12 February 2021

More S-400 Trouble: Can Russia Sell High-Tech Defenses to Both China and India?

by Mark Episkopos

As the China-India conflict over the Himalayan Border continues to unfold, Russia’s arms exporters find themselves treading increasingly uncertain geopolitical ground.

Russia’s flagship missile defense system, the formidable S-400 Triumf quickly became one of Moscow’s most successful military hardware export products. The S-400’s market triumph came, in no small part, from a slew of contracts with the world’s biggest importers: among them, Turkey, India, and China. The former deal, inked in 2017, became the focal point of a crisis between Turkey and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization that eventually cost Ankara its place in the F-35 program. But the onset of China-India clashes along contested parts of the Himalayan border portends what could be a new S-400 scandal.

Beijing was the first foreign S-400 customer, placing an order for two regiments back in 2015. Piecemeal S-400 shipments to China began in early 2018, with initial fire tests occurring later that year. Also in 2018, India formalized a gargantuan $5.43 billion defense deal with Russia that included the delivery of five S-400 regiments. The S-400 shipments to India began in 2020.

The Coup in Myanmar: Why Now?

By Phillip Orchard

For Myanmar, a country where the military brass has called the shots for most of its modern history, this week’s putsch shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise. Military juntas and puppet governments have effectively ruled Myanmar for all but around 20 years since independence in 1948. And when it finally consented to a gradual transition to democracy beginning in 2008, the armed forces made sure they would never have to answer to anyone but themselves. Even after the military-backed party accepted its defeat in landmark 2015 elections with relative grace, it was hard to shake the feeling that the clock was ticking for Aung San Suu Kyi’s new government from the start.

And yet, when military chief Gen. Min Aung Hlaing announced yet another takeover Monday, overturning the Suu Kyi-led National League for Democracy’s second consecutive landslide win in November elections and imposing at least a yearlong state of emergency, it was indeed something of a head-scratcher. That’s partly because the military never actually ceded full power to the civilian government, and it’s hard to see how its core interests could be threatened by a second NLD term. More confounding, the military’s original motivation to relax its grip on power was driven somewhat by shifts still underway in Myanmar’s external environment that were making the country’s near-total isolation from the West untenable. It seemed, in short, that the country had finally found an internal power structure and a strategic rationale needed for a semblance of democracy to flourish. So what’s changed?

Made for Instability

The Military Coup in Myanmar: Back to the ‘Normality’ of Autocracy?

Cecilia Ducci and Pak K. Lee

On 1 February, Myanmar’s Tatmadaw (Myanmar’s armed forces) launched a coup d’état to detain the de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other politicians, including President Win Myint, and declared a state of emergency for a year. The military’s seizure of power represents a major setback in the country’s gradual democratisation which, beginning in 2011, has allowed the National League for Democracy (NLD) to win a majority of seats in the Parliament in 2015 and to run the country. Myanmar’s parliament has two houses. The upper House of Nationalities (Amyotha Hluttaw) has 224 seats and the lower House of Representatives (Pyithu Hluttaw) has 440 seats. The military retains 25% of the seats in each of the two houses, according to the 2008 Constitution. Only 498 seats are open for competition. The NLD obtained 370 seats (135 and 235 seats in the upper and lower houses respectively) in 2015. It won a landslide victory in the November 2020 general elections, taking 396 seats (138 seats from the upper house and 258 seats from the lower one). This victory was even larger than the 2015 one. The pro-military Union Solidarity and Developmental Party (USDP) only managed to secure 33 seats (7 and 26 in the upper and lower house respectively).

Despite the NLD’s success, the Tatmadaw still maintains a firm grip on the political system, with the control of the key ministries of defence, home affairs and border affairs. Although in the last few years the NLD and its leader Suu Kyi has proposed amendments to the Constitution to reduce the number of seats allocated to the military, such a constitutional change never succeeds because the Constitution stipulates that an amendment to the Constitution requires the approval of more than 75% of the MPs. With 25% of the lawmakers assigned by it plus the presence of USDP, the Tatmadaw is wielding effective veto on any political changes.

To understand the logic behind the coup, we need to consider what the Tatmadaw would likely lose if they did not take over the government. Given the fraying relations between the NLD and the Tatmadaw over the constitutional changes – rumour has it that Suu Kyi and Senior General Min Aung Hlaing have not been in talks for at least a year – there are grounds for speculating that the newly re-elected civilian government would take steps to reduce the entrenchment of the military not only in politics, but also in the economy. Min Aung Hlaing was supposed to retire five years ago. Then, the retirement age for his position was revised from 60 to 65. Even so, he was anticipated to step down this year. The direct prompt for this coup might be that Min Aung Hlaing failed to reach any accord or compromise with the civilian government over the army’s (or his and his clients’) overwhelming control over the economy. The Tatmadaw not only operates two business conglomerates but also has close ties with state-owned enterprises and large private firms in the country. It might also speculate that backlash from the West would only be moderate because of Suu Kyi’s fall from grace in the West due to her defence of the Tatmadaw in relation to the alleged genocide against the Rohingya, as well as the West’s preoccupation with fighting against the pandemic.

