10 April 2021

Pakistan’s Geoeconomic Delusions


In recent weeks, senior Pakistani officials, including
the country’s powerful army chief
, have signaled or outright said that, from now on, their country’s foreign policy will emphasize geoeconomics. This is a welcome rhetorical shift. Decades of bartering Pakistan’s geostrategic value—including as a “front-line state” in the Cold War and war on terror—has contributed to the loss of countless lives, stifled human development, and turned Pakistan into a heavily indebted security state.

Geoeconomics would flip that script. Definitions of the term vary, but Pakistani officialdom uses it to connote something akin to an end to war. In a public address last month, Pakistani Chief of the Army Staff Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa offered a “geo-economic vision” that centers regional integration and the collective pursuit of sustainable development in an environment of peace and stability. The upside for one of the world’s poorest and least integrated regions would undoubtedly be tremendous.

But good intentions aside, Pakistan’s pivot toward geoeconomics is likely to hit a brick wall of reality—and fast.

For starters, the country cannot easily escape geopolitics. And the regional outlook portends conflict, not connectivity. Neighboring Afghanistan could see civil war as the United States departs. And despite the restoration of a cease-fire with India along the Line of Control, there are no signs that either side will make the kinds of concessions on the Kashmir dispute that would be essential for lasting normalization.

Afghanistan: A Difficult Road Ahead, But Change Is Inescapable

By Abdallah Al Dardari and Zafiris Tzannatos

Afghanistan has made hard won gains in the last two decades, including the increase in education enrollments, expansion in health services, infrastructure development, improvements in regional connectivity, and progress ranging from doing business to gender equality. Last year could have been a turning point as peace talks were initiated, violence diminished during the early months of the year, and donors reiterated their support to Afghanistan by pledging critical funding and technical assistance.

Unfortunately, a peace agreement is yet to be reached. Violence has increased following the initiation of intra-Afghan negotiations last September. Improvements in governance and expanding national outreach have been delayed. Since the onset of the pandemic, GDP has shrunk by 5 percent, the budget deficit has increased, investment has collapsed, and exports have been reduced. The U.N. has estimated that half of the population will be in need of humanitarian assistance in 2021, a six-fold increase compared to four years ago.

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.” In the spirit of that proverb, the government’s Afghanistan National Peace and Development Framework (ANPDF II) outlines objectives and priorities that can turn the tide around. To support this effort, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in its most recent report on Afghanistan has assessed Afghanistan’s current constraints, opportunities, and challenges and proposes several policies and programs in line with triple axis of peace building, state building, and market building envisaged in ANPDF II.

Whether America Stays or Goes, the Taliban Will Control Afghanistan

by Michal Šenk

When the Trump administration announced in 2020 that it would begin a full withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, many were quick to conclude that after almost two decades the United States was, in effect, conceding defeat in its longest war, capitulating to an insurgent group. A number of indicators certainly pointed in that direction. Signing the agreement with the Taliban served not only as a sober admission that, despite years of fighting, the Taliban remained undefeated. More importantly, as the United States bound the Afghan government to negotiate with the group, Washington effectively acknowledged that, in one way or another, the insurgent group was non-excludable from shaping the country’s future. To realize that the path towards stability leads through sharing power with an enemy may be an enlightened thing to do, but the human and financial costs of the twenty-year campaign hardly make it a cause for celebration in either Washington or Kabul.

The same cannot be said of the Taliban, though. Henry Kissinger famously noted that an insurgent wins “if he does not lose.” This means that all an insurgency has to do is stay put, resist, and wait until its adversary loses the will to carry on. With the U.S. departure in the cards, it is, then, not misplaced to argue that the Taliban has emerged with the upper hand from the drawn-out civil war. In fact, some go as far as to argue that the group has gotten exactly what it wanted: the moment the last of the U.S. boots leaves the ground there will be little stopping the Taliban from eventually reclaiming the country—a goal it has fought for ever since it was deposed in 2001.

Such concerns are clearly not lost on the Biden administration: it is currently reviewing the deal, raising hopes in security circles that the withdrawal might be delayed if there is a real prospect that it could lead to a Taliban victory. On the face of it, this is good news, as it might put to rest fears that deal was rushed through for the Trump presidency to secure a foreign-policy victory in an election year. But placing too much hope on the idea that the U.S. presence alone would be enough to avert the dreaded Taliban takeover is both falsely reassuring and dangerously misleading. In fact, although leaving in haste is hardly advisable, it is now possible to imagine that the Taliban might achieve its victory even if the United States stays.

