13 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.

India COVID Crisis: Four Reasons It Will Derail The World Economy

by Uma S Kambhampati

The second wave of the pandemic has struck India with a devastating impact. With over 300,000 new cases and 3,000 deaths across the country each day at present, the total number of deaths has just passed the 200,000 mark - that’s about one in 16 of all COVID deaths across the world. It is also evident that the India statistics are significant underestimates.

The virulence of the second wave in India seems to be related to a confluence of factors: government complacency, driven by poor data collection and being in denial about the reality of the data; a new variant with a hockey-stick shaped growth curve; and some very large and unregulated religious and political events.

It is clear that there is now a humanitarian crisis of significant proportions. India is a country of 1.4 billion people and makes up a sixth of the world’s population. Here are some ways in which it is also going to affect the world economy:

Bin Laden Raid Pilot Says Unique Marine Air-To-Air Course Likely Saved Him From Pakistani F-16s


When U.S. Special Operations forces raided Osama Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, now a decade ago, years of special training and experience combined to overcome a host of potentially devastating events, including the crash of a specially equipped Black Hawk helicopter and threats from the Pakistani Air Force, to ultimately achieve the desired end result of the mission. Retired U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Douglas Englen flew with the elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment and played a critical role in Operation Neptune's Spear. He credits skills he learned while taking part in an elite U.S. Marine Corps training course as being critical to the success of the mission.

Englen piloted an MH-47G Chinook during the operation, helping to bring in a quick reaction force to the compound after one of two Black Hawks crashed. Having arrived on the scene, his crew joined the effort to help load up Bin Laden’s body and items of potential intelligence interest from the compound, before departing for Afghanistan.

Day 1 of the End of the U.S. War in Afghanistan

By Thomas Gibbons-Neff

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — A gray American transport plane taxied down the runway, carrying munitions, a giant flat screen television from a C.I.A. base, pallets of equipment and departing troops. It was one of several aircraft that night removing what remained of the American war from this sprawling military base in the country’s south.

President Biden has said that the United States will withdraw from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, ending the country’s longest war on foreign soil — but the pullout has already begun.

The United States and its NATO allies spent decades building Kandahar Airfield into a wartime city, filled with tents, operations centers, barracks, basketball courts, ammunition storage sites, aircraft hangars and at least one post office.

Once the base is stripped of everything deemed sensitive by its American and NATO landlords, its skeleton will be handed over to the Afghan security forces.

And the message will be clear: They are on their own in the fight against the Taliban.

Here’s What Biden Must Do Before We Leave Afghanistan

By Michael McCaul and Ryan C. Crocker

Last month, President Biden announced a complete withdrawal of all United States troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the day terrorists killed almost 3,000 people.

Many in the defense and intelligence communities oppose the move. A complete withdrawal based on an arbitrary deadline, rather than conditions on the ground, threatens our long-term national security. After all, it was the decision to rapidly pull out of Iraq, creating a power vacuum that allowed the Islamic State to grow, that ultimately forced our return to Iraq, prolonging the war.

We cannot allow history to repeat itself.

It’s foolish to think the Taliban will engage in good faith with the Afghan government or abide by the commitments made to the previous administration after we’ve departed. In response to the withdrawal announcement, the Taliban tellingly announced they would not participate in a peace conference planned to start late last month in Turkey and refused to commit to a date in the future, effectively ending the already fragile peace process. The Taliban clearly does not want peace.

Osama Bin Laden’s Death: Emotionally Satisfying, But Strategically Empty?

By Daniel Davis

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, along with with members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House, May 1, 2011. Please note: a classified document seen in this photograph has been obscured. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)..This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.

How fast time passes: Exactly 10 years ago on Sunday, President Barack Obama somberly addressed the nation to announce that Osama Bin Laden had been killed by U.S. Forces in Pakistan.

