11 December 2020

India-China Ties: The Future Holds 'Antagonistic Cooperation', Not War

Shivshankar Menon

This article is the third of a three-part series on the past, present and future of India-China relations. 

On the border itself, China now seems happy with the new status quo and argues for a return to business as usual. Whether India is satisfied with the changed situation, or will continue to insist on the restoration of the status quo as it was before April 2020 is not entirely clear from the government of India’s public statements (they have not said they won’t, but they haven’t said they will either in recent press and joint statements, eg. Wang Yi-Jaishankar in Moscow, etc.). In any case, the Line of Actual Control (LAC) has now been militarised and called into question all along the line, and this is a new military reality that will have to deal with.

India-China relations have been reset to a new normal. There is no going back to what they were, to the surface calm that prevailed before 2020 or the coexistence before 2012. Political relations will now be more adversarial, antagonistic, and contentious. Although theoretically, India-China relations could see a new modus vivendi after the crisis, as they did after the Sumdorungchu/Wangdong crisis in 1986-88, this seems unlikely with authoritarian strongmen in power in both countries; troop buildups on the border, aroused public opinion, and differences are out in the open.

The Skeletons at the Lake

By Douglas Preston

In the winter of 1942, on the shores of a lake high in the Himalayas, a forest ranger came across hundreds of bones and skulls, some with flesh still on them. When the snow and ice melted that summer, many more were visible through the clear water, lying on the bottom. The lake, a glacial tarn called Roopkund, was more than sixteen thousand feet above sea level, an arduous five-day trek from human habitation, in a mountain cirque surrounded by snowfields and battered by storms. In the midst of the Second World War, British officials in India initially worried that the dead might be the remains of Japanese soldiers attempting a secret invasion. The apparent age of the bones quickly dispelled that idea. But what had happened to all these people? Why were they in the mountains, and when and how had they died?

In 1956, the Anthropological Survey of India, in Calcutta, sponsored several expeditions to Roopkund to investigate. A snowstorm forced the first expedition to turn back, but two months later another expedition made it and returned to Calcutta with remains for study. Carbon dating, still an unreliable innovation, indicated that the bones were between five hundred and eight hundred years old.

U.S. rushes to the exits in Afghanistan, and the Taliban surges


When Taliban insurgents attacked Sangsar village in late October, they were fighting for lost ground again within their reach.

Fighters besieged the mud-walled town, ringed by corn and cannabis fields. They gunned down six police officers who had run out of ammunition after three days of fighting.

“It was the first time in many years they were that strong,” said Raqya Aslam, a 30-year-old villager.

It was in Sangsar, 25 miles outside the southern city of Kandahar, that the Taliban movement was founded in 1994 by a one-eyed local cleric. A decade ago, Taliban fighters waged a hit-and-run insurgency against U.S. and Afghan troops on the town’s unpaved streets and winding paths.

Will China Win The Nuclear Fusion Race?

By Haley Zaremba

China is on a quest for world domination. Beijing has been making assertive moves into global energy markets for a while now, stepping into energy market power vacuums in largely untapped markets around the world. Chinese president Xi Jinping has made major inroads with his ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, started in 2013, which is a massive-scale, globe-spanning infrastructure development program that now includes approximately 70 countries and international organizations. Beijing has a lot of irons in the global energy market fire, facing off against Russia for nuclear energy dominance in Africa, ramping up coal-fired capacity abroad while simultaneously touting its lofty decarbonization plans back at home, and now, powering up a brand new, cutting-edge “artificial sun.” The so-called sun is a nuclear fusion reactor which came online for the first time last week, “marking a great advance in the country's nuclear power research capabilities,” according to a report by Science X Network’s Phys.org. 

