17 February 2021

Assessing India’s CAATSA Sanctions Waiver Eligibility

By Richard M. Rossow and Kriti Upadhyaya

Indian Army soldiers fire their weapons during a room clearing demonstration as part of Yudh Abhyas, an exercise that enhances the joint capabilities of both the U.S. and Indian army through training and cultural exchange, Sept. 21, 2018.Credit: 

The U.S.-India 2+2 Ministerial held in New Delhi in late October 2020 put a solid endcap on another strong four-year run in defense relations between the two countries. However, a threat to the emerging relationship looms large — potential sanctions against India for procuring Russian military equipment under the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). It is not clear whether the existing waiver authority is wide enough for India, much less whether sufficient political interest exists to use such a waiver. Thus, CAATSA relief will likely hinge on whether India’s increasing contribution to Asian security overrides India’s continued reliance on Russian military equipment.

U.S.-India relations have come a long way since the Cold War. There are still places India falls short of some U.S. security analysts’ expectations. Some examples include playing a more active role in supporting stability in the South China Sea; maintaining distance from Iran; and supporting U.S. counterterrorism efforts against the Islamic State. Yet, India faces significant threats from China across a range of domains and has stepped up in important ways. As a result, India is emerging as a key U.S. strategic partner. The two nations have made significant strides in defense cooperation through the signing of four foundational agreements, expanded joint military exercises, personnel exchanges, and a common strategic outlook toward containing the Chinese threat. U.S.-India defense trade is today worth over $20 billion. This expanding level of cooperation will be seriously threatened if CAATSA sanctions are enforced when India takes possession of Russian-made S-400 Triumf missile defense systems, likely toward the end of this year or in 2022. The sanctions will come into place automatically unless the CAATSA waiver authority is utilized 30 days before sanctions are to take effect. Additionally, India is also procuring other defense items from Russia that could trigger a review.

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

By: Abdul Sayed

The changing narratives and operations of al-Qaeda and its Pakistani ally, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), in recent years indicate that the anti-state jihadist war in Pakistan will not end with a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021 or thereafter (The News, March 1). Recent speeches by the TTP emir, Mufti Noor Wali Mehsud, to a coalition of senior TTP commanders on the future goals of the war in Pakistan is not the only piece of evidence signifying that this war will continue (Umar Media, August 18, 2020; Umar Media, December 15, 2020). Rather, history also shows this war still has a long way to go.

Pakistani Islamists are widely believed to have originally supported al-Qaeda’s war against the Pakistani state due to post-9/11 changes in Pakistan’s foreign policy, which supported the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan that expelled the Taliban regime from Kabul. However, the anti-state jihadist war in Pakistan is deeply rooted in the pre-9/11 complexities of Pakistani politics, which culminated in Islamists enabling al-Qaeda operations within Pakistan immediately after 9/11. The war against the Pakistani government is so deeply entrenched that it will remain a challenge for the country even if the widely accepted jihad against the U.S. “infidel occupier” in Afghanistan and its allies, including Pakistan, is no longer a factor.

An overlooked illustration of the deep roots of the Islamist war in Pakistan comes from the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, whose thirteenth anniversary was last month. Bhutto’s assassination provides indications about how jihadist violence will continue to be a feature in Pakistan even when the country’s support to the U.S. in Afghanistan no longer motivates al-Qaeda and TTP militancy. Benazir was the leader of the social-democratic party, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), when she was assassinated on December 27, 2007 in Rawalpindi, which neighbors the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. She had only returned to Pakistan in October 2007 from self-imposed exile in Britain and Dubai in the hope of becoming Pakistan’s prime minister for the third time. A leading figure of Pakistani politics’ secular and liberal camp, she was the first major al-Qaeda and TTP target in Pakistan, but hardly the last. [1]

Porosity of Tajik-Afghan Border Making Beijing’s Involvement in Region More Ominous

By: Paul Goble

In most parts of the world, the lines on maps separating countries are true borders. That is, they are controlled by the governments on one or both sides. But in some places, they remain the quasi-open frontiers they were in the past or have reemerged as such because of recent political changes; those borders are highly porous zones, where people and goods can move more or less freely in one or both directions without much regard to the powers that be. Such situations invite outside involvement that can ramp up quickly and disturb preexisting international arrangements. One poignant example is the adjoining border area shared by Tajikistan and Afghanistan. In recent years, that frontier has attracted attention because of the danger that Islamist militants from Afghanistan could cross it to move north into Tajikistan and beyond. But another danger is emerging: China is establishing increasing control over Tajikistan and, thus, is putting itself in a position to project power southward from Tajikistan into Afghanistan. If Beijing does so, that could fundamentally change the security situation and geopolitical balance in Central and South Asia as a whole.

Two new articles suggest that the likelihood of that development is increasing, ringing alarm bells in Moscow. The first, by Sofiya Musofir of the Moscow State University’s Center for the Study of Social-Political Processes on the Post-Soviet Space, highlights just how porous the frontier between Tajikistan and Afghanistan currently is (Ia-centr.ru, February 4). And the second piece, by experts at the Central Asian Analytic Center, calls attention to the ways in which China is presently focusing on Tajikistan. The authors write that Beijing has already reclassified the Central Asian republic “a zone of special interest” for itself, using both overt and covert methods to spread Chinese influence there (Caa-network.org, January 31).

