22 March 2021

Finding Strategic Autonomy in the Quad: India’s Trial by Fire

By Monish Tourangbam and Anupama Vijayakumar

The recently concluded virtual meeting of the leaders of the Quadrilateral Security Initiative (Quad) drew the attention of Beijing. The Global Times has carried a number of commentaries calling out the Quad for varied deficiencies, including its “limited scope,” “internal divergence,” and lack of a “cohesive force from within,” in addition to warning that the group will have negative repercussions for other multilateral groupings like the Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa (BRICS) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

Despite the all too palpable strategic embrace between India and the United States, which forms the bedrock of the Quad, India’s membership in the BRICS and SCO still count as important planks of its multilateral engagements. A severe downturn in Sino-Indian relations following the military crisis at the Line of Actual Control (LAC), coupled with rising tensions in U.S.-China great power competition, has seen a growing convergence between India and the United States to counteract China’s unilateral and intransigent behavior in the Indo-Pacific region. The other members in the Quad, Japan and Australia, also happen to be treaty allies of the United States. They are increasingly experiencing difficult relations with China and also show intentions of growing their own strategic engagement with India. The recent inclusion of Australia in the U.S.-India-Japan Malabar exercise has added more heft to the Quad.

In the midst of these geopolitical tensions, the current discourse on the broader direction of India’s foreign policy seems to revolve around New Delhi’s close engagement with the United States while adhering to its historic inhibitions for formal military alliances. The unfolding geopolitical milieu has clearly prompted India to re-examine its status in the international system, and reflect upon the central undercurrent of its foreign policy orientation: the practice of strategic autonomy, whether through non-alignment in the bipolar Cold Ward era, or multi-alignment in the emerging multipolar era.

If you think the West's culture wars are bad, try Afghanistan's

Afghanistan has seen a spate of deadly violence as the government and Taliban engage in talks about the country's future. AP

If there is one saying that presages all of the violence that has plagued Afghanistan for decades, it is the seemingly innocuous one inscribed at the entrance to the Kabul Museum. The English version reads “A nation stays alive when its culture stays alive”.

As if a metaphor for how often Western interpretations of Afghan realities miss the mark, it fails to capture fully what the Persian text above it says: “A nation stays alive when it keeps its culture and history alive.”

There is in Afghanistan one culture in which women are kept home from school and work, are required to wear a certain outfit and generally treated as second-class citizens. There is, in parallel, another in which they hold elected office, train as fighter pilots and are free to work as performing artists. There is one culture in which tribalism and ethnicity govern nearly all aspects of daily life, and another in which they simply do not.

The Taliban clings to one set of these cultures, and those who dread their return to power cling to the other. Each has a corresponding historical narrative that explains who society’s greatest villain is and the cognitive dissonance between them is immense. For so many lifetimes now, long and short, Afghanistan’s story has been one of a disjointed culture and a disfigured history, and of a nation dying in an effort to keep them alive.

Is the Quad’s Revival a Threat to ASEAN?

By Rifki Dermawan

Last week’s first virtual summit of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue – commonly known as the Quad – signified the growing cooperation among its four members: the United States, Australia, Japan, and India. After a period in which the idea of the Quad fell into abeyance, the new-look “Quad 2.0” is fast emerging as an important part of a novel global security architecture, raising pressing questions about the future role and centrality of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Despite doubts about the possibility of deep and institutionalized collaborations among the Quad countries, the meeting indicated that the four powers are willing to cooperate on pressing issues of common concern, such as the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and the global impact of climate change, in addition to traditional security challenges. According to the joint statement issued at the close of the meeting, the four nations pledged to “redouble our commitment to the Quad engagement.”

This moment might well have been anticipated by China. The Chinese government has long viewed the Quad as an American-led attempt to contain and counter its global rise, and the grouping’s consolidation could well heighten further the tensions between the two superpowers. Despite the changeover of power in the U.S., President Joe Biden has so far given every indication that he would take a similar approach to China as his predecessor Donald Trump. Furthermore, the involvement of Australia, Japan, and India through the Quad could present a novel challenge for Chinese leader Xi Jinping. This approach, which emphasizes close cooperation between the U.S. and its strategic partners, has been outlined by Biden since last year as the basis of his strategy toward China.

