21 February 2021

India-Saudi Security Ties Getting Stronger

India and Saudi Arabia have long enjoyed cordial relations, primarily driven by India’s energy security requirements. But the bilateral partnership has seen important shifts in recent years. According to Indian media reports, the armies of the two countries plan to hold a joint exercise for the first time. The exercise will be conducted in the latter part of the year and the Indian Army contingent will travel to Saudi Arabia for it. The decision to hold joint army exercises appear to be a follow up to the visit of General N.M. Naravane, the Indian army chief, to Saudi Arabia in December.

The navies of the two countries were also planning to hold their first-ever joint naval exercises in March 2020 but it had to be postponed on account of the pandemic. The naval exercise has been rescheduled for the first half of 2021. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s two trips to Saudi Arabia, first in 2016 and then in 2019, and the visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to India in 2019, have been important in consolidating the bonds between the two sides. All of this suggests that while energy security might continue to dominate the agenda, security and defense cooperation are becoming higher priorities in the India-Saudi relationship.

America Is Going the Same Way as the Soviets in Afghanistan


The bipartisan Afghanistan Study Group report released Feb. 3 has painted a bleak picture of what will happen to Afghanistan if the United States withdraws its remaining 2,500 troops prematurely. It warns that transnational terrorist groups will rebuild capabilities that were destroyed following the U.S.-led invasion and be operational again to attack U.S. soil within two to three years.

Under the flawed 2020 Doha agreement, the Trump administration promised to remove all U.S. troops in return for the Taliban’s pledge to enter into meaningful peace talks with the Afghan government—but without any promises by the Taliban to cease violence. Ironically, even though Pakistan played a pivotal role in the Doha deal, the Afghan government was left out entirely from the discussions. The deal also required the Taliban to ensure Afghanistan would not be used by al Qaeda or other terrorist groups to target the United States or its allies.

Unsurprisingly, the Taliban flagrantly disregarded these conditions. The Taliban have not ended ties with al Qaeda, and the groups continue to collaborate. A United Nations Security Council report even indicates that the two were consulting during the Doha talks. Violent attacks are on the rise in Afghanistan, with an increase in targeted killings of government and military officials as well as an indiscriminate murder of journalists and civil-society activists. Almost two decades after the 9/11 attacks, the Taliban are stronger than they have ever been since their overthrow in December 2001.

There is a real concern that Afghanistan could revert back into the breeding ground for extremism that it was in the 1990s. Much will depend on the next steps the Biden administration takes this year. Withdrawing U.S. forces too soon could trigger civil war, hand the Taliban victory, and spur the reemergence of terrorist groups that could threaten the West.

What Happened to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor?

By Muhammad Akbar Notezai

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), one of the most ambitious components of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, was announced to great fanfare in 2015. Since then it has consistently been held up as a “gamechanger” for Pakistan’s economy. But the road to completion has proved long and winding. Reports indicate that the pace of CPEC projects has been slowing down in Pakistan in recent years.

At the same time, China is the only country that is heavily investing in Pakistan. The slowdown of CPEC thus does not augur well for a cash-strapped country like Pakistan, which is plagued by countless issues, some due to its own conceived policies.

In Pakistan’s case, CPEC has continually been discussed ever since its announcement back in 2015, despite the fact that there has not been a major development in years. The lack of progress has led to numerous reports about CPEC being at a near standstill in the country. A case in point is a recent Bloomberg video report on CPEC as an example of “how China’s flagship Belt and Road project stalled out.”

The Bloomberg video discusses CPEC in general, with a particular focus on the port city of Gwadar. It is interesting to note that Gwadar, despite being the epicenter of multibillion dollar projects, lacks basic necessities like reliable access to water and electricity, let alone other facilities. Official circles in Beijing and Islamabad may dub the report as yet another example of “Western propaganda,” as they often do when a foreign media report is not in their favor, but it points out to several factors that have gone wrong, ultimately pushing the CPEC projects in Pakistan onto the backburner.

NATO Chief Dismisses Early Pullout of Afghan Troop Trainers

By Associated Press

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on February 17 that the military alliance will only leave Afghanistan when security conditions allow, as a deadline for withdrawing troops set out in a peace deal with the Taliban nears.