May 2021 should not be seen as a unilateral deadline for the United States to leave Afghanistan

Madiha Afzal

A false step at this stage could essentially hand Afghanistan to the Taliban, which would risk massive repercussions, including the potential of a strengthened al-Qaida and a major setback for Afghan women’s rights and democracy. That would in turn reverse hard-won gains for a new generation of Afghans and at the same time seriously damage the credibility of a U.S. administration that champions these values.

Meanwhile, a growing chorus is framing Biden’s choice in one-dimensional terms: Should he withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan by May 2021, the date identified for a complete withdrawal in the U.S.-Taliban deal signed in Doha nearly a year ago? Or should he stay past that date? This flawed either/or narrative assumes that May 2021 is a unilateral deadline on the United States. But in fact, the Doha deal was signed by two parties, with conditions both have promised to fulfill. This black-and-white depiction presents a false choice.


President Trump left his successor with a deal that was lopsided to begin with, negotiated in haste out of his desire to fulfill his campaign promise to end the war in Afghanistan. That haste and the lack of a path to a U.S. military victory yielded a deal that advantaged the Taliban, giving the insurgent group all that it wanted: a complete American withdrawal in return for a minimum in counterterror commitments. Trump then attempted to hobble his successor further by ignoring those very conditions the United States had placed on the Taliban. Despite evidence that the Taliban retains ties with al-Qaida and that al-Qaida remains in Afghanistan, Trump gave the order to unilaterally withdraw to 2,500 troops after his November election defeat.

The Role of the Maldives in the Indo-Pacific Security Space in South Asia

Athaulla A. Rasheed

The signing of a defence agreement between the Maldives and the United States (US) in September 2020 was welcomed by India as a positive step towards regional cooperation (Rej, 2020). Historically cautious of extra-regional powers engaging in military and strategic activities in its Indian Ocean ‘backyard’, India has claimed a dominant role in terms of managing regional maritime boundaries. Located ‘barely 70 nautical miles away from Minicoy and 300 nautical miles away from India’s West coast, [and within] the hub of commercial sea‐lanes running through Indian Ocean (particularly the 8° N and 1 ½° N channels),’(Ministry of External Affairs, 2019a, p. 1) the Maldives occupies a critical strategic position in South Asia. A history of friendly ties and geographic proximity have ensured political trust, economic cooperation and coherent strategic polices between the two. Despite the historical bonds between these neighbours, their relationship took a sharp turn towards political uncertainty between 2013 and 2018 as a result of former Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom’s pro-China policy (Rasheed, 2018, 2019, 2020). Bringing an extra-regional power like China into the South Asian periphery created significant political anxiety in India—a level of concern that was not apparent when the Maldives extended security-based cooperation with the US. This prejudice is linked to India’s role in the Indo-Pacific alliance with the US, Australia, and Japan to curb China’s potential strategic rise in the Asia-Pacific. All four Indo-Pacific states view China as a potential security threat in their regional peripheries where in that India has a greater role to curb the rise of extra-territorial powers in South Asia’s maritime boundaries (Baruah, 2020; Laskar, 2020; Ministry of External Affairs, 2018; Rehman, 2009). The Maldives-US defence cooperation is only one part of the broader role India plays in limiting China’s engagement in the region.

This article discusses how India’s central role in South Asia’s contemporary maritime security domain has been affected by the Maldives’ regional development policy. Contrary to orthodox international relations thinking that dominant and larger states often determine regional security dynamics, it argues that India has not always controlled or been certain about the Maldives’ regional foreign policy (Flockhart, 2008; Rasheed, 2018, 2019, 2020) and that the drivers of political certainty and strategic coherence in that domain are, in fact, often affected by the political choices of the Maldives. Former Maldivian president and political strongman Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom started this trend in 2013 by adopting pro-China policies and drawing Chinese interests into the regional periphery (Rasheed, 2018, 2020). It became necessary for India to engage with the Maldives to curb China’s increasing influence over maritime boundaries of South Asia. However, India was able to influence Maldives-China policy only after pro-Western President Mohammed Solih came to power in November 2018. Solih’s new government reiterated the ‘India First’ policy and withdrew China as a priority development partner (Rasheed, 2020) which led to enhanced defence and strategic cooperation between India and the Maldives.

How Xi Jinping Has Transformed China

By Bernhard Zand

The skyline of Harbin, a city of over 10 million in northern China: The country is more conscious of its power today than it has been since the days of the great dynasties.

Deep in Siberia, at the same latitude as Hamburg, China begins. It only comes to an end some 4,000 kilometers away, on the beaches of the tropical island Hainan. Both are places of great beauty.

In the north, the Heilongjiang, the Black Dragon river, winds silently eastward. It marks the border to Russia, where it is known as the Amur. The pine forests of the Taiga stretch out behind it.

In the south, the surf of the South China Sea gently rolls into Hainan’s Yalong Bay. Plane and palm trees line the coast and children frolic on the beach. Hainan is often called "the Hawaii of China."

In between lies a country about the size of the United States, but with four times as many people – twice as many as in Europe, more than in Africa.

China’s dimensions have always been difficult to grasp, but rarely has the country's size, combined with its growing political and economic weight, become as apparent to the world as it has over the past eight years.