Nuclear fusion, often thought of as the holy grail of clean energy, is the process that takes place naturally in the Sun. Fusion merges atoms instead of splitting them in a process that creates several times more energy than nuclear fission (the way we produce nuclear energy now) and all without the use of radioactive materials--meaning no hazardous nuclear waste. So far, however, while we have achieved nuclear fusion here on Earth, the process has required more energy than it produces, making it non-viable as an energy solution. Scientists have long endeavored to achieve commercial nuclear fusion, and they’re getting closer than ever. China is the most recent country to join this exclusive club.Related: China Installs ‘Artificial Sun’ To Test Fusion Power

The Case for a Quadripolar World


CAMBRIDGE – Having diminished America’s global role while refusing to accept China’s growing clout, Donald Trump’s presidency represents the last gasp of a unipolar epoch. But while many assume that the unipolar post-Cold War world is giving way to a bipolar international order dominated by the United States and China, that outcome is neither inevitable nor desirable. Instead, there is every reason to hope for, and work toward, a world in which Europe and the emerging economies play a more assertive role.

To be sure, as the world’s most economically successful autocracy, China has already achieved significant geopolitical influence in Asia and beyond. During the two most recent global crises – the 2008 financial collapse and today’s pandemic – the Communist Party of China quickly adjusted the country’s political economy in response to changing circumstances, thereby solidifying its grip on power. Because countries that do not want to toe the US line now routinely turn to China for inspiration and, often, material support, what could be more natural than China emerging as one of the two poles of global power?

In fact, a bipolar world would be deeply unstable. Its emergence would heighten the risk of violent conflict (according to the logic of the Thucydides Trap), and its consolidation would make solutions to global problems wholly dependent on the national interests of the two reigning powers. Three of the biggest challenges facing humanity would either be ignored or made worse.

Beijing may have built bases in the South China Sea, but that doesn't mean it can defend them, report claims

By James Griffiths

Hong Kong (CNN)Beijing has spent years turning islands and reefs in the South China Sea into military bases and airstrips -- but such territory could be vulnerable to attack and nigh indefensible in the event of war, a new report has warned.

The bases are "lonely in the distant sea," and far from both the Chinese mainland and other islands in the vast disputed waters, which span some 3.3 million square kilometers (1.3 million square miles), said Naval and Merchant Ships, a Beijing-based magazine published by the China State Shipbuilding Corporation, which supplies the People's Liberation Army.

"Islands and reefs in South China Sea have unique advantages in safeguarding national sovereignty and maintaining a military presence in the open sea, but they have natural weaknesses with regard to their own military defense," it added.

China claims almost all of the South China Sea, and since 2014 has built up tiny reefs and sandbars into man-made artificial islands heavily fortified with missiles, runways and weapons systems -- prompting outcry from the other governments. At least six other governments also have overlapping territorial claims in the contested waterway: the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and Taiwan.

China Is Both Weak and Dangerous


Three decades after the fall of the Soviet Union, the United States finds itself engaged in a new great-power competition with China. Since assuming office, Chinese President Xi Jinping has launched his country on a more assertive path, and the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified the rivalry. On the surface, China appears confident, with a recovering economy, a modernizing military, accelerating technological development, and expanding diplomatic influence around the world.

In a timely and insightful new book, The China Nightmare: The Grand Ambitions of a Decaying State, the American Enterprise Institute’s Dan Blumenthal takes a close look at China, examining its capacity and strategic objectives. In so doing, he sheds light on the paradox of modern China: It is an assertive, ambitious power, but also one with underlying weaknesses that could upend its rise, or, as the title contends, hasten its decay. In his words, “The main argument of this book is that despite (or perhaps because of) China’s growing internal weaknesses, it is pushing forward grand strategic ambitions.”

Blumenthal’s study of China began years ago on the Pentagon’s China desk, and he brings a deep understanding of the developments that have transformed the country since. Scholars debate whether China desires limited regional hegemony or dominance of the global system. Blumenthal’s answer is clear: China’s ambitions are worldwide. He points to the 19th Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Congress work report delivered by Xi in 2017. The report predicts that by mid-century, China will be a “prosperous, modern, and strong socialist country with a world-class military.” According to Blumenthal, Beijing’s “struggle for geopolitical mastery will not be limited to Asia,” because “China wants to lead a new world order centered around Chinese power and governed by Chinese-made rules.”

