9 May 2021

China’s Nuclear and Missile Capabilities: An Overview

Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)

Since China first conducted a nuclear weapon test in 1964, its nuclear doctrine has remained unchanged and is underpinned by two principles: a minimum deterrent doctrine and a No First Use (NFU) policy. China’s 2019 defence white paper states, “China is always committed to a nuclear policy of NFU of nuclear weapons at any time and under any circumstances, and not using or threatening to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states or nuclear-weapon-free zones unconditionally.”

However, a recent U.S. Department of Defence (DoD) report claims that the scope of China’s nuclear modernisation and its lack of transparency “raise concern that China is not only shifting its requirements for what constitutes a minimal deterrence but that it could shift away from its longstanding minimalist force posture.” The data available show that China is modernising and expanding virtually every element of its nuclear forces, including each aspect of its nuclear weapons and missile, sea, and air delivery systems. What is not clear are China’s current and planned holdings of nuclear weapons, China’s future plans for deploying additional delivery systems, its commitment to some form of NFU, first preemption, or launch on warning, and the extent to which it will accept what might be called a form of ‘minimum assured destruction.

Countries That Let the Virus Run Rampant Are a Danger To Everyone

By Marian Blasberg, Rafaela von Bredow, Veronika Hackenbroch, Kunal Purohit und Christoph Schult

COVID-19 patients in the emergency department of a New Delhi hospital: India has reported 315,000 new infections in a single day, more than ever before. 

No one knows if Mumtaz Shaikh will survive. He’s 48 years old, not the typical age of someone who dies from COVID-19. But SARS-CoV-2 is raging in India like never before – including in the megacity of Mumbai. The clothing seller is among the many who have been infected.

Shaikh is one of thousands of COVID-19 patients across India whose lives are in danger. It’s almost impossible for them to find help because SARS-CoV-2 has swept across the country with such force that the already underfunded health care system is on the verge of collapse. When Shaikh was admitted a week ago Thursday for respiratory distress, the hospital had run out of oxygen to put him on a ventilator.

The hospital called at 2 a.m. Shaikh’s wife Shahnaz and a cousin, Sidrah Patel, who had gone to the hospital with her, couldn’t believe it. They were told to find oxygen for Shaikh themselves, but it was in short supply everywhere. Only three days earlier, 11 people died in another Mumbai suburb, reportedly because doctors could no longer ventilate them. The two women called around. "After over an hour, someone suggested a local politician,” Patel says. "He then agreed to lend us an oxygen cylinder.”


By John McLaughlin

U.S. service members walk off a helicopter on the runway at Camp Bost on September 11, 2017 in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.SOURCEAndrew Renneisen/Getty


The Taliban are strong and well-armed. The elected government is weak, corruption is rife, and government security forces are struggling. What could go wrong?

President’s Joe Biden’s decision to bring all U.S. troops home from Afghanistan by Sept. 11 has provoked enormous controversy across the political spectrum. Opinion divides between those outraged by what they see as a potentially disastrous “cut and run” decision and those who insist that keeping troops there would just prolong an unwinnable war that has already consumed 20 years and many lives. Critics and supporters are about equally divided, and each side can make a good case, so let’s peel back the arguments to see what’s underneath.

Biden has long been skeptical of prolonged involvement in Afghanistan. He argues that Washington has accomplished its goal of defeating al-Qaida terrorists there, killing Osama bin Laden and ensuring the country is no longer a haven for terrorists like him. He said we were never there to unify Afghanistan, which he said had “never been done.”

Those who agree with Biden’s decision add that Afghanistan must be pushed down the priority list at a time when competition from major powers like China outweighs continuing concerns about terrorists — even though we must continue to monitor and keep pressure on them. Others simply argue that America cannot stay as long as it would take to ensure a modern state takes hold in Afghanistan — so let’s acknowledge that now.