What can other countries learn from China’s travel recovery path?

By Guang Chen, Will Enger, Steve Saxon, and Jackey Yu

In May, we asked how much the world could learn from China’s postpandemic travel recovery. Now, we explore where lessons from the latest data from China may be relevant for other countries.

While the path of the travel and tourism recovery will vary by market, China’s distinct experience may hold lessons for other markets—particularly those where, as in China, COVID-19 transmission rates are low and traveler confidence has recovered quickly.

In May 2020, we conducted a survey of Chinese travelers; based on these results, we predicted that the domestic travel market would recover quickly. A follow-up survey in August further explored the key emerging travel trends, how traveler behavior and sentiment has evolved, and the implications for global travel industry players. Using the same methodology, we surveyed respondents from eight Chinese cities,1 all of whom had traveled domestically or overseas in the past year. We compared data collected from August 22 to August 28, 2020, with the previous two rounds of surveys.

In this article, we update our survey findings and offer insights on what lessons other markets, individual global travel and tourism companies, and the industry as a whole might take from China’s recovery.

What are we seeing in China?

Why retailers everywhere should look to China

Over the past ten months most people in the rich world have participated in the biggest shopping revolution in the West since malls and supermarkets conquered suburbia 50 years ago. The pandemic has led to a surge in online spending, speeding up the shift from physical stores by half a decade or so. Forget the chimney; Christmas gifts in 2020 came flying through the letterbox or were dumped on the doorstep. Workers at a handful of firms, including Amazon and Walmart, have made superhuman efforts to fulfil online orders, and their investors have made supernormal profits as Wall Street has bid up their shares on euphoria that Western retailing is at the cutting edge.

Yet as we explain this week (see article) it is in China, not the West, where the future of e-commerce is being staked out. Its market is far bigger and more creative, with tech firms blending e-commerce, social media and razzmatazz to become online-shopping emporia for 850m digital consumers. And China is also at the frontier of regulation, with the news on December 24th that trustbusters were investigating Alibaba, co-founded by Jack Ma, China’s most celebrated tycoon, and until a few weeks ago its most valuable listed firm. For a century the world’s consumer businesses have looked to America to spot new trends, from scannable barcodes on Wrigley’s gum in the 1970s to keeping up with the Kardashians’ consumption habits in the 2010s. Now they should be looking to the East.

Ukraine’s China Policy: A (Not so) Delicate Balance

By: Maksym Bugriy

Reporting on the saga of Chinese efforts to purchase Ukraine’s strategic Motor Sich aerospace production company frequently casts Kyiv as a weak “pawn” on the geopolitical chessboard, caught in the middle of the larger rivalry between Beijing and Washington. Yet Ukraine is pursuing its own regional leadership ambitions (Weforum.org, Jan 22, 2020); and as part of that effort, the Ukrainian government has adopted a harder stance vis-à-vis Chinese investors, recently imposing sanctions on multi-millionaire Wang Jing and his Skyrizon Group as well as other individuals and business entities over their attempt to take over Motor Sich (see EDM, February 3, 2021). The Chinese side certainly anticipated Kyiv’s growing hostility (Global Times December 9, 2020), but the unprecedented sanctions triggered a diplomatic protest note and a strongly worded press statement from the Chinese foreign ministry (Interfax, February 3; Global Times February 1).

The Ukrainian government’s tough actions notwithstanding, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s rhetoric on China appears more nuanced. In a recent interview with Axios, Zelenskyy objected to labeling China a “number one geopolitical threat,” assuring that “we don’t feel this in Ukraine.” Though declaring that no foreign entity shall control Ukraine’s defense-industry champion, Zelenskyy otherwise encouraged the presence of Chinese business in Ukraine (President.gov.ua February 1). Earlier, speaking to China’s official, state-run news agency Xinhua, the Ukrainian head of state welcomed “further expansion of bilateral trade and economic cooperation,” praised China’s respect for Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity, and expressed gratitude to its government, citizens, non-governmental organizations (NGO) and companies for the humanitarian assistance they extended to Ukraine to combat COVID-19 (President.gov.ua October 1, 2020).

China’s Use of U.S. Satellite Communications Technology in the South China Sea

By: Zachary Haver


In recent years, the maritime law enforcement (MLE) forces of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) have dominated the contested waters of the South China Sea (AMTI, December 4, 2020). While the exponential growth and increasing assertiveness of the China Coast Guard (CCG) have captured headlines, the evolving role of technology in China’s MLE operations has received less attention. New communications infrastructure and monitoring systems, for example, help Chinese MLE forces monitor and control contested maritime space in the South China Sea (CMSI, January 2021). These investments align with China’s broader pursuit of information superiority in the South China Sea, which involves building up electronic intelligence, counter-stealth radar, and other capabilities (JHU APL, July 2020).

Publicly available documents suggest that at least some of China’s MLE forces are using U.S. technology to bolster their communications capabilities in the South China Sea.[1] For example, in August 2017, Sansha Highlander Ocean Information Science and Technology Co., Ltd. (三沙海兰信海洋信息科技有限公司, sansha hailanxin haiyang xinxi keji youxian gongsi) signed a “law enforcement ship satellite communication systems maintenance” contract with the Sansha City Comprehensive Law Enforcement Zhidui (三沙市综合执法支队, sansha shi zonghe zhifa zhidui), a MLE force also known as “Sansha Comprehensive Law Enforcement” (SCLE).[2] This article takes a close look at the SCLE’s recent procurement history to reveal how Sansha City’s MLE forces are using U.S. technology to advance China’s interests in the South China Sea.

