28 November 2020

China Digs its Heels in – in Ladakh and Elsewhere

By Abhijnan Rej

In a sign that China-India tensions across the entire 3488-kilometer Line of Actual Control (LAC) are here to stay despite periodic optimism that a resolution to the Ladakh standoff is imminent, news reports in Indian media in the past few days suggest that China has not only dug its heels in in Ladakh, but has also increased military activity on its side of the LAC in Arunachal Pradesh and elsewhere. Additional reports now also corroborate the claim that China has also continued with construction activity near the Bhutan-China-India trijunction, the site of the 2017 Doklam standoff.

A Hindustan Times report on November 19, based on Indian military sources, noted that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is also not letting up pressure in Ladakh. Indian military commanders told the newspaper the “PLA is constructing more than 10 dugouts each at Samar Lungpa, 30km east of Karakoram Pass; and at Mount Sajum, south of Rechin La. It is also increasing troop deployment at Qizil Jilga, 70 [kilometers] east of Daulet Beg Oldi (DBO).” Notably, the Indian airbase in DBO would be crucial for New Delhi in any military operation against China, given its proximity to the Karakoram Pass.

Will India Choose a Side in the Competition Between the U.S. and China?

Aparna Pande

The architects of India’s foreign policy have long preferred a multipolar world. They believe that India, with its limited economic and military capabilities, can play a prominent role on the global stage only when it is not dominated by one or two superpowers. That view led New Delhi to champion the Non-Aligned Movement during the Cold War, and a preference for multipolarity endured in Indian foreign policy thinking after the fall of the Soviet Union. Even while India in the 21st century drew closer to the sole remaining superpower, the United States, its leaders spoke of strategic autonomy, which some analysts have described as “non-alignment 2.0.”

But will this strategy be sufficient for India in a global order that is likely to be dominated by competition between the United States and China? This situation is, after all, markedly different from the Cold War, when neither of the two competing superpowers were in geographic proximity to India. China is not only a neighbor of India’s; it is also a regional rival that is engaged in territorial disputes with New Delhi. For Indian policymakers, Beijing poses a direct threat in a way the U.S. and the Soviet Union did not. ...

As Kaziranga National Park spreads, residents tear down their homes before they are evicted

Arunabh Saikia

As day broke on November 1, elephant safaris for tourists in the Kaziranga National Park resumed after a long pandemic-induced break. Many local residents heaved a sigh of relief, hoping the vacationers would finally start flocking in.

But a few kilometres away from where the elephant safaris started, Jaya Dutta woke up to a sight that made her break down: her coconut trees, which had just started flowering, lay on the ground, probably felled in a nocturnal onslaught by a hungry pachyderm.

This was the second loss of property in a month. In October, Dutta’s family and three of their neighbours were told in October that they were living inside the premises of the national park. The choice was theirs, an official from the district administration reportedly told them: dismantle your homes voluntarily or face eviction. The former, the official told them, would be less messy for everyone – it would let them preserve valuables they possessed and claiming compensation would be easier. Soon, the district administration followed up with a formal eviction notice.

Could Vietnam Really Shut Down Facebook?

By Sebastian Strangio

Last week, Reuters reported that Vietnam’s government had threatened to shut down Facebook in the country if the social media giant refuses to bow to government pressure to censor more local political content on its platform.

According to the report, Facebook complied in April with a government request to significantly increase its censorship of “anti-state” posts for local users. However, the Vietnamese government asked the company again in August to step up its restrictions of critical posts, dangling the threat of a ban.

“They have come back to us and sought to get us to increase the volume of content that we’re restricting in Vietnam,” an anonymous company official told the news agency. “We’ve told them no. That request came with some threats about what might happen if we didn’t.”

Facebook is astoundingly popular in Vietnam. More than 66 million Vietnamese are on the social media platform, giving the country the seventh-largest user base in the world.

What is the RCEP Trade Deal?

by Patricia Ranald

The giant Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership between Australia, China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and the ten members of ASEAN (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, The Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam) was signed online on Sunday, November 15.

India left negotiations in November 2019, but even so, the deal will cover one third of the world’s population and economy.