The terrorist’s death “marks the most significant achievement to date” in America’s quest to defeat al-Qaeda, Obama said. But a decade later, and almost 20 years since the 9/11 attacks, it is now clear that the killing had little more than symbolic meaning – and illustrates the importance of setting realistic objectives in the establishment of foreign policy.

Fears of a Chinese attack on Taiwan are growing, and Taiwan isn't sure who would help if it happened


A concrete bunker and anti-landing barricades on a beach facing the Chinese city of Xamen, on the Taiwanese island of Little Kinmen, April 20, 2018.Carl Court/Getty Images

China has been expanding its influence and taking a more aggressive posture toward Taiwan.
That has raised concerns that Beijing may attempt to retake the island by force.
Whether the US and other countries would help, and what help they would offer, remains in doubt.

Twenty-five years ago, two US Navy carrier strike groups were enough to deter possible Chinese military action against Taiwan after China launched missiles that landed a few dozen miles off its coast.

Now, after a massive modernization effort by China's military, known as the People's Liberation Army, two carrier strike groups, and possibly US forces alone, may not be enough.This is especially daunting for Taiwan, as it is unclear whether it can get help from anyone else if, or when, the time comes.

China Has Lost the Philippines Despite Duterte’s Best Efforts

By Derek Grossman

Since his election in 2016, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has time and again underscored his anti-U.S. and pro-Chinese orientation. On his first trip to Beijing in 2016, he announced it was “time to say goodbye to Washington”—much to the delight of his host, Chinese President Xi Jinping. He has welcomed Chinese Belt and Road Initiative investments, has threatened to suspend joint military exercises with the United States, and calls China “a good friend.”

But in the course of a year, Duterte appears to have done an about-face on China, frustrating Beijing’s attempts to pull Manila out of Washington’s strategic orbit. On Sunday, Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teodoro Locsin Jr. unleashed an expletive-laced Tweet on Beijing, telling it in no uncertain terms to to get out of the South China Sea, where the two countries have been embroiled in a dispute. “You’re like an ugly oaf forcing your attentions on a handsome guy who wants to be a friend; not to father a Chinese province,” he wrote.

Locsin’s Twitter storm is only the latest indication that Beijing’s rising assertiveness—especially its challenge to the Philippines’ internationally recognized maritime claims—has finally forced Manila’s hand. Duterte now recognizes, in spite of his continued rhetoric to the contrary, that China is no friend, and the Philippines needs its long-standing security ally—the United States—after all.

Duterte’s realization will have significant geostrategic implications between now and the end of his term in June 2022, when the Philippine Constitution requires him to step down.

China–Iran deal: much ado about nothing?

The establishment of a new Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between China and Iran has made headlines, but as Camille Lons and Meia Nouwens explain, Middle Eastern leaders are by no means naïve. While they shake hands with the East, all eyes remain on the West.

The signing of the long-awaited China–Iran 25-year cooperation programme was the crowning achievement of a tour of the Middle East by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, which included visits to Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran, the UAE, Bahrain and Oman, and saw Wang lay out a five-point initiative for the Middle East and propose to host an Israel–Palestine dialogue, as well as a multilateral Gulf security dialogue.

Under discussion since it was first proposed in 2016, the deal had already made headlines in 2020 when the New York Times reported on a draft version of the agreement. This deal would reportedly expand China’s presence across a wide range of sectors, spanning from energy, banking, to telecommunications and infrastructure. It would also offer military cooperation, including joint training, as well as research and cooperation in their defence industries. In return, China would reportedly receive a heavy discount on its supply of Iranian oil for the next 25 years.

While the leaked document did not include specific financial targets or a full breakdown of envisioned projects, news reports claimed that Chinese investments would amount to the (arguably implausible) figure of US$400 billion. This number continues to be mentioned in most news reports covering the recent signing of the deal, triggering concerns in Western countries and in GCC states, but also within Iran, where a significant part of the population fears that the country could become too dependent on Beijing.

UK tools up against China’s intel gathering


LONDON — The U.K. has realized it is going to need more than James Bond to counter Chinese influence and espionage.

