10 November 2020

What Is India’s Foreign-Policy Vision?

By Sumit Ganguly

Since India’s independence in 1947, several of its diplomats have produced diplomatic memoirs, sometimes of great quality. Those familiar with this genre will recall the account of K.P.S. Menon, one of India’s ambassadors to Moscow, or K.M. Panikkar or Sisir Gupta, both noted scholar-diplomats. But few Indian foreign-policy officials have written a book on New Delhi’s relations with the world while still in office.

Consequently, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar’s new book, The India Way, marks an important departure from the past. Jaishankar, currently India’s minister of external affairs, has enjoyed a distinguished diplomatic career: A former ambassador to the United States and to China, he was appointed foreign secretary in 2015, the highest civil service post in the Indian foreign service. After a brief stint in the corporate world following his retirement in 2018, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inducted him into his cabinet in May 2019.

Why write a book now? Jaishankar attempts to sketch out how India should forge a foreign policy in a world where China’s rise and assertiveness are changing the contours of global politics. It also sketches out a pathway for India to deal with significant and novel forces in international politics—especially resurgent nationalism and a rejection of globalization. But while Jaishankar touches on these subjects, his book suffers from too many abstractions and generalities.

After all, writing a book about a country’s foreign policy while serving as its foreign minister is laden with pitfalls. One of them, of course, is the critical question of candor. How does Jaishankar’s book fare on this score? The writer deserves credit for bluntly stating that three events and choices have hobbled India’s emergence on the global stage: the partition of British India at the time of independence in 1947, the delay in undertaking economic reforms until 1991, and deferring the decision to cross the nuclear Rubicon until 1998.

Building Indian States’ Capacity in Monitoring FDI

By Ammar Nainar

Screening foreign investments has assumed new importance in the international order where economic security has become an integral part of national security. To that end, India’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) issues security clearances for foreign investments in sensitive sectors and the consolidated foreign direct investment policy (FDI) also lays out screening mechanisms. As FDI inflows into India increase, it is important to remember that Indian states are the principal recipients. Thus, when medium to high risk FDI deals are concluded, state governments can play a critical and proactive role in monitoring their operational afterlife for security risks.

Foreign Investment Screening 

FDI in India is allowed through the automatic and government route. The former does not require a prior approval though the latter does, above a certain investment “cap”. The government route includes strategic sectors like the defense industry where FDI proposals beyond 74 percent require the government or in this case, the Ministry of Defense’s approval. The Foreign Investment Promotion Board was abolished in 2017 and FDI proposals are now reviewed by the concerned ministry. Yet, it is mainly the MHA which grants security clearances for foreign investments particularly in “sensitive sectors”. Between May 2014 to March 2019, the MHA disposed security clearances for 5490 FDI proposals through its “e-sahaj” portal. 

In April 2020, the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) issued a notification stating that foreign firms in countries sharing a land border with India can only invest after securing government approval. The move sought to “curb opportunistic takeovers of Indian firms”, especially by Chinese entities during the Covid-19 pandemic. Irrespective of the country of origin and even after MHA’s clearance, certain investments can pose security risks like damaging the integrity of critical infrastructures and supply chains, and risk exposing the personal and sensitive data of Indian consumers. 

10 Principles for Peace : Critical Points of Understanding for Guiding a Durable Peace in Afghanistan

Colonel (Retired) Robert C. Jones

“The war is over. Now the real fighting begins.” – Afghan proverb

1. The Revolution is over! Long live the Revolution!

Given the history and culture of Afghanistan; and the extreme role family and tribal patronage play upon the distribution of power and privilege, one thing is certain: The terms ending the current insurgency will set the conditions for the insurgency that immediately follows.

The agreement will determine winners and losers within both the government and the insurgency. The winners from each will form the new government and divvy the spoils of patronage. The losers will flee, becoming the next crop of expats, or form the new insurgency. If we allow self-determination, the naturally stronger victors can manage the insurgency alone.

2. No Group owns the legitimacy high ground (#1 driver of insurgency these past 18 years)

Any government created and/or sustained by a foreign power over the express objections of its own population is collaborator & de facto illegitimate. These foreign actions are fundamentally provocative of revolution & resistance regardless who does it, or how good their cause. Equally, culturally inappropriate elections overseen by those same foreign powers cannot cure this lack of popular legitimacy. Legal legitimacy, (external recognition) is largely irrelevant for stability.