NATO has just under 10,000 troops in the war-ravaged country helping to train and advise the Afghan security forces. Only about 2,500 of them are U.S. forces, but the allies could not continue the NATO operation if American transport, logistics, and other support are withdrawn.

President Joe Biden is reviewing his predecessor’s 2020 deal with the Taliban, which includes a May 1 deadline for a final U.S. troop withdrawal. In Washington, calls are mounting for the United States to delay the final exit or renegotiate the deal to allow the presence of a smaller, intelligence-based American force. The bipartisan experts group, the Afghan Study Group, recommended delaying the U.S. pullout from Afghanistan earlier this month, based on a judgement that the Taliban have not fulfilled the conditions set within the February 2020 deal.

Violence is spiking in Afghanistan and culprits include the Taliban, the Islamic State group, warlords, and criminal gangs.

Expand Demining to Facilitate Afghan Peace

by Michael Rubin

The Afghan peace process continues amidst uncertainty about the speed and totality of American withdrawal, disappointment at Taliban noncompliance, and questions about where an intra-Afghan dialogue might lead. Should Afghanistan achieve peace, though, some certainties exist, among which would be both decommissioning of Taliban forces, promoting employment to build support for the government, and preventing recidivism among those motivated more by economic desperation than ideology.

Here, the Biden administration’s support for and expansion of demining activities in Afghanistan could prove essential. In September 2020, the Trump administration allowed U.S. funding to expire, leading to the immediate layoff of thirty thousand members of the Afghan local police. Expanding demining could mitigate that loss. According to The Halo Trust, one of the world’s leading demining organizations and the largest demining organization in Afghanistan, “Afghanistan’s demining sector . . . currently employs around 5,000 Afghans (primarily men of fighting age), down from its peak of 14,000 Afghans in 2012. As a result, the sector has the capacity to rapidly expand.” In 2010, HALO led a pilot initiative that recruited 259 former Taliban and Hezbi-Islami fighters and trained them in mine clearance. Over the last decade, only one has left to return to the battlefield. Demining may be the most popular way to absorb quickly decommissioned fighters. That former soldiers and Taliban fighters know the terrain intimately is a bonus.

Seeing things China’s way

There is much talk of restoring US global leadership under Biden, but for Beijing this ignores the extent to which global power has shifted, explains Nigel Inkster. It believes that the superiority of the Chinese system will prevail, even if that entails a struggle in the short to medium term.

Joe Biden had his first call as president with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on 10 February, after having already spoken to all his major Western counterparts, a sequencing that was both deliberate and telling. The two men know each other from when they were exact counterparts as vice-presidents during the Obama administration. But much has changed since then. Accounts of the conversation, which lasted for two hours, were light on detail and even more so in terms of conveying mood. But there was nothing to suggest that the current strained relationship will ease in the foreseeable future.

What follows is an attempt to set out how China will have seen the background against which this contact took place and what it expected from it. Sometimes the terminology is necessarily formulaic, reflecting the way that Chinese policies are couched. But it draws on that language to convey a sense of how key issues are perceived by a Chinese Communist Party that has always used language in deliberate and calculated ways to shape perceptions and determine outcomes.

The state of the world, according to Beijing

Why America Needs a Clear Policy to Deal With Chinese Cyber Security Concerns

Klon Kitchen

Recent news reports indicate that Washington is shelving a proposed deal to let Oracle and Walmart purchase the U.S. operations of Chinese social media giant TikTok, while President Joe Biden decides how to deal with China more broadly on technology competition and cybersecurity.

This is a positive development, indicating that the new administration understands this decision is about more than dance videos or even misguided economic protectionism.

TikTok had been banned from operating in the United States because of American data security concerns. The Trump administration worried that the data gleaned from U.S. users would be made available to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), allowing them to track or otherwise threaten U.S. citizens and interests.

Most importantly, because the CCP exercises decisive influence over Chinese businesses and often employs them as an extension of the state’s law enforcement and intelligence apparatus, underlying concerns about TikTok’s relationship with the CCP apply to virtually every other Chinese company—of which there are more than 280 on the U.S. Stock Exchange. The implications of this decision, therefore, will be wide-ranging if the United States intends to be consistent. For a viable, coherent policy, decision-makers need to understand how the CCP—and those under its control—manipulate language to hide their intentions, capabilities, and actions.