Beijing’s massive state-backed effort to infiltrate British companies and research institutions in the race to develop key technologies is mostly not the stuff of traditional spying. And Britain has realized that its response needs to go well beyond the intelligence services.

Matthew Henderson, a former U.K. diplomat in Beijing and now an associate fellow at the Council on Geostrategy, says the great majority of the information gathering carried out by China in the U.K. “is done in open sight” at institutions such as R&D-intensive companies handling sensitive innovations such as graphene, encryption systems and hypersonic tech.

“If we had been clearer as to whether China was really a win-win partner or actually all the time a very strong systemic competitor, we may have made fewer mistakes,” he said. “They’re doing what they can do because we’ve made it so easy for them.”

Changing that means going beyond the spooks. “The message is starting to percolate now that this is not just a problem that can be left to the intelligence and the security agencies,” said Nigel Inkster, formerly at MI6 and currently a senior adviser on cybersecurity and China at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
Foreign influence

Biden faces GOP handcuffs and Democrat skeptics on Iran deal 2.0


Joe Biden’s nascent bid to revive the Iran nuclear deal for a “longer, stronger” diplomatic agreement is already facing deep skepticism and potential hurdles in Congress — including from the president’s own party.

GOP hawks are making sure that they'll have a say, and potentially an effective veto power, over any attempt by the Biden administration to roll back the aggressive sanctions that former President Donald Trump levied on Tehran after withdrawing the U.S. from the 2015 nuclear nonproliferation accord with Iran.

While Biden administration officials are holding indirect talks with the Iranians in Vienna, Republicans are discussing strategies to make it harder for Biden to reenter the nuclear agreement, most likely by using legislative tools tied to the sanctions Trump put in place. Many in the GOP are determined to smother any Biden-led comeback for the Iran deal — especially absent a more comprehensive pact that addresses Iran's support for terrorism and other malign actions.

And the White House’s growing set of challenges in shaping any Iran Deal 2.0 go beyond the GOP: Democrats want the president to resist the urge to seek a broader set of concessions from Tehran, saying it will sink U.S. chances of reentering the agreement. But fellow Democrats are also warning of an increasingly rocky path back to full Iranian compliance with the terms of the 2015 deal, particularly after recently leaked audio revealed Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, lamenting the influence of the country’s Revolutionary Guard Corps in his diplomatic efforts with the West.

‘It’s an act of war’: Trump’s acting Pentagon chief urges Biden to tackle directed-energy attacks


The suspected directed-energy attacks on U.S. government personnel worldwide are “an act of war,” said former acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, who launched an initiative to investigate the incidents during his time at the Pentagon last year and is urging the new administration to stay on the issue.

“If this plays out and somebody is attacking Americans [even] with a nonlethal weapon … we owe it to our folks that are out there,” Miller, who served as former President Donald Trump’s acting defense chief from November until January, told POLITICO. “We owe it to them to get to the bottom of this.”

Miller’s comments come as U.S. officials increasingly sound the alarm about the suspected attacks, which cause symptoms similar to those reported in recent years by American spies and diplomats in Cuba affected by the so-called “Havana syndrome.” Victims report lasting headaches, loss of hearing and balance, ringing and pressure in the ears, fatigue, and sometimes long-term brain damage.

POLITICO first reported that Pentagon officials last month briefed lawmakers on the “urgent” and growing threat to U.S. government personnel, including troops. The Senate Intelligence Committee has since vowed to “get to the bottom” of the issue.

Missile Defense Agency scrapped cybersecurity tests last year for a new approach, watchdog finds

Mark Pomerleau

WASHINGTON — The Missile Defense Agency canceled all 17 planned cybersecurity operational assessments last year opting instead for a new approach designed to improve cyber requirements, a new watchdog report says.

The agency responsible for developing and fielding defense systems for ballistic missiles — and recently hypersonic missiles — has failed to complete assessments since 2017 to identify cyber vulnerabilities and possible attack routes, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office noted.