The End of Quiet Diplomacy in Myanmar


In the weeks following Myanmar’s military coup, United Nations special envoy Christine Schraner Burgener privately delivered a blunt appeal to foreign diplomats: Shun Myanmar’s military regime lest you lend it legitimacy, impose an arms embargo, and hit the coup plotters with targeted financial sanctions. Make it hurt.

The envoy’s outreach marked a stark departure from the U.N.’s traditional nonconfrontational approach to diplomacy, which places a premium on maintaining cordial relations with regimes in power. In the past, U.N. envoys to Myanmar, including Burgener, and other top officials have largely held their tongues in public, even when the country’s military, known as the Tatmadaw, threatened democracy and carried out mass atrocities against the country’s minority Rohingya Muslims.

The Feb. 1 military coup in Myanmar has changed that.

“I have to be loud now so that people understand that this is not acceptable,” Burgener said, who has been criticizing Myanmar’s military rulers as cruel and repressive since the coup in front of the U.N. Security Council and in interviews with the press. Burgener said the U.N. is not in a position to openly promote the imposition of sanctions before the U.N. Security Council, saying it is up to member states to make such decisions. China and Russia have made it clear they oppose sanctions. But she can offer governments her own advice.

She has been privately counseling a broad range of punitive measures against key sectors of Myanmar’s economy controlled by the military, including sanctions on Myanmar’s oil and gas sector. She has also urged sanctions against military economic powerhouses, Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited and Myanmar Economic Corporation, which own some 120 businesses in construction, pharmaceuticals, insurance, tourism, banking, and precious stone mining like jade and rubies, according to a report by a U.N. fact-finding mission. Burgener has advised one Asian delegate to invite State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi—the former de-facto president who is now under house arrest after the coup—to the next Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit, sending a strong message that the legitimate government of Myanmar is not present.

Yes, China Has the World’s Largest Navy. That Matters Less Than You Might Think.

By Benjamin Mainardi

Since the release of the Department of Defense’s “2020 China Military Power Report” this past September, much has been made of China’s securing the title of the “world’s largest navy.” Indeed, the United States Office of Naval Intelligence has confirmed that the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has surpassed the United States Navy in total battle force ships, approximately 360 to 297, with future projections expecting the gap to grow. By 2025, the PLAN is predicted to field as many as 400 vessels whereas the United States plans only to field 355. Quantitative discussions of this sort have fostered an increasing level of hysteria in the U.S. media and even parts of its foreign policy and defense establishments.

What such discussions fundamentally misunderstand about the two fleets, however, are the major differences in force structure as well as the incomparable regional ally differential maintained by the United States. In fact, most discussions about the size of the PLAN inflate its surface warship fleet by including either small coastal patrol ships or its amphibious transports and landing ships.

In order of descending size, the PLAN’s surface force is comprised of two aircraft carriers, one cruiser, 32 destroyers, 49 frigates, 37 corvettes, and 86 missile-armed coastal patrol ships. In addition, China’s submarine fleet includes 46 diesel-powered attack submarines, six nuclear-powered attack submarines, and four ballistic missile submarines. This is further supplemented by the China Coast Guard, which fields roughly 255 coastal patrol ships. In sum, China has a surface warship fleet of 121 vessels, a submarine fleet of 56 platforms, and another 341 coastal patrol ships.

What If China Launched A Surprise Attack On The U.S. Military?

By Daniel Davis

U.S. Marines with Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron (VMFAT) 101, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 232 and Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (3rd MAW) conduct a missile shooting demonstration and aerial refueling in support of Exercise Winter Fury 21, off the coast of Southern California, Feb. 5, 2021. During Winter Fury, 3rd MAW will conduct long range strikes, deploy and support infantry Marines, assist in the transport of artillery assets, and provide logistical support to Marines on the ground. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Leilani Cervantes)

In recent years there has been an increase in the saber-rattling from Beijing regarding their willingness to use force to reunify Taiwan with the mainland. There has been a concurrent rise in the willingness – and in some cases eagerness – of various advocates in Washington to extend security guarantees to Taipei to thwart Chinese ambitions.

A sober analysis of the geographic and military realities at play in the Taiwan scenario, however, reveals that if America went to war with China to stop the invasion, we would not only fail to prevent Taiwan’s capture, but could suffer such egregious losses that our position as the preeminent global superpower would be permanently lost.