In 2017, as U.S. President Donald Trump began his trade war with China, another battle raged behind the scenes. The simmering, decadelong conflict over data between Chinese and U.S. intelligence agencies was heating up, driven both by the ambitions of an increasingly confident Beijing and by the conviction of key players in the new administration in Washington that China was presenting an economic, political, and national security challenge on a scale the United States had not faced for decades—if ever.

This series, based on interviews with over three dozen current and former U.S. intelligence and national security officials, tells the story of China’s assault on U.S. personal data over the last decade—and its consequences.

After China discovered extensive U.S. networks inside its own government, it struck back with a series of hacks that allowed it to expose CIA operatives in Africa and Europe—while upping domestic security at home to protect against further U.S. infiltration.

As Xi Jinping consolidated his power through purges at home, the loss of U.S. sources left the Obama administration struggling to grasp what was happening in China. Meanwhile, intelligence agencies carried out enormous thefts of U.S. data—while the United States strived to do the same in China.

Refining US Military Scenario-Planning for China and Russia

By Mercy A. Kuo

Trans-Pacific View author Mercy Kuo regularly engages subject-matter experts, policy practitioners, and strategic thinkers across the globe for their diverse insights into U.S. Asia policy. This conversation with Bryan Clark – senior fellow and director of the Center for Defense Concepts and Technology at the Hudson Institute – is the 259th in “The Trans-Pacific View Insight Series.”

Briefly explain the U.S. military scenario-planning process for conventional conflict with China and Russia.

In consultation with the intelligence community, U.S. military planners identify events that should be used for planning the size and mix of U.S. forces. There is a tension, however, between planning for the most likely situations as opposed to worst-case events. For example, large-scale, high-intensity conflicts like China invading Taiwan or Russia invading Latvia would be challenging for U.S. and allied militaries but are less likely compared to scenarios such as protracted gray-zone confrontations between China or Russia and their neighbors. U.S. planners usually choose high-intensity scenarios, although protracted conflicts may be harder for the U.S. military to address.

After the scenario subjects are decided, planners build a detailed description of the events leading up to the conflict, the expected actions of adversary, allied, and noncombatant governments and militaries, and the order of battle expected to be employed by each participating nation. Scenarios usually do not detail U.S. government or military actions.

From the Arab Spring to the American Winter: Cyberspace and Democracy After the Insurrection

by David P. Fidler

It only took one decade. Ten years ago this month, democratic movements, facilitated by social media, began to surge across the Arab world. These movements challenged authoritarian rule, buoyed democratic nations, and appeared to forge a bond between democracy and cyberspace that promised to shape the world’s political fortunes for years to come. On January 6, 2021, a mob—incited by the president of the United States and addicted to lies and conspiracy theories spread through social media—attempted to prevent the peaceful transfer of power in the world’s oldest democracy from taking place.

This obscene moment in American history is forcing a reckoning in our country about many things, including how the democratic project at home and abroad copes with the antidemocratic weaponization of digital technologies. January 6th is a day that will live in cyber infamy. On this day, an American social media company, Twitter, bans the president of the United States from using its platform to continue to incite his beloved and very special red guards from further desecrating the Capitol and violently intervening against the democratic process. The nation watches this rabble pervasively use mobile devices to record and share online their insurrection. Then—even after the lawlessness, violence, and bloodshed—the world watches over 100 lawmakers oppose certification of Electoral College votes and the legitimacy of the 2020 election by repeating falsehoods about the election that the president, his apparatchiks, and his cultists have spread online. Cyberspace, it appears, is the place American exceptionalism went to die.

This American tragedy stands as the grim nadir of a decade that has seen democracy’s relationship with cyberspace disintegrate. The Arab Spring seemed to signal that cyberspace was a new, powerful engine for the spread of democracy and freedom in the world. In that moment, the political, technological, and ideological leadership of the United States promised great things as cyberspace and digital technologies bolstered efforts of other peoples to secure freedom, self-government, and justice under the rule of law. Since those heady days, the decline of internet freedom and the rise of digital authoritarianism have clouded the fortunes of democracy in relation to cyberspace. Despite these adverse trends, the belief still prevailed that, as in the past, the United States would persevere as a stalwart, if imperfect, leader of the cause of freedom and democracy.

