10 February 2021

‘Anonymous’ author’s paper on US’ China strategy makes a buzz, has sharp message for India


There’s really no lack of Hollywood-style drama these days. It was apparent recently when an anonymous policy paper on China called ‘The Longer Telegram’ emerged from within the US (retired) officialdom. That’s a calculated reference to an 8,000-word telegram by then American Charge d’ Affairs George Kennan in 1946, which became the basis for the policy of containment of the Soviet Union for more than four decades. This one could last about that long, if it is followed in full. It might not. Some aspects will stick in the gullets of those who were suckled by the ‘Soviet threat’.

Kennan’s paper was published anonymously in Foreign Affairs in 1947 and created a sensation. This one has been published by the Atlantic Council, and is likely to be equally central in setting the stage for US policy on China for this decade at the very least. Take a copy of this and keep it safe. It’s going to be important.

It gets even more interesting. In his first week in the White House, President Joe Biden may already have followed some of its central precepts. Then there is what the paper says, or doesn’t say, on India, even as our own erudite Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar delivered his own limited ‘‘strategy’’ against China. One is a tome; the other a diplomatic wish list.

First, Jaishankar’s ‘propositions’ on how to stabilise a relationship gone bad are, in all fairness, not a strategy — though the Narendra Modi government badly needs one — but a message to Beijing.

China still ‘largest source of critical items’ for India

Ananth Krishnan

India is working on a multi-pronged strategy to reduce this reliance.

China still remains the largest source of critical imports for India, from mobile phone components to pharmaceutical ingredients, and India is working on a multi-pronged strategy to reduce this reliance, which is a bigger concern than the imbalance in trade.

“The trade deficit is not in dollars, it is in overdependence,” said Sanjay Chadha, Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, speaking at the All India Conference of China Studies (AICCS), organised by the Institute of Chinese Studies (ICS) Delhi and Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT-M).

“A mobile phone requires 85% content coming from one country. If China were to stop the active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) for penicillin, we would not be able to produce it in this country. When somebody controls your production, that is a sentiment which raises concern.”
PLI scheme

Mr. Chadha said that India was working on a multi-pronged strategy to reduce this dependence, ranging from the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme to boost domestic manufacturing, a global effort involving India’s foreign missions to find alternatives to China, and the use of free trade agreements (FTAs) with other trading partners.

COVID-19 had helped accelerate this change. When production in China was hit early in 2020, although its economy would recover by the summer and become the only major economy to avoid contraction last year, India shared with its foreign missions lists of items critically dependent on China, following which the missions linked up with suppliers in their countries.

China Gifts Pakistan 1.2 Million COVID-19 Vaccine Doses

By Eleanor Albert

Early this week, Pakistan received half a million doses of China’s Sinopharm shots, the first destination of Beijing’s gifted vaccine. This donation marked China’s first vaccine aid sent overseas. Thirteen other countries (Belarus, Brunei, Cambodia, Equatorial Guinea, Laos, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Palestine, Sierra Leone, and Zimbabwe) were also among the recipients of Chinese vaccine aid, with several dozen other developing countries slated to be given Chinese vaccines at a later date, though without a specific timetable.

Pakistan secured 1.2 million doses from Sinopharm and the country’s health minister also confirmed that the country will receive 17 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine in the year (6 million of those are expected in March). Both vaccines received emergency use approval in January. Meanwhile, another Chinese vaccine producer, CanSino Biologics, launched part of its phase III clinical trials for its COVID-19 vaccine candidate in Pakistan in September, along with participants in six other countries.

As of February 3, Pakistan had seen more than 549,000 cases and 11,800 deaths from coronavirus, according to government data, though the country’s testing may not reflect the reality and strains on hospital and healthcare infrastructure. The government’s response to the second wave has been criticized. An editorial in Dawn, a prominent Pakistani newspaper, wrote: “[A] far cry from the success story during the first peak, Pakistan is hurtling towards an abyss as it sleepwalks its way into a crisis that could see its healthcare system collapse.”

Why Joe Biden Should Keep U.S. Troops in Afghanistan

by Rafi Batekh

There are five national security reasons why the United States should keep a strong residual force in Afghanistan. There is also an important moral argument for why America should not abandon the Afghan people and leave them in the clutches of the world’s most savage terrorists. In a highly controversial withdrawal deal signed in February 2020 between the Trump administration and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, U.S. troops are to be fully withdrawn from Afghanistan by May 2021. Such a premature withdrawal will trigger a chain of events that will ultimately expose the U.S. homeland to major terrorist attacks.