Congress Isn’t Leading on Human Rights in China


Members of the U.S. Congress say they want to be tougher on China and move human rights to the forefront of the relationship. But representatives have failed to use the body’s strongest legislative levers in response to crises like the Xinjiang labor camps and Hong Kong’s new national security law. Conversations with more than 20 Republican and Democratic staffers make clear that, without direction from the executive branch, Congress is not likely to act forcefully by itself. The Biden administration will need to push Congress if it wants tough legislation to deal with Chinese human rights abuses.

Many members of Congress have expressed horror at China’s forced detention and labor camps for Uighur and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang. The Uyghur Forced Labor Disclosure Act and the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (both 2020), the two strongest pieces of legislation aimed at removing the products of forced labor from American supply chains, would presumably be no-brainers for most lawmakers looking to pick a fight with China. However, 163 House Republicans voted against the Disclosure Act, and although it passed the House it faces little chance of being picked up by the Senate. The Prevention Act, the narrower of the two, garnered near-unanimous approval from the House, but it also may very well not see a vote in the Senate.

China targeting Biden team, intelligence chief warns, amid fresh trade war measures

A counterintelligence chief in the US has warned that Chinese agents are already targeting the personnel of President-elect Joe Biden, as well as those close to his team, as Congress unveiled more measures targeting big Chinese companies.

William Evanina, from the office of the US Director of National Intelligence, told the Aspen Institute Cyber Summit on Wednesday it was an influence campaign “on steroids”.

“So that’s one area we’re going to be very keen on making sure the new administration understands that influence, what it looks like, what it tastes like, what it feels like when you see it,” he said.

He spoke as the US House of Representatives passed a law to kick Chinese companies off American stock exchanges unless they comply with the country’s auditing rules.

The measure passed the House by unanimous voice vote, after passing the Senate unanimously in May, sending it to Donald Trump, who the White House said was expected to sign it into law.

What is driving Saudi Arabia's apparent rapprochement with Turkey?

Ali Bakeer

On 30 October, Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement expressing its deep pain and regret for the dozens of deaths and injuries in Izmir following an earthquake in western Turkey.

Most observers paid little attention to the statement and considered it a customary measure, especially since an unofficial call to boycott Turkey's products in the desert Kingdom was at its peak at the time.

However, six days later, the Saudi Press Agency reported that King Salman had directed the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) to send "urgent aid to brothers affected in Turkey".

While the announcement came a week after the tragic earthquake, which caused an urgent humanitarian disaster, it was still a valuable gesture. One important indication that the Saudi measure was part of a broader initiative to break the ice with Turkey is that it coincided with Biden's victory in US presidential elections on 7 November. 

Iran Is Moving Key Facility at Nuclear Site Underground, Satellite Images Show

By Christoph Koettl

The mysterious July explosion that destroyed a centrifuge assembly hall at Iran’s main nuclear fuel enrichment facility in Natanz was deemed by the Iranian authorities to be enemy sabotage, and provoked a defiant response: The wrecked building would be rebuilt in “the heart of the mountains,” the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization said.

Progress on that pledge, which could shield the facility from an aerial assault or other threats, has been unclear to outside observers. But new satellite imagery is now shedding light on the Iranian plans.

The Visual Investigations team of The New York Times has tracked construction at the site using the new imagery. For the first time, new tunnel entrances for underground construction are visible under a ridge in the mountain foothills south of the Natanz facility, about 140 miles south of Tehran.

The Times worked with Jeffrey Lewis, an arms control expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey in California, to interpret the new image.

“The new facility is likely to be a far more secure location for centrifuge assembly — it is located far from a road and the ridge offers significant overburden that would protect the facility from air attack,” Mr. Lewis stated in written comments.

On Iran, Biden Can Bide His Time

By Bret Stephens

President-elect Joe Biden has made it clear that his preferred method for dealing with Iran is to find a way back to the nuclear deal the Obama administration concluded in 2015, while bargaining for an extension to some of its key provisions.

