11 January 2021

Making America Great? Global Perceptions of China, Russia, and the United States: The International Scorecard

There are many different ways in which to measure the level of competition between the United States and China and Russia. These are explored at length in a separate Burke Chair report entitled The Biden Transition and U.S. Competition with China and Russia: The Crisis-Driven Need to Change U.S. Strategy, which is available on the CSIS website here.

It is clear, however, that the ways in which the rest of the world perceives the overall character of China, Russia, and the United States is becoming a key form of competition, in which public opinion polls on the attitudes in other countries can provide a non-partisan set of benchmarks and trend indicators that are not subject to the political debates in domestic American politics.

This does not mean that foreign attitudes are objective or correct. One can argue with some justification that many of the current partner and other foreign perceptions of the U.S. are no less objective than U.S. perceptions of partner and foreign states – particularly ones with different religions, political structures, and cultural backgrounds. It is equally true that it is the perceptions and self-interests of the leadership elites in many countries that determine their alignments as strategic partners, rather than those of the average citizen.

In broad terms, however, popular perceptions still count. Popular attitudes towards the U.S. have at least some impact on the behavior of even the most authoritarian states, and they have far more impact on states with moderate and democratic regimes. They affect every aspect of international diplomacy and the behavior of international organizations, and they indirectly help shape the broader structure of deterrence, sanctions, and arms control.

They are particularly important in ensuring that the leadership and democratic character of the U.S. make the United States more respected than Russia and China, and they can give the U.S. a natural advantage in seeking strategic partners. It is important to note, therefore, that recent Pew and Gallup polls – two of the most respected sources of polling data in the world – sound strong warnings that the U.S. has seen a major reduction in partner and other outside support in recent years – to levels roughly similar to outside support for China and Russia.

China, Russia, Iran Spin Capitol Insurrection


Leaders around the world reacted with shock and dismay to Wednesday’s Capitol Hill riot. But the governments of China and Russia were happy to use the events to attack the United States and democracy in general. 

“We reiterate that the electoral system in the United States is archaic, it does not meet modern democratic standards, creating opportunities for multiple violations," said one Russian government spokesperson, Maria Zakharova, on Facebook. “American media has become a tool for political struggle. This was largely the cause of the division of society now observed in the United States.” 

Trump, China, and Foreign Policy as Theater

By Abhijnan Rej

I would have normally prefaced a piece on muscular foreign policy pronouncements from a lame duck administration days away from stepping down with the famous Dylan Thomas lines – “Do not go gentle into the good night… Rage, rage against the dying of the light” – had said administration not been U.S. President Donald Trump’s. Even as Trump himself bends every known political norm known in the United States to the breaking point to hold on to power, despite unambiguous defeat in the November elections, his policy team continues to tilt at Chinese windmills.

The latest installment in the sad saga that is the Trump administration’s China policy near its end – recently described as a “driverless clown car careening into a ditch” by the Sinocism newsletter writer Bill Bishop – is a January 4 Newsweek op-ed co-authored by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Marshall Billingslea, the special presidential envoy for arms control. The piece is titled, with characteristic moderation, “China’s Nuclear Madness.” (Other similar recent hits include a China strategy document released in November, again with due consideration to not overstating one’s case, titled “The Elements of the China Challenge.” Commenting on the document’ authors – the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff – in Foreign Policy, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace senior fellow and former U.S. diplomat Daniel Baer wrote “From the outset, a reader is wont to marvel at their apparent lack of a sense of irony.”)

China Wants to Invest in the Arctic. Why Doesn’t Canada?


THE VAST mineral deposits of zinc and copper near Izok Lake, in the Northwest Territories, lay glittering but ultimately untouchable until August 2019, when trans­port minister Marc Garneau pledged $21.5 million in federal funding toward the first phase of development for the Grays Bay Road and Port Project, a trans­portation network designed to cash in on the opening of the Arctic. This money would add to the $40 million allocated to building a series of roads across the Nunavut–Northwest Territories border, which will help connect Izok Lake to the deepwater port at Nunavut’s Grays Bay, located along the increasingly ice­-free Northwest Passage sea route that leads to Asia.

