Economy Rebounds, Still Trails Pre-Pandemic Growth

by Felix Richter

The Chinese economy continued its recovery in the third quarter of 2020, albeit at a slower pace than many had predicted. According to the National Bureau of Statistics of China, the country's GDP grew by 4.9 percent year-over-year in the three months ended September 30, up from 3.2 percent growth in the second quarter.

In the first three months of 2020, the coronavirus outbreak had resulted in the first quarterly GDP decline on record for the world's second largest economy, and while the latest rebound puts China back on the growth track for the entirety of 2020, the first three quarters of the year were the slowest in terms of growth since 1992 for the notoriously booming economy.

China's economic output had declined by 6.8 percent year-over-year in the first three months of 2020, after the coronavirus outbreak which originated in Wuhan (Hubei province) in December and the ensuing lockdown had stopped the country in its tracks. Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, China's economic growth had stabilized around 6 percent following a gradual slowdown from more than 10 percent growth in the first decade of the 21st century.

Thailand Spiraling Toward Outright Conflict

by Joshua Kurlantzick

In recent days, protests and counterprotests in Thailand have pushed the country closer to dangerous conflict between pro-democracy demonstrators, who also increasingly have called for monarchical reforms, and the royalist military and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, himself a former general who launched the 2014 coup in the kingdom. Protests have been building for months, and have shifted from just focusing on constitutional reforms and calls for a new election to demanding reforms of the monarchy, which historically has been a taboo subject in Thailand and protected by lèse majesté laws.

Despite regular arrests of protest leaders, the demonstrations show no signs of abating. In recent days, the standoff has become much more serious. Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn lives primarily in Germany but recently returned to Thailand, as the German government warned him not to be conducting state business from Germany. On Wednesday, protestors gathered in downtown Bangkok, confronting military and police and counterprotests. The demonstrators are infuriated by the king’s growing influence over Thai politics, the military, and Crown Property Bureau funds, his unwillingness to actually live in Thailand, and his often-chaotic personal lifestyle. In fact, the king is so much more willing to openly wield power than his predecessor father, and as a result he has made himself more open to public criticism.

China’s Claims in the South China Sea

Sourabh Gupta and Matt Geraci


China’s claims in the South China Sea is comprised of two parts. They are: (a) territorial sovereignty claims to the land features in the South China Sea, and (b) maritime rights and interests claims in the South China Sea.

Insofar as territorial sovereignty claims to the land features is concerned, China claims sovereignty over the South China Sea Islands (Nanhai Zhudao), which comprise of the Pratas Islands (Dongsha Qundao), the Paracel Islands (Xisha Qundao), Macclesfield Bank and Scarborough Shoal (Zhongsha Qundao) and the Spratlys Islands (Nansha Qundao). Macclesfield Bank is an entirely submerged feature, hence it cannot be considered to be an appropriate-able land territory as such in a legal sense. 

China’s maritime rights and interests claims in the South China Sea come in three parts:

A claim to internal waters, territorial sea and contiguous zone, based on sovereignty over the South China Sea islands;

A claim to an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and a continental shelf (CS), based on sovereignty over the South China Sea islands;

A claim based on the concept of ‘historic rights’ in the South China Sea.

The People’s Republic of China’s Claims in the South China Sea

China's Claims to Internal Waters, Territorial Sea, and Contiguous Zone

As a matter of policy, China has only declared baselines for the territorial sea surrounding Hainan and the Paracel Islands. Baselines have not been declared for the Pratas Islands (which are administered by Taipei), the Spratly Islands, and for Macclesfield Bank and the Scarborough Shoal. Based on China’s proclamations (since 1956) and conduct in the South China Sea, China does not consider the waters beyond 12 nautical miles of the various South China Sea Islands (Nanhai Zhudao) to form part of its territorial sea or internal waters.

China’s influence on the global middle class

Homi Kharas and Meagan Dooley


In the 1950s, over 90% of the global middle class resided in Europe and North America. Today, over 20% live in China. China is experiencing the fastest expansion of the middle class the world has ever seen, during a period when the global middle class is already expanding at a historically unprecedented rate thanks in part to some of its neighbors like India. By 2027, we estimate that 1.2 billion Chinese will be in the middle class, making up one quarter of the world total.