Europe’s Misadventure in Moscow


MADRID – When the European Union’s foreign ministers convene on February 22, they will have to confront the political fallout from the ill-fated visit to Moscow by Josep Borrell, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. One hopes that the reckoning catalyzes much-needed progress toward developing a coherent European Russia policy.

The timing of Borrell’s visit to Moscow – the first by an EU official since 2017 – was odd, to say the least. In the weeks before he arrived, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny had returned to Russia from Germany, where he had been recovering since last August from what was most likely a Kremlin-ordered poisoning. Navalny did not even make it out of the airport before he was arrested.

After hasty and farcical court proceedings, Navalny was sentenced to nearly three years in a penal colony. This touched off a wave of protests – and a wave of repression by the Kremlin. Police have detained thousands of demonstrators, often using excessive force.

Borrell went to Moscow anyway. In his view, by “putting aside negative rhetoric,” the visit would be a “good starting point for frank EU-Russia dialogue.” The logic is not altogether wrong. As German Chancellor Angela Merkel acknowledged in the trip’s aftermath, the EU has a “diplomatic duty” to keep channels of communication with Russia open.

But seeking a reset with the Kremlin from anything other than a position of strength is a recipe for disaster. Borrell learned this the hard way at a joint press conference in Moscow, when Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called the EU an “unreliable partner” and accused its leaders of lying about Navalny’s poisoning.

The American Century Ends Early


Like Gregor Samsa, the never-to-be-forgotten character in Franz Kafka’s story “The Metamorphosis,” we awoke on January 7th to discover that we, too, were “a giant insect” with “a domelike brown belly divided into stiff arched segments” and numerous “pitifully thin” legs that “waved helplessly” before our eyes. If you prefer, though, you can just say it: we opened our eyes and found that, somehow, we had become a giant roach of a country.

Yes, I know, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are now in charge and waving their own little limbs wildly, trying to do some of what needs to be done for this sad land of the disturbed, over-armed, sick, and dying. But anyone who watched the scenes of Floridians celebrating a Super Bowl victory, largely unmasked and cheering, shoulder to shoulder in the streets of Tampa, can’t help but realize that we are now indeed a roach nation, the still-wealthiest, most pandemically unmasked one on Planet Earth.

But don’t just blame Donald Trump. Admittedly, we’ve just passed through the Senate trial and acquittal of the largest political cockroach around. I’m talking about the president who, upon discovering that his vice president was in danger of being “executed” (“Hang Mike Pence!“) and was being rushed out of the Senate as a mob bore down on him, promptly tweeted: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.”

Just imagine. The veep who had — if you don’t mind my mixing my creature metaphors here — toadied up to the president for four endless years was then given a functional death sentence by that same man. You can’t fall much deeper into personal roachdom than that. My point here, though, is that our all-American version of roacherie was a long time in coming.

Why Joe Biden Should Start a Cybersecurity Dialogue With Russia

by Daniel Rakov Yochai Guisky

The United States and Russia have corralled themselves into an adversarial relationship for the foreseeable future, with cyber-space as one of its major battlegrounds. The unprecedented scale of the recent SolarWinds cyber breach, attributed to Russian intelligence services, raised a debate whether the failure was due to a flawed U.S. strategy that needs a revision, or just a problem of execution. President Joe Biden promised “to elevate the status of cyber within government” and “to launch an urgent initiative to improve capability, readiness, and resilience in cyberspace,” as well as to act firmly against Russian actions. Incorporating a high-level U.S.-Russian cyber dialogue in the administration’s nascent approach towards Moscow could have considerable benefits and poses very limited risks.

Cybersecurity was on the U.S.-Russian political agenda until the end of the Obama administration. Its high-point was the establishment of “cyber-hotline,” which was used before the 2016 elections to warn Moscow against interfering. During the Trump administration, Russian attempts to initiate dialogue had floundered, as the United States was highly skeptical about Russian motives. Instead, the United States continued “imposing costs”: sanctioning and “naming and shaming.”