An insurgency standing up to the US-led coalition for 18 years earns inherent popular legitimacy.

The Return of Militancy in Pakistan

By Muhammad Akbar Notezai

Pakistan has enjoyed comparative peace over the past few years, other than sporadic incidents. Following a devastating attack on a school in Peshawar in 2014, the state cracked down on religious and other banned militant outfits under the National Action Plan (NAP), the country’s 20-point counterterrorism strategy. This offensive pushed such groups back into hiding, temporarily disrupting their networks. As a result, the country’s major cities have been largely immune to militancy.

An October 27 IED blast at a religious school in Peshawar, in which eight young people died and more than 110 were injured, has disrupted that peace.

It is believed that Sheikh Rahimuddin Haqqani, a Afghan cleric originally from Jalalabad, in Afghanistan, was the target. He was taking a class in the religious school where the explosion took place. He was the target of suspected elements of the Islamic State in a gun attack in 2016. He escaped safely back then, as he did this time, protected by his young security guards from the religious school.

Close to the Afghan border in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Peshawar has witnessed some of the worst violence of the last two decades, since the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001. The most horrific and horrendous attack was the 2014 incident in which Taliban gunmen stormed a military school. By the end, 150 were dead, most of them children. The attack shook the conscience of the world, and provoked Pakistan’s security forces to take a sterner approach under NAP, which was formulated in the aftermath of the tragedy. The NAP called for the military to go after banned outfits of all sorts, including religious and nationalist groups often believed to be implicitly backed by Pakistani authorities. The strategy provided a brief calm, but now once again Peshawar has been hit, allegedly by religious militants.

Balancing China in the Indo-Pacific: France Joins Hands with – India and Australia

Niklas Swanström, Jagannath P. Panda and Mahima N. Duggal

Balancing China’s unilateral authoritarian outreach is increasingly becoming a priority for democratic powers. Among European powers, France has taken the lead in shoring up defenses against China. France is also an Indo-Pacific power, and Paris has now joined hands with India and Australia to advance a trilateral that appears to be balancing out China.

On September 09, 2020, India, France, and Australia launched a trilateral dialogue with the aim of boosting cooperation to ensure a “peaceful, secure, prosperous and rules-based Indo-Pacific.”1 The meeting marked the formal entrance of a leading European power, France, into an Indo-Pacific orbit and represents the first step of a major, cross-continent effort to question and check China’s autocracy in the region. As such, it may potentially have considerable ramifications, especially if other European powers are encouraged to engage in similar efforts.

Described as “outcome-oriented”, the summit included an exchange of views on priorities and mutual challenges and exploration of possible avenues for practical cooperation, particularly in the maritime domain and in promoting global commons. The foreign ministers of India, France, and Australia also reportedly devised strategies to enhance their future collaboration on regional and multilateral platforms.2 The dialogue is launched at a time when China’s conduct of its foreign policy is becoming a key source of concern for the states in the Indo-Pacific region, and when distrust of China internationally has reached new levels following its handling of the outbreak of the pandemic. Moreover, Beijing’s military assertiveness on the India-China border and in the East China Sea has dented its image as a responsible power in the Indo-Pacific region. Although there are no reports that the discussion centered on, or even included, China, the potential, geopolitical implications of the trilateral dialogue are hardly lost on Beijing.

China’s Discourse and Interests Related to Its Role in U.N. Peacekeeping

By: Nikita Savkov

In his video message marking the International Day of United Nations (UN) Peacekeepers on May 29, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) Ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun (张军) said that China is a major contributor to UN peacekeeping operations (UNPKO) and will “implement its commitment to multilateralism and world peace with concrete actions and make greater contributions to peacekeeping operations for the maintenance of international peace and security” (Xinhua, May 30). On September 18, the PRC State Council Information Office published its first white paper on peacekeeping operations, noting in the introduction: “The Chinese government is issuing this white paper to review the glorious journey of China’s armed forces in the UNPKOs over the past 30 years, to expound their ideas on safeguarding world peace in the new era, and to elaborate on the efforts they make” (Xinhua, September 18). Together, these recent messages show the importance that China places on participating in UNPKO, and underscore China’s future readiness to deploy more troops and provide more funding for peacekeeping operations.

