16 April 2021

Limited War and Nuclear Deterrence- Part I and II

Major General PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)

On 15 June 2020, in a brutal, savage skirmish, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) used fists, rocks, rods, baton, spikes, knuckle-dusters, nail-studded clubs and wooden clubs wrapped in barbed wire at a post at Galwan on the Indian side of Line of Actual Control(LAC) in Ladakh sector at an altitude of 4,250 meters. India lost a Commanding Officer of an infantry battalion and 19 other ranks. China did not divulge its casualty figures. There is a famous saying that no two nuclear-powered states have ever fought a war. William S. Lind, who developed Manoeuvre Warfare and Fourth Generation Warfare theories, is sceptical about two nuclear weapon capable countries ever to fight a conventional war. Continue Reading.....

How Would Data Localization Benefit India?


Data localization refers to various policy measures that restrict data flows by limiting the physical storage and processing of data within a given jurisdiction’s boundaries. Multiple countries have adopted localization policies to combat multiple concerns over the free flow of data. A vital question, then, is whether any particular variant of data localization would help the Indian government meet its multiple stated objectives for considering such a policy course.

There are four key types of localization variants. These include (a) conditional localization that entails a local storage requirement, (b) unconditional local storage requirements (for all personal data), (c) unconditional mirroring requirements (for all personal data), and (d) the unconditional free flow of data with bilateral/ multilateral agreements for data access and transfers. This paper breaks up these four variants further into a total of nine specific designs and evaluates which would best serve India’s objectives.


Data localization has become a significant policy issue in India in the last decade. This is primarily due to the perceived economic benefits of processing Indian consumer data, and difficulties accessing personal data for national security and law enforcement purposes. In 2019, the Indian government introduced a data protection bill in the Indian parliament, which is still being debated and considered. This bill proposes the country’s first economy-wide data localization framework. That said, more tailored, sector-specific data localization measures have already been implemented in many parts of the Indian economy. For example, the telecommunications sector already requires the local storage and local processing of subscriber information and prohibits the transferring of subscribers’ account information overseas. Most recently, India’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of India, has mandated that all payment data be stored in India, though it can be processed abroad.

Biden to Complete Full Afghanistan Withdrawal by Sept. 11


U.S. President Joe Biden plans to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan before Sept. 11, a move that would mark the end to the United States’ longest war 20 years after the terrorist attacks that sparked it.

The decision, confirmed by senior Biden administration officials on Tuesday, comes after months of deadlocked peace talks with the Afghan government and the Taliban. It extends a withdrawal deadline first negotiated under former U.S. President Donald Trump to pull all U.S. troops by May 1.

The withdrawal deadline date is set in stone, according to a senior Biden administration official speaking on condition of anonymity, and is not subject to any further alterations based on conditions on the ground.

“This is not conditions-based. The president has judged that a conditions-based approach, which has been the approach of the past two decades, is a recipe for staying in Afghanistan forever,” the official said.

The official said all of the roughly 2,500 U.S. service members left in Afghanistan could be withdrawn well before the Sept. 11 deadline, and the pace of withdrawal depends on operational and logistics issues for the commanders on the ground.

“President Biden will give our military commanders the time and space they need to conduct a safe and orderly withdrawal, not just of U.S. forces but of allied forces as well on the principle of ‘in together, out together,’” the official added. “We will take the time we need to execute that—and no more time than that.”

The Arakan Dream: The Search for Peace in Myanmar’s Rakhine State

By: Jack Broome

On March 23, the Arakan Army (AA)—an ethnic armed organization (EAO) based largely in Myanmar’s Rakhine State—finally released a statement condemning the military’s seizure of power in the February 1 coup. AA spokesperson, Khine Thu Kha, said that the AA was “together…with the people” and would “continue to go forward for the oppressed Rakhine people” (Dhaka Star, March 23).

Up until this point, the AA had held back from issuing any kind of response to the coup, despite an increasing number of EAOs having already declared their support for the civil disobedience movement (CDM). Some groups, such as the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), which is one of the AA’s alliance partners, have even begun to carry out attacks against the military in retaliation (Kachin News, March 12). Similarly, when the State Administrative Council (SAC), Myanmar’s new military government, announced on March 10 that it had removed the AA from the list of terrorist organizations, the rebel group made no formal acknowledgement of the move (The Irrawaddy, March 11).

