31 October 2020

Why Is India Silent on China’s Human Rights Record at the UN?

By Arkoprabho Hazra

Despite criticism at the Third Committee of the U.N. General Assembly on China’s human rights violations in Xinjiang, Hing Kong, and Tibet, the country on October 13 managed to win the U.N. Human Rights Council (HRC) elections with 139 votes. Before the elections, in an effort to ask member states to not elect major violators of human rights, the U.N. Director of Human Rights Watch, Louis Charbonneau, had said that China and Saudi Arabia have not only committed grave human rights violations but, at the same time, they also disregard the international system around human rights. This statement seemed to have made an impact, partially, as Saudi Arabia lost the election, managing a mere 90 votes as compared to 152 votes back in 2016, but China still made it to the council as only five Asian countries were contesting for four seats.

While China is now going to resume its membership at the HRC starting from January 2021, India opted out of supporting either bloc of countries — either those effectively acquiescing to, or standing against, China’s activities in Hong Kong, Tibet, and Xinjiang – in the recent General Assembly session of the Third Committee. (The Diplomat’s Shannon Tiezzi and Catherine Putz have mapped the countries forming these blocs.) Revisiting the list of countries in the two blocs from 2019 reveals India wasn’t involved in the matter even then.

Thus, the pertinent question is: Why did India not voice its preference, even after being cognizant of the fact that Beijing stands as a strategic hindrance when it comes to Indian interests at the United Nations?

Toothless and Terrified: The State of Pakistan’s Media

By Niha Dagia

Imran Khan owes much of his political success to unprecedented coverage by the media in Pakistan and his party’s ability to tap into the politicking world on social media. This love affair, however, didn’t last long. Since making inroads to the corridors of power, Khan’s biggest allies have become his bête noire.

When in opposition, the cricketer-turned-politician marveled at reporting targeting his predecessors and championed a free media. He changed his mind when the roles were reversed.

In a recent interview, Khan sought evidence of media curbs. As if on cue, the following week saw a financial regulatory agency employee, Sajid Gondal, go “missing” after his name surfaced in a report alleging corruption against the prime minister’s aide Lt. Gen. (retd) Asim Bajwa. Then there were police complaints against journalists Bilal Farooqi, Asad Toor and Absar Alam for criticizing “state institutions” in social media posts.

The premier claims that local media in Pakistan enjoy more freedom than their counterparts in Britain. The reality on the ground tells a different story. From September 2018 through to January 2020, Freedom Network reported that seven journalists and one blogger were killed, six were abducted, and 15 were slapped with legal cases, among a total of 135 “violations against media practitioners.”

Sri Lanka Will Soon Have to Pick a Side in the China-US Rivalry

By Rathindra Kuruwita

Sri Lankan foreign policy over the last 15 years, especially after the end of the civil war in 2009, can be described as a series of desperate attempts to balance the interests of major powers that have a keen interest of the country, which is strategically located at the heart of the Indian Ocean.

The post-2009 agreements with competing countries, which have drawn Sri Lanka into the tensions between China and the United States and its allies, can be directly linked to the country’s economic woes.

With the liberalization of the economy, the gap between export earnings and import expenditure has been rising, with Sri Lanka now having a serious balance of payment crisis. The largest part of the country’s foreign loan portfolio, estimated to be nearly 50 percent, is made up of dollar-denominated international sovereign bonds, followed by debts to the Asian Development Bank, Japan, China and the World Bank.

To address its balance of payment issue, the Mahinda Rajapaksa administration, which governed Sri Lanka between 2005 and 2015, attempted to secure financial lifelines from China and an injection of FDI through China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Rajapaksa hails from the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP,) which has historically been close to China. By 2018, Sri Lanka had secured up to $8 billion in BRI financing from China, for the construction of major infrastructure projects.

Of these projects, the most visible and important are the Colombo International Financial City (CIFC) and the Hambantota port and adjoining industrial estate. Built on reclaimed land, CIFC is expected to serve as Sri Lanka’s financial and business district by 2030. Meanwhile, Hambantota port, which lies close to sea lanes through which two-thirds of China’s oil imports pass, is essential for China’s energy security.

China's Friends Are Few and Unreliable

by Derek Grossman

Amid escalating competition, China and the United States are actively shoring up their diplomatic relationships in the Indo-Pacific and beyond. Such partnerships confer significant advantages, from military base access to favorable political outcomes, as well as potential trade opportunities.

Despite the Trump administration's threats of trade war and questioning of U.S. alliances, the United States has fared quite well diplomatically. The United States has deepened ties with its Indo-Pacific treaty allies—Australia, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, and Thailand—even if Manila and Bangkok have flirted with Beijing.