China’s participation in UNPKO began in 1988, when it officially joined the UN Special Committee on PKO. The PRC sent few engineering, transport, or medical units to UNPKO throughout the 1990s. However, this began to change in the new millennium. From January 2000 to January 2009, the number of Chinese personnel deployed to UNPKO increased from 52 to 2,146. [1] The new era of Chinese peacekeeping officially began in September 2015, when PRC President Xi Jinping gave a speech to the United Nations General Assembly announcing that China would shoulder more responsibilities in maintaining world peace. Xi pledged that China would train 8,000 troops for UNPKO, commit $1 billion to a ten-year joint China-UN Peace and Development Fund, and provide $100 million in military assistance to the African Union (Xinhua, September 29, 2015).

Today, President Xi’s 2015 pledge has been fulfilled. In addition to supplying around 3 percent of total UNPKO forces, China contributes around 15 percent of the UNPKO budget (USIP, September 2018; UN Peacekeeping, undated). Since 2018, China has maintained a 8,000-person standby force to carry out peacekeeping missions for the United Nations (China Daily, March 31, 2019). Further, although for many years no Chinese national held a senior post on any UNPKO missions, last year Ambassador Huang Xia was appointed special envoy for hotspot regions in the African Great Lakes Region (Xinhua, January 23, 2019).

Russian and Chinese Combat Air Trends: Current Capabilities and Future Threat Outlook

Justin Bronk

The Soviet Union, and latterly Russia, have been the source of both aerial and ground-based pacing threats to Western airpower since the end of the Second World War. However, from a position of dependency on Russian aircraft and weapons, China has developed an advanced indigenous combat aircraft, sensor and weapons industry that is outstripping Russia’s. As a result, for the first time since 1945, the likely source of the most significant aerial threats to Western air capabilities is shifting. 

Modern air combat is primarily decided by the balance of advantage in situational awareness. Given broadly comparable numbers, the force which can provide its aircrew with superior awareness of enemy position, track and identity will have a major advantage in any clash. In scenarios where situational awareness is relatively equal, missile reach and seeker performance, crew experience, aircraft performance, electronic warfare (EW) and countermeasures systems all contribute to the likely outcome.

Russia and China currently field superficially similar combat aircraft fleets. Both rely heavily on the Su-27/30 ‘Flanker’ family of combat aircraft and their various derivatives. They have also both pursued a fighter with low-observable (LO) – also known as stealthy – features, alongside increased multirole capability for their main fighter fleets. However, a clear Chinese lead is now emerging over Russia in most technical aspects of combat aircraft development.

Beyond Huawei and TikTok: Untangling US concerns over Chinese tech companies and digital security

Robert D. Williams

Washington’s growing focus on the risks posed by Chinese technology companies operating in the United States embodies the complexity of the challenges confronting U.S. policymakers in responding to China’s rise in technological, economic, and geopolitical power. Concerns over companies such as telecommunications equipment-maker Huawei and social-media platform TikTok are multidimensional and scarcely amenable to characterization in terms of discrete national security risks.

This paper traces one aspect of the “securitization” of technology policy in U.S.-China relations. It seeks to identify and disaggregate the main challenges facing policymakers who are troubled by China’s growing technological power as expressed through the actual or potential effects of Chinese technology companies doing business in the U.S. market. These concerns can be broadly categorized along (at least) two dimensions: risks inherent in the nature of emerging technologies and risks related to the nature of China’s governing system. The paper illustrates how these concerns apply in the context of 5G telecommunications and artificial intelligence.

The essay concludes with several recommendations for U.S. policy reform: (1) enacting comprehensive federal data privacy legislation; (2) advancing a digital trade agenda with U.S. allies and partners; (3) rationalizing the U.S. cybersecurity liability regime; (4) increasing the costs for malicious hackers; and (5) improving mechanisms for governmental policy coordination along domestic and international dimensions.