Sansha City, the SCLE, and Sansha Highlander

The People’s Liberation Army Attempts to Jump Start Training Reforms

By: Kevin McCauley


The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is attempting to reinvigorate lagging unit training and military education reforms to enable an integrated joint operations capability. A training conference, training mobilization order for 2021 and a regulation reinforcing the “Triad” (“三位一体,” sanwei yiti) joint education reform represent recent efforts. Cultivating quality personnel and raising unit combat capability through training are foundational areas supporting the PLA’s ambitious modernization. The Triad educational reform regulation addresses the importance of linking military academies to unit training, while the training conference also raised the issue of education. Reforms in both military training and education have been underway for at least the past two decades, resulting in mixed results at best. The PLA’s renewed resolve to accelerate these critical reforms reinforces its own assessment that past efforts have achieved limited results.[1]

The Central Military Commission (CMC) held a Military Training Conference on November 25, 2020 focused on strengthening actual combat training (Xinhua, November 25, 2020). In early January, Chinese President and CMC Chairman Xi Jinping (习近平) issued a military training order for 2021 reinforcing some of the issues discussed in the training conference (China Military Online, January 19). Per these signals, military training in 2021 will focus on actual combat training to raise combat readiness, joint command and joint specialized training, new equipment and force training, and operational system of systems integration training. The PLA intends this year’s training to support the transformation of a new military training system discussed at the training conference (China Military Online, January 29; PRC Ministry of National Defense, February 1). This article will focus primarily on analyzing themes from the CMC training conference.

CMC Military Training Conference

China’s Inequality Will Lead It to a Stark Choice

By Branko Milanovic

China’s model of political capitalism has produced staggering growth and lifted millions from poverty—but not without widening the gap between the country’s rich and poor. Inequality has become the Chinese system’s Achilles’ heel, belying the government’s nominally socialist tenets and undermining the implicit contract between the rulers and the ruled. Inequality erodes the trust that Confucius thought even more essential for good government than food (or, in today’s terms, material prosperity).

Addressing this problem requires understanding its sources and its reach. In China, the task is not always a simple one. China’s inequality looks at first glance like the predictable product of rapid growth and urbanization. But aspects of the country’s distribution of wealth and income are more particular. They rise from the nexus of economic and political power within the Chinese system, and they suggest that the country’s leadership faces

What can we expect in China in 2021?

By Gordon Orr

China enters 2021 economically stronger relative to major economies than anytime since 2009. This apparent strength creates extremely high expectations for China to deliver on its forecast economic recovery, on its rollout of vaccines in China and beyond, and on stabilizing its geopolitical relationships. In a year when avoiding major risks and sources of instability remain paramount, China’s leaders will find it harder to keep the economy on track than anticipated.


Economic growth expectations for 2021 of 8 percent-plus (in real renminbi terms) are pricing in perfection. Achieving it could pose a challenge. Most critical is the need to accelerate still sluggish consumer spending. The recent pivot in government policy to demand stimulation reflects growing concern in Beijing that consumers are not stepping up their spending as needed. China’s export strength in 2020 has resulted from global demand for personal protective equipment (PPE), a global shift to online purchasing, and Chinese manufacturers stepping up to fill gaps left by manufacturers locked down in other markets.

In 2021, with the roll-out of vaccines, manufacturers ex-China will fully recover. Additionally, the secular trend to move manufacturing (especially destined for the US) out of China will restart, and China based manufacturers will feel the full impact of the renminbi’s appreciation. Domestically, infrastructure spending has not yielded the desired results. The continued flirtation with bankruptcy of several of China’s leading property developers highlights fragility in this sector. Expect aggressive action to lower tax and other burdens on individuals. Concerns about growth will also push Beijing towards opening up further to foreign capital and business participation within China. Negative lists will shorten further and more licenses will be issued from basic materials to financial services.

The Innovation Wars America’s Eroding Technological Advantage

By Christopher Darby and Sarah Sewall

Since the early days of the Cold War, the United States has led the world in technology. Over the course of the so-called American century, the country conquered space, spearheaded the Internet, and brought the world the iPhone. In recent years, however, China has undertaken an impressive effort to claim the mantle of technological leadership, investing hundreds of billions of dollars in robotics, artificial intelligence, microelectronics, green energy, and much more. Washington has tended to view Beijing’s massive technology investments primarily in military terms, but defense capabilities are merely one aspect of great-power competition today—little more than table stakes. Beijing is playing a more sophisticated game, using technological innovation as a way of advancing its goals without having to resort to war. Chinese companies are selling 5G wireless infrastructure around the world, harnessing synthetic biology to bolster food supplies, and racing to build smaller and faster microchips, all in a bid to grow China’s power.