Washington has made headway with India, upgraded its unofficial partnership with Taiwan, stepped up engagement of Pacific Island countries, and is competitive throughout most of Southeast Asia. America's Indo-Pacific vision of keeping the region free and open has also resonated with friendly Western European countries, like France, Germany, and the U.K. The United States has further multilateralized coordination with partners as well. Just this past week, in Tokyo, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met his counterparts from Australia, India, and Japan for the latest Quad discussions, and though left unstated, it is clear that pushing back against China topped their agenda.

China, by contrast, has undermined trust with its neighbors in recent years. Its belligerent tone, muscular foreign policy, and near-constant saber rattling have won it no new friends. China maintains zero alliances, and its partnerships are mostly with pariah states that are unreliable, unimportant, or both.

Take Russia, for example, China's most powerful friend. Since Chinese President Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, he and Russian President Vladimir Putin have met dozens of times. Xi even referred to Putin at one point as “my best, most intimate friend.” The two countries share many interests, most notably the promotion of authoritarianism over the West's democratic rules-based order. Russia is also reflexively opposed to U.S. interests, which fits China's needs nicely.

China Leads Again


NEW HAVEN – Just as China led the world in economic recovery in the aftermath of the global financial crisis of 2008, it is playing a similar role today. Its post-COVID rebound is gathering momentum amid a developed world that remains on shaky ground. Unfortunately, this is a bitter pill for many to swallow – especially in the United States, where demonization of China has reached epic proportions.

The two crises are, of course, different. Wall Street was ground zero for the 2008 crisis, while the COVID-19 pandemic was spawned in the wet markets of Wuhan. But in both cases, China’s crisis-response strategy was far more effective than that deployed by the US. In the five years following the onset of the 2008 crisis, annual real GDP growth in China averaged 8.6% (on a purchasing power parity basis). While that was slower than the blistering (and unsustainable) 11.6% average pace of the five previous years, it was four times the US economy’s anemic 2.1% average annual growth over the post-crisis 2010-14 period.

China’s pandemic response hints at a comparable outcome in the years ahead. The GDP report for the third quarter of 2020 suggests a rapid return to the pre-COVID trend. The 4.9% year-on-year figure for real GDP growth does not convey a full sense of the self-sustaining recovery that is now emerging in China. Measuring economic growth on a sequential quarterly basis and converting those comparisons to annual rates – the preferred construct of US statisticians and policymakers – provides a much cleaner sense of real-time shifts in the underlying momentum of any economy. On that basis, China’s real GDP rose at an 11% sequential annual rate in the third quarter, following a 55% post-lockdown surge in the second quarter.

The comparison with the US is noteworthy. Both economies experienced comparable contractions during their respective lockdowns, which came one quarter later for the US. China’s 33.8% sequential (annualized) plunge in the first quarter was almost identical to the 31.2% US contraction in the second quarter. Based on incoming high-frequency (monthly) data, the so-called GDPNow estimate of the Atlanta Federal Reserve puts third-quarter sequential real GDP growth in the US at around 35%. While that is a welcome and marked turnaround from the record decline during the lockdown, it is about 20 percentage points short of China’s post-lockdown rebound and still leaves the US economy about 3% below its peak of late 2019.

China’s Military Is a Powerhouse Thanks to Russia

by Mark Episkopos

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that a military alliance between China and Russia is not needed right now, but that it can’t be ruled out as a future prospect. Putin’s comments follow decades of tightknit Sino-Russian cooperation across a wide gamut of defense and regional security categories.

During his prepared remarks at his annual Valdai Discussion Club appearance late last week, Putin noted that “China is moving quickly towards superpower status.” When queried on the future possibility of a formal Russia-China military alliance, Putin responded, “we have always assumed that the extent of our relationship has reached such a degree of cooperation and trust that we don’t need it.” But, he added, “it is theoretically quite possible to imagine it.”

Putin went on to stress that the Russo-Chinese relationship extends far beyond immediate military cooperation, stretching into the realm of technology transfers. “Without any doubt, our cooperation with China is bolstering the defense capability of China’s army,” said the Russian President.

Putin’s statement is particularly striking in its historical context. Since the early days of China’s military modernization drive, the PLA has relied extensively on Soviet— and now Russian— technical expertise, licensing deals, and import contracts. 

Take, for instance, China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF). Among the PLAAF’s first models were the MiG-9 and MiG-15 jet fighters, transferred from the Soviet Union. The PLAAF’s subsequent J-5, J-6, and J-7 fighters were derivatives of the Soviet MiG-17, MiG-19, and MiG-21 respectively. The J-11, currently one of the most numerous fighter models in the PLAAF’s roster, is a close variant of the prolific Soviet Su-27, not without controversy. More recently, China purchased two batches— for a total of 24 units— of Russia’s advanced Su-35 air superiority fighter.

