27 November 2020

Why India Refused to Join the World’s Biggest Trading Bloc

By Surupa Gupta, Sumit Ganguly

On Sunday, Nov. 15, 15 Asian nations representing nearly a third of the global economy signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), forming the world’s biggest trading bloc. But one Asian economic giant was missing: India. Despite protracted negotiations, New Delhi refused to join the accord.

Once implemented, the RCEP will either reduce or eliminate tariffs on a range of goods and services and set up rules on investment and competition, and ensure protections for intellectual property. Economists and policy analysts have argued that India would in fact benefit from joining the RCEP. Besides the obvious upside to domestic consumers in the form of cheaper and higher quality products, the specific advantage of the RCEP lies in the opportunity it provides Indian firms to participate in global value chains and in attracting foreign investment. India’s experience with past free trade agreements shows that these deals have led to increases in exports to Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Cheaper imports of goods and industrial supplies from countries such as Japan have increased India’s productive capacity. Analysts have further argued that joining the RCEP would create jobs and sustain economic growth. There were compelling political reasons for joining the RCEP as well: Being a signatory would have given India the opportunity to shape the agreement in the future. And staying out of the deal isolates India, limiting its ability to shape the emerging trade architecture.

The US-India Relationship after Trump: A Return to Convention?

Key Points
While Donald Trump may not have conceded the election, the world is very much looking to the post-Trump era.

Unlike Trump, President Biden is likely to focus on working closely with US allies and others on geopolitical, economic and environmental issues of concern.

Biden’s likely more flexible approach towards Iran, difference in approach to immigration issues, and even in countering China, are some areas where India and the US could find synergies.

Absolute convergence is impossible between any two countries, but there are more convergences than divergences between the US and India. On human rights issues, as well as minority rights, the Biden-Harris White House will not mince words, as a result of which it could be tougher on China.

How the Good War Went Bad

By Carter Malkasian

The United States has been fighting a war in Afghanistan for over 18 years. More than 2,300 U.S. military personnel have lost their lives there; more than 20,000 others have been wounded. At least half a million Afghans—government forces, Taliban fighters, and civilians—have been killed or wounded. Washington has spent close to $1 trillion on the war. Although the al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is dead and no major attack on the U.S. homeland has been carried out by a terrorist group based in Afghanistan since 9/11, the United States has been unable to end the violence or hand off the war to the Afghan authorities, and the Afghan government cannot survive without U.S. military backing. 

At the end of 2019, The Washington Post published a series titled “The Afghanistan Papers,” a collection of U.S. government documents that included notes of interviews conducted by the special inspector general for

The Pandemic In China: A Governance Lesson To The West

by Ugo Bardi

In China, stopping the infection required little more than a regional lockdown that interested a small fraction of the Chinese territory: the Hubei province, about 4% of the total population of China. Coupled with aggressive tracking and isolating, it was enough to get rid of the virus. There have been no COVID-related deaths in China since March 2020. The Chinese economic machine is in motion, people move, travel, shop, walk around, often without face masks. In short, life is normal. And it has been normal during the past six months, at least.

In comparison, the epidemic in the West has been so badly mismanaged that one feels like crying of rage. A threat that never was overwhelming was magnified to the point that it risks destroying the very fabric of the Western economic machine. How could it happen?

Within some limits, the collapse of the Western economy was unavoidable for reasons related to the decline of the availability of natural resources. But that it happened so fast is bewildering. So surprising that some people maintain that it was a conspiracy against the West concocted by China or even a plot by the evil Western elite to get rid of their useless Untermenschen.

China and Russia Have Iran’s Back

By Jamsheed K. Choksy and Carol E. B. Choksy

For the last four years, the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has meted out punishment to Iran rather than pursuing a foreign policy. The United States withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and unilaterally imposed multiple rounds of sanctions. A new administration under President-elect Joe Biden may hope to reverse the damage and renew constructive engagement, but it will find Iran much changed.

Iran did not sit still the last four years, passively awaiting the nuclear deal’s resumption. Rather, the Islamic Republic has joined forces with the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation to improve its military position and shore up its economy. China and Russia are now integrally involved in Iran’s affairs, from its oil and port infrastructure to its defense capabilities. The result of this deepening collaboration has been to make Iran far less susceptible than it once was, either to

Why Is Saudi Arabia Boycotting Turkish Exports?