As of December 2020, there was a bare minimum of 4,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. They had specific, limited missions: to fight global terror; prevent safe havens for Al-Qaida; stop terror attacks on the U.S. homeland; and train, assist and mentor Afghan Security Forces partners. In his final days as president, Donald Trump ordered the withdrawal of 2,500 of those troops and left in place a plan to fully withdraw the remaining troops despite Congress passing a new U.S. law prohibiting such a drawdown. The withdrawal decision was made in a slapdash manner without any strategic thought, foresight or deliberation. President Joe Biden should reverse that order and revise the Doha deal for the following reasons:

1. Withdrawal Emboldens Global Terror

Myanmar’s Struggle for Democracy Was Never Just About Aung San Suu Kyi

Frida Ghitis 

When news started filtering out of Myanmar that the internet was dropping, troops were patrolling the streets of major cities, and Aung San Suu Kyi—the country’s civilian leader, who was once viewed in the West as a hero of democracy—had been taken into custody, the situation posed a quandary. Burma, as the country is also known, was in the midst of a coup. But how should the world respond?

A decade ago, Suu Kyi was a shining star. But today, she is known as a defender of ethnic cleansing and perhaps even genocide. Should democracies forcefully demand her release, or should their reaction be more muted in view of her recent defense of appalling actions by the military in the government she led, if not completely controlled?

The 3 Pillars of Chinese Foreign Policy: The State, the Party, the People

By Connor Fiddler

During the Cold War, the American foreign policy establishment had to develop comprehensive mechanisms to counter Soviet influence campaigns. Not only did the United States need a robust State Department to engage in traditional state-centric diplomacy, but also sophisticated intelligence-gathering networks, global military strategies, and long-term soft power operations. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, countries have primarily reoriented their diplomatic energies back to a traditional state-centric approach. Today, this is chiefly where the United States remains. However, in the face of a rising China, the United States and its allies need to develop a more nuanced approach to interacting with Chinese foreign policy.

The aim of Chinese foreign policy is to help secure and legitimize one-party rule in China. They have three leading institutions to promote that goal: the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the International Liaison Department, and the United Front Work Department. Each plays a unique role in supporting the longevity of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The State

Israel Rejects US Plan To Inspect Chinese Harbor At Haifa


TEL AVIV: Israel has refused an American request to inspect the new Chinese-built Haifa port that will be operated for the next 25 years by SIPG, a Chinese company. This is being seen in both countries as a test case of Israel’s relationship with China and with the United States.

Israeli officials declined to comment on the story, first reported by the Israeli daily newspaper, Haaretz.

The domestic political chaos here has pushed the issue onto the backburner. But after the March elections — the fourth in less than two years — the new government must deal with the problem.

Sources here say the Biden administration will raise the issue again. President Biden has not yet called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; he has called many other world leaders.

The White House was asked about it and offered a very vague statement when asked about this: “We have a long and abiding relationship with Israel, an important security relationship, I’m sure they’ll discuss that and a range of issues when they do connect,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said today.

A Sharper Approach to China’s Military-Civil Fusion Strategy Begins by Dispelling Myths


The U.S. senators who found time to ask Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen about China’s military-civil fusion showed how widespread have become concerns about Beijing’s efforts to blur the lines between the country’s military and civilian entities. But the Trump administration’s oft-hyperbolic messaging about MCF has given rise to myths and several misperceptions. To confront the threat appropriately, the Biden administration will need a more sophisticated understanding of this strategy—and that will require separating facts from fictions.

Make no mistake: the concerns are legitimate. Amid Beijing’s drive to create a world-class military, Chinese companies have, on several occasions, acquired sensitive technology and stealthily transferred it to the country’s military. But the problem is also misunderstood or mischaracterized, such as when the Trump administration tried to ban TikTok, the Chinese social media platform, in part for being an “active” participant in MCF — but could produce scant evidence of national security harm.

First, MCF is not an invention of Xi Jinping. While it can be tempting to view MCF as another manifestation of Xi’s China—which has been marked by growing repression and state control—MCF builds upon decades of efforts to attract private companies to defense research and procurement. These past initiatives achieved, at best, limited success, demonstrating the difficulty of achieving true “fusion” in practice.

The United States and China Need to Cooperate—for the Planet’s Sake


Last month, in one of his first actions as president, Joe Biden signed an executive order recommitting the United States to the Paris Agreement on climate change. The week after that, Biden signed another order taking further steps toward domestic action and international engagement on the issue. Among other things, that order formally established a White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy and set a date for a global climate summit to be held on Earth Day in April. These moves follow on the heels of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s pledge to achieve carbon neutrality before 2060 and position the world’s leading global powers for a new era of diplomacy, one where climate change can play an increasingly important role.

“Obviously we have some very serious differences with China on some very, very important issues,” said John Kerry, Biden’s special envoy for climate change, last Wednesday. “But climate is a critical standalone issue that we have to deal on,” he added. But the next day in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian argued that climate issues can’t be separated from the overall state of the two countries’ relationship, saying “unlike flowers that can bloom in a greenhouse despite winter chill, (any such cooperation) is closely linked with bilateral relations as a whole.” Public opinion in the United States, however, suggests otherwise. And thankfully many outside of the Chinese foreign ministry believe so too.