Democracy Must Be Defended: Reflecting on Myanmar’s Coup

Patrick Vernon

On 1 February 2021, alleging election fraud in the November 2020 election, the Burmese military (Tatmadaw) seized control of power, arresting Aung San Suu Kyi and spelling the end of a period of democratic government since 2011 (BBC News, 2021b). In the immediate wake of the coup, the Tatmadaw has come under intense criticism from the US, with newly inaugurated President Joe Biden indicating that sanctions could be reinstated and that the US is noting which countries “…stand with the people of Burma in this difficult hour” (Biden, 2021). Furthermore, the G7 and the EU have also been extremely quick to issue a joint statement condemning the coup as an unacceptable affront to democracy in Myanmar (UK Government, 2021). Whilst China has vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the coup (BBC News, 2021a), the quick response from Western leaders and threats of economic sanctions are notable in two key ways. Firstly, this immediate outpouring of criticism and calls for quick action stands in stark contrast to the international community’s slow response in criticising genocidal violence against Rohingya Muslims, which has displaced over 725,000 people (Human Rights Council [HRC], 2018, p.8). Secondly, abhorrence at Suu Kyi’s removal from power seems incongruous with recent attempts to apportion responsibility for the Rohingya Genocide to her and her civilian government.

In response, this article looks at international criticism of Aung San Suu Kyi for genocidal violence in Myanmar, specifically in the Human Rights Council’s independent report on Myanmar (2018), due to this being the single most authoritative document on the genocide. It argues that the attribution of responsibility for genocidal violence to Aung San Suu Kyi rested upon characterising her within heteronormative notions of failed motherhood. This is because such characterisations recognised that Suu Kyi had already been imprisoned, and had no legal power to call the Tatmadaw to account. Such expectations, this paper argues, assume that Suu Kyi should have spoken out in an act of exceptional self-sacrifice: an expectation that is inherent to notions of maternal responsibility. Calling attention to the way in which such characterisations of Suu Kyi depoliticised the international community’s inaction, this paper argues that the international community’s response to the recent coup d’etat highlights a greater concern for the idea of democracy than for the death and displacement of thousands of Rohingya Muslims.


Don’t Underestimate China’s Military-Civil Fusion Efforts


In late January 2021, a Reuters report revealed that China’s BGI Group, the world’s largest genomics company, was collaborating with the Chinese military, likely providing them with access to foreign genetic data for their own research. An investigative piece by Zach Dorfman in December 2020 quoted a former senior CIA official stating that, “It’s not that Tencent or [its founder] Pony Ma are dancing to the tune of what the MSS [Ministry of State Security] says, but if at any point China’s security services need assistance, they are providing it.” Civilian entities across China are actively involved in supporting the military and defense apparatus, although the Chinese leadership claims there is still a long way to go in integrating civilian and military efforts. If these efforts represent an incomplete strategy, then a successful one could be catastrophic for the United States and its allies.

A new report by Elsa Kania and Lorand Laskai, both respected experts in the field, presents their takes on myths and realities associated with China’s military-civil fusion strategy, arguing that people in Washington often misunderstand the concept and should instead focus on how far China is from reaching its desired military-civil fusion goals. The authors make several strong points about the development of military-civil fusion and the institutional roadblocks it faces. However, focusing on the strategy falling short of its goals is misplaced. The real issue here is not how far China is from its goals but its current capabilities and the reasons behind the military-civil fusion program—and how the United States should respond to these plans.

China Wants to Beat You in a War with Attack Helicopters and Drones

by Michael Peck

With the United States and Russia vigorously pursuing that concept, it’s no surprise that China is testing attack helicopters operating alongside UAVs.

“While various countries have tested drone swarms or full-size aircraft working with UAVs in a so-called Cooperative Engagement Capability, this appears to be a new development for the PLA,” according to the U.S. Army’s Foreign Military Studies Office.

