19 December 2020

Report: Afghans Losing Hope for Peace Process Amid Violence

By Tameem Akhgar

Optimism among Afghans regarding the country’s peace process has decreased significantly in the past few months amid a spike in violence, according to a survey released Friday.

The Institute of War and Peace Studies found optimism had dropped to 57 percent when the survey was conducted from September 29 to October 18. That’s down from 86 percent of those surveyed according to the previous assessment conducted over the summer and released in August.

Ongoing peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in Qatar had been at an impasse until last week, when after nearly three months of talks the two sides agreed on rules and procedures for the negotiations. 

However, since the Afghan-Taliban talks started in September, violence has spiked significantly. The Taliban have staged deadly attacks on Afghan forces while keeping their promise not to attack U.S. and NATO troops. The attacks have drawn a mighty retaliation by the Afghan air force, backed by U.S. warplanes. International rights groups have warned both sides to avoid inflicting civilian casualties but a recent report from Brown University’s Costs of War project noted an increase in civilian casualties, particularly under rules of engagement relaxed by the Trump administration in 2017 but also as Afghan forces took over the fight as the U.S. withdraws.

Bangladesh Is Everyone’s Economic Darling. It Might Not Last.


Shortly after Bangladesh became independent in 1971, Henry Kissinger, then the U.S. national security advisor, derisively referred to the country as a “basket case.” Bangladesh became associated with poverty, and for decades was seen as an economic laggard in South Asia, making woeful progress in alleviating mass poverty or promoting sustained economic growth. Many scholars and analysts feared that the country would remain a ward of the global community, acutely dependent on foreign aid. Some went as far to predict a Malthusian nightmare in the country, with its population outgrowing the availability of food.

Despite the dire expectations, military coups in 1975, 1982, and 2007, and a series of natural disasters, Bangladesh has in fact made significant progress in reducing poverty and in promoting economic growth. Last month, the International Monetary Fund forecast that Bangladesh’s gross domestic product per capita would exceed that of India’s in 2020.

The particulars of the IMF’s prediction are quite stark; it suggests that India’s GDP per capita, mostly as a consequence of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, is likely to shrink by 10.3 percent. Bangladesh’s GDP per capita, on the other hand, is expected to grow by as much as 4 percent.

How Can Shenzhen Replace Hong Kong?

By Jason Hung

In the past four decades, Shenzhen – the city of China known for its proximity to Hong Kong – has rapidly been developing technologically and economically. Shenzhen is now a high-tech hub, the home of Chinese technology giants, including Huawei, Tencent, and DJI. Shenzhen’s GDP overtook Hong Kong, primarily due to the booming tech industry, in 2018.

Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader Xi Jinping recently announced that Shenzhen will serve as the heart of the Greater Bay Area, an integrated region that includes Hong Kong and Macau. Under Xi’s plan, Hong Kong, after experiencing over a year of protests sparked by a controversial extradition bill, will be sidelined as China focuses primarily on developing Shenzhen. It is therefore crucial to understand whether Shenzhen can overtake Hong Kong as a Chinese “world city.”

Due to Shenzhen’s proximity to Hong Kong, Shenzhen has already been used as a base for Chinese leaders to supervise Hong Kong’s political and economic development. Future Hong Kong chief executives, government officials, and police officiers can conveniently visit Shenzhen to attend the anniversary celebrations of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as well as training sessions, learning Beijing’s upcoming policy developments. Such a move can facilitate Hong Kong’s mainland-ization and ensure that China’s national and regional political stability can be maximized.

To boost Shenzhen’s global standing, Beijing plans to massively inject funds into the local high-tech industry. Law Ka-chung, a former Bank of Communications analyst and economics professor at the City University of Hong Kong, argued, “Shenzhen is all about developing high-tech, but Hong Kong can’t afford to do that because it has had a financial reversal of fortunes.”

How China’s Communist Party trains foreign politicians

In early december Xi Jinping, China’s leader, declared that the Communist Party had met a self-imposed deadline. Extreme poverty (defined as earning a bit more than $1 a day) has been eradicated from China. Naturally, the party is keen to tell others about its success in fighting penury. In October it hosted a mostly-virtual two-day seminar on the subject for nearly 400 people from more than 100 countries. Participants quoted by official media gushed praise for China’s progress. But the gathering was not just about uplifting the needy. It was also aimed at showing off China’s political model.