Australia and the other governments refused to release the text until after signing, continuing Australia’s regrettable secrecy about deals it is about to sign.

India left the RCEP because of concerns about its potentially negative impact on local industry development.

Since Australia already has free trade agreements with all of the remaining members, India’s absence significantly diminishes what might have been in it for Australian exporters.

Bargaining with Beijing: A Tale of Two Borrowers

Alysha Gardner, Joyce Lin, Scott Morris, Bradley Parks

We examine the behavior of Chinese government lenders in two debt rescheduling episodes: a “low stakes” case involving Seychelles and a “high stakes” case involving the Republic of Congo. For each loan that was rescheduled, we measure the change in its grant element and the net present value (NPV) of the haircut taken by the creditor. In Seychelles, where China’s exposures were small, we find that Beijing offered deeper debt relief than Paris Club creditors, reflected in loan haircuts averaging 78% compared to 61% for Paris Club creditors. In the Republic of Congo, where Beijing had greater exposure and the borrower had limited leverage, China Eximbank actually increased the value of its portfolio in net present value terms by 23%. The fact that the Republic of Congo was worse off after rescheduling its debts with Beijing underscores the importance of exposing these deals to public scrutiny before they are finalized and building borrower country capacity to negotiate more favorable deals.

Regime realism and Chinese grand strategy

Hal Brands

Theories of international relations—and explanations of state behavior—rise and fall with the geopolitical tide. What we now call “realism” emerged during and after World War II. The events of the 1930s and 1940s had shown that the world was rough and lawless and created an opening for an intellectual paradigm that emphasized the primacy of power and the ruthlessness of geopolitics. The end of the Cold War, by contrast, dealt a sharp blow to realism, by seeming to shatter its core premise. How, in a world ruled by power and self-interest, could a country as mighty as the Soviet Union simply acquiesce in its own decline and destruction?

The rise of China and the emergence of a sharp Sino-American competition are causing another swing of the intellectual pendulum. For a quarter century, Washington pursued a China policy meant to overcome the grimmest predictions of realism by drawing China into the thriving, liberal world order made possible by the Cold War’s end. That the opposite seems to have happened—that China used the prosperity and influence gained through economic integration to underwrite a policy of neo-totalitarianism at home and assertive expansion abroad—has upset more than the balance of power. China would seem to be the country realists have been waiting for, one whose ambition and penchant for geopolitical disruption rise inexorably along with its power.

Chinese Party Sets Bold Military Goal: ‘Mechanized & Informationized’ By 2027


This marks Dean Cheng’s first op-ed for us as a member of the Breaking Defense Board of Contributors. One of the world’s preeminent experts on the Chinese military, Cheng demonstrates here the sophistication and subtlety of analysis he is known for. What does the west need to do to better manage its relationships with China over the next five years? Read on! The Editor.

China has laid out the broad goals and objectives for its 14th Five Year Plan (FYP), which will extend from 2021 to 2025, and one of the priorities is “elevating the level of national security.”

While Americans may be inclined to dismiss any budget plan more than a year out, five year plans are an important part of the planning process for the People’s Republic of China (PRC). When something is incorporated into the FYP this merits a LOT of attention because it reflects broad bureaucratic consensus. No ministry or bureaucracy will submit something for inclusion in the FYP unless it has reached internal agreement. Similarly, they will fight to ensure their goals and objectives are fully funded if challenged.

China Targets Muslim Scholars And Writers With Increasingly Harsh Restrictions


This spring, 14 men were brought into police offices, where, one by one, they were subjected to weeks of questioning about their online correspondence and political views.

Their offense? Buying Islamic books.

The men were detained in Yiwu, China, an international commercial hub on the country's wealthy east coast and home to a growing community of Muslims. The detentions are emblematic of increasingly harsh restrictions targeting spiritual and educational life for Muslims in China.

Once focused on giving minorities limited cultural autonomy, China's ethnic policy has shifted in the last decade toward an approach that favors complete assimilation with China's Han ethnic majority in language and religious practice. Muslims in China now fear that religious freedoms are regressing to those in the days of the Cultural Revolution, a decade of severe political and religious persecution in the 1960s and 1970s.