China already makes up the largest middle-class consumption market segment in the world and is a priority market for major multinational firms. Chinese middle-class consumption initially followed the growth path of the Western middle class, with increasing consumer demand for higher quality products, large investments in home ownership, and vehicle purchases. It is now setting its own middle-class trends. Chinese fintech and e-commerce platforms are changing the way consumers and sellers interact, and they are exporting this knowledge to other developing countries.

In light of this new dynamic, we explore the ways in which the Chinese middle class is likely to impact the global middle class moving forward. First, will the world be able to sustain such a large consumer class within its planetary boundaries? Second, does China’s middle class pose a competitive threat to other countries, or is it a positive force promoting global growth? Finally, how will a growing Chinese middle class impact global politics, when democracy is no longer the only way to achieve a stable middle-class lifestyle?

Do Republicans and Democrats Want a Cold War with China?

By: Dina Smeltz,Craig Kafura

American Views of China Plummet; Public Split on Containment or Cooperation

For the first time in nearly two decades, a majority of Americans describe the development of China as a world power as a critical threat to the United States, according to the 2020 Chicago Council Survey. At the same time, American feelings towards China have fallen to their lowest point in Council polling history, dating back to 1978. Reflecting these changing attitudes, Americans are now split on whether the US should cooperate and engage with China or actively seek to limit its influence.

This is a significant change. Over the past four years, US-China relations have lurched from one crisis to another. Despite the sharp downturn in relations, and the growing consensus in Washington on pursing a more confrontational approach to China, Chicago Council Survey data through January 2020 showed that this consensus and the growing US-China rivalry had yet to make a deep impact on American views of China. 

Key Findings

A majority of Americans (55%) say the development of China as a world power is a critical threat to the United States, as do majorities of Republicans (67%) and Independents (53%) and a plurality of Democrats (47%). 

American views of China, measured on a 0-100 where 0 is very unfavorable and 100 is very favorable, have hit an all-time low of 32—lower than any point in Council polling dating back to 1978. 

Americans are now divided over whether to undertake friendly cooperation and engagement with China (47%) or actively work to limit the growth of China’s power (49%). From 2006 through 2019, two-thirds had preferred a policy of cooperation and engagement. 

China’s Monopoly on Rare Earth Elements—and Why We Should Care

June Teufel Dreyer

A U.S. rare earth mineral strategy should . . . consist of national stockpiles of certain rare earth elements, reestablishing rare earth mineral processing in the U.S. by implementing new incentives and removing disincentives, and [research and development] around new forms of clean rare earth mineral processing and substitutes. We will need your help.

– Ellen Lord, Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, Testimony to Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support, October 1, 2020.

One day before Ms. Lord’s testimony, President Donald Trump had signed an executive order “declaring a national emergency in the mining industry,” aimed at “incentivizing the domestic production of rare earth minerals critical for military technologies while reducing American dependence on China.” The sudden sense of urgency in a heretofore little discussed topic must have come as a surprise to many.

According to geologists, rare earths are not rare, but they are precious. The answer to what appears to be a riddle lies in accessibility. Comprising 17 elements that are used extensively in both consumer electronics and national defense equipment, rare earth elements (REEs) were first discovered and put into use in the United States. However, production gradually shifted to China, where lower labor costs, less concern for environmental impacts, and generous state subsidies enabled the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to account for 97 percent of global production. In 1997, Magniquench, then-America’s leading rare earths company, was sold to an investment consortium headed by Archibald Cox, Jr., son of the same-named Watergate prosecutor, with two Chinese state-owned metals firms, San Huan New Materials and China National Nonferrous Metals Import and Export Company. The chairman of San Huan, son-in-law of paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, became chairman of the company. Magniquench was shut down in the United States, moved to China, and reopened in 2003, where it fit in well with Deng’s Super 863 Program to acquire cutting-edge technologies for military applications, including “exotic materials.” This left Molycorp as the last remaining major rare earths producer in the United States until its collapse in 2015.

Tehran’s Worst Nightmare


The fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan comes at a particularly bad time for Iran. At home, it faces an extremely difficult economic situation thanks to U.S. sanctions. Abroad, it is involved in multiple unfinished geopolitical adventures in the Arab world—from Iraq to Syria and beyond—in which it has invested considerably in recent years.

