26 October 2020

India-China standoff: Modi and the Nehruvian Trap | News Analysis

Seema Sirohi

Hints of a breakthrough in the tense India-China border standoff are on the horizon and efforts are underway to disengage before the onset of a long, hard winter.

If winter comes and details of the exact disengagement process haven’t been worked out, spring will be far behind, if it comes at all. Endurance will be tested and supply lines will be stretched as leaders hunt for answers, especially on the Indian side.

The tragedy is that we have been here before. Multiple times. But Indian leaders have often lulled themselves into believing something that doesn’t exist-- a friendly China. They conjured up summits that repeatedly crashed into the great wall of hostility save for a few years when relatively peaceful co-existence was possible mainly because China was busy strengthening its economic muscle and getting in position.

Sure, India and China will exist together because they have to but it won’t be a trusting, equitable or even a tolerable existence. China thinks and acts a certain way. The Chinese leadership tends to “decree” rather than dialogue. It wants everything on its terms. Recent scholarship has shown that this strategy is not specific to President Xi Jinping, only more pronounced.

Sino-Indian Trade and Investment Relations Amid Growing Border Tensions

By: Anita Inder Singh


Following Chinese intrusions into India’s northern territory of Ladakh beginning in June (China Brief, July 15), relations between the two countries have seen a major downturn. Two strands of official Chinese thinking have emerged from statements by People’s Republic of China (PRC) officials, as represented by PRC Foreign Minister Wang Yi (王毅) and PRC Ambassador Sun Weidong (孙卫东) in New Delhi: that Beijing does not offer any prospect of an early settlement to the border dispute, and that it accuses India of infringing on China’s territorial sovereignty. Wang Yi maintains that the Sino-Indian boundary between China and India “has not yet been demarcated,” and that China will firmly safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity (Global Times, September 1). Sun Weidong asserts the official PRC line that there has been no Chinese transgression in Ladakh, and that the disputed territory belongs to China (PRC Embassy in India, August 28).

Despite earlier flare-ups such as the 2017 Doklam crisis, New Delhi in recent years has viewed India’s politico-economic connection with China through rose-colored glasses. At the Wuhan (2018) and Chennai (2019) summits Prime Minister Narendra Modi saw a Sino-Indian strategic convergence at hand (Indian Ministry of External Affairs, April 28, 2018; Xinhua, April 29, 2018). In Chennai he reportedly envisioned “a beautiful future” for India-China relations (Xinhua, October 13, 2019). For his part, President Xi Jinping has urged the elephant and the dragon to further align their development strategies and to build a partnership in manufacturing industries.

In response to the recent border incidents, the Indian government has looked to restrict Chinese investment in India, and there have been public calls for boycotts of Chinese-made goods. However, this has highlighted the disparity in economic power between the two countries, as well as the extent to which India is dependent on Chinese goods. Ambassador Sun, and commentaries in PRC state media, continually highlight India’s economic weakness, the ultranationalism that its widespread poverty allegedly inspires, and the difficulties it faces in overcoming its problems as one of the countries most affected by COVID-19. The Global Times editorialized this summer that the “gap between China’s and India’s strength is clear” (Global Times, June 17; Global Times, August 27).

How to Make a Sharp-edged Quad Work

By Abhijnan Rej

With the announcement on October 19 that India would invite Australia to participate in the three-nation India-Japan-U.S. Malabar naval exercises later this year after a 13-year hiatus, Quad supporters have found much to rejoice in. In many ways, this was a significant step forward for the grouping, even though it is not clear whether Australia’s participation this year will be a one-off event (unlikely) or a permanent addition, like Japan’s since 2015. The four nations have also significantly expanded their defense ties bilaterally, while coordinating their positions on regional issues as a group, and through trilaterals, sometimes involving other countries. India already has military logistics agreements with all three of the other Quad members. To this increasingly dense mesh of relationships now lies added a renewed four-nation military exercise. (The Diplomat’s Ankit Panda has a quick backgrounder on the Malabar exercises here.)

