7 November 2020

Can India Decouple From China?

By Amitendu Palit

Following the catastrophic clashes between Indian and Chinese troops at the Galwan Valley in Ladakh in June 2020, India has taken several steps to reduce its economic engagement with China. These efforts have included enhancing scrutiny on incoming Chinese investments in India and banning more than a hundred Chinese apps, such as the widely popular TikTok, as well as WeChat and PubG. Chinese companies have also been blocked from participating in road and highway construction projects in India, supplying equipment to Indian telecom service providers, and participating in 5G telecom trials.

In its wider responses to reducing strategic economic dependence on China, India is collaborating with Japan and Australia in promoting the resilient supply chain initiative (RSCI) for reshoring production away from China. It is also a part of a 5G club along with several major global democracies working on alternatives to Chinese 5G telecom technology.

The ostensible motivation behind these efforts is New Delhi’s desire to demonstrate to Beijing that economic dependence is not going to get in the way of India’s responses to China’s provocations on the border. India is not the only country wary of an assertive China. Its decision to take economic actions to curb China’s alleged belligerence has resonated with the U.S., Japan, Australia, the U.K., and several countries from Europe (such as France, Germany, Italy) enabling the formation of country coalitions for restricting China’s economic and technological domination.

India’s largest source of economic dependence on China is in external trade. China is India’s second largest trade partner after the United States with bilateral trade of nearly $82 billion in fiscal year 2019. The trade balance is conspicuously skewed in favor of China, with India’s exports of $16.6 billon being roughly a quarter of its imports of $65.3 billion. India imports far more from China than it exports to it, underpinning the dependency of Indian industries and consumers on Chinese products.

Vietnam Is Losing Its Best Friends to China

By Derek Grossman

Close observers of Vietnam’s foreign relations will note that Hanoi maintains three distinct levels of partnership. In descending order of importance, they are: “comprehensive strategic partnerships,” “strategic partnerships” and “comprehensive partnerships.” At the highest level, comprehensive strategic partnerships cover the full gamut of cooperative activities, and only Russia, India, and China have achieved this elite status in Vietnam’s worldview – with China receiving the added designation of being a “comprehensive strategic cooperative partner.”

Strategic partnerships, which exist with nations like Australia and Japan, are more numerous and indicate that Vietnam and the partner share long-term strategic interests. Comprehensive partnerships are even more common and include countries that do not necessarily (but may) share a mutual long-term strategic interest. The U.S. is a prominent comprehensive partner that actually operates at the strategic level as the two nations cooperate to push back against China – a friend of Vietnam but also an adversary in some areas, especially the South China Sea.

Either way, much of the ink spilled on Vietnam’s foreign partnerships focuses on this hierarchy of partnerships. However, much less discussed or well understood are Hanoi’s “special strategic partnerships” with neighboring states Cambodia and Laos. These partnerships of “special solidarity” date back to the Vietnam War, during which both countries provided critical logistical support and safe haven to Vietnamese communist forces along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, contributing to the defeat of the U.S. military. Hanoi has never forgotten about the enormous sacrifices of its Indochinese brethren (the Ho Chi Minh Trail is the most bombed place on Earth) and holds them in greatest esteem, above all other partners.

Post-pandemic Infrastructure and Digital Connectivity in the Indo-Pacific

Daniel F. Runde, Conor M. Savoy, Owen Murphy
Source Link

The Issue

The Indo-Pacific region is critical to the interests of the United States. The pandemic presents challenges to infrastructure and economic development but also reveals openings for U.S. leadership to collaborate with allies, development banks and institutions, and the private sector to compete with China as the region seeks to accelerate recovery efforts and diversify its investment and development opportunities post-pandemic.

Even prior to the global Covid-19 pandemic, economic trends already forecast changes to global supply chains. More specifically, trends indicated an increase in global value chains, a heightened focus on closing the infrastructure gap, as well as greater digital expansion, diversification, and connectivity in the Indo-Pacific. China has dominated the infrastructure development space in the region in recent years with extensive funding and project allocation through its Digital Silk Road and broader Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The pandemic triggered a slowdown in funding for core infrastructure projects, an upsurge in concerns about debt sustainability issues in emerging countries, and a continued emphasis on enhancing digital and energy infrastructure in the Indo-Pacific.

Global Times: China modernizes its military by 2027

Natasha Kumar

China has launched the modernization of its armed forces, and it is planned to complete the process there by 2027. Such measures are timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the PLA, according to the pages of the Global Times.

The journalists interviewed a number of experts from the PRC, who noted that the authorities are striving to create a powerful army. The goal is for the Chinese Armed Forces to fully meet the scale of the strategic tasks facing Beijing. First of all, China hopes in this way to protect its own sovereignty and be able to resist threats from the outside, the attempts of some states to establish “hegemony” in the western part of the Pacific are worrying.