“If Iran returns to strict compliance,” Biden wrote in a September op-ed for CNN, “the United States would rejoin the agreement as a starting point for follow-on negotiations.”

The Iranian regime, for its part, has made it clear that, in reaction to last month’s assassination of its nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, it intends to ramp up its production of enriched uranium while threatening to expel international inspectors by early February if the United States doesn’t immediately lift sanctions.

The regime has also ruled out any extensions to the nuclear deal, from which President Trump withdrew in 2018. “It will never be renegotiated,” says Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. “Period.”

There’s a way out of this impasse. The Biden administration should — and, more important, can — bide its time.

Gun that killed Iran’s nuke scientist used ‘artificial intelligence,’ IRGC says

A satellite-controlled machine gun with “artificial intelligence” was used in last week’s assassination of a top nuclear scientist in Iran, the deputy commander of the country’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps told local media Sunday.

Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, long regarded by Israel and the US as the head of Iran’s rogue nuclear weapons program, was driving on a highway outside Iran’s capital Tehran with a security detail of 11 Guards on November 27, when the machine gun “zoomed in” on his face and fired 13 rounds, said Rear-admiral Ali Fadavi.

The machine gun was mounted on a Nissan pickup and “focused only on martyr Fakhrizadeh’s face in a way that his wife, despite being only 25 centimeters (10 inches) away, was not shot,” the Mehr news agency quoted IRGC chief Fadavi as saying.

It was being “controlled online” via a satellite and used an “advanced camera and artificial intelligence” to make the target, he added.

Iran says 'smart satellite-controlled machine gun' killed top nuclear scientist

DUBAI (Reuters) - The killing of Iran’s top nuclear scientist last month was carried out remotely with artificial intelligence and a machine gun equipped with a “satellite-controlled smart system”, Tasnim news agency quoted a senior commander as saying.

Iran has blamed Israel for the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who was seen by Western intelligence services as the mastermind of a covert Iranian programme to develop nuclear weapons capability. Tehran has long denied any such ambition.

Israel has neither confirmed nor denied responsibility for the killing, and one of its officials suggested that the Tasnim report of the tactics used was a face-saving gambit by Iran.

In the past, however, Israel has acknowledged pursuing covert, intelligence-gathering operations against the nuclear programme of its arch-enemy.

The Islamic Republic has given contradictory details of Fakhrizadeh’s death in a daytime Nov. 27 ambush on his car on a highway near Tehran.

“No terrorists were present on the ground... Martyr Fakhrizadeh was driving when a weapon, using an advanced camera, zoomed in on him,” Tasnim, a semi-official agency, quoted Ali Fadavi, the deputy commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, as saying in a ceremony on Sunday.

Biden’s reliance on retired military brass sets off alarm bells


The Democrats’ 2020 platform was unambiguous: Donald Trump had damaged the civil-military balance and Joe Biden would repair it.

But the president-elect has quietly slotted his own coterie of former military officials into key transition positions and is now ready to tap a retired general to run the Pentagon.

The moves have sparked concerns that Biden may further undermine the delicate balance between civil and military authority after Trump's norm-busting presidency included enlisting multiple retired officers to fill top civilian positions and even seeking a congressional waiver to appoint retired Gen. Jim Mattis as Defense secretary — a position traditionally reserved for a civilian.

Already, Biden’s transition team has appointed at least four retired generals or admirals and a former top enlisted Marine. And POLITICO reported on Monday that retired Gen. Lloyd Austin is his pick to be the next Defense secretary.

The concerns reflect the difficulty Biden’s team will encounter as it tries to live up to the standard Democrats set during their four years of Trump criticism. Even if Biden is not eschewing norms the way Trump did, his team’s choices will be scrutinized for any evidence the incoming president is straying from the traditions he has pledged to uphold.