Some of the euphoria in the Indian media around the expanded Malabar exercises, however, has bordered on the downright absurd, with talks of an anti-China “alliance” or an Asian NATO. China, for it its part, anti-climatically decided to underplay the significance of the development. When asked about Malabar on October 20, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian – someone not given to measured pronouncements even under the best of circumstances – simply noted: “China believes that military cooperation between countries should be conducive to regional peace and stability.” (On October 13 during a visit to Malaysia, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi had described the Quad as underpinning a “so-called Indo-Pacific NATO.”)

But beyond the over-the-top claims and apprehensions about China’s reaction (both often go hand in hand), there is no doubt that the development does mark a pronounced turn toward militarization of the Quad, in spirit if not in letter. The question, then, becomes what the Quad should aim at, as the security dimension of the grouping firms up.

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.

U.S. Spy Agency Warns That Chinese Hackers Target Military, Defense Industry

By Dustin Volz

WASHINGTON—The National Security Agency on Tuesday warned that Chinese government hackers were taking aim at U.S. computer networks involved in national defense, characterizing the threat posed by Beijing as a critical priority in need of urgent attention.

The vulnerabilities described in the NSA’s new alert were already known to cybersecurity professionals, but the nation’s premier electronic spy agency for the first time described them as targets of Chinese state-sponsored hacking campaigns. The NSA urged cyber defenders across the Defense Department and within the defense industrial base to take action to guard against Chinese intrusion.

“These networks often undergo a full array of tactics and techniques used by Chinese state-sponsored cyber actors to exploit computer networks of interest that hold sensitive intellectual property, economic, political, and military information,” the alert warned.

In a statement, a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington said the allegations were “totally groundless” and that the Chinese government “firmly opposes and fights all forms of cyber attacks and crimes in accordance with law.”

The U.S. armed forces, defense contractors and U.S. universities engaged in defense research have for years seen China’s theft of military secrets as a top national security issue.

NSA publishes list of top vulnerabilities currently targeted by Chinese hackers

By Catalin Cimpanu for Zero Day

The US National Security Agency has published today an in-depth report detailing the top 25 vulnerabilities that are currently being consistently scanned, targeted, and exploited by Chinese state-sponsored hacking groups.

All 25 security bugs are well known and have patches available from their vendors, ready to be installed.

Exploits for many vulnerabilities are also publicly available. Some have been exploited by more than just Chinese hackers, being also incorporated into the arsenal of ransomware gangs, low-level malware groups, and nation-state actors from other countries (i.e., Russia and Iran).

"Most of the vulnerabilities listed below can be exploited to gain initial access to victim networks using products that are directly accessible from the Internet and act as gateways to internal networks," the NSA said today.

The US cyber-security agency urges organizations in the US public and private sector to patch systems for the vulnerabilities listed below.

Diplomatic Visits, New Arms Sales, and PLA Provocations Raise Tensions in the Taiwan Strait

By: John Dotson


Events throughout 2020 have seen a measured but steady increase in tensions surrounding Taiwan. The government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) continues to deny any legitimacy to the democratically-elected government of the Republic of China (ROC) in Taiwan. The PRC also continues to make menacing insistence upon unification on Beijing’s terms, in language that has grown more strident throughout the tenure of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) General Secretary Xi Jinping (China Brief, February 15, 2019; China Brief, November 1, 2019).

Against this background, the PRC has reacted with both harsh rhetoric and saber rattling to enhanced U.S.-Taiwan diplomatic contacts in August and September, as well as a reported further round of impending U.S.-Taiwan arms sales (see discussion further below). One PRC English-language outlet opined in late September that “The U.S. has been releasing all kinds of supportive signals to Taiwan this year, with the level and frequency of their so-called interactions flagrantly enhanced… While [some in Taiwan] jump at such signals, they’d better think long and hard whether the signals are sweet poisons from the U.S. for Taiwan” (PLA Daily, September 25).