By Geopolitical Monitor

The list of mutual recriminations between Turkey and Saudi Arabia is a long one, but the two erstwhile US allies have generally managed to keep their hostility within acceptable bounds. A growing, government-backed movement to boycott Turkish goods in the Kingdom suggests that this could well be changing.

A decade of bilateral drift

The governments of Saudi Arabia and Turkey have occupied opposing sides of international crises at several points of the past decade.

The rift first opened in 2011 when a rash of popular protests broke out across the Arab world – the “Arab Spring.” Turkey widely embraced the protests and became a prominent backer of the Muslim Brotherhood and political Islam in general, many of whose proponents viewed Ankara as a role model. For an Islamic theocracy like Saudi Arabia however, the Arab Spring represented an existential threat, and the Kingdom responded by pushing back (and against Turkey’s proxies) on all fronts.

Does It Make Sense for America to Stop Fighting the Taliban?

by Kris Osborn

Force on force engagement through armed combat by either U.S. or Afghan soldiers has, simply and clearly, not removed the Taliban. This circumstance, which has now persisted for two decades, is well acknowledged by senior Pentagon officials, one of which who recently told reporters that “one is not going to defeat the other,” speaking of the Taliban and U.S.-trained and friendly Afghan forces.

“What has to happen in Afghanistan, and the president has been very clear on this, as have other members of his national security cabinet, the solution in Afghanistan is to broker a power-sharing or some form of agreement whereby the two, the Taliban and the Afghan people, can live side-by-side in peace,” a senior defense official told reporters. 

The senior official cited the need to maintain negotiations and ultimately achieve some kind of as-of-yet elusive peace deal with the Taliban, despite recent reports that Taliban violence is actually increasing. 

America, Heal Thyself

MADRID – In 1998, then-US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright famously defined the United States as “the indispensable nation,” declaring that, “We stand tall and we see further than other countries into the future.” Two decades later, the US remains the indispensable nation. And yet, rather than seeing into the future, it has lately seemed to have its eyes closed. Does Joe Biden’s victory in this month’s presidential election mean the US is re-opening them?

One thing is apparent: had Donald Trump won a second term, the fate of the US Albright described would have been sealed. The America that has long undergirded the liberal international order – shaped by the universal principles defined in the 1941 Atlantic Charter – would have been destroyed, once and for all.

And yet the impending Biden presidency by no means guarantees a return to the US leadership and vision of the past. Yes, it was a definitive victory. Biden won over 79 million votes, more than any other US president. And he won the same number of Electoral College votes as Trump did in 2016, when Trump claimed to have a “massive landslide victory,” despite his having lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton.

Opinion – Multilateralism and the Asia-Pacific under a Biden Presidency

See Seng Tan

Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 US presidential election looks set to reverse the course taken by Trump and his “America First” platform over the past four years, which largely rejected multilateralism, downplayed alliances, took the fight to China, and abandoned America’s role in international leadership since the end of the Second World War. ‘Working cooperatively with other nations that share our values and goals does not make the United States a chump,’ as Biden argued in a 2020 essay for Foreign Affairs. ‘It makes us more secure and more successful. We amplify our own strength, extend our presence around the globe, and magnify our impact while sharing global responsibilities with willing partners’ (Biden, 2020).

America’s return to the international fold under a Biden administration will likely have key implications for multilateral cooperation in a host of global issues ranging from climate change, public health, trade, nuclear non-proliferation, human rights, to a rules-based international order (Patrick, 2020). But what might this anticipated return to multilateralism and international collaboration look like in the Asia-Pacific region, where China’s proprietary interests and influence loom large?

America’s Treacherous Transition

By Ivo H. Daalder and James M. Lindsay

The U.S. presidential election is finally over. Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden has won, but he will not assume office for another ten weeks. That prolonged transition period is both unusual in world politics and fraught with danger, especially when the incumbent refuses to accept that he has lost.

The United States is almost alone among major democracies in taking so long to install a new head of state. In France, the president takes office within ten days of the election. In the United Kingdom, the moving trucks arrive at 10 Downing Street the morning after the incumbent loses. The United States’ two and a half months looks good only in comparison to Mexico, where the transition lasts an arduous five months.

Even under ideal circumstances, presidential transitions constitute an uneasy interregnum in U.S. politics. As the lame-duck incumbent continues to exercise authority, the president-elect builds a team

The Militarization of U.S. Politics

By Aila M. Matanock and Paul Staniland

Over the last four years, U.S. President Donald Trump has shown more sympathy for far-right groups, many of them armed, than any president in recent memory. At the same time, his administration has reportedly pressured law enforcement agencies to downplay the threat posed by these organizations, allowing nonstate violence to creep back into the political mainstream to a degree not seen since the 1960s and 1970s. Just last month, a group of antigovernment extremists was arrested for plotting to kidnap Michigan’s Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, after she defied Trump’s demand to “LIBERATE MICHIGAN” from COVID-19 restrictions. More violence could erupt ahead of next week’s presidential election, as well as in its aftermath.