Iran's Shia Diplomacy: Religious Identity and Foreign Policy in the Islamic Republic

Edward Wastnidge

In this policy brief, Edward Wastnidge argues that organizations such as the Islamic Culture and Relations Organization and the religious outreach arms of the Iranian state play an important role in helping cement transnational religious links between Iran and the wider Muslim world. Such links not only take the shape of traditional religious activities affiliated with the seminaries but also involve educational and diplomatic missions undertaken abroad by the Iranian government. The outreach and development of such parastatal organizations operating across the world highlights a complex and multi-layered articulation of Iran’s combined spiritual and political mission in global politics.

This policy brief was written as part of the Geopolitics of Religious Soft Power project, a partnership between Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs and the Brookings Institution supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the author.

Brief: With Long-Range Bombers, the US Sends a Message

Background: The United States is trying to make good on its plans to reduce its global military footprint. At least partial troop withdrawals have taken place in Iraq, Afghanistan and Germany, and additional drawdowns are being discussed in Somalia. Between the military drawdown, the economic downturn and political chaos in the U.S., many wonder whether Washington is losing its edge as a global power, especially in military affairs. What Happened: Over the weekend, U.S. Central Command announced that B-52H bomber aircrews from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota had been sent on a short-notice, long-range mission to the Middle East. CENTCOM said the mission was meant to demonstrate just how easily the U.S. can move troops in and out of theaters, and noted that the bombers were intermittently accompanied by F-15Es, F-16s, KC-10s and KC-135s. Bottom Line: The mission should be viewed as a demonstration of the U.S. military’s global strength and reach. The KC-10s and KC-135s allowed for in-air refueling, highlighting that bombers could reach targets worldwide without relying on allies in the target theater, and the presence of fighter jets added enhanced threat capabilities. While the message is clear, the intended target is less so. Most likely, […]

Consequences of a Precipitous U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan

by James Dobbins, Jason H. Campbell, Sean Mann, Laurel E. Miller

In December 2018, President Donald Trump directed the Secretary of Defense to reduce the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan by half. In this paper, the authors consider the likely effects of an early and complete or near-complete departure unrelated to a negotiated peace settlement. Among the consequences described are that the government in Kabul will begin to lose influence and legitimacy; the Taliban will lose interest in negotiating peace with the United States; and extremist groups will gain additional scope to organize, recruit, and initiate terrorist attacks. Winning in Afghanistan may not be an available option, but losing certainly is, and a precipitous departure, no matter how rationalized, would mean choosing to lose.

United States Formally Exits Open Skies Treaty

By Abhijnan Rej

The Trump administration formally withdrew from the 34-nation Open Skies Treaty on November 22 after serving the obligatory six-months’ notice to do so in May this year. The treaty, which came to force in 2002, allows signatories to conduct reconnaissance flights over the territories of others on 72-hours notice in order to gather information about the military preparedness and other activities, effectively serving as a confidence-building measure. While not an arms control treaty by itself – its terms do not impose caps on weapons themselves – it serves to support verification of arms control agreements such as the Chemical Weapons Convention, among others.

This is the fourth arms control and related agreement the Trump administration has either withdrawn from or gravely imperiled. In 2018, the United States withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), an agreement involving the European Union, Germany, the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, and Iran, under which Tehran agreed to cap its nuclear activities and place them under stringent international monitoring. In April last year, the U.S. withdrew from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, citing Russian cheating.

Will American history forget the Iraq and Afghanistan wars?


When high school students learn about American history in the decades to come, I wonder if they will spend even one day discussing the Post 9/11 wars and the exceedingly painful lessons that the United States has learned about the limits of its military power.

From my high school experience in suburban Philadelphia more than 20 years ago, American history tends to end around 1945. I remember learning a lot about the causes of the Civil War, the appalling conditions most people endured during the industrial revolution, and early labor, women’s, and civil rights movements.

But the Korean and Vietnam Wars were afterthoughts in the history books. These were subjects that there never seemed to be enough time to discuss before the Advanced Placement exam.

Until I went to college, my best sources of information about the Vietnam War were movies, including really, really crappy ones such as “The Siege of Firebase Gloria.” (Not R. Lee Ermey’s finest performance.)