In the West, recent coverage of China’s diplomacy has been dominated by talk of how aggressive it has become. Some of its diplomats have been dubbed “wolf warriors” because of their habit of snarling at foreign critics (the label refers to the title of a jingoistic Chinese film). To non-Western audiences, by contrast, Chinese officials are speaking more softly. They preach the virtues of a form of governance that they believe is making China rich and can help other countries, too. Some welcome this message, even in multiparty democracies. At the poverty-alleviation forum, the secretary-general of Kenya’s ruling Jubilee Party, Raphael Tuju, was quoted as saying that China’s Communist Party should be an example for his own.

China’s Combative Nationalists See a World Turning Their Way

By Chris Buckley

In one Beijing artist’s recent depiction of the world in 2098, China is a high-tech superpower and the United States is humbled. Americans have embraced communism and Manhattan, draped with the hammer-and-sickle flags of the “People’s Union of America,” has become a quaint tourist precinct.

This triumphant vision has resonated among Chinese.

The sci-fi digital illustrations by the artist, Fan Wennan, caught fire on Chinese social media in recent months, reflecting a resurgent nationalism. China’s authoritarian system, proponents say, is not just different from the West’s democracies, it is also proving itself superior. It is a long-running theme, but China’s success against the pandemic has given it a sharp boost.

“America isn’t that heavenly kingdom depicted since decades ago,” said Mr. Fan, who is in his early twenties. “There’s nothing special about it. If you have to say there’s anything special about it now, it’s how messed up it can be at times.”

China’s Communist Party, under its leader, Xi Jinping, has promoted the idea that the country is on a trajectory to power past Western rivals.

China stamped out the coronavirus, the messaging goes, with a resolve beyond the reach of flailing Western democracies. Beijing has rolled out homegrown vaccines to more than a million people, despite the safety concerns of scientists. China’s economy has revived, defying fears of a deep slump from the pandemic.

Our Alarming Silence on China's Violations of Rights

By Robert Spalding

This year, protesters from Minneapolis to Minsk demanded action from their governments. In the United States, demonstrations spurred change in criminal investigations, policy reform, and a national discourse about racial inequality. In Hong Kong, protests against mainland China’s infringements upon the semi-autonomous city’s civil liberties met a different beast: a despotic regime. Beijing stripped Hong Kong of its protections for free speech and dissent, effectively ending the arrangement known as one country, two systems. The death knell of a free Hong Kong rang quietly, attracting little comment from the international community.

Since Beijing implemented a new national security law in July 2020, academics, journalists, and politicians have been arrested and detained for “anti-patriotic activities.” Activists fearing indefinite detainment and torture attempted to flee, and the arbitrary expulsion of four pro-democracy lawmakers led to the mass resignation of remaining pro-democracy elected officials. The democratically minded international community has been too consumed with the COVID-19 crisis to express much more than sputtering reprimand. The pandemic shouldn’t be an excuse. It should be another reason to re-evaluate the way we regard China, specifically the Chinese Communist Party. The oppression in Hong Kong is the same that silenced whistleblowing doctors and citizen-journalists in Wuhan, allowing COVID-19 to spread unhindered in initial months. That Beijing emerged unscathed is a worrying indication that the influence of authoritarian regimes like the CCP is becoming accepted.

Would China Invade Taiwan for TSMC?

By John Lee and Jan-Peter Kleinhans

Our previous article explained the importance of the Taiwanese firm TSMC as a critical link in the global semiconductor supply chain. Although it is not the only firm with the ability to manufacture cutting-edge logic chips, TSMC is the only viable choice for chip design companies in many situations, and under normal market conditions is likely to remain so for years to come. Control of TSMC’s foundries in Taiwan might thus appear a decisive factor both in Beijing’s readiness to risk attempting unification through force, and for other states deciding whether to take a strong stance against this.

Widening the lens, however, it becomes apparent that TSMC is in fact unlikely to tip the balance. First, invasion likely remains at the bottom of the list for China’s leaders when sizing up solutions to the “Taiwan problem.” Beijing’s military options are components of a long-term political strategy predicated on basic stability across the Taiwan Strait and relying upon China’s growing economic gravity to create the conditions for peaceful unification. This situation has favored China’s economic and technological rise, in which Taiwanese firms including TSMC have played a significant part.