China launches new Yaogan-30 group of military satellites

by Rui C. Barbosa

China launched a new group of triplet satellites for the Chuangxin-5 (CX-5) constellation on Monday. Launched under the name Yaogan Weixing-30 Group-7, the three satellites were orbited by a Chang Zheng-2C launch vehicle from the LC-3 Launch Complex of the Xichang Satellite Launch Center, with launch taking place at 15:19 UTC.

Like the previous missions on the series, this mission is once again classed as involving new remote sensing birds that will be used to “conduct electromagnetic probes and other experiments.”

As was the case in previous launches of the Yaogan Weixing series, analysts believe this class of satellites is used for military purposes, in particular forming a high-revisit smallsat constellation for signal intelligence missions or imaging activities.

Working with the former Soviet Union (and on a smaller scale with Russia) ‘Cosmos’ designation, the ‘Yaogan’ name is used to hide the true military nature of the vehicles orbited.

The Chuangxin-5 satellites were developed by the Chinese Academy of Sciences Small Satellite Center. All the Yaogan Weixing-30 / Chuangxin-5 missions were launch by Long March-2C rockets from Xichang Satellite Launch Center.

The first three satellites were launch on September 29, 2017, followed by another three sats on November 24 the same year. This second group was orbited into an orbital plane 119° West of the first three satellites.

One Year After Al-Baghdadi Death, An ISIS "Regeneration"

Mourad Kamel

The grisly killing 10 days ago of a French school teacher had many of the hallmarks of past attacks carried out by the bloody Islamist terror outfit ISIS. A well-defined symbolic target in the West: Samuel Paty, a respected history and geography teacher who'd been criticized by a Muslim parent and Islamist agitator for showing satirical cartoons of the prophet Muhammad as part of his annual lesson on free speech; the brazen brutality of the act: a swift stabbing and beheading with a butcher knife on a street near the school north of Paris; online exchanges discovered later between the perpetrator, a Russian-born French resident of Chechen origin, and an operative in Idlib, Syria.

And yet according to French daily Le Parisien, investigators say that the killer's contacts were with a different Islamist terror group in Syria (Haya't Tahrir El Sham, HTS) — and that the attack by the 18-year-old (later killed in a standoff with police) was neither inspired nor orchestrated by ISIS.

This comes almost exactly one year after a low moment for the group dubbed the Islamic State in Syria (ISIS), when its ruthless leader, Abou Bakr al-Baghdadi, was killed on Oct. 26, 2019 in a U.S. Special Forces raid. But security analysts and intelligence experts now report that there are signs that ISIS is coming back to life — led by al-Baghdadi's successor, who has his own reputation as a ruthless killer.

Flash news: Al Jazeera reports that ISIS claimed responsibility for a suicide bomb attack Saturday that killed at least 24 civilians in a Kabul educational center, including schoolchildren.

Background check: Though it was founded in 1999, it was only in 2014 that ISIS grabbed the world's attention, succeeding al-Qaeda as the main force of Islamic terror after the death of its founder Osama bin Laden. ISIS's strategy was somewhat different than bin Laden's, with ambitions to establish a "caliphate" or Islamic state, by conquering vast territory in the Middle East, while simultaneously spreading terror across the world with attacks like the one in November 2015 at the Bataclan concert hall and cafés in Paris that killed 130, as well as multiple smaller attacks elsewhere in the West.

Pentagon Awards Contract to Build University Consortium for Hypersonic Research

By Abhijnan Rej

The Pentagon announced on October 26 that it was awarding an annual $20 million contract for the next five years to Texas A&M University’s Experimental Engineering Station to start and manage a one-of-a-kind University Consortium for research on hypersonic systems. A Department of Defense (DOD) statement noted that “The Consortium will concentrate on developing hypersonic technologies, investigate efficiencies related to the industrial base, and strengthen partnerships with small and large companies to transition technology and reduce system development timelines.” The University Consortium on Applied Hypersonics (UCAH) will involve 41 institutions, including top universities, across the United States, and is expected to begin operations this fall, the statement noted.

As the Texas A&M statement following the DOD announcement notes, it comes while that university builds the biggest enclosed-tube hypersonic and directed energy testing range in the United States as part of the George H.W. Bush Combat Development Complex whose construction was approved by the university in May this year. The Ballistic Aero-Optics and Materials (BAM) range will be 1 kilometer in length and 2 meters in diameter. BAM will be complemented by Texas A&M’s National Aerothermochemistry and Hypersonics Laboratory and the Aerospace Laboratory for Lasers, ElectroMagnetics and Optics in supporting hypersonics research, the university’s statement also notes.