“The lack of testing during fiscal year 2020 coupled with persistent testing shortcomings over the last 3 years are representative of a broader MDA cybersecurity development issue,” the GAO report said.

Missile defense technologies are vulnerable to cyber and other electronic attacks that can target their software or radars, potentially rendering them ineffective.

MDA told assessors that it scrapped the operational cybersecurity assessments for seven programs because the results weren’t needed given that fiscal 2020 operational capability baseline decisions had been completed. Instead, MDA restructured its cybersecurity test planning to align with its 2019 four-phase cybersecurity test concept, GAO said.

The Cyber Cold War Is Here

By John Feffer

America has a serious infrastructure problem.

Maybe when I say that what comes to mind are all the potholes on your street. Or the dismal state of public transportation in your city. Or crumbling bridges all over the country. But that’s so 20th century of you.

America’s most urgent infrastructure vulnerability is largely invisible and unlikely to be fixed by the Biden administration’s $2 trillion American Jobs Plan.

I’m thinking about vulnerabilities that lurk in your garage (your car), your house (your computer), and even your pocket (your phone). Like those devices of yours, all connected to the Internet and so hackable, American businesses, hospitals, and public utilities can also be hijacked from a distance thanks to the software that helps run their systems. And don’t think that the US military and even cybersecurity agencies and firms aren’t seriously at risk, too.

Such vulnerabilities stem from bugs in the programs—and sometimes even the hardware—that run our increasingly wired society. Beware “zero-day” exploits—so named because you have zero days to fix them once they’re discovered—that can attract top-dollar investments from corporations, governmets, and even black-market operators. Zero days allow backdoor access to iPhones, personal e-mail programs, corporate personnel files, even the computers that run dams, voting systems, and nuclear power plants.

Defense Official Says Hypersonics Are Vital to Modernization Strategy, Battlefield Dominance


Hypersonic systems are among the highest priorities in the Defense Department's modernization strategy to ensure continued U.S. battlefield dominance, said the principal director for hypersonics in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering.

Michael E. White said hypersonics involve systems that fly at speeds near and above Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound. But it's not just about speed; DOD couples these speeds with aerodynamically-controlled vehicles to enable long-range flight with maneuverability that's unpredictable to an adversary in the upper reaches of the atmosphere between 80,000 and 200,000 feet.

It's a combination of speed, maneuverability and altitude that enables the defeat of heavily defended, high-value targets, he added.

"[Hypersonics] capability is so important [that] the 2017 National Defense Strategy establishes [DOD's] need to deter and, if necessary, defeat our great-power competitors, China and Russia," White said. "And for more than a decade, these great-power competitors have been rapidly developing highly capable systems that challenge our domain dominance on the tactical battlefield."

Such systems include anti-ship cruise and ballistic missiles and hypersonic missiles developed to threaten our carriers in the second island chain, which stretches from Japan through the Mariana Islands and Micronesia in the western Pacific Ocean.

Inside Russia’s Robot Army: Rhetoric vs. Reality


Russian Uran-9 armed unmanned ground vehicle

WASHINGTON: Russia has created a new robotic combat unit of Uran-9 unmanned ground vehicles, which have been battle-tested in Syria, though with mixed results. It’s also developing an experimental unmanned version of its T-14 Armata tank, unmanned derivatives of the Cold War T-72 and BMP-3, and new long-range drones called Okhotnik and Altius.

But Russia’s quest for battle robots faces many of the same technical and policy problems as the US, said CNA and CNAS scholar Samuel Bendett, and Vladimir Putin is on a much tighter budget. Russia isn’t manufacturing useless Potemkin robots for propaganda purposes, but they’re not building the Terminator, either.

In many ways, Bendett told me in an interview, the US and Russian military robotics programs are much alike. Both have grand ambitions for highly autonomous war machines; both struggle with the limits of current unmanned systems that require constant human supervision; both worry that future AI might undermine human control.