China’s Myanmar Mess

By Sarah M. Brooks and Debbie Stothard

For weeks, every speech from Chinese officials on Myanmar has been essentially the same: China is Myanmar’s “friendly neighbor,” and the current crisis is nothing more than an “internal affair” that needs to be resolved by the “people of Myanmar.”

If this approach to a political and human rights crisis that has demanded the world’s attention since the military takeover on February 1 comes across as tone-deaf, it is. It is also fully in line with China’s unyielding approach to country-specific action at the United Nations, which privileges sovereignty and “non-interference” over basic rights, freedoms, and accountability. As the situation in Myanmar worsens, and global pressure grows, is this approach in China’s interest?

At the Security Council in New York, and the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, China has clung to its position calling for dialogue and national solution – and, with small exceptions for ASEAN and other regional actors, urged the international community to back off.

These lines of advocacy are hallmarks of the Chinese authorities’ approach to a “new model of international relations.” They reinforce Beijing’s preferred approach of global governance, one characterized by signature concepts like “mutually beneficial cooperation” and a “shared future for mankind.” These concepts also allow China to defend its friends and allies from unwanted scrutiny, and – most importantly – to shield itself from inquiries into its repression of Uyghurs, harsh policies toward Tibetans, silencing of dissent on the mainland, and the erosion of rule of law in Hong Kong.

Put simply, Chinese policy on international relations has been essentially about building barriers to block criticism of its rights record. When it comes to Myanmar, though, those barriers are working now as bars. Hemmed in on all sides by its own rhetoric, Beijing’s actions are increasingly looking bad for business.

China’s Arctic Ambitions Face Increasing Headwinds in Finland

By Sanna Kopra and Matti Puranen

According to the Finnish public broadcasting company Yle, the state-funded Polar Research Institute of China attempted in 2018 to buy or lease an airport near the small town of Kemijärvi in northern Finland, for research flights over the North Pole and other parts of the Arctic region. The negotiating delegation team was spearheaded by the institute’s director Zhang Xia and Xu Shijie, director of the Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Administration. Curiously, the delegation included an assistant of the military attaché of the Chinese Embassy in Helsinki, Maj. Jie Li.

The Finnish Defense Forces, however, promptly blocked the deal on security grounds given that the airport is located in close proximity to the Rovajärvi firing range.

If China’s plans had been realized, the Chinese would have been ready to spend over 40 million euros to expand the runway to accommodate heavy aircraft. In addition, new airport buildings and research facilities would have been built. As the geostrategic importance of the Arctic region is increasing, China does not want to be excluded from regional activities. A large airport combined with a research station at Kemijärvi would have consolidated China’s efforts to build a Polar Silk Road as part of its Belt and Road Initiative.

Strengthening Arctic research capabilities is of importance for China’s Arctic ambitions. In addition to knowledge about the impacts of climate change on China’s agriculture, economy, and weather patterns, Arctic research could support military logistics and contribute to the development of polar military technologies. Before moving its strategic nuclear submarines to patrol under the polar ice, for example, China would need increasing amounts of research data on the extreme conditions both above and below the surface. Such data would also support the development of China’s own satellite navigation system, BeiDou2. In short, it is not surprising that the negotiating delegation included a military officer.

Joe Biden's Strategy on China Boils Down to One Word: Soft

by Christian Whiton

There is a prevailing view on both sides of the Pacific that President Joe Biden will treat China in a manner similar to his predecessor: skeptical of Beijing’s promises and strong against Chinese belligerence from the Western Pacific to cyberspace.

This assessment is elegant but wrong.

The conventional wisdom was reinforced by this week’s prominent meetings between top Japanese and South Korean officials and their American counterparts, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, with the usual paeans to “linchpins” of security. None of that pomp will accompany the muted gathering Thursday and Friday in Alaska between Blinken and national security advisor Jake Sullivan and senior Chinese officials: top diplomat Yang Jiechi, and State Councillor Wang Yi.