In the face of China’s technological drive, U.S. policymakers have called for greater government action to protect the United States’ lead. Much of the conventional wisdom is sensible: boost R & D spending, ease visa restrictions and develop more domestic talent, and build new partnerships with industry at home and with friends and allies abroad. But the real problem for the United States is much deeper: a flawed understanding of which technologies matter and of how to foster their development. As national security assumes new dimensions and great-power competition moves into different domains, the government’s thinking and policies have not kept pace. Nor is the private sector on its own likely to meet every technological need that bears on the country’s security.

Contextualizing Soft Power’s Analysis: The Value of Attractive National Features

Daniele Carminati

Soft power was first envisioned towards the end of the Cold War but before the Global Information Age. That was a period of perceived changes in the distribution of power, both between and within states, a process that has accelerated since then. Thirty years have passed since Joseph Nye’s seminal book Bound To Lead: The Changing Nature Of American Power was published. Since then, dozens of volumes have been written on the topic, along with hundreds of academic articles and an even greater number of analyses and commentaries speculating about the sources, pitfalls, gains and losses of a country’s attractive power. The concept might now be in need of a review to reflect novel changes and developments, such as the rise of China and the troubled liberal order.

One of the most common points of criticism towards the term is the unclear mechanisms that denote its ‘fuzziness’. This, in turn, leads to perceptions of a limited analytical and practical value to result in the preferred outcomes. Another frequent critique is its Western bias since the term was initially conceived with the American situation in mind and inspired by liberal democratic values. Although Nye has often reminded that all countries can develop soft power, several scholars still called for a de-Americanization or de-Westernization of the discourse surrounding the concept.

Some leaders and policymakers might find soft power as the name itself implies; too soft to obtain tangible outcomes within a given amount of time. Conversely, Mattern argues that the term ‘isn’t so soft’ after all since it depends on ‘representational force,’ intended as a ‘nonphysical but nevertheless coercive form of power that is exercised through language.’ This interpretation might have paved the way for the creation of the term sharp power, a deceptive tool akin to propaganda mainly used by authoritarian regimes such as Russia and China. Without denying the existence of sharp strategies, this understanding detaches from the original conception of soft power as attractive power, while focusing more on deceiving communicative practices.

Ukraine’s President Finally Flexes His Muscles


KYIV, Ukraine—Since he took office in 2019, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has frequently been accused of being a puppet for his country’s deep-seated oligarchic interests—a comical populist unwilling or unable to confront the Russian influence tearing his country apart. So his recent crackdown on pro-Russian media came as a surprise to observers and critics alike. On Feb. 2, with just a few strokes of a pen, Zelensky signed sanctions that immediately blocked three pro-Russian television stations from operating in Ukraine. The move—proposed by the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council—was celebrated by pro-reform activists who gleefully shared GIFs of garbled color bars as the bans took effect. Zelensky followed up his media purge with a tweet affirming that “information today is as powerful [a] weapon as tanks or missiles.”

That’s an equivalence Ukrainians are experiencing firsthand as their country’s conflict with Russia enters its eighth year. In eastern Ukraine—where government troops are at war with Russian-backed rebels—armed confrontation has nearly ground to a halt since July 2020. Cease-fire violations are far and few between. But the Russo-Ukrainian conflict has hardly subsided; rather, it has shifted to a hybrid war of the sort Moscow and its proxies have long waged against Ukrainian sovereignty.

The hybrid war’s chief objective is twofold: Russia seeks both to demonize the West and destabilize Ukraine, at least enough to ensure its image both at home and abroad remains one of a hopelessly chaotic state. Nurturing pro-Russian sentiments in Ukraine helps keep the country under the Kremlin’s grasp and within its geopolitical orbit. The task has increasingly fallen on the local purveyors of partisan politics, propaganda, and toxic misinformation—far from the barren battlefields and militants of the Ukrainian steppe.

Trump Was Cuba’s Perfect Storm. What Will Biden Bring?

In April 2018, Cuba experienced a watershed moment when Miguel Diaz-Canel was inaugurated as president. That marked the first time in nearly six decades that a Castro had not led the country. Diaz-Canel slowly moved to put his stamp on the nation, beginning with the adoption of a new constitution in April 2019 that includes some structural reforms, including the creation of a prime ministerial position, and some attempts to embed market economics within Cuba’s socialist state. But the deterioration of U.S.-Cuba relations under former President Donald Trump have jeopardized that effort.

Cuba enjoyed a surge in tourism when Trump’s predecessor, former U.S. President Barack Obama, normalized relations between the two countries, but more systemic reforms were necessary even then to unleash the younger generation of Cuban entrepreneurs. But after his election in 2016, Trump reversed many of the steps Obama took to relax U.S. policy on Cuba, tightening restrictions on commerce with military-owned businesses and on remittances and travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens.

Trump also reversed a long-standing U.S. policy toward Cuba by allowing Cuban Americans whose property was seized during the island’s revolution to sue not only the Cuban government, but also foreign companies operating on that property. The move came over the objection of European countries, who worry that their businesses might be sued, and also the Cuban government, which must now deal with the economic fallout from the decision. But Trump’s policies delighted critics of Cuba, who point to the regime’s ongoing human rights violations as justifying a harder line.

Is Germany Making Too Much Renewable Energy?