A reporter for the PLA Daily, the newspaper of the People’s Liberation Army, described a May exercise by the 79th Group Army, based in northeastern China, that combined an attack helicopter and a reconnaissance drone:

“In the helicopters’ cabin, one after another the crew issues commands to a drone 100 meters away. The drone is constantly changing its flight attitude and transmitting real-time information about the battlefield to a control panel aboard the helicopter. In the early summer, a brigade of the 79th Group Army has adopted an innovative training model and is using a UAV in tandem with an armed helicopter.”

Not Classified: Check Out Japan’s Plan to Sink China’s Navy In a War

by Michael Peck

Japan already plans to deploy F-35B stealth fighters on carrier-like “helicopter-destroyers.” A new air warfare strategy would incorporate American-made standoff air-to-surface missiles. A long-range anti-ship missile would just be a continuation of that trend.

Japan is developing a longer-range, air-launched anti-ship cruise missile.

The reason? China’s navy is deploying longer-range anti-aircraft missiles, which means Japanese aircraft will have to launch their anti-ship weapons from longer range or risk being shot down.

Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya cited longer-range air defenses on warships belonging to “some countries,” though there could be little doubt that he was referring to one nation in particular.

China's Army is Getting Smaller—But Deadlier

by Michael Peck

Here's What You Need To Remember: China’s leaders have not declared conventional forces to be obsolete. But they have taken to heart the lessons of conflicts such as the First Iraq War, where smarts bombs and other high-tech weapons proved devastating against forces using Cold War technology and tactics.

Mao Zedong must be turning in his grave.

In his day, the name “People’s Liberation Army” conjured images of hordes of soldiers overwhelming their enemies with sheer numbers and Communist fervor.

Not anymore. China’s military is trading quantity for quality, foot soldiers for cyberwarriors.

“This is new data that has never appeared in the history of the People’s Liberation Army,” said a self-congratulatory article by Chinese news agency Xinhua (Google English translation here), which lauded military reforms by President Xi Jinping. “The Army’s share of the total number of troops in the military has fallen below 50 percent; the number of active duty members in non-combat units has been reduced by nearly half, and the number of officers has decreased by 30 percent.”

Why China’s No Nuclear First Use Policy May Not Be Set In Stone

by David Axe 

Here's What You Need to Remember: “In the absence of a no-first-use commitment from the United States, Chinese nuclear strategists believe continued improvements to their nuclear arsenal are needed to assure China’s leaders their U.S. counterparts won’t take the risk of attacking China with nuclear weapons.”

China has reaffirmed its policy of never being the first in a conflict to use nuclear weapons. Experts refer to this policy as “no first use,” or NFU.

The NFU policy reaffirmation, contained in Beijing’s July 2019 strategic white paper, surprised some observers who expected a more expansive and aggressive nuclear posture from the rising power.

Notably, the United States does not have a no-first-use policy. “Retaining a degree of ambiguity and refraining from a no first use policy creates uncertainty in the mind of potential adversaries and reinforces deterrence of aggression by ensuring adversaries cannot predict what specific actions will lead to a U.S. nuclear response,” the Pentagon stated.

Chinese state media posted the government’s white paper in its entirety. "Nuclear capability is the strategic cornerstone to safeguarding national sovereignty and security," the paper asserts.

“This is standard language,” explained David Santoro, a nuclear expert with the nonprofit Pacific Forum. “China's nukes serve to prevent nuclear coercion and deter nuclear attack.”

China’s New War Strategy Is More About Confusing Enemy Forces Than Missile Strikes

by Michael Peck

Here's What You Need To Remember: China’s military appears to be adopting a strategy that Sun Tzu might have approved of. The “systems destruction warfare” approach can be described as seeking victory by incapacitating, rather than annihilating, an opponent. Rather than emphasizing firepower and decisive battles between mass armies, China will attempt to paralyze an opponent’s ability to wage war through precise attacks across the land, sea, air, space, cyber, electromagnetic and psychological spheres.

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting,” wrote the legendary Chinese strategist Sun Tzu 2,500 years ago.

Now China’s military appears to be adopting a strategy that Sun Tzu might have approved of. The “systems destruction warfare” approach can be described as seeking victory by incapacitating, rather than annihilating, an opponent. Rather than emphasizing firepower and decisive battles between mass armies, China will attempt to paralyze an opponent’s ability to wage war through precise attacks across the land, sea, air, space, cyber, electromagnetic and psychological spheres.

Step Aside America: China is Deploying a Fleet of Top-Class Spy Drones

by David Axe 

Here's What You Need to Remember: China's biggest shortfall is probably not a matter of hardware. It takes nearly 200 skilled pilots, maintainers and analysts to support a single sortie by a high-end UAV.

China reportedly activated one of its Soar Dragon large spy drones to keep tabs on a U.S. Navy cruiser that sailed through the Taiwan Strait in late July 2019.

The Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Antietam transited the Taiwan Strait on July 24, 2019 as a show of force. In addition to the Soar Eagle, Beijing sortied J-11 fighters 10 times during Antietam’s nine-hour transit, according to Taiwan’s Up Media.

The Chinese pilots reportedly issued a radio warning to one of Antietam’s MH-60R helicopters as the rotorcraft was flying along the west side of the strait, air space about which China is particularly sensitive.

With a wingspan measuring around 80 feet and an endurance of perhaps 10 hours, the subsonic Soar Eagle is China’s answer to the U.S. military’s own Global Hawk surveillance drone. The unmanned aerial vehicle also is known by its Chinese name Xianglong.

The Global Hawk, which the U.S. Air Force and Navy operate in separate variants, can surveil hundreds of thousands of square miles of ocean on a single mission, detecting and tracking ships among other potential targets.

Caveat Emptor: Why China's Cheap Military Drones Are so Cheap

by David Axe 

Key point: Everyone wants drones these days, but sometimes it is worth buying American. That's what some countries are finding out the hard way.

China’s CH-4 killer drone appears to be falling out of favor with some of its major operators.

This first appeared in August 2019 and is being reposted due to reader interest.

The Iraqi air force is down to just one operational CH-4 out of a fleet of around 10, according to an August 2019 report from the U.S. inspector-general.

Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S.-led operation targeting Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, told the inspector-general that maintenance problems have grounded most of the Iraqi CH-4s.

The CH-4 is roughly similar to the U.S.-made MQ-1 Predator. The Chinese unmanned aerial vehicle, which is remotely-controlled via satellite and can carry a variety of missiles, briefly was popular among Middle East militaries that balked at the cost, politics and paperwork associated with acquiring armed drones from the United States.

China’s Political Economy and the UK Post-Brexit

Kerry Brown

In the years since the June 26, 2016 ‘Brexit’ Referendum which resulted in the decision to withdraw from the EU, the language of the May and then Johnson governments had been to stress that Britain was entering into a new era of global activism. On January 17, 2017, Theresa May declared that her vision was `a truly Global Britain – the best friend and neighbour to our European partners, but a country that reaches beyond the borders of Europe too. A country that goes out into the world to build relationships with old friends and new allies alike’ (May 2017). Johnson was even more grandiloquent. Speaking in parliament on June 16, 2020, he declared the merging of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office with the Department for International Development into one `super department’ stating that this would support the promotion `of British values, following in the great tradition of the country that ended the slave trade and resisted totalitarianism. And it is precisely that ambition, vision and expertise that will now be at the heart of a new department, taking forward the work of UK Aid to reduce poverty, and that will remain central to our mission’ (Johnson 2020).

After all the talk, finally, in 2021, Global Britain’s time has arrived. Reality can replace rhetoric. For any viable Global Britain vision, finding trading and investment partners outside the EU area would make sense. One part of this idea was to build closer links with the US. Under Trump, warm words had been uttered. But as a salutary lesson that the one constant in diplomacy is perpetual change, Biden’s success in the 2020 election meant a leader with a very different view of globalisation and Brexit was now in charge. The hoped-for bilateral trade deal with the UK became far less likely.

The Chinese ‘Debt Trap’ Is a Myth


China, we are told, inveigles poorer countries into taking out loan after loan to build expensive infrastructure that they can’t afford and that will yield few benefits, all with the end goal of Beijing eventually taking control of these assets from its struggling borrowers. As states around the world pile on debt to combat the coronavirus pandemic and bolster flagging economies, fears of such possible seizures have
only amplified.

Seen this way, China’s internationalization—as laid out in programs such as the Belt and Road Initiative—is not simply a pursuit of geopolitical influence but also, in some tellings, a weapon. Once a country is weighed down by Chinese loans, like a hapless gambler who borrows from the Mafia, it is Beijing’s puppet and in danger of losing a limb.

The prime example of this is the Sri Lankan port of Hambantota. As the story goes, Beijing pushed Sri Lanka into borrowing money from Chinese banks to pay for the project, which had no prospect of commercial success. Onerous terms and feeble revenues eventually pushed Sri Lanka into default, at which point Beijing demanded the port as collateral, forcing the Sri Lankan government to surrender control to a Chinese firm.

Drones Over Riyadh: Unpacking the Iran Threat Network’s Tactics

by Michael Knights

Two enigmatic drone incidents in Saudi Arabia point to gaps in U.S. intelligence coverage and increasingly sophisticated deception tactics by Iran’s integrated militia networks in Iraq and Yemen.