The Legal Aspects of Banning Chinese Drone Technology

By Gary Corn 

In 2020, Chinese drone manufacturer and market-dominant Dajiang Innovations (DJI) donated at least 100 of its small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to more than 40 U.S. law enforcement and public safety departments and agencies across 22 states. DJI made the donations as part of what it calls its Disaster Relief Program, established in late 2019 to enhance the emergency response capabilities of public safety agencies. The goal of these specific donations, according to DJI, was to help with the monitoring of public health issues in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic—on its face, at least, a laudable goal.

But DJI’s donations reignited lingering questions about the risks of Chinese drone technology. These debates are just the tip of the larger clash developing between the U.S. and China over technology. These debates are just the tip of the iceberg of the technological battles developing between the U.S. and China, with various assertions of security and privacy vulnerabilities floating just below the surface and legal implications looming large underneath.

Not surprisingly, the beneficiaries of these gifts from DJI were all too willing to accept them. Programs like Drone as First Responder, where U.S. police departments send out drones in advance of officers to respond rapidly and gain critical situational awareness, are popping up around the country with growing frequency. And there is no doubt that small UAVs can be a force multiplier for law enforcement and first responders.

Macron: EU shouldn’t gang up on China with US


PARIS — The EU shouldn’t gang up on China with the U.S. even if it stands closer to Washington by virtue of shared values, according to French President Emmanuel Macron.

“A situation to join all together against China, this is a scenario of the highest possible conflictuality. This one, for me, is counterproductive,” Macron said, speaking in English, during a discussion broadcast by Washington-based think tank the Atlantic Council on Thursday.

This kind of common front against China — as other European leaders have advocated given the new Biden administration's revived openness to traditional alliances — risks pushing Beijing to lower its cooperation on issues like combatting climate change, and exacerbating its aggressive behavior in Asia, including in the South China Sea, according to the French president.

Macron also said “the coming semesters will be very critical for Chinese leaders and China,” given the Biden administration’s reengagement in multilateral frameworks like the World Health Organization.

“As the U.S. is reengaging itself, what will be the behavior of China?” Macron asked.

He pitched, once again, holding a summit of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — China, France, the U.S., U.K. and Russia. He had tried to hold such a summit in 2020 but it had fallen prey to Sino-American tensions and never materialized.

Chinese COVID-19 Misinformation A Year Later

By: Elizabeth Chen


On January 28, members of an international team led by the World Health Organization (WHO) concluded fourteen days of quarantine and began field work in Wuhan, China for a mission aimed at investigating the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. As of the time of writing, the team had made visits to the Hubei Center for Disease Control and Prevention; the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) and the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. State media also reported that the WHO team visited “an exhibition featuring Chinese people fighting the epidemic,” raising concerns that the trip could prove to be little more than a public relations move even as the origins of the coronavirus remain heavily politicized and uncertain (Global Times, January 31). Foreign experts have worried about whether the WHO investigation will be sufficiently transparent or if investigators will be allowed adequate access to key locations and scientific data (SCMP, January 27). Apart from a “terms of reference” report and a list of WHO members released in November, further details on the WHO team’s trip have not been released.[1]

The WHO team’s research was politicized by an international debate over COVID-19’s origins even before it began work. Last year, U.S. government officials repeatedly gave credence to a so-called “lab leak hypothesis” culminating in the State Department’s release of a Fact Sheet on January 15, which gave previously undisclosed evidence for “illnesses inside the Wuhan Institute of Virology” and warned that “the CCP’s [Chinese Communist Party] deadly obsession with secrecy and control comes at the expense of public health in China and around the world (U.S. State Department, January 15). On the other side, officials and state media in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) have spread theories aimed at muddying the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic and countering criticisms of an official narrative that China’s response to the pandemic has been “open, transparent, and responsible” from the beginning.

Decade of patience: How China became a power in the Western Balkans

Vladimir Shopov

China has become the most prominent third actor in the Western Balkans.

The country’s activities are spread unevenly across the region, but they follow a common approach.

This approach is marked by China’s wide-ranging efforts to establish itself in key economic areas and to gradually position itself as an indispensable actor.

China is slowly transforming its interactions with Western Balkans countries in sectors such as culture, media, and politics into long-term and institutionalised relationships.

As European and US ambivalence towards the Western Balkans persists, the region will be in increasing danger of falling into an endless spiral of competition between various foreign actors.

Western policymakers should address the widening developmental gap between the region and the EU through initiatives such as targeted investment plans in energy and infrastructure, sectoral integration frameworks, and the frontloading of EU law in the accession process.