U.S. Diplomatic Visits to Taiwan

Recent years have seen a noteworthy increase in official and semi-official U.S.-Taiwan diplomatic exchanges. In March 2018 the Taiwan Travel Act (TTA) was signed into U.S. law, providing a statement of support for increased travel by high-level Taiwan officials to the United States. This was followed by unofficial “transit stop” visits in the United States by ROC President Tsai Ying-Wen (蔡英文) in 2018 and 2019, and a May 2019 meeting between U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton and his ROC counterpart David Lee (李大維) (China Brief, July 31, 2019). In early February this year ROC Vice President-elect Lai Ching-te (賴清德) traveled to the United States, where he met with senior U.S. political figures and attended the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington D.C. (Taiwan News, February 4). Although Lai had not yet assumed office at the time, and therefore visited in an unofficial role, the trip produced harsh condemnations in PRC state press (Xinhua, February 6). All of these visits by Taiwan officials have drawn similarly negative reactions from the PRC Foreign Ministry and state media, as with the “stern representations” presented over President Tsai’s stop in Hawaii in March 2019 (Xinhua, March 21, 2019).

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

James L. Jones, Jr.

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

China must take action now on net zero pledge


Last month President Xi Jinping pledged, in remarks to the UN General Assembly, that China would be carbon neutral by 2060.

That is 40 years from now. More than half a human life, on average. So does it actually matter when we see the disastrous effects of climate change all around us today?

The short answer is yes. President Xi’s declaration is a surprisingly important step forward in the global response to climate change. It has the potential to help cut heat-trapping emissions significantly — in China and around the world.

But the commitment must be accompanied by short-term emissions cuts to be meaningful.

China is the world’s largest emitter of heat-trapping gases. Last year its emissions were roughly 27 per cent of the global total — more than the US, Europe and Japan combined. China’s climate policies are a study in contrasts. On the one hand, the country consumes more coal than the rest of the world put together. During the first half of 2020 Chinese authorities approved the development of many new coal-fired power plants.

Yet China also leads the world in deployment of solar power, wind power and electric vehicles. Its energy efficiency policies are ambitious and successful. There are no known climate deniers in the Chinese leadership.

International law with Chinese characteristics: Beijing and the “rules-based” global order

Robert D. Williams

China’s degree of compliance with and influence over international law are complex and contested subjects. The meaning of international legal rules can be vague, illusory, and open to dispute. Like other powerful nations, China may refuse to comply with the law when doing so suits its perceived interests. Nonetheless, international law matters to China. It can be a tool for accomplishing objectives, a source of legitimation or delegitimation, and a constitutive element of China’s interests. China is actively pushing to shape legal norms across a range of issues, and U.S. policymakers should take note.

This paper briefly reviews China’s recent history of engagement with international law and its mixed record in several contemporary issue areas: trade, maritime and territorial disputes, Hong Kong, human rights, climate change, and the emerging spheres of cybersecurity and autonomous weapons. I offer three tentative conclusions.

First, China exhibits a flexible and functional approach to international law that enables it to benefit from and exploit the international order without the need to advocate fundamental changes to the letter of the law in most areas. Second, China is increasingly seeking to shape legal norms across various domains of international relations. Third, despite its malleability and limitations, international law can also shape the context for the choices of Chinese leaders and their perceptions of their interests.

These conclusions highlight the need to strengthen systems of international rules in order to better manage increasing competition and multipolarity among nations. In response to the China challenge, the United States, in concert with allies and partners, should reengage clear-eyed with international law in an effort to shape rules that are more robust and more effectively enforced in the coming era — however difficult that may be.

China Keeps Inching Closer to Taiwan


Since early September, China has been carrying out the most provocative and sustained show of
force in the Taiwan Strait in nearly a quarter century. Chinese military patrols, some involving more than 30 combat aircraft and a half-dozen naval ships, have roamed the strait roughly every other day. Many of them have breached the median line between Taiwan and China, a boundary that—until last year—both sides had respected for decades.

With cross-strait tensions rising, a growing number of American policymakers and pundits, mostly on the political right and center, are calling on the United States to guarantee Taiwan’s security—a firm commitment that the United States has avoided making for more than four decades. These calls build on a series of bipartisan laws passed over the past two years that strengthen America’s moral and diplomatic support for Taiwan in the face of Chinese pressure. But can Taiwan actually be defended?

On paper, the task looks impossible. China’s military is 10 times as large as Taiwan’s and includes Asia’s biggest air force and the world’s largest army, conventional missile force, coast guard, and navy by number of ships. China’s long-range air-defense systems can shoot down aircraft over Taiwan, and China’s land-based missiles and combat aircraft could potentially wipe out Taiwan’s air force and navy and destroy U.S. bases in East Asia in a preemptive strike. China has built several times more naval ships than the United States since 2015, and it now outspends Taiwan 25-to-1 annually on defense. The cross-strait military balance is clearly shifting in China’s favor.