Most of the details surrounding the two most recent drone penetrations into Saudi airspace have yet to be cleared up, which is both perplexing and unusual. Yet one aspect of the incidents is unambiguous—the coordinated reactions of Iran-backed propaganda networks in their immediate aftermath. This and other factors point to an intensified Iranian and militia focus on the Gulf states, a desire to carefully probe U.S.-Saudi solidarity, and the increasingly multidirectional nature of the drone and missile threat against U.S. facilities and partners in the Middle East.
Reported Intercepts Over the Capital

On January 23 and January 26, Riyadh’s airspace was penetrated, and interceptor missiles were fired at aerial targets. Given their late detection and lack of radar or visual signatures, the interlopers were probably semi-stealthy drones. Both interceptions occurred in daylight, which is very rare for attacks on Riyadh and could suggest a long-range, relatively slow drone that launched under cover of darkness and took hours to arrive over the capital. The target type, altitude, interceptor type, interception result, and ground damage (if any) remain unclear, though the Wall Street Journal reported that the Royal Court at al-Yamamah Palace was struck.

Guess Who’s a Drone Power Now. Turkey

by David Axe 

Turkey might never develop its own stealth fighter, but the country has become a major user, and seller, of an entirely different class of warplane.

Armed drones.

Tunisia in mid-March 2020 awarded a $240-million contract to Turkish Aerospace Industries for six Anka-S drones plus three ground-control stations and associated technologies.

Anka-S is roughly analogous to the U.S. Air Force’s own Reaper drone, which itself is a bigger variant of the iconic Predator drone.

TAI began developing Anka-S in 2013. The unmanned aircraft flew for the first time in 2016.

Around 26 feet long with a roughly 400-pound payload, the satellite-controlled Anka-S carries a synthetic-aperture radar, an inverse-SAR and a ground-moving-target-indicator radar to detect, identify and track ground targets.

The propeller-driven drone can fly for more than 24 hours straight and fire small, precision missiles including the Roketsan Smart Micro Munition and the Cirit 2.75-inch guided rocket.

The Turkish military operates around 130 armed drones of several types, including five versions of the Anka plus the Karayel and the Bayraktar TB2.

Turkey’s drones have helped to lead the country’s aerial campaign targeting forces loyal to the regime of Syrian president Bashar Al Assad. On March 1, 2020, Turkish drones struck Syrian forces in and around the city of Idlib, killing 19 people, according to the United Kingdom-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Opinion – The Arab Uprisings Ten Years On

Zaynab El Bernoussi

About ten years ago, I was a younger Arab graduate student in Queens Astoria experiencing the unfolding of the Arab Uprisings. I was catching rumors that it would start in Morocco. I was primarily worried for my parents there and, maybe in an Arab fashion, I imagined the worse happening and I was struck by the guilt of being far away and not able to protect my progenitors. I felt an obligation to go back and I did. I felt that my world was crumbling before me. Ten years on, the earth is still spinning, and life has continued. In this attempt to commemorate ten years since the Arab Uprisings and the marking 2011 revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt that sent lasting shockwaves in my region, I want to spend a bit of time on a dignity lesson from the Arab world to the rest of it. This dignity lesson is about a need to develop political institutions, empower the youth and expand their share of the economy, and, finally, accept diversities at last.

Before the lesson, I would like to quickly reassert the importance of talking about the ‘Arab Uprisings’ as opposed to the widely used counterpart ‘Arab Spring’. The Arab Spring makes a connection to the 1848 Spring of Nations in Europe, which were popular uprisings against old monarchical rulings. The problem with this connection is that it continues an orientalist tradition of likening the East to a so-called more advanced West. This creates an arbitrary symbolic power structure, at the very least. On the other hand, talking about the Arab Uprisings makes more sense for the immediate timeline of 2011 in the region because it makes a connection with the 1987 Intifada in which Palestinians rose to Israeli state violence in a series of protests which were mostly suppressed. Very similar to the 2011 events. The Palestinian uprisings were not alone, there was also before them the Berber Spring in Algeria and one can keep going earlier.

Chief Economists Outlook 2021

The approval of several COVID-19 vaccines in late 2020 has brightened public health and economic prospects for 2021. Yet, prior to the onset of the pandemic, the global economy already had a fragile growth outlook, with social tensions over the evident polarization of economic outcomes and high levels of uncertainty. At this critical juncture, policymakers need to look beyond reviving the old economy and instead shift towards a thriving global economy—where growth is revived, social justice more fully realized, and the climate crisis averted.