Israel's risky rhetoric on Iran

by Aaron David Miller and Richard Sokolsky

Aaron David Miller served as a State Department Middle East analyst, adviser and negotiator in Republican and Democratic administrations and is the author of "The End of Greatness: Why America Can't Have (and Doesn't Want) Another Great President." Richard Sokolsky, a non-resident senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, was a member of the Secretary of State's Policy Planning Office from 2005-2015. The opinions expressed here are their own. Read more opinion at CNN.

(CNN)Is Israel beating the war drums again for a military strike against Iran as the Biden administration tries to reengage Tehran on its nuclear program?

It might seem that way after listening to last week's warnings by Aviv Kochavi, the chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces -- and earlier comments delivered by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a speech in southern Israel: bury the 2015 multinational nuclear deal with Iran ... or else.
The warnings were directed at Washington, not Tehran: Do not reenter any accord with Iran that doesn't meet with Israel's approval. For now, a traditionally risk-averse Netanyahu, burdened with his own domestic headaches and said to be eager to avoid a blowup with President Joe Biden over Iran, isn't likely to attack in the near future. But if the Biden administration can't figure out a way to constrain Iran's nuclear program, an Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear sites, which could easily draw America in, may only be a matter of time.

Can the Minsk Group on the Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict Reinvent Itself? (Part Two)

By: Vladimir Socor

Russia, not the Minsk Group, will reinvent the Minsk Group, and is working on it (see Part One in EDM, January 28). The object is not the 12-nation Minsk Group Conference (this has been inactive since the mid-1990s), but its triple co-chairmanship of Russia, the United States and France, in which Russia seized the leading role from 2010 onward, ultimately to discard this setup through unilateral Russian action in November 2020. Usurping the Minsk Group’s collective mandate, the Kremlin unilaterally mediated the armistice between Armenia and Azerbaijan; and breaking that mandate, which had envisaged international peacekeeping, Russia deployed its own troops to Karabakh. The absentee Western players made it easy for Russia to fill the vacuum; and that made it inevitable for Azerbaijan and Armenia to accept, or even seek, Russia’s arbitration for lack of other options.

Western diplomacy failed yet again to counteract Russia’s method of working both within multilateral bodies (such as the Minsk Group) and around those bodies at the same time, using bilateral channels to circumvent the multilateral process.

In the next stage, Moscow intends to use the Minsk Group’s triple co-chairmanship to legitimize Russia’s faits accomplis on the ground. The Kremlin is prepared to let the co-chairs return to the region in support of Russia‘s initiatives. President Vladimir Putin, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabov continue briefing Washington and Paris about Moscow’s initiatives regarding Armenia and Azerbaijan. Those are basically post factum notifications of Russian actions; they are neither a trilateral negotiation among the co-chairs, nor the co-chairs’ mediation between Baku and Yerevan as per the group’s mandate. Such briefings amount to a pretense that the Minsk Group’s co-chairmanship continues to operate. Washington and Paris seem to go along, partly out of face-saving considerations and partly in the hopes of climbing back into the process. On January 30, in an interview with Dozhd TV, the US ambassador in Moscow, John Sullivan, said that such briefings are “yet another example of an area where the United States and France cooperate with the Russian government as Minsk Group co-chairs, and we wish to continue our cooperation” (RIA Novosti, January 30).

Air University Press

Journal of Military Conflict Transformation, February 2021, v. 2, no. 1

o The Changing World of Conflict Transformation: Negotiations Using Technology

o Developing and Implementing a Communication Plan to Internalize Organizational Change

o Leveraging Virtual Reality to Maximize Pre-deployment Cultural Awareness

o Army Leader Development for the Cross-Cultural Environment

o Negotiation Downrange

The Institutionalization of Crises

By George Friedman

About a year after the COVID-19 pandemic introduced its new rules of survival, my wife and I risked life and limb for the chance to travel. Having made reservations on an airline now shrunken and a hotel normally inaccessible at the time of year, we went to the airport, where as always we were asked if our bags had been in our possession at all times. Our carry-ons were X-rayed as always, and I was asked to remove my belt for visual inspection. Everyone has been doing this since 9/11, and most of us are past the point of noticing how unseemly the pat-down process is. I also wore a mask and was asked to keep my distance from others going through the process. In 2001, I was forbidden to travel with a knife, today with a fever. After 9/11, we looked with suspicion at others, wondering if they carried the instruments of our death. Today we look at our fellow passengers and wonder similarly.

Both crises carried the risk of death, albeit without an obvious solution, and we were forced to jury rig solutions on a global basis. I have gone through security at airports from Singapore to Frankfurt, that is until the pandemic created a problem that could not be X-rayed. 9/11 ushered in an era of threat that was seen as global, so the solution was global. Security check lines, conveyor belts and X-rays would make us safe from a global and invisible menace. Reasonable people bored in line could fantasize about ways to get around the x-ray and down a plane. The safety measures were necessary, and though they were imperfect, they worked. Or perhaps the destruction of al-Qaida and the Islamic State was the real solution. Or maybe they ran out of people capable of learning to fly a plane and willing to die for their beliefs.