For decades Americans have been told by their leaders that the U.S. Armed Forces are the “greatest military in the history of the world.” It is common knowledge that we spend more on defense than the next 10 world powers combined. The unquestioned implication in the minds of most American leaders and people is that the U.S. military is invincible.

The world is kicking its coal habit. China is still hooked

LAST YEAR was a bad one for coal in much of the world. As countries went into lockdown, demand for energy plummeted. With many workers obliged to stay at home, and financing for coal projects proving ever more difficult, the development and construction of coal-fired power plants stalled. There was one bright spot, however. According to a report published this week by Global Energy Monitor, an American NGO, China commissioned 38.4 gigawatts (GW) of coal-power plants in 2020. This boost in global coal-fired capacity means that, although the rest of the world idled 37.8GW of coal plants, total capacity actually increased last year for the first time since 2015.

China’s affinity for coal, the biggest source of greenhouse gases, may be surprising given the country’s recent pledge to cut emissions to net-zero by 2060. There are, however, other mitigating factors. Local government officials, whose performance is often measured against targets for economic growth, have long used infrastructure projects—especially coal plants—to inflate their GDP figures. In 2020, when China was one of the few countries in the world to register any growth, three-quarters of the coal-fired capacity approved for construction was sponsored by local governments and firms. Regulators did not get in their way. China’s National Energy Administration gave several provinces the nod to approve new coal power plants.

China’s Expanding Missile Training Area: More Silos, Tunnels, and Support Facilities

By Hans Kristensen 

The Chinese military appears to be significantly expanding the number of ballistic missiles silos under construction in a new sprawling training area in the northern part of central China.

Recent satellite images indicate that at least 16 silos are under construction, a significant expansion in just a few years since a silo was first described in the area.

The satellite images also reveal unique tunnels potentially constructed to conceal missile launch units or loading operations.

The training area, located east of the city of Jilantai in the Inner Mongolia province, is used by the People’s Republic of China Rocket Force (PLARF) to train missile crews and fine-tune procedures for operating road-mobile missile launchers and their support vehicles.

The Jilantai PLARF Training Area

The Jilantai training area stretches for 140 kilometers (87 miles) over an area of nearly 2,090 square-kilometers (800 square miles) of desert and mountain ranges. It is a relatively new training area with most facilities added after 2013 and has since expanded to well over 140 missiles launch pads used by launch units to practice launch and loading procedures, more than two dozen campgrounds where launch units stay for a short period before moving on, five high-bay garages servicing launchers and support vehicles operating in the area, and a large supply base with adjacent support facilities (see image).

China sends more jets; Taiwan says it will fight to the end if there's war

By Ben Blanchard, Yimou Lee

The democratic self-governed island has complained of repeated military activities by Beijing in recent months, with China’s air force making almost daily forays in Taiwan’s air defence identification zone. On Monday, China said an aircraft carrier group was exercising close to the island.

Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said 15 Chinese aircraft, including 12 fighters, entered its air defence identification zone, with an anti-submarine aircraft flying to the south through the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines.

Taiwan’s air force sent up aircraft to intercept and warn the Chinese away, the ministry added.

Adding to the stepped-up military activity, the U.S. Navy said its John S. McCain guided missile destroyer conducted a “routine” transit of the Taiwan Strait on Wednesday.

China’s Eastern Theatre Command said it tracked the ship and denounced the United States for “endangering the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait”.

Speaking earlier in the day, Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said the United States was concerned about the risk of conflict.

“From my limited understanding of American decision makers watching developments in this region, they clearly see the danger of the possibility of China launching an attack against Taiwan,” he told reporters at his ministry.

“We are willing to defend ourselves without any questions and we will fight the war if we need to fight the war. And if we need to defend ourselves to the very last day we will defend ourselves to the very last day.”


By Andrew P. Thompson

Written into the most recent National Security Strategy is the principle that Great Power competition will continue to play a major role in the shaping of our strategic priorities.1 As the Navy continues adapting to operations below the level of armed conflict, how we implement combat capability must adjust. China’s modernization of its Navy, enhanced with its desired use of Artificial Intelligence (AI), should catalyze change in our own development efforts. Its modernization initiative directly supports its system destruction warfare principle, which operationalizes a system of systems approach to combat. Confronting this style of warfare requires a new mindset, and the Information Warfare apparatus, of which Naval Intelligence is an integral part, must align itself appropriately to support this change. While the last century’s wars heavily favored attrition-centric warfare, 21st century Great Power competition requires the use of warfare that is decision-centric. The Information Warfare Community (IWC) support required for such an approach must capitalize on the use of new technologies, developed from industry, to aid commanders. Doing so will allow the IWC to provide decision-makers with the best advantages as fast as possible and the method to accomplish such a feat will determine both the IWC’s and Naval Intelligence’s legacy in this modern fight.