Vaccines Won't Stop the Pandemic Unless at Least 50 Million Skeptical Americans Change Their Minds


For all the flak that President Trump has taken over the federal government's response, or lack thereof, to the coronavirus pandemic, the government's vaccine development project, Operation Warp Speed, looks like a winner. According to Pfizer, its vaccine prevented COVID in 95 percent of participants in its clinical trials, which are now complete. Moderna's vaccine, which got $1 billion in U.S. government support, prevents 94 percent of cases, the company said.

It would be hard to exaggerate the degree to which experts have been surprised, and relieved, by these preliminary results. Early in the pandemic, conventional wisdom held that the best we could hope for was a slightly better hit rate than seasonal influenza vaccines, which in a good year protect 50 to 60 percent of those inoculated; the Food and Drug Administration set the target for COVID vaccines at a modest 50 percent. Now we have two vaccines that, in theory, are powerful enough to stop the pandemic in its tracks.

Theory, of course, is always cleaner than reality. As the Pfizer vaccine wends its way through a fast-track approval process and the company prepares to ship millions of doses in December, health officials face a public that is skittish about the safety of the vaccines they will soon be asked to receive. Convincing millions of people to report to their doctor's office or pharmacy for an injection of a lab-made genetic substance that has never before been used in a vaccine, and which was rushed from discovery to market in under a year, would not be easy in the best of circumstances—and these, all would agree, are far from the best of circumstances.

Beyond Energy: The Geopolitical Determinants of Turkey’s Mediterranean Policy

Tolga Demiryol

The Eastern Mediterranean has recently emerged as one of the hottest conflict zones in the world. It has everything one would need for a nail-biting thriller: energy reserves, international companies, reckless leaders, and battleships trying to outmaneuver each other in close quarters. In many ways, the Mediterranean case looks like yet another maritime conflict, where actors with opposing legal claims compete over the distribution of resources. Historically, such maritime disputes are often resolved through negotiation, compromise, and sometimes referral to international courts. However, the distinctive feature of the Mediterranean case is the complexity and intensity of the geopolitical rivalries that accompany the energy disputes, which in turn has led to conflict escalation and entrenchment.

While the Mediterranean drama has a large cast, Turkey has surely one of the leading roles. Ankara regularly conducts seismic research operations in the disputed territorial waters of the Mediterranean. Turkish research vessels are often accompanied by naval escorts, which in several instances has resulted in close calls at sea. Turkey is also seeking a stronger naval presence, supported by an ambitious initiative of shipbuilding and modernization. Rejecting accusations of gunboat diplomacy, Ankara says it is committed to dialogue. Ankara’s unique blend of drilling, diplomacy, and deterrence, however, has drawn criticism from rivals and allies alike. The EU has repeatedly warned Ankara to respect the sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus (RoC) and Greece. The US, while not keen on reasserting itself into the region, has also been quietly critical of Turkey’s actions.

Bill Gates Says Half of Business Travel to Disappear Even After Pandemic

by Ethen Kim Lieser

Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates believes that even when the coronavirus pandemic eventually subsides, it will still fundamentally change how people travel and conduct business in the future.

“My prediction would be that over 50 percent of business travel and over 30 percent of days in the office will go away,” the Microsoft co-founder said during the livestreamed New York Times Dealbook conference this week. 

Gates added that from now on, businesses will have a “very high threshold” for traveling to conduct in-person meetings. 

Like Facebook, Twitter, and other large tech companies, Microsoft has already announced a permanent work-from-home policy for eligible employees. The workers also have the option to choose from a hybrid model in which they can commute to the office on some days. 

Is the Space Force’s New Operations Planning Guide Aiming for the Right Priorities?

Zhanna Malekos Smith

On December 20, 2020, the United States Space Force will celebrate its first birthday. As an early birthday gift, the first chief of space operations (CSO) General John “Jay” Raymond recently presented a 16-paged planning guidance for U.S. space operations. The Chief of Space Operations’ Planning Guidance (CPG) articulates General Raymond’s top five priorities for the Space Force over the next decade.

Q1: What are the top five priorities?

A1: The top five priorities are as follows:
To empower a lean and agile service. Implementing a new field command structure to streamline echelons of command and delegate decision authority will help “flatten” bureaucracy.