For Germany, 2020 was a banner year in the production of renewable energy. Clean energy sources—wind farms and solar arrays as well as hydroelectric and biogas plants—ratcheted their share of power consumption up to 46 percent, nearly equaling that of coal, gas, oil, and nuclear power combined. And after a period of stagnation in the 2010s, the greenhouse emissions of the world’s fourth-largest economy have been dropping again, last year by around 80 million tons of carbon dioxide. That puts Germany 42 percent down from its 1990 emissions level, thus surpassing its decade target by 2 percentage points. This trajectory is good news for Germany—and for the EU, which wants to turn the continent carbon-neutral by 2050.

Yet Germany’s move to a power system largely reliant on weather-dependent renewables is quickly running up against limits—issues that all countries exchanging conventional fuels for wind and solar will eventually face. What happens when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow for hours or even days at a time? And what about the short, dark, cold days of midwinter when renewables of Germany’s power demand?

And it’s not only shortages that are problematic but also surpluses: Stormy days can be so windy that the power flows from wind parks on- and offshore overwhelm the power grid, even triggering its collapse. These electricity tsunamis can threaten the stability of neighboring countries’ energy systems, a brickbat the Poles and Czechs wield. Moreover, when there’s excess power in the grid, prices can go negative, forcing grid operators to pay customers to take the electricity,

The transition from a conventional energy system with 24/7 production to one based on intermittent renewables entails more than just swapping one set of energy sources for another; it demands rethinking and restructuring the entire energy system.

How to Live With Authoritarians


Even after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol,
60 percent
of Republican and Republican-leaning voters still approved of Donald Trump’s performance as president. Though this level of popular support baffles many Americans, it follows in the tails of an approval rating that—while generally hovering around a modest 40 percent—remained remarkably steady throughout Trump’s blunderous presidency and near-constant assault on democratic norms and institutions.

Knee-jerk Beltway attempts to explain away this loyal adherence tend to revert to suggestions that Trump supporters are uneducated or impoverished or both—mostly angry at being “left behind” by the new economy. Now, after a mob of Trump supporters quite literally laid siege to U.S. democracy, it’s clear that there are more significant and enduring factors at play. Growing evidence suggests that Trumpism—and right-wing populist movements like it—must prompt a serious reckoning with vulnerabilities not just within the U.S. political system but within liberal democracy more generally.

It may take years to arrive at a complete understanding of Trump’s surprising mass appeal, but prior research and preliminary studies already suggest a more nuanced view of how authoritarians and malignant nationalists rise. Rather than tangible economic grievance, decades of cross-national empirical research show that feelings and perceptions of sociocultural threat are the principal drivers of surging authoritarian sentiment among the electorate and the demagoguery that rises up to service it.

Putin Is Losing the Battle for Russia’s Future


MOSCOW – Since Russians began protesting opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s imprisonment, the security forces have apparently had carte blanche to arrest demonstrators – and they have done so by the thousands. If Russians so much as honk their car horns in solidarity with the protesters, they risk personal repercussions. The official response to the protests goes beyond the Kremlin’s past repression. It is war.

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Navalny has long been a prominent opponent of President Vladimir Putin. But his arrest –immediately upon returning to Moscow from Germany, where he had spent months recovering from a (presumably) Kremlin-ordered poisoning – has turned him (as well as his comrades-in-arms, many of whom have also been arrested) into something of a moral authority as well.

Now that he has been sentenced to nearly three years in prison – which may be extended, if the authorities charge him with more crimes – Navalny’s moral standing is on par with late-Soviet dissidents like Andrei Sakharov. Russians who a few weeks ago never imagined that they would risk arrest over some moral imperative are now taking to the streets. And many of those who are staying home are sympathetically following news of the protests and Navalny’s plight.

A National Cybersecurity Agenda for Resilient Digital Infrastructure

As the White House changes hands and Congress begins a new term, there is ample opportunity to find bipartisan consensus on key cybersecurity priorities. This document outlines achievable action steps for federal policymakers to make rapid progress toward a more resilient digital infrastructure. Some can be accomplished in weeks or months; others will take years. Fortunately, the federal government is not alone. Cyberspace is ultimately the domain of civil society and private enterprise, sectors teeming with experts who can guide the White House and Congress as they grapple with the difficult tradeoffs inherent to any cybersecurity policy decision. In crafting the National Cybersecurity Agenda, the Aspen Cybersecurity Group sought input from a diverse network of partners in academia and industry. Together, we stand ready and willing to assist policymakers in cultivating a secure, reliable, and productive cyberspace. See here for a digital version of the report.

Pentagon deputy nominee wants cyber strategy clarification

Mark Pomerleau

WASHINGTON — While largely agreeing with the Defense Department’s more proactive approach to cyberspace in the last few years, President Joe Biden’s nominee for the No. 2 spot at the Pentagon has key questions about the defend forward concept.

“I am supportive of the approach. I think, if confirmed, what I would like to understand better is exactly how the authorities are being executed, what kind of oversight is involved, how we are consulting with allies and partners, whose systems we might operate on,” said Kathleen Hicks at her deputy defense secretary confirmation hearing Feb. 2 before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The DoD’s 2018 cybersecurity strategy charges U.S. Cyber Command to defend forward in cyberspace by getting as close to adversaries as possible to see what they’re planning, so the department can take action or inform others to prepare.

The approach is a response to continued adversary activity in cyberspace under the threshold of armed conflict that undermines national security.

Hicks recognized that the U.S. has been forced to become more forward leaning in its posture.