The U.S. Cyber Command had adopted a proactive approach towards Russia, including taking responsibility for offensive cyber operations and contemplating to retaliate for Russian influence operations in a similar way. Bilateral talks with Russia on cyber were considered “toxic” because they were seen as potentially turning a blind eye to or even legitimizing Moscow’s aggressive actions. Vladimir Putin’s September 25 call for a “cyber reset,” less than two months before the U.S. elections fell on deaf ears and was considered by Washington to be a cynical ploy.

SolarWinds attack underlines importance of US cyber-security upgrades

The unprecedented scale of the SolarWinds attack was a powerful illustration of how the cyber threat environment is intensifying, explains Greg Austin. Is the United States doing enough to equip itself to thwart state-level and criminal attacks?

Testimony by leading specialists to the US Congress on 10 February makes clear that the country’s cyber defence and deterrence strategies are not effective against foreign cyber attacks. Criminal activities also pose a significant threat to national cyber defences, with the hearings held just days after news broke of an attempt by cyber sabotage to contaminate a city’s water supply chemically and potentially poison its inhabitants. This testimony was made as part of the first Homeland Security Committee hearings since the spectacular Russian espionage success involving software from US company SolarWinds that came to light in December 2020, and since President Joe Biden’s inauguration.

The four specialists, who included Christopher Krebs, the former founding head of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), were all upbeat about the prospects for successful and effective upgrades to national cyber security. They gave credible recommendations for improvement. On the other hand, their statements indicate there is a long way to go and that the room for optimism is much narrower than suggested, given what several of them painted as a seriously intensifying cyber threat environment.

On the same day, the White House announced plans for an inquiry into the SolarWinds attack. In this attack, which may still be in play, a Russian intelligence agency successfully exploited weaknesses in the software made by SolarWinds to penetrate the outer defences of more than 200 agencies and corporations to achieve what some have called the most serious cyber attack anywhere, ever.

US cyber defence today

Respect Thy Neighbor: Russia and the Baltic Region

By Dmitri Trenin

Twenty-five years ago, soon after I joined Carnegie, I launched my first project at the Carnegie Moscow Center. It was focused on the Baltic Sea area. As a result, I even wrote a short book for CMC called The Baltic Chance: The Baltic States, Russia, and the West in the New Europe. The idea behind both the project and the book was to conceptualize the role of the Baltic Sea region as a laboratory for ever closer collaboration between Russia and the rest of Europe.

Fast forward to today. The Baltic Sea area has become the part of Europe where Russia and NATO, as a result of its enlargement to the east, sit physically side by side along a broad front. To all intents and purposes, it is a de facto front line. Following the 2014 Ukraine crisis, relations between Russia and NATO have turned as hostile as they were during the Cold War. Small Western military contingents are now deployed in each of the Baltic states. Poland is emerging as a new hub for the U.S. military presence in Europe.

Russia’s relations with non-NATO countries in the Baltic Sea region—Sweden and Finland—have also become markedly strained. Stockholm has just decided on a major increase in its defense spending, citing the Russian threat. Moscow, of course, has always considered Sweden an informal member of NATO. What is new is that Finland, Russia’s direct neighbor and a neutral–friendly partner during the Cold War, is now cooperating very closely with the United States and NATO. The Baltic Sea has largely become a NATO lake.

Assessing President Trump’s Legacy of Cyber Confusion

by Brandon Valeriano

Brandon Valeriano is the Bren Chair of Military Innovation at the Marine Corps University. He also serves as a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.

Things did not end well for the Trump’s administration’s cybersecurity efforts. After Chris Krebs, the head of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), was fired by President Trump for releasing a statement claiming, “the November 3rd election was the most secure in American history,” Krebs immediately went on 60 Minutes and the Late Show with Stephen Colbert to take a victory lap after his agency’s solid performance in monitoring the election.

Donald Trump’s campaign lawyer, Joe diGenova countered with “that guy [Krebs] is a class A moron. He should be drawn and quartered. Taken out at dawn and shot.” This is but one example of the dangerous messaging that emerged from the White House following the election, contradicting election experts and evidence. President Trump’s legacy on cybersecurity will go down in a miasma of confusion and delay.

This December, President Trump decided one his final stands in government would be to demand under the threat of veto that the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the annual bill that funds the defense establishment, should include a provision eliminating section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Section 230 is the oft misunderstood and mythologized dispensation for internet platforms to avoid moderating content on their platforms. President Trump tweeted, “Section 230, which is a liability shield gift from the U.S. to ‘Big Tech’ (the only companies in America that have it – corporate welfare!), is a serious threat to our National Security & Election Integrity.”