Now the modernization of the army in the PRC is proceeding at an accelerated pace. As Beijing's economic presence abroad has grown, the government is willing to protect its interests at the expense of the PLA. Expert Song Zhongping pointed to an increase in instability in the international arena, new hotbeds of conflict are also emerging, and there is a confrontation between major powers. In such conditions, China must have powerful armed forces.

In the course of modernization, it is planned to adopt new types of military equipment into service with the PLA. When creating the latter, the stake will be made on the use of modern materials and technologies. Among the vivid examples of such “replenishment”, political scientist Li Jie pointed to an unmanned submarine, which will be controlled by AI. In addition, China's plans include the creation of landing craft and cruisers.

How Has Chinas Economy Performed Under The COVID-19 Shock?

by Hunter L. Clark, Jeffrey B. Dawson, and Maxim Pinkovskiy

China’s economy was the first to be hit by the COVID-19 outbreak, the first to be locked down, and the first to begin an economic recovery. We examine the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on China’s GDP growth using a set of alternative growth indicators. Our analysis finds that China’s official GDP growth figures over the first three quarters of this year have been broadly in line with alternative indicators and that growth presently is staging a strong rebound and providing a boost to the global economy. However, this rebound faces potential headwinds in the forms of high levels of debt, declining return to capital accumulation, and a shrinking working-age population in China.

Our analysis of China’s economic performance focuses on alternative growth indicators, or proxies, due to long-standing controversies over the accuracy of China’s official GDP growth statistics; indeed, alternative indicators are widely used by close followers of the Chinese economy and utilize a range of different variables. For example, a popular metric is the average of the growth rates of bank loans, electricity production, and rail freight, which is referred to as the “

COVID-19 Lockdown Performance

What do the alternative indicators say about China’s GDP growth immediately before, during, and after the COVID-19 lockdown? We focus on relative changes in growth rates in terms of units of official GDP, since we cannot identify the “true" growth rate under any of our methodologies, but can make comparisons of the values of our alternative indicators over periods of time. For reference, China’s official GDP growth rate dropped from about 6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2019 to -6.8 percent in the first quarter of 2020, and then rebounded to 3.2 percent and 4.9 percent in the second and third quarters, respectively, of 2020.

Beijing Rejects Any Involvement in Nuclear Arms Limitation Talks

By: John Dotson


Recent years have been contentious in terms of nuclear arms control negotiations between the United States and the Russian Federation. The United States withdrew from the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in February 2019, citing Russian violations of the agreement. In April 2019, U.S. representatives initiated efforts to seek a new arms control agreement with the Russian Federation, reportedly with interest in bringing the PRC into the negotiations for a potential tripartite agreement (China Brief, July 16, 2019). On May 22 of this year, the U.S. Government announced intention to withdraw from the Treaty on Open Skies (effective November 22) on grounds of alleged Russian violations of that same treaty, the INF treaty, and other commitments (U.S. State Department, July 6).

U.S.-Russia talks have continued throughout 2020, conducted primarily under the framework of the “New START” talks (evoking Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START, agreements signed between the United States and the Soviet Union/Russia in the early 1990s, and the New START treaty that entered into force in 2011) (Eurasia Daily Monitor, March 4; Eurasia Daily Monitor, September 24). [1] In mid-October, negotiations hit a snag after a Russian proposal to extend New START for a year was rejected by the U.S. side, unless the extension were also to be accompanied by a freeze on the number of nuclear warheads maintained by each country (WSJ, October 16; TASS, October 16).

These controversies have brought renewed attention to U.S.-Russia arms control talks, as well as to the contentious issues between the two countries relating to the future of their nuclear arsenals. They have also brought attention to the fact that the People’s Republic of China (PRC), assessed to be the world’s third-largest nuclear weapons power (Arms Control Association, August 2020), has remained carefully aloof from nuclear arms control regimes of the sort negotiated between the United States and Russia. Throughout the summer and autumn of this year, Chinese officials and state media have categorically rejected the prospect of PRC participation in any theoretical trilateral U.S.-Russia-China arms control talks. In their messaging, these sources have asserted both the small and self-defensive nature of the PRC’s nuclear arsenal, and that U.S. calls for Chinese participation represent “blackmail” intended to maintain American strategic hegemony (see discussion below).

How to Respond to China's Information Warfare

By Zack Cooper & Aine Tyrrell

Last week, the State Department designated six media entities operating in the United States as foreign missions effectively controlled by the People’s Republic of China. Several days later, Deputy National Security Advisor Matt Pottinger suggested that that the United States was embracing reciprocity, which he described as “the straightforward idea that when a country injures your interests, you return the favor.”

It is tempting to assert that American policymakers should reset the U.S.-China relationship on reciprocal terms. Ironically, when the U.S. ambassador to China suggested this in an op-ed last month, it was rejected by People’s Daily. Meanwhile, China’s ambassador to the United States publishes frequently in top American newspapers like the New York Times and Washington Post. Of course, neither newspaper is available in China, nor are Twitter, Facebook, Google, or dozens of other American media and social media companies.