What explains the AA’s initial silence, and more importantly, its sudden decision to speak out against the coup? The answer to both these questions lies in the AA’s struggle to achieve self-determination for ethnic Rakhine and the restoration of an “Arakan” state, something which the AA commander-in chief, General Twan Myat Naing, previously termed “Arakan Dream 2020” (Development Media Group, December 14, 2019; BNI Multimedia Group, June 4, 2019).

Arakan Dream 2020

An Old War Is Rekindled On The Myanmar-Thailand Border


MAE SAM LAEP — Seen from the Thai side of the Salouen River, the Burmese army's outpost does not look like much: on the top of a bare hilltop, several shabby bunkers, plank walls and zinc roofs are lined up. There's no living soul, apparently, except for the crowing of a rooster whose stubborn cackle intermittently reaches the other bank. A little higher up, balancing on the void stands the silhouette of a building that looks like a Buddhist pagoda. Strangely enough, a red flag is flying there. The Thai police say that it is a sign of war for their Burmese neighbors.

This isolated outpost is not just a godforsaken hole stunned by the April heat, locked in the torpor of a foggy afternoon awaiting the monsoon rains. It is instead a military barracks of the Tatmadaw (official armed forces of Myanmar), the same forces whose soldiers have in just two months massacred more than half a thousand demonstrators opposing the Feb. 1 military coup.

The conflict is never far away. Under the cover of a sky still veiled by the smoke of the agricultural fires that mark the end of the dry season, the small border town of Mae Sam Laep, which faces the Burmese barracks, is recovering from recent events.

"There is no one left, all the refugees have been chased away."

Last week, for the first time in 20 years, regime fighter jets dropped bombs not far from here, on the other side of the river. In this region of incessant warfare, the territory is partly controlled by one of Myanmar's oldest guerrilla groups, the Karen National Union (KNU). This armed group, which has been battling the central government for seven decades, is named after a large ethnic minority, the Karen, who number seven million throughout Myanmar out of a population of about 56 million.

Northern expedition: China’s Arctic ambition and activism

Rush Doshi, Alexis Dale-Huang, and Gaoqi Zhang

This report explores China’s internal discourse on the Arctic as well as its activities and ambitions across the region. It finds that China sometimes speaks with two voices on the Arctic: an external one aimed at foreign audiences and a more cynical internal one emphasizing competition and Beijing’s Arctic ambitions. In examining China’s political, military, scientific, and economic activity — as well as its coercion of Arctic states — the report also demonstrates the seriousness of China’s aspirations to become a “polar great power.”[1] China has sent high-level figures to the region 33 times in the past two decades, engaged or joined most major Arctic institutions, sought a half dozen scientific facilities in Arctic states, pursued a range of plausibly dual-use economic projects, expanded its icebreaker fleet, and even sent its naval vessels into the region. The eight Arctic sovereign states — Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States — exercise great influence over the Arctic and its strategically valuable geography. China aspires to be among them.

The report advances several primary findings:

China seeks to become a “polar great power” but downplays this goal publicly. Speeches by President Xi Jinping and senior Chinese officials with responsibility for Arctic policy are clear that building China into a “polar great power” by 2030 is China’s top polar goal. Despite the prominence of this goal in these texts, China’s externally facing documents — including its white papers — rarely if ever mention it, suggesting a desire to calibrate external perceptions about its Arctic ambitions, particularly as its Arctic activities become the focus of greater international attention.

China describes the Arctic as one of the world’s “new strategic frontiers,” ripe for rivalry and extraction.[2] China sees the Arctic — along with the Antarctic, the seabed, and space — as ungoverned or undergoverned spaces. While some of its external discourse emphasizes the need to constrain competition in these domains, several others take a more cynical view, emphasizing the need to prepare for competition within them and over their resources. A head of the Polar Research Institute for China, for example, called these kinds of public spaces the “most competitive resource treasures,” China’s National Security Law creates the legal capability to protect China’s rights across them, and top Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials have suggested China’s share of these resources should be equal to its share of the global population.[3]

Would Russia Invade Ukraine And China Invade Taiwan Simultaneously?