While this strategy is likely being adjusted in response to rising hostility among Taiwan’s younger generations toward China, Beijing retains enough levers of influence within Taiwanese society that it will still see a politics-first approach as viable. The continuing importance to Chinese industry of skilled Taiwanese labor, especially in the semiconductor sector, means outright hostilities with Taiwan would have serious economic consequences, amplifying the effects of U.S. decoupling measures.

Some experts claim that China now has the military capacity to quickly overwhelm Taiwan. Even if this is correct, invasion remains a high-risk endeavor that, even if successful, would still entail major negative ramifications for China. It can be expected only in conditions under which China’s leaders see the immediate political stakes outweighing the military risks, implying a narrow range of scenarios.

Italy’s China Card in EU-US Relations

By Mercy A. Kuo

Trans-Pacific View author Mercy Kuo regularly engages subject-matter experts, policy practitioners, and strategic thinkers across the globe for their diverse insights into U.S. Asia policy. This conversation with Dr. Nicola Casarini – Associate Fellow at the Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI) in Rome and Fellow at the Wilson Center in Washington DC; author of “Remaking Global Order: The Evolution of Europe-China Relations and its Implications for East Asia and the United States” (Oxford University Press) – is the 251st in “The Trans-Pacific View Insight Series.” 

Explain Rome’s calculations behind Italy’s “China Card,” as outlined in your recent article

Italy wants to enjoy the benefits of the alliance with the United States and at the same time take advantage of the economic opportunities of the Chinese market. Italy’s “China card” explains how the current Italian government intends to forge closer ties in trade, finance, and industrial cooperation with Beijing, even if that creates uncertainty – and potential tensions – with Washington. It is the realization among some of Italy’s political and corporate elites that while the security of the country will continue to depend on the military alliance with the United States, Italy’s economic well-being – severely hit by the pandemic-induced lockdowns – will increasingly depend on closer ties with the Asian giant.

What is China’s role in Italy’s mounting sovereign debt and fragile economy?

Turkey’s year of belligerence


A joint approach to reining in President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s dangerous adventurism in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East and the Caucasus should be high on the European Union’s priority list for collaboration with the incoming Biden administration in the United States. 

EU leaders are considering at this week’s summit whether to increase their own so-far largely symbolic sanctions against Ankara over its militarized drilling for gas in Greek and Cypriot waters. But only coordinated transatlantic action, setting clear red lines and offering incentives for more cooperative behavior stands a chance of changing the Turkish president’s calculus — if anything will. 

At the start of 2020, this column asked “How rogue can Turkey go?” If this were an end-of-year corporate performance review, the rating would have to be “exceeded expectations.” 

In the last 11 months, Erdoğan has: 

– Intervened militarily in Libya’s civil war with arms supplies, drones and Syrian mercenaries to tilt the balance of power in favor of the Tripoli government. 

– Prevented U.N.-mandated French and German ships on an EU mission to enforce an arms embargo on Libya from inspecting Turkish cargo ships in the Central Mediterranean. 

– Aided and abetted Azerbaijan in recapturing territory around the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave from Armenia. 

The Arab Spring at Ten Years: What’s the Legacy of the Uprisings?

by Kali Robinson

In December 2010, Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in protest outside a government office in the little-known town of Sidi Bouzid. In a matter of days, his act of defiance set off a revolutionary movement that rippled across the Middle East and North Africa, toppling some long-standing authoritarian regimes.

Where the Arab Spring Happened

Oil In A Good Place – OpEd

By Cornelia Meyer*

Oil is in a happy place — so good indeed that this week’s Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee (JMMC) of OPEC+, an accord of the 10 OPEC countries and their 13 non-OPEC allies led by Russia could be postponed to Jan. 4. The JMMC is monitoring compliance with the production cuts which — at 7.2 million barrels per day (bpd) — are still at historic highs.

Oil markets were influenced by hopes around recent approvals of vaccines and planned rollouts of vaccination programs in various countries, including the UK, US and Saudi Arabia. Markets easily absorbed the news that OPEC+ would ease its cuts by 500,000 bpd as of Jan. 1. Initially, the plan had been to reduce cuts to 5.8 million bpd, according to a schedule agreed at OPEC’s ministerial meeting in April at the height of the pandemic and after the price of WTI had briefly turned negative.