By the end of 2020, China is assessed to have 360 battle force ready ships compared to the U.S. Navy with 297.2 Projecting forward to 2025, China will have 400 battle force ships and 425 by 2030.3 In addition to the sheer size of its projected ship count, China is currently making strides to modernize its programs associated with anti-ship ballistic missiles, anti-ship cruise missiles, submarines, aircraft, unmanned aircraft, and command and control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) tools.4 One supporting element in modernizing these programs is the Chinese utilization of AI. According to the Congressional Research Service, “the Chinese aim to use AI for exploiting large troves of intelligence, generating a common operating picture, and accelerating battlefield decision-making.”5 As opposed to the bureaucratic red tape that exists in much of the U.S. defense acquisitions process, few such barriers exist in China’s between its commercial, academic, military, and government entities. Therefore, the Chinese government can directly shape AI development to meet its desired need in whatever capacity it wants. To support this effort, the Chinese government founded a Military-Civil Fusion Development Commission in 2017 in order to rapidly transfer AI technology, from whatever source, directly to the military.6 In doing so, China is incrementally utilizing AI to enhance its conventional force modernization programs at a more rapid pace than one impeded by self-imposed bureaucracy.

AI Benefits/Issues

China as a Third World Country

By George Friedman

There is much discussion about the surging Chinese economy and the expanding international influence of China. There is no question that China’s economy has consistently expanded in the last 40 years, since the death of Mao Zedong. But Mao had created an extraordinarily poor China, based on ideology and the desire to eliminate the power of the old economic elite that was concentrated along the coast. Mao feared them as a threat to the revolution. In fact, he feared the bourgeois tendency toward wealth and comfort as a challenge to the revolution. He throttled the Chinese economy, and as a result, virtually any rational behavior by Chinese rulers would generate dramatic growth. China, with a vast potential workforce and a basically sophisticated culture, inevitably surged by shedding the malevolent and strange grip of Mao.

Forty years later, under a reasonably rational political structure, China has surged to being one of the largest economies in the world, second only to the United States. The gap between the U.S. and China is still substantial, with China’s gross domestic product at only 70 percent of the United States’. This is of course much narrower than 40 or even 20 years ago. Still, it is a substantial gulf. But GDP represents the aggregate production of a nation, and from an aggregated point of view, China’s $14 trillion economy is a miracle.

But it is simply not the miracle it seems to be. One measure of an economy among many is GDP, the economy as a whole. Another way to look at an economy is per capita GDP, the aggregated divided by the population. This gives a sense, imperfect but useful, of how Chinese citizens are faring compared to citizens of other countries. Looking at the economy as a whole, China is impressive. In per capita GDP, it is another matter.

China is betting that the West is in irreversible decline

Its gaze fixed on the prize of becoming rich and strong, China has spent the past 40 years as a risk-averse bully. Quick to inflict pain on smaller powers, it has been more cautious around any country capable of punching back. Recently, however, China’s risk calculations have seemed to change. First Yang Jiechi, the Communist Party’s foreign-policy chief, lectured American diplomats at a bilateral meeting in Alaska, pointing out the failings of American democracy. That earned him hero status back home. Then China imposed sanctions on British, Canadian and European Union politicians, diplomats, academics, lawyers and democracy campaigners. Those sweeping curbs were in retaliation for narrower Western sanctions targeting officials accused of repressing Muslims in the north-western region of Xinjiang.

China’s foreign ministry declares that horrors such as the Atlantic slave trade, colonialism and the Holocaust, as well as the deaths of so many Americans and Europeans from covid-19, should make Western governments ashamed to question China’s record on human rights. Most recently Chinese diplomats and propagandists have denounced as “lies and disinformation” reports that coerced labour is used to pick or process cotton in Xinjiang. They have praised fellow citizens for boycotting foreign brands that decline to use cotton from that region. Still others have sought to prove their zeal by hurling Maoist-era abuse. A Chinese consul-general tweeted that Canada’s prime minister was “a running dog of the us”.