Last month, the top leaders of Australia, India, Japan, and the United States assembled for the first leader-level summit of the so-called “Quad.” This dialogue partnership dates to 2007 and is built on a foundation laid during the cooperative response to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. After wallowing in diplomatic doldrums, the recurring ministerial-level events held during the tenures of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Donald Trump put wind into its sails. The fact that President Joe Biden made it a point to host the group so early in his tenure suggests sustained commitment to ensuring that the Quad’s work continues to build speed. However, the course of the Quad remains uncharted. While the four leaders may share similar worldviews and have demonstrated broad consensus regarding the value of meeting for dialogue, there is divergence among their preferred approaches to the most vexing challenges. Furthermore, residual mistrust impedes the close cooperation necessary to establish an alliance. Still, the leaders’ official statement and their joint op-ed in the Washington Post give plenty of guidance for officials to start taking workman-level action for the real benefit of maritime Asia.

Despite lacking strategic alignment across the full spectrum of security issues, the Quad members mostly see eye to eye regarding many elements in the maritime domain. This should enable the group to stand up as an operating framework for the free and legal use of the Indo-Pacific’s maritime space. The four members are those states that have shown the greatest committed capacity to ensuring the seas remain a free and open resource that enables the flow of commerce and information. These powers are also the region’s essential cartographic cardinal points. Their actions can set the regional standards for the Indo-Pacific and establish baseline mechanisms for wider cooperation.

How to prepare for war with China

Long-time readers of this column have been hearing about the drum beats of war between China and the US for the best part of a decade. Back in May 2020, Coolabah Capital gave a detailed private seminar to hundreds of our wholesale clients assessing these risks and advised that the probability of major power conflict in the Indo-Pacific had lifted to as high as 50 per cent.

While none of our geopolitical advisers had quite such a pessimistic perspective (they tended to be in the still-elevated, circa 25 per cent camp), most are now handicapping war as a toss-of-a-coin prospect. In fact, one of our most accurate foreign policy advisers said Thursday that the conflict probabilities have lifted above 50 per cent. A “tell” in this regard is the combatants probing the contours of the cyber-security battlespace much more aggressively than before.

With facilities like Pine Gap essential to the Western war-fighting machine, Australia is in the cross hairs. Kristian Laemmle-Ruff

The prospects for war are actually higher in the next five years than the period thereafter because of how successfully China has closed the military capability gap with the US. Every day President Xi Jinping delays, his potential adversaries in a battle over Taiwan (which would undoubtedly include the US, Japan, Australia and the UK) are investing enormous effort to prepare for war and once again expand the capability gap. Sadly, the wider Australian community has yet to come to grips with these morbid contingencies.

China’s New Digital Currency Will Enhance Its Police State

China’s central bank is currently conducting trials for its digital currency, which it hopes to have available for
widespread use by the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. But many privacy advocates are alarmed at the amount of data that Chinese authorities will be able to collect through the new digital yuan, and the resulting potential for abuse.

On the Trend Lines podcast this week, WPR’s Elliot Waldman discussed the implications of China’s new digital currency with Yaya Fanusie, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security.

China Features Heavily in the Army’s Next Big Emerging Tech Experiment


The Army will expand its emerging technology experiment this fall, bringing in more operators, more stealth aircraft, Navy standard missiles and new AI tools, and will focus heavily on defeating a high-tech adversary with a striking resemblance to China.

The Army will hold its second Project Convergence experiment at Yuma Proving Grounds in Arizona, and simultaneously at several other locations, from October 12 to November 9, Col. Tobin Magsig, the head of the Army’s Joint Modernization Command, told Defense One. First established last year, Project Convergence has become the Army’s largest technology combat experiment to test out new artificial intelligence, autonomy and software tools even rapid software development under battlefield conditions.

It’s also emerged as the most important U.S. military experiment to test out new concepts for interconnecting planes, drones, ships and operators across the battlefield and across the services, a broad effort called Joint-All Domain Command and Control, or JADC2. Unlike other experiments or military wargames that test current readiness levels, Project Convergence is aimed at rapidly accelerating the Army’s ability to find and take out targets by connecting people, vehicles and weapons through a massive, interconnected sensing and shooting kill web.

The Right Way To Fight A Maritime War Against China

By James Holmes

“I see four distinct maritime ‘flashpoint’ zones, where the Chinese navy may potentially take military action against the U.S. and its allies, partners and friends. They are the Taiwan Strait; Japan and the East China Sea; the South China Sea; and more distant waters around China’s other neighbors, including Indonesia, Singapore, Australia and India.”