It is true that two months into his presidency, Biden has not ordered a reduction in any of the tariffs or export controls that former President Donald Trump enacted on China. Like clockwork, the U.S. Navy sends a ship through the Taiwan Strait each month and intentionally dwells in waters and airspace dubiously claimed by Beijing.

The language from Washington is more soothing still. Biden nominees for high office promise in confirmation hearings to be appropriately wary of China. One who initially did not do so sufficiently, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, had her nomination delayed and it only proceeded after assurances that export controls would remain in place. Blinken has criticized Beijing for trampling democracy in Hong Kong and abusing human rights throughout the country

Water Wars: The Quad Squad

By Sean Quirk 

The Biden administration continues to focus its diplomatic energy on the Indo-Pacific, hosting a virtual summit for the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (the Quad) and deploying senior officials to Asia to repair regional alliances. Meanwhile, regional disputes over national and international law are driving tensions in the East China Sea and South China Sea. The United States is seeking to work with its allies and partners to confront an increasingly assertive maritime posture from the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Return of the Quad

On March 12, the four heads of state from the nations of the Quad convened virtually. It was the first-ever official meeting with leaders of all four Quad countries: Australia, India, Japan and the United States. Following the summit, a joint statement highlighted the nations’ shared concerns over “COVID-19, the threat of climate change, and security challenges facing the region.” The statement also explicitly stated the Quad’s “strong support” for unity among the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters that the Quad “committed to delivering up to one billion doses” of coronavirus vaccines to ASEAN, the broader Indo-Pacific and beyond by the end of 2022.

In the maritime domain, the Quad leaders cited the role of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) “to meet challenges to the rules-based maritime order in the East and South China Seas.” Maritime coordination among the Quad navies has increased in recent years, with the Royal Australian Navy joining U.S., Japanese and Indian forces in November 2020 for the annual Malabar naval exercise. It was the first time Australia had participated in the exercise since 2007.

What Hong Kong’s Legislative Reforms Mean for the City

By Brian Wong

At the recently concluded “two sessions” featuring the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, Beijing announced sweeping transformations to Hong Kong’s legislative and chief executive elections. The precise contents of these reforms have been covered elsewhere, but three points are worth highlighting.

First, the changes herald significantly greater gatekeeping and tightening controls concerning the eligibility of candidates contesting electoral offices, both in terms of the city’s highest office (nominally) and its legislature. Given the increasingly executive-driven nature of the Hong Kong regime – with an overarching emphasis placed upon unity rather than checks-and-balances – it is unlikely that the post-reform legislature will play as preeminent a role of constraining the executive as it has previously. Whether this heralds an improvement or decline in the quality of governance remains to be seen.

Second, the reforms will expand – nominally – the sizes of both the Electoral Committee and the Legislative Council (LegCo) with a 25 percent increase in number of seats on the former, and 20 additional seats – on net – on the latter. The 1,200-strong electoral college will see the incorporation of a new, 300-person sector comprising voting delegates vetted and trusted by the central administration in Beijing, tasked with electing Hong Kong’s chief executive. The quantitative increase, as such, does not necessarily connote heightened representativeness.

Third, numerous reports have suggested that the reforms will accompany modifications to the Electoral Committee’s and LegCo’s composition – with the potential addition, removal, and resizing of sectors and constituencies within them – as well as the rejigging of the electoral method. For one, the current proportional representation (with largest remainder) system is likely to be scrapped, in favor of a two-member-per-constituency first-past-the-post system.

U.S.-Chinese Rivalry Is a Battle Over Values

By Hal Brands and Zack Cooper

On the campaign trail, U.S. President Joe Biden pledged to put values at the heart of his administration’s China policy. Since entering office, he has called on the world’s democracies to gird for a new era of strategic competition with China in which they “work together to secure the peace and defend our shared values and advance our prosperity across the Pacific.” Biden’s interim National Security Strategic Guidance labels democracy “our most fundamental advantage” and insists “our model isn’t a relic of history; it’s the single best way to realize the promise of our future.” As the administration prepares for its first high-level meeting with Chinese officials this week, it has clearly embraced the view that the Washington-Beijing rivalry is driven by competing ideals and systems of government as much as by competing interests.