Can Iran Exploit Its Remaining Oil Wealth?

by Omid Shokri Kalehsar 

Since Iran’s Islamic Revolution of 1979, the country’s oil and gas sector has continuously suffered from sanctions, mismanagement, and underinvestment—challenges that have steadily chipped away at the country’s former status as a major global oil exporter. Today, the situation has become even worse. Iran’s oil and gas sector continues to face crippling U.S. sanctions as part of the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign, practically eliminating the country’s ability to export to major customers and cutting off its access to much needed foreign technology, investments, and supply chains. To make matters worse, it also faces a secular drop in commodity prices that has persisted since 2014 as well as the global COVID-19 pandemic, both of which have kept global commodity prices low for at least the next year or so.

Over the longer term, however, a shift in the global energy industry—known as the energy transition—has begun to take shape, where renewables—such as solar and wind power—are, albeit gradually, supplanting coal, oil, and even natural gas in the global energy mix. The energy transition threatens to render untapped oil resources economically unfeasible to produce, leaving them as “stranded assets.”

With this backdrop, Iran faces a triple challenge of chronic low demand for its exports, an inability to build and invest for the future, and a global shift away from hydrocarbons, setting the country on course to lose out on billions in potential revenues. This begs the question: as the Islamic Republic continues to fall behind in the rapidly evolving global energy industry, will it ever be able to take advantage of what remains of its enormous oil and gas wealth?​

Falling Behind

Iran’s natural resource wealth should make it one of the wealthiest countries in the world. It possesses the fourth-largest reserves of oil and second-largest reserves of natural gas globally. While many of its fields have been in production for almost a hundred years, new reservoirs continue to be discovered. According to a report by Wood Mackenzie, in 2019 the National Iranian Oil Company was first in the world in new oil and gas discoveries in Iran. Indeed, before new sanctions were imposed in 2018, the production and export of oil and oil products created over $50 billion of annual revenues, providing roughly 30 percent of the government’s budget and accounting for around 13 percent of the country’s GDP.

The U.N. Has a Diversity Problem

By Colum Lynch

For many people around the world, the United Nations has long been associated with struggles for equal rights and racial justice—stemming from its work during the era of decolonization, as well as its support for the American civil rights movement and the fight against apartheid in South Africa.

But in a year of worldwide protests for racial justice, the world body is increasingly under fire for failing to promote equality in its own ranks, especially in the recruitment and hiring of employees from developing countries for the most sought-after positions.

With its 193 member states, the U.N. is one of the most diverse institutions in the world—and yet, according to its critics, the agency has a diversity problem.

The United Nations still employs more people from the United States—some 2,531 or 6.75 percent of the entire U.N. workforce—than from any other country, according to an April 2019 U.N. report on staff demographics, even as the Trump administration complains about America’s waning power at the agency and the oversized influence of other countries.

Many European powers, including the United Kingdom, France, Italy, and Spain, are considered by the U.N.’s calculations to be overrepresented, meaning they have more employees per capita than most other countries in the world.

The US government sues Google for alleged anticompetitive abuses in search

By Brian Fung

Washington (CNN Business)The Trump administration on Tuesday sued Google in what is the largest antitrust case against a tech company in more than two decades.

In its complaint, the Justice Department makes sweeping allegations that Google (GOOG) has stifled competition to maintain its powerful position in the marketplace for online search and search advertising.

Eleven states -- Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, South Carolina and Texas -- joined the suit, according to the complaint.
The complaint targets a series of interlocking actions by Google that, as a whole, allegedly harmed competition and prevented rivals from gaining a meaningful audience.

It alleges in part that Google pays billions of dollars a year to device manufacturers like Apple, LG, Motorola, and Samsung and browser developers like Mozilla and Opera to be their default search engine and in many cases to prohibit them from dealing with Google's competitors. As a result, "Google effectively owns or controls search distribution channels accounting for roughly 80 percent of the general search queries in the United States."

Justice Department officials did not rule out a breakup of Google on a call with reporters Tuesday.