This suggests an approach to U.S. and allied strategy vis-à-vis China for times of strife. U.S. commanders and officialdom should look to the basics of strategy, concentrating in particular on the principle of concentration. Strategic grandmasters from Carl von Clausewitz to Alfred Thayer Mahan affirm that at its most fundamental, strategy is about amassing more firepower than the adversary at the scene of battle at the time of battle. Straightforward, isn’t it? Whoever’s stronger where it matters, when it matters, wins.

This oversimplifies a trifle. More firepower furnishes no ironclad guarantee of victory. In fact, there are no such guarantees. But it does bias the odds toward the better-armed gunslinger.

And yet Clausewitz points out that while everything in warfare is simple, accomplishing the simplest thing is difficult. In part that’s because of the climate of warfare, an endeavor rife with chance, dark passions, and Murphy’s Law. In part, it’s because the antagonist gets a say in how the endeavor unfolds and will do its darnedest to make sure it is stronger at the decisive place and time. The U.S. military and its regional allies should act on that logic, making themselves the ornerier contender rather than passively awaiting what the PLA Navy and the landbound air and rocket forces that back up the fleet choose to do off Taiwan, in the East or South China Sea, or elsewhere on the Indo-Pacific map.

Some principles that should govern war planning in the Western Pacific or the Indian Ocean include:

Washington Is Avoiding the Tough Questions on Taiwan and China

By Charles L. Glaser

On China, U.S. policymakers have reached a near consensus: the country is a greater threat than it seemed a decade ago, and so it must now be met with increasingly competitive policies. What little debate does exist focuses on questions about how to enhance U.S. credibility, what role U.S. allies should play in balancing against China, and whether it is possible to blunt Beijing’s economic coercion. But the most consequential question has been largely overlooked: Should the United States trim its East Asian commitments to reduce the odds of going to war with China?

The question of which commitments to keep and which to cut should come up whenever there are big shifts in the global balance of power. A rising power may be able to achieve previously unobtainable goals and embrace new goals, while the declining power may find that its existing commitments are becoming

Opinion: Ten years later, Islamist terrorism isn’t the threat it used to be

Fareed Zakaria

This weekend marks the 10th anniversary of the operation, code-named Neptune Spear, that killed Osama bin Laden. It’s an opportunity to reflect on the state of Islamist terrorism and radical Islam more generally. And the initial diagnosis is clear: The movement is in bad shape.

Total deaths caused by terrorism around the world have plummeted by 59 percent since their peak in 2014. In the West, the current threat is less from Islamist violence than far-right terrorism, which has surged by 250 percent in the same period, and now makes up 46 percent of attacks and 82 percent of deaths.

Most Islamist terrorism today tends to be local — the Taliban in Afghanistan, Boko Haram in Nigeria, al-Shabab in the Horn of Africa. That’s a major reversal from the glory days of al-Qaeda, when its leaders insisted that the focus must be not on the “near enemy” (the local regimes) but rather the “far enemy” (the United States and the West more broadly). Al-Qaeda has disintegrated into a bunch of militias in disparate places with no central command or ideology. The Islamic State is doing slightly better, with more funds, but it, too, searches for unstable or ungoverned places, such as Mozambique, where it can operate. This focus on local conflicts erodes any global appeal. Muslims around the world do not identify with local causes in Mozambique or Somalia.

Israel Tries Its Hand at ‘Maximum Pressure’ on Iran

Michael Koplow

While tensions between Israel and Iran have been omnipresent in the Middle East for decades, the prospect of open military conflict between the two countries has never seemed closer than it does now. Over the past few months, the two rivals have escalated an undeclared naval war featuring unclaimed attacks on Israeli- and Iranian-owned ships. At the same time, Israel has continued its air strikes on Iranian weapons shipments transiting across Syria, and a damaging explosion on April 11 at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility was widely attributed to Israel.