Although it might like to involve itself in the conflict in the South Caucasus, where it has played the role of mediator before, Tehran’s bandwidth to do so is considerably less than its geographic proximity to the conflict might suggest. Worse still, Tehran does not enjoy the diplomatic independence it had in the early 1990s, when fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh last erupted on this scale and when the Iranians could more effectively work between the two sides.

Instead, this time around, Tehran has to take a back seat to Russia, Turkey, and the West as those powers shape the trajectory of the conflict. And yet, thanks to Iran’s sizable Azeri minority, at around 20 million strong, there’s a real possibility that the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict could overflow and pose a serious risk to internal Iranian security. Tehran doesn’t want to lose in this conflict, but it holds a weak hand.

From cyber to China, here’s what has former US national security advisors worried

by David A. Wemer

Whether current US President Donald J. Trump is re-elected or former Vice President Joe Biden becomes the next occupant of the White House, the next US president will be confronted with a growing challenge from China, the lingering danger of an assertive Russia, and a broad range of threats complicated by the proliferation of new technologies.

That is the picture three former US national security advisors painted during a discussion on the future of US national security hosted by the Atlantic Council on October 19 as part of the Council’s Elections 2020 and Commanders Series. “The foremost family of threats to the United States stem from China and the challenges it is offering in every domain,” Robert McFarlane, former national security advisor to President Ronald Reagan, argued. John Bolton, who served as Trump’s national security advisor from April 2018 to September 2019, agreed, calling China “the existential threat of the 21st century,” while also highlighting Russia’s aggressive actions and the “more immediate” threats of nuclear proliferation and terrorism. Whoever occupies the White House on January 20, 2021 will have to grapple with the fact that in this century “the very concept of national security and everything that it entails is much broader and it is all happening at a much more rapid pace,” added James L. Jones, Jr., former national security advisor to Barack Obama and Atlantic Council executive chairman emeritus.

Here’s a quick look at what the former national security advisors said about the post-2020 landscape and how the National Security Council (NSC) can help the next US president meet the challenges ahead:

The coming contest with China

A U.N. Agency Lauded for Its Work Faces a Funding Shortage


Officials at the U.N. agency that won the Nobel Peace Prize this month, the World Food Program (WFP), are worried that dwindling resources and rising needs are making it increasingly difficult for the group to meet its targets this year for feeding millions of people around the world.

The agency has said the number of people on the verge of starvation worldwide could nearly double from 135 to 265 million in 2020—mainly because of the coronavirus pandemic and ongoing wars in Yemen and elsewhere.

At the same time, money pledged by governments, corporations, and private donors has not been enough to meet even the agency’s pre-pandemic projections for spending around this year. The World Food Program derives its budget from voluntary donations—leaving it dependent on the whims of donors whose considerations are not always purely humanitarian.

“There’s much more nationalist tendencies of many of the donors where their domestic policy is affecting their foreign policy,” said Ertharin Cousin, who headed the WFP from 2012 to 2017.

The agency originally projected a budget of $7.45 billion for 2020. Donors have responded with about $6.4 billion so far. But as the coronavirus pushed millions more into poverty, the WFP estimated it would need an additional $4.9 billion to maintain operations in 83 countries—meaning it now faces a shortfall that runs into the billions.

“International organizations take their cues, and their funding, from the governments that control them, and the future of the WFP depends on how the largest governments choose to use it.”

UK exposes series of Russian cyber attacks against Olympic and Paralympic Games

Russia’s military intelligence service, the GRU, conducted cyber reconnaissance against officials and organisations at the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games due to take place in Tokyo this summer before they were postponed, the UK has revealed today.

The targets included the Games’ organisers, logistics services and sponsors.

The attacks on the 2020 Summer Games are the latest in a campaign of Russian malicious cyber activity against the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The UK is confirming for the first time today the extent of GRU targeting of the 2018 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in Pyeongchang, Republic of Korea.

The GRU’s cyber unit attempted to disguise itself as North Korean and Chinese hackers when it targeted the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Games.

It went on to target broadcasters, a ski resort, Olympic officials and sponsors of the games in 2018.