"Nothing is off the table," said Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, who warned that if DOJ did not file suit now, "we could lose the next wave of innovation" and that "Americans may never get to see the next Google."

Azerbaijan Makes Strategic Advances Along Karabakh’s Northern, Southern Flanks

By: Fuad Chiragov

On the morning of September 27, Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defense announced that Armenian forces in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan had attempted to attack Azerbaijani the positions; in response, Baku launched a large-scale counter-offensive up and down the Line of Contact (LoC) in Karabakh. Within the initial 24 hours of military operations, the Azerbaijani military said it liberated six villages in the Fuzuli and Jabrail districts, located on the southern flank of the frontline (Report.az, September 27).

From the opening days of the renewed clashes, it became clear that the Azerbaijani counter-offensive would proceed in two main directions—north and south. Along the northern frontline, Azerbaijan’s forces consist mainly of the 1st Army Corps, headed by Major General Hikmat Hasanov (Azvision.az, October 4). In the south, operations are conducted by units headed by Major Genral Mais Barkhudarov (Azxeber.az, September 28). Both of these commanders belong to a younger generation (compared to generals educated in the Soviet Union), born in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan and forced to flee their homes when they were quite young.

The positions of the Armenian forces in northern Karabakh, in the area north of Aghdere (Mardakert), has colossal strategic importance for Armenia. It is extremely mountainous terrain and has been built up with extensive Armenian defense infrastructure over the past two few decades, leaving narrow space for offensive operations by an attacker. In contrast, the plains surrounding Karabakh’s southern flank allow for a wider field of maneuver.

After breaking through the deeply echeloned defensive areas of the Armenian Armed Forces in the north (Talish, Suqovushan and Murov) and south, the Azerbaijani military is now gradually advancing toward the geographic and political center of occupied Karabakh—the capital of Khankendi (Stepanekert in Armenian) and Shusha, a site of great cultural-religious importance to Azerbaijanis. Arguably, the necessary prerequisites for the present-day Azerbaijani operations were established as a consequence of the April 2016 Four Day War (see EDM, April 6, 2016 and July 25, 2018), when Azerbaijan successfully seized control of the strategic heights of Talish in the north and Leletepe in the south.

Russia’s Interests in Belarus: Ends and Means (Part Three)

By: Vladimir Socor

Russia’s interests in Belarus at this stage may be categorized as status quo–oriented interests and those going beyond the status quo; the latter category clearly prevails in the political, institutional, and economic spheres (see Parts One and Two in EDM, October 15, 16), as well as—with wide-ranging potential repercussions—in the military realm. To change the situation in the military realm in its favor, Russia looks set to exploit Belarus’s international isolation in the wake of the August 2020 rigged presidential election and ensuing protests.

Belarus is Russia’s sole treaty-based military ally in Europe and has never cast doubt on that formal relationship. This operates both bilaterally (Union State) and in the framework of the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).

President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, however, has successfully resisted Russia’s proposals and pressures to turn Belarus’s territory into a source of threats and challenges to the neighboring Baltic States, Poland or Ukraine. Instead, in practice, Lukashenka has turned Belarus into a regional net donor of stability and security, widely acknowledged as such since 2014 in Europe and the United States. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union became the beneficiaries—along with their member countries Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, as well as the Western-oriented Ukraine—of Lukashenka’s Belarus buffering them from Russian military and security challenges and potential threats (see Jamestown.org, September 2019).

Such is the status quo that has taken shape in recent years in Belarus’s policy, Belarus-Russia relations, and the wider central European region around Belarus. This status quo has developed largely against Moscow’s preferences and interests, and in spite of Moscow’s pressures on Minsk to give in to those interests. And it has taken shape not by spontaneous generation but by specific decisions of Lukashenka and the Belarusian state elite around this president.

Trump Or Biden Can Still Fix America’s Failing Foreign Policy

by Daniel L. Davis

Look, there’s just no good way to say this: American foreign policy for more than two decades has been an unqualified failure. If substantive changes are not made—soon—in how we engage with the world, we risk suffering catastrophic loss. The good news, however, is that there is yet time to turn things around with sober, rational, and realistic policies.