Setting aside the galling double standard, however, reciprocity plays into the Communist Party’s hands in three key ways. First, reciprocity in this case can appear to excuse Beijing’s censorship, disinformation, and repression by suggesting that restrictions on journalists and free speech are also commonplace in democracies. The United States should absolutely push for transparency in information sources. Yet, when democratic governments regulate content or otherwise increase state control over information, they weaken their own democratic institutions. One need look no further than the politicization of the U.S. Agency for Global Media to see the damage this can do both at home and abroad.

Second, reciprocity makes the United States reactive. A smart, competitive strategy should focus the contest on America’s strengths and China’s weaknesses. But reciprocity allows the Communist Party to determine the overall nature of the competition, as well as the timing of individual moves. The United States and other democracies have real strengths in the information space because, unlike autocracies, we thrive on free flows of truthful information. Reciprocal actions distract from these strengths by letting Beijing seize the initiative and direct the competition toward more contested issues at more difficult times.

Proxy Wars: How Turkey and Iran Employ Militias Abroad

by Maya Carlin
On October 17 protestors stormed the headquarters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party in Baghdad, attacking Iraq’s largest Kurdish political party. The protestors are linked to the Hashd al-Shaabi, or the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Units (PMU). Two days later, the bodies of ten people from Iraq’s Sunni majority Salahuddin province were discovered. The kidnapping and murder of these individuals are reported to be at the hands of Asaib Ahl al-Haq, another PMU offspring.

The various Shiite militias which make up the PMU have evolved into Baghdad’s most pressing security threat. Although the PMU is technically part of the Iraqi Security Forces, radical splinter militias openly defy Iraqi law and work against the prime minister’s interests. The wrath of these violent militias has most recently been directed at Kurdish groups and U.S. diplomatic sites in the country. In late September, a series of rockets hit a U.S. installation in Iraq’s Kurdistan region. Within twenty-four hours, a rocket targeting a U.S. base by Baghdad’s airport hit a civilian home in a nearby district, killing several people. In fact, Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone, home of the U.S. embassy among other foreign diplomatic sites, has been the target of dozens of rocket attacks at the hands of these militias since January.

As the attacks by PMU militias have continued to escalate at an alarming rate, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has made some steps to rein them in. In early July, a raid ordered by Kadhimi led to the arrest of fourteen Kataib Hezbollah (PMU) militiamen accused of planning an attack against Baghdad’s Green Zone. Although many were released within a few days, Kadhimi demonstrated his commitment to prioritizing these militias which have never been confronted by previous Iraqi administrations.

As World Watches Messy US Presidential Election, Washington Exits the Paris Agreement

By Catherine Putz

On November 4, 2019 the Trump administration notified the international community of its intent to exit the landmark Paris Agreement. The U.S. withdrawal, per the agreements terms, would take effect after a full year had passed. And so, today, on November 4, 2020 — as ballots were still being counted in key states across the country after the contentious November 3 presidential election — the United States formally withdrew from the Paris Agreement.

The global pact was signed in 2015 and took effect on November 4, 2016 committing 189 countries to the goal of keeping the increase in average temperatures worldwide “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) and to “strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change.”

The Paris accord requires countries to set their own voluntary targets for reducing greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. The only binding requirement is that nations have to accurately report on their efforts.

Nevertheless, early in his presidency Donald Trump lambasted the agreement as unfair to the United States.

The United States is the world’s second biggest emitter of heat-trapping gases such as carbon dioxide, after China.

Trump or Biden, Europe is the loser

By Matthew Karnitschnig

BERLIN — Whoever wins the U.S. election, Europe has already lost. 

It’s no secret that most Europeans have been praying Joe Biden would win the presidency; he may yet, but not with anything like a landslide. That might end up being worse than the alternative.

If Donald Trump, the president Europe loves to hate, had prevailed by a wide margin, Europe would at least have had clarity on its options and could plan accordingly. 

Instead, America remains as divided as ever. That’s not just bad for the U.S., it will also temper hopes in Europe for a clear path forward in the transatlantic relationship. 

Yes, transatlantic relations would inevitably improve under a Biden presidency after the bitternerness of the Trump years (how could they not?). Nonetheless, the ambitious agenda many European leaders were hoping to pursue on everything from environmental policy to trade to defense, already seems out of reach. 

The reason is twofold. Not only will Biden lack a strong mandate if he wins by the skin of his teeth, but Congress looks likely to remain divided, with the Democrats controlling the House of Representatives and the Republicans in charge in the Senate. 

Global Migration Is Not Abating. Neither Is the Backlash Against It

Around the world, far-right populist parties continue to stoke the popular backlash against global migration, forcing centrist governments to maintain the tougher line on immigration they adopted. But with short-term strategies dominating the debate, many of the persistent drivers of migration go unaddressed, even as efforts to craft a global consensus on migration are hobbled by demands for quick solutions.