Last Thursday, oil broke the $50 per barrel mark for the first time since March, briefly touching $50.95. WTI rose to $47.63, falling below these levels on Friday. On Monday at 1 p.m. CET, the Brent and WTI reached again $50.63 and $47.16, respectively.

Oil has been on a seven-week rally, reflecting market exuberance over the availability of coronavirus vaccines and strong demand out of Asia. The oil demand was and is split into two halves: Between west and east of Suez. The latter has seen demand increase significantly as East Asian countries got a handle over the virus. China stands out in particular, with imports on track to rise by 10 percent year on year — mainly due to a buying spree when the commodity reached record low prices. However, even India’s demand seems to have fully recovered, with the country’s largest refiner reaching full capacity in November. It is no wonder then that Saudi Aramco increased its January prices by $0.4-$0.8, while the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company did so by $0.75-$0.85.

The World’s First Affluence Recession


The modern economy has been immune to infectious disease—until now. Epidemics in the modern world have ruined hopes, debilitated bodies, and claimed tens of millions of lives. This the first epidemic in American history that has also caused an economic crisis. Between April and June, about $2 trillion of economic activity in the United States came to a halt. Adjusting for changes in prices, that was nearly one tenth of gross domestic product. Even though public-health authorities and ordinary people took similar steps to stop past epidemics from spreading, none had remotely comparable effects on the economy—not cholera, which struck repeatedly in the 19th century; not the fearsome bubonic plague, which visited San Francisco in 1900; not even the so-called “Spanish” influenza that arrived in the United States in 1918 and killed tens of millions internationally.

What has made this pandemic unique is that for the first time, consumers worldwide can afford to spend a significant share of their incomes on non-essential goods and services. Much of their consumption has become optional, and rather than risking death to buy a Frappuccino, they’ve chosen to stay home. Others would like to go out, but public-health authorities have ordered non-essential businesses to close. Because the discretionary share of consumption has expanded, the choices about non-essential business that governments and individual consumers make in response to pandemic disease have become an economic problem.

The Pentagon was Experimenting with ‘Dirty’ Nuclear Bombs

by Joseph Trevithick

Here's What You Need to Remember: The Pentagon seems to have quickly passed over the radiological weapons for increasingly powerful nuclear bombs. By the 1960s, American and foreign scientists had discovered how to produce similar “enhanced radiation” effects with small hydrogen bombs, more commonly known as neutron bombs.

From television to Hollywood blockbusters, the “dirty bomb” – a device designed to spew radioactive material rather than set off a massive atomic explosion – has captured the public imagination as a potential terrorist weapon. But the U.S. Army once tried to make it into a real weapon of war.

In 1952, the ground combat branch conducted at least two live tests of prototype munitions at the Dugway Proving Ground in Utah. The experimental E-83 “radiological bomb” consisted of more than 70 pounds of tantalum 181 pellets wrapped around a high explosive charge, as technicians explained in one report:

“The agent was composed of approximately 75 percent tantalum dust … and 25 percent fine copper wire to provide effective binding. The mixture was compressed … in cylindrical pellets. Each pellet had a diameter of 5/16 inch and a height of 5/16 inch.

The pellets were placed in aluminum tubes at the Chemical and Radiological Laboratories [in Maryland] and shipped to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where the material was irradiated for a time calculated to produce an activation level of three to five curies per pound. The tubes were shipped to Dugway Proving Ground in lead-lined iron containers.”

Geospatial Intelligence Becomes A Focus Of Military And Economic Competition

Loren Thompson

A casual observer of Washington politics over the last several years might easily have concluded that Democrats and Republicans don’t agree on anything.

But in fact, they agree on a lot, starting with a recognition of the growing threat that China poses to U.S. military and economic security. Politicians and policymakers in both parties have acknowledged that Washington will need to rethink national strategy to meet the challenge.

Incoming national security advisor Jake Sullivan and co-author Jennifer Harris captured this emerging bipartisan consensus in a February essay for Foreign Policy that warned “a new grand strategy for today’s world will only be as good as the economic philosophy behind it.”

They then proceeded to advocate a national industrial policy, calling the idea deeply American and tracing its origins back to Alexander Hamilton.

Has Time Run Out for Guaido in Venezuela?

There is no end in sight to the political and humanitarian crises that have overwhelmed Venezuela and spilled over into neighboring countries for the past several years. In fact, the protracted fight for control of the country has only meant additional suffering for its citizens, who are already living in the most dire conditions outside of a warzone in recent memory.