Who should lead the Pentagon’s information operations efforts?

By: Mark Pomerleau

WASHINGTON — Members of Congress said last week they are worried about the Department of Defense’s ability to combat information operations and disinformation campaigns.

Their consternation comes about 18 months after a watchdog agency said the Pentagon needed to improve its leadership in the area of information operations.

“I am concerned the Department leadership has been slow to adapt to the changing nature of warfare in this domain,” Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., the chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Cyber, Innovative Technologies, and Information Systems, said in opening remarks during an April 30 hearing. “Too often, it appears the Department’s information related capabilities are stove-piped centers of excellence with varied management and leadership structures, which makes critical coordination more difficult. Further, the Pentagon has made limited progress implementing its 2016 Operations in the Information Environment Strategy, which raises questions about the Department’s information operations leadership structure.”

The information environment is broadly thought to include military information support operations, military deception, cyber operations, electromagnetic warfare, operations security, and information operations.

‘It’s an act of war’: Trump’s acting Pentagon chief urges Biden to tackle directed-energy attacks


The suspected directed-energy attacks on U.S. government personnel worldwide are “an act of war,” said former acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, who launched an initiative to investigate the incidents during his time at the Pentagon last year and is urging the new administration to stay on the issue.

“If this plays out and somebody is attacking Americans [even] with a nonlethal weapon … we owe it to our folks that are out there,” Miller, who served as former President Donald Trump’s acting defense chief from November until January, told POLITICO. “We owe it to them to get to the bottom of this.”

Miller’s comments come as U.S. officials increasingly sound the alarm about the suspected attacks, which cause symptoms similar to those reported in recent years by American spies and diplomats in Cuba affected by the so-called “Havana syndrome.” Victims report lasting headaches, loss of hearing and balance, ringing and pressure in the ears, fatigue, and sometimes long-term brain damage.

POLITICO first reported that Pentagon officials last month briefed lawmakers on the “urgent” and growing threat to U.S. government personnel, including troops. The Senate Intelligence Committee has since vowed to “get to the bottom” of the issue.

The suspected attacks also include ongoing incidents involving military attaches at embassies around the world, a former official and a congressional source briefed on the incidents told POLITICO. Officials are focusing their investigations on suspected incidents near U.S. embassies in South America, the congressional source said.

How the Pentagon Started Taking U.F.O.s Seriously

By Gideon Lewis-Kraus

In the past three years, high-level officials have publicly conceded their bewilderment about unidentified aerial phenomena. Above: Four mysterious objects spotted in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1952.Photo illustration by Paul Sahre

On May 9, 2001, Steven M. Greer took the lectern at the National Press Club, in Washington, D.C., in pursuit of the truth about unidentified flying objects. Greer, an emergency-room physician in Virginia and an outspoken ufologist, believed that the government had long withheld from the American people its familiarity with alien visitations. He had founded the Disclosure Project in 1993 in an attempt to penetrate the sanctums of conspiracy. Greer’s reckoning that day featured some twenty speakers. He provided, in support of his claims, a four-hundred-and-ninety-two-page dossier called the “Disclosure Project Briefing Document.” For public officials too busy to absorb such a vast tract of suppressed knowledge, Greer had prepared a ninety-five-page “Executive Summary of the Disclosure Project Briefing Document.” After some throat-clearing, the “Executive Summary” began with “A Brief Summary,” which included a series of bullet points outlining what amounted to the greatest secret in human history.

Over several decades, according to Greer, untold numbers of alien craft had been observed in our planet’s airspace; they were able to reach extreme velocities with no visible means of lift or propulsion, and to perform stunning maneuvers at g-forces that would turn a human pilot to soup. Some of these extraterrestrial spaceships had been “downed, retrieved and studied since at least the 1940s and possibly as early as the 1930s.” Efforts to reverse engineer such extraordinary machines had led to “significant technological breakthroughs in energy generation.” These operations had mostly been classified as “cosmic top secret,” a tier of clearance “thirty-eight levels” above that typically granted to the Commander-in-Chief. Why, Greer asked, had such transformative technologies been hidden for so long? This was obvious. The “social, economic and geo-political order of the world” was at stake.