As the new administration reassesses U.S. nuclear policy, it will be forced to make decisions about the future of the country’s ground-based, nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) arsenal. Many advocates of maintaining the nuclear status quo have argued that it is essential to completely replace America’s aging Minuteman ICBMs with a new set of missiles, commonly referred to as the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent. And yet, to justify this approach, advocates have falsely presented the decision as a binary choice. They claim the United States must either fully replace its ICBMs or jettison them entirely. There is, however, an alternative approach: Extend the lifespan of the Minuteman ICBMs and use arms control to reduce the deterrence requirements that ostensibly justify them.

We argue that extending the lifespan of the currently deployed Minuteman missiles is preferable to replacing them with a new arsenal of ICBMs. Silo-based ICBMs are ultimately ill-suited to counter the emergence of regional nuclear — and especially non-nuclear — threats to U.S. national security. Doubling down on ICBMs would in fact create additional risks to U.S. security. Rather than committing to ICBMs for the next five decades or more, the United States should begin to move its nuclear force structure away from silo ICBMs and look to reduce the comparable elements of Russia’s nuclear forces in tandem through arms control.

Adding to the Minuteman’s current life span is technically feasible, and would be a reasonable political compromise between Democrats and Republicans as both parties seek to support U.S. nuclear modernization and additional arms limitations on Russia (and China). Finally, U.S. negotiators seeking to shape the development of Russia’s strategic forces by limiting the deployment of large, multi-warhead silo ICBMs will be better served by trading away currently deployed Minutemen missiles instead of waiting for new missiles to be deployed in ten years.

The Indo-Pacific Strategy Is a Recipe for Disaster

By Lyle J. Goldstein 

In early March 1992, a foundational U.S. strategy surfaced revealing that America’s goal after the Cold War would henceforth be, in the words of the New York Times’s reporting on the document, “to insure that no rival superpower is allowed to emerge” and to maintain the continuity of the so-called “unipolar moment.” The inclination to seek everlasting primacy has not served the nation well during the past few decades. The “unipolar moment” and its various supporting rationales precipitated countless and costly military interventions—most of them unsuccessful—and also have spurred intense, precarious strategic rivalries. A similarly sweeping strategy, the U.S. Strategic Framework for the Indo-Pacific, first written in 2018 but declassified in early January 2021, has many echoes of this 1992 progenitor but may have even more destructive consequences. Though the Biden administration has quickly distanced itself from many of the previous administration’s policies, these policy shifts have not focused on China. As the Biden administration begins a review of U.S. defense policy toward China and the broader region, it would do well to discard the Indo-Pacific strategy and start again with a more sound understanding of the political realities.

The authors of the Trump administration’s framework were evidently so pleased with the work that they thought it necessary to declassify it before leaving office and share it with the public, even though the general custom is to wait 30 years before declassification. But surely they also intended that the document might constrain and direct the Biden administration’s approach to U.S. strategy. The new document appears to build directly on the 1992 effort in that the first line of the document establishes the maintenance of “U.S. strategic primacy” in the region as the central challenge of U.S. policy.

In Central Europe, Biden Can Build on Trump’s Record

David Hutt 

Today, the United States’ relations with Central Europe are at an inflection point. Much of the recent media coverage in the region has focused on how Washington’s influence might wane if President Joe Biden picks a fight with the governments of Hungary and Poland, whose leaders had cultivated close ties with Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump. On the campaign trail, Biden bemoaned the recent trajectory of democratic decline and the erosion of checks and balances on executive power in those countries. Meanwhile, illiberal leaders like Hungary’s Viktor Orban and Poland’s Jaroslaw Kaczynski are suspicious of Biden’s pledges to make human rights and the rule of law key pillars of U.S. foreign policy, viewing such efforts as affronts to their sovereignty.