All of this comes against the backdrop of U.S. President Joe Biden’s efforts to hold talks with Iran in order to explore the possibility of reviving the 2015 nuclear deal or crafting a new agreement to rein in Iran’s nuclear program. With a delegation of senior Israeli national security and intelligence officials in Washington this week for talks with the Biden administration on Iran, the spotlight is shining brightly on Israel’s current approach to countering Iran and whether or not its disagreements with the U.S. on this issue can be managed.

Why Tackling Corruption Is So Urgent—and So Difficult

The world is constantly reminded that corruption knows no geographic boundaries. In South Africa, former President Jacob Zuma remains embroiled in court cases involving corruption allegations that helped remove him from power. In Malaysia, former Prime Minister Najib Razak was found guilty and sentenced to 12 years in prison last year over the fraud and embezzling charges that precipitated his downfall. A money laundering investigation launched in Brazil in 2008 expanded to take down a vast network of politicians and business leaders across Central and South America over the course of the following decade. And former U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration was plagued by officials who used their offices for private gain and were forced to resign.

The impact of actual corruption is devastating, whether it siphons money from government coffers or drives policy that is not in the public interest. The effects can be particularly pernicious in developing countries, where budgets are tight and needs are vast. The United Nations estimates that corruption costs $2.6 trillion in losses every year.

New Tools, Old Tricks: Emerging Technologies and Russia’s Global Tool Kit


How will the Kremlin’s tool kit evolve as emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and deepfake forgeries become more widespread?

Russia has long struggled to overcome the constraints imposed by the country’s chronic inability to retain talent in support of homegrown innovation and R&D. That reality may consign it to a follower role in the technological realm. Russia’s global activism continues to lean heavily on tried-and-true tactics and capabilities that are popping up more frequently in a variety of far-flung venues. The blatant and often sloppy nature of such efforts suggests the Russian leadership believes that even adverse publicity helps strengthen Moscow’s claim to the status of a global power.

Part of what makes the Kremlin’s current calling cards easier to spot—and more difficult to counter or deter—is a remarkable indifference to their knock-on effects. Present-day Russian cyber and influence campaigns are capable of doing a lot of damage—even if they can also sometimes be quite clumsy or fail to advance Russian strategic objectives. At the same time, Russia's operators are likely to remain highly technically capable and to make their mark by being operationally aggressive rather than by pioneering major technological advances.

“Myths work as conceptual aids, reducing complexity, condensing narratives, and making novel yet unknown technologies approachable, either in a utopian or dystopian way.”

Thomas Rid, Rise of the Machines (2016)


Russia’s decline and technological backwardness have been touchstones for Western analyses and threat perceptions for centuries. The notion that it could not possibly compete head-to-head with more advanced countries has frequently provided false comfort to Western leaders. Even today overstated assessments of the fragility of the Russian economy encourage wishful thinking that the Kremlin will eventually come around and see the benefits of a more stable and cooperative relationship with the outside world.

Amazon, Microsoft Join Joe Biden and DHS in Declaring War on Ransomware


A handful of powerful technology companies is teaming up with private organizations and government agencies to help the federal government combat ransomware following a series of high-profile cyberattacks in the U.S.

Individuals representing more than 40 organizations in the private and public sectors collaborated to produce an 81-page report outlining recommendations for the U.S. government and private companies alike on how each can avoid and address ransomware attacks.

The list of technology companies that contributed to the report include Amazon Web Services, FireEye, McAfee and Microsoft, among others. From the public sector, the coalition included experts representing the FBI, the National Governors Association, the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA), and the U.S. Secret Service, among others.
Alejandro Mayorkas, secretary of U.S. Department of Homeland Security, speaks during a naturalization ceremony at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center on April 28, 2021 in New York City. Later in the day, Mayorkas delivered remarks at the beginning of a virtual presentation during which a ransomware task force featuring experts from the public and private sectors offered recommendations for how organizations can strategically respond to ransomware attacks.

The Missing Piece in Biden’s Climate Diplomacy

Candace Rondeaux 

This may be, as U.S. President Joe Biden says, the “decisive decade” for acting on climate change. But the U.S. and other rich countries don’t seem ready to put their money where their mouths are when it comes to making sure the Global South isn’t left behind in that effort.

