19 June 2021

Water Security as Part of Non-Traditional Security: Threat - Implications for India

Maj Gen P K Mallick, VSM (Retd)

Like oil or data, water is an integral part of the world’s economy. Although about 71 per cent of the earth’s surface is water-covered, the oceans hold about 96.5 percent of all Earth’s water which is salt water. Freshwater, most of it is frozen in glaciers, accounts for the rest. That leaves less than 1 per cent of the world’s water available to support human and ecological processes. We withdraw 4.3 trillion cubic meters of freshwater every year from the earth’s water basins. We use it in agriculture, which accounts for 70 per cent of the withdrawals. Industry and households consume 19 per cent and 11 per cent, respectively. However, these percentages fluctuate widely across the globe. In the United States, industrial and agricultural usage is almost the same around 40 per cent. In India, agriculture uses 90 per cent of water withdrawals, while only 2 per cent is consumed by industry. Over the past century, rate of withdrawal of available freshwater resources have risen almost six times, outpacing global population growth.

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.

COVID, Galwan Aftermath: How Much Does India Still Rely On China?


The June 2020 clash between Indian and Chinese soldiers in the Galwan Valley has frequently been termed as a watershed moment in the history of bilateral relations. The incident marked the first loss of life in conflict along the boundary between the two countries in over four decades. A year later, while some equations have shifted, there has not been a sudden break — rather, ties appear to be drifting towards greater contestation with a certain ambivalence evident on both sides. This is underscored by five key trends.

First, after 13-months of friction and 11 rounds of Corps Commander-level talks, all that the two sides have been able to achieve is partial disengagement at the Pangong Lake. The standoff along other friction points in Eastern Ladakh continues, and both sides have very different aims from the talks.

While New Delhi wants disengagement followed by de-escalation, Beijing wants it to go the other way ‘round. This logic, of course, is akin to putting the cart before the horse, and is driven by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) understanding of the tactical advantages it enjoys.

Will Pakistan Get Off FATF’s Grey List?

By Umair Jamal

The Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) International Cooperation Review Group (ICRG) has finalized its preliminary report regarding Pakistan’s progress on a 27-point action plan. The report will be presented in the committee’s next plenary meeting which is being held from June 21 to 25.

Pakistan’s performance was reviewed last week at a virtual meeting of the ICRG’s observer group, which includes the U.S., U.K., China, France, and India.

Pakistan was placed on FATF’s grey list in June 2018. The country was given a 27-point action plan to curtail money laundering and terror financing by the end of 2019. However, the deadline has been extended repeatedly over the last two years.

At the last review session in February, the FATF extended the deadline to June and decided to keep the country on the grey list.

China’s Afghanistan Challenge and the Central Asian Dilemma

By Niva Yau and Raffaello Pantucci

The U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan is underway and is due to be completed by September 11, 2021. In the early days of the War on Terror, U.S. military bases in Central Asia were central to mobilization in Afghanistan, but regional pressure led to their closure. While a narrative persists in the press that the United States will want to keep some substantial presence in the region after the drawdown, it is unclear that anyone in Central Asia has actually been asked.

Russia is unlikely to step forward very far to fill this vacuum, instead preferring to continue to play a supportive role where it serves its interests. To the extent that the United States does appear to want to stay engaged, it seems to be focused on reviving the New Silk Road concept that connects Central Asia to South Asia through Afghanistan, alongside positioning some over-the-horizon counterterrorism capabilities.

The key uncertainty is whether China is going to finally step forward to take up some mantle of responsibility toward Afghanistan and follow through on its repeated security promises.

What Is the Indonesia Battery Corporation?

By James Guild

In a recent piece for East Asia Forum, I explained how Indonesia used a series of export bans on raw nickel ore to successfully induce billions of dollars of investment in downstream refinery capacity. Refined nickel is an important input in the manufacture of lithium-ion batteries, and the ultimate end-game for the Indonesian government is to become a global hub for the production of both electric vehicles (EVs) and the batteries that power them. At the moment, the missing link in the supply chain is the domestic mass production of EV batteries. There are only a few companies in the world that make these batteries — How will Indonesia convince them to open up local production facilities that can turn out batteries at scale?

Global industry leaders like China’s CATL and South Korea’s LG Group have signed agreements indicating they intend to invest billions in battery manufacturing in Indonesia, although it is unclear from media reports exactly how binding or firm these commitments are at this point. But based on Indonesia’s past experience growing its automotive industry we do know a few things about what is likely to make locally manufactured batteries an attractive option to foreign companies.

Indonesia Clinches Deal for 8 Italian-Made Frigates

By Sebastian Strangio

Last week, the Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri announced that it had reached a deal with Indonesia’s Ministry of Defense to supply it with eight frigates, marking a further step forward in the modernization of the country’s aging navy.

In a statement posted on its website on June 10, Fincantieri stated that Indonesia will purchase six new FREMM multipurpose frigates and two secondhand Maestrale-class frigates. The latter two vessels will be available after they are retired by the Italian Navy.