The Migrant Crisis of 2015 has abated, but European nativist and populist parties continue to attempt to stoke the popular backlash against immigrants to fuel their rise. Italy’s Matteo Salvini, the golden boy of Europe’s anti-immigrant populists, even rode the issue into government last year, before marginalizing himself with a bid to force early elections and, more recently, misplaying the politics of the COVID-19 crisis. Nevertheless, Europe’s other far-right populists, like France’s Marine Le Pen, continue to hammer on anti-immigrant sentiment, hoping it will remain a potent issue in upcoming elections. In the midst of a global pandemic, it is not clear it will have the same electoral sway as it did in 2015, when a wave of refugees and immigrants arrived in Europe from Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East and Africa. Still, the threat is enough to keep centrist governments toeing a tough line on immigration at home, even as they work with countries of origin and transit to restrict migration, thereby driving asylum applications back to pre-2015 levels.

Anti-immigrant sentiment was central to U.S. President Donald Trump’s winning 2016 campaign, and he has subsequently reshaped American security policy around stopping illegal immigration. His administration is even returning asylum-seekers to the Central American countries they transited on the way to the U.S. border, despite the lack of security that is driving people to flee those countries. The issue did not have the same resonance in his re-election campaign this year, though, in part because it was difficult for any issue besides the coronavirus pandemic to break through and capture attention. It may also reflect the success of the measures that countries south of the U.S. border have taken to prevent the arrival of immigrants and refugees. Trump’s pressure on Mexico to secure its southern border appears to have stemmed the flow of refugees and migrants attempting to reach the United States.

How Misinformation Hurts Democracy

Several months before the contentious 2016 election, a fake news website masquerading as a local television station posted a story that Pope Francis had endorsed Donald Trump for president. WTOE 5 News claimed “news outlets around the world” were reporting the story, which included a bogus statement released by the Vatican.

That work of pure fiction, which went viral, is not the sort of fakery that gets the attention of Project Ratio, a novel research effort to map news content through its production, dissemination and consumption. The team behind Project Ratio is less focused on overtly fake news — like the Pope story, alien abductions and Elvis sightings — and more concerned with misinformation coming directly from mainstream media sources.

“As technology evolves, as people’s ability to propagandize evolves, you move away from that type of thing and you’re spreading more misinformation in more subtle ways,” said David M. Rothschild, a Wharton graduate and economist with Microsoft Research who is one of the principal investigators for Project Ratio.

He said that as fake news becomes more subtle, it also becomes more difficult to spot and define. “And this overt fake news that everyone’s chasing becomes less important.”

Rothschild joined the Wharton Business Daily radio show on SiriusXM to talk about his work with Project Ratio, which is one of several programs operated by the nonprofit research network Harmony Labs. (Listen to the podcast above.) Duncan Watts, a Penn Integrates Knowledge professor with an appointment in Wharton’s operations, information and decisions department, is also a principal investigator. The two researchers are co-authors of a related paper titled, “Evaluating the Fake News Problem at the Scale of the Information Ecosystem.”

A Belarusian Revolution? What Kind? (Part One)

By: Vladimir Socor

The protest movement under way in Belarus appears to the world as yet another “color revolution” for “regime change.” The target this time is the autocracy of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s, following the rigged presidential election in August and disproportionate use of force against protesters from then to date.

This movement’s Western sympathizers, its detractors in Moscow, and Belarus’s beleaguered authorities have (from their varying perspectives) adopted the interpretive framework of the “color revolution”—whether in supporting, opposing, or simply describing this movement in Belarus.

The Belarusian authorities are caught in a two-front struggle against the forces of regime change: the Western-supported protest movement on one side and the Kremlin on the other side. These two forces are not aligned with each other at this time. Both of these forces aim to remove Lukashenka and change Belarus’s political system, from super-presidential to parliamentary. Moscow proposes to introduce a competitive multi-party system in Belarus, apparently expecting to manipulate it through pro-Russia parties under the guise of parliamentary democracy (see EDM, October 7, 8).

Moscow and the protest movement are not aligned with each other at this time, although the movement’s leaders declare themselves ready to work with the Russian government. The Kremlin had initially contemplated destabilizing Lukashenka after the election, so as to force him back into negotiations on the “deep integration” of Belarus with Russia and prepare an orderly transition to the post-Lukashenka period in Belarus. The protest movement’s surge, however, took on the looks of a “colored revolution” and posed the threat of regime change from below in Belarus. All this compelled Moscow to condemn the protest movement and repudiate the movement’s Coordinating Council, notwithstanding Moscow’s earlier readiness to work with some of the Council’s key members in the post-election period. Belarus’s authorities denounce the “color revolution” not simply viscerally but also calculatedly, so as to dissuade Moscow from responding to the Coordinating Council’s repeated overtures.