Biden and other world leaders made lots of promises at the U.S.-sponsored climate summit last week. Washington’s pledge to cut emissions by more than half by 2030 will likely do a lot to generate more urgency in capitals around the world. Indeed, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s announcement just ahead of the summit that Brazil would aim to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 marked a major improvement from a previously stated goal of reaching net-zero by 2060.

Earth Day 2021: A turning point for climate action

Dominic Kailash Nath Waughray

US President Biden committed the US to halve greenhouse gases by 2030 compared to 2005 at his Leaders Summit on Climate.

Governments representing over 60% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions are now committed to net-zero emissions goals, the majority by 2050.

Climate ambition and the net-zero transition is a central pillar of World Economic Forum activity through our Platform for Climate Action.

Earth Day 2021 marks a historic moment for action on climate change. Today, at President Biden's unprecedented Leaders Summit on Climate, he put forward an ambitious national commitment from the US to help the world tackle the climate crisis – to halve greenhouse gas emissions from the country by 2030 compared to 2005.

Combined with existing commitments to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 from the EU, the UK and other major G20 economies including Japan and the Republic of Korea, as well as a commitment from President Xi to peak China’s carbon emissions by 2030 and achieve carbon-neutral growth by 2060, governments representing over 60% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions are now committed to net-zero emissions goals, the majority by 2050.

Displaced Conflict: Russia’s Qualified Success in Combatting Insurgency

Mark Youngman and Cerwyn Moore

In both Syria and the North Caucasus, Russia claims success in fighting insurgency and terrorism, offering itself as a model of best practice. Closer examination, however, shows that this “success” carries major caveats and is more illusory than it first appears. This article considers the link between Russian-speaking foreign fighters in Syria and domestic jihadism, the lessons of Russia’s counterinsurgency approach and the potential for further conflict in the North Caucasus. It argues that Russia has successfully defeated the domestic insurgency, in part by displacing the conflict to Syria, but has remained in the crosshairs of Russian nationals recruited to fight abroad. Furthermore, Russia’s failure to address underlying problems makes it likely the North Caucasus will continue to experience low levels of violence and instability, even if the re-emergence of organized insurgency is unlikely in the short term.
Victory at Home and Abroad?

Russian officials portray their counterinsurgency and counterterrorism strategies in Syria and the North Caucasus as a success. In March 2016, President Vladimir Putin announced the beginning of the withdrawal of military forces from Syria, claiming they had “generally” achieved their goals (even though some of these forces stayed on and continue to participate in combat operations and patrolling as of April 2021). Russia helped ensure the survival of the Assad regime and the recapture of key territory. In the North Caucasus, Russian National Antiterrorism Committee head Alexander Bortnikov has declared in a 2021 interview that “the primary hotbeds of terrorist activity, and all the heads of armed gangs, have been eliminated.” He claimed that, around the world, countries are looking to Russia’s “unique” experience for lessons on how to successfully combat terrorism.

The Cybersecurity 202: The Defense Department isn't armed to combat the growing threat of information warfare, experts warn

Tonya Riley

National security experts will warn Congress today that the U.S. government isn't doing enough to fight back against the growing national security threat of information warfare aimed at sowing distrust in the U.S. government at home and abroad.

“Cyber-enabled disinformation, whether domestically or foreign generated, is a national security problem, corroding our democracy and governmental institutions, and threatening our public health and, potentially, public safety,” former NSA general counsel Glenn Gerstell will testify in front of the House Armed Services subcommittee on cyber, innovative technologies and information systems.

US Marines new investment plan highlights the growing importance of electronic warfare

By GlobalData 

Following an online conference and the release of the force design updates for 2030, the US Marine Corps have detailed plans for a $1 billion development program over the next five years aimed at improving electromagnetic (EM) systems and electronic warfare (EW) capabilities. The Corp is looking to develop platform-agnostic systems, that can be deployed on multiple airborne or ground platforms. The intention is to connect their electronic warfare and electromagnetic spectrum management tools across multiple domains and platforms, in order to be more responsive and less reliant on a few specific systems specifically built for EW missions.

What is Electronic Warfare?