Domestic and International (Dis)Order: A Strategic Response

The Aspen Strategy Group recently released Domestic and International (Dis)Order: A Strategic Response bringing together preeminent experts to explore race, democracy, and political divisions on the American home front; the future of U.S.-China relations; the global economy; and U.S. foreign policy priorities for 2021.

Contributors include: Madeleine K. Albright, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Zoë Baird, Robert D. Blackwill, Nicholas Burns, Kurt M. Campbell, Diana Farrell, Peter Feaver, Michael J. Green, Naima Green-Riley, Jane Harman, Kay Bailey Hutchison, Wolfgang Ischinger, Aditi Kumar, Anja Manuel, David McCormick, John McLaughlin, Shivshankar Menon, Joseph S. Nye, Jr., David H. Petraeus, Tom Pritzker, Condoleezza Rice, Senator Tim Scott, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Torrey Taussig, and Philip Zelikow.

Between Peace and War: Gray Zone, Bright Line, or Dialectic?

By Patrick Brady

A "gray zone" of conflict that is "neither fully war nor fully peace" has become ubiquitous in American strategic thinking. Believers place this zone somewhere between war and peace, but their failure to define war leaves a zone with no boundaries and no definition. Their gray zone starts to look like Ambrose Bierce's definition of hash: "There is no definition for this word—nobody knows what hash is."

Skeptics of the gray zone, in contrast, define war, thereby separating peace from war and leaving no space between the two. War shows many degrees on one side of the dividing line, and peace shows many on the other, gradations that allow for what is sometimes called a dialectic.

Gray Zone Defenders and Doubters

After the fall of the Soviet Union, contends Michael Mazarr in Mastering the Gray Zone (2015), that zone became "the strategy of the weak" for Russia, China, Iran, and others who resort to a kaleidoscopic assortment of actions: "economic coercion, fifth column activities, clandestine disruption and sabotage, and information operations or propaganda." Mazarr shies away from a definition of war: "Exactly what constitutes being 'at war' becomes something in the eye of the beholder." But with no defined borders, the gray zone becomes "incoherent," just a new label for "sneaky activities," in the view of skeptic Adam Elkus. And partial skeptic Theodore Jensen in 2019 calls the gray zone just "a placeholder for something…not yet…defined…or…not fully understood"; if understood, it would no longer be called a gray zone.

The U.S.-Japan Alliance in 2020

At this time of great uncertainty and rapid change, the United States and Japan face extraordinary challenges. These include an unrelenting pandemic, rising nationalism and populism, global economic turmoil, multiple technological revolutions, and renewed geopolitical competition. The U.S.-Japan alliance itself is one of the most important sources of stability and continuity in this period of great uncertainty, but there should be no doubt that together both countries must be prepared for a regional and world order under more stress than at any time in the last 70 years. This is the latest in a series of bipartisan “Armitage-Nye” reports that have assessed the state of the U.S.-Japan alliance and suggested a new agenda for the challenges and opportunities on the horizon. This current iteration has special importance because of shifting power dynamics in Asia and new expectations of Japan. Indeed, for the first time in its history, Japan is taking an equal, if not leading, role in the alliance. Developing a more equal U.S.-Japan alliance is critical to addressing both regional and global challenges. This report has identified issues that both allies should prioritize to advance their relationship as well as global security and prosperity.

The U.S.-Japan Alliance in 2020

At this time of great uncertainty and rapid change, the United States and Japan face extraordinary challenges. These include an unrelenting pandemic, rising nationalism and populism, global economic turmoil, multiple technological revolutions, and renewed geopolitical competition. The U.S.-Japan alliance itself is one of the most important sources of stability and continuity in this period of great uncertainty, but there should be no doubt that together both countries must be prepared for a regional and world order under more stress than at any time in the last 70 years. This is the latest in a series of bipartisan “Armitage-Nye” reports that have assessed the state of the U.S.-Japan alliance and suggested a new agenda for the challenges and opportunities on the horizon. This current iteration has special importance because of shifting power dynamics in Asia and new expectations of Japan. Indeed, for the first time in its history, Japan is taking an equal, if not leading, role in the alliance. Developing a more equal U.S.-Japan alliance is critical to addressing both regional and global challenges. This report has identified issues that both allies should prioritize to advance their relationship as well as global security and prosperity.