As the Atlantic Council’s Petr Tuma noted in December, some observers in Central and Eastern Europe also fear that after a period of “intensified cooperation” under Trump, America could revert back to the era of President Barack Obama, “when many believed Washington (initially) sacrificed the region’s interests in the name of a reset with Moscow.” In reality, though, Biden has given no sign of any such attempt at a reset, signaling he will take a tough approach toward Russia. And even as Biden seeks to reorient U.S. foreign policy away from his predecessor’s approach, the Trump administration has actually left a solid foundation of trust and cooperation for Biden to build upon in Central Europe.

Since 2017, all of the leaders from the “Visegrad Four”—the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland—have visited Washington, while Trump’s secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, toured each of their capitals. U.S. trade with the region is up across the board, and Washington has signed new security pacts with Poland and Hungary. And all except Budapest have backed Washington’s pressure campaign against the controversial Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei.

Illuminating Defense Supply Chains and Investments: An Opportunity for NATO Leadership

Instead of challenging NATO head-on, adversaries are conducting actions below the threshold for open conflict. Attempts at supply chain penetration are a cause for particular concern.

The majority of NATO’s focus is on strategic and conventional capability development and deployment, including planning for joint military scenarios, procuring weapons and armaments, and establishing an “enterprise” view of closing conventional kill chains. This focus is generally well-founded. These strategic and conventional needs are deemed critical to the defense of the alliance, particularly in Europe, and define the capabilities required to maintain an ever-evolving threshold of deterrence.

Adversary, near-peer competitors, however, are aware of this, and increasingly conduct actions in the gray zone or below the threshold for open conflict. These gray zone actions are growing more dangerous as adversaries push the boundaries and discover new ways to advance their objectives. Actions run the gamut from Russian “little green men” in Ukraine, to cyber intrusions, to strings-attached economic aid. To counter this growing challenge, NATO must identify opportunities to counter priority gray zone threats by sharpening its focus and investing in these areas.

Perhaps the most critical areas for transatlantic concern are adversary penetration of defense supply chains and funding/investment. Cybersecurity receives the greatest attention from the alliance and many think tanks, but the threat to the physical supply chain is equally robust. Near-peer adversaries combine efforts to penetrate defense and dual-use technology companies’ cybersecurity architectures and to insert counterfeit or compromised parts into defense supply chains. Additionally, they pursue investments and acquisitions of emerging technology companies (or those with access to these technologies), obscuring the true source of the funding. These targets are often the most vulnerable: either small businesses incapable of vetting components or a firm that is vital to the supply chain.

Russia Is Working to Pair Combat Jets and Drones, Too


The United States isn’t the only country working to pair fighter jets with heavy drones. Russia is looking to bring together its advanced Sukhoi Su-57 fighter and its S-70 Okhotnik heavy reconnaissance and strike drone in mixed air regiments, according to Russian news outlet Izvestia.

The Su-57, first flown in 2010, is Russia’s most advanced fighter. Russia expects to have 76 of them by 2028, according to CNA analyst Sam Bendett. The S-70 Okhotnik is still in development. The two were “ designed as interoperable as far as their weapons systems go, and their communications,” said Bendett.

He says mixing strike drones and fighter jets is a high priority for the Russian Ministry of Defense. Last December, Deputy Defense Minister Alexey Krivoruchko touted efforts to enable UAVs to operate in airspace shared with manned aircraft, to develop UAV swarms, and to add elements of artificial intelligence to UAV control systems.

Last month, Russia began testing new “networked warfare” concepts to link its weapons in a battle web, according to Russian news site RIA Novosti.

These efforts are taking place alongside parallel ones in the United States. The Air Force’s XQ-58A Valkyrie drone program seeks to build stealthy, relatively -low- cost drones to fight alongside the far costlier F-35 and F-22 combat jets. The Air Force Research Lab completed a successful flight test last December.

Goodhart’s Law: Why the future of conflict will not be data-driven


Data is the future. Few tropes receive more uncritical acceptance. Pick any rubric of military assessment– take PMESII (political, military, economic, social, information, infrastructure) and DIME (diplomatic, informational, military, and economic) as obvious examples– and you will find analysts, operators, commanders and civilian authorities, convinced the key element of future operational and strategic efficacy lies with harnessing data. Gathering, collating, analysing, and acting on data, more efficaciously than the competitor, is central to institutional expectations of the digital age in just about any contemporary field of endeavor– military or otherwise.