Some may consider the claim the U.S. could suffer a catastrophic loss an alarmist view. Sure, some will agree, Washington could do a better job in some areas, but it’s a stretch to suggest the risk of failure is that high. It is precisely because such views are so prevalent that I wrote the book The Eleventh Hour in 2020 America: how America’s foreign policy got jacked up – and how the next Administration can fix it: the stakes really are that high, and the risk of failure is that real.

Whether Donald Trump wins a second term on November 3 or Joe Biden is voted into office, it will be crucial that the Administration make a clean break with past failures. Trump can’t continue with the status quo of the past four years and Biden can’t merely reprise his eight years under Obama.

America needs a new foreign policy construct that is aligned with a realistic and sober recognition of the world as it is, warts and all, and uses the full range of American power—in intelligent and creative ways—to produce outcomes beneficial to our country. If, however, the next Administration continues the establishment foreign policy status quo that has drifted unchecked for decades, we risk international obsolescence at best—or we’ll fumble our way into an entirely unnecessary and pointless war at worst.

My great fear, however, is that next month’s winner won’t make those necessary changes.

A Modest Hope for the Post-Trump World Order


MADRID – With the US presidential election nearing its apotheosis, predictions about what will come after are dominating discussions well beyond the United States. When it comes to international relations, forecasts range from apocalyptic to cautiously optimistic. But what is needed is an actual way forward, grounded in realism.

By realism, I don’t mean the “realist” approach to international relations, which emphasizes the role of sovereign states as self-interested actors. By that standard, some have argued that while US President Donald Trump has bumbled and flailed, he has also managed to rein in an out-of-control foreign-policy establishment that has consistently failed to advance America’s interests, at least since the turn of the century.

Other so-called realists have acknowledged Trump’s utter failure in the foreign-policy arena, but insist that this has created an opportunity for a much-needed reset. They, too, advocate a more restrained strategy, in which the US takes a hands-off approach wherever possible. A policy of “offshore balancing,” for example, would have the US empowering partners to advance its interests and restrain hostile actors in their respective regions. (China may already be pursuing such an approach, to some extent.)

This new foreign policy would depend on bilateral ties between the US and its various regional allies, rather than multilateral institutions, which realists perceive as diluting America’s influence. With great-power competition on the rise, the logic goes, allies will be drawn to the US for its strengths and capabilities. America’s leaders thus don’t need to take the time to build close, mutually beneficial relationships via formal regional or global structures.

Reflections on the United Nations at 75

Michal Hatuel-Radoshitzky

In recent weeks, the UN has marked the 75th anniversary of its founding. In addition to the 75th annual General Assembly in late September, many discussions and conferences have been devoted to the organization's purpose, future activity, and legitimacy in the current world order, which differs substantially from the order that prevailed after the Second World War when the UN Charter was drafted. The discussions and presentations at the various events provide food for thought about the UN and the international system, including Israel's place in the organization. Israel would do well to pursue a proactive and strategic policy in the UN that takes into account the changes in the international arena in general and the UN in particular, led by the signing of the Abraham Accords, which can weaken the traditional anti-Israel coalition in the UN. This could be an important step in the long road toward moderating the anti-Israel bias typical of some UN bodies, and improve Israel's international standing.

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, leaders and peoples in the free world began to attribute greater importance to the particular interests of their respective countries, at the expense of international cooperation needed to promote collective action on challenges facing humanity. This development, which continues to erode the very idea of multilateralism, has been attributed not only to growing support for anti-establishment, nationalist, and/or populist ideologies, but also to another phenomenon in the current international order – competition between the major powers, primarily the United States and China. Debates on these issues dotted the many conferences and events surrounding the UN's 75th anniversary, especially in light of increasing criticism regarding poor UN-led action dealing with wars, and ensuing violence, and humanitarian disasters; environmental and climate change; economic gaps between developing and developed countries, and pandemics that have no regard for geographic borders.

The day that America lost $100 billion because of an immigration visa ban

Dany Bahar, Prithwiraj Choudhury, and Britta Glennon

On June 22, 2020, President Trump issued an executive order (EO) restricting the entry of individuals seeking to enter the country on a nonimmigrant work visa. As part of this EO, the President proclaimed, “I have determined that the entry, through December 31, 2020, of certain aliens as immigrants and nonimmigrants would be detrimental to the interests of the United States.” Our ongoing research provides evidence to the contrary and documents that the EO negatively affected the market valuation of the largest U.S. firms.