The DOD’s announcement comes amid its growing interest in fielding hypersonic weapons. Last week, on October 21, U.S. National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien had announced the Trump administration’s plans to equip all U.S. Navy destroyers, as well as newer nuclear-powered attack submarines, with hypersonic missiles. “This capability will be deployed first on our newer Virginia-class submarines and the Zumwalt-class destroyers. Eventually, all three flights of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers will field this capability,” O’Brien said at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Maine. (For the significance of, and difficulties with, this plan, see the analysis by Robert Farley and Steven Stashwick in these pages.)

Earlier this month, on October 13, U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper had pledged to deploy the first hypersonic missile system with American forces by 2023. The U.S. Army and navy had jointly tested a hypersonic glide body in March this year.

The Ideology Delusion

By Elbridge Colby and Robert D. Kaplan

Bipartisanship is exotic these days in the United States, but the two parties do share something: a deep concern about China. Asked in February at the Munich Security Conference whether she agreed with U.S. President Donald Trump’s China policy, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi remarked dryly but tellingly: “We have agreement in that regard.” Legislation supporting Hong Kong and Taiwan and sanctioning Chinese officials easily passed Congress this year. Unlike in the past, today China has few—if any—friends in the corridors of power in Washington.

Even beyond Congress, though, there is wide agreement forming across the political spectrum about why China poses a threat to the United States. For many, it is above all because China is an oppressive one-party state, governed by a Marxist-Leninist cadre, whose leader, Xi Jinping, has amassed more personal power than anyone in Beijing since Mao Zedong. Both the Trump

Belarusian Mortgage on Russia's Future

by William Courtney and Howard J. Shatz

Imperial ambition could again cost Russia. On September 14 in Sochi, Russian President Vladimir Putin signaled that Russia was throwing its weight behind embattled Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. But any move by Putin to enforce his will in Belarus with force could invite tougher Western sanctions and scare investors, exacerbating problems of the already flagging Russian economy.

Since a fraudulent presidential vote on August 9 which allegedly gave Lukashenko an 80% vote for a sixth term, hundreds of thousands of people have peacefully protested calling for an end to his 26-year dictatorship.

Lukashenko appealed to President Vladimir Putin, who said he had created a police reserve in case events get “out of control.” The Kremlin could draw on hundreds of thousands of well-armed paramilitary forces, perhaps more than the “little green men” it sent to Ukraine in 2014.

In highlighting in Sochi that “we see Belarus as our closest ally” and joint military exercises would take place “practically every month,” Putin sent a strong message. But if Russia mounted another armed assault on a European neighbor, the West might send an equally robust signal. This movie has played before.

In response to the invasion of eastern Ukraine in 2014, the West imposed unprecedented sectoral sanctions Russia's financial, energy development, and defense sectors.

They have bite. In November 2014 Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said the cost to Russia's GDP may be 2% per year (PDF). There are other estimates.

How Trump Can End the War in Syria

By Ayman Abdel Nour

In the summer of 2011, as Syria’s peaceful protest movement began mutating into a full-blown civil war, Syrian opposition activists begged U.S. President Barack Obama to aid their efforts to oust the country’s authoritarian leader, Bashar al-Assad. The dissidents were received with great warmth and sympathy by State Department officials and by lawmakers from both political parties, but the Obama administration—already focused on preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons and keen to avoid the quagmire of a sectarian conflict—declined to intervene. For the next five and a half years, as the war in Syria killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions, Obama offered rhetorical and humanitarian support to the Syrian rebels but little more; he repeatedly failed to take the kind of decisive action that might have ended Assad’s brutal rule or changed the course of the bloody conflict.

China Retaliates With More Restrictions on US Media

By Eleanor Albert

On Monday, China announced additional
rules for a set of six U.S. media organizations
working in China, mandating that they report to the government on their staffing, finances, and real estate within the week. The targeted organizations are the American Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), the Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, Feature Story News, the Bureau of National Affairs, and Minnesota Public Radio. The new rules are the latest in tit-for-tat measures between Beijing and Washington targeting news firms.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian described the newly imposed requirements as “necessary,” “legitimate,” and “justified self-defense.” “What the United States has done is exclusively targeting Chinese media organizations driven by the cold war mentality and ideological basis,” Zhao said.