As conflict in the ‘grey zone’ has blurred traditional boundaries between cooperation, competition and conflict, compressing time, space, lines of effort, phases, and domains, increasingly we are certain victory lies in connecting bridges across data streams. Lieutenant General John Shanahan, former Director of the U.S. Department Of Defense Joint Artificial Intelligence Center has previously warned against being left behind by competitors in this race to mine military advantage from the data. Prime Minister Scott Morrison echoed these assertions in his vision for Australia’s economic future. Few question the assumption that data is the key to unlocking strategic success.

But is it true?

Army Extending Cyber Capabilities

By Robert K. Ackerman

The U.S. Army is applying its cyber expertise across the defense spectrum as it blends tactical and strategic capabilities while helping the departmentwide cyber mission. This ranges from operational activities to training, and the effort spans both defensive and offensive cyber missions.

Some of these points were explained in day 2 of the first episode in the TechNet Augusta Virtual Solutions Series, airing February 16-17. Col. John Transue Jr., USA, director, Army Capability Manager (ACM) Cyber, described how the separation between tactical and strategic capabilities is blurring as the Army applies elements of one to the other.

“Our capabilities used to be primarily designed for the cyber mission force,” he explained. “Now the Army has been putting a significant focus onto the service retain capability. For the Army, that would be the Cyber Warfare Battalion [CWB], the 915th CWB and the I2CEWS under the multidomain task force.

“What we’ve been looking at from the cyber side is using our current capabilities that we’ve been developing for the cyber mission force and then determining what makes sense to be at the tactical layer and what type of capabilities of the equipment that they actually need,” he added.

Transatlantic Data Transfers

Kenneth Propp

U.S. surveillance activities have alarmed European partners, throwing the future of transatlantic digital trade into question. The United States should embrace collaboration and protections for personal data.

Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council; and Adjunct Professor of Law, Georgetown University


Data transfers are at the heart of the robust transatlantic economy, but they have long been plagued by Europe’s doubts about privacy protections in the United States.

The economic stakes are high. Information and communications technology (ICT) services such as social networks and cloud service providers depend on cross-border data transfers, as do other services that can be delivered over ICT networks, including engineering, software, design, and finance. Although trade in digital services is hard to measure precisely, it has become one of the fastest-growing areas for the United States internationally. In 2017, digital services constituted 55 percent of U.S. services exports, yielding 68 percent of the U.S. global surplus in services trade, according to a transatlantic trade study [PDF]. U.S. exports of digital services to Europe that year amounted to $204.2 billion, generating a surplus of more than $80 billion. The transatlantic is the world’s largest area for digital trade.

In order to maintain and expand this trade, U.S. policymakers should develop a strategy to address the European Union (EU)’s concerns and promote cooperation with other democracies at a multilateral forum, such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, to develop a shared legal framework for government access to personal data.


A Superpower, Like It or Not

By Robert Kagan

All great powers have a deeply ingrained self-perception shaped by historical experience, geography, culture, beliefs, and myths. Many Chinese today yearn to recover the greatness of a time when they ruled unchallenged at the pinnacle of their civilization, before “the century of humiliation.” Russians are nostalgic for Soviet days, when they were the other superpower and ruled from Poland to Vladivostok. Henry Kissinger once observed that Iranian leaders had to choose whether they wanted to be “a nation or a cause,” but great powers and aspiring great powers often see themselves as both. Their self-perception shapes their definition of the national interest, of what constitutes genuine security and the actions and resources necessary to achieve it. Often, it is these self-perceptions that drive nations, empires, and city-states forward. And sometimes to their ruin. Much of the drama of the past century resulted from great powers whose aspirations exceeded their capacity.

Americans have the opposite problem. Their capacity for global power exceeds their perception of their proper place and role in the world. Even as they have met the challenges of Nazism and Japanese imperialism, Soviet communism, and radical Islamist terrorism, they have never regarded this global activism as normal. Even in the era of the Internet, long-range missiles, and an interdependent global economy, many Americans retain the psychology of a people living apart on a vast continent, untouched by the world’s turmoil. Americans have never been isolationists. In times of emergency, they can be persuaded to support extraordinary exertions in far-off places. But they regard these as exceptional responses to exceptional circumstances. They do not see themselves as the primary defender of a certain kind of world order; they have never embraced that “indispensable” role.