To develop joint warfighters in world-class teams. This means accelerating recruitment and retention efforts and advancing professional education opportunities. The CPG touts the benefits of applying machine learning and trusted levels of autonomy to better leverage human operators and streamline operations.

Poverty and Shared Prosperity 2020: Reversals of Fortune

The Poverty and Shared Prosperity series provides a global audience with the latest and most accurate estimates on trends in global poverty and shared prosperity. For more than two decades, extreme poverty was steadily declining. Now, for the first time in a generation, the quest to end poverty has suffered its worst setback.

Poverty and Shared Prosperity 2020: Reversals of Fortune provides new data and analysis on the causes and consequences of this reversal and identifies policy principles countries can use to counter it. The report presents new estimates of COVID-19’s impacts on global poverty and inequality. Harnessing fresh data from frontline surveys and economic simulations, it shows that pandemic-related job losses and deprivation worldwide are hitting already-poor and vulnerable people hard, while also partly changing the profile of global poverty by creating millions of “new poor.” Furthermore, the report breaks ground by jointly analyzing three factors whose convergence is driving the current crisis and will extend its impact into the future: the COVID-19 pandemic, armed conflict, and climate change.

Hackers 'try to steal Covid vaccine secrets in intellectual property war'

Dan Sabbagh

State-sponsored hackers from China, Russia, Iran and North Korea are engaged in concerted attempts to steal coronavirus vaccine secrets in what security experts describe as “an intellectual property war”.

They accuse hostile-state hackers of trying to obtain trial results early and seize sensitive information about mass production of drugs, at a time when a range of vaccines are close to being approved for the public.

Previously the hackers’ primary intention was to steal the secrets behind the design of a vaccine, with hundreds of drug companies, research labs and health organisations from around the world targeted at any one time.

The cyber struggle involves western intelligence agencies, including Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre, who say they are committed to protecting “our most critical assets”. But they discuss only a fraction of their work in public.

How Ukraine’s Orange Revolution shaped twenty-first century geopolitics

by Peter Dickinson

Ukrainians marked the Day of Dignity and Freedom on November 21, continuing a seven-year tradition that seeks to place the country’s 2004 Orange Revolution and the 2014 Euromaidan Revolution in a broader historical context. This might also be something for the international community to consider. While Ukraine’s two people power uprisings are recognized as important milestones in the country’s post-Soviet journey, their impact on the wider region has yet to be fully appreciated.

This lack of clarity is perhaps understandable. Indeed, few events in modern European history have been subject to quite so much deliberate distortion. Ever since the Euromaidan protest movement first emerged in Kyiv in late November 2013, it has been a favored target of Russian information warfare. For the past seven years, Moscow has promoted false narratives about the uprising in order to undermine its pro-democracy credentials and justify the subsequent Russian invasion of Crimea and eastern Ukraine.

Automating Cyber Attacks

Ben Buchanan, John Bansemer, Dakota Cary, Jack Lucas,  Micah Musser

Hacking is a well-established part of statecraft. Machine learning is rapidly becoming an arena of competition between nations as well. With the continued importance of computer hacking and the increasing drumbeat of AI advances due to machine learning, important questions emerge: what might machine learning do for cyber operations? How could machine learning improve on the techniques that already exist, ushering in faster, stealthier, and more potent attacks? On the other hand, how might its importance to cyber operations be misleadingly overhyped?

We examine how machine learning might—and might not—reshape the process of launching cyber attacks. We examine the cyber kill chain and consider how machine learning could enhance each phase of operations. We expect certain offensive techniques to benefit from machine learning, including spearphishing, vulnerability discovery, delivering malicious code into targeted networks, and evading cyber defenses. How- ever, we caution that machine learning has notable limitations that are not reflected in much of the current hype. As a result of these constraints and flaws, attackers are less likely to apply machine learning techniques than many expect, and will likely do so only if they see unique benefits. Our core conclusions are:

HALIFAX FORUM NEWS: China's New Rockets Called Asymmetric Threat to U.S. Navy

By Yasmin Tadjdeh

The Chinese military has been boosting its capability dramatically since Chairman Xi Jinping came into power in 2012 and is notably expanding its rocket forces, said the commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.