Based on consultations and surveys with the World Economic Forum’s Community of Chief Economists, this edition of the quarterly Chief Economists Outlook lays out the key drivers shaping the current context, the policy pathways that could shape the global economy this year, and the resulting expected outlook for 2021.Download PDF

Jamestown Foundation

o Proud Boys and Antifa Face Un-Certain Future after Capitol Siege

o Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh’s Rivalry with Awami League: The Growing Islamist-Secular Divide

o Turkey Enters Tunisia’s Weapons Market With Com-bat-Proven Arms: A Technical and Strategic Assessment

o The Jihadists’ War in Pakistan after the U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan: Lessons From al-Qaeda’s Assassination of Benazir Bhutto

Why Nuclear Arms Control Won’t Work Without New Weapons

Loren Thompson

President Biden made good on one of his campaign promises this week by extending the last Cold War arms control agreement still in force for another five years, to 2026.

Called New START, for “strategic arms reduction treaty,” the agreement limits Russia and America to 1,550 nuclear warheads carried on no more than 700 long-range delivery systems—land-based ballistic missiles, sea-based ballistic missiles and heavy bombers.

The main goal of the treaty is to foster a stable and verifiable nuclear balance in which there is minimal likelihood of misunderstandings between Washington and Moscow.

Misunderstandings can lead to mistakes in a crisis—fatal mistakes if either side resorts to the use of their weapons.

As the following chart indicates, a single warhead of typical yield for the Russian arsenal, detonated above a major U.S. city, would likely kill more Americans in an hour than Covid-19 has in a year. The Russians have 700 such warheads aimed at the U.S., plus hundreds of additional, lower-yield warheads.

Final Frontier: Why the Space Force Is Here to Stay

by Peter Garretson

This week, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki stated definitively that the Space Force “absolutely has the full support of the Biden administration.” It’s a wise move. Psaki also tweeted an invitation to the members of the Space Force team to “visit us in the briefing room anytime to share an update on their important work.” What might Space Force officials have to say?

President Joe Biden outlined his key priorities in an article in Foreign Affairs, where he pledged to make the “investments necessary to equip our troops for the challenges of this century, not the last one.” The Space Force is an indispensable part of that forward-looking vision; it represents a key instrument of American technological leadership and diplomacy. Even though the new service is still in its infancy, the U.S. Space Force is already delivering on the new administration’s top priorities: the economy, inclusion, climate change, and global leadership.

The Space Force’s contributions are perhaps most immediately felt with regard to the current global pandemic. As the U.S. military begins the rapid deployment of coronavirus vaccines to save lives, it is the Space Force that is providing the secure communication backbone for the effort. Across the spectrum of governmental responses to the coronavirus, it has been Space Force capabilities that have supported this whole-of-government approach. Its contributions are essential, but often invisible. They range from providing additional emergency bandwidth to support the U.S. Navy’s one-thousand-bed hospital ship Mercy to enabling cutting-edge efforts at contact tracing via the Space Force’s GPS system.

2 New COVID-19 Vaccines: Here's How They Work

by Sarah Pitt

Thanks to the efforts of scientists, healthcare workers and trial participants around the world, a number of COVID-19 vaccines have now been authorised for general use. But while millions have been given a jab, billions still need to be vaccinated. We need to produce as many doses as we can.

So, it’s good news that two additional vaccines are on the horizon. Vaccine developers Novavax and Johnson & Johnson recently released data from the phase 3 clinical trials of their jabs, which will hopefully join the list of those approved later this year.

Both of these vaccines share some similarities with those already being delivered, but they also have some notable differences. Here, let’s take a look at how they work and how effective they could be.

Johnson & Johnson

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is being tested in 44,000 people across the US, Brazil and South Africa. Preliminary data suggests the amount by which it reduces the risk of moderate to severe COVID-19 (its efficacy) is 66%, four weeks after vaccination.

Researchers Warn Sea Level Rise Worse Than Feared

by Ethen Kim Lieser

The global rise in sea levels will likely meet and surpass all previous scientific estimates, according to a new study from the University of Copenhagen’s Niels Bohr Institute.

The research, which was published in the European Geosciences Union journal Ocean Science, further revealed that, under the research team’s worst-case scenario, sea levels could surge as much as four and a half feet by the year 2100.

In its most recent assessment, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had announced that sea levels were unlikely to rise beyond 3.6 feet by 2100.

The study’s authors noted that predictions used by the IPCC are based on a “jigsaw puzzle” of models for ice sheets, glaciers, and the warming of the sea. Such predictions can suffer because only a limited amount of data is sometimes available for the models to be tested on.