‘Dangerous Stuff’: Hackers Tried to Poison Water Supply of Florida Town

By Frances Robles and Nicole Perlroth

Hackers remotely accessed the water treatment plant of a small Florida city last week and briefly changed the levels of lye in the drinking water, in the kind of critical infrastructure intrusion that cybersecurity experts have long warned about.

The attack in Oldsmar, a city of 15,000 people in the Tampa Bay area, was caught before it could inflict harm, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri of Pinellas County said at a news conference on Monday. He said the level of sodium hydroxide — the main ingredient in drain cleaner — was changed from 100 parts per million to 11,100 parts per million, dangerous levels that could have badly sickened residents if it had reached their homes.

“This is dangerous stuff,” Mr. Gualtieri said, urging managers of critical infrastructure systems, particularly in the Tampa area, to review and tighten their computer systems. “It’s a bad act. It’s a bad actor. It’s not just a little chlorine, or a little fluoride — you’re basically talking about lye.”

In a tweet, Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, said the attempt to poison the water supply should be treated as a “matter of national security.”

The authorities said the plot unfolded last Friday morning, when an employee noticed that someone was controlling his computer. He initially dismissed it because the city has software that allows supervisors to access computers remotely. But about five and a half hours later, the employee saw that different programs were opening and that the level of lye changed.

The intrusion lasted between three and five minutes, the sheriff said.

Remote Warfare: A Critical Introduction

Abigail Watson and Alasdair McKay

This is an excerpt from Remote Warfare: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Get your free download from E-International Relations.

In the twenty-first century, remote warfare has been the most common form of military engagement used by states. But, it remains a poorly understood concept. To some it may even be an unfamiliar term. This opening chapter acts as a critical conceptual primer on remote warfare. The chapter first outlines the key techniques involved in remote warfare. It then provides a glimpse of what it looks like in practice, where it is being used and by whom. After this, the chapter proceeds to examine remote warfare’s relationship with the changing character of the war debate. Drawing upon research by Oxford Research Group (ORG), the penultimate section critically engages with some of the key challenges with its use. The chapter then offers some concluding remarks.

What is remote warfare and what does it consist of?

As the name hints, remote warfare refers to an approach used by states to counter threats at a distance. Rather than deploying large numbers of their own troops, countries use a variety of tactics to support local partners who do the bulk of frontline fighting. In this sense, the ‘remoteness’ comes from a country’s military being one step removed from the frontline fighting (Knowles and Watson 2018).

Importantly, remote warfare is not carried out solely via remote weapons systems, which is sometimes dubbed ‘remote control war’ (Gusterson 2016). Remote technologies play a role, but remote warfare encompasses a broader set of actions. Ultimately, the activities which make up remote warfare are undertaken to counter an adversary, which often takes the form of non-state armed groups (Knowles and Watson 2018).

Comply-To-Connect Is on Track To Provide Key Capabilities for the Defense of Government and Private Networks

By Dan Gouré

There is no shortage of security challenges facing the new Biden administration. One of the most important of these is securing federal government agencies, especially the Department of Defense (DoD), against cyber intrusions. Several factors are increasing the urgency of this task. The pandemic has led to a large remote federal workforce using various systems, networks and applications. Even when the pandemic ends, working remotely is likely here to stay. However, the federal government moved more of its activities to the cloud and radically expanded the number of endpoints (computers and other smart devices) on its networks well before the COVID-19 outbreak. The potential attack surface is enormous, particularly when you include the DoD's connected sensors, platforms, command and control centers, and weapons systems that are part of what some are calling an "Internet of Military Things."

The evolution of government networks is dramatically increasing the opportunities for hostile actors to access them. The SolarWinds supply chain attack exposed vulnerabilities in major commercial and public-sector enterprises, including the U.S. Treasury and the Departments of Homeland Security, State, Commerce and Defense. The discovery of the SolarWinds vulnerability set off a scramble within commercial and government networks worldwide to determine where devices were running the Orion product that was infected with malware.

SolarWinds underscored a major vulnerability in both public and private networks. What is lacking in most organizations, inter alia, is the ability to determine what devices are connected to a network. The federal government overall, and most importantly, DoD must enhance their ability to secure their networks and devices. When it comes to countering threats, both physical and cyber, the government cannot defend what it cannot see.

Resourcing Irregular and Conventional Warfare Capabilities

By Charles Barham

The Department of Defense (DoD) is implementing the 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS), and to be successful, must strike a balance between resourcing Conventional and Irregular Warfare (IW) capabilities. Most of the attention is on Service Conventional force modernization programs to prepare for armed conflict with peer or near-peer competitors, hereafter referred to as "adversaries.” This includes a drive for new weapon systems, programs that increase lethality in support of armed conflict, and capabilities that require vast resources to develop and field. However, armed conflict is only a portion, albeit an important portion, of great power competition. Competition short of armed conflict is what precedes, and if successful, can prevent armed conflict. IW should be at the center of competition short of armed conflict as DoD's ability to effectively execute IW operations will have the greatest impact in achieving the United States Government’s (USG) objectives.

This paper focuses on the competition short of armed conflict Joint Force activity as it supports the NDS and Great Power Competition. It highlights opportunities for Combatant Commanders (CCDR) to utilize IW to be successful in contested spaces. It also addresses why it is critical that IW capabilities are sustained and/or expanded.