Beijing’s move comes after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced restrictions for six more Chinese media organizations, targeting Yicai Global, Jiefang Daily, Xinmin Evening News, Social Sciences in China Press, Beijing Review, and Economic Daily, and requiring that they register as foreign missions. In his remarks, Pompeo stated that the designations do not affect the content of what can be published in the United States. “We simply want to ensure that American people, consumers of information, can differentiate between news written by a free press and propaganda distributed by the Chinese Communist Party itself,” he said.

These reciprocal moves are the latest to hit media relations as U.S.-China relations have soured further throughout 2020. More than a dozen other Chinese media outlets have been designated as foreign missions including Xinhua News Agency, China Global Television Network, China Radio International, China Daily Distribution Corporation, Hai Tian Development USA, China Central Television, China News Service, the People’s Daily, and the Global Times. The designation of “foreign mission” requires the outlets to identify their U.S.-based staff and real estate transactions to the State Department. In March, the Trump administration also reduced the number of Chinese citizens able to work for five major state-controlled news organizations (Xinhua, CGTN, China Radio, China Daily, and People’s Daily) from 160 to 100. Separately, in May, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security shortened the duration of visas for Chinese journalists to a maximum of 90 days.

America’s Moral Tipping Point


ITHACA – Within the space of the next month, as the autumn leaves here in the northeastern United States are swept away by the winds of approaching winter, the country will make a choice as consequential as any we have seen in recent history. The US election on November 3 will have global implications as dangerous as the looming climate crisis, or as promising as a major scientific breakthrough that enables shared prosperity. But this depends not on the wiles of nature or the mysteries of science. It depends on US voters.

The election will mark a turning point for the US and the world. The fact that President Donald Trump still has some chance of winning a second four-year term leaves me baffled. Why do Republican voters and leaders support him?

When my wife and I moved from Delhi to small-town America in 1994, with two small children who would have to adjust to a new school and make new friends, we were apprehensive. But we were surprised at how quickly we found a home and general acceptance, not just in Ithaca and neighboring towns like Trumansburg, which are known for being progressive and open (or, in Trump’s parlance, “Communist”), but also in the cities and suburbs of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

Many of these areas traditionally lean Republican, and one would find no shortage of signs and placards expressing that allegiance. But stop into a small shop or diner, and you would almost always be met with a friendly response. Talk to the people, and you would find that while their views about politics and the economy may differ, they were welcoming, civil, and decent. Later, when I moved to Washington, DC, I had plenty of ideological differences with the Republican Party leaders I met, but I didn’t see that as a problem. As the Nobel laureate economist Amartya Sen notes in The Argumentative Indian, argument and contestation are a staple of democracy.

Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: A Religious Strife? – Analysis

By Mohamed Bin Ali and Chew Si Xing Theresa*

The conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh between Azerbaijan and Armenia has once again flared up, with many depicting it as a religious dissension. However, labelling it as a “religious conflict” is imprecise and complicating the search for a durable peace among the main protagonists in this vulnerable underbelly of the former Soviet Union.

Since the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan intensified on 27 September 2020, hundreds of soldiers and civilians have died and thousands of people displaced in the concentrated exchange of firepower. From the beginning of open armed hostility in 1988, the fighting has been portrayed, particularly by the Western media, as a “religious war” between Christian Armenians and Muslim Azerbaijanis.

Such a characterisation is imprecise and is disputed. A deeper examination of this strife clearly reveals that politics rather than religion is the primary cause. Following decades of political disputes, there is strong mutual distrust and insecurity. In fact, the absence of religious themes has also been persistently maintained by the leaders of both sides in the conflict.

How It Started

The bloodshed in Nagorno-Karabakh has been described as an ethnic and territorial conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, two neighbouring states in the South Caucasus region between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea. This region has been described by scholars as the frontier of Europe, Russia, Turkey and Iran. It consists of various traditional homelands inhabited by populations belonging to different ethnic, religious and tribal backgrounds. For example, the original territory of Nagorno-Karabakh was an autonomous area with a Christian Armenian majority, within Soviet Azerbaijan, a predominantly Muslim republic in the then Soviet Union.