Our research considers the conditions under which armed groups interfere in electoral politics, drawing on the experiences of other countries and previous periods in American history. Our comparisons show many avenues for armed participation

The Plight of the Nagorno-Karabakh Peace Process

by Mark Episkopos

As Armenia enters a second week of mass protests over the Nagorno-Karabakh ceasefire agreement, some in Moscow are losing patience with the government in Yerevan.

Following forty-five days of fighting, thousands of casualties, and over one hundred thousand displaced civilians, the president of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliev, Armenian prime minister Nikol Pashinyan, and Russian president Vladimir Putin signed a ceasefire agreement on Nov. 9 to end the war in Nagorno-Karabakh.

The ceasefire stipulated a total end to all hostilities. With a few notable exceptions, all parties agreed to stop at the territory they occupied at the time of the ceasefire. A significant portion of Nagorno-Karabakh, including the so-called Lachin Corridor that provides a convenient mountain pass route between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, will be occupied by Russian peacekeepers for the next few years; after that initial period, the Russian peacekeeping agreement will be subject to automatic renewal for another five years unless either party preemptively objects.

France’s War in the Sahel and the Evolution of Counter-Insurgency Doctrine

Michael Shurkin
Source Link

On Jan. 23, 2020, Gen. François Lecointre, chief of the defense staff and France’s highest-ranking general, told the National Assembly that the French army knew what it was doing with Operation Barkhane, the French military intervention in the Sahel that began in 2014. This was partly due, he explained, to the fact that the army could draw on the heritage of colonial-era doctrine personified by Gen. Joseph Gallieni and Gen. Hubert Lyautey. These men made their careers conquering and “pacifying” France’s colonial empire in Indochina and Africa during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Their ideas were the basis for doctrinal developments in the 1940s and 1950s, when colonial wars evolved into counter-insurgency campaigns and colonial doctrine became counter-insurgency (COIN) doctrine.1 For Lecointre, the association between contemporary French military operations and French colonial practices was a positive one. He hoped to communicate confidence and cultivate the trust of the French public and France’s civilian leaders, assuring them that the French military mission in the Sahel was justified and its objectives attainable.

For some, Lecointre’s remarks had the opposite effect. He confirmed the idea that France was conducting a colonial campaign — that it was approaching Africa through a (neo)colonial lens and not, as the French government claims, merely defending friendly countries from Islamist terrorists. Critics of French interventions in Africa such as Bruno Charbonneau stress the continuities between colonial, neo-colonial, and contemporary policies and practices.2 Other regional experts like Yvan Guichaoua and Nathaniel Powell are troubled by the repetition of policies and practices that have, in their view, done more to destabilize the region since decolonization in the 1960s.3 In other words, the problem is not that the French military does not know what it is doing, but rather that France’s track record suggests the country’s savoir faire is doing more harm than good.

5 reasons the Asia-Pacific trade deal matters for Europe

By Eleanor Mears

Europe will have to pay close attention to the consequences of the huge trade deal struck between 15 Asia-Pacific nations this week, covering a third of the world’s population and gross domestic product.

Almost a decade in the making, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) will eliminate tariffs on a wide range of products for its member countries and establish common rules for e-commerce, trade and intellectual property.

The 15 member countries are China, South Korea, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, along with the 10 nations of the ASEAN regional grouping of Southeast Asia (Indonesia, Myanmar, Brunei, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia and the Philippines).

For China, the deal is a geopolitical victory as well as an economic one, as it seeks to become the region’s prime trade mover after the U.S. pulled out of the more ambitious Trans-Pacific Partnership in 2017.

Azerbaijan starts rebuilding in newly won territories

Ulkar Natiqqizi

The Azerbaijani government is pushing forward with an ambitious plan to reconstruct the territories that it recently won from Armenia, many of which have been virtually leveled since Azerbaijan lost control of them in the 1990s.

President Ilham Aliyev highlighted the reconstruction plans during a November 16 tour of some of the territories along with his wife and first vice president, Mehriban Aliyeva.