Russian military forces dazzle after a decade of reform

AFTER THE Soviet Union’s collapse, Russia’s once-mighty armed forces were laid low. Moscow bus drivers out-earned fighter pilots. Hungry soldiers were sent to forage for berries and mushrooms. Corruption was rife—one general was charged with renting out a MiG-29 for illicit drag racing between cars and jets on a German airfield. “No army in the world is in as wretched a state as ours,” lamented a defence minister in 1994. Yet few armies have bounced back as dramatically. In 2008 Russian forces bungled a war with Georgia. In response, they were transformed from top to bottom.

That began with large sums of money. Russian military expenditure approximately doubled between 2005 and 2018, when measured in exchange rates adjusted for purchasing power. Though much of the budget is secret, Russia’s annual military spending probably stands somewhere between $150bn and $180bn, says Michael Kofman of the Centre for Naval Analyses, a think-tank. That is around three times as much as Britain and close to 4% of GDP.

Trump Failed to Kill Multilateralism, and Might’ve Even Made It Stronger

Richard Gowan

How has the multilateral system fared in the Trump era? At first glance, the answer must be “poorly.” Donald Trump has attacked and boycotted numerous international agreements and arrangements as U.S. president, ranging from the Paris Agreement on climate change to the World Health Organization. America’s relations with China have worsened dramatically at the United Nations and other forums, culminating in the two powers’ furious disputes over COVID-19. In New York and Geneva, diplomats fret about a growing “crisis of multilateralism.”

Much of this sorry story was entirely predictable. In September 2016, when a Trump presidency still seemed improbable even as Hillary Clinton’s lead in the polls was narrowing, I wrote in World Politics Review that the Republican candidate, if elected, was liable to pull out of U.N. forums he didn’t like and cut funds to multilateral initiatives. I also noted that China would become an “essential player” at the U.N., offering “alternative leadership” to the U.S.

Yet while these predictions have proven close to the mark, the last four years have not been entirely bad for international cooperation. Washington has failed to persuade many other countries to join its attacks on multilateral mechanisms. Instead, worried by both Trump’s bullying tactics and China’s rising assertiveness, many states have invested political capital in defending the international system.

When Trump announced that the U.S. would quit the Paris Agreement in 2017, no other country followed its lead. When the U.S. left the Human Rights Council in 2018, arguing that it showed bias against Israel, America’s European allies chose to persevere with the forum, using it to highlight abuses in Myanmar and the Philippines, among others. While the Trump administration has tried hard to kill off the Obama-era nuclear agreement with Iran, the other powers involved in the deal—Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia—have stuck together to keep it alive.

How the Coronavirus Hacks the Immune System

By James Somers

Some four billion years ago, in the shallow waters where life began, our earliest ancestors led lives of constant emergency. In a barren world, each single-celled amoeba was an inconceivably rich concentration of resources, and to live was to be beset by parasites. One of these, the giant Mimivirus, masqueraded as food; within four hours of being eaten, it could turn an amoeba into a virus factory. And yet, as the nineteenth-century mathematician Augustus de Morgan said, “Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite ’em, and little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum.” The Mimivirus had its own parasites, which sometimes followed it as it entered an amoeba. Once inside, they crippled the Mimivirus factory. This trick was so useful that, eventually, amoebas integrated the parasites’ genes into their own genomes, creating one of the earliest weapons in the immune system.

We tend to associate “survival of the fittest” with lions hunting antelope. But disease—the predation of parasites upon hosts—is actually the most potent force in evolution. “Every single phase of life has been selected to try to avoid parasitism,” Stephen Hedrick, an immunologist at the University of California, San Diego, told me. “It’s driven evolution as hard as it could be driven. Because it’s life or death all the time. And it’s a co-evolution.” Whenever a host develops an immune defense, it perversely rewards the survival of the very parasites that can defeat it. Hosts, meanwhile, tend to be at an evolutionary disadvantage. “Bacterial or viral populations are truly vast in size,” Robert Jack and Louis Du Pasquier write, in “Evolutionary Concepts in Immunology,” and the wide variation among them gives natural selection many candidate organisms upon which to work. Viruses and bacteria also reproduce half a million times faster than we do. Given this “generation gap,” Jack and Du Pasquier write, “one might well ask how on earth we could possibly have survived.”

A clue comes from the amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum. It spends much of its life marauding alone, eating things. But, when food is scarce, it releases molecules that serve as a flocking signal to others of its kind; the amoebas merge, forming a superorganism of as many as a hundred thousand members. For this multicellular “slime mold” to be effective, almost all the amoebas must give up their ability to eat, lest they prey on one another. The few that retain it don’t eat for themselves; rather, they swallow up debris and dispose of it to protect the organism. The other amoebas, freed from the burdens of offense and defense, form a “fruiting body” that releases spores for reproduction. Although none of the individuals would survive on their own, the collective thrives.

Can We Compete in Cyberspace?

James Andrew Lewis

The best intelligence, the best capabilities in the intangible cyber domain, do not compensate for strategic shortcomings.