The Air Force Should Assure Defenses Against Nuclear EMP Threats As It Seeks Electromagnetic Spectrum Superiority

By Norman M. Haller & Peter Pry

Air Force Chief General Charles Brown tweeted on January 27, 2021, “Let me be clear, the U.S. Air Force is committed to providing Electromagnetic Spectrum [EMS] superior Air Forces to achieve victory in all domain competitions and conflict.” That same day he acknowledged that the Air Force has been “asleep at the wheel” for the last 25 – 30 years when it comes to operations in the EMS. [1]

One Air Force element not asleep was the Air University, which formed an Electromagnetic Defense Task Force (EDTF … note “Defense”) that published an action-oriented report in 2018, including exhortations like “IT’S TIME FOR BOLD ACTION” and “In countering EMS challenges, some windows of opportunity needed to compete with our adversaries are closing. Meanwhile, EMS threats that have existed since the 1960s and earlier, such as nuclear-EMP [electromagnetic pulse] and geomagnetic storms, have regained prominence.” [2]

This paper (1) summarizes some key aspects of the EDTF’s 2018 report and a follow-on 2019 report, and (2) focuses on nuclear-EMP superiority through assured defensive measures.
EDTF Reports

Among the 2018 EDTF’s major issue areas were a range of military-related concerns. For example,

... military installations represent the vulnerable underbelly of the defense enterprise.

… even organizations like USSTRATCOM that have kept up with hardening requirements since the end of the Cold War might not meet mission challenges due to structural and system dependencies which rely on unhardened sources of electricity.

The people who let Putin get away with persecuting Navalny

By Garry Kasparov

Garry Kasparov is the chairman of the Renew Democracy Initiative and the Human Rights Foundation and a former world chess champion. The views expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion at CNN.

(CNN)The Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny was sentenced in Moscow on Tuesday to two and a half years of prison. His supposed crime was a probation violation committed while he was in a coma in Berlin after being poisoned by the same state security forces that have locked him up again.

It's pointless to talk about the details of the case. Not when Vladimir Putin is the only real judge, jury and, from time to time, executioner (which he denies). The dictator Putin has up till now avoided imprisoning Navalny for very long, although he has targeted Navalny's family, as any mafia boss would.

A spurious embezzlement conviction that led to Navalny's house arrest and his brother's jailing in 2014 was declared illegitimate and politically motivated by the European Court of Human Rights. Russia simply paid the fine, tried to kill Navalny, and now has imprisoned him again, highlighting how useless it is to allow dictatorships to participate in these international organizations. They lend legitimacy to Putin's regime without changing its behavior, while seeing their own credibility destroyed.

The only positive to come from Tuesday's mockery of justice was Navalny's impressive final statement to the court.

Brexit Is Probably the United Kingdom’s Death Knell


Ahundred years ago, Northern Ireland was established, and with it the current shape of the United Kingdom. That familiar form has survived World War II, the Troubles, and no fewer than three referendums on Scotland’s political status. But it may not survive Brexit, which has scrambled political allegiances and rekindled separatism in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Today, Brexit has placed unprecedented stress on the already fraying bonds between the United Kingdom’s four constituent countries, putting the union’s future in doubt.

The gravest and most immediate threat comes from Scotland, which headed off an independence referendum in 2014 but could hold a second one soon, thanks to the strength of the Scottish National Party (SNP). The party currently holds 47 of Scotland’s 59 seats in Westminster and a further 61 (four short of a majority) in Holyrood. Buoyed by the fallout from Brexit, the SNP is projected to win an outright majority in this year’s Scottish Parliament election, claiming a mandate for a second independence referendum in the process. The strong likelihood of a SNP majority in Scotland’s devolved Parliament should worry unionists; the last time it happened in 2011, an independence referendum followed just three years after.

Of course, any second independence referendum would have to run through Westminster, where Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised to “return to sender” any request to hold one. But that could soon change. Britain’s next general election is scheduled for 2024, and in the likelihood that neither Labour nor the Tories win a majority, the SNP will play kingmaker. Their price will be a second independence referendum. Labour leader Keir Starmer has ruled out any Labour-SNP coalition, but his calculus could change once faced with the prospect of a fifth consecutive Conservative government. The Tories’ Johnson has likewise ruled out any Conservative-SNP coalition, mindful that it could lead to Scotland’s departure. But the famously opportunistic Johnson has disappointed unionists before, and it’s not out of the question that he could again for political survival. What’s clear is that, whether after a landslide in this year’s elections for Scottish Parliament or after coalition talks at Westminster, the SNP is in due course to get its second referendum.