The GRU deployed data-deletion malware against the Winter Games IT systems and targeted devices across the Republic of Korea using VPNFilter.

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) assesses that the incident was intended to sabotage the running of the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, as the malware was designed to wipe data from and disable computers and networks.

The Coronavirus Crisis: Recommendations for Israel | Team of Experts Led by Lt. Gen. (ret.) Gadi Eisenkot

Mor Yahalom

The following article summarizes the insights and policy recommendations of an INSS research project on the coronavirus crisis in Israel, which focused on six main issues: national security, regional cooperation, economy, technology, healthcare ,and aliyah.


The Covid-19 pandemic spread throughout the world in early 2020, leading to a global crisis. Although the worst-case scenarios of morbidity and mortality have not played out in Israel as of today, the pandemic has confronted Israel's civilian population and leadership with complex challenges. Furthermore, because the repercussions of the pandemic will have an impact on the dynamic situation in the Middle East—on a scale and timeline that are yet to be fully understood—it is already clear that this is a global turning point. These repercussions will not bypass Israel, and will indeed influence Israel's national security. The pandemic brought important components of national security—beyond the security apparatus and the military—to center stage of the public discourse. Areas that were of particular prominence included the economy, education, healthcare, and social resilience.

The coronavirus crisis has not only posed and accentuated challenges; it has also created opportunities for deep changes to strengthen both the State of Israel and Israeli society. Government officials are still focused on managing the complex events, which makes it difficult to think ahead. It is therefore important that there be a body that thinks strategically and creatively about the future and about the opportunities that the current challenges present. Following a request by the National Security Council (NSC) of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) to assess such opportunities, a group was formed to undertake this task. The papers compiled in this study are designed to shed light on these opportunities and suggest ways to realize and leverage their potential.

The project was led by Lt. Gen. (ret.) Gadi Esienkot. The various teams included experts who examined the respective subjects and formulated insights and principal recommendations. Members of the steering committee were Dr. Ran Goshen, Yoram Yaacovi, Yoram Tietz, Maj. Gen. (ret.) Nitzan Alon, Amir Levi, Maj. Gen. (ret.) Yishai Beer, Mor Yahalom, and Sara Greenberg.

Can Russia Steer the Endgame in Nagorno-Karabakh to Its Advantage?

Asbed Kotchikian 

Until late last month, the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh had been mostly frozen, with occasional skirmishes, for over a quarter of a century. One notable exception was the April 2016 “four-day war,” a brief but intense period of fighting that left over 200 people dead and was followed by claims of victory from both sides. The recent fighting that erupted on Sept. 27 has been much more intense; over 600 soldiers have been killed on the Armenian side alone, along with scores of civilians and an undisclosed number of Azerbaijani personnel.

While the fighting is officially between Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian population, in reality, it includes neighboring Armenia, which effectively administers the self-declared and unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. Another direct belligerent, albeit an unofficial one, is Turkey, which in recent months has conducted joint military exercises with Azerbaijan and has been providing it with military and technical assistance for many years.

There are several reasons why the conflict has flared up again. First is the lack of progress by the so-called Minsk Group, which was set up in 1992 under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to mediate a permanent peace agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Co-chaired by France, the United States and Russia, the Minsk Group is increasingly seen in the region as ineffectual. Frustration with the lack of progress in resolving the conflict has been more visible among Azerbaijani leaders, who have been arguing for decades that their country’s territorial integrity is being violated by Armenia. Authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh counter that the enclave’s majority ethnic-Armenian population is merely exercising its right to self-determination.

The Stability of Foreign Policy Amid Political Chaos

By George Friedman

In the 1970s, President Richard Nixon stepped into the political and social chaos wrought by the Johnson administration and compounded it substantially. Hence, when I visited Europe during the late Nixon years, all of the talk was about the decline of the United States. This was partly due to the Vietnam War, but it was also due to political crises such as Watergate. From the European perspective, defeat in a seven-year war, coupled with deep divisions in American politics, could only mean America’s decline. (Recall that many Americans continued to support Nixon up until the end, accusing the media and his enemies of trying to bring him down.)