This is the central dilemma of Paul Nakasone and Michael Sulmeyer’s excellent article in Foreign Affairs, “How to Compete in Cyberspace.” Competition in cyberspace is a subset of the larger competition between the United States, China, and Russia. If some historian, unaffected by emotion or self-interest, was to review the first decades of this competition in the twenty-first century, he would notice the emergence of a troubling pattern: U.S. opponents have developed tactics to pursue their strategic objectives that the United States and its allies find difficult to counter (and where there is sometimes a lack the political will to respond). This is a new style of interstate conflict for which we still have not developed an effective response.

The lack of an effective response goes beyond the need to develop capabilities and tactics—Cyber Command has done well in this regard. What it points to is the general ineffectiveness of U.S. foreign policy and the strategies derived from it. We have not thought seriously about strategy since 1990, and strategic incoherence began well before Trump. A reasonable case can be made that the Bush administration decision to invade Iraq marked the onset of the unraveling of American global power.

There are common elements in this ineffectiveness. It stems from overconfidence in American power, and also an understandable reluctance to recognize the change in international relations from a period where the United States had unchallenged superiority because of its military and, more importantly, its ideas, to one of challenge and renewed competition. The slowness in recognizing the new competition with China and Russia as more important than a focus on the Middle East was a major strategic blunder from which we have yet to recover.

Geopolitics and Neglected Arctic Spaces

Rachel Ellehuus, Colin Wall

The 2017 U.S. National Security Strategy takes its point of departure in the growing political, economic, and military competition the United States is facing around the world, to include from Russia and China—and aims to prevent any region of the world from becoming dominated by a single power. While the Arctic has been characterized more by cooperation than competition, recent events indicate that the tides may be turning. As attention turns north and the Arctic reenters the strategic calculations of great powers, spaces that have been largely neglected are suddenly assuming a position of significance, forcing countries in the region to consider how to balance competing interests from outside powers.

The essays below illustrate how it looks when three such places—Svalbard, Norway; Greenland; and Iceland—find themselves caught between competing powers. While this attention has taken different forms, there are similarities between the cases. All three, for example, have received economic interest from China and are beginning to feel the pressure of Russia’s military build-up in the Arctic. All three are also part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and anchor their defense policies in that alliance.

At the same time, each of these places faces unique conditions that limit their ability to pursue truly independent security and defense policies. In the case of Svalbard, the 1957 Svalbard Treaty grants Norway sovereignty over the island but also affords third countries certain rights. In the case of Greenland, an autonomous region that is part of the Kingdom of Denmark, it has control over domestic issues, but the Danish government retains control of foreign affairs and defense. Finally, in the case of Iceland, the absence of its own standing military makes it reliant on the United States and NATO for its defense. Such conditions are an increasing challenge as these three places struggle to respond to the interest of external actors while also maintaining their sovereignty.

New Wave of Islamic Extremism Adds to Putin’s Troubles

By: Pavel K. Baev

The series of terrorist attacks in France, in late October, attracted much attention in Russia, sharply dividing public opinion and leaving President Vladimir Putin in an awkward limbo. The Kremlin leader excels at positioning himself as a counter-terrorist champion when the issue is clear and solvable by military means—such as when it came to obliterating the so-called Islamic State. In the current crisis, however, his readiness to explicitly condemn, for instance, the deadly October 29 knife attack in Nice, as he did in an official telegram to French President Emmanuel Macron, is mixed with implicit readiness to trample over freedom of speech in the quest to defeat such terrorism (Kremlin.ru, October 29). The Kremlin insists that offending the feelings of believers was unacceptable and unlawful, so in Russia such crimes were unthinkable (Izvestia, October 30). They are, nevertheless, happening: last week (October 30), a teenager threw a Molotov cocktail into a police station in Tatarstan and was shot dead while assaulting officers with a knife (Meduza, October 30).

The Russian authorities are confused about how to respond to spontaneous public actions. A protest of Islamic activists in front of the French embassy in Moscow, on Thursday (October 29) was allowed, but another one, on Friday, was forcefully dispersed (Kommersant, October 30). The fiercest excoriation of the hard stance taken by Macron in the wake of the wave of Islamist-motivated violence came from Ramzan Kadyrov, who finds it necessary to justify his brutal rule over Chechnya with staunch defenses of Islamic values (Republic.ru, October 28). The Kremlin implored the country’s regional leaders not to interfere in foreign policymaking, which is the prerogative of the president (RBC, October 28). But Kadyrov dared to reject this reprimand and demanded an apology from maverick Russian politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who found it convenient to elaborate on the disapproval expressed by the Kremlin (Moscow Echo, October 30). Despite Kadyrov’s embrace of the Islamic cause, the resistance against his dictatorial rule continues, and in a recent “special operation” in Grozny, three police officers were killed while storming a hideout of suspected terrorists (Kavkazsky Uzel, October 13; see EDM, October 26).