The China Plan: Transatlantic Blueprint for Strategic Competition

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 Dr. Sarah Kirchberger – non-resident senior fellow with the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security; head of Asia-Pacific Strategy and Security at the Institute for Security Policy at Kiel University (ISPK); and vice president of the German Maritime Institute (DMI) – is the 266th in “The Trans-Pacific View Insight Series.”

Explain the impetus behind “The China Plan.”

Last year the Atlantic Council tasked Hans Binnendijk and me to work on a transatlantic China report to enhance cooperation among allies to meet the China challenge. We soon identified one key problem: There are perception gaps among allies regarding the nature of the challenge itself. China very skillfully shows different faces to different parts of the world, presenting itself to some as a needed source of investments or an indispensable business partner, and to others, as a nationalist bully or a major security challenge. Combining these partial perceptions of China and bridging the gaps between them is, however, necessary to effectively tackle the challenges. We need a shared situational awareness. Our report identifies two areas where that already exists (human rights and coercive diplomacy); two where it is only partially available (economic and technological risks), and one where it is so far mostly lacking (military threats).

Briefly outline the blueprint for transatlantic cooperation in managing China.

Army University Press

Journal of Military Learning, April 2021, v. 5, no. 1

Malleability of Soft-Skill Competencies: Development with First-Term Enlisted Experience

Creating the Blended Online Community Leadership Model: Synthesizing Leadership Theories with the Community of Inquiry within a New Blended Online Faculty Development Course

Senior Service College Students’ Sense of Belonging in a Problem-Based Learning Environment

Teaching Professional Use of Critical Thinking to Officer-Cadets: Reflection on the Intellectual Training of Young Officers at Military Academies

Leveraging Metaphor in Professional and Military Education: Linking Ideas to Experience via Story, Symbol, and Simulation

The Challenge and Opportunity of Scholars Programs at the Command and General Staff College: One Example

10 Years On, Syrians Have Not Given Up

This March marked 10 years of the Syrian revolution. Syrians still remember its beginnings—joyful chanting in the streets and hope of a democratic and free future. Today, a large part of the population has fled or been detained in government prisons. The last bastion of hope is Idlib, a province in northwest Syria, the final stronghold of the Syrian opposition and a refuge for internally displaced Syrians. It is also Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s main target for continued air and artillery attacks. The bombardment has aimed at schools, hospitals, and other civilian targets. Assad views capturing the province as the last obstacle before he can declare a military victory. And if the international community continues to neglect Syria, that brutal goal is what he will achieve. But the people of Syria have not given up—10 years in, they continue to protest.

I still remember March 18, 2011—the day I joined one of the first peaceful protests in my hometown of Bayda, on the Syrian coast, at the age of 15. My eagerness to join thousands of friends and neighbors singing and dancing for freedom in the streets was indescribable, until suddenly, the first shot rang out. Assad’s security forces started shooting at the protesters. The blasts coming from the guns overwhelmed the sound of our voices, as blood drenched the roses still clutched by those who fell to their deaths.

Today, at the age of 25, I, like millions of other Syrians, have been displaced from my home and have lost so many loved ones I can no longer count them. As the director of detainee affairs at the Syrian Emergency Task Force and as a survivor of torture at the hands of the Assad regime in Syria’s prisons, I hope that my story will touch the hearts of the American people. A decade has passed since my arrest for taking part in a peaceful protest in Syria. A decade has passed while the world remains a bystander to the genocidal massacres unfolding in my country.

Israel’s Osirak Option


Almost exactly 40 years ago, Israel’s cabinet, then led by Prime Minister Menachem Begin, decided to destroy Iraq’s nascent nuclear program. After three-and-a-half years of planning, a single Israeli squadron destroyed six years of Iraqi nuclear efforts in just 90 seconds.

Unconventional means of delaying the Iraqi program—sabotage, assassination, and diplomacy—had failed. With those options exhausted, a hawkish government coalition carried out the strike, urged on by a sense of abandonment by the international community and the very recent and real memory of the Holocaust. The strike was a success: Iraq’s nuclear program was almost completely destroyed, and Israel emerged militarily and diplomatically unscathed.

Eager hawks and concerned doves have both trotted out this example in discussions of Israel’s options for Iran today. And there are some easy parallels between Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 1981 and Iran in 2021: vocal anti-Semitism, ostensibly genocidal motives for having a nuclear program, the patchy transparency of their nuclear programs, and the existential threat perceived by Israel. Yet there is a deeper similarity, and one that may be more telling: the domestic political dynamic in Israel at the time of the strike, which may be playing out again today.

The Return of the Quad: Will Russia and China Form Their Own Bloc?