The NDS signals a “back-to-the-future” type change in DoD’s focus, with DoD continuing the enduring mission to provide combat credible military forces needed to deter war and protect the security of the nation. Of course, should deterrence fail, the mission is to win in war. The mission has not changed. However, the threats have, and so has the environment in which the joint force will fight. The NDS is clear that “inter-state strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in U.S. national security.” Similar to the heady Cold War days of old, the great powers will square off on the global stage. Only now there are three; the United States, Russia, and China, as well as other lesser regional actors. Not unlike the Cold War, the great powers will compete largely through proxies. The great power nations will develop and support smaller combatant nation states that serve their interests instead of waging war directly between themselves. The result of these activities is a world that is becoming more unstable.

Reviewing Intelligence Analysis

Diego Bolchini

Sixteen years after publishing the first edition in 2003, Johns Hopkins lecturer Robert Clark has delivered a sixth edition of his influential textbook Intelligence Analysis: A Target-Centric Approach. The book fits in the context of other general works about intelligence analysis. But, as a main theme of the work, the author sheds light on two critical nexuses in intelligence machinery: the collector-analyst and the analyst-customer relationships. Clark argues these different professional segments should be highly collaborative, avoiding blind spots, mistrust, or implicit bias.

A strategic bridge should be built between both groups of people dealing with national security while keeping in mind the differences between them. Former Central Intelligence Agency director, retired General Michael Hayden, once said that “while intelligence officers and the analytic community work to create the general from a sea of particulars (fact-based, inductive), the policy maker (vision-based) trends deductive, trying to apply principles to specific circumstances.”[1] From this perspective, intelligence sets the right and left handrails for any rational policy discussion and high-level decision.[2]


Deterrence and Disarmament: Pulling Back the Curtain

By Keith B. Payne

Dr. Keith B. Payne is a co-founder of the National Institute for Public Policy, professor emeritus of the Graduate School of Defense and Strategic Studies at Missouri State University and a former deputy assistant secretary of defense.

Should the United States seek the maintenance of nuclear deterrence or nuclear disarmament as the policy priority? U.S. official and public enthusiasm for nuclear disarmament increased with the end of the Cold War and the expectation that nuclear weapons and deterrence were of declining relevance to U.S. security. As Yale professor Paul Bracken observed, “All were on board to oppose nuclear arms…. Academics, think tanks and intellectuals quickly jumped on the bandwagon. For a time, it really looked like there was going to be an antinuclear turn in U.S. strategy.”[1]

The 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, “for the first time,” placed “atop the U.S. nuclear agenda” nonproliferation as part of “our effort to move toward a world free of nuclear weapons.”[2] More recently, however, U.S. policy identifies deterrence as “the highest U.S. nuclear policy and strategy priority.”[3]

The basis for conflicting answers to the question of whether deterrence or disarmament should be the policy priority follows from two very different political philosophies, Realism and Idealism. Yet, the Idealist and Realist roots of arguments for disarmament and deterrence are rarely part of any discussion. This is unfortunate because understanding the philosophic roots of deterrence and disarmament arguments is essential to any serious understanding of them.
Realism and Idealism: Conflicting Worldviews, Conflicting Priorities

Culture, Not Tech, Is Obstacle To JADC2: JAIC


WASHINGTON: A hundred flowers are blooming in the Defense Department’s different AI victory gardens, but the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center worries they won’t be compatible.

That’s less a technology problem than an organizational and cultural one, JAIC officials said at AFCEA NOVA’s IC IT Day conference. The Joint AI Center is now working with the rest of the Defense Department to develop processes, policies, and governance for everything from AI ethics to data sharing – a top priority for the Pentagon.

“We’re talking about data as a strategic asset,” said JAIC’s acting deputy director, Jacqueline Tame. The need to share data freely is touted in every AI strategy document; longstanding security compartmentalization processes get in the way.

“There are several thousand security classification guidance documents just in the Department of Defense alone that basically ensure that people can say they own data,” Tame said. “That’s is antithetical to the idea that data is a strategic asset for the department.”

You can’t write code or train an algorithm to solve this kind of problem. You need to change hearts and minds. “People anticipate the answer to these questions is going to be technological,” Tame said. “It’s not. It’s really going to be about the education first [and] processes.”

Expect more nation-state cyberattacks, Krebs says


Was the SolarWinds attack a preview of coming attractions? Possibly, according to a former top cybersecurity official.

Attacks from China, Russia, Iran and North Korea will likely continue “until the leadership has decided that it cannot tolerate further behavior," Chris Krebs, the former director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, told the House Homeland Security Committee at a Feb. 10 hearing.

Rep. Lou Correa (D-Calif.) asked the former CISA chief about how the U.S. can prevent further attacks, which "should in all sense and purposes constitute a declaration of war on the United States."

When Krebs suggested the government could prevent attacks by levying financial sanctions on adversarial nations and certain oligarchs, Correa noted that suggestion had been pushed forward before but never acted upon.

The U.S. has used financial sanctions, Krebs said, but those penalties must be matched by other international allies. He cautioned committee members to recognize that "there are certain behaviors that, unfortunately, are within the realm of acceptable cyber behavior" such as espionage against a federal government.