Even if the political stalemate is broken, there are no easy solutions for fixing the country’s economy, which was too dependent on oil and collapsed as global crude prices fell. But President Nicolas Maduro has shown more interest in consolidating his grip on power than making needed structural changes. The result has been growing shortages of food and basic supplies, widespread power outages and alarming rates of malnutrition. The crisis has also decimated the country’s health care system, leaving Venezuela at the mercy of the coronavirus pandemic, which is likely to further exacerbate all of its challenges.

Opposition leader Juan Guaido’s attempt to overthrow Maduro’s government in early 2019 with the backing of the United States appears to have backfired. U.S. support initially helped Guaido succeed in getting himself recognized as Venezuela’s legitimate interim president by governments in the region and around the world. But Guaido and the opposition proved unable to seize power, hardening the Maduro regime’s resolve and ultimately resulting in an impasse. The outcome of recent sham legislative elections, which removed the National Assembly from opposition control, underscored Guaido’s increasing irrelevance. Meanwhile, Washington’s public attempts to help bring down Maduro’s socialist administration have pushed the Venezuelan leader to strengthen his partnerships with Russia and China.

Reported Russian hack of US systems has implications for DoD network security plans

Andrew Eversden and Mark Pomerleau

WASHINGTON — The reported cyber breach through an IT contractor’s software used by the military highlights the risks the Department of Defense takes when it increasingly must rely on third-party vendors for digital services.

As civilian agencies disconnected Monday from the SolarWinds’ Orion platform under government orders, the Department of Defense declined to comment on whether its systems are among those across several government agencies reportedly accessed by hackers affiliated with Russia’s foreign intelligence agency. SolarWinds counts all five military services, the Pentagon and the National Security Agency among its clientele for the network management platform, and said Monday in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that the hack between March and June affected “fewer than” 18,000 customers — both government agencies and businesses.

Speaking with CBS News Tuesday night, Acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller said he hadn’t seen evidence of a compromise yet, adding “looking at it right now, don’t have anything definitive.” He said the department was continue to assess the damage.

“We have standard operating procedures in place that are very refined when an intrusion is noted or a potential intrusion so that we can monitor our networks and counteract anything,” Miller said.

With agencies just now unplugging from the platform, the extended time that hackers potentially had access to government emails and other information particularly alarmed experts.

Measuring Soft Power

“But does it work?” is a simple, seemingly straightforward question that, unfortunately, is not asked (or answered) nearly enough in the foreign policy space. This may be because policymakers either do not know how to answer the query or perhaps do not want to hear the answer. When it comes to international relations, how do you measure goals? What does “stable, prosperous, and friendly,” as denoted in the 2019 National Security Strategy, really mean? Despite the inherent opaqueness and subsequent challenge of defining the characteristic, all foreign policy should, primarily, be effective. In order to prove or argue effectiveness, policymakers must objectively measure the impact or success of a policy or program.

In the joint military world, the United States analyzes, measures, scores, and revises approaches through two concepts: Measures of Effectiveness (MOE) and Measures of Performance (MOP). MOPs are internal, measuring a team’s actions and ask, “Are we doing things the right way?” MOEs, on the other hand, are external, measuring the impact of a team or policy’s actions and ask, “Are we doing the right things?” In all foreign policy—hard power, soft power, or a combination of the two—MOPs are far easier to determine. We have open and consistent access to friend behavior. We can require team members to document and report their performance. However, developing and tracking MOEs are much less straightforward because measuring the impact of foreign policy is inherently difficult. If all foreign policy is aimed at shaping the behavior of actors, then how do we measure behavior? The most obvious result is whether a targeted actor exhibits a desired behavior, but this is a bit too simplistic. We can take countering terrorist recruitment efforts for an example. A program designed to keep individuals in village X from joining al Qaeda can be deemed successful if say 80 percent (our MOE for this scenario) of residents do not join the local cell—but how do we prove that it was the program that resulted in this outcome? In statistical terms, how do we isolate the variables to determine causation? Foreign policy isn’t conducted in a sterile lab; we cannot have true control groups and wholly independent variables that we can add and subtract to determine direct effects. Even if we achieve our 80 percent goal, how do we logically argue that the specific program and not a second or third variable resulted in the preferred outcome? What if we fail to meet the 80 percent threshold? Do we scrap the entire program believing that MOEs must be binary?