By Daniel Davis

The top objective of U.S. foreign policy – and the primary purpose of our Armed Forces – is to keep America and our citizens safe. Anything that needlessly increases the risk to our safety should be avoided and all that contributes to it firmly reinforced. The absolute worst-case scenario for U.S. security would be to fight a two-front war with both China and Russia.
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Since World War II such a possibility has been so remote as to warrant little serious consideration. Recent events, however, have pushed the potential into the realm of the possible. Great care must be taken to lower tensions before events spiral beyond our control, as we are faced with the nightmare scenario of squaring off against Moscow and Beijing simultaneously.

How a Two-Front War Could Begin

There is an emerging confluence of dynamics at play in the Indo-Pacific and in Eastern Europe that, if not managed well by Washington, could devolve to the point that the U.S. military is faced with a horrifying dilemma: choose to engage in a battle that could leave our Armed Forces fatally gouged or face humiliation by refusing to fight in the face of aggressive forces.

Meet the future weapon of mass destruction, the drone swarm

By Zachary Kallenborn

In October 2016, the United States Strategic Capabilities Office launched 103 Perdix drones out of an F/A-18 Super Hornet. The drones communicated with one another using a distributed brain, assembling into a complex formation, traveling across a battlefield, and reforming into a new formation. The swarm over China Lake, California was the sort of “cutting-edge innovation” that would keep America ahead of its adversaries, a Defense Department press release quoted then Secretary of Defense Ash Carter as saying. But the Pentagon buried the lede: The Strategic Capabilities Office did not actually create the swarm; engineering students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) did, using an “all-commercial-components design.”

MIT engineering students are among the best engineering students in the world, and they have the exact skills for the task, but they are still students. If drone swarming technology is accessible enough that students can develop it, global proliferation is virtually inevitable. And, of course, world militaries are deploying new drone technology so quickly that even journalists and experts who follow the issue have trouble keeping up, even as much drone swarm-related research is surely taking place outside the public eye. With many countries announcing what they call “swarms,” at some point—and arguably that point is now—this technology will pose a real risk: In theory, swarms could be scaled to tens of thousands of drones, creating a weapon akin to a low-scale nuclear device. Think “Nagasaki” to get a sense of the death toll a massive drone swarm could theoretically inflict. (In most cases, drone swarms are likely to be far below this level of harm, but such extremes are absolutely possible.)

Creating a drone swarm is fundamentally a programming problem. Drones can be easily purchased at electronics stores or just built with duct tape and plywood as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria did. The drone swarm challenge is getting the individual units to work together. That means developing the communication protocols so they can share information, manage conflicts between the drones, and collectively decide which drones should accomplish which task. To do so, researchers must create task allocation algorithms. These algorithms allow the swarm to assign specific tasks to specific drones. Once the algorithms are created, they can be readily shared and just need to be coded into the drones.

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.

FAST THINKING: Did the Iran nuclear talks just blow up?

Kirsten Fontenrose, Barbara Slavin, Holly Dagres

Iran’s ability to enrich uranium for potential use in nuclear weapons may have suffered a severe blow on Sunday after an explosion knocked out power at its Natanz nuclear site. The Iranian government is denying reports that it could take as much as nine months to repair the damage, while blaming Israel for the sabotage (allegations Israel has yet to confirm). The Biden administration is distancing itself from the affair, as indirect talks continue in Vienna around reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Will the explosion blow up those negotiations? And what will its impact be on Iran itself and the country’s nuclear program? We turned to our Middle East team to assess the fallout.

If Israel was indeed behind the action to disrupt Iran’s progress on nuclear enrichment, that shouldn’t surprise Iranian or US officials, Kirsten tells us. “Not only was it in keeping with patterns of Israeli operations to trip up Iran’s trot toward a nuclear weapon” capacity, she notes, but Israel has repeatedly made clear that it would act against Iran’s nuclear program if 1) Iran continued to accelerate its timeline for being able to build nuclear weapons, and 2) the stalemate on a nuclear agreement between Iran and the United States persisted. “Both conditions were and are met.”