Some self-described foreign policy “realists” contend that ideology and geopolitics are a dangerous combination. Mixing the two, they believe, led the United States to adopt a Manichaean and counterproductive strategy during the Cold War. Better, these analysts argue, to approach the rivalry in realpolitik terms—as a cold-eyed contest over power—and leave values to the side.

Yet purging ideology from American statecraft would be both ahistorical and unstrategic. The United States won the Cold War precisely because it put values near the center of that competition. Likewise, if Washington hopes to understand Beijing today, to mobilize its democratic friends for a long struggle, and to exploit its asymmetric advantages, it must take ideology seriously. Compromises will be necessary: the United States never took an ideologically puritanical approach during the Cold War, and it cannot do so today. But now as in the past, a strategy that requires the United States to cast aside its values and ideals would be unwise and unrealistic.


The disinformation tactics used by China

By Krassi Twigg and Kerry Allen

The Chinese embassy in London has criticised the BBC following a documentary about Chinese disinformation campaigns.

There have also recently been a series of denials from Beijing over reports into forced imprisonment of its minority Uighur population - these have included baseless accusations against media and human rights organisations.

In the latest attack, an official falsely claimed a Uighur interviewee on a BBC programme was an actress.

So what tactics does China use in the spread of misleading and false information?

Increasing anti-BBC coverage

There have been almost daily anti-BBC articles in Chinese state media since mid-February.

It follows a decision by the UK broadcasting regulator Ofcom to revoke the licence for China's state-run overseas broadcaster, CGTN.

For years, China has broadly criticised Western outlets for reports on affairs in Xinjiang and elsewhere in China, saying they should not intervene in China's "internal affairs".

But these latest attacks on Western media are a clear escalation.

Chinese domestic media outlets have praised their government for banning the BBC's World News channel, although it was only available in some international hotels and residential compounds where foreigners live.

Reports from leading outlets like China's Global Times have criticised the "Cold War" mentality when it comes to China - on topics ranging from Hong Kong, the Uighur population of Xinjiang and the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Shape of Global Recovery


MILAN – COVID-19 vaccination programs are gaining momentum as production capacity ramps up, and as disorganized and tentative distribution and administration procedures are replaced by more robust systems. A task of this size will surely encounter additional bumps along the road. But it is now reasonable to expect that vaccines will have been made available to most people in North America by this summer, and to most Europeans by early fall.

As of March 15, Israel has administered more than 100 doses per 100 people, compared to 38 in the United Kingdom, 36 in Chile, 32 in the United States, and 11 in the European Union – and those numbers are rising fast. The rates are relatively lower in Asia and the Pacific, but these countries already largely contained the virus without mass vaccination programs, and their economies have since experienced a rapid recovery.

Meanwhile, lower-income countries on several continents are falling behind, pointing to the need for a more ambitious international effort to provide them with vaccines. As many have noted recently, in our interconnected world, no one is safe until everyone is safe.

Assuming that vaccination continues to pick up globally, the most likely scenario for the economy is a rapid recovery in the second half of this year and into 2022. We should see a partial but sharp reversal of the K-shaped growth patterns that have emerged in pandemic-hit economies.

Specifically, growth in highflying digital and digitally enabled sectors will subside, but not dramatically, because the forced adoption of their services will be tempered by the resumption of in-person activities. At the same time, the sectors that were partly or completely shut down will revive. Major service sectors like retail, hospitality, entertainment, sports, and travel will reopen for an eager public. Industries such as cruise lines will probably institute their own version of a vaccination certificate, with sales rebounding once customers are confident about safety.

How the Coronavirus Unveiled Merkel’s Germany


Angela Merkel could do no wrong. As other leaders on both sides of the Atlantic fumbled a year ago in their responses to the coronavirus, the German chancellor epitomized leadership and steady nerves. Her occasional television addresses displayed an empathy not known for a leader who normally shuns emotion and publicity. Opinion polls made Merkel almost invincible and indispensable. Until recently.