The purchase, the latest in a string of acquisitions by the Indonesian Navy, highlights the country’s mounting concerns about its ability to defend its vast ocean reaches with the navy’s current fleet of aging vessels.

The Navy’s shortcomings were tragically demonstrated by the April 21 sinking of the Indonesian submarine KRI Nanggala, with the loss of all 53 of its crew. The sub, which was built in 1977 in Germany, acquired by Indonesia in 1981, and refurbished by South Korea in 2012, was likely hit by a giant undersea wave while conducting live-fire torpedo exercises off the coast of Bali.

China’s Third Aircraft Carrier Takes Shape

Matthew P. Funaiole, Joseph S. Bermudez Jr., Brian Hart

Recent commercial satellite imagery reveals that China has made substantial progress in the construction of its third aircraft carrier, commonly known as the Type 003. The vessel is slated to become the largest surface combatant in the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) and significantly upgrade China’s naval capabilities.

Work on the Type 003 has been underway at Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai since at least late 2018. Over the last several months, prefabricated components of the vessel’s hull have been assembled. Satellite imagery from May 30, 2021, shows that the flight deck is now partially complete. While much remains to be done, close analysis of the Type 003’s status offers key insights about its configuration.

China’s third aircraft carrier will be considerably larger than its predecessors, the Liaoning and Shandong, which each measure 304.5 meters in length. Earlier assessments of the Type 003 by CSIS estimated its waterline dimensions at roughly 300 meters in length and 40 meters in width. As the flight deck has taken shape, the vessel’s overall length has increased to approximately 315 meters, and its width at the widest point has expanded to 74 meters.

India’s Stand on the Israel-Gaza Conflict

By Anoop Kumar Gupta

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: India condemned in unequivocal terms Hamas’s indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israel during the recently concluded 11-day war and called Jerusalem’s response retaliatory, recognizing the Jewish state’s right to defend itself. This reflects a clear change in New Delhi’s thinking, which is opposed to all forms of violence that affect human lives.

The fourth major flare-up between Hamas and Israel in a decade ended with a ceasefire on May 21 after 11 days of fierce fighting during which the Gaza-based terror groups fired barrages of rockets on civilian centers in the Jewish State. Israel responded by fiercely pounding thousands of terror targets in the Strip.

The loss of innocent lives and the rubble on both sides evoked sharp reactions from the international community. India’s position came under sharp scrutiny, particularly after Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu extended his thanks to 25 countries for standing with Israel but did not include India. The rebuke by many who thought New Delhi should have stood by its strategic partner softened somewhat after Israel’s Deputy Chief of Mission at its embassy in India, Rony Yedidia Clein, expressed satisfaction with New Delhi’s position. While India did not make a “public expression of support” to Israel, Clein said, “we did have an understanding” with India. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin also thanked India for extending its support to Israel.

‘Responsibility to Protect’ Is One More Casualty of the Syrian War

Mina Al-Oraibi

Watching the Syrian revolution-turned-war enter its second decade means recounting all that has been lost: innocent lives cut short, razed cities, dashed dreams. We can also mourn the squandered potential of young Syrians stuck in displacement camps missing another year of education. The estimated casualties include almost 400,000 Syrians killed and another 200,000 missing. The United Nations no longer tallies any authoritative numbers after abandoning efforts to count civilian losses three years into the conflict—one of many instances of the international community failing in its obligations to Syrians.

What is certain is that the toll is huge and that it is not limited to Syria and its people. Among the casualties—with far-reaching implications for other bloody conflicts around the world—are a number of international norms that were supposed to limit the suffering of civilian populations. The principal norm that has been shattered in Syria is the doctrine of “responsibility to protect.” Often abbreviated as R2P, the doctrine holds that the international community has not just a right but an obligation to intervene in conflicts where atrocities are being committed against civilian populations. First championed by Western countries in the 1990s and later accepted by the U.N., R2P was incapable of surviving the Syrian conflict. Its death marks a moment of failure of the international system that was emerging at the end of the Cold War. What will take its place is not yet known. As the world seems to be entering a new era of geostrategic competition and superpower polarization, there is no guarantee that a collectively acceptable humanitarian order will emerge.

Israel’s Big New Shift in Hamas Policy

By Anchal Vohra

Beginning in 2018, Qatar’s envoy traveled with millions of dollars packed neatly in Louis Vuitton suitcases from Doha to the Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv and was escorted to the Gaza Strip by Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency. Yossi Cohen, former Mossad chief, even visited Qatar to iron out the details of the arrangement and encouraged the Qataris to keep the dollars coming. The cash purchased fuel for the besieged strip’s only power plant, funded infrastructure projects, and provided a monthly stipend of $100 to thousands of impoverished Palestinian families.

Israeli intelligence officials, however, say they knew that Hamas—the Palestinian group that runs a de-facto government in Gaza but is treated by Israel and the United States as a terrorist group—siphoned off the funds. The thinking was that Qatari cash would keep Hamas quiet—that it would essentially buy them off from firing rockets at Israel’s southern cities.