“We have better historical data for the sea level rise in total, which, in principle, allows for a test of the combined puzzle of models. However, it has not been part of the routine to make sea level hindcasts at IPCC, so presently we are not able to tell if these models are capable of reproducing the historical sea level,” Aslak Grinsted, associate professor at the Niels Bohr Institute, said in a statement.

What Will the Future of Biological Warfare Look Like?

by Kris Osborn

When fast-advancing infantry clear buildings and face multiple angles of incoming enemy fire, they know how best to adjust to or counterattack against enemy bullets based on extensive training, yet what about non-kinetic attacks invisible to human eyes or ears? Army futurists and combat developers are of course increasingly widening their scope to prepare for chemical and biological attacks to a greater degree, given advances in modern science and the nefarious tactics potentially employed by adversaries.

With these kinds of challenges in mind, Army scientists are working with cutting edge academics at MIT to refine a new generation of sensing technologies inspired, informed, and shaped by naturally occurring biological phenomena designed to instantly detect hazardous materials or toxins in the atmosphere.

While still years away from potential deployment, Army Research Office scientists and academics have demonstrated a massive breakthrough by combining cellulose with a biologically-based protein-secreting yeast to identify specific materials in the air.

“Our premise was to engineer living systems like cells or bacteria to use novel materials that could be used in a non biological circumstance,” Dawnee Poree, Program Manager, Army Research Office, Army Research Laboratory, Combat Capabilities Development Command, Army Futures Command, told The National Interest in an interview.

Civilization as an Alternative Unit of Analysis in International Relations

Hidayet Çilkoparan

The concept of civilizations is ubiquitously used in the International Relations (IR) discipline. It has not yet been defined as a level of analysis across the discipline, yet its different conceptualizations may be an inspiring source to further enrich ontological, epistemological, and methodological aspects of the study of international relations. In basic terms, the level of analysis in IR refers to the choice of whether research is carried out on the level of the international system or its sub-components, such as the domestic and national level. This paper compares various approaches to conceptualizing and interpreting the role of civilizations in international relations as to whether differences of civilizations should be seen as a source of conflict and whether they can serve as an alternative unit to better analyze and explain the international reality. In this context, international reality may be defined as a portion of international relations abstracted for the purpose of analysis and limited through a framework defined by a specific time and space context.

The discipline of IR has developed impressively since the establishment of the Department of International Politics in the University College of Wales in Aberystwyth in 1918/19 and been able to come up with a variety of theoretical approaches, such as Realism, Liberalism, Marxism, the English School, Constructivism, Critical Theory, Feminism, and so on. Each of these IR theories looks at the world through its own distinct ontological and epistemological prism and attempts to understand, explain, predict, or change the course of events or the structure of international relations. Ontologically and epistemologically, the question of level and/or unit of analysis has been one of the primary areas of debate within the IR discipline.

The classic treatment of this issue in IR is J. David Singer’s article The Level-of-Analysis Problem in International Relations (1961). Singer’s categorization suggests that one should choose ‘the micro- or macro-level of analysis’. He thereby identified two levels of analysis for IR: the international system and the national sub-systems (Yurdusev, 1994). In contrast to that, scholars like Arnold Toynbee, Nuri Yurdusev, Raji Dutt Bajpai, and Gregorio Bettiza appear to suggest consideration of civilizations as an alternative unit/level of analysis and, accordingly, attempt to conceptualize civilizations in IR in their own ways.

The Resilience of Baloch Insurgencies: Understanding the Fifth Period

Yogesh Gattani

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The geographical expanse of Balochistan as a “brooding and melancholy place” rightly captures the essence of its post-1948 history (Weaver 2002, 90). Its history is marred with betrayal and contradictions vis-à-vis the Pakistani state. It is the largest and the most resource-rich of the four provinces of Pakistan but the least populated and developed. Even though the Baloch[1] nationalist movement has continuously faced the state’s brutal repression, it has always revived with more intensity than before and outlasted other resistance movements. While the insurgency started right after the Khan of Kalat was forced to sign the instrument of accession in 1948, it has broadly occurred in five different periods. The current and fifth period started in 2004 and is still active, making it the longest and the most violent episode. To this effect, the paper seeks to analyse the fundamental causes that led to the insurgency and continue to sustain it. The paper also examines the reasons that led to the weakening of the insurgency post-2015 and its subsequent revival again in 2020.

It is pertinent here to note that the reasons behind the current period of insurgency are not exclusive of history, they are merely manifestations of decades of unresolved issues that keep amplifying. Hence, to aid the objective of the paper, it is divided into three broad sections. The first section outlines the history of Balochistan and its people to understand the context of the insurgency. The second section focuses on the reasons behind the current period of insurgency through the themes of political alienation and marginalization, economic deprivation and underdevelopment, megaprojects in the province, and military response by the state. The penultimate section focuses on the post-2015 period of the weakening of the insurgency due to intra-Baloch rivalry and its second revival in 2020.