What Tech Giants Google and Microsoft Now Have in Common | Opinion


I keep waiting for some down time, but stuff keeps happening. This week in On the Street: Mitch McConnell turned up the volume on his Ebenezer Scrooge act just in time for the holidays; the Department of Justice, as promised, declared war on Google; and why all CEO pay isn't created equal. Bonus material: the end of the legendary diet drink, Tab; J.C. Penney sticks it to taxpayers; the beginning of a new era at City Winery in New York City, my favorite music venue before COVID; and the singing duo of Joan Baez and Lana Del Rey. (That one caught me by surprise.) Lets get started:

Microsoft Redux? The Department of Justice (DOJ) finally unveiled its pre-election case against Google, alleging that, basically, the company abuses its monopoly power to dominate the search/ad biz—and snuffing the life out of potential competitors along the way. If Google execs were being honest, I don't think they'd deny they are knowingly crushing their adversaries like ants. But admitting it at trial is a bad look. If you are wondering how this is going to end, you can study Google's cases with the European Union, which has extracted billions from the Mountain View, California, company. But also take a trip back in time to when Microsoft and its co-founder Bill Gates tangled with the DOJ trustbusters. After sporadic threats and investigations, the case against Microsoft began in earnest in 1998 and ended in 2001 with a settlement, not a breakup. (Though one was initially ordered by the judge—and overturned by other judges.) Some of it will sound familiar: Microsoft used its dominant operating system to, among other things, push the likes of Netscape and others out of existence. You remember the spreadsheet program Lotus 1-2-3? Or WordPerfect? Didn't think so. It was, though, a good show with Gates in the spotlight. You would never recognize the nice philanthropist Gates of today from the angry businessman Gates of yesteryear. He was combative. He bobbed and weaved through testimony in depositions and trial. Kind of like U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr being questioned by Sen. Kamala Harris during his confirmation hearing. ("I don't know...I don't remember...Where am I?") You won't have that entertainment value in this case. But you will get a lot of handwringing about the government getting in the way of progress and all that free enterprise jazz. Don't buy it. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and law professor Tim Wu summed it up best for The New York Times back in 2018, the 20th anniversary of the Microsoft rumble: "It might seem like a cruel irony that the immediate beneficiaries of the Microsoft antitrust case — namely, Google, Facebook and Amazon — have now become behemoths themselves. But this is how the innovation cycle works: It creates room for saplings to grow into giants, but then prevents the new giants from squashing the next generation of saplings."

Want Real Security? Create Better Global Digital Rules and Norms


There will be no effective Third Offset reasserting American leadership in emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence until there is simultaneous effort on a — well, call it a Fourth Offset, to revitalize global norms and rules of the road. 

Advances in autonomous systems, information warfare, and material sciences are well on their way to transforming national security. Not only have these technologies helped the United States’ authoritarian adversaries to solidify control over their own populations, they have also expanded the ways and means through which states and non-state actors compete, blurring the lines between war and peace. Thus, any normative offset must not just address the technologies themselves, but also the competitive environment they help create. 

We already see how repressive states are taking advantage of technology. New tools for mass surveillance are helping China, Russia, and Iran — not to mention U.S. partners — to track and invasively monitor their population. Advances in autonomous and semi-autonomous weapons give a wide range of actors the means to strike in more precise, prolific, and deniable ways. Cyber attacks hold critical infrastructure and services at risk. Advances in other spheres allow friendly and unfriendly actors to shape global narratives — even to undermine the legitimacy of governments and institutions necessary for a successful defense.

As a result, U.S. planners are rethinking the roles the military should play in competition below the threshold of war. What is striking about the nature of this competition is not so much the sophistication of these new challenges, but rather the primitive state to which they reduces competition. By undermining and eroding the complex norms currently in place to manage conflict and escalation, the use of these technologies force actors to rely on blunter instruments, such as proxies and reprisals, to shape adversary behavior. Proxies are under-regulated, allowing actors to avoid cost and accountability. To deter future attacks, aggrieved parties have little choice but to engage in reprisals, which are illegal in peacetime and which tend to lead to escalation. For example, Washington’s maximum pressure campaign against Iran has led to violent exchanges between U.S. forces and Iran and its proxies. 

Americans Are Paying for Trump’s Trade Wars—and Underwriting His Campaign

Kimberly Ann Elliott 

President Donald Trump still just doesn’t get tariffs. On the campaign trail in Wisconsin recently, Trump again bragged—wrongly—about how China is paying for the higher taxes he slapped on imports over the past two years. He then touted the $28 billion in ad hoc payments that the federal government has doled out to farmers in that time to compensate for the hit they took when China retaliated against U.S. exports. What Trump doesn’t say is that it is American consumers and taxpayers who are footing the bill for his failed trade wars.

Analysts project that American farmers will receive a record $46 billion in government assistance in 2020, which would account for 40 percent of total farm income this year, the highest share since 2005. A relatively small chunk of that will be in the form of regularly legislated farm bill subsidies. The bulk will be direct payments to compensate for Trump’s trade war and for coronavirus pandemic relief. Even with all the extra government support, the American Farm Bureau projects that agricultural sector debt will still increase by 4 percent this year and farm bankruptcies will rise. ...