The new geopolitics of state fragility

Alexandre Marc and Bruce Jones

Over the course of the post-Cold War period, the Western powers have made increasing, albeit uneven, efforts to respond to the challenge of fragile states. For all the weakness of Western and multilateral policy, those efforts have helped reduce the levels of violence in most regions. Now, though, there is serious and sustained competition for influence in fragile states, and over fragile states policy, which has become an arena for geopolitical competition. Not all of the actions of the West’s competitors, notably China, are malign; but many are, and the overall effect of viewing fragile states through a geopolitical lens is likely to erode that limited progress has been made on stability and responsive governance.


In the post-Cold War period, Western nations increasingly focused their attention on the plight of so-called fragile states. With the Cold War behind it, the U.N. began engaging in civil wars and protracted internal conflicts, predominantly in fragile states. Under the auspices of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Western donors started re-orienting parts of their development portfolio towards addressing the plight of countries with fragile institutions and protracted political crises. Over time, organizations like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) saw a large increase in their support to countries torn by violence and stuck in poverty traps.

US Army Europe Wants New Hub for Artillery Fire


A “theatre fires command” could help find targets and direct long-range fire, and become a key part of tomorrow’s multi-domain operations in major conflicts, the chief of U.S. Army Europe said Wednesday.

Army Gen. Christopher Cavoli told an AUSA audience that he was “excited about proposals'' for a command hub that would find and keep tabs on targets during peacetime for use during war.

Army Gen. Christopher Cavoli, the head of U.S. Army Europe, said that he was “excited about proposals'' for what he called a “theatre fires command,” which would “develop and curate, hold custody of targets,” during peacetime and then fire on (or help artillery teams to fire on) those targets in the event of conflict. It would be part of a broader evolution to help the Army fight better on land and in the air and in cyberspace.

Last year’s Defender Europe exercise brought in a rapid reaction corps to practice for a large war in 2035. The event emphasized the importance of concepts like theatre fires commands and multi-domain task forces, Cavoli said.

Jailing Navalny May Be Putin’s Biggest Mistake

Candace Rondeaux 

During his 21 years in power, President Vladimir Putin has made a number of strategic missteps, but few will prove more consequential for him, his inner circle or indeed Russia itself than the jailing this week of anti-corruption crusader Alexei Navalny. As evidenced by wave after wave of protests across Russia since Navalny’s arrest upon his return to Moscow last month, the Kremlin’s harsh response has only provoked more Russians to take to the streets. It has also united the United States and its NATO allies after years of policy disarray on dealing with Moscow. Yet even now that minds in Washington and Brussels appear to be focused on imposing new costs on Russia, government officials and experts on both sides of the Atlantic are having trouble identifying pain points that will effectively put the squeeze on Putin’s autocracy.

There is little doubt that more sanctions are in the offing. But can they bring about a change in the Kremlin’s behavior? Navalny, and his team at the courageous Anti-Corruption Foundation in Moscow, last week proffered a new set of potential sanctions targets, naming 35 individuals who aid and abet Putin’s regime. Several sharp American observers and European analysts agree that, at a minimum, sanctions against Russia should be expanded, and most importantly applied to those implicated in Navalny’s poisoning last August with the chemical nerve agent Novichok. There is also debate about a so-called “nuclear option”—U.S. sanctions that would bar Western financial institutions from trading or holding Russia’s ruble-denominated government bonds.

Biden, Asia, and the Politics of Nuclear Arms Control


The Biden administration’s renewal of New START, the strategic arms reduction treaty between the United States and Russia, has drawn barely a yawn in Asia. That should surprise no one. Asia has long been marginal to a nuclear balance of power long defined by U.S. and Soviet (later Russian) arsenals.

It’s not just in Asia, of course, that interest in U.S.-Russian arms control has declined since the end of the Cold War. The sense of a perpetual confrontation between the two Cold War superpowers that could escalate into a nuclear catastrophe at a moment’s notice has eased. Even in Washington, nuclear arms control is no longer the all-consuming political preoccupation it once was. It is now a boutique issue in U.S. political discourse.

In Asia, the main strategic concern is about coping with China’s rapidly rising military power and Beijing’s demonstrated political will to deploy it to its advantage in the region. This overshadows any marginal Asian interest in U.S.-Russian arms control and sends an important message to the Biden administration: Nuclear arms are, at most, only a subset of a much larger strategic picture. And the strategic, political picture must precede arms control.

Although China has had nuclear missiles since 1964, its arsenal had little impact on the nuclear balance between the United States and the Soviet Union. Beijing also sensibly avoided playing the kind of nuclear numbers game into which Washington and Moscow were locked. Instead, China limited itself to a small, minimum deterrent that stayed in the low hundreds of warheads—even as Washington and Moscow built thousands of nuclear weapons.