The NSA Warns That Russia Is Attacking Remote Work Platforms

THROUGHOUT 2020, AN unprecedented portion of the world's office workers have been forced to work from home as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. That dispersal has created countless opportunities for hackers, who are taking full advantage. In an advisory today, the National Security Agency said that Russian state-sponsored groups have been actively attacking a vulnerability in multiple enterprise remote-work platforms developed by VMware. The company issued a security bulletin on Thursday that details patches and workarounds to mitigate the flaw, which Russian government actors have used to gain privileged access to target data.

Biden Can’t Ostracize Riyadh


Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman took his time before congratulating U.S. President-elect Joe Biden on his recent election victory. This wasn’t a fluke: Over the course of the past four years, the crown prince led a fruitless bombing campaign in Yemen, may have gotten away with murder, and initiated a secret program with China to process uranium. Progressive members of the U.S. Democratic caucus will soon urge Biden to abandon the U.S. alliance with Saudi Arabia, but Biden should resist this plea; abandoning allies rarely leads them to better behavior. Instead, Biden should form a coalition of Western allies and Middle Eastern states—including Saudi Arabia—that gives the United States more leverage to prevent the kingdom from acquiring nuclear weapons and violating human rights.

Republican and Democratic members of Congress are fed up with Saudi Arabia. Last year, President Donald Trump vetoed bipartisan legislation that would have blocked arms sales to the country in response to its bombing campaign in Yemen. Every Democrat in Congress who voted supported the bill, but, notably, so did Trump allies such as Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham. In his criticism of Saudi Arabia, Biden has gone even further than most members of Congress. In November 2019, during a Democratic primary debate, Biden said he “would make it very clear we were not going to … sell more weapons” to Saudi Arabia, which would “make them … the pariah that they are.”

U.S. Diplomats and Spies Likely Targeted by Radio Frequency Energy, Long-Withheld Report Determines


Mysterious brain injuries sustained by U.S. diplomats and CIA officers serving overseas in Cuba, China, and Russia were likely caused by directed, pulsed radio frequency energy, according to a study conducted by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

“[A]fter considering the information available to it and a set of possible mechanisms, the committee felt that many of the distinctive and acute signs, symptoms, and observations reported by DOS [Department of State] employees are consistent with the effects of directed, pulsed radio frequency (RF) energy,” the report said, noting that further studies were required. 

The confidential government study, released to Congress after four months of being kept under wraps and obtained by Foreign Policy, presents the most comprehensive account to date of what could be causing mysterious health problems of American diplomats and intelligence officials. The U.S. government has not publicly disclosed the cause of the possible attacks—or even if it knows from where the radio frequency energy could have originated. 

U.S. officials have long suspected the Russian government of being behind the attacks, which have strained Washington’s relations with Havana and Beijing, but they do not have conclusive intelligence implicating the Kremlin. The Russian and Cuban governments have denied any knowledge of or involvement in the purported attacks.

Atul Gawande on Coronavirus Vaccines and Prospects for Ending the Pandemic

By David Remnick

Atul Gawande is participating in a trial of a coronavirus vaccine.Photograph by Chris McAndrew / Camera Press / Re​duxAtul Gawande is outlandishly accomplished. The son of Indian immigrants, he grew up in Athens, Ohio, and was educated at Athens High School, Stanford, Oxford, and Harvard, where he studied issues of public health. Before working as a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Boston, he advised such politicians as Jim Cooper and Bill Clinton. He teaches at Harvard and is the chairman of Ariadne Labs, which works on innovation in health-care delivery and solutions, and he recently spent two years as the C.E.O. of a health-care venture called Haven, which is co-owned by Amazon, JPMorgan Chase, and Berkshire Hathaway.