US Marines May Have Lost Their ‘Amphibious Edge,’ Leaders Say


The amphibious assault vehicle mishap that killed eight Marines and a sailor in July 2020 has spurred many “lessons learned” that leaders say will prevent anything so “tragic” from happening again. But along with improved safety measures and redundancies, the accident also showed the Marine Corps that it may no longer be honed for amphibious operations, Marine Corps leaders told Congress on Monday.

Almost the entire fleet of AAVs—not just those involved in the fatal training accident—failed to meet operational standards, Maj. Gen. Gregg Olson, Marine Corps staff director explained. When the 13 vehicles were delivered to the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit in April 2020, 12 were not operational. But they were deemed ready for landborne operations after months of repairs by 15th MEU mechanics, and by July, the AAVs had achieved “what we thought” was waterborne capabilities, Olson said.

However, the vehicles did not meet the standards required for waterborne operations, as became clear after the accident. More than 54 percent of the AAVs in the fleet did not meet watertight integrity standards, an investigation revealed.

“What we found in our subsequent inspections after a safety of use message came up on the 31st of July was that we had a problem across the fleet with our watertight integrity,” Olson said.

Nobel Prize Laureates and Other Experts Issue Urgent Call for Action After ‘Our Planet, Our Future’ Summit

This statement was inspired by the discussions at the 2021 Nobel Prize Summit, issued by the Steering Committee and co-signed by Nobel Laureates and experts.

The Nobel Prizes were created to honor advances of “the greatest benefit to humankind.” They celebrate successes that have helped build a safe, prosperous, and peaceful world, the foundation of which is scientific reason.

“Science is at the base of all the progress that lightens the burden of life and lessens its suffering.” Marie Curie (Nobel Laureate 1903 and 1911)

Science is a global common good on a quest for truth, knowledge, and innovation toward a better life. Now, humankind faces new challenges at unprecedented scale. The first Nobel Prize Summit comes amid a global pandemic, amid a crisis of inequality, amid an ecological crisis, amid a climate crisis, and amid an information crisis. These supranational crises are interlinked and threaten the enormous gains we have made in human progress. It is particularly concerning that the parts of the world projected to experience many of the compounding negative effects from global changes are also home to many of the world’s poorest communities, and to indigenous peoples. The summit also comes amid unprecedented urbanization rates and on the cusp of technological disruption from digitalization, artificial intelligence, ubiquitous sensing and biotechnology and nanotechnology that may transform all aspects of our lives in coming decades.

“We have never had to deal with problems of the scale facing today’s globally interconnected society. No one knows for sure what will work, so it is important to build a system that can evolve and adapt rapidly.” Elinor Ostrom (Nobel Laureate 2009)

Can Putin Change Russia’s Role From Spoiler to Global Power?

Russia occupies an unusual position on the world stage. Under President Vladimir Putin, Moscow has repeatedly demonstrated that it has the capacity to destabilize the international order, but not the capacity to fill the vacuum it is creating. While Russia lacks the military strength to challenge U.S. supremacy, no one—particularly not the NATO alliance—is ignoring its capabilities. Moscow’s use of arms sales and military engagements to build ties to countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and especially the Middle East has also attracted attention. And its massive exports of fossil fuels to Europe offers Russia additional leverage.

Even as Moscow maintains an outsized influence on the global stage, discontent is brewing at home. Putin has dominated the Russian political scene for more than two decades, but his popularity is waning amid a slowing economy and following a deeply unpopular pension reform effort. That didn’t stop him from engineering a way to hold onto power after his current presidential term ends in 2024, despite a constitutional term limit. But it has opened space for Putin’s long-suffering political opponents to call attention to the corruption and violence that have marked his tenure. The most prominent among them, Alexei Navalny, almost paid for his life for doing so, and is now paying with his freedom.