According to estimates, this EO barred the entrance of nearly 200,000 foreign workers and their dependents. The nonimmigrant visas (such as the H-1B and L-1 visas) that were targeted are used by companies to hire or transfer high-skilled immigrants. There is overwhelming evidence documenting that skilled immigration improves firm outcomes such as profits, productivity, production expansion, innovation, and investment (see here and here for an overview of this evidence). Thus, it is plausible that the Trump administration’s measures significantly restraining immigration will have lasting negative impacts on American firms, and with it, slow down the post-COVID-19 economic recovery.

But we do not have to go very far into the future to assess the negative impacts of this policy. In fact, the largest U.S. firms have already taken a big hit, as we document in our most recent study. We estimate the cumulative average abnormal stock returns for Fortune 500 firms after the June 22 EO that restricted the skilled immigration visas on which Fortune 500 firms especially rely. This approach allows us to estimate the immediate economic impact of the aforementioned EO on the largest U.S. firms. We find that in the aftermath of the EO, the market valuation of the Fortune 500 companies in our sample dropped by about 0.45 percent, a loss to the economy as a whole that we estimate at around $100 billion based on the market valuation of the same firms a day before the EO. We further find that this negative shock was much more pronounced for firms that had maintained or increased their reliance on foreign workers during the years prior to the EO, as measured by growth in each firm’s Labor Condition Application requests (which proxies demand for H-1B visas).

Facebook and Twitter Cross a Line Far More Dangerous Than What They Censor

Glenn Greenwald

THE NEW YORK POST IS one of the country’s oldest and largest newspapers. Founded in 1801 by Alexander Hamilton, only three U.S. newspapers are more widely circulated. Ever since it was purchased in 1976 by media mogul Rupert Murdoch, it has been known — like most Murdoch-owned papers — for right-wing tabloid sensationalism, albeit one that has some real reporters and editors and is capable of reliable journalism.

On Wednesday morning, the paper published on its cover what it heralded as a “blockbuster” scoop: “smoking gun” evidence, in its words, in the form of emails purportedly showing that Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, traded on his father’s position by securing favors from the then-vice president to benefit the Ukranian energy company Burisma, which paid the supremely unqualified Hunter $50,000 each month to sit on its Board. While the Biden campaign denies that any such meetings or favors ever occurred, neither the campaign nor Hunter, at least as of now, has denied the authenticity of the emails.

The Post’s hyping of the story as some cataclysmic bombshell was overblown. While these emails, if authenticated, provide some new details and corroboration, the broad outlines of this story have long been known: Hunter was paid a very large monthly sum by Burisma at the same time that his father was quite active in using the force of the U.S. Government to influence Ukraine’s internal affairs. 

Along with emails relating to Burisma, the New York Post also gratuitously published several photographs of Hunter, who has spoken openly and commendably of his past struggles with substance abuse, in what appeared to various states of drug use. There was no conceivable public interest in publishing those, and every reason not to.

'There's a whole war going on': the film tracing a decade of cyber-attacks

Adrian Horton

In early 2010, scientists at a uranium enrichment plant in Natanz, Iran, watched their infrastructure malfunction at an unprecedented, inexplicable rate. Technicians inspected their equipment, but could find no explanation for why the plant’s centrifuges – machines to isolate the uranium isotopes needed for nuclear power – were spinning at irregular rates, and then failing.

Five months later, cybersecurity responding to a seemingly separate network malfunction in Iran inadvertently discovered the culprit: a malicious string of code which instructed computers, and the centrifuges they controlled, to vary in speed until their parts broke down, while simultaneously mimicking normal operator instructions, as if playing security footage on a loop in a heist movie. It was computer malware capable of physical, real-world destruction – the world’s first digital weapon, originating from US national intelligence.

Stuxnet, as the worm came to be known, marked a sea change in international relations – the first known time a country deployed an offensive cyber weapon to inflict damage rather than collect surveillance, and the precipitating event of The Perfect Weapon, a new HBO documentary on the past decade of insidious, troubling escalation of international cyberwarfare. With Stuxnet, which is thought to have been developed by America’s National Security Agency as early as 2005, the United States “crossed the Rubicon”, David E Sanger, a longtime national security correspondent for the New York Times, says in the film. “The United States has basically legitimized the use of cyber as a weapon against another country against whom you had not declared war. It pushes the world into an entirely new territory.”