Kirsten adds that while the United States and Israel are allies, it’s possible that US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who was visiting Tel Aviv on Sunday as Iran reported the blackout at its nuclear facility, “only learned about this Natanz operation as it occurred.” The operation may have been “intended as a signal to the US as much as to Iran,” she says.

And she has some advice for Iranian leaders: “One mistake Iran should not make now is conflating their tit-for-tat with Israel with their negotiations with the US and Europe. This would only serve Israeli factions that do not support a renewed nuclear deal and would instead prefer to have justification to destroy all components of Iran’s nuclear program from the ground up.”


Jordan’s King Is His Own Worst Enemy


A century ago, Sharif Hussein bin Ali had big dreams for his Hashemite dynasty when he was king of the Hejaz and emir of Mecca and Medina, Islam’s holiest sites. But ever since the time of Lawrence of Arabia, when the Hashemites were Britain’s main regional allies during World War I and led the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire, the dynasty has been in steady decline. And with the ongoing dispute among Hussein’s descendants in Jordan, the family may have reached a new low.

The Hashemite dynasty has faced myriad challenges over all those decades, both externally and internally. Brothers in the line of succession have often been dumped for sons, but never did the family wash its dirty linen in public—until this month, when an internal rift became public gossip.

On April 3, Jordan announced that it had foiled a conspiracy to unseat its monarch and destabilize the country. Foreign entities, top officials claimed, were colluding with Prince Hamzah to topple King Abdullah II. Two weeks later, the palace still has not shared a shred of evidence, and it’s becoming increasingly clear that the tale doesn’t add up.

More likely is that we are watching the oldest story in the world: a succession battle playing out between royal siblings. Jordan’s monarch placed his half-brother and former crown prince under house arrest to remove the challenge to his throne, along with 18 alleged co-conspirators. But rather than a seditious prince, the whole episode has revealed the authoritarian streak of an insecure king.

Jordan’s tribes have historically owed allegiance to the Hashemites in part due to their religious lineage as descendants of the Prophet Mohammad, who, too, hailed from the House of Hashim. Their support is essential for the dynasty, but they increasingly feel marginalized and disaffected. The United States, which give billions of dollars in aid to the country, have officially backed the king in the feud. But they have been forced to take note of mounting repression in Jordan under Abdullah’s leadership.

Iran nuclear attack: Mystery surrounds nuclear sabotage at Natanz

By Gordon Corera

Within hours of Iran proudly announcing the launch of its latest centrifuges, a power blackout damaged some of the precious machines at its site in Natanz.

Iran has described this as an act of "terrorism" and pointed the finger at Israel. But there is still mystery over the cause.

In Israel, some reports have suggested a cyber-attack might have been responsible but Iran has talked of "infiltrators" amid reports of an explosion linked to the power generator.

One thing reports seem to agree on is that an "incident" affected the power distribution network at Natanz, leading to a blackout until emergency power systems kicked in.

A blackout may not sound that serious, but it can be at an enrichment plant. Centrifuges are slender machines linked up in what are called cascades which enrich uranium gas by spinning it at incredibly high speeds using rotors. The stress on the advanced materials involved is intense and the process is technically immensely challenging.

A small problem can send a centrifuge spinning out of control, with parts smashing into each other and damaging a whole cascade.

Ensuring the power supply reaching a centrifuge is perfectly balanced is vital. Which means sabotage of that supply can be catastrophic.

Is Turkey’s idea of a Muslim Middle Zone more than a dream?

Turkey has been in a tizzy of late over a letter by 104 retired admirals. The letter, made public on April 3, criticised President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s long-gestating plan to build a canal parallel to Istanbul’s Bosphorus Strait, potentially voiding the 1936 convention regulating maritime traffic in and out of the Black Sea.

Ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) officials and pro-government news outlets denounced the admirals as coup-plotters, as authorities took 10 of them into custody, while Mr Erdogan took to playing the victim to gain a political bump.

“They targeted Turkey’s national presence, its resistance, its struggle to recover after a century,” Ibrahim Karagul, columnist at a pro-government newspaper Yeni Safak, wrote of the letter, echoing the Turkish president. “Those 104 admirals took action to place Turkey under US patronage once again, to doom it to EU control, to keep Turkey out of all the action as the world is being re-established.”