“They're creating very advanced platforms — and weapons systems to go with those platforms — in the naval or maritime sphere, with their air forces [and] with their rocket forces,” said Adm. Philip Davidson. “China will test more missiles — conventional and nuclear associated missiles — this year than every other nation added together on the planet.”

There is an “incredible asymmetry” in the region due to the People's Liberation Army Rocket Force and what it’s capable of doing both in terms of capability and quantity, he said during a pre-recorded interview at the Halifax International Security Forum, which this year is being hosted both in person in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and virtually due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Modernizing the Nuclear Enterprise in the Era of Rapid Prototyping

Andrew Hunter

The U.S. nuclear enterprise is going through a cycle of modernization that touches practically every system in the arsenal. This modernization push requires the nuclear enterprise to engage deeply with the defense acquisition system—the collection of organizations within the Department of Defense dedicated to fielding new systems and the policy framework they operate under—in a way it has not since its last major modernization cycle in the 1980s. This engagement will be central to the future of the nuclear enterprise and will challenge the enterprise to exercise exceptional discipline in articulating and managing its requirements to revitalize these systems successfully. Likewise, the defense acquisition system must deliver on multiple demanding requirements and produce sophisticated, modernized nuclear capabilities affordably, reliably, and on time. Moreover, this multi-decade nuclear modernization cycle does not occur in a defense acquisition vacuum. Rather, the defense acquisition system is undergoing a transformation that will play out at the same time, each posing risks and raising complexity for the other.

The acquisition system regularly undergoes cycles of reform that reflect shifting strategic priorities across DOD. The current reform cycle, which originated with new authorities provided by Congress in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 and has been pursued aggressively by the current administration, is focused on acquisition speed.

Defense Technology Strategy

By Paul Scharre and Ainikki Riikonen

Technology always has been an integral part of achieving military superiority. A stone axe or wooden club gave a Neolithic fighter a major advantage over an unarmed opponent. As weapons have evolved from bows and arrows to intercontinental ballistic missiles, militaries continuously have sought to harness new technologies to gain an edge on adversaries. Technology alone rarely conveys a decisive advantage, but technology is an enabler for military superiority. When combined with the right organization, training, and concepts for warfighting, technological advantages can make battles hopelessly one-sided affairs. By harnessing advances in stealth, GPS, and precision-guided weapons, the United States dismantled Saddam Hussein’s army during the Persian Gulf War with a 30-to-1 casualty ratio.1 Yet other countries took notice and have been investing in capabilities that have eroded America’s military technological edge.

The United States had a first-mover advantage in the information revolution, but the technology that enabled American military dominance in 1991 now has proliferated. Adversaries have invested in long-range ballistic and cruise missiles that can target American bases and carriers with precision, integrated air defenses to hold stealth aircraft at bay, counter-space weapons to blind military spy satellites and disrupt command-and-control, and cyber weapons to cripple logistics.


Wonny Kim

Multi-Domain Operations is driving change across the Army, from logistics to training to the way Army Futures Command has developed its modernization and acquisition strategy. But is it a comprehensive operational concept? Earlier this year, retired Brig. Gen. Huba Wass de Czege criticized the concept’s lack of clarity on the military problem it is aimed at solving and questioned why MDO chooses to focus on adversaries’ anti-access and area denial systems (A2/AD) in order to deter and defeat an armed attack. Ostensibly, MDO focuses on A2/AD because these adversarial systems are meant to deny the joint force its ability to prosecute the combined arms maneuver that has become the hallmark of the US military’s combat power. However, especially in the case of Russia—the most natural pacing threat for the Army as a landpower service—there may be a more suitable alternative approach, given the security dilemma that arises from the implementation of MDO’s tenets in the Baltic states. Instead of neutralizing A2/AD, perhaps the United States and NATO could maneuver within the denied space to mount an effective defense.