At the same time, Nixon was laying the foundations of a foreign policy that would remain in place until the end of the Cold War. It had three elements. The first was the entente with China. The Vietnam War had weakened the U.S. military. Nixon countered that by entering into a relationship with China. The Chinese had been fighting the Soviets in battles along the Ussuri River. They were as alarmed by the weakening of the United States as were the Europeans. Whatever was secretly agreed to, the Soviets had to assume that it included a degree of coordination.

The second foundation was detente with the Soviet Union. Earlier in the 1960s, the U.S. and the Soviets had played a reckless game. The understanding that was reached with the Soviets did not contradict the relationship with China and, in fact, was built on it. If the U.S. had an understanding with China, the Soviets needed one as well, or else they could be trapped between the U.S. and China. The detente created channels to de-conflict the two countries, and formed an understanding, mostly followed, to avoid conflicts that could escalate into confrontation.

The third foundation was creating a framework for peace between Israel and Egypt that made a conventional Arab-Israeli war impossible. This was precipitated by Egypt and Syria’s attack on Israel and the conclusion of a war that required a direct meeting between Egyptian and Israeli officers, with Henry Kissinger present. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was the architect, but the Americans were critical guarantors. This led ultimately to the Camp David Accords, the withdrawal of Israel from Sinai, and the positioning of U.S. troops based in Sinai as a buffer.

Boeing, Boeing

One of the longest-running trade disputes in history now appears to be moving to the end game—maybe. The dispute between Boeing and Airbus, now in its sixteenth year of formal dispute settlement, seems to have come to the end of its World Trade Organization (WTO) road and is moving to where we all knew it would go eventually—direct negotiation between the parties. Most big disputes between big countries end up that way, and this one will be no exception.

I won’t go into the lengthy history of this dispute except to say it actually began back in the Carter administration when Boeing first raised alarm bells about European nations’ determination to create a competitor for Boeing and their willingness to use massive subsidies to do it. For some 25 years, either Boeing or the U.S. government declined to pull the trigger and initiate a formal complaint, and Airbus grew into a significant competitor. When the U.S. WTO complaint was finally filed alleging subsidization, the EU response was to file a parallel complaint alleging that Boeing had benefited from subsidies as well. The two cases then proceeded through what has been a long and tortuous path through the dispute settlement maze, with the EU complaint running months behind the U.S. complaint. That gap mattered because it meant that action on the U.S. complaint regularly happened first, giving the United States a public relations edge.

The Russian Ground-Based Contingent in Syria

Charles Bartles, Lester Grau


The Syrian Civil War produces a new set of problems involving extended urban combat, intense fights for key resources (oil fields, water, and lines of communication and supply), conventional combat among irregular units, ethnic and religious cleansing, a large number of foreign combatants with varying motivations, and contending outside powers fighting a proxy engagement. The Russian Federation is not an expeditionary power, and its entry into Syria on the side of the regime has strained its logistical resources.

From the beginning of the Syrian campaign, it was clear that Russian involvement was initially envisaged to be through the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS). Although the Syrian government was on the verge of collapse, and the Syrian military was on its hind legs and a shell of its former self, there was a sufficient number of Syrian ground units that were mission capable. With this understanding, the VKS was to be the principal supplier of Russian combat power aimed at disruption of the command and control and leadership of the groups fighting the Bashar al-Assad regime through the provision of reconnaissance and target destruction. In particular, Russia’s priority was the destruction of the Western-backed, moderate opposition groups, since it saw these as the greatest immediate threat to Assad. The Islamic State (ISIS) and other Sunni extremist groups were targeted, but sat lower on Russia’s priority list.

As with other such operations, «mission creep” soon resulted in Russia’s involvement quickly expanding past the provision of aerospace support to planning, and, in some cases, conducting ground operations. General Valery Gerasimov, Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Russia, confirmed this expansion of Russian involvement in a December 2017 interview. Russia’s ground-based contingent in the Syrian campaign involves a diverse set of forces and capabilities. Some of the key features of this expanded ground force mission included a Russian model of military advisors, integrated and modernized fires, mobility and countermobility operations, a featured role for military police, use of coastal defense, spetznaz, and private military company (PMC) forces. Russian ground forces have benefitted from the opportunity to provide combat experience to a large number of professional soldiers, conduct battlefield testing of new systems and observe the impact of different terrain on tactics. The forces opposing the Syrian government provide a different opponent than the “enemy” encountered in normal Russian peacetime training and much of the “Syrian experience” is discussed and dissected in Russian professional military journals.
Continue reading the chapter here

Technology Strategies in China and the United States, and the Challenges for European Companies

Etudes de l'Ifri

As international relations are increasingly reorganized around the US-China rivalry, the tensions between these two great powers are shaping a growing number of sectors, and the exchange of sensitive technologies in particular. This is a critical issue for European companies today. 