Any state with ambition needs a national narrative to guide its rise, a founding story outlining a bold vision and an ultimate objective. Known for his wavy mullet and paragraph-long headlines, Karagul, like Mr Erdogan and many other key government figures, comes from Turkey’s Black Sea region. He is known to be close to the leadership in Ankara and has emerged in recent years as an instrumental government advocate, distilling the latest news through his grand dream of a rising Turkey.

North Korea’s “tactical-guided” ballistic missile test is no joke for Biden and South Korea

By Duyeon Kim

2014 missile launch of the Iskander-M missile system. North Korea’s March 25, 2021 missile test appears to be an improved variant of the Russian Iskander-style short-range ballistic missile. Credit: Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation via Wikimedia Commons. CC BY 4.0.

North Korea’s March 25 test of two short-range ballistic missiles should be taken seriously. These missiles threaten South Korea and Americans living there. The test unambiguously violates UN Security Council resolutions, and any miscalculation involving these missiles could escalate into nuclear war. War is not imminent or highly probable, but the risks are high. As such, the United States and the international community should respond firmly.

The tests indicate Pyongyang is serious about developing tactical nuclear weapons, which can be achieved by mounting nuclear warheads onto short-range ballistic missiles. After all, Kim Jong Un declared in January that he is pursuing “ultra-modern tactical nuclear weapons including new-type tactical rockets.” At the time, the broader international discourse overlooked this notable threat to South Korea and the United States. Pyongyang now appears to be putting Kim’s declared plans into action—and doing so in earnest.

President Biden reacted by warning that “there will be responses if they choose to escalate. We will respond accordingly.” He also stressed that his administration is prepared for “some form of diplomacy, but it has to be conditioned upon the end result of denuclearization.” Pyongyang then criticized Biden for making statements that were “detrimental to the dignity and sovereignty” of North Korea and warned of consequences if Washington continued to make “unreasonable remarks” aimed at “slandering” North Korea “as the gravest threat to [America’s] security.”

Top Kremlin Mouthpiece Warns of ‘Inevitable’ War With U.S. Over Another Ukraine Land Grab

Julia Davis

All-out cyberwarfare, nation-wide forced blackouts, and the targeted disruption of internet services—for one of the Kremlin’s top propagandists, all of those tactics are fair game in what she describes as a fated war-to-come against the U.S.

“War [with the U.S.] is inevitable,” declared Margarita Simonyan, editor in chief of the state-funded Russian media outlets RT and Sputnik, who believes the conflict will break out when, not if, Vladimir Putin moves to seize more territory from Ukraine.

As Russia’s military buildup on Ukraine’s doorstep mounts, Kremlin loyalists have been urging for even more overt aggression and bloodshed in the campaign to annex Ukraine’s Donbas region. The only thing standing in the way, they say, is U.S. support for their beleaguered neighbor.

NATO issued a statement on Wednesday demanding an end to Russia’s troop movements on the border with the disputed territory of Donbas in eastern Ukraine. It is the largest buildup of Russian troops since the annexation of Crimea in 2014. The U.S. underlined the statement this week by deploying two warships to the Black Sea.

On Tuesday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov threatened retaliation. “We warn the United States that it will be better for them to stay far away from Crimea and our Black Sea coast. It will be for their own good,” he said.

The COVID-19 vaccine: Lessons and challenges

By Lieven Van der Veken and Tania Zulu Holt

As policymakers vaccinate their populations against an ever-changing COVID-19, they’re discovering numerous challenges along the way. In this episode of The McKinsey Podcast, McKinsey partners Lieven Van der Veken and Tania Zulu Holt share insights on progress and lessons learned so far, and how to help get the vaccine distributed as quickly and safely as possible. An edited transcript of their conversation follows.

Diane Brady: Hello and welcome to The McKinsey Podcast. I’m Diane Brady. The COVID-19 vaccines are here, and that has been creating a lot of hope and challenges for how to make these vaccines available on an unprecedented scale. Joining me today to talk about how we can achieve this, and the lessons learned so far, are two McKinsey partners who’ve been doing a lot of work in this area. Lieven Van der Veken is a senior partner in McKinsey’s Geneva office. A doctor by training, he leads our social sector and our public health work in Europe. Lieven, welcome.