Attack by China unlikely before 2024, academic says

By Chen Yu-fu and Jason Pan 

China would not attack Taiwan before 2024, as long as President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) does not push for de jure independence or moves to rely on foreign countries for security, an academic said yesterday.

Chao Chun-shan (趙春山), a professor emeritus at the Institute of China Studies at Tamkang University, made the remarks at a forum organized by the Taiwan Cross-Strait Roundtable Forum Association, which is affiliated with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).

“The US would not change its policy for ‘strategic ambiguity’ on Taiwan, while the US and China would continue to have confrontations and cooperation, as in trade matters,” Chao said.
A group of academics take part in a seminar in Taipei yesterday to discuss the relationship between Taiwan, China and the US following this year’s US presidential election.

“The key for Taiwan is to avoid becoming embroiled in US-China conflicts, while striving for inclusion on issues where the two sides cooperate,” he said.

Taiwan was only mentioned briefly in 15 words during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) address at the Fifth Plenary Session of the 19th Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Central Committee in Beijing last week, Chao said.

“Xi did not talk about ‘one country, two systems’ nor warn against Taiwan independence,” he added.

Xi Doesn’t Need to Invade Taiwan Right Now

By Michael Mazza

As election officials across the United States were tallying votes Tuesday night, a Chinese Y-9 electronic warfare aircraft flew through the southwest quadrant of Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ). For the eleventh consecutive day and the 27th time since Oct. 1, Taiwan scrambled fighters and activated air defenses. With tensions already running high in the Taiwan Strait, Taipei now faces a new uncertainty: the prospect of a prolonged contest in the United States over the outcome of the American presidential election. Will Beijing try to take advantage of a distracted, divided America to impose its will on Taiwan?

There are reasons for concern. It has been a busy few months for People’s Liberation Army pilots stationed along China’s southeastern coastline. PLA aircraft have crossed the median line in the Taiwan Strait—the tacitly accepted air boundary between Taiwan and China—at least three times since August. In September, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman openly disavowed that tacit understanding. “The so-called ‘median line,’” he said, “is non-existent.”

Far more prevalent, however, have been flights in Taiwan’s southwestern air defense identification zone, many of them passing much closer to the Pratas (or Dongsha) islands, home to a Taiwanese coast guard installation, than to Taiwan proper. In recent months, flights near the islands have included bombers, fighters, and various patrol aircraft. Chinese forces conducted a major exercise in August that may have been a rehearsal for a landing there. On Oct. 15, Hong Kong flight authorities ordered a passenger plane heading to the islands to stay out of the surrounding airspace (the Pratas fall within Hong Kong’s flight information region).

Taiwanese officials and foreign observers are rightly concerned that China is preparing to make a move on Taiwan—if not an invasion, then perhaps an attempt to seize one of its offshore islands. A contested election outcome in the United States—Taiwan’s ultimate security guarantor—might provide the opportunity President Xi Jinping is looking for to snatch territory and deal a blow to American credibility in Asia.

Belt and Road Stakeholders Don’t Believe China Uses ‘Debt-Trap Diplomacy’

By Pradumna B Rana and Xianbai Ji

The Indian geostrategist Brahma Chellaney is frequently credited with coining the term “debt trap diplomacy” in 2017. Chellaney asserted that the aim of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was to saddle small nations with debt that they could not hope to repay, “leaving them even more firmly under China’s thumb.”

Since then, based on a review of just a limited number of cases and projects, many others have come up with similarly skeptical views on the BRI. The debt-trap diplomacy (DTD) thesis has, therefore, morphed into something approaching conventional wisdom.

The specter of debt-trap diplomacy has also been widely used by world leaders. For example, a bipartisan group of 16 U.S. senators in August 2018 expressed apprehensions about the BRI by citing “the dangers of China’s debt-trap diplomacy.” They noted that it was imperative for the United States to counter China’s attempts at leveraging foreign debt to advance geopolitical goals. Leaders in Japan and Australia, which together with the U.S. and India comprise the China-containing Quad bloc, also frequently use the term.

A recent Chatham House research paper by Lee Jones and Shahar Hameiri offers a robust challenge to the DTD thesis. Jones and Hameiri argue that the BRI reality is both messier and more nuanced. They argue that oftentimes controversial BRI projects were actually initiated by recipient governments, and that Chinese financial institutions were not coordinated enough to pursue detailed strategic objectives.