A second coronavirus wave—and now a third one spurred by a mutation that spread from the United Kingdom—and a slow rollout of vaccines has left Merkel’s conservative bloc struggling to contain the damage. The level of infection in Germany remains stubbornly high. The availability of vaccinations remains low.

This damage is eroding support for Merkel and her Christian Democratic Union party, which has yet to decide who will stand as its candidate to succeed her now that Merkel is seeing out her fourth and final term.

Such uncertainty is creating an unwelcome leadership vacuum in Europe’s largest economy. At a time when the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has given Americans a much-needed morale boost by passing a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill, European parliaments have still to pass the EU’s €1.8 trillion ($2.1 trillion) package aimed at rebuilding a post-pandemic Europe.

Britain is adding nukes for the first time since the cold war

For decades Britain has boasted of its diminutive nuclear status. Of the five nuclear-armed powers recognised by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (npt), Britain’s arsenal is the smallest and the only one with a single means of delivery—submarines. Yet buried in its foreign and defence policy review on March 16th was a striking announcement: for the first time since the cold war, its stockpile will grow.

Successive British governments pruned the arsenal by more than half between the 1980s and 2000s, eager to show progress towards disarmament (see chart). In 2010 the government declared that Britain had fewer than 225 warheads, and would cut that to below 180 by the middle of this decade—a goal that was reaffirmed in 2015. That was thought sufficient to inflict unacceptable damage on Russia, the country’s main adversary.


James Johnson 

In 2016, the AWD News site reported that Israel had threatened to attack Pakistan with nuclear weapons if Islamabad interfered in Syria. In response, Pakistani Defense Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif issued a thinly veiled threat. On Twitter he warned Israel to remember that Pakistan—like Israel—is a nuclear-armed state. Luckily, the report was false, and it was subsequently debunked as fictitious by the Israeli Ministry of Defense.

This incident puts a modern, and alarming, spin on the concept of “catalytic nuclear war”—in which third-party (a state or nonstate actor) actions provoke a nuclear war between two nuclear-armed powers—and demonstrates the potentially severe damage caused by the misinformation and manipulation of information by a third party. During the Cold War, the main concern about “catalytic nuclear war” centered on the fear that a small or new nuclear power would deliberately set a major exchange in motion between the United States and the Soviet Union. As its name suggests, the concept was inspired by chemical reactions where the catalyzing agent (a third-party actor) would remain unscathed by its initiated process. As we know, however, a catalytic nuclear war never occurred.

In the digital era, the catalyzing chain of reaction and counter-retaliation dynamics set in motion by a third-party actor’s deliberate action is fast becoming a more plausible scenario. The concept of catalytic nuclear war—considered by many as unlikely given the low probability of a terrorist group gaining access to nuclear weapons—should be revisited in light of recent technological change and improved understanding of human psychology. Specifically, the human propensity for making fast, intuitive, reflexive, and heuristic judgments (known as “System I” thinking), which is exacerbated when information overload and unfamiliar technologies are more prominent features of decision making. In short, emerging technologies—most notably cyber, AI technology, and drones—are rapidly creating new (and exacerbating old) low-cost and relatively easy means for state and nonstate actors to fulfill their nefarious goals. This is compounded by the exponential rise in data emerging from today’s information ecosystem—and in the speed with which it does so—which will create novel attack pathways to manipulate and propagate misinformation and disinformation during crisis times.

Defeating Small Drones: The U.S. Army’s Next Big Challenge

By Dan Gouré

The proliferation of armed unmanned aircraft systems (UASs), also known as drones, presents a growing threat to maneuver ground forces, headquarters, logistics and critical infrastructure. This is particularly true for the explosion in the availability of small, increasingly sophisticated UASs. While the Pentagon has invested significant resources to address the challenge posed by medium and large drones as part of its air and missile defense program, it is only beginning to deal with the growing danger of small drones, particularly to military vehicles and dismounted formations.