Lieven Van der Veken: Good to be here.

Diane Brady: And Tania Zulu Holt is a healthcare economist and partner in the London office, where she works with donor institutions globally, including on vaccine delivery. Tania, welcome.

Tania Zulu Holt: Thank you, Diane.

Diane Brady: So, Lieven, where are we at this stage in the distribution?

Rebuild with purpose: An affirmative vision for 21st century American infrastructure

Adie Tomer, Joseph W. Kane, and Caroline George

Policymakers, practitioners, and the general public increasingly agree that our infrastructure systems are under pressure. Storm surges and coastal flooding continue to wreak havoc on our cities and towns. A lack of world-leading digital infrastructure has made it harder for businesses and people to compete in the global information economy. Outdated pipes and streets impact the health and safety of too many people.

Simply repairing our outmoded infrastructure systems with the same traditional policies, technologies, and designs is not enough. Americans are ready for a grand reimagining of and reinvestment in our infrastructure to revitalize the transportation, water, energy, and broadband systems that power our economy.

Our new report, Rebuild with purpose: An affirmative vision for 21st century American infrastructure, serves as the foundation for a new federal vision for American infrastructure. The report crafts an integrated plan to address four cross-cutting forces of change, and recommends a three-part framework to guide Congress and federal agencies’ strategic direction.

Biden’s ‘Foreign Policy for the Middle Class’ Takes Shape

Stewart M. Patrick 

In his first foreign policy address as president, delivered last week at the State Department, Joe Biden drew the curtain on the disastrous Trump era, rededicating the United States to repairing its tattered alliances, reengaging the world and defending freedom. “We are ready to take up the mantle of global leadership yet again,” he declared. “America is back. Diplomacy is back at the center of our foreign policy.”

The most novel aspect of Biden’s plainspoken speech was how he erased any clear distinction between foreign and domestic policy. The nation’s strength at home determines its success abroad—and vice versa. But there were still two lingering questions. First, are others are prepared to follow America’s lead, particularly in defending freedom, when its own democratic experiment is so tarnished? Second, can Biden reconcile his democracy promotion agenda with the need for practical cooperation with rivals in China and Russia on shared global challenges?

Biden advanced a foreign policy vision diametrically opposed to his predecessor’s cynical, nationalist, nativist and sovereigntist predilections, which had injured America’s interests and perverted its values. “America cannot afford any longer to be absent on the world stage,” Biden said. It must lead the world in resisting “advancing authoritarianism,” particularly from China and Russia, while addressing the “accelerating global challenges” that define our interconnected age, “from the pandemic to the climate crisis to nuclear proliferation.”

Could Europe's reemergence in Asia be a win-win this time?

“Whoever is lord of Malacca has his hands on the throat of Venice,” observed the 15th century explorer Tome Pires. Within his lifetime, his native Portugal and rival Spain would effectively divide the world between themselves under the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494. The treaty sanctioned Portuguese conquest of countless ports across the Indian Ocean while Spain devoured those in the Pacific.

Over the next half a millennium, a constellation of tiny European kingdoms reigned supreme across the vast Asian continent, placing their voracious hands on the throat of once mighty empires in the East. Qing-era China would suffer a "century of humiliation" of unequal treaties, intermittent invasions and forced opium trade; many of its peers were less lucky.

Neighbouring Philippines, for instance, would remain in Spanish colonial grip for 333 years. India arguably suffered the greatest level of colonial immiseration, as the British empire drained from it an estimated $45 trillion (in current dollars) between the 18th and 20th centuries.

How Rising Great Power Tensions Will Aect Central Asia

Akram Umarov

This article is part of a collaboration between the Foreign Policy Research Institute and the Oxus Society for Central Asian Affairs.

The recent escalation in diplomatic tensions between the U.S., EU, China, and Russia is an unwelcome development for Central Asia. With the recent complicated visit to Moscow by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell marred by aggressive bilateral rhetoric, the White House labelling China as its major competitor, and recent verbal swordplay between President Biden and President Putin, it seems that a new “iron curtain” is quickly descending between the west, on one side, and Russia and China, on the other. These states are signalling a readiness to engage in a strategic competition which will possibly spread into different regions of the world, including Central Asia.