“A new master plan will be drawn up. Relevant instructions have been given. A master plan will be developed for each city. All office buildings, public buildings, schools and medical centers will be established here. All infrastructure will be put in place. Streets, parks and alleys will be built. Victory monuments will be erected in all the cities and life will return here,” Aliyev said during a visit to Jabrayil.

The government has not said how much it intends to spend on all of this. Independent economists have estimated the costs in the tens of billions of dollars; Azerbaijan’s annual state budget is currently about $15 billion.

No Exit : Why the Middle East Still Matters to America

By Steven A. Cook

The record of American failure in the Middle East over the last two decades is long and dismaying. The most obvious catastrophe was the 2003 invasion of Iraq. But the trouble started long before that fiasco. The U.S. victory in the Cold War, the “third wave” of democratization around the world, and the wealth that globalization generated were positive developments, but they also produced a toxic mix of American arrogance and overambition. Across the political spectrum, officials and analysts came to believe that Middle Eastern societies needed Washington’s help and that the United States could use its power in constructive ways in the region. What followed were fruitless quests to transform Arab societies, resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, stamp out jihadism, and end Iran’s development of nuclear technology. The fact that five Arab countries are now in various stages of collapse contributes to an overall sense within Washington that

Our Plague Year

By Arnold Weinstein

In the era of COVID-19, we are learning that scientific diagnosis is harder than we thought. Do we focus on symptoms? Do we use swabs or will a spit sample suffice? How long must we wait for results? How many of these tests are available? And are they actually reliable? And reliable for how long? For the past many months, and doubtless for the foreseeable future as well, all of this seems terribly vexed, yielding little clarity or certainty. This pandemic has been a crash course in uncertainties.

Such questions camouflage the grimmer and more urgent threats now visible. What fuels the anxiety-filled diagnostic project is a pandemic’s core terror: the prospect that you might infect me, and that I might die, or cause someone else to. After all, diagnosis is a sedate analytic procedure, but potential death is something else: it is what fuels, darkens, and exacerbates our

Simmering Tensions Come to a Boil in Ethiopia's Tigray Region

by Michelle Gavin

Over the past week, as many have been distracted by the U.S. elections, an extraordinarily dangerous unraveling has picked up speed in Ethiopia. Months of simmering tensions between the leadership of the Tigray region and the central government in Addis Ababa boiled over into open military conflict, threatening to tip the country into outright civil war. Ethiopia’s crisis jeopardizes not just the security of 110 million people, but the stability of the region and the promise of a more assertive, more capable African influence on global affairs.

For decades, the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) was first among equals in Ethiopia’s ruling coalition. But when Abiy Ahmed of the Oromo Democratic Party became Ethiopia’s prime minister in 2018, it marked a shift in relative power among the coalition’s ethnically-based components. Domestically and internationally, Prime Minister Abiy’s ascension came to be understood as a corrective measure intended to address popular dissatisfaction about political repression, access to resources and opportunity, and the perception that an ethnic minority (Tigrayans constitute roughly 6% of Ethiopia’s population) enjoyed the lion’s share of power and influence in the country’s federal government. Tigrayans came to feel unfairly targeted by the new government’s personnel and policy choices, declined to join the successor party to the old ruling coalition, and then this fall chose to proceed with their own regional elections in defiance of a federal decision postponing planned elections due in part to the COVID-19 crisis.

Experts ‘Cautiously Optimistic’ On Cybersecurity Research In India At Bengaluru Tech Summit

by Swarajya Staff

‘India has made some progress in cybersecurity research and development over the years, but there is still a long way to go.’

This was the broad consensus among cybersecurity experts from academia and industry who discussed the state of affairs as part of a panel at the Bengaluru Tech Summit 2020 on 20 November.

Cybersecurity relates to the defence of cyber space, more specifically computers, servers, electronic systems, networks, and, most important, data, from attacks mounted by malevolent digital players.

Although cybersecurity has always been important in the context of information technology, the high internet adoption rates, especially in India, means that it has been bumped up the priority ladder by many governments.

Covid-19 has only accelerated the jump to cyber space for individuals, businesses, and governments, and in lieu of the increased threats, governments are responding.

Railway Cybersecurity

This ENISA study regards the level of implementation of cybersecurity measures in the railway sector, within the context of the enforcement of the NIS Directive in each European Member State. It presents a thorough list of essential railway services accompanied by a high level overview of the railway systems they support. Finally, the European Railway Traffic Management System is presented together with some key cybersecurity considerations and recommendations.