Indeed, European companies, as manufacturers, importers and exporters, risk finding themselves at the heart of the deepening technological competition opposing the United States and China (Éric-André Martin).

The United States has a long history of using multiple regulatory instruments in managing the export of dual-use technologies, in particular towards China. Even beyond the Trump administration’s aggressive positions, these regulations are expanding and increasingly strict, hinting at a potential protectionist technological warfare (Pierre Girard).

Despite China’s progress in innovation (5G, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things), and an expansion of measures meant to protect intellectual property rights both for domestic and foreign firms, Beijing’s predatory industrial practices and the weight of the Chinese Communist Party on the economy and society clearly live on (John Seaman).

French and European companies are thus hindered both by the prohibition of re-exporting American technologies and products enacted by Washington and by Beijing’s predatory practices.

Soldiers Become Another Node In DoD’s Internet Of Things: ENVG-B


The Enhanced Night Vision Goggles – Binocular (ENVG-B) look almost analog, like a set of fancy, lightweight binoculars mounted on a helmet. (By contrast, traditional night vision goggles are monocular, which limits depth perception). But inside, they are a sophisticated set of sensors, aided by cameras and on-board memory, that incorporate with other networked gear carried into battle.

ENVG-B is still being fielded across the force, but the Army is already developing a next-gen system, a set of augmented reality targeting goggles — a militarized Microsoft HoloLens — known as IVAS. The Army’s also developing an Adaptive Squad Architecture to ensure all the different technologies going on a soldier’s body are compatible.

“ENVG-B is a system of systems,” Lynn Bollengier of L3Harris Technologies said at this week’s annual Association of the US Army conference. These systems include integrated augmented reality aspects from the Nett Warrior tablet, as well as wireless interconnectivity with weapon sights.

Combined, that means a soldier wearing the ENVG-B can look through their binoculars, turn on the camera in their rifle’s sight, and point that sight around a corner to see and shoot, without exposing anything more than their hands or the rifle.

Sleepwalking Into World War III

By Carrie A. Lee

Civilian political authority over military leadership is a bedrock principle of the U.S. Constitution, so fundamental to the American system of government that it has rarely been questioned. But since President Donald Trump entered office in 2017, his administration has systematically eroded the norms that have supported this constitutional principle for generations.

The Trump administration has consistently elevated military voices over those of experienced civil servants in the development of foreign policy, and funding cuts to nondefense federal agencies, along with the resignations of many career civil servants, have left government offices woefully understaffed. As a result, policy planning and the guidance of strategic defense initiatives—which have historically been the purview of senior civil servants—have increasingly been ceded to those in uniform. Civilian authority over the armed forces is weaker now than at any point in living memory, and the Trump administration is increasingly engaging with the world

Why U.S. National Security Requires A Robust, Innovative Technology Sector

Loren B. Thompson

Introduction: America is facing the most serious challenge to its security in a generation.

Every nation strives for security. Although the phrase “national security” in common usage has military overtones, there are other elements as well—economic, demographic, cultural. For instance, energy security was a major concern of U.S. policymakers in recent decades, and environmental security related to climate change now garners similar interest.

What every facet of national security has in common, though, is that it is shaped by technology. The wide oceans separating North America from the Eurasian land mass were once thought to confer military security on the republic, but long-range weapons altered the significance of distance. The rapid rise of formerly poor East Asian nations has been driven in large part by their mastery of technologies that did not exist two generations ago.

Technology is thus a critical driver of national security, because it is the variable that determines the significance of all the other factors. In the past, the United States was able to sustain a culture of innovation that permitted it to lead the world in advanced technologies. Now that may be changing as other nations pursue investment initiatives aimed at dominating the global information revolution. For example, the Chinese economy today generates as much manufactured output as Germany, Japan and America combined, and that output increasingly consists of advanced information technology.