External regional partners may start insisting that they select one of them as a major political and economic ally, scuppering current efforts at multi-vectorism. Such policies will lead to increasing pressure on Central Asian leaders to clearly display their political alliances and to adhere to norms established within that camp.

This is already starting to occur. During his speech at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, President Putin stated unequivocally: “We will never tolerate [anyone] using Russia’s rich gifts to damage the Russian Federation.” While he did not name any particular country in his speech, it appeared that the statement was directed at the former Soviet republics, warning them to refrain from maintaining close partnerships with Russia’s adversaries. As several post-Soviet countries like Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova have entered into a long-term confrontation with Russia and are seeking alliances with the U.S. and European countries, Moscow has been intensifying its efforts to retain its sphere of influence, especially by integrating them into the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).

The Sullivan Model


Jake Sullivan, U.S. President Joe Biden’s national security advisor, has always loved a good debate. As an undergraduate at Yale University, he placed third in the nationals; at the University of Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, he finished second in the world debating championship. He got started in politics by handling debate prep for Amy Klobuchar when she made her successful run at the Senate, and he later did the same for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in their runs for the White House.

Now, inside the White House, Sullivan is still debating—with himself. Having once been a champion of the traditional foreign-policy consensus, he is now questioning how national security can be reframed first and foremost to address domestic needs. For years, a cultlike narrative has followed Sullivan, who at 44 is the youngest top national security official in the Biden administration and the youngest national security advisor in almost 60 years; everyone speaks of his rare combination of precocious talent, maturity, and devotion to country. Plus, in a town of sharp elbows, he’s a genuinely nice guy. Comparisons already abound between Sullivan and Brent Scowcroft, former national security advisor to Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush, a man who is considered the gold standard in strategic thinking about foreign policy.

When Biden introduced Sullivan as his pick to lead the National Security Council (NSC), he called him a “once-in-a-generation intellect.” He’s now got to apply that to what many consider a once-in-a-generation challenge, as a deeply divided country seeks to redefine its role in the world and wrestle with a strategic challenge—the rise of China—the likes of which it has never seen.

England prepares to get drunk after nearly four months of lockdown


LONDON — People in England will flock to the pub this week after a dry spell of nearly four months — but many will discover that their hostelry of choice remains shut.

Pub-goers are allowed to drink outdoors in England from Monday, as long as they form groups of no more than six people or two different households. In Scotland and Wales, outdoor hospitality will resume from April 26.

Since Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his roadmap for lifting the lockdown restrictions, booking outdoor seating at English pubs and restaurants for the first few days after the reopening has become an impossible feat: hospitality businesses say bookings are at record levels.

But the British weather, cashflow problems and the lack of sufficient outdoor space to comply with the government requirements mean most pubs will not open until at least May 17, when indoor hospitality is expected to resume in England.

“We think roughly one third of pubs will open on Monday, and perhaps only a third of those will be profitable,” said James Calder, chief executive of the Society of Independent Brewers, which represents 830 independent craft breweries across Britain. “The idea that ‘the pubs are opening, therefore everything is now OK’ couldn’t be further from the truth.”

JD Wetherspoon, which operates about 750 pubs in England, will reopen 396 of them on Monday. Another operator, Mitchells & Butlers, will reopen 270 of its 1,500 outlets in England, with a further 250 earmarked for later in the month. The group owns Browns, Nicholson’s and Harvester pubs, restaurants and bars.

The Myth of a Rules-Based World

By George Friedman

Two concepts have been constantly used in discussions of international relations of late. One is a liberal international order and the second is a rules-based system. In the former, the term “liberal” does not have much to do with what Americans call liberalism. Rather, it describes an international system that is committed to human rights, free trade and related principles. The second is the idea that there is an agreed-upon system of rules governing the relationship between nations. Together, these notions are thought to create predictability and decency in the way nations interact with each other.

This issue came up during the administration of former President Donald Trump, who was accused of undermining these principles by, for example, imposing tariffs on China and questioning the value of NATO. The question is emerging again because the Biden administration, having come to power criticizing the policies of its predecessor, has made it clear that it intends to return to these principles.