Electronic warfare (EW) refers to any military action that makes use of the electromagnetic spectrum, directed energy, or cyber capabilities to attack or impede enemy operations. EW is applied from the air, sea and land, by both manned and unmanned systems, to target humans, communications, navigation systems and other assets. Electronic warfare consists of three major subdivisions: electronic attack (EA), electronic protection (EP), and electronic warfare support (ES). The nature of EW means that when one party has control over the EM spectrum in a particular area, their adversaries do not, denying them the use of effective communications or accurate navigation. These are amongst the key capabilities needed to operate effectively, and so are vital for mission success. Threats today are evolving at an unprecedented rate resulting in new types of attacks. Recognizing and defeating such threats, long before they can be seen, whilst assuming control of the EM spectrum, is the crux of EW. It is this goal that can provide armed forces with a critical edge in combat.


By Nicholas Drummond

Graphic images of Armenian T-72s being obliterated by Azerbaijani loitering munitions or “kamikaze drones,” as the media prefer to call them, suggest that the modern battlefield has become unsurvivable for heavy armour. Does this mean that we should retire our tanks and infantry fighting vehicles? This article considers the implications of loitering munitions not only for tanks, but for contemporary combined arms manoeuvre warfare doctrine in general. Azerbaijani Harpy Loitering munition being launched (Image: Azaerbaijan Armed Forces)

Loitering munitions above Nagorno-Karabakh (Image: Azerbaijan Armed Forces)

01 What are loitering munitions?

Loitering munitions are a new category of highly sophisticated weapon created by the convergence of UAVs with precision guided weapons. Frequently described as low-cost mini cruise missiles, a price tag of around $100K hardly makes them cheap. However, compared to the $900K cost of Tomahawk Land Attack Missile (TLAM) or $12 million for a new Main Battle Tank, the economics of loitering munitions are compelling, especially as a single missile can reliably neutralise targets at significant stand-off distances.

Targets can be predetermined by sending coordinates to the loitering munition in flight via a data link, in which case the missile functions autonomously. Alternatively, it can be piloted remotely by a human operator using a tablet computer that presents a view of the battlespace and target opportunities via onboard electro-optical and infrared cameras. Loitering munitions are relatively easy to control and can patrol the skies above the battlefield looking for targets. With an endurance of several hours, they can dominate huge areas of ground. If they fail to find a target, they can be recovered and re-used, which adds to their financial attractiveness. Even without engaging a target, loitering munitions are invaluable ISTAR assets. Their sensors gather battlefield data to facilitate informed decision-making and more efficient command and control. They also come with a reduced training burden, because operators can be taught to pilot them using simulators. This means fewer missiles need to be fired during peacetime training, reducing total costs.

Heavy Metal Takes a Knock in UK’s Integrated Defence Review

By Andrew Drwiega

The United Kingdom’s Integrated Defence Review published in March 2021 had some surprises, and a few ‘well known’ secrets, such as the force reduction to around 72,000 personnel from over 80,000. The British Government believes that the UK will succeed with a smaller yet more agile force that can be deployed globally.

One of the less known ‘surprises’ was the announcement of a new Ranger Regiment that has been billed as a global force. It will form part of the British Army’s Special Operations Brigade and will have its strength recruited from four existing infantry battalions: 1 SCOTS, The Royal Scots Borderers, 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland; 1st Battalion, Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment (PWRR); 1 RIFLES, light infantry battalion and now part of 1st (UK) Division; and 2nd Battalion the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment.

According to the Integrated Review, it will be established in the latter half of the year and will be equipped over four years through the allocation of a £120m budget. It will be expeditionary in nature and be required to operate in high threat environments.

Less of a surprise was the announcement of a £1.3 billion investment in upgrading 148 of the Army’s BAE Systems Challenger 2 main battle tanks to a new Challenger 3 standard through a Life Extension Programme (LEP). However the total fleet will be reduced down from 190 Challengers 2s.

The ARTEC Boxer armoured vehicle will be accelerated into service with around 528 units which will see the end of the BAE Systems Warrior by the middle of the decade. The Army will continue to buy the General Dynamics AJAX armoured vehicle up to 2025.