In 2011, MMG Limited, a multinational mining corporation, expressed interest in building a road to open up some of the Arctic’s remote but lucrative min­eral reserves. Standing to benefit most from this would be the corporation’s pri­mary shareholder: the Chinese govern­ment. The tremendous cost of the road and port, however, ultimately made the project economically unviable for MMG, which halted further development, in 2013, in hopes that Canada would pick up the shovel. “On behalf of MMG, I would like to extend my sincere thanks to the Canadian government for their support and funding,” CEO Geoffrey Gao said in a press release following Garneau’s pledge. “Road and port access is the key to unlocking the Izok Corridor.”

What Has Not Changed in U.S.-China Relations

by John Cookson

In the last few years, it has become gospel in Washington that the status quo of U.S. policy toward China cannot continue—that China’s rise has reached a tipping point where the mix of containment and trade that characterized U.S. policy for decades is doomed. As a result, advocates of this view argue, a radical change toward a more aggressive stance is needed to protect U.S. interests in Asia.

Recognizing the shift in U.S. views of China is necessary. No serious policy proposal can ignore the sea change in attitudes that is already evident among U.S. policymakers, scholars, and even the general public. But recalling what has not changed—what is unlikely to change—between the two superpowers is even more important when crafting a responsible U.S. policy in East Asia.

First, neither China nor the U.S. wants to invade the other. Nuclear weapons make regime change an assured catastrophe. Nor are there any real gains to be had from invasion and occupation were it possible without nuclear annihilation. The era of extractive colonialism and overt imperialism is thankfully over.

Mutual deterrence against invasion is easy to take for granted, but it is precisely this feature that separates the current competition from earlier great-power conflicts resulting in open war. While today the U.S. and China may disagree, neither’s very existence is threatened. That fact should frame all disagreements in a less confrontational light.

Second, China is surrounded by capable powers and geography that make territorial expansion difficult. Beijing is unlikely to sweep across Asia like Berlin did across Europe between 1939 and 1945. Water and mountains around China have stopping power. Russia, India, Pakistan, and North Korea are nuclear powers. Vietnam and other neighbors can mount considerable nationalist resistance. Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan are wealthy, and each currently spends less than 3 percent of its gross domestic product on defense. Each could ramp up military spending if needed. All of this limits China from becoming a hegemonic force that could then credibly threaten the Western hemisphere.

Pompeo Approves New State Department Tech Bureau

By Abhijnan Rej

The U.S. State Department announced on January 7 that outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has approved the creation of a new Bureau of Cyberspace Security and Emerging Technologies (CSET). Making the announcement, a media note from the department stated: “The need to reorganize and resource America’s cyberspace and emerging technology security diplomacy through the creation of CSET is critical, as the challenges to U.S. national security presented by China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and other cyber and emerging technology competitors and adversaries have only increased since the Department notified Congress in June 2019 of its intent to create CSET.”

The Trump administration’s decision to establish a separate bureau for cyberspace and emerging tech is part of its larger thrust on geotechnology as a key element of great power competition and, as such, part of its legacy (insofar as speaking of Trump’s achievements during his term in office has become a rather difficult task given the events of January 6). Over the course of his four years in office, Trump and his team had prioritized research in artificial intelligence, quantum information science, and other critical and emerging tech – not to mention, push for military space activities and tech.

As Britain Gawps at U.S. Chaos, Violence Could Cross the Atlantic


Ever since a reality TV personality was elected president of the United States, British political journalists have gotten into the habit of staying up all night to gawk. Elections, by-elections, Twitter storms, impeachment proceedings—thanks to the time difference, we wake up and predict what might happen across the pond and then fight sleep to watch events unfold. After days of being glued to live coverage on CNN, we joked that the election of “Sleepy” Joe Biden might finally afford us a good night’s sleep. It’s soap opera; it’s journalistic junk food. It’s all-consuming and at once unfamiliar.

It wasn’t always this way, of course. Britain’s addiction to the West Wing is relatively new; a product of the digital revolution that occurred alongside the George W. Bush administration. We stopped to look and never turned away. But the 24/7 flow of information back and forth that keeps us so agog has become a vector for poison running into the veins of British politics.