How Turkey fits in regime-Kurdish showdown in Syria

Fehim Tastekin

The fragile ties between Damascus and the Kurdish-led autonomous administration in northern Syria have seen a dangerous escalation amid widespread anticipation that US support for the Syrian Kurds will grow after the change of guard at the White House. The two sides have sought to besiege one another in several areas in recent weeks, fueling deadly tensions and allegations of collusion between Damascus and Ankara.

In early January, government forces restricted the entry of commercial vehicles to Aleppo’s predominantly Kurdish neighborhoods of Sheikh Maqsoud and Ashrafiya as well as the nearby town of Tell Rifat and its environs, an area the Kurds call Shahba, Kurdish sources told Al-Monitor. The restrictions disrupted the supply of fuel and food, also affecting camps sheltering Kurdish refugees from Turkish-held Afrin.

The Kurds retaliated by encircling government-controlled pockets in Hasakah and Qamishli to the east. Mazlum Kobane, the head of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), accused government forces of blockading Kurdish-populated areas and arresting relatives of members of the SDF and the Kurdish police force Asayish. The Aleppo governor’s office rejected the accusations and denied shortages of basic goods in Kurdish areas.

On Jan. 27, one person was killed and several others injured as Kurdish security forces intervened to break up a pro-government protest in Hasakah. A pro-government militia responded by attacking an Asayish station amid mutual recriminations on who was responsible for the unrest.

Draghi and the Defense of Democracy


STANFORD – Mario Draghi, the European Central Bank’s former president, has been asked to form a government of national unity in Italy at a pivotal moment. Coming so soon after Joe Biden’s arrival in the White House, and with the impending retirement of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a Draghi premiership means that French President Emmanuel Macron will no longer cut such a forlorn figure in Europe when standing up for the West and democratic values.

Donald Trump’s one-term US presidency weakened those values, and the West remains saddled with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, “Britain’s Trump,” as well as a motley assortment of populist rulers in Hungary, Poland, Slovenia, and elsewhere. Given Draghi’s tested leadership skills and unquestioned fidelity to democratic norms, his arrival in the European Council may prove to be as important for the future of Europe and transatlantic relations as Merkel’s departure.

Facing external challenges like Russia and China and internal threats from its home-grown populists and authoritarians, a post-Merkel Europe needs leaders who are more in sync with the pro-democracy Biden administration. Having Draghi, who is very pro-American, join the European Union’s core leadership will go a long way toward achieving that.

Morality Poses the Biggest Risk to Military Integration of Artificial Intelligence

by John Austerman

Finding an effective balance between humans and artificial intelligence (AI) in defense systems will be the sticking point for any policy promoting the distancing from “humans in the loop.” Within this balance, we must accept some deviations when considering concepts such as the kill chain. How would a progression of policy look within a defense application? Addressing the political, technological, and legal boundaries of AI integration would allow the benefits of AI, notably speed, to be incorporated into the kill chain. Recently, former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter stated “We all accept that bad things can happen with machinery. What we don’t accept is when it happens amorally.” Certainly, humans will retain the override ability and accountability without exception. Leaders will be forever bound by the actions of AI guided weapon systems, perhaps no differently than they would be responsible for the actions of a service member in combat and upholding ethical standards of which the AI has yet to grasp.

The future of weapon systems will include AI guiding the selection of targets, information gathering and processing, and ultimately, delivering force as necessary. Domination on the battlefield will not be in traditional means, rather conflicts dominated by AI with competing algorithms. The normalcy of a human-dominated decisionmaking process does provide allowances for AI within the process, however, not in a meaningful way. At no point does artificial intelligence play a significant role in making actual decisions towards the determination of lethal actions. Clearly, the capability and technology supporting integration have far surpassed the tolerance of our elected officials. We must build confidence with them and the general public with a couple of fundamental steps.

The Future of Competition: U.S. Adversaries and the Growth of Irregular Warfare

“To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.”

– Sun Tzu

While conventional warfare—set-piece battles between large military forces—largely defined twentieth-century conflict between major powers, irregular warfare will likely define international politics over the next year and beyond. Countries like China, Russia, and Iran compete with the United States using irregular methods because conventional and nuclear warfare are far too costly. The tools of irregular warfare are not strategic bombers, main battle tanks, or infantry soldiers, but hackers, intelligence operatives, special operations forces, and private military companies that often operate in the shadows.

Unfortunately, the United States is woefully unprepared for this type of competition—both at home and abroad. U.S. government agencies and departments have erroneously focused too much on planning for conventional and nuclear war, including scenarios like nuclear exchanges and conventional wars in the Baltic states, Taiwan Strait, and South China Sea. Yet China, Russia, and Iran are daily—even hourly—targeting the United States at home and abroad using irregular means. One of the most recent examples was the massive cyberattack against as many as 250 U.S. government agencies and companies by the SVR, Russia’s foreign intelligence service.