The most important question is whether there ever was a rules-based international order or whether it was an illusion. There has long been a vision that the relationship between nations should not be a war of everyone against each other, but rather harmonious cooperation between states. Philosophers and theologians have dreamt of bringing this vision to life, and at various times attempts were made to institutionalize it.

Why is the United Kingdom raising its nuclear stockpile limits?

By Matthew Harries 

On March 16, the United Kingdom announced it was significantly raising a self-imposed cap on its overall nuclear stockpile, from a previous target of 180 warheads by the mid-2020s to a new cap of 260. The decision was outlined in the United Kingdom’s Integrated Review, a landmark strategic update, which also said the country will no longer declare the size of its operational warhead stockpile (previously 120), or the numbers of warheads and operational missiles deployed on submarines (previously 40 and no more than 8, respectively). A previous review in 2015 had left open the possibility of a future change in nuclear posture, although the vaguely phrased caveat was not much noticed at the time.

In essence, the United Kingdom is now reserving the right to deploy configurations of warheads on its ballistic-missile submarines that add up to significantly more nuclear explosive power than the previous limits allowed. An initial blanching of faces—and dismay about the reversal of two decades of progress towards a smaller and more transparent UK arsenal—has given way to the obvious question: Why?

Strategic analysts have been closely examining the text of the Integrated Review for clues to a changed deterrence policy and have seized on remarks by the UK defense secretary referring to improved Russian missile defenses. This explanation, if true, would be consistent with the traditional driver of UK nuclear requirements: the so-called Moscow Criterion, under which the United Kingdom believes it must have the ability to hold the Russian capital—a defended target—at serious risk. Additional strategic factors, including a broader range of targets, and the potential need to respond to limited nuclear use, have also been floated.

Other analysts have insisted that the new cap is designed to permit a bulge in the warhead stockpile for practical, rather than strategic, reasons, and that the accompanying change in doctrine is only window dressing. More skeptical observers suspect the United Kingdom’s real motivation is political, to make a general statement of post-Brexit toughness towards the world at large, send a message of nuclear buy-in towards the United States, or simply put the opposition Labour Party on the spot.

Avoiding a K-Shaped Global Recovery

by A. Michael Spence, Joseph E. Stiglitz, and Jayati Ghosh

The United States expects to “celebrate independence” from COVID-19 by Independence Day (July 4), when vaccines will have been made available to all adults. But for many developing countries and emerging markets, the end of the crisis is a long way off. As we show in a report for the Institute for New Economic Thinking’s (INET) Commission on Global Economic Transformation, achieving a rapid global recovery requires that all countries be able to declare independence from the virus.

Because the coronavirus mutates, it will put everyone at risk as long as it continues to flourish anywhere in the world. It is thus critical that vaccines, personal protective equipment, and therapeutics be distributed everywhere as quickly as possible. Insofar as today’s supply constraints are the result of a poorly designed international intellectual-property regime, they are essentially artificial.

While IP reform in general is long overdue, what is needed most urgently now is suspension or pooling of the IP rights attached to products needed to fight COVID-19. Many countries are pleading for this, but corporate lobbies in advanced economies have resisted, and their governments have succumbed to myopia. The rise of “pandemic nationalism” has exposed a number of deficiencies in the global trade, investment, and IP regimes (which the INET Commission will address in a later report).

Four Things the Pentagon Needs to Do to Advance Its AI


“We can still defend America and our allies without widespread AI adoption today,” wrote the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence in its recent report, “but in the future, we will almost certainly lose without it.” To this end, there are four areas we need to move faster on.

First, the Pentagon needs to get its technical backbone in place. The DoD must have a modern digital infrastructure that supports ubiquitous development and delivery of AI capabilities department-wide, from headquarters to the front lines. This infrastructure should function as a common platform that provides networked, on-demand access to scalable storage and compute, enables the sharing of data, software, and capabilities through hardened application programming interfaces with proper access controls, and equips researchers and developers with the tools and data models they need to drive new AI capabilities. NSCAI calls for a federated approach to achieve this vision by knitting together ongoing efforts across the Department, such as the JAIC’s Joint Common Foundation and the Air Force's Platform One, into an extensible common digital fabric that supports development, production, and integration of AI solutions.