Gawande is also a writer, and he has been publishing in The New Yorker for more than two decades. In 2009, heading into the debate over the Affordable Care Act, President Obama told colleagues that he had been deeply affected by Gawande’s article in the magazine called “The Cost Conundrum,” a study conducted in McAllen, Texas. Obama made the piece required reading for his staff. Gawande’s most recent book, a Times No. 1 best-seller, is “Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End.”

Cybersecurity — the rest of the iceberg


The idea of teaching young officers coding at the time stemmed from the belief that eventually the U.S. Navy would be using high-powered computers in our warships. Computing was then just beginning to impact the business sector broadly as well. Even in those long-ago days, it seemed to me that if this "computer" thing was really going to take off, it was going to require the participation of not just the military, but the commercial sector as well. Obviously, at that time the internet was just a gleam in Al Gore's eye. No one could then have imagined how intertwined our military, economy and society would become with the internet of things.

As we enter 2021, almost half-a-century later, we know that a world in which 50 billion devices are connected to the internet is a world of extraordinary convenience, limitless knowledge and computational power — but also a world with a vast threat surface. We therefore must make sure the nation is prepared for cyberattacks, and protecting the frontlines will clearly require private-public cooperation. To do this most effectively, we must move the nascent public-private partnership model beyond basic information-sharing to true operational collaboration, with the government and the private sector working shoulder-to-shoulder. Only then can we understand, prevent, defend against and indeed preempt attackers. The recent bipartisan and highly-regarded Cyberspace Solarium Commission study has powerfully and recently validated this private-public approach. 

The Great Drone Lesson: What India could learn from Azerbaijan’s victory over Armenia | Deep Dive

Saikiran Kannan

They assess targets with greater precision, divide up tasks and execute them with minimal human interaction. A technology of the 21st century that was first used by the United States after the 9/11 bombings. They are called drones, and they are changing the face of modern warfare. Drones have helped win numerous wars in recent times; the latest being the Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict where they proved tremendously effective against armour and artillery.

The modern drone strikes were first seen when the US cracked down hard upon insurgents and terrorists soon after the 9/11 bombings. The last four years saw several countries using drones in their battles; Nigeria used drones against Boko Haram, Turkey used them in Syrian raids, the UK in Iraq and Syria, and the US in Libya.

Fast forward to September-end 2020. Azerbaijan used its drone fleet to destroy Armenia’s weapons systems in Nagorno-Karabakh, enabling a swift advance. The six-week war left Armenia thinking of its air defense systems, many of them older Soviet systems, that failed to stand the new-age drones. A Russia-brokered peace deal was signed between Armenia and Azerbaijan on November 10.

Is the OSCE still relevant in Nagorno Karabakh?


Researchers like Christian Nünlist and David Svarin argued in 2014 that the Ukraine Crisis gave the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (the OSCE) a renewed sense of relevance. Both flagged its usefulness as a forum for dialogue in times of crisis between East and West.

Recent events in Nagorno-Karabakh, however, have been a sobering reality check. In this arena, the OSCE’s ability to offer security and a credible forum to negotiate Nagorno-Karabakh’s political status has palpably degraded. Partly that is because there has been a lack of sustained concern from European and American capitals with regard to the conflict. And that was true even before domestic concerns around Covid-19 and the US presidential election turned the West’s attention inwards. The result is that the OSCE’s conflict resolution talks format, known as the Minsk Group, has now been circumvented by Moscow’s decision to put its own peacekeepers onto the ground in the wake of the latest fighting this autumn between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

The deployment of Russian peacekeepers in 2020 is a surprise for a few reasons. For the past twenty years, Azerbaijan (with the recent exception) and various OSCE participating States have voiced opposition to their presence in Nagorno-Karabakh. Russia also had allegedly made a gentleman’s agreement over fifteen years ago with other OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs, the US and France, that none of these countries would send peacekeepers to the region. With the deployment of Russian peacekeepers in November, Fyodor Lukyanov, a member of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Think Tank ‘Russia International Affairs Council’ Presidium, ominously asserted that “the Minsk group basically doesn’t exist anymore.”