Biden should consider downsides of stressing national values in Indo-Pacific

Derek Grossman

Derek Grossman is a senior defense analyst at the nonprofit, nonpartisan Rand Corp. He formerly served as an intelligence adviser at the Pentagon.

In order to compete more successfully with China, the Biden administration has argued that the United States must strengthen its Indo-Pacific alliances and partnerships. What the new administration has not answered is a critical question on the minds of many: Will Washington prioritize national interests or national values?

If President Joe Biden plans to prioritize national interests, as was mostly the case under the Trump administration, then some key countries will be more amenable to assisting the U.S. in its intensifying great power competition with China. For example, Vietnam seeks U.S. support in pushing back against Beijing on South China Sea sovereignty, but Hanoi certainly does not appreciate American criticism of its human rights record -- a national values point of emphasis -- as part of the package. Such criticism could weaken the strategic relationship.

And yet, early signs suggest there is good reason to believe that Biden will prioritize national values. Most prominently, Biden has pledged to hold a Summit for Democracy before the end of this year. That means countries such as Vietnam and semi-authoritarian Singapore -- spotlighted in the administration's Interim National Security Strategic Guidance as key partners in the competition against China -- would presumably not be invited.


Chris Cruden

Editor’s note: This article is the eighth in a series, “Full-Spectrum: Capabilities and Authorities in Cyber and the Information Environment.” The series endeavors to present expert commentary on diverse issues surrounding US competition with peer and near-peer competitors in the cyber and information spaces. Read all articles in the series here.

Special thanks to series editors Capt. Maggie Smith, PhD of the Army Cyber Institute and MWI fellow Dr. Barnett S. Koven.

On October 26, 2020, Philip Walton, a US citizen living in Niger, was kidnapped from his farm by seven men armed with AK-47s and other weapons. Within three days, US Navy SEALs successfully conducted a high-risk and immensely complicated mission to rescue Walton, executing a high altitude – low opening (HALO) parachute insertion onto the objective and killing six of the seven kidnappers before recovering Walton unharmed. This operation demonstrated the truly global reach of US special operations forces (SOF) and, most importantly, the speed with which the United States can and will act to protect its citizens abroad.

However, Walton’s rescue—a tactical success at every level—was “outed” in near real time by a Dutch aircraft spotting website, which provided live tracking of the operation using open-source software and crowd-sourced data. Using tail numbers and live flight tracking apps, web sleuths unraveled the network of military and civilian aircraft that took part in the operation, exposing tactics, techniques, and procedures and jeopardizing future operational capabilities.

Does the U.S. Navy Have a Strategy Problem?

by James Holmes

Over at the Wall Street Journal last week, former deputy undersecretary of the navy and current Hudson Institute analyst Seth Cropsey aims a broadside at the U.S. sea services’ latest maritime strategy, titled Advantage at Sea. Cropsey’s broadside sails well wide of the mark. Let’s inspect—and see if we can correct—the fall of shot.

The U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard have taken to calling themselves “the Naval Service,” singular, to signify that they regard themselves as a cohesive maritime force. Last December they released Advantage at Sea, also known as their “Triservice Maritime Strategy,” to explain how they intend to shape events on the high seas and especially in coastal zones. Yet Cropsey assures us the triservice strategy “isn’t a maritime strategy” at all because it “offers no suggestions about how to win a naval war against China.” For him, it seems, strategy must script out a sequence of events culminating in victory to qualify as strategy.

Really? That would come as news to master maritime strategist Julian S. Corbett, who urges fleet commanders to embrace a phased approach to naval warfare: deny a hostile navy the use of the sea if you’re the weaker combatant; win sea control once you’re strong enough to hazard a decisive battle; exploit sea control once you’ve won it. The victor earns the right to choke off enemy shipping, bombard hostile shorelines, land troops, and on and on. That basic Corbettian logic courses through the Triservice Maritime Strategy.