The Case for Disaggregating the European Union

By Dalibor Rohac

This fall, it took the European Union almost two months to impose sanctions against Aleksandr Lukashenko’s regime in Belarus after a clearly rigged presidential election and the government’s heavy-handed crackdown of mass protests. Although the EU was quick to refuse to recognize the results when they were released in August, stated that Lukashenko’s new presidential mandate lacked “any democratic legitimacy,” and called for “an inclusive national dialogue and responding positively to the demands of the Belarusian people for new democratic elections.” Cyprus blocked concrete action for weeks, as it used its veto as a bargaining chip in its own dispute with Turkey.

Then, in September, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced with great fanfare that the EU was stepping up its efforts to combat climate change. As part of that plan, by 2030 the bloc would seek to reduce its carbon emissions 55 percent below 1990 levels. It would also aim to spend over half a trillion euros over the next seven years on climate-related efforts. Again, not everybody was on board. Poland, which relies heavily on coal and lignite (a cousin of coal), has openly defied the ambitious emissions goals. Meanwhile, across Central and Eastern Europe new natural gas infrastructure, including the infamous Nord Stream 2 pipeline and several liquified natural gas terminals, is springing up. While cleaner than coal, an addiction to natural gas would run counter to von der Leyen’s plans.

Both situations raise the question of whether the EU is the right venue to address issues including European geopolitics, climate change, and others. In theory, the answer is a resounding yes. But reality is more complicated.

True, dealing with climate change requires a high degree of international coordination in order to prevent carbon leakage from countries that have committed themselves to reducing their carbon footprint to jurisdictions that have taken a lax approach. And no European country, not even Germany or France, can sit as an equal with the world’s great powers. But the EU collective, with a population of 450 million, can. Meanwhile, actions like cutting Lukashenko’s elite off from the EU’s entire financial and real estate market would be more consequential than sanctions by individual countries.

But what does “rules- based order” mean?


Although the “rules-based international order” is central to Australian strategy, what exactly this concept means remains a work very much in progress. For Australia to achieve its objectives for the order, it will have to get more specific.

A hardy perennial

The importance to Australia of the rules-based order concept is clear from the warm embrace it has received from both sides of the political aisle ever since Prime Minister Kevin Rudd first used the term in 2008 – despite our rapid turnover of prime ministers since then.

Tony Abbott used the phrase less often in his time as prime minister, but only because he preferred different three-word terms, often speaking against “might is right” and in favour of being a “good international citizen” – a concept popularised by former foreign minister Gareth Evans.

Doubts about Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s enthusiasm for the rules-based order flickered after he attacked “negative globalism” in his 2019 Lowy Lecture. In that speech, Morrison – fresh back from the UN General Assembly in New York – also announced that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade would undertake a “comprehensive audit of global institutions and rule-making processes”.

Support for the concept has been further tested by the more Hobbesian world revealed and accelerated by Covid-19. For hard-headed realists who always doubted the concept, this would be an ideal moment to eject it from Australian strategic discourse.

Terrorism Research Initiative (TRI)

Perspectives on Terrorism, October 2020, v.14, no. 5

Donald Trump: Aggressive Rhetoric and Political Violence

Taking Fourth-Generation Warfare to the Skies? An Empirical Exploration of Non-State Actors’ Use of Weaponised Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs – ‘Drones’)

Is Youth Unemployment Related to Domestic Terrorism?

Structural Equation Modeling of Terrorism Perception: New Correlates of Perception Formation

A Comparative Analysis of the Nature and Evolution of the Domestic Jihadist Threat to Australia and Canada (2000-2020)

Organizational Capacity and Constituency Dominance: Why Some Militant Groups Wage Sustained Insurgencies

The Logic of Violence in Africa’s Extremist Insurgencies

Fabricated Martyrs: The Warrior-Saint Icons of Far-Right Terrorism

Counterterrorism Bookshelf: 19 Books on Terrorism & Counter-Terrorism

Bibliography: Democracy and Terrorism

Recent Online Resources for the Analysis of Terrorism and Related Subjects

Zoom Finally Has End-to-End Encryption. Here's How to Use It

ZOOM HAS GONE from startup to verb in record time, by now the de facto video call service for work-from-home meetings and cross-country happy hours alike. But while there was already plenty you could do to keep your Zoom sessions private and secure, the startup has until now lacked the most important ingredient in a truly safe online interaction: end-to-end encryption. Here’s how to use it, now that you can, and why in many cases you may not actually want to.

It’s been a long road to get here. This spring, as Zoom rode the pandemic to video call ubiquity, close observers noticed that the company was calling a feature “end-to-end encrypted” when in fact it was not. Data could be encrypted, yes, but lacked the critical “end-to-end” part, which means that no one—not Zoom, not hackers, not government snoops—can access it as it travels from one user to the other. It’s the difference between your landlord keeping a key to your apartment and being able to change the locks yourself: not the end of the world in either case, but you’d want to know for sure. Especially if you don’t trust your landlord.