China and the World: Can China Lead?

By Jongsoo Lee

Can China lead in the Indo-Pacific region and in the world? Does it have the necessary “soft power”? And is there an exportable “China model”? For a perspective on these and other matters, Jongsoo Lee interviews William Kirby, T. M. Chang professor of China studies at Harvard University and Spangler family professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, who has served as dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University.

It is said the 21st century is the century of China and of Asia. But how does China see its role in the Indo-Pacific region and in the world? Does China have ambitions and capabilities to lead in the region and in the world?

It is frequently said this may be the Chinese century or the Asian century. One should be a bit careful as to how one makes these predictions. In the year 1800, China was probably the most powerful and richest economy on earth, but that century did not turn out particularly well for China. In the year 1900, you can be forgiven for thinking that century would have been a German century. So, things don’t always pan out as one imagines. Also, when the Republic of China was founded in 1912, there were many people thinking that the 20th century would be the Chinese century, and that did not work out particularly well.

Right now, China is doing remarkably well recovering rapidly from the disasters of the first three decades of the People’s Republic, with a strong outward-oriented economic development but also with a great strength inside the country. I think the biggest tension is actually between China and the rest of Asia. China will do well and is doing very well economically, but at the same time, the way it has, in recent years, managed its rise in influence has done everything possible to exacerbate poor relations with its Asian neighbors. This is something a bit mysterious to me.

Climate Change and Security in the United Nations Security Council

Dr. Judith Nora Hardt , Alina Viehoff

The international collaborative research project “Climate Change and Security in the UN Security Council” (CLISEC UNSC) provides, to date, the most systematic analysis of whether and how the 15 UNSC members approach the climate-security nexus in domestic and international policies and practices. With a large international network of interdisciplinary and country-specialized partner scientists, the analysis relies on a broad spectrum of official primary sources from state governments on policy, various ministry strategies (such as security strategies), UNSC documents, and interdisciplinary academic literature on the climate-security nexus. It brings to light how traditional security actors and other governmental entities include and describe climate-security linkages in basic policy frameworks and practices. The analysis covers 2007 through April 2020, with a particular emphasis on recent events.

The project is carried out in cooperation between the Institute of Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg (IFSH) and the Research Group Climate Change and Security (CLISEC) and is supported by the Federal Foreign Office of Germany.

US Foreign Policy Priorities

Dr Leslie Vinjamuri, Email Leslie, Email Tim, Dr Sam Geall

The authors of this collection consider the most pressing foreign policy challenges for the next US president, and examine how the outcome of the 2020 election will affect these. 

The president will determine how the US’s diplomatic, economic and military resources are invested, and what value the administration will attach to existing alliances and multilateral institutions. 

Whoever sits in the White House will shape the trajectory of the US–China relationship and the global economy after the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as international cooperation on climate action, international trade and technology policy, and health.


The last four years have confirmed that the choices the US makes are highly consequential for international politics. Even as geopolitical competition and globalization limit the range of available foreign policy options, the next president will determine how America’s diplomatic, economic and military resources are invested, and, especially, what value the US will attach to existing alliances and multilateral institutions. Whoever sits in the White House will shape the trajectory of the US–China relationship and the global economy, with significant implications for America’s partners.

Conceptualizing the Future of US Special Operations

Colonel (Retired) Robert C. Jones

What are the operations we need to select, train, organize and equip the force to conduct that are truly “Special” and also relevant to the challenges facing our nation in this evolving strategic environment?

This is the most important question facing United States Special Operations Command today. But it’s not one we spend much time on. The expectation is simple: maintain our exquisite CT capability, reinvest in historic missions across the SOF service components, and incorporate the latest technologies. But is that answer actually “special?” Truthfully, that answer might not even be adequate.

To answer this question demands a multi-discipline approach. One must first question assumptions made in the NDS about the role of SOF. Next, one must appreciate the fundamental nature of the rapidly changing strategic environment, and how those changes are affecting both our national interests and the character of threats to those interests. Then, one must truly understand the full breadth of special operations forces (SOF) and missions; which goes far beyond the hyper-conventional operations that have come to define the post-9/11 era. Those missions (high-end raiding and partner capacity building) will always play an important role in SOF. The high-end tactical actions SOF is famous for will remain a world-class part of what we do. Likewise with our unique ability to work with indigenous forces. In the emerging environment, however, the most vital and special roles for SOF lies elsewhere.