President Biden’s recent virtual Quad summit with the prime ministers of India, Australia, and Japan on the surface focused on regional security, emerging technologies, and climate change. But beyond that, the Quad summit marked the official return and strong embrace of this coordinating mechanism among maritime democracies to ensure stability in the Indo-Pacific region. Initiated during the George W. Bush administration to discuss regional security issues, today the Quad has a greater purpose: addressing strategic competition with China. Although the Quad is not a formal alliance, its renewed purpose has been catalyzed by China’s growing regional assertiveness: the militarization of so-called reclamation islands across the South China Sea; economic coercion against Australia and other countries; coercive pressure on Japan in the East China Sea; and its brinksmanship in the Himalayas, which resulted in the death of 20 Indian soldiers. U.S. strategy toward the Indo-Pacific will continue to be shaped by this strategic competition, as will the United States’ robust alliances and partnerships in the region.

As we know from Newton’s Third Law, for every action—no matter how positive for U.S. interests—there is an opposite reaction. Sino-Russian strategic cooperation was rapidly expanding before the Quad Summit, but Moscow and Beijing have responded to this renewed momentum and solidarity among the Indo-Pacific maritime democracies with a flurry of military exercises and diplomacy of their own, including a new embrace of Iran as well as warm words for North Korea and the Myanmar junta. It appears that Beijing and Moscow’s affection for Iran and North Korea is at best branding them as disrupters rather than winning them powerful allies. The wisdom of these latter moves is debatable, particularly as China’s aggressive language and counter-sanctions against the European Union and the United Kingdom drives the world’s democracies toward the United States and the Quad.

Global Trade Survived Trump. Now What?

Former U.S. President Donald Trump upended what was once a relatively staid global economic and trade system. Under the banner of “America First,” Trump launched a trade war with China and threatened America’s European allies with another, imposing steel and aluminum tariffs that may prove difficult to reverse. He also undermined the ability of the World Trade Organization to resolve global disputes by blocking key appointments. For all of this upheaval, Trump left office with only one clear-cut accomplishment: an updated NAFTA deal known officially as the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Act, or USMCA.

Even as Trump sowed chaos in America’s trade relationships, most of the world reinforced its commitment to trade liberalization. One of Trump’s first moves in office was to pull America out of the huge Pacific Rim trade deal known then as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. But the remaining 11 members moved forward with the deal largely intact, renaming it the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, or CPTPP. While the TPP was originally designed to contain China, Beijing is now actually showing interest in joining the revamped bloc. Meanwhile, upon being sealed in late 2020, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership comprising 15 Asia-Pacific nations became the world’s largest trading bloc.

The European Union has also pushed ahead with agreements on several fronts, including beginning 2021 by improving its bilateral trade deal with Japan, which was already the largest in history when it came into force in 2019. The EU also finalized trade agreements with South America’s Mercosur trade bloc and Canada. Both deals have triggered backlashes within individual member states, though, and while the agreement with Canada, known as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, has been provisionally ratified, there is no guarantee either deal will ultimately be approved.

The Surprising Success of Sputnik V

By Christian Esch, Jens Glüsing and Christina Hebel

Last week, Vladimir Putin finally got vaccinated against COVID-19. For almost half a year, the Russian president has been tirelessly praising the vaccine developed in Russia. Sputnik V, he has said, is the "best vaccine in the world." Nevertheless, he was disinclined to take it himself, and even withdrew from the public eye for a time. Now, though, it appears that he has changed his mind.

But there's a catch. No information was provided about which vaccine he chose to use. Nor were any images or video footage provided. Why not? "As to being vaccinated on camera, well he has never been a fan of that," Putin's spokesman said. "He doesn't like that."

Putin's delayed and covert vaccination fits well with the strange story of Sputnik V, the first vaccine approved for COVID-19 in the world. It is a success story, to be sure, but there are some pretty large qualifiers.

Millions of people around the world have already been vaccinated with Sputnik V and more than 50 countries have approved it. Images from faraway countries like Argentina, Bolivia and Venezuela show pallets stacked with vials full of Sputnik V being welcomed. The world needs help, and Russia is there to provide it: That's the message.

But many places don't completely trust the Russian offer. And nowhere is that mistrust as pronounced as it is in Europe. But even in Russia, Sputnik V is viewed with some skepticism.