There were few restful dreams in Westminster Wednesday night. As a horde of flag-bearing pro-Trump rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol building, British politicians and media alike watched, powerless from the other side of the Atlantic, and wondered what it meant for them—and, perhaps, what part they might have played in instigating it.

Will America’s Fever Break After the Pro-Trump Siege of the Capitol?

Candace Rondeaux

By now, you will have already seen the endless stream of scenes from the violent breach of the Capitol building on Wednesday by extremist supporters of President Donald Trump. There was the guy belaying down the wall from the Senate gallery, and the police with guns drawn in congressional chambers. There was the guy strolling through the halls of Congress with a huge Confederate flag.

This is the new iconography of America’s 240-year experiment with democracy. Expect to see more of it.

Only moments before those scenes unfolded, the good gentleman from Kentucky, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, struck a somber tone. “The voters, the states and the courts have all spoken,” he said. “They’ve all spoken. If we overrule them, it would damage our republic forever.” Then with all the verve of an undertaker on tranquilizers, McConnell cautioned his Republican colleagues: “If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral.”

A Persistent Crisis in Central America

Violence and corruption in Central America, particularly in the Northern Triangle countries, is causing a wave of outward migration. The Trump administration’s restrictive measures and pressure on regional governments did achieve modest reductions in the numbers of migrants arriving at the border. But they did nothing to address the root causes of the problem. Meanwhile, efforts at reform across the region face opposition from entrenched interests that benefit from the status quo. Explore WPR’s extensive coverage of the Central America crisis.

For years, Central America has contended with the violence and corruption stemming from organized crime and the drug trade. More recently, the countries of the region also found themselves in U.S. President Donald Trump’s line of fire, due to the many desperate Central Americans who make their way across Mexico to seek asylum at the United States’ southern border.

The steady stream of outward migration is driven by ongoing turmoil, particularly in Nicaragua and the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. The three Northern Triangle countries rank among the most violent in the world, a legacy of the civil wars in El Salvador and Guatemala, which destabilized security structures and flooded the region with guns. In that context, gangs—often brought back home by deportees from the U.S.—have proliferated, and along with them the drug trade and corruption, fueling increasing lawlessness. Popular unrest has done little to produce political solutions, leading many of the most vulnerable to flee, often banding together in caravans to more safely navigate the treacherous route north.

The Far Right Told Us What It Had Planned. We Didn’t Listen.

By Seyward Darby

A woman was killed in the riot on Wednesday — Ashli Babbitt, a 35-year-old Trump supporter, was shot in the Capitol by a police officer. Her death shouldn’t have happened, and it should now be investigated, no question.

What’s frightening, however, is that many Trump supporters are already heralding her as a martyr. “Say her name,” advocates of Wednesday’s coup attempt have tweeted, co-opting the language of the Black Lives Matter movement.

A dead or injured white woman — even the illusion of one — has always been a powerful symbol on the far right, a rallying cry for people to stand up and act to preserve their contorted notions of honor, liberty and purity.

Consider the apocryphal stories of sexual violence that led to countless lynchings. Or of Ruby Ridge in Idaho, in 1992, when federal agents killed an unarmed white woman during a botched raid: “When the Feds blew the head off Vicki Weaver I think symbolically that was their war against the American woman, the American mother, the American white wife,” an acolyte of the far right, a pastor, said at the time. “This is the opening shot of a second American Revolution.” Right-wing activists have been citing Mrs. Weaver’s death ever since as evidence that they stand for what is good and right: family and freedom.

Will Bitcoin Become the New Gold Standard?


All that glitters is not gold—but it might be Bitcoin.

And in the long run, it might be more valuable.

No less an expert than JPMorgan Chase & Co. said that Bitcoin could trade as high as $146,000 if it is viewed as a safe haven rivaling gold. Growing interest in Bitcoin sent its price to a record high of $34,800 on Jan. 2. The cryptocurrency recently changed hands at $34,675.20. Gold recently fetched $1,939 an ounce, down $11.50.

Cryptocurrency enthusiasts have argued that bitcoin, an asset defined as highly volatile, should be considered a safe heaven.

"Bitcoin's competition with gold has already started in our mind, as evidenced by the more than $3 billion of inflows into the Grayscale Bitcoin Trust and the more than $7 billion of outflows from gold (exchange traded funds) since mid-October," JPMorgan said in a research report.