The United States does not need to choose between conventional, nuclear, or irregular competition. All are important. Russia and China are developing conventional and nuclear military capabilities that pose a threat to the United States and its partners. But the challenge for the Biden administration will be to find an equilibrium between preparing for—and deterring—conventional, nuclear, and irregular warfare.
From Clausewitz to Sun Tzu

The Crypto Wars Are Over

The encryption debate, now in its third decade, still revolves around the issues of what kinds of encryption citizens can use and under what conditions law enforcement agencies can have access to encrypted messages. In the last year, the terms of debate have shifted significantly as an increasing number of individuals have downloaded messaging services like Signal or Telegram that provide end-to-end encryption services. It is too late to reel this back, absent draconian measures that are unlikely to win political support (lacking some horrific event linked to encryption use).

In thinking about this change, we should recognize that the discussion of encryption has achieved a mythological status, in the sense that much of it revolves around myth rather than fact. The myths include assertions that encryption protects privacy and civil liberties, or ensures cybersecurity, or that the government wants back doors. There are varying degrees of truth to these assertions, but none is truly accurate and none is a good guide to policy.

Everyone in government favors the use of encryption given its contributions to data protection. The issue has been what kind of encryption should be allowed and under what conditions government agencies can access encrypted data. The choices are between “end-to-end” or “recoverable” encryption. With recoverable encryption, a third party can provide access to unencrypted data (plaintext) without the user’s involvement or even knowledge. With end-to-end, only the sender and the recipient can easily access the data being transmitted. The attitudes of leading intelligence agencies toward end-to-end encryption suggest that while it is more difficult and expensive to obtain access, it can be done. That attitude is not shared by law enforcement agencies.

Prepping the US Military for Climate Change

By Jacob Parakilas

A few weeks ago, I was asked to contribute to a new Diplomat Risk Intelligence report examining a range of risk scenarios for the Biden administration in the Asia-Pacific over the coming years. The scenario I wrote about was a typhoon, strengthened by warmer waters, clobbering the Philippines and Taiwan. The disaster in this scenario was not merely humanitarian but also geopolitical: The storm strikes during a major PLA military exercise and causes significant damage to the Taiwanese Navy, leading to an urgent call for American aid.

The scenario is fiction. But the vulnerability to extreme weather is very real. In 2018, the main training base for the U.S. Air Force’s fleet of F-22 Raptors took a direct hit from Hurricane Michael, causing millions of dollars’ worth of damage. The 2011 tsunami flooded out an entire squadron of what were at the time Japan’s newest and most expensive fighter jets. And in 2019, Offutt Air Force Base – the command center that President George W. Bush was evacuated to on 9/11 – was inundated with floods following an increasingly common inland cyclones.

Extreme weather, of course, is not a new phenomenon. But a warming planet means more storms, bigger storms, and eroded coastlines that cannot provide the defense they once did against storm surges. And the vulnerability of military infrastructure to climate change-exacerbated storms is only one small dimension of the huge and growing climate crisis. In just the last 12 months we have seen the Australian and American militaries forced to urgently evacuate civilians from apocalyptic wildfires. And rising seas and temperatures are already destabilizing agricultural yields and displacing coastal populations, adding a huge, unpredictable, and profoundly damaging dynamic to geopolitics.

America Might Need to Rejoin TPP

By Erik Khzmalyan

Ever since President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in 2017, Washington has been engulfed in a contentious debate whether leaving the treaty was a geo-economic blunder or a necessary step to protect the American economy. Notwithstanding the benefits and pitfalls, TPP offered a viable alternative to China’s signature Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). While the US has taken bold measures to counter Beijing militarily, Washington still lacks a strategy that would offset China’s economic ambitions to advance Beijing’s geopolitical interests.

True, BRI may be overhyped and inherently risk-prone, thereby casting skepticism over the long-term sustainability of China’s foreign infrastructure projects. However, with no concrete American geo-economic regional policy, BRI is filling the space that Washington ceded following its withdrawal from TPP. In contrast, Beijing showcased its determination by incorporating BRI as a foreign policy objective into the Communist Party’s Constitution in 2017, making its relinquishment essentially illegal.

Furthermore, after years of meticulous negotiations China finalized the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a major trade deal involving 15 Asia-Pacific nations in November of 2020. To wrap up the year, Beijing cajoled the European Union into signing the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment in December of 2020, promising a greater access to the vast Chinese market. It remains to be seen whether these trade deals will live up to their full potential, but they surely display China’s growing global footprint.

Now that America is on an offensive to expose Beijing’s destabilizing behavior and its implications for regional security, Washington should not overlook the significance of free-trade agreements in Asia. By connecting mostly free-market economies in the region, TPP would become a bulwark against China’s commercial empire while creating a linkage between Washington’s military presence and the regional economic integration.