The vaccine continues to be dogged by the fact that its introduction was less than perfectly transparent. It was similar to Putin's recent vaccination: You have to believe it, because you're not going to see it. The result is that Sputnik V has become a matter of faith – as if the vials weren't full of vaccine, but of a cocktail of politics and medicine.
"Provocations" from the West

The Americanization Of British Strategy


During World War II, future Prime Minister Harold Macmillan provided one of the more enduring characterizations of the Anglo-American relationship. “We are Greeks,” he opined to a colleague, “in this American empire. You will find the Americans much as the Greeks found the Romans—great, big, vulgar, bustling people, more vigorous than we are and also more idle, with more unspoiled virtues but also more corrupt.” Britain’s postwar role, in this analogy, would be to take the new Rome under its tutelage, and in the process shape the ends to which American power would be applied.

But over the ensuing decades, the reverse occurred. The “Special Relationship” was taken up enthusiastically by both parties, it is true; but where London often struggled to secure the support of its ostensible pupil (as during the Suez Crisis or the Falklands War), successive U.S. administrations had far less trouble enlisting British participation in their own geopolitical adventures (most notoriously, the 2003 invasion of Iraq).

Along the way, British strategic culture changed as well. Nowhere is this more clearly observed than in the United Kingdom’s periodic defense reviews, the latest of which was released in March. In two documents—a whole-of-government Integrated Review and a military-focused Defence Command Paper—Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government has put forward a remarkably ambitious blueprint, committing the U.K. to a leading global role in everything from fighting climate change to reforming the global health system. What has attracted the most attention, however, are the initiatives concerning defense: a “tilt” to the Indo-Pacific, an increase in Britain’s nuclear arsenal, and the biggest program of military investment since the Cold War. Underpinning it all is a heady confidence in the country’s future. “Few nations,” writes Johnson in the foreword to the Integrated Review, “are better poised to navigate the challenges ahead.”

Impose Costs on Russia in the Information Environment

By Major Travis Florio, U.S. Army

John Arquilla presciently argued in 1993 that warfare is no longer about who has the more superior capital, labor, and technology; rather, victory is determined by who has the best information about the battlefield. Over the past decade, Russian information warfare has become more openly aggressive, and the United States must go on the offensive in the information environment (IE) to deter and disrupt Russia’s strategy. Brazen meddling in the cyber domain cannot continue uncontested, and despite the image of a powerful post–Soviet Union “Russian bear” under Vladimir Putin, Russia has many vulnerabilities ripe for exploitation.

The digital connectivity and economic growth technology has brought to the United States has also created a strategic dilemma—the more networked the nation is, the more opportunities there are for adversaries to disrupt critical infrastructure and wreak havoc on U.S. institutions. This is reflected in Russian doctrine, which recognizes an information-psychological aspect of cyber confrontation. Furthermore, Russia is exploiting freedom of speech in open democracies by interjecting loudly into social media debates. This problem does not require the government to take control of private media companies or regulate social media platforms. It does require a well-structured and resourced plan to impose costs on Russia.

Currently, the United States lacks a coherent, comprehensive, and coordinated approach to counter Russian malign influence operations. Russia exploits this confusion by launching multiple disconnected and seemingly contradictory information campaigns, using Soviet tactics of deception and information distortion. Countering its attempts to create havoc is akin to a whack-a-mole tactic; a better strategy is to impose costs.
Russia’s Vulnerabilities

The Global Race To Vaccinate

As of March 15, 2021, there have been over 120 million cases and 2.66 million deaths from COVID-19 around the globe, an increase of 43 percent in cases and 45 percent in deaths, since January 1. A second wave of the pandemic in the fall and winter resulted in a substantial increase in cases, severely straining even the strongest health care systems. Now, some countries are bracing for third and fourth waves. Several mutations of the virus—the three most prominent ones having emerged from the U.K. (B.1.1.7), South Africa (B.1.351), and Brazil (P.1)—have been complicating COVID-19 management just as vaccines are rolling out. According to The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.K. variant has been spreading quickly across the U.K., the U.S., and elsewhere, while laboratory studies indicate that the South African and Brazilian variants may be more resistant to vaccines. These mutations and stalled rollout of the vaccine across many parts of the world compound the urgency with which nations must act.