The answer to measuring soft power lies in how we develop MOEs and MOPs.

Russia, Biden and cyber regulation


Cybersecurity will be a salient aspect of the incoming Biden Administration’s Russia policy. Unfortunately, there will hardly be much trust or goodwill between the two nations on this topic. Indeed, the spectral presence of Russian hackers in the US elections of 2016 is still raw for Biden and his Democratic Party, and that came amid years of mutual suspicions relating to all manner of online international cyber crime.

A New Code War

Any attempts to build understanding over the last decade have been short lived. In 2013, Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin agreed to establish a hot line for exchanging information about threats and incidents in cyberspace between Kremlin and the White House; the pair also set up permanent working group for discussing cybersecurity issues. On the eve of the Ukraine crisis, both Moscow and Washington reported that cooperation would be very promising. The following year, this agreement was terminated along with many other tracks of cooperation, due to Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

Even so, Russia has been active in putting forward resolutions on internet governance to the United Nations. But US diplomats have been skeptical that these are made in good faith and do not back them. Most recently in September 2020, Russia suggested another agreement on cybersecurity which included a commitment on non-interference. In response, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Russia “one of the global internet’s greatest disruptors”. Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers said that the “proposal is nothing more than dishonest rhetoric and cynical and cheap propaganda.”

Artificial Intelligence And Cybersecurity: A Promising But Uncertain Future – Analysis

By Matteo E. Bonfanti*

Governments and private corporations are paying attention to the transformative capacity of AI but despite some early and promising applications of AI to cyber-security there are many open questions on what to expect in the near-term future. The present paper presents a possible scenario based on the on the review of selected scientific and technical literature. It discusses the existing challenges and opportunities deriving from the adoption of AI-based solutions to achieve cyber-defensive/offensive objectives (“AI for Cybersecurity”) or counter cyber information and influence operations (“AI and Cyber-influence”).

Artificial Intelligence (AI) refers to a field of research and an enabling technological system.2 As such, AI is the scientific discipline devoted to making artificial systems able to perform tasks that are thought to require a certain degree of rationality or intelligence when performed by humans.3 It is also described as an enabling technology because it can be deployed across many different domains, for civil and military purposes, as well as to do good or harm. Unsurprisingly, it can also be applied to achieve cybersecurity-related goals.4

France And Germany Launch Space Race Alliance

By Sam Morgan

(EurActiv) — Franco-German cooperation on space policy will reach new levels after the economic ministers of the two countries pledged to work together more closely on securing Europe’s independent access to the stars.

Paris and Berlin have already promised to team up on issues like electric car batteries, 5G technology and hydrogen power. Now, France and Germany are looking to the heavens for their next bout of cooperation.

According to a new political alliance launched on 10 December, the two nations want to boost the European space industry’s competitiveness and successfully conclude the Ariane 6 project, a next-generation rocket launcher.

Ariane 6 is Europe’s attempt to corner the market for putting satellites into orbit, through advanced engineering techniques that make the new rocket cheaper to build and launch. The rocket’s debut mission was delayed from 2020 to 2022.

COVID-linked issues have caused the delay, as travel restrictions have prevented engineers and technicians from proceeding along their planned timeline.

Bringing Space Law Into the 21st Century

By Donald R. Rothwell

Throughout 2020, a renewed debate has taken hold over international legal frameworks and the governance of outer space. A flurry of outer space activities has ensured this debate has gained extra attention. These include China’s Chang’e-5 mission, which in December landed an unmanned craft on the moon to collect rock and soil samples; the recent Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) capsule, which returned to earth in South Australia after having captured rocks from an asteroid; and the launch in November of SpaceX’s NASA-crewed Dragon spacecraft “Resilience”.

Ongoing space discoveries have also driven a desire to set the rules of play. NASA announced in October that water had been found on the Moon, which raised expectations that the Moon may be capable of being used as a base for future space exploration.

But there has also been a competitive aspect. The launch of the United States Space Force (USSF) underscored the role that the militaries play in space. The development of anti-satellite capabilities in recent years by China, Russia and India has also shown why outer space is increasingly seen as a contested domain. The US sought this year to promote the Artemis Accords, described as “a shared vision for principles, grounded in the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, to create a safe and transparent environment which facilitates exploration, science and commercial activities for all of humanity to enjoy”. Australia signed up to this initiative in October.