New US Indo-Pacific fleet ‘would be akin to grabbing China by the throat’, analyst says

Kristin Huang

A proposed new US Navy fleet in the Indo-Pacific could pose a threat to China’s growing interests in the region as it would cover key trade routes, according to a military analyst.
US Secretary of the Navy Kenneth Braithwaite 
made the call on Tuesday, saying he was looking to establish a new First Fleet “in the crossroads between the Indian and the Pacific oceans”, in an address to the Naval Submarine League’s annual symposium.

It came a day before the United States, India, Australia and Japan held the second phase of a naval drill in the Northern Arabian Sea, seen as part of a regional initiative to counter China’s growing assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific.

“We can’t just rely on the Seventh Fleet in Japan. We have to look to our other allies and partners like Singapore, like India, and actually put a numbered fleet where it would be extremely relevant if, God forbid, we were to ever to get in any kind of a dust-up,” Braithwaite was quoted as saying by military website USNI News.

Pakistan's Armed Forces are Filled with Lots of Chinese Tanks

by Caleb Larson

Here's What You Need To Remember: The Pakistan-China relationship makes sense. China would like an ally in the region to help balance against its regional rival India, which is sandwiched between the two countries. Pakistan in turn needs a foreign supplier of weapons and weapons technology, especially as the Pakistan-United States relationship has unravelled. 

The Pakistan-China defense relationship has progressively deepened since Pakistan’s relationship with the United States began fraying in recent years. These two Chinese-derived tanks illustrate the Chinese-Pakistan arms relationship.


The Al-Zarrar tank is a Pakistani-operated variant of China’s Type 59 main battle tank, which is itself a copy of the Soviet Union’s T-54 tank

Why No One Builds Battleships Anymore

by David Axe

Key Point: Battleships are too costly and cumbersome to be of much use. However, that does not stop folks from speculating about their return.

In many ways, the battleship represented the greatest-ever concentration of naval power in a single vessel. Between World War I and World War II, the big, fast, thickly-armored and heavily-armed warships dominated the world’s oceans.

And then, very quickly, the battleship became practically obsolete. Why is a complex question — one that University of Kentucky professor Robert Farley,an occasional War Is Boring contributor, addresses in his new tome The Battleship Book.’

“The world reached ‘peak battleship’ in 1918,” Farley writes, “when 118 dreadnoughts served in 13 different navies.” Combat claimed eight battlewagons during the Great War. “The Second World War was far more deadly.” Sixty-three battleships were in service in 1939 and another two dozen of the giant warships left the slipways before the conflict’s end. Twenty-three sank in combat.

Check out the Air Force's Futuristic "Thor" Anti-Drone Microwave Gun

U.S. military bases across the globe may soon have a New Mexico-made, high-powered microwave weapon at their disposal to instantaneously down swarms of enemy drones.

The Air Force Research Laboratory at Kirtland Air Force Base unveiled the weapon Thursday morning in a live demonstration with local reporters, who watched the system effortlessly knock a hovering drone out of the sky with an invisible and inaudible electromagnetic wave.

(This first appeared earlier in July 2019.)

The $15 million system, called the Tactical High Power Microwave Operational Responder, or THOR, disabled the unmanned aerial vehicle in a flash, sending it spiraling to the ground the moment the electromagnetic ray hit it. Had more drones been flying within THOR's expansive scope, they also would have dropped in an instant, THOR program manager Amber Anderson said.

A Balance of Instability: Effects of a Direct-Ascent Anti-Satellite Weapons Ban on Nuclear Stability

Kaitlyn Johnson

The rise of a new age for space—characterized by a greater number of national actors and commercial space companies—has also created more opportunities for mayhem. This has led to a growing call from the international space community, governments, and commercial entities to create a sustainable and stable space domain through norms of behavior, best practices, and even international regulation.

Recent tests of direct-ascent anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons from India and Russia, in 2019 and 2020 respectively, give cause to reevaluate the possibility of building an international arms control agreement to limit space weapons or weapons testing. There have long been calls from within the international space community to create a limiting test ban treaty for these weapons due to the inevitability of space debris created by ASATs’ kinetic effects. However, the secondary effects of such a ban, such as its impact on greater strategic stability, must be considered. How would new norms for testing space weapons affect nuclear stability and traditional deterrence? Would a direct-ascent ASAT limit or ban create stability or further destabilize the space and nuclear domains?