One prominent Washington think tank described the challenge facing the U.S. military as that of “a drone saturated future.” More than 30 nations have either fielded armed drones or are developing them. Armed UASs, including so-called suicide drones, have figured prominently in Libya, Syria, the Caucasus, and Yemen. Non-state actors, such as the Islamic State, Boko Haram, Hezbollah, and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, have employed UASs both to collect intelligence and attack soft targets. In 2018 defectors from the Venezuelan military attempted to assassinate the country’s authoritarian president, Nicolás Maduro, with explosive-laden, Chinese-made, commercially available drones.

The Wall Street Journal estimated that by late 2019 there were more than 30,000 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles in the world, with more in development and global production capabilities growing rapidly. China is the world’s leading exporter of military drones. The Chinese drone maker, DJI, holds 70 percent of the global market for commercial UASs.

The Increasingly Crowded Field of Vaccine Diplomacy

Alena Kudzko, Shane Markowitz

As wealthy Western countries carefully guard their national stockpiles of COVID-19 vaccines, raising concerns about “vaccine nationalism,” China and Russia have moved aggressively in the opposite direction—toward vaccine diplomacy. Moscow and Beijing have used their homegrown formulas as powerful diplomatic tools, enabling them to curry favor with poorer nations that have largely been left out of the race to inoculate the world.

Vaccine diplomacy, however, is not the exclusive domain of major powers. Aspiring regional powers, including some smaller countries, are increasingly stepping into the ring too, garnering goodwill by selling or donating vaccine doses. The result is a global battle for soft-power influence that could escalate significantly in the coming months as even more countries join in

The geo-economics and geopolitics of COVID-19: implications for European security

The coronavirus pandemic clearly presents a civil emergency and public-health crisis for most of the Euro-Atlantic community, and for the wider world. It will be responsible for deep and long-lasting political and economic effects that will almost certainly influence international order and stability, and the ability of governments to confront security challenges today and in the future.

The pandemic was not an unforeseen event. Foresight reports, policy simulations and national risk assessments had long included a similar challenge among the possibilities. Nevertheless, when the coronavirus pandemic came the world was not prepared and despite the existence of a myriad of international organisations, alliances and friendships, the reactions were mostly national and inward-looking. Governments started to spend vast amounts of resources on fighting the pandemic, looking for preventatives and cures, and propping up their own economies when the primary weapon in the arsenal to fight the pandemic was the so-called ‘lockdown’.

Many governments will emerge from the coronavirus pandemic laden with debt and a severely depressed outlook for economic growth. It is conceivable that among the second- and third-order effects of the pandemic is an accelerated rebalancing of power away from the Euro-Atlantic community. This could threaten the ability of NATO and EU member states to shape and defend the rules-based international order. The pandemic itself may be a driver of instability and insecurity at a time when the ability to deliver stabilising measures and crisis-management capacity is weakened. Divergent recoveries could create conditions that see an accelerated rebalancing of global power and the development or disintegration of global alliances.

The Trouble With V/STOL

By Jacob Parakilas

On March 16, the British government released the “Integrated Review of Security, Defense, Development and Foreign Policy,” its all-encompassing roadmap for the future of its defense and foreign policy. It proposed transformative changes to the structure of the U.K.’s armed forces and officially launched Brexit Britain’s strategic “tilt to the Indo-Pacific.”

But transformation is a tricky thing. Given the long timelines for military procurement, the complexity of maintaining a defense industrial base, and the inertia produced by the interplay between those two factors, matching hard capabilities to lofty strategic language is difficult.

Take as an example two of the highest-profile pieces of military hardware in Britain’s arsenal, the carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth and the F-35B Lightning II. The new carrier is the largest ship ever built for the Royal Navy and has been designated the flagship for the entire fleet. To underscore the seriousness of the government’s Indo-Pacific aspirations, its inaugural operational cruise will be to the Pacific, where it may traverse the South China Sea over Beijing’s objections.

Sending a carrier battle-group — a significant portion of the Royal Navy’s entire deployable combat strength — to the far side of the world certainly sends a message. But that message may well be diluted by operational factors.

A carrier is nothing if not a platform: the ship’s own weapons are solely designed for self-defense (and in the case of the British ships, extremely limited even for that task). And the capabilities of the Queen Elizabeth class are unusually strongly linked to a single aircraft. Aside from helicopters to provide search and rescue, light resupply, and airborne radar coverage, the ship’s entire air wing will be composed of F-35s.