A critical space law issue is the division between civil exploration and use of outer space and military activities in outer space.

Remote Warfare – And How Video Games Might Help Understand It

By Jacob Parakilas

As remote and autonomous systems become cheaper and more capable, they are proliferating both horizontally and vertically amongst the world’s military. More militaries are buying them, and they are buying them to fulfill an increasing number of roles.

There has already been a considerable amount of commentary — including in this column — about the impact that cheaper combat drones are having on warfare thanks to the recently concluded war between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh. But as drones go from specialist novelties to force multipliers to forces in and of themselves, they will also force fundamental changes in the relationship between commander and commanded, and between cause and effect. Strangely, the best lens to understand that change may be video games.

Of course, the linkage between warfare and video games is neither new nor without controversy. About 15 years ago, at the height of its counter-insurgency operations in Iraq, the U.S. Army released a recruitment tool in the form of a first-person shooter game called America’s Army. The game was criticized for trivializing real-world violence, and couldn’t match the reach big-budget commercial games like Halo or Call of Duty, but nevertheless persisted through several iterations.

Supply Chain Intelligence for a Dangerous New World

by Robert Metzger Walter Haydock

The past year has shown that, even in the midst of a global health crisis, hostile foreign governments will not relent in their efforts to gain an edge over the United States. For example, multiple state-sponsored cyber actors have been aggressively targeting coronavirus vaccine development through attempted cyber intrusions of American institutions. Adversaries, including but not limited to China and Russia, have sought to exploit global distress for geopolitical as well as economic advantage.

The rapid onset of the coronavirus pandemic has in some cases motivated actors seeking to steal pharmaceutical research to resort to less sophisticated methods, such as brute force attacks, which Iranian state actors or proxies appear to have conducted in an effort to steal information regarding potential treatments. With that said, there remain more sinister—and damaging—methods of attack that warrant renewed attention: those seeking to compromise technology supply chains.

Earlier in the year, the FBI publicly issued a warning about the previously active Kwampirs malware, also likely associated with Iranian government-affiliated hackers. According to the alert, these “actors gained access to a large number of global hospitals through vendor software supply chain and hardware products.”

Although there is no indication that the resurgence of Kwampirs was related to the attempted theft of coronavirus-related data, it highlights a key technique increasingly employed by malicious nation-state actors.

Army Gung-Ho on 3D Printing Spare Parts

By Connie Lee

Additive manufacturing has come to the forefront of the Army’s attention as the service looks for ways to quickly reproduce parts without needing to continuously rely on industry. 

In 2019, the service released a new policy directive that outlined its goals to expand its 3D printing processes and established an additive manufacturing center of excellence at Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois. 

Maj. Gen. K. Todd Royar, commanding general of Army Aviation and Missile Command, said on the aviation side, he has been using the directive as a baseline for the command’s 3D printing efforts and then incorporating additional standards to ensure that it can meet Federal Aviation Administration regulations as well. 

“It really helped us by having that [directive] because it gave us the groundwork and framework that we are now nested under,” he said during a media call with reporters in October during the Association of the United States Army’s annual meeting, which was held virtually this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “We continue to develop that policy and we’ll continue to do that in conjunction with our industry partners.” 

Maj. Gen. Mitchell Kilgo, commanding general of Army Communications-Electronics Command, said CECOM has taken the directive into account by attempting to obtain technical data packages for its equipment earlier in the acquisition process so it can be prepared to 3D-print parts if called upon to do so. 

Being able to do that upfront for command, control, computers, communications, cyber, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, or C5ISR, equipment would “help us to be able to run faster with the evaluation to actually get to the point where we can provision parts,” he noted. 

No armed drones for the German army — for now

For the Bundeswehr, Germany's armed forces, the timing could not be better: In the next few months, the German armed forces will receive five new Heron TP drones. The drone can circle in the sky for more than 30 hours, controlled remotely from a station on the ground. Even in bad weather, the Heron TP, which is being built by the Israeli defense company Israel Aerospace Industries, can send images of houses, cars, or people to earth in real-time.

The Bundeswehr is calling for weapons to be procured to arm the drones as quickly as possible. These are missiles that can engage targets on the ground. The plan was for the German parliament to give the green light for the purchase of these missiles before Christmas. The Ministry of Defense had already prepared the purchase contract.