The main effort for the emergent future is within a human domain the Joint Force refuses to recognize, and conducting operations currently undefined by doctrine. Historic approaches and future technologies will continue to shape the future of SOF, but the answers we seek lie in less charted ground. Information technology has made the human domain more relevant than at any time in history. For SOF, humans are not merely a consideration we must take into account; for SOF, humans are the very medium we operate within and through. The future of SOF is in the competition for strategic influence. This is the ultimate “hearts and minds” campaign – working our way into the hearts of the populations and governments we operate among, and into the minds of those who would do us harm. This holds true equally for achieving durable, desired strategic effects with state actors as it does with non-state actors.

How to demilitarize America’s presence in the Middle East

Bruce Riedel and Michael E. O’Hanlon

Barack Obama and Donald Trump rarely agree. But with regard to the Middle East, both basically wanted out. As Obama’s vice president, Joe Biden did not differ much in his views.

That the region is strategic quicksand, to be avoided as much as possible, is a view they all share. So do most other Americans. So do we. American foreign policy in the region is too militarized. And the average of 60,000 U.S. troops there at any time are too many, when measured against the missions they can realistically accomplish.

This number, though much lower than the more than 150,000 troops based in the region during the George W. Bush and early Obama years, is still many times the number stationed in the region before 1990.

However, there are right ways and wrong ways to get out of the Middle East. Often, frustration with the politics of the Middle East turns into slogans like “end forever wars.” But we cannot end them by edict, however powerful this nation may be.

For example, bringing home all 5,000 or so U.S. troops currently in Afghanistan by late December, as Trump tweeted recently, would be preposterous. It would require the United States to destroy many supplies in place, abandon Afghan partners to extremism and a worsening civil war, risk flying helicopters off the roof of our embassy to rescue diplomats at some future date, and create new opportunities for Al Qaeda or Islamic State to find sanctuaries at a time when the militants have lost them in other parts of the region.

Who Will Intervene in the World’s Hot Spots?

As conflicts and crises persist around the world, there is growing uncertainty about how—or if—they will be resolved. The international order is fraying, generating uncertainty about who will intervene and how these interventions might be funded.

There are interminable conflicts, like the situations in Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan, which have produced years of violence, countless thousands of deaths and even more refugees. Then there are the emerging hot spots, including northern Mozambique and the China-India frontier, and any number of potential flashpoints, like the Eastern Mediterranean. Even in situations where there is some tenuous hope of reconciliation, there is also uncertainty—such as Sudan, where a key rebel group declined to sign on to a peace deal the transitional government struck this year with other armed groups from the Darfur region.

At the same time, the nature of terrorism is also changing. After a period of recalibration following the loss of its caliphate in western Iraq and Syria and, more recently, the death of its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Islamic State has once again become more active in the two countries, even as it shifts its attention to new theaters of operation, like the Sahel and Southeast Asia. In so doing, the group and its affiliates are taking advantage of dwindling international interest in mounting the kinds of counterinsurgency campaigns needed to meet these new challenges. And a recent spate of seemingly lone-wolf attacks in Europe show that the threat terrorism poses there has faded, but not disappeared.

These developments come at a time when Western powers have shown a flagging interest in conflict intervention, more broadly. The deteriorating security situation in the Sahel, a region that has been battered by attacks from Islamist groups and fighting among local militias, is one of the few conflicts to rouse European efforts to restore stability—and prevent a potential surge of migrants. But even there, European leaders have stopped short of backing the kind of large-scale military engagement required to turn back the militant groups.

U.S.-Russia Relations at a Crossroads

Cyrus Newlin, Heather A. Conley

In September 2020, the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) convened a select group of Russian and American experts to discuss four topics of importance to U.S.-Russia relations: Arms Control, the U.S.-China Rivalry, the Arctic, and the Eastern Mediterranean. What follows is a summary report of those meetings.