The Justice Department’s lawsuit against Google will not stop Big Tech’s abuses

Tom Wheeler

This week’s Department of Justice antitrust suit against Google is the agency’s first major case against Big Tech since the 1998 Microsoft suit. It comes on the heels of a 451-page report by the House Antitrust Subcommittee that enumerates the dubious and harmful practices of the dominant digital companies and proposes the reinvigoration of the antitrust laws. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is reportedly not far behind with its own antitrust action against Facebook.

The abusive practices of the dominant digital platforms are so widespread and have become so embedded that there is no single solution. What is needed is a cocktail of remedies that blends antitrust with ongoing regulatory oversight.

Mixing such a blend begins with establishing goals for the outcome. It is not necessary to invent new expectations, but to simply return to the common law concepts that Big Tech has ignored. The common law duty of care provides that a company should anticipate adverse effects of its actions and mitigate them. The common law duty to deal establishes that the provider of an essential service has the responsibility to provide impartial access to that activity.

The industrial era produced unrivaled innovation and prosperity while being governed by these common law concepts. The internet era has seen the digital companies make their own rules while selling the elixir that government oversight would spoil the magic of their innovation.

Could the U.S. Military's Dream of a Hyper-Networked Force Become Reality?

by Kris Osborn

For more than a decade, the Pentagon has been working vigorously on finding ways to expedite joint interoperability and warfare information sharing across the services and across multiple domains in real time. The concept of passing targeting information from surface ships, to fighter jets to advancing ground units as part of an integrated joint fight has been center stage on the Pentagon’s modernization plans. Moreover, it is a task that has increasingly become more complex in an age of artificial intelligence (AI), faster digital processing speeds and a growing sphere of data networks and communications systems.

This vision of seamless, yet secure information sharing amid joint warfare operations has, in several respects, remained somewhat elusive and unrealized. Until now? Maybe. 

While many technical advances have in recent years greatly improved the speed, efficiency and range of cross-domain communications, there is reason to believe that the Pentagon is now approaching what could be called a major breakthrough. Engineering common IP protocol standards, building with open architecture and fostering a collaborative developmental process focused on interoperability have all been rapidly gaining traction in recent years. With rapid advances in drone communications, digital networking and sensor data aggregation, should otherwise stovepiped platforms be able to talk to each other? The answer is increasingly yes. 

After all, the concept has been alive and well for decades, as many remember the original intent of the Pentagon’s Joint Tactical Radio Systems software programmable radio program which, among other things, sought to network air, ground, sea in one functional, data-sharing network. JTRS never fully realized its potential, yet the technical process and conceptual effort continues to inform current programs such as the Pentagon’s Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2). 

Drone Swarms: Can the U.S. Military Defeat Them in a War?

by Kris Osborn

Swarms of enemy drones approaching a forward operating base or groups of dismounted soldiers present a unique and increasingly challenging threat. Enemy drones can blanket areas with surveillance, test enemy defenses, jam communications and even themselves become explosives to attack targets. 

The variety of uses of small drones, and the guidance systems which direct them, can be very difficult to defend against, a reality inspiring the current Air Force effort to solicit new ideas on ways to destroy them. The Air Force recently released a Request for Information (RFI) to industry, asking for new innovations able to counter small enemy drones. 

Certain small drones can hit speeds of 60-to-70 miles per hour, and some are small enough to fit in the palm of the hand. Swarms of these can be dispatched to cover an area with ISR and build-in redundancy so a mission can continue if one is destroyed.

Portions of the Air Force’s RFI describing the threats were quoted in Air Force Magazine as having “characteristics such as small size, low radar cross-sections, low infrared or radio frequency signatures (or no RF signatures), ability to hover, and low-altitude flight capability, which may render them difficult to detect and/or defeat. These UAS are typically either controlled remotely from a ground control station or capable of flying pre-planned routes.”

The Air Force and the other services such as the Army are now improving existing drone defense weapons and moving quickly to deploy new ones, such as interceptor missiles, networked ground sensors, laser weapons and electronic warfare, among other things.