Quad Leaders Have Put Forward a Plan, Not a Promise

By Danny Russel

With the announcement of an ambitious vaccine initiative for Southeast Asia on March 12, the “Quad” has in a sense come full circle. The “Quadrilateral Security Dialogue” among four major democratic nations in the Indo-Pacific – Australia, India, Japan, and the United States – had its inception in tragedy as a “core group” coordinating relief efforts in response to the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami that killed nearly a quarter million people. So the combined effort by the four countries to again assist the region in the face of another devastating natural disaster – this time, COVID-19 – is something of a return to the Quad’s roots.

In the intervening years, the Quad has toggled between active and dormant periods, partly in response to changes in leadership and strategy among the four member countries. The Quad was largely inactive in the decade following the 2007 resignation of Japanese Prime Minister Abe, who had championed the idea of transforming the grouping into a coalition of four major democracies.

The quest for better relations with China has at times made both Australia and India leery of participation. Quad activities have been sporadic, with occasional discussions between mid-level diplomats, a handful of meetings by military commanders, a joint naval drill when Japan and Australia joined the U.S.-India Malabar Exercise, and a grand total of three foreign ministers’ meetings since 2007 – including the session convened by Secretary Blinken in February.

A mom’s guide to coercion and deterrence

Emma Ashford, Erica Borghard

We’ve spent the last year of the pandemic locked inside with our children, managing Zoom school and frantically trying to come up with new ideas for entertaining our increasingly bored offspring. But there’s a silver lining to parenting in a pandemic: It’s an education in the core concepts of international relations, as well as a useful reminder that whether you’re a toddler, tween, teen, grown-up, or fully fledged state, we’re all operating in a condition of anarchy. We proudly present a mom’s primer on deterrence, coercion, credibility, and reassurance.


You have been enjoying quiet, uninterrupted work time in your bedroom “office” all morning, but you harbor a strong suspicion that your second grader will barge into the room just as you are about to start a Zoom meeting. You’d like to prevent her from doing that, so you’re faced with two unpalatable options: barricade yourself in the room and tape a sign to the door instructing your child not to enter, or warn her that if she enters the room she won’t be able to play her favorite game on her tablet later (although, let’s be honest, you know that could be self-defeating because you secretly cherish the quiet that comes with some screen time). Either way, you’d really like to preserve the peaceful status quo.

Cybersecurity is more critical than Biden's rescue plan


President Biden should be applauded for acknowledging that Russia’s on-going cyberattacks require decisive action. Indeed, the long-term effects of such attacks would cause more harm than the economic weaknesses induced by COVID-19. But a defensive approach to these threats would be too little too late; in fact, a meek Biden counter would embolden Russian President Vladimir Putin to mount increasingly brazen raids. This is because the U.S. has taught Russia that, when it comes to Russian cyberattacks, the U.S. is like a dog without teeth — rarely barking, never biting.

Now is the time for the U.S. to bite Russia with a full set of sharp teeth. The U.S. has the knowledge and resources not only to thwart Russia’s attacks, but also to become the dominant cyberspace superpower.

In the past decade, Russia used the internet to interfere with our 2016 and 2020 presidential elections and sent its cyber soldiers to attack thousands of public institutions and corporate America with little evidence of a U.S. response.

The Biden administration must fully realize that we are living in a new age, the age of cyberwars. In such an era, Russian computer keystrokes send stealth internet soldiers to attack the inner working of our banks, hospitals, transportation centers, communication systems and government agencies to upend our way of life — our democracy, free commerce and freedom of the press.


by Alan Cunningham

He described cyber threats as the “new frontier” of counterintelligence.