QAnon Is Trumpism Now


From one viewpoint, the conspiracy movement-cum-mass delusion exits 2020 in shambles. Its shadowy leader is in the wind. Two elected members of Congress who once praised the movement now insist they want nothing to do with it. Its chosen presidential candidate went down in flames on Election Day. Its kooky name has become a household punchline.

And yet, the underlying ideas behind the movement may be more influential than ever. QAnon believers have toiled away, on the anonymous message board 8chan and on the far-right social media platforms Parler and Gab, to make 2021 their year. With just weeks to go before Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration, the conspiracy club has worked feverishly to supply the faulty research and nonsensical allegations allowing President Donald Trump to keep claiming a false victory.

Last year was massive for the once-fringe conspiracy theory. Even as the general public has woken up to the grandiose theories of QAnon, from belief in Democratic Party-run child trafficking rings to deep-state Satan worship, its adherents have been ascendant. Michael Flynn, who briefly served as national security advisor to Trump, has gone all-in on the movement. Polls have shown that the secretive leader Q’s followers are likely not in the thousands, but the millions. And it has gone global: You can spot the iconic Q flag at far-right rallies throughout Europe, QAnon followers have tried to perform citizen’s arrests of Canada’s easily accessible politicians, and a close friend of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is a prominent QAnon influencer. At the center of it all was Q, the anonymous figure who has spent years showering their followers in a deluge of innuendo and coded messages.

But as the Nov. 3, 2020, election came and went, and the results began to show Trump—who has coyly encouraged QAnon—was the loser, Q grew quiet. The only information “drop” on the message board 8chan in the past month has been a glowing propaganda video of the president that has now racked up 1.5 million views.

Coronavirus Hasn’t Killed Belt and Road


The past two years have not been kind to the Belt and Road Initiative, the signature infrastructure project of Chinese President Xi Jinping. First, the United States labeled the initiative a “debt trap”—a loan-shark scheme for luring poor countries into economic vassalage—and began to pressure its allies and partners to stay away. Then came COVID-19. Last summer, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs
admitted that as much as 60 percent of Belt and Road projects have been impacted to some degree by the pandemic. That figure is surely higher now. New Chinese overseas lending has fallen precipitously. This year, as low-income countries face a debt crunch, Chinese lenders could take enormous losses.

But the Belt and Road Initiative hasn’t died of COVID-19. On the contrary, Xi and other senior Chinese officials continue to trumpet the initiative. Their messaging is highly consistent: In 2021, China will start to wind down its new investment into traditional capital-intensive infrastructure, both at home and abroad. In that way, the pandemic provides an excuse to cut losses on unviable projects. Instead, the initiative will refocus on public health (especially vaccines), green technology, and digital services. This fresh-faced Belt and Road—higher-tech and more geared toward trade than investment—will fit neatly into China’s new “dual circulation” economic concept, which emphasizes Chinese domestic consumption. It will also be more attractive to partner countries than its previous incarnation.

The pandemic provides an excuse to cut losses on unviable projects. Instead, the initiative will refocus on public health, green technology, and digital services.

Biden and Erdogan Are Trapped in a Double Fantasy


A year ago, then-presidential candidate Joe Biden sat with the New York Times editorial board and said “I am very concerned about [Turkey],” according to a video that caused controversy in Turkey over the summer a few months ago. Biden said the United States should take a different approach from the Trump administration and engage with a broad cross-section of Turkish society, promote the opposition and “speak out about what we think is wrong.” Biden seemed to think it was possible to bring Turkey back into the transatlantic community and even improve its worrisome human rights record.

Biden’s tough words reflect the fact that Turkey has been a major headache for U.S. policymakers over the last few years. Not surprisingly, senior Biden foreign policy officials have already started scratching their heads to formulate a policy towards this difficult ally.

The United States and Turkey do have an odd sort of relationship. As officials from both sides frequently aver, they deeply value their decade-long alliance, recognize that they need each other for key priorities, and cooperate on a wide variety of foreign-policy issues stretching from Iraq to the Islamic State to the Balkans. But at the same time, they deeply distrust each other, sanction and condemn each other publicly, and fight bitterly over a range of issues from the Kurds to NATO to Israel.

All Is Not Quiet on Ethiopia’s Western Front


On Dec. 22, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed visited the vast lowland territory of Metekel in Ethiopia’s far western region of Benishangul-Gumuz, the so-called homeland of five indigenous ethnic groups of which the most populous are the Berta and the Gumuz. It was his first known visit to Metekel, a strategically important area that includes the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) and which has been afflicted by an endless string of gruesome, ethnically targeted massacres in recent months. “The desire by enemies to divide Ethiopia along ethnic & religious lines still exists,” Abiy tweeted following a meeting with local residents and officials. “This desire will remain unfulfilled.”

The next day, more than 200 people—ethnic Amharas, Oromos, and Shinasha—in the village of Bekoji were slaughtered by heavily armed men from the local Gumuz ethnic group in a devastating raid that began at dawn. “No value added,” an angry resident of Assosa, the regional capital, told me over the phone after Abiy’s visit. “He came for nothing.”

The trip to Metekel came a little less than a month after Abiy declared victory in the northern region of Tigray, where Ethiopia’s armed forces have been battling the country’s erstwhile ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which dominated Ethiopian politics for decades before it was sidelined by Abiy. Yet that war is not over: Fighting persists in several places, and more than 50,000 people have so far fled to Sudan. The TPLF, whose leadership withdrew to the mountains on Nov. 28, continues assaults against a coalition of Ethiopian federal troops, militiamen from the neighboring Amhara region, as well as an unconfirmed number of soldiers from Eritrea to the north.

Why the Persecution of Muslims Should Be on Biden’s Agenda


Arecent Pew Research Center report documented the highest level of government restrictions on the free practice of religion worldwide in more than a decade. The Middle East and North Africa, Pew found, continues to have the highest prevalence of government restrictions, while Asia showed a sharp increase in the use of force against religious groups, including property damage, detention, displacement, other forms of abuse, and killings.

While Christians were targeted in 145 countries worldwide in 2018, according to the Pew study, Muslims came in close behind, facing harassment in 139 countries. But while Christians face serious repression in much of the world, government actions against Muslims were greater in scope and scale, impacting hundreds of millions of people.

Based on my 20 years of work in this field, it is clear to me that no other community faces as high a level of government repression as Muslims—not just in certain countries where they are a minority, such as China and India, but also in places where Islam is the state religion and its practice is strictly enforced. In these countries, governments rarely tolerate dissident interpretations of Islam, let alone a citizen’s right to abandon the faith into which they were born.

Will America’s Fever Break After the Pro-Trump Siege of the Capitol?

Candace Rondeaux

By now, you will have already seen the endless stream of scenes from the violent breach of the Capitol building on Wednesday by extremist supporters of President Donald Trump. There was the guy belaying down the wall from the Senate gallery, and the police with guns drawn in congressional chambers. There was the guy strolling through the halls of Congress with a huge Confederate flag.

This is the new iconography of America’s 240-year experiment with democracy. Expect to see more of it.

Only moments before those scenes unfolded, the good gentleman from Kentucky, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, struck a somber tone. “The voters, the states and the courts have all spoken,” he said. “They’ve all spoken. If we overrule them, it would damage our republic forever.” Then with all the verve of an undertaker on tranquilizers, McConnell cautioned his Republican colleagues: “If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral.”

What can be done to control Trump in his final days?

William A. Galston and Elaine Kamarck

For two months, through three recounts and dozens of court cases challenging the outcome of the 2020 election in six states, President Trump has insisted against all evidence that he won the election. And then, on Wednesday, the last straw. He incited a mob to violence against a duly elected, co-equal branch of government. Most of America is outraged and wondering what, if anything, can be done immediately to stop a man who cares only for himself and has no limits from committing further assaults on law and the Constitution.

EKamarckThere are several options, starting with efforts to remove the president from office or strip him of his authority. But for both constitutional and political reasons, any such effort would require substantial support, pre-wired across party lines. Honorable intentions are not enough. Moral indignation must be tempered by political realism. Trying and failing would be worse than doing nothing.

As the chaos unfurled last night many members of Congress called for Trump to be impeached. Today Sen. Chuck Schumer issued a statement urging the administration to take 25th-Amendment action and stating that if none is taken, Congress should reconvene for impeachment proceedings. It could be a simple, one-count indictment: sedition. Here’s the law:

The Security Threat Hiding in Plain Sight

By Daniel Byman

The armed, pro-Trump mob that stormed Congress Wednesday and violently disrupted the election certification proceedings made the world’s greatest democracy look like a banana republic in the grips of mob rule. Before the violence, the rioters had listened to U.S. President Donald Trump falsely decry a stolen election and then incite them to march on Capitol Hill. However surreal the episode seemed, the even bigger question is whether it represents the dying gasp of a corrupt and lawless administration or a harbinger of future strife. Both may be true.

The breaching of the Capitol’s perimeter was no doubt a colossal security failure. The legislature of the world’s most powerful country was swarmed by hundreds of armed, angry protesters. Law enforcement, which uses a heavy hand against Black Lives Matter protesters and prepares carefully to stop possible al Qaeda attacks, was apparently unprepared for the mix of white supremacists, anti-government extremists, conspiracy theorists, and other pro-Trump supporters who openly organized to “burn DC to the ground” to overturn an election at the behest of the president. Although it’s too early to point fingers, the Capitol Police and other security forces clearly have some explaining to do.

Is North Korea Jamming Radio Signals?

by Stephen Silver

According to a new report, radio broadcasts from a South Korean nonprofit human rights organization appear to have been jammed by authorities in the North Korean regime. 

Daily NK reported Thursday that “there have been signs that North Korean authorities have been jamming radio broadcast frequencies used by UMG since mid-December.” UMG is Unification Media Group, the consortium that owns Daily NK.

This was backed up by the director of the Northeast Asian Broadcasting Institute, who told Daily NK that there are “clear signs” of such interference. He even provided a video file showing extra noise which he believes came from the jamming attempts North Korean authorities.

The report speculated that the jamming may have been connected to the passage of an “anti-revolutionary thought” law in early December, as part of the Supreme People’s Assembly. 

Unification Media Group describes itself as “a news and entertainment production organization focused on North Korea,” which “brings the latest developments from North Korea to South Korean and international audiences in addition to North Koreans themselves.” 

“Members of South Korean civil society, including those operating radio stations transmitting into North Korea, are demanding that the South Korean government allow them to use South Korean AM frequencies,” Daily NK story said. “They argue that the use of these local frequencies will strengthen the radio signals and prevent the radio programs from being so easily jammed.”

The Capitol Siege Is the Wake-up Call America Shouldn’t Have Needed

By Larry Diamond

Yesterday’s assault on the United States Capitol by a right-wing extremist mob may have only modestly damaged the building, but it gravely injured the prestige of American democracy. The United States’ authoritarian adversaries are gloating. China’s Communist Youth League, echoing U.S. reactions to the 2019 pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, called the storming of the Capitol a “beautiful sight.” And America’s democratic allies, who well understand the importance of U.S. democratic leadership to the global cause of freedom, have been badly shaken by the images of ruffians rampaging through the world’s most powerful democratic assembly on the day of its most important deliberative task: certifying the results of the presidential election. In the wake of this calamity, American political and civic leaders now face an urgent imperative to repair the fabric of U.S. democracy.

The siege of the Capitol was a tragedy, but it was also a wake-up call. At this juncture, there is no evidence to suggest a carefully laid plot by organized or well-trained militias. One shudders to imagine what might have transpired had that been the case. If a ragtag band of the radically aggrieved and conspiracy minded could force members of the United States Congress to break off pieces of House furniture to defend themselves, and to evacuate their chambers in distress, what could a serious insurrection have done? The first imperative of any democracy is to physically secure and protect itself—its people, its public officials, and its institutions. Rudely reminded of that fact, the country could be spared a far worse tragedy in the future.

Yet it should not have taken an assault on the legislature to alert Americans to the dangers lurking just beneath the surface of their political discourse. Analysts have warned for years about the erosion of the United States’ democratic norms and about the growing readiness of its deeply polarized electorate to condone or embrace political violence. In a December 2019 survey, the Voter Study Group found that one in five Americans who identified as either Democrats or Republicans felt that violence would be at least “a little” justified if the candidate from the opposing party won the 2020 presidential election. Even more disturbing, about one in ten members of both parties said that there would be “a lot” or “a great deal” of justification for violence if the opposing party won.

Who Will Benefit From Cambodia’s New Oil Wealth?

Joshua Kurlantzick 

After a long delay, Cambodia finally began producing oil from its offshore fields in the Gulf of Thailand last week. The Cambodian government’s partner in the oil venture, Singapore-based KrisEnergy Ltd., plans to ramp up production at new wells, with peak extraction expected to hit around 7,500 barrels per day by mid-February.

Cambodia has known about its offshore deposits for more than a decade, and major oil firms like Chevron had previously invested in exploration efforts off the country’s coast. But some investors were scared off by low global oil prices, and the Cambodian government initially had trouble securing a production agreement. KrisEnergy’s own lingering financial problems also likely contributed to the delay: The company, which owns a 95 percent stake in the Cambodian project, has been engaged in a lengthy debt restructuring that still is not completed. ...

For Facebook, It’s All About the Bottom Line


When Mark Zuckerberg took the stage at Georgetown University in late 2019, the heat was already on him. His company was getting ripped apart in the media, with journalists and experts examining every facet of his company’s practices and every policy call he and his lieutenants had made.

Yet despite it all, Zuckerberg shocked the world. His company would be standing for “free speech,” he proclaimed. Even politicians who intentionally spread political lies in their own political interest would not be stopped or censored by his company.

The depressing truth is that the reasoning behind Zuckerberg’s policy posture—and the company’s underlying policy position on these matters, which it claims to be defined by free speech—is not about free speech at all. It is about money.

In 2019, he was under plenty of pressure to change. He had already announced that the company would be setting up the Oversight Board, a body nominally external to Facebook designed to adjudicate on a narrow set of content-policy decisions before the company—a proposal that was implicated by many as a corporate regime that was destined to fail. Add to that the backdrop of the Russian disinformation operations that came to light in 2017—the year I left the company as a policy advisor—and that may well have swung the 2016 presidential election. It was on the back of these events that many Democrats were up in arms about Facebook’s handling of matters of questionable privacy, advertising, and corporate development practices.

‘Spectrum Superiority’ Key To All Domain Operations: Gen. Hyten


WASHINGTON: As the Joint Staff develops a Joint Warfighting Concept to guide America’s new way of war, All Domain Operations, it’s becoming increasingly clear that control of the electromagnetic spectrum is key to its success, says Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Hyten. And that means setting spectrum requirements will be key to ADO.

“We have to be able to effectively fight and win the electromagnetic spectrum fight right from the beginning — that is, electronic warfare in every domain,” Hyten told the Association of Old Crows (AOC). Hyten chairs the Joint Staff’s Electromagnetic Spectrum Operations Cross Functional Team, and, in addition, is the “senior designated official for EMSO, electromagnetic spectrum operations, in the Department of Defense.”

“Information advantage,” as Breaking D readers know, is one of four subcomponents to the Joint Warfighting Concept, along with joint fires, all-domain command and control, and contested logistics. While JCS Chair Gen. Mark Milley tasked the Navy to flesh out the approach to joint fires; the Air Force, Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2), and the Army, contested logistics, Hyten back in September said the Joint Staff itself is working to conceptualize “information advantage” because no service volunteered.

Giant Asteroid Almost Twice Size of Empire State Building to Fly Past Earth


An enormous asteroid is set to sail safely past the Earth this weekend.

The space rock, known as 2015 NU13, is estimated to measure between 1,017 and 2,230 feet in diameter, data from NASA's Center for Near Earth Studies (CNEOS) shows.

At the upper end of this estimate, the asteroid would be almost twice as big as the Empire State Building in New York City.

It would also stand slightly short of the world's tallest building—the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, which is about 2,723 feet.

2015 NU13 is set to make its closest approach to Earth at 4:16 a.m. ET on January 9, when it will come within 3.5 million miles of Earth.

This is equivalent to about 15 times the average distance between the Earth and the moon, which is relatively close in astronomical terms.