Historical Background

How the United States Lost to Hackers

By Nicole Perlroth

If ever there was a sign the United States was losing control of information warfare, of its own warriors, it was the moment one of its own, a young American contractor, saw first lady Michelle Obama’s emails pop up on his screen.

For months, David Evenden, a former National Security Agency analyst, questioned what he was doing in Abu Dhabi. He, like two dozen other N.S.A. analysts and contractors, had been lured to the United Arab Emirates by a boutique Beltway contractor with offers to double, even quadruple, their salaries and promises of a tax-free lifestyle in the Gulf’s luxury playground. The work would be the same as it had been at the agency, they were told, just on behalf of a close ally. It was all a natural extension of America’s War on Terror.

Mr. Evenden started tracking terror cells in the Gulf. This was 2014, ISIS had just laid siege to Mosul and Tikrit and Mr. Evenden tracked its members as they switched out burner phones and messaging apps. The images they traded back and forth could be brutal, but this was his calling, Mr. Evenden told himself. A theology major, he’d set out to be a chaplain. He was a long way from that, but what better way to prove your faith, he thought, than hunting those who sought to murder good Christians. Soon, though, he was assigned to a new project: proving the Emiratis’ neighbor, Qatar, was funding the Muslim Brotherhood. The only way to do that, Mr. Evenden told his bosses, would be to hack Qatar.

Europe’s Vaccine Rollout Has Descended Into Chaos

By Sylvie Kauffmann

PARIS — It should have been Europe’s finest hour. Battered by multiple waves of Covid-19, lockdowns and recession, the European Union had found a noble way to prove its raison d’être: by making the vaccines equally available to its 27 member states, rich or poor, small or powerful, through an unprecedented joint procurement initiative led by Brussels.

The vaccines would be doubly effective. They would protect the health of 450 million residents, allowing normal economic activity to resume, and they would strengthen the unity of the bloc. After the adoption of a common recovery plan last year, hailed as a remarkable success for European integration, what better way to demonstrate that we are stronger together than by ensuring vaccination for all?

If only. Instead the process has descended into chaos. Slow to secure contracts for vaccines, the bloc began its rollout notably later than Britain and the United States. Things got worse: One of the manufacturers, AstraZeneca, was unable to fulfill its orders, leading to an undersupply and an ugly spat with Britain. New vaccinations ground to a halt in several countries, including France, Spain and Portugal. Just 3 percent of the bloc’s population has received a jab.

What went wrong? Several factors seem obvious. Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, the executive body responsible for the vaccine program, is one. Her secretive management style has given way to tactical blunders. None were more glaring than her decision on Friday to control the export of vaccines manufactured in the European Union, which would have effectively created a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland — an outcome the European Union has spent the past three years trying to avoid.

A Plan to Beat Back the Far Right

By Cynthia Miller-Idriss and Daniel Koehler

In late August last year, close to 40,000 demonstrators gathered in Berlin to protest Germany’s novel coronavirus lockdown restrictions. A small group, numbering in the hundreds, broke off from this larger demonstration and approached the Reichstag, the historic building that houses Germany’s parliament. Carrying the infamous Reichsflagge—the banner of World War I–era imperial Germany and the precursor to the flag of the Nazis—these far-right agitators attempted to storm the building, overpowering law enforcement and scaling the main stairs to the entry hall, where police officers finally stopped them.

Inevitably, Germans saw shadows of this event in the January attack on the U.S. Capitol—in which a group of supporters of President Donald Trump violently attempted to overturn the results of the presidential election. Yes, there were plenty of differences between the two incidents. The U.S. insurrection was much larger and more violent—troublingly, it was also more successful in causing disruption. But there were also many similarities. In both cases, well-equipped right-wing extremists used the backdrop of raucous demonstrations to sow chaos and mayhem. In both Berlin and Washington, the extremists then methodically breached police cordons and goaded others to follow them. And in both countries, conspiracy theories—notably QAnon, the now infamous movement that imagines Trump to be rescuing the world from a secret cabal of pedophiles—and the vilification of mainstream media and political elites played an extraordinary role in stoking the violence.

CO21017 | 4IR: The RMA We Are Finally Looking For?

Richard Bitzinger

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Past “revolutions in military affairs” have tended to overpromise and underdeliver. We may currently be in the process a new RMA powered by “fourth industrial revolution” technologies like artificial intelligence. Despite challenges, this RMA may actually deliver on its promises.