Counterintelligence (CI) is a dynamic and ever-changing field, art, and science. In recent times, significant societal and technological changes have forced the CI field and its component agencies to adopt new methods to meet new and emerging trends and threats. The goal of CI is to protect “America’s secrets from espionage by hostile, and sometimes, even friendly foreign powers” by way of “uncover[ing] and thwart[ing] foreign intelligence operations directed against the United States [U.S.].” Historically, this method of uncovering and thwarting foreign intelligence entities (FIEs) has involved the running of double agents, planting moles within enemy organizations, enticing defectors, gathering information from foreign sources or intelligence services, and establishing robust vetting and security processes for intelligence agency recruits. While these methods still represent important and relevant CI strategies, emerging global threats demand a fundamental transformation of U.S. counterintelligence operations, most notably a deeper integration of CI operations across military branches, law enforcement agencies, intelligence agencies, and other public and private sector entities.

There have been concerted efforts in the past to coordinate CI operations and to integrate different counterintelligence agencies and personnel into a single unified body. These efforts have focused on merging CI activities conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Armed Forces, and other agencies to present a more unified front against foreign intelligence and terror threats.

In a 2010 counterintelligence report, Paul Redmond, a former CIA Chief of Counterintelligence, identified terrorist and cyberspace threats as particular challenge areas for U.S. CI operations. He described cyber threats as the “new frontier” of counterintelligence. Adversaries’ exploitation of social media poses one of the most significant cyberspace challenges for the United States, especially because the most damaging and divisive misinformation campaigns are often assisted and expanded by social media platforms.

Cyber strength now key to national security, says UK

By Daphne Leprince-Ringuet

The UK has committed to a new approach to its cyber capabilities, to better detect, disrupt and deter adversaries. Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

In what has been billed as the largest security and foreign policy strategy revamp since the Cold War, the UK government has outlined new defense priorities – with at their heart, the imperative to boost the use of new technologies to safeguard the country.

Prime minister Boris Johnson unveiled the integrated review this week, which has been in the making for over a year and will be used as a guide for spending decisions in the future. Focusing on foreign policy, defense and security, the review sets goals for the UK to 2025; and underpinning many of the targets is the objective of modernizing the country's armed forces.

Johnson pledged to pump more money into defense, with a £24 billion ($33.4 billion) multi-year settlement that will represent a sizeable chunk of the UK's GDP.


Iain King

The military is grappling with problems of sexual assault and harassment, racism, and extremism in the ranks. This necessarily involves questions of culture and values, and even of the virtues that have long been inextricably linked to the very idea of military service. Is it time to rethink those virtues?

Since the earliest military academies of the ancient world, warriors have been inducted into a precise way of thinking and acting: to take on the virtues of the military creed, and to embody these qualities when they fought. Some military virtues are still revered as eternal, but they should not be. Instead, the military virtues we seek to inculcate in our soldiers and leaders should evolve with the changing character of war.

Consider three of the most enduring and traditional military virtues: confidence, chivalry, and leadership. Each of them was highly valued in an older age of warfare. But do they remain appropriate today?

Take confidence. There has been a long history of military leaders at all levels being trained to exude self-assurance. It can instill followership and obedience in their own troops and dishearten their enemies. Since confidence is a natural product of success, it is often assumed to make success more likely. Bold and daring military maneuvers require confidence, so developing the attribute may make commanders bolder and more daring in turn.

Train Small Units For Big Wars: Gen. McConville


WASHINGTON: The Army Chief of Staff wants to emphasize training for small units like squads, platoons and companies, rather than for larger units like battalions and brigades, he told AUSA’s virtual Global Force Next conference today.

Gen. James McConville emphasized that the Army’s Combat Training Centers (CTCs, in California, Louisiana, and Germany), where an entire brigade can go through wargames at once, “are not going anywhere.” But he said, commanders should see them as the “pinnacle” of training – instead of emphasizing battalion and brigade-level preparation for the CTC deployments when they train at home base ahead of time.

“The philosophy of where we’re going is ‘focus on the squads, the platoons, the companies; get them right’,” he said. “And then, if we don’t have time, we’ll get the battalions and brigades, that type of maneuver, done at the Combat Training Centers.”

“We’d much rather have you getting the low level units [to be] masters of their craft, than going through a strategy where you don’t have enough time to really get anyone trained,” he said – that is, a strategy that tries to cram training for too many levels of unit into too little time to do any level adequately.