US Army working on new electromagnetic deception tool

Mark Pomerleau

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army is developing a new tool to gain an advantage in the cat and mouse game that is the electromagnetic spectrum mission.

Currently in the early concepts stage, the Army detailed its idea for the Modular Electromagnetic Spectrum Deception Suite, or MEDS, that will seek to confound the enemy within the invisible yet highly dynamic maneuver space of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Despite the fact forces cannot see it, the spectrum is an extremely important space they must cautiously move through just as a unit would in formation through a valley. U.S. adversaries have proven their ability to locate units based solely on their signature in the electromagnetic spectrum, leading to entire concept and materiel changes for the Army to smaller units and command posts. Deception within the spectrum has become a high priority for the U.S. military.

Blood Lust and Demigods: Behind an Australian Force’s Slaughter of Helpless Afghans

Yan Zhuang, Thomas Gibbons-Neff

MELBOURNE, Australia — They were the elite of the elite among Australian soldiers, with a record of daring raids in Afghanistan. But a twisted and extreme warrior culture was being instilled, driving the commandos to glorify atrocity as they waged a methodical campaign to kill helpless Afghans and cover it up.

Commanders ordered junior soldiers to execute prisoners so they could record their first “kill.” Adolescents, farmers and other noncombatants were shot dead in circumstances clearly outside the heat of battle. Superior officers created such a godlike aura around themselves that troops dared not question them, even as 39 Afghans were unlawfully killed.

These are among the findings of battlefield misconduct, released on Thursday in a public accounting by the Australian military — a rare admission of abuses that often remain hidden during war.

Cross-domain Competition: How Organizational Stovepipes Create Risks for Shared Missions

Morgan Dwyer

Within the national security community, institutional interactions are shaped by how responsibility, authority, competency, and budgets are allocated across separate organizations with shared missions. Organizational lines have to be drawn somewhere; indeed, boundaries enable organizations to develop specialized knowledge and tackle problems which might otherwise be intractable by breaking them down into more manageable chunks. But, organizational stovepipes can also create risks to shared missions, especially when separate institutions must develop interoperable technology. Today, traditional nuclear missions increasingly intersect with emerging technical domains such as space and cyber.

This brief explores the institutional nexus within the U.S. military, where new organizational stovepipes may create risks to shared missions. To mitigate these risks, policymakers should proactively counter bureaucratic competition among the separate organizations which share the mission of defending the nuclear command, control, and communications (NC3) system.

US Air Force sets sights on new spectrum warfare wing

Mark Pomerleau

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Air Force plans to create a new wing focused on electromagnetic spectrum warfare come springtime.

While plans for the new wing — the 355th Spectrum Warfare Wing — have previously been discussed, officials Tuesday provided the most in-depth details regarding its creation, functions and timeline.

The wing, which is tentatively set to activate in March 2021, will enable “fielded forces to continually contest and on demand attack adversary [command, control, communication, computers and intelligence] functional structures controlling their key processes,” Lt. Gen. Chris Weggeman, deputy commander Air Combat Command, said during a virtual conference Nov. 17 hosted by AFCEA’s Alamo chapter.

“Their mission is to execute the U.S. version of Chinese nodal warfare,” the officer explained.

The wing will fall under the purview of the Air Force Warfare Center — which performs operational test and evaluation, tactics development, and advanced training — instead of the new information warfare command, 16th Air Force, which has operational control of electronic warfare.

The U.S. Navy’s Loss of Command of the Seas to China and How to Regain It

Joe Sestak

No country owns the “great commons” of the seas, but when America assumed international leadership after World War II, the U.S. Navy’s primary raison d’être became command of those seas in support of U.S. global interests. Command of the seas meant that the Navy’s mastery of the oceans would assure access almost anywhere for American sovereign power. This would enable the military guarantee of security, political, and economic interests whenever needed, while denying the seas to others when necessary. It would also secure America’s greatest power: its power to convene — to bring like-minded nations of the world together for common causes that have served America’s democratic ideals. When I arrived in the Arabian Sea as commander of an aircraft carrier battle group to begin its carrier strikes against Afghanistan, waiting there to become part of our American battle group was an international armada: Japan was alongside Germany, with nations from Canada to Australia crossing the Atlantic and Pacific. No one could challenge America’s ability to bring together, in that distant sea, the power of those who shared America’s values.

For the collective good of all nations, American command of the earth’s oceans has also provided the bedrock for a globalized economy where 80 percent of the volume and 70 percent of the value of all trade transits safely on the sea.2