Biden’s Plan to Cooperate With Europe on Tech

Tyson Barker

In the 1960s, mainframe computers, aeronautics, space, nuclear research, and semiconductors occupied the front lines of geopolitics. Powers in Europe were wracked by the thought of suffering a “technological gap” with the United States. Authoritarian leaders accused the United States of trying to use technological power as a vehicle for domination, even as authoritarian tech was on the rise in new domains and attracting support across the global south. European leaders called for a new European technological community to emancipate Europeans from U.S. tech dependence. At the same time, some Europeans pushed U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration to establish a U.S.-European committee to close ranks on technological cooperation.

Today, the tech race has again become a key dimension of power and ideological competition, with artificial intelligence, chips, digital platforms, data flows, 5/6G, cloud and edge computing, the Internet of Things, blockchain, biotech, and quantum technologies at the forefront. This week, as U.S. President Joe Biden made his first trip to Europe for the G-7, NATO, and U.S.-European Union summits, his administration must find a way to work with the EU—despite their differences—to recast how the world’s two most important democratic tech powers approach digital governance.

Leave Infrastructure to China and Compete Where the West Has More to Offer

Howard W. French

What does President Joe Biden’s first foray into international summitry reveal to us about the quality of his vision for America’s place in the world? As might be expected, some of the priorities he pursued in meetings this week with the leaders of the G-7, NATO and the European Union are timely and well-founded.

Think reassuring America’s oldest allies after the persistent disruption of the Trump years. Think building consensus around a collective response to increasingly aggressive Russian behavior, whether via cyberattacks emanating from that country or the menace Moscow poses to Ukraine or the Baltic states. In the more purely economic realm, think suspending the mutually harmful tariff war with the EU that began years ago over aircraft subsidies to Boeing and Airbus. Or efforts to harmonize taxation policies to make it harder for gigantic multinational companies like Google and Amazon, to name just two, to game widely varying fiscal laws around the world in order to shelter their income. ...

A Persistent Crisis in Central America

Violence and corruption in Central America, particularly in the Northern Triangle countries, is causing a wave of outward migration. The Trump administration’s restrictive measures and pressure on regional governments did nothing to address the root causes of the problem, which the Biden administration has now pledged to tackle. Meanwhile, efforts at reform across the region face opposition from entrenched interests that benefit from the status quo. Explore WPR’s extensive coverage of the Central America crisis.

For years, Central America has contended with the violence and corruption stemming from organized crime and the drug trade. More recently, the countries of the region also found themselves in U.S. President Donald Trump’s line of fire, due to the many desperate Central Americans who make their way across Mexico to seek asylum at the United States’ southern border.

The steady stream of outward migration is driven by ongoing turmoil, particularly in Nicaragua and the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. The three Northern Triangle countries rank among the most violent in the world, a legacy of the civil wars in El Salvador and Guatemala, which destabilized security structures and flooded the region with guns. In that context, gangs—often brought back home by deportees from the U.S.—have proliferated, and along with them the drug trade and corruption, fueling increasing lawlessness. Popular unrest has done little to produce political solutions, leading many of the most vulnerable to flee, often banding together in caravans to more safely navigate the treacherous route north.

How the U.S. Can Beat the Semiconductor Shortage (and China)


The U.S. Senate last week passed a bill that aims to slow China’s threat to our economic competitiveness and national security by providing hundreds of billions of dollars to boost U.S. development and manufacturing in critical technology areas including artificial intelligence, quantum science, and 5G networks. It’s a welcome start, but it is not enough.

The U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, introduced by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is a major step to address China’s political-economic challenge to the United States. But it comes in the context of a greater geopolitical standoff between democracies and autocracies, highlighted this week during President Joe Biden’s European trip, including an increasingly tense political-military and trade competition between China and the United States—particularly for advanced technology.

Recent cyberattacks reveal US utilities’ extreme vulnerability

By Kartikay Mehrotra

When the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power was hacked in 2018, it took a mere six hours. Early this year, an intruder lurked in hundreds of computers related to water systems across the U.S. In Portland, Oregon, burglars installed malicious computers onto a grid providing power to a chunk of the Northwest.

Two of those cases — L.A. and Portland — were tests. The water threat was real, discovered by cybersecurity firm Dragos.

All three drive home a point long known but, until recently, little appreciated: the digital security of U.S. computer networks controlling the machines that produce and distribute water and power is woefully inadequate, a low priority for operators and regulators, posing a terrifying national threat.

Equifax Data Breach

Victoria Ontiveros

Summary of the Incident
On September 17, 2017, Equifax announced that a cybersecurity breach had exposed the information of 143 million consumers, a number that was later amended to 148 million. The security breach originated with a vulnerability in the Apache Struts software that Equifax used to run certain applications. The vulnerability was publicly disclosed on March 7, 2017, the Department of Homeland Security notified Equifax of the threat posed by the vulnerability on March 8th, and on March 9th Equifax’s Global Threat and Vulnerability Management team emailed Equifax employees instructing all who were running Apache Struts