Don’t let flashy 3rd quarter GDP growth fool you, the economy is still in a big hole

Jay Shambaugh

When Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth data for the third quarter of 2020 is released on October 29, it will almost certainly break records. Many analysts project growth over 30 percent at an annual rate – roughly twice as high as any quarterly growth rate since World War II.

Yet despite this phenomenal-sounding growth, the economy will still be in a considerable hole, is actually slowing down, and presents a strong case for concern. Some basic math and data can help pierce through the mirage.

One reason 30 percent growth doesn’t mean the economy is healed stems from how percentage changes work when going down and then up. If you own a stock priced at $100 and it drops 30 percent, it is now worth $70. If it gains back 30 percent, it is then worth $91 (the gain is just $21 because 30 percent of 70 is 21). In the same manner, the large drop in output in the second quarter followed by similar sized increases in the third quarter will still leave a large hole. Even if GDP growth is 30 percent at an annual rate in the third quarter, output will still be more than 4 percent below its level at the end of 2019, which is more than the farthest the economy ever was from its prior peak in the Great Recession.

In addition, in the United States, we typically report growth numbers at an annualized rate. This way of reporting tells you how much the economy would grow or shrink if it kept up that pace for a full year. When there are huge swings up or down (like now) that can be a bit misleading. It made the drop in the second quarter seem larger than it was, and now makes the rebound seem larger as well.

It is also important to recognize that rapid third quarter growth does not mean the economy has strong momentum now. Third quarter growth measures the average level of output in July through September compared to the average in April through June. The very low level of output in April and May set a low baseline, meaning almost any bounce back at all would generate a huge growth rate for the third quarter.

Hope for nuclear arms control with Russia?Steven PiferMonday, October 26, 2020

While concern had grown over the past several weeks about a breakdown in U.S.-Russian arms control, it appears the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and nuclear arms control more broadly may have a new lease on life, albeit with lots of questions.

Washington’s negotiation with Moscow on New START hit a roadblock on October 16. President Putin said Russia would agree to a one-year extension, which U.S. negotiators had proposed instead of five years, but without the conditions sought by the American side. National Security Advisor O’Brien summarily rejected the Russian position because it ignored the U.S. demand for a freeze on all nuclear warhead numbers.

Things changed recently. The Russians announced that they would agree to a one-year extension of New START and said they are “ready to assume a political obligation together with the United States to freeze the sides’ existing arsenals of nuclear warheads during this period.” The Russian statement added that this presumed no additional U.S. conditions. The Department of State spokesperson quickly and positively reacted, saying U.S. negotiators are “prepared to meet immediately to finalize a verifiable agreement.”

New START constrains U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear forces to their lowest levels since the 1960s. However, when it comes to nuclear warheads as opposed to delivery systems, the treaty limits only “deployed” strategic warheads—that is, warheads on deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) or submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). The treaty does not cover reserve strategic warheads or any non-strategic (tactical) nuclear weapons.

If Russian acceptance of a one-year freeze means that the Trump administration has succeeded in persuading Moscow to negotiate a treaty limiting all U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons, that is a commendable breakthrough. Indeed, a treaty covering all the two sides’ nuclear arms has long seemed the logical next step after New START (President Obama proposed such a negotiation in 2010).

The Promise and Perils of Technology in International Affairs

Technology has the potential to dramatically improve the quality of life for the world’s populations, but there are no guarantees it will. Concerns remain about everything from how the growing digital divide risks leaving large swathes of society—and the world—behind, to questions about the security of data and its potential weaponization. And, of course, there is the ongoing debate around how technology and information platforms can be used to undermine democratic processes, including elections.

To address these concerns, a panel of experts assembled by the United Nations last year called for a “multistakeholder” approach that would convene governments, members of civil society, academics, technology experts and the private sector in an attempt to develop norms and standards around these technologies. Even they could not agree on what this structure might specifically look like, though, underscoring how difficult it will be to ensure that technology is harnessed for everyone’s benefit.

The risks are particularly acute under authoritarian regimes, which are more interested in utilizing new technologies to strengthen their grip on power than in having their hands tied by whatever multistakeholder vision ultimately emerges. There are also the questions raised by technological advances in weaponry—particularly the ethical questions and legal concerns surrounding autonomous weapons that remove humans from the decision-making chain.

Despite the challenges they pose to governance and society, technological innovations will continue to emerge. In the absence of any global agreement, there is still an opportunity for governments to seize on the benefits these advances might bring, while encouraging their ethical and democratic use.

Europe is going after the internet’s business model. A new one is urgently needed

By Mark Scott

LONDON — Europe is taking aim at the lifeblood of firms like Google and Facebook — online ads that track people around the internet.