U.S.-Russia relations are at their worst since the Cold War and will remain dynamic in the coming years, with a lingering risk of escalation. Washington and Moscow diverge on a growing list of challenges yet there are opportunities for selective engagement. To prevent a drift towards confrontation, they should work to make their relationship more predictable and transparent—regardless of the outcome of the November 3 presidential elections in the United States. Military-military contact and deconfliction efforts must continue but by themselves are insufficient. Both the United States and Russia would benefit from more regular and structured bilateral engagement. There is some, though diminishing, room for a positive agenda, particularly in the Arctic, in the arms control arena, and in the Eastern Mediterranean regional context. But even in areas where the two remain far apart, deconfliction mechanisms should be complemented by diplomatic dialogue that clearly communicates an assessment of regional dynamics and policy priorities and demarcates red lines.

Arms Control

The U.S.-Russia strategic stability framework, which was painstakingly built over decades, is at risk of dissolution. Although treaty violations and unilateral withdraws has fostered an environment of mutual mistrust, the Trump administration views existing arms control agreements as no longer responsive to the evolving security environment, including the inclusion of all nuclear weapons, the emergence of new weapons such as hypersonic vehicles or space-based systems, and most importantly, China’s modernization of its strategic nuclear forces. At the time of this writing, it is unclear whether the United States and Russia will agree to extend the New START Treaty, the last remaining bilateral treaty limiting nuclear stockpiles, when it expires in February 2021 and what political framework will be negotiated to secure a future arms control agreement with both Moscow and Beijing.

Two steps Europe must take to deal with Islamist terrorism

With most European countries struggling to combat the coronavirus pandemic, the latest wave of terror attacks in several cities on the continent has provided an unwelcome reminder of the threat posed by Islamist militants.

And, to judge from the response of leading politicians to the upsurge in violence, there is a renewed determination to take a more robust approach in tackling the extremist ideology, a policy that, if not handled with care, risks alienating the majority of law-abiding Muslims who reside in the European Union.

After the recent attacks in the French cities of Paris and Nice, Austria has become the latest country to find itself the target of Islamist extremists after a 20-year-old gumnan killed four people and wounded 22 others before he was shot dead by police on Monday night.

Armed with a pistol, a machete and a Kalashnikov-style assault rifle, the attacker, named as Kujtim Fejzulai, an Austrian citizen from the Vienna suburb of Modling, went on the rampage through the “party mile” of Vienna’s old town, targeting crowds enjoying a night out before the new virus lockdown.

Responding to the attack, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has called on Europe to form a common front in what he calls a “war on Islamism”. He says he will push for such an alliance during the European Leaders Meet this month.


Space Policy Directive – 5 (SPD-5) states, “the United States considers unfettered freedom to operate in space vital to advancing the security, economic prosperity, and scientific knowledge of the Nation…Therefore, it is essential to protect space systems from cyber incidents in order to prevent disruptions to their ability to provide reliable and efficient contributions to the operations of the Nation’s critical infrastructure.” SPD-5 also defines “Space System” as “a combination of systems, to include ground systems, sensor networks, and one or more space vehicles, that provides a space-based service.”

Space threats are changing at an incredibly rapid pace. Cyber threats pose a significant and complex challenge due to the absence of a warning and speed of an attack by an adversary, the difficulty of attribution, and the complexities associated with carrying out a proportionate response.

Our future space systems, to include the spacecraft (and payloads), must be secured and cyber resilient. It is critical to define robust cybersecurity principles and cyber requirements for space systems. We must evolve from the traditional thinking of not engineering in security into the space segment.

Using threat-informed risk-based system engineering and applying defense-in-depth throughout space systems, particularly on the spacecraft themselves, is imperative.

A Technical Retrospective of the Former South African Nuclear Weapon Programme

Robert E. Kelley

Much has been written about South Africa’s nuclear weapon programme. But none of it has previously drawn on the knowledge and skills of a US nuclear weapon engineer who examined in person the technical aspects of the programme. That engineer—Robert E. Kelley—has now given a detailed account of how engineers, physicists, policymakers and the military worked on the programme—often at cross purposes and without coordination. The result was a nuclear weapon programme that succeeded in producing credible nuclear explosives but for little purpose and too late.