You likely already use end-to-end encryption in some form or another. It’s on by default for iMessage and WhatsApp, a staple of encrypted messaging platforms like Signal, and an optional feature in Facebook Messenger. For video chat, your options are more sparse. Apple offers it for up to 32 participants on FaceTime, while WhatsApp allows up to eight people at a time. Signal can manage only one-on-one encrypted calls at the moment. Suffice to say, it’s a hard thing to get right.

Drones = Help For Manned Fighters & Bombers, Not A Substitute


Some defense experts think that low-cost, “attritable” unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) now in development can substitute for significant numbers of advanced manned military aircraft. Use these cheaper aircraft and you don’t have buy as many F-35A fighters, B-21 bombers and other stealth aircraft. Nothing is further from the truth. The Air Force needs a mix of next-generation drones, including attritable systems, and a large force of 5th generation aircraft that can team to achieve decisive effects in future battlespaces. 

The Air Force recently announced it was awarding contracts to develop artificial intelligence (AI) software and associated technologies for a new type of aircraft it calls low-cost attritable UAVs. These AI-enabled aircraft will be capable of teaming with other manned and unmanned aircraft to counter enemy air forces, conduct electronic warfare, act as sensors and communications platforms, and strike targets with precision. The Air Force calls these UAVs “attritable” because they are designed to fly a limited number of sorties and have unit costs that range between $2 million to $20 million depending on their mission systems. This makes them affordable enough to use in high-threat environments where the risk of being shot down is too great for manned aircraft. 

Without question, buying a significant number of low-cost attritable UAVs will help the service increase the size of its combat aircraft inventory, which is at an all-time low. Attritable UAVs such as the XQ-58 Valkyrie will have ranges of 3,000 nm and carry payloads of weapons or mission systems that weigh up to 1,200 pounds.

Appropriately equipped, attritable UAVs will be able to find, fix, track, and provide targeting information to penetrating and standoff strike aircraft; jam enemy radars; act as decoys; and perform other missions independently or teamed with manned aircraft to increase the Air Force’s survivability and lethality. Because they are being designed to launch from a containerized rail launch system and recover after a sortie by parachute without using a runway, attritable UAVs will also reduce the USAF’s reliance on using vulnerable airfields to generate combat sorties. This is a critical new capability, since Chinese or Russian missile attacks against under-defended theater airbases could severely degrade the service’s combat tempo. 

Means-Based Decision-Making: A Case for the Metaphysics of Strategy

By Scott J. Harr

The military’s ever-expanding role in the emerging operational environment risks failure to deliver a coherent definition and conception of strategy for practitioners. The debate over the term and the ideas employed to craft workable strategy is healthy, if inconclusive. The Department of Defense defines strategy as prudent ideas used to employ the elements of national power to achieve objectives. Notably, the definition leaves open the methods and models available to formulate such prudent ideas. Recently, military practitioners and professors have criticized traditional models of military strategy, like the Lykke Model’s use of an ends, ways, and means framework as being overly formulaic and “too narrowly construed.” Others have offered more abstract and varied discussions of strategy as a theory of success—aiming only to articulate strategy as the cause of success.[1] Still other scholars have recently encouraged the military to broaden the dimensions of strategy to include formal training in the social sciences. Current professors of military strategy have noted they do not teach a “single definition as the right answer,” thus giving students an opportunity to construct and explain their own models of military strategy.[2] This abstract and varied approach to defining military strategy arguably accommodates the complexities of the emerging 21st-century battlefield and encourages adaptive, creative thinking from military officers. Certainly, holding ideas with a loose grip, as these approaches suggest, prevents dogma while allowing for the healthy circulation of new ideas.

But a loose grip can result in no grip, and correct ideas require a mechanism for retention. Without it, concepts fail to serve the military practitioner employed to craft strategy: what the strategist gains in creative flexibility may be lost in coherence. The potential collateral damage from holding overly broad and varied concepts of military strategy represents a two-fold tragedy. Not only do military practitioners lack a reliable and/or workable definition for strategy, but, given the perceptions of a rapidly changing threat environment that has dramatically shifted the military’s focus from counter-terrorism to great power competition, they do so at precisely the time they need it most.

This article offers a re-balanced definition of strategy that uses classical metaphysics to ground the term in an implementable framework. In leaving the methods for generating prudent ideas for strategy open, the Department of Defense definition has perhaps invited an over-reliance on postmodern ideology that neglects objective concepts and objective reasoning. Postmodern thought emphasizes subjectivity in creating conditions for creativity to flourish. Classical metaphysics, on the other hand, emphasizes objective truths about mankind and reality. In suggesting appropriate boundaries using classical metaphysics, the proposed definition preserves the creative flexibility demanded in the emerging operational environment and championed by postmodern thought that rightly—if perhaps inordinately—impacts the current discussion on military strategy. With a grounded yet flexible conception of strategy, military practitioners can better approach the emerging threat environment and craft workable, coherent strategies that deliver military success.