In the latest salvo, a group of EU lawmakers backed proposals this week to phase out so-called targeted advertising when Brussels unveils an overhaul of its digital rulebook in early December.

Such a move — if supported by the European Commission — would effectively stop a firm like Google from showing web users ads based on personal profiles as they roam around the internet. In short, cutting off a key source of revenue at the heart of Big Tech's business model.

Silicon Valley can rest easy for now. The amendment in question was not binding, and a ban on targeted ads remains fairly remote. But the vote was a shot across the bow for tech companies and publishers who also rely on such ads at a time when regulators are turning up the heat on the online ad business.

It also raises a tricky question — not just for tech companies but for everyone who relies on free internet services provided to them (think, Google Search and Instagram posts) in exchange for personal data: If we put a stop to online ads, who will pay for the internet as we know it?

EU regulators are not letting such questions slow them down.

Earlier this month, Belgium's privacy watchdog published preliminary conclusions on online advertising in Europe, saying that it likely broke the 27-country bloc's tough data protection standards. IAB Europe, an industry body that oversees these so-called ad auctions, or sophisticated online bidding marketplaces that allow advertisers to place their messages on websites, said that it disagreed.

The Lawless Realm

By Marietje Schaake

This past summer, a host of public organizations as varied as the Norwegian parliament, the New Zealand stock exchange, and the Vatican all came under attack. No shots were fired, no doors knocked down, no bombs exploded. Instead, the attackers managed to intrude into these institutions’ internal networks in attempts to commit espionage, disrupt daily affairs, or ransom or blackmail victims. Incidents of this kind are just the tip of the iceberg. Cyberattacks are constantly taking place, and many intrusions go unnoticed and unreported. In democratic countries, only intelligence agencies and private companies can reach a detailed understanding of cyberattacks and the risks they pose. Everyone else must scramble for information about what actually happens below the surface of the digital world. 

For years, policymakers who pay attention to new threats have pointed to the possibility of a “cyber–Pearl Harbor,” a devastating attack on a country’s critical digital

Dealing with climate change requires more fight and less flight

By Dawn Stover

At a campaign rally on October 16, President Trump spoke openly about the possibility of losing the election and how he would cope with that. “Maybe I’ll have to leave the country,” he said.

That might be more difficult than it sounds. Many foreign countries have temporarily closed their doors to visitors from the United States, which continues to report more cases of COVID-19 than any other nation.

Trump’s response to potential disaster is typical of the way many Americans think, though. We have always been a mobile country—even during the Great Depression, Americans continued their great migration West. Not many countries have a change-of-address form included as a matter of course at the bottom of credit card statements, magazine subscriptions, bank statements, and as preprinted notecards at post offices.

Now many Americans may have one more additional impetus to pull up roots: climate change. And they expect to be able to go wherever they please, even as they deny other would-be migrants—including some who are fleeing climate-driven impacts—the right to come to this country.

Migration is often the go-to solution to economic, environmental, and social problems. Wealthy Americans contemplate moving overseas, or to one of nine US states with no income tax, for financial reasons. Americans continue to flee urban areas for suburbs with better—or whiter—schools. Retirees go abroad in search of cheaper housing and health care. And many Americans are now thinking about where they could move to avoid the most devastating impacts of climate change—even as far away as New Zealand, at the opposite end of the globe.

The Value of Sergeants to Lieutenants


You may have heard during Officer training to quickly build a relationship with your Sergeant (SGT), take in their perspective and respect their level of experience as a Senior Non-Commissioned Officer (SNCO). Reflecting on my time as a Lieutenant (LT) so far, noting this is only one perspective, the aim of this article is twofold: to provide Officer Cadets with the perspective of someone in the rank they’re going hold to complement what they learn during the Commissioning continuum, and to challenge current serving LTs to reflect on their command relationship. I want to encourage you to consider whether you are maximising and building a command relationship with the SGT you work with and if you are taking full advantage of the knowledge your SGT brings to the team. 

As a newly commissioned LT, you are faced with a fresh set of problems. You need to command in real time, learn concepts on the move and, most importantly, understand the people within your team.

One key relationship to establish and navigate is with your SGT. The role of the SGT is to support your command, manage the administration of the troop/platoon, develop the Lance Corporals, and provide key insight into your team and the capability you can generate. They contribute to the overall performance of the troop/platoon. As part of the command team, they help build culture, team and re-team when new people join your troop/platoon and ready Corporals for their next promotion.

A common mistake new LTs make is misunderstanding the relationship with their SGT’s. This may lead to a poor team culture, misalignment in the commander’s (your) intent and, at worst, failed missions/outcomes.