The end of the South African programme is often attributed to the looming end of apartheid. While that was clearly a factor, Kelley shows how internal competition and an inability to execute the task on time also prompted the government to give up its nuclear weapons.

The weight training puzzle: six-shooters, ‘six packs,’ or men with a sixth sense – what does SF need?

By Anna Simons

A number of years ago I committed to giving a paper at a promising, but ultimately very weird academic conference. The intent was to bring together people who study warfare and evolution. Participants included squishy social science types and academics with a mathematical bent. With a couple of exceptions, none of the attendees had spent any time working with or around members of the U.S. military, so I thought I might pique their interest if I tackled the puzzle of why Special Forces soldiers might engage in shirtless weightlifting in the middle of a sandstorm during an annual exercise in the Sahel.

I used a generic photo of someone identified as a Special Forces soldier to set the stage. My real intent was to raise questions about what a snapshot does and doesn’t capture and what it can and cannot convey. I wanted to suggest that there is no neat or tidy way to bin context and that, without context, snapshots – to include snap judgments, as well as generalizations drawn from context-free data sets and the like – mis-assess reality. 

The photo I found was from the web since it’s not as though I’d ever taken photos of shirtless weightlifters myself. The question I posed was whether this picture depicted anything odd, to which the expected response was ‘no.’ Apart from the fact that this (alleged) SF soldier is pumping iron in the great outdoors, one could have seen young men doing something similar in gyms all around the world prior to Covid-19. Yet, thirty years ago – way back in the early ‘90s – such a scene would have been exceedingly rare in and around SF teams. 

A Map with No Edges

By Richard Kaipo Lum

Today, we in the United States are confronted with a bewildering array of changes, occurring on multiple levels and unfolding at different rates. The world order is clearly undergoing a set of transitions and with rising geotechnological competition and unraveling global integration, it is even more challenging to make confident statements about the future. In fact, there is no single future “out there.” We are always confronted by a range of possibilities for how the world could change and today, given the breadth and depth of changes underway, effectively dealing with those possibilities requires us to address the future in new ways.

Given the reality that confronts us, we need to take a more expansive approach to thinking about the future. We need to think about it in more rigorous ways and we need to approach “the future” from a different point of view – one that is oriented towards shaping the emerging landscape rather than making bets on competing prophetic statements about what shape it will take. And lest anyone start to object to this activist approach to the future, let’s be clear that it works. Years ago, our geopolitical competitors were deeply unsatisfied with their assessments of what was, at the time, the future operating environment of the 21st Century. They set about to alter things, and we are all presently living through the success of their efforts.

As a former hyperpower (for however brief a time) and as a global actor that has experienced an uncomfortably abrupt loss of relative power, influence, and stature on the world stage, we need to deeply embrace the understanding that we actually need to think like a competitor, and not like an incumbent on the defensive. The time for that reactionary, legacy mentality is over.

Army Wants Smaller Brigades, Stronger Divisions & Lots Of Robots


WASHINGTON: The Army wants the first casualty of the next war to be a robot, not a human being. But no amount of high technology will allow a bloodless victory, warned the new commander of the service’s Maneuver Center at Fort Benning, which runs tank and infantry training. So instead of devising some futuristic all-new force, Maj. Gen. Patrick Donahoe and his staff are reviving battle-tested Cold War concepts – like tank-infantry teamwork and robust division-level formations – and updating them with a large dash of unmanned systems.

In guerrilla warfare in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Army beefed up its brigades to operate largely independently, with higher echelons such as divisions and corps in a supporting role. For future large-scale wars, Donahoe said, the Army wants to strengthen the division, restoring the brigade-strength artillery and reconnaissance (“divisional cavalry”) elements eliminated in the 2000s. This combination of long range firepower and scout forces — both air and ground — will allow division commanders to fight and maneuver over distances much larger than what their subordinate brigades can cover.

To compensate, Brigade Combat Teams may yield some of the specialized assets they’ve accumulated since the Cold War. “The BCT will probably be smaller [and] will have to get augmented for different tasks by the division,” Donahoe told the NDIA Armaments, Robotics, & Munitions (ARM) conference. “But it will be more technically technologically enabled [with] autonomous systems.”