This report is about the role that America’s own technology sector plays in bolstering national security. It is focused mainly on the defense dimensions of America’s strategic competition with China and other nations, illuminating how a robust and innovative domestic technology sector can contribute directly and indirectly to U.S. military dominance.

Autonomous Cyber Capabilities Below and Above the Use of Force Threshold: Balancing Proportionality and the Need for Speed

Peter Margulies


Protecting the cyber domain requires speedy responses. Mustering that speed will be a task reserved for autonomous cyber agents—software that chooses particular actions without prior human approval. Unfortunately, autonomous agents also suffer from marked deficits, including bias, unintelligibility, and a lack of contextual judgment. Those deficits pose serious challenges for compliance with international law principles such as proportionality.

In the jus ad bellum, jus in bello, and the law of countermeasures, compliance with proportionality reduces harm and the risk of escalation. Autonomous agent flaws will impair their ability to make the fine-grained decisions that proportionality entails. However, a broad prohibition on deployment of autonomous agents is not an adequate answer to autonomy’s deficits. Unduly burdening victim states’ responses to the use of force, the conduct of armed conflict, and breaches of the non-intervention principle will cede the initiative to first movers that violate international law. Stability requires a balance that acknowledges the need for speed in victim state responses while ensuring that those responses remain within reasonable bounds.

The approach taken in this Article seeks to accomplish that goal by requiring victim states to observe feasible precautions in the use of force and countermeasures, as well as the conduct of armed conflict. Those precautions are reconnaissance, coordination, repair, and review. Reconnaissance entails efforts to map an adversary’s network in advance of any incursion by that adversary. Coordination requires the interaction of multiple systems, including one or more that will keep watch on the primary agent. A victim state must also assist through provision of patches and other repairs of third-party states’ networks. Finally, planners must regularly review autonomous agents’ performance and make modifications where appropriate.

These precautions will not ensure compliance with the principle of proportionality for all autonomous cyber agents. But they will both promote compliance and provide victim states with a limited safe harbor: a reasonable margin of appreciation for effects that would otherwise violate the duty of proportionality. That balance will preserve stability in the cyber domain and international law.

Everything You Think About the Geopolitics of Climate Change Is Wrong


Signs that the energy transition is picking up speed abound. One of the world’s largest oil companies, BP, recently projected oil demand may be close to peaking. The governor of California just signed an executive order to ban the sale of new gasoline-fueled cars by 2035. China, responsible for more than one-quarter of the world’s carbon emissions, pledged to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. And public polling shows a rising sense of urgency about the climate threat, galvanized by raging California wildfires and severe U.S. Gulf Coast hurricanes.

Transforming an industry that has defined the modern era will have profound consequences on the global order. China will rise and petrostates will fall—or so says conventional wisdom. In reality, the geopolitical fallout of a clean energy transition will be far more subtle, complex, and counterintuitive. Many of today’s predictions are likely to turn out wrong, or will take decades to unfold in unpredictable ways. If policymakers don’t get a clear-eyed understanding of how global power relations will change—not only in a future era of zero-carbon energy, but during the long and messy transition to get there—they won’t be able to manage the coming era of foreign-policy risks, and their efforts to combat climate change will be stymied.

First, take China. The Economist predicts powerful “electrostates” to take the place of today’s petrostates, with China benefiting the most by dominating rapidly growing markets for clean energy products. Yet even if China dominates the production of solar panels, electric car batteries, and other technologies, it will not derive the same measure of geopolitical influence that Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries have by dominating oil supply. The geopolitical leverage of the two is very different: China might have power over a new market for clean energy equipment by producing it most cheaply, but if China curbed solar panel exports for geopolitical reasons, the lights would not go out. Restricting battery shipments may lead to higher prices and delays for new electric cars, but would have no impact on people’s ability to get around in their vehicles today. That stands in sharp contrast to a sudden cutoff of oil or natural gas that can stymie mobility, trigger price spikes, or lead to people freezing in their homes, such as when Russia stopped gas deliveries to some southeastern European countries in the depth of winter in 2006 and 2009.