The authorization, approval, and initial distribution of 13 different COVID-19 vaccines, and the development of nearly 100 more that are currently in trials, offer hope for more effective management and an eventual end to the pandemic. As of this writing, there are seven vaccines approved for widespread use, six in early or limited use, and 23 in large-scale efficacy Phase 3 testing. A comparative summary of the leading vaccines currently being distributed globally is below:

A Cornered Bolsonaro Is Bad News for Brazil’s Democracy

Oliver Stuenkel 

Facing his most severe political crisis since taking office in 2019, Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, resorted to a broad reshuffle of his Cabinet last week, giving more of a voice to center-right parties in order to shore up his support and reduce the risk of impeachment while ousting three military commanders whom he considered insufficiently loyal. As Brazil heads into a perfect storm—an out-of-control pandemic combined with economic collapse and growing political discontent—Bolsonaro appears to be surrounding himself with loyalists who are willing to protect him and his four sons, all of whom are under investigation for crimes ranging from embezzlement of public funds to nepotism and money-laundering. This could have troubling implications for Bolsonaro’s political fortunes and, more importantly, for Brazil’s democracy.

Bolsonaro had been on the defensive in recent weeks, since the unexpected Supreme Court ruling that annulled the convictions of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, all but ensuring his participation in next year’s presidential election. Lula, as the popular leftist is commonly known, had been seen as a favorite in the 2018 contest before he was disqualified due to his prior conviction on corruption charges, clearing the way for Bolsonaro’s victory. While opposition parties have been largely fragmented and disoriented in the face of Bolsonaro’s Trumpian strategy of producing a round-the-clock mixture of entertainment and scandal, Lula immediately seized the initiative, using his first speech after the Supreme Court ruling last month to lambast Bolsonaro’s “moronic” handling of the pandemic. ...

Great-Power Competition Is a Recipe for Disaster


“America is back,” blared headlines following President Joe Biden’s speech to the Munich Security Conference in February, an address clearly designed to draw a line under the Donald Trump presidency and mark a new start in trans-Atlantic relations. “We are not looking backward,” Biden promised. “We are looking forward, together.” Yet one big plank of the Trump administration’s foreign policy is apparently sticking around: great-power competition. “We must prepare together for a long-term strategic competition,” Biden told conference attendees, adding that “competition with China is going to be stiff.”

Unfortunately, for all that great-power competition has been Washington’s favorite buzzword in recent years, it remains frustratingly poorly defined. Indeed, most commentators skip right past the big questions (Why are we competing? Competing over what?) and go straight to arguing about how to achieve victory. Since the possible answers to these questions range from the entirely reasonable (i.e., that Western states should engage in collective defense of liberal democracy) to the dangerous and utterly unrealistic (i.e., that Washington should be pursuing regime collapse in Beijing), it’s hardly something we should ignore.

It seems that once again—just as it did during the global war on terrorism in the mid-2000s or when styling the United States as the indispensable nation in the 1990s—Washington’s strategic community is again reorienting itself around a new, poorly theorized model of the world and of America’s place in it. Yet precisely because it is so ill-defined, great-power competition as a strategy—that is to say, competition for its own sake—also has the potential to be highly dangerous.

If great-power competition is instead a means to an end, it’s not at all clear what those ends are.

Big Talk on Big Tech—but Little Action


The Facebook founder was effectively a hypocrite, Klobuchar said in March, as she opened her first hearing as chair of the Senate subcommittee on antitrust. Zuckerberg and his fellow tech titans talk a good game about the need for “disruptive” new technologies and companies to keep capitalism fresh and vital. But during his time as Facebook CEO, Zuckerberg has crushed or simply purchased any start-up that might disrupt Facebook’s dominance, said Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat. And she trotted out Zuckerberg’s own emails to prove it—in one he lamented that if new brands “grow to a large scale, they could be very disruptive to us.” In another, Zuckerberg wrote that when one is building market dominance, “it is better to buy than compete.”

That is what he’s done, carefully buying out potentially competitive platforms such as Instagram and WhatsApp. Nor have Zuckerberg and his fellow multibillionaires had to worry much about solidifying their dominance as Washington mostly looked the other way for the past few decades. Instead, Klobuchar said, legislators have typically responded by “holding hearings and throwing popcorn at a screen.”

That era of indulgence is now over, Klobuchar said in an interview, and many antitrust experts as well as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agree. In both the United States and Europe, there are fresh efforts to rein in Big Tech, especially the companies that have come to dominate social media, e-commerce, and even politics in America: Facebook, Amazon, Google, Apple, and Microsoft. Though Republicans and Democrats disagree on the how, there is an emerging consensus that at the very least they need to beef up antitrust enforcement at the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which are “a mere shadow of what they were even in [former President Ronald] Reagan’s time,” with something like half the lawyers they had then, Klobuchar said.