12 January 2021

Why China Fears India’s BrahMos Missiles

by Sebastien Roblin

Here's What You Need to Remember: India is a democracy with all the messy internal political deliberations that implies—it’s not about to launch a massive surprise invasion of the Himalayas. A well-managed de-escalation wouldn’t have to carry a huge political cost.

While many of us remain mesmerized by the unfolding shambles in the Middle East, the world’s two most populous countries have gotten into a tiff over missiles. And I’m not referring to the ballistic kind for once.

“India deploying supersonic missiles on the border has exceeded its own needs for self-defense and poses a serious threat to China’s Tibet and Yunnan provinces,” complained the People’s Liberation Army Daily. “The deployment of BrahMos missile is bound to increase the competition and antagonism in the China–India relations and will have a negative impact on the stability of the region.”

France and India Hold Strategic Dialogue

By Abhijnan Rej

On January 7, France and India held the latest edition of their annual strategic dialogue in New Delhi. The Indian delegation was headed by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval while Emmanuel Bonne, diplomatic advisor to President Emmanuel Macron, led the French side. According to an Indian Ministry of External Affairs statement, “the two sides held discussions on a variety of issues including counter-terrorism, cybersecurity, defence cooperation, maritime security, regional and global issues and cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.” “Both sides reaffirmed the high priority they accord to the India-France strategic partnership and highlighted the convergence of views between the two countries,” it added.

The dialogue took place amid growing Indian interest to jumpstart its relations with European powers as they look to play a more significant role in the Indo-Pacific. The France-India relationship, historically, has been exceedingly robust. Both countries not only share common interests in the Indian Ocean region – Paris, by virtue of its colonial territorial possessions – but also because of a fundamental congruence, in terms of both being proud adherents of the notion of strategic autonomy. As I wrote in these pages in September last year when French Defense Minister Florence Parly was in India on the occasion of the induction of five Rafale jets into the Indian Air Force:

Want a Rules-Based Order for the Indo-Pacific? Start With Diego Garcia.

By Peter Harris

For the past several years, it has been official U.S. policy to support a “rules-based order” in the Indo-Pacific. These words rang hollow while Donald Trump occupied the White House. Joe Biden, however, has a chance to turn the rhetoric into reality. He should begin by removing one of the most egregious instances of hypocrisy and rule-breaking in the region: America’s support for British control of the Chagos Archipelago.

Even if most Americans are unfamiliar with the Chagos Archipelago, any U.S. official tasked with devising Indo-Pacific policy will be keenly aware of the islands’ strategic significance. This is because the largest island of the Chagos group – Diego Garcia – is home to one of the most important U.S. military bases in the world, from which the United States can project air and naval power in theaters as far apart as the Persian Gulf and South China Sea.

During the colonial era, the Chagos Archipelago was governed as a dependency of Britain’s Crown Colony of Mauritius. In 1965, London detached the islands from Mauritius to create a new colony, the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT). The purpose was to maintain sovereignty over the Chagos even after Mauritius gained its independence (which it did in 1968) so that the United States, a close ally, could build a military installation on Diego Garcia.

Xi Jinping’s use of hysteria as warfare – Part 3

Sanjeev Sabhlok

In Part 2 I had started looking at the evidence for China’s use of cyber warfare in 2020.

A video circulated by @manisha_kataki on 12 March 2020 shows Chinese workers disinfecting streets: once again entirely doctored to create fear. There has never been such disinfection anywhere else in the world. Just this single India-based Twitter account clocked 17.4 million views for that video.

And there were innumerable hit-and-run accounts created by China during this period, such as @Ejiketion – that pumped out Chinese propaganda, then disappeared. And a lot of bullying, not just by bots. On 15 March 2020, Hu Xijin, Chinese official state media agency taunted Sweden, UK and Germany: “Sweden will not test people with mild symptoms. UK and Germany tried to build a ‘herd immunity’, which will expose many people to the risk of death. These countries are unwilling to invest more resources in epidemic control. What about human rights? What about humanitarianism?”
This is not the language of a nation interested in the welfare of the people but of a nation trying to get the West to go hysterical and commit suicide.

The New York Times has two articles on this topic: on 22 April 2020 (“Chinese Agents Helped Spread Messages That Sowed Virus Panic in U.S., Officials Say”) and on 6 June 2020 (“Behind China’s Twitter Campaign, a Murky Supporting Chorus”). From these we know that “Twitter is being manipulated to amplify pro-Beijing messages”, and that “Beijing’s Twitter brigade includes Hua Chunying, the head of [China’s] foreign ministry’s information department”.

This is war. Let no one tell us otherwise.

China Initiative Conference

RSVPs will be re-confirmed via email from the Technology Policy team. Credentialed members of the press will receive instructions as part of a separate confirmation issued by the Office of External Relations. For more information, contact wcrumpler@csis.org.

In November 2018, the Department of Justice unveiled the China Initiative, which was established to fulfill the Department’s strategic priority of confronting national security threats presented by the People’s Republic of China, with a particular emphasis placed on the policies and practices that seek to challenge U.S. technological and scientific leadership. This half-day event brings together high-level officials from the U.S. government, private industry and academia, to discuss the most timely and relevant issues regarding the Department of Justice’s efforts to counter this economic malfeasance.

8:00 am — Welcome by James Lewis, CSIS, and John Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security

8:05 am — Opening remarks by Christopher Wray, FBI Director

8:25 am — Threat Briefing by William Evanina, Director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center

8:45 am — China case overview
Adam Hickey, Deputy Assistant Attorney General
John Brown, Assistant Director, Counterintelligence Division, FBI

Look Out, Silicon Valley: China Wants to Control Big Tech

by Mark Greeven

Chinese tech billionaire Jack Ma has allegedly fallen out with the Beijing government. Several recent articles reported that Ma offended the Chinese authorities by delivering a speech in Shanghai in October criticising financial regulation, and that he and his colleagues were called in for questioning.

The planned IPO of his financial services powerhouse, Ant Group, for over US$30 billion, was suddenly suspended. Antitrust investigations were instigated against his other major company, online retailer Alibaba (and also Chinese tech giant, Tencent).

Towards the end of the year, Ma then received a “rectification order” from the People’s Bank of China (PBoC), the central bank, outlining five ways in which Ant Group must comply with the regulator. To cap it all, the entrepreneur has reportedly not been seen in public since October.

Whatever the reality behind Ma’s government relations, many of these actions are part of steps to increase Chinese tech regulation that have been years in the making. After several decades of allowing experimentation by big tech companies, this is in fact overdue. Indeed, Ma almost asked for it himself when he mentioned in his October speech that China’s financial sector lacks regulation. The reforms may also provide a glimpse of what might happen elsewhere – Silicon Valley should take note.

China Is Already Using the Storming of the US Capitol for Propaganda

By Shannon Tiezzi

On January 7, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying tweeted, without comment, a 2019 video entitled “Mobs storm Hong Kong’s Legislative Council.” The video shows black-clad, umbrella-wielding groups breaking glass doors to storm into Hong Kong’s legislative building, where they defaced the Hong Kong government seal and committed other acts of vandalism. The event occurred on July 1, 2019, during the height of Hong Kong’s anti-extradition bill protests

From her tweet alone, it wasn’t immediately apparent why Hua was bringing up events from a year and a half ago. But given the context, it’s safe to assume Hua was drawing an unspoken parallel between the break-in to LegCo in 2019 and the storming of the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, 2021. A pro-Trump protest, after hearing from President Donald Trump himself, turned into a violent mob, forcing their way into the Capitol in an attempt to prevent Congress from giving its ceremonial approval to President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election.

Hua’s comments in the January 7 press briefing made the Hong Kong-DC parallel explicit. Prompted by a question from a reporter asking for her thoughts on the comparison, Hua didn’t hold back:

The power of soil: How our precarious climate shaped the Arab Spring

Olivia Lazard

The history of the Middle East, and the recent teachings of the 2010-11 uprisings, highlight an important lesson: Ignore ecological integrity at your peril

In 149 BC, Marcus Porcius Cato - a politician, soldier and citizen dedicated to the study of agriculture - saw a major goal realised when Rome declared war on Carthage. When arguing for this in the senate, Cato brought with him an unlikely weapon: figs homegrown on enemy territory. 

The figs were a delicacy, a sign of Carthaginian prestige. Cato aimed to demonstrate that as an agricultural powerhouse, Carthage represented both a threat and an opportunity. Thanks to the quality of its soils, Carthage was becoming a trade hub and a military rival - and it therefore needed to be defeated. If victorious, Rome could use Carthaginian lands to feed its growing empire. And so the Third Punic War began, ending in 146 BC with the defeat of Carthage. 

Figs decided the fate of a civilisation whose ruins now lie in modern-day Tunis. This is a reminder that what is known today as Tunisia was once a lush, productive terroir that cradled a civilisation overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, at a time when civilisational power stemmed from soil. The ability to grow in abundance was equated with security, political institutionalisation and the beginnings of trade. It was intertwined with population growth, territorial expansion and cultural standing.
Lost habitats

Tech Companies Can’t Stay Out of National Security — Irrespective of What They Want

By Jacob Parakilas

Yesterday, egged on by outgoing President Donald Trump in person and via social media, a group of armed Trump supporters stormed the United States Capitol as Congress met to certify Joe Biden’s electoral victory. Amidst chaotic scenes, one woman died of a gunshot wound and three others from undisclosed medical emergencies, Congress was forced to evacuate to secure locations, and far-right figures were photographed briefly occupying the Senate chamber, Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office and other supposedly secure locations. But the occupation was eventually cleared by the Capitol Police and DC National Guard, Congress returned, and a day which began with the Democrats winning effective control of the Senate ended with the final certification of Joe Biden’s victory over Trump.

The smoke has not yet cleared, and the implications of what happened yesterday — the first forcible occupation of the Capitol since 1814 — will no doubt reverberate for years to come. But one key element of understanding what happened yesterday was the interface between the president, his supporters in the Capitol and the rest of the world watching, all mediated by social media.

The next normal arrives: Trends that will define 2021—and beyond

By Kevin Sneader and Shubham Singhal

Businesses have spent much of the past nine months scrambling to adapt to extraordinary circumstances. While the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic is not yet won, with a vaccine in sight, there is at least a faint light at the end of the tunnel—along with the hope that another train isn’t heading our way.

2021 will be the year of transition. Barring any unexpected catastrophes, individuals, businesses, and society can start to look forward to shaping their futures rather than just grinding through the present. The next normal is going to be different. It will not mean going back to the conditions that prevailed in 2019. Indeed, just as the terms “prewar” and “postwar” are commonly used to describe the 20th century, generations to come will likely discuss the pre-COVID-19 and post-COVID-19 eras.

2021 will be the year of transition. Barring any unexpected catastrophes, individuals, businesses, and society can start to look forward to shaping their futures rather than just grinding through the present.

In this article, we identify some of the trends that will shape the next normal. Then we discuss how they will affect the direction of the global economy, how business will adjust, and how society could be changed forever as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

How the COVID-19 crisis and the recovery are shaping the global economy

Snowden Warns Against Trump Social Media Ban

by Alan McLeod

While many breathed a collective sigh of relief when Trump’s social media bans were announced, Edward Snowden and other internet freedom advocates warned that the move sets a dangerous precedent.

NSA whistleblower and internet freedom advocate Edward Snowden has cautioned the public against celebrating President Trump’s recent social media ban. He wrote on Twitter:
I know a lot of folks in the comments [who] read this are like ‘YAAAAS,’ which, like - I get it. But imagine for a moment a world that exists for more than the next 13 days, and this becomes a milestone that will endure

Can Regulation Douse Populism’s Online Fires?


The storming of the U.S. Capitol should not come as a surprise to those who have been tracking the impact of social media on activism and political campaigning. The same tools that enabled Barack Obama to reach out to young voters in 2008, Narendra Modi to woo and mesmerize India in 2014, and activists to launch Egypt’s “We Are All Khaled Said” campaign during the Arab Spring have played a critical role in enabling the fostering of hatred that is now shaking up countries. What has happened in the United States can happen anywhere in the world, and many democratic countries are sitting on a tinderbox.

The political actors who actually benefit from manufacturing hate for political benefit are unlikely to disappear. The solution may lie in regulating the medium, not the messenger. Manufacturing hate relies on political actors like Donald Trump—who are always in campaign mode, even in government—drip-feeding new narratives to change mindsets, play on insecurities, and dehumanize “the other.” Alongside true believers, many politicians employ bots, fake accounts, and paid users to spread political messaging across social media platforms, amplified by algorithms designed to value high engagement metrics.

In 2018, U.N. investigators called out Facebook’s “determining role” in enabling Myanmar’s genocide against Rohingyas, saying that the platform had turned into a beast. While Facebook could take refuge then in the excuse that it didn’t have adequate moderators who knew the language and context, the violence is now taking place in its own backyard: the United States.

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.”

After the first objection to the official count of Electoral College votes in Arizona, Ted Cruz, the junior Republican senator from Texas, rose to declare that the convening of Congress to certify Joe Biden’s election was taking place “at a moment of great division, at a moment of great passion.” Then, in a swift instant, security agents whisked McConnell, Cruz and other lawmakers off the floor of the Senate and the House of Representatives as Trump’s rioters breached the Capitol. A mob soon tried to bust down the door leading to the House chamber, where Democrats and Republicans had also been debating whether to move forward with acknowledging the truths of some 159 million votes cast.

The Meddlers Moscow’s and Washington’s Covert Campaigns

By Angela Stent

In 1864, the Russian poet Fyodor Tyutchev wrote that “Russia’s only natural policy toward the West must be to seek not an alliance with the Western powers but their disunity and division.” In the decades that followed, Russian and Soviet leaders heeded that advice. A century and a half later, the United States is still grappling with the aftermath of Russia’s attempts to amplify and benefit from divisions within American society during the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign. As a result of that interference, which Moscow reprised to a lesser extent in the 2020 campaign, Russia has become a toxic issue in American politics, to a degree not seen since the McCarthy era. 

Unlike Chinese election meddling, which appears designed to influence U.S. policy toward Beijing, the Kremlin’s schemes have a more diffuse aim: to sap Americans’ trust in their democracy and to magnify the already dramatic polarization

Do tactical nukes break international law?

By Jaroslav Krasny

In the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, the Trump Administration announced its intention to expand the US nuclear arsenal under the doctrine of so-called “flexible deterrence,” including a tactical nuclear weapons upgrade. The administration claimed that even if these nuclear weapons were detonated on the high seas or in airbursts, they would still be in compliance with the principles of the law of armed conflict—as long as they were deployed against military objectives.

But their arguments disregard the physical consequences of such weapons use on combatants. Even the limited use of a low-yield nuclear device would violate the customary principles of the law of armed conflict and be contrary to the principle of the “prohibition of weapons of a nature to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering.” This can be seen by examining the medical data regarding Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors. By analyzing long-term health effects, we can see that even tactical, low-yield, nuclear weapons would demonstrably inflict unnecessary injury, breaching a fundamental principle of the law of war.

But first, some background.

Some context. The international community has already expressed grave concern that the recent deployment of a low-yield warhead on submarine-launched ballistic missiles has radically lowered the nuclear threshold. With this in mind, the question that follows is: “Could the tactical use of low-yield nuclear weapons be lawful on today’s battlefield?”

What Happened to Social Mobility in America?

By Branko Milanovic

Economists from Adam Smith to Joseph Schumpeter have long defined capitalism by the existence of two classes: one that earns its income through labor and the other whose income derives from property. Some economic thinkers, notably Karl Marx, saw the relationship between these classes as necessarily antagonistic and leading to conflict. Others, such as Frédéric Bastiat in France and John Bates Clark in the United States, viewed the classes as collaborating toward the greatest possible output. But none doubted that these two large groups of people existed or that they differed from each other.

But the past 40 years have produced a profound change in that dichotomous picture. In the “new”—or, as I have called it in my book Capitalism, Alone, liberal—capitalism, and especially in the United States, an increasing percentage of people are rich in terms of both labor and capital incomes. I called this phenomenon “

Profound Rebuilding Needed to Shore Up U.S. Democracy


A mob, egged on by a presidential speech earlier in the day, breached the U.S. Capitol, spun in the president of the Senate’s chair, and sent members of Congress running for safety, some in gas masks. Its goal was to stop a peaceful transition of power by upending the certification of election results. These acts were hardly spontaneous, but rather emerged from a series of rallies of white supremacists, conspiracy theorists, militias, and Trump supporters who believe that the election was stolen.

This is the United States of America in January 2021. Its problems are typically blamed on the country’s immense polarization—and that’s true. But it’s not the whole story. The United States is stretched to near-breaking by partisan polarization (though not by left-right ideology). Yet the nation is simultaneously dealing with a Republican Party that is increasingly captured by a faction willing to undermine democracy itself. Each development is problematic, but they are particularly combustible in combination. We’ll have to first look at them separately to understand how they work together.


It’s not news that the United States is facing severe partisan polarization. But this polarization is not primarily about policies. In fact, a majority of Americans agree on the broad strokes of abortion, immigration, and gun legislation. Instead, U.S. citizens have grown to hate and fear the other side and cleave to their own party, with only a minimal relationship to the policies each side embodies—an emotional tribalism known as affective polarization.

The Conflict in Ethiopia Calls Into Question Authoritarian Aid


The European Democracy Hub is a joint initiative of Carnegie Europe and the European Partnership for Democracy that brings together practitioners and academics to provide policy-relevant analysis on external EU democracy support and democracy trends within Europe. It aims to act as a focal point for work on democracy, drawing on research to generate ideas for democracy support and democratic renewal.

The conflict in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region is a tragedy for the citizens caught up in the fighting. It also threatens to destabilize the country’s economic and political system for years to come. Compared with these catastrophes, the implications of the war for the model of authoritarian development promoted by the Ethiopian government over the last two decades pale in significance. But these effects are nonetheless likely to be profound and may lead to a recalibration of international aid models.

In recent years, the impressive economic performances of Ethiopia and Rwanda have meant that international donors have become increasingly willing to fund authoritarian regimes in Africa on the basis that they deliver on development. Beyond the obvious concern that donors become complicit in human rights violations, the main question facing authoritarian development in Africa has always been whether the economic gains achieved under repressive rule are sustainable. Critics of this model worried that sooner or later, exclusionary political systems would face major challenges from marginalized groups and individuals, and that these challenges could undermine development plans. Recent events in Ethiopia suggest that these fears were well founded and will lead to greater scrutiny of the decisions made by so many donors to pump so much funding into authoritarian states.

The U.S. Failed to Execute Its Cyberstrategy—and Russia Pounced

By Rob Knake

Last month, the cybersecurity firm FireEye alerted the U.S. government that hackers had breached its defenses and accessed the networks of its clients, which include numerous U.S. federal agencies and major corporations. Since then, U.S. investigators have unearthed evidence of an enormous, months-long foreign hacking campaign that gained access to the networks of at least 18,000 companies and government entities through a weak link in their supply chains: a piece of management software produced by the Texas-based company SolarWinds. Analysts are still investigating the exact source of the hack, but all evidence points to the Russian external intelligence agency known as the SVR.

Russia appears to have easily evaded U.S. cyberdefenses. At least six U.S. federal agencies failed to detect the malicious activity on their networks. Among them were the Department of Commerce, the Department of Energy, and the Department of State. The Department of Homeland

Britain Can Help Biden Preserve U.S. Interest in Europe

by Azeem Ibrahim

Joe Biden has long been a vocal critic of Brexit, and favored mediating America’s relationship with Europe through Paris and Berlin, rather than through London. And with London now entirely out of the European Union, it would appear they would have less relevance in Washington’s designs for Europe than ever before. But London may yet end up having to be our conduit to Europe by default. 

The newly agreed (yet to be ratified) Investment Agreement between Brussels and Beijing shows us why. The political dynamics and geopolitical positioning of the European Union will continue to be dominated by Paris and Berlin for the foreseeable future. In this duopoly, France will always be, as it always has been since World War II, the voice arguing for strategic independence and military and economic self-sufficiency for Europe from the United States. And up until now, Germany was the committed Atlanticist who would temper that instinct in favor of continued friendship and cooperation, economic and political, with Washington.

Turkey’s Frantic Gold Rush Points to a Financial Crisis Ahead

by Aykan Erdemir John Lechner

The Turkish lira, which lost 20 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar last year, was one of the worst-performing currencies in the world in 2020. Foreign currency reserves nosedived deep into the red if one accounts for Ankara’s liabilities to local banks. And economy czar Berat Albayrak—son-in-law of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan—hasn’t been seen in public since he resigned via Instagram on Nov. 8.

But an even better gauge of this slow-rolling economic crisis is the Turks’ frantic rush for gold. Since last year, Turkish firms and retail investors almost tripled their gold holdings to $36 billion. This is in addition to the 3,000 to 5,000 metric tons of the metal they keep at home, worth between $186 billion to $310 billion at current market prices. The rush to import gold to meet skyrocketing demand has wreaked havoc on Turkey’s trade deficit, with the January-November shortfall widening to $45 billion, nearly doubling compared to last year.

Seasoned by prior episodes of hyperinflation, currency devaluation, and bank failures, which together destroyed fortunes overnight, Turkish citizens have developed an uncanny sense for risks ahead. In fact, the Turkish public’s turn to gold may offer a better indicator of stress in the financial system than the usual macroeconomic indicators, which can predict the system’s trajectory, but not exact timing.

How disinformation evolved in 2020

Josh A. Goldstein and Shelby Grossman

In 2019, and again in 2020, Facebook removed covert social media influence operations that targeted Libya and were linked to the Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin. The campaigns—the first exposed in October 2019, the second in December 2020—shared several tactics: Both created Facebook pages masquerading as independent media outlets and posted political cartoons. But by December 2020, the operatives linked to Prigozhin had updated their toolkit: This time, one media outlet involved in the operation had an on-the-ground presence, with branded merchandise and a daily podcast.

Between 2018 and 2020, Facebook and Twitter announced that they had taken down 147 influence operations in total, according to our examination of their public announcements of disinformation takedowns during that time period. Facebook describes such operations as “coordinated inauthentic behavior,” and Twitter dubs them “state-backed information operations.” Our investigation of these takedowns revealed that in 2020 disinformation actors stuck with some tried and true strategies, but also evolved in important ways, often in response to social media platform detection strategies. Political actors are increasingly outsourcing their disinformation work to third-party PR and marketing firms and using AI-generated profile pictures. Platforms have changed too, more frequently attributing takedowns to specific actors.

Here are our five takeaways on how online disinformation campaigns and platform responses changed in 2020, and how they didn’t.

Cyber Stability, Conflict Prevention, and Capacity Building

This commentary is an adaptation of remarks delivered before the UN Security Council.

I thank Estonia for this opportunity to speak before the Security Council. International attention on cybersecurity has increased dramatically in recent years as cyberspace has become a central global infrastructure. This enables development and growth but also provides expanding opportunities for conflict and crime. States have recognized the importance of cyberspace, and with it, the need for global cooperation to make it more stable and secure. The United Nations plays a central role, since states are those responsible for the most damaging and destabilizing malicious acts. This can be determined by a simple tallying of major incidents. This gives the United Nations a central role in addressing the problem of trust and security, and it highlights the importance of the UN framework for responsible state behavior created in 2015.

The core of this agreed framework is the norms described in the 2015 Report of the UN Group of Governmental Experts, the GGE. Norms are understandings among states on practices that identify and guide appropriate behavior. Norms define the international obligations that states have accepted. Norms are not “implemented.” They are observed. How countries choose to observe norms varies with national practice and national law and policy. Today’s discussion provides an opportunity to accelerate global adoption and observation of these UN norms.

Toward International Agreement

Defense Department must determine the threat from quantum computers

Andrew Eversden

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Defense must determine the national security threat posed by quantum computing, as part of the new annual defense policy law.

The fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, which became law New Year’s Day after the Senate overrode President Donald Trump’s veto, contained a provision that directed the department to deliver a report to Congress that provides a “comprehensive assessment of the current and potential threats and risks posed by quantum computing technologies to critical national security systems.”

“[Cryptology] is ... the backbone of much of our security,” said Joël Alwen, chief cryptographer at Wickr, a secure collaboration platform.

Powerful quantum computers pose a danger to national security because they may be able to break current encryption capabilities, meaning secure communications under current systems will be nearly impossible. On the flip side, adversaries with quantum capabilities will be able to communicate securely without fear of interception by the U.S., unless it achieves its own quantum computer.

“Quantum computing may allow adversaries to decrypt [unclassified, classified or sensitive] information, which could enable them to target U.S. personnel and military operations,” a November Congressional Research Service report warned.

How the U.S. Military Wants to Kill Enemy Mini-Drone Swarms

by Kris Osborn

There is little point in engineering large numbers of swarming, armed, high-tech drones to support fighter jets, ground troops, and Navy ships unless they are fully networked and upgradeable. 

Such is the thinking when it comes to the Pentagon’s new U.S. Department of Defense Counter-Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Strategy (C-sUAS) which, among many things, calls upon a need for common technical standards such that new generations of weapons, sensors and software can be added as they emerge. 

“As we upgrade current C-sUAS capabilities and develop future solutions that will be employed across all operating environments, our systems must share a common architecture and be both complementary and interoperable,” the report writes. 

An ability to perform software, hardware, weapons, and sensor upgrades are of great relevance given the pace of technical change. Newer form factors and higher resolution sensors are fast-enabling smaller drones to operate at ranges and with levels of image resolution historically unique to larger platforms. Hardware miniaturization is packing much more technical power into smaller platforms, yet software standards and common IP protocol can implement a common technical infrastructure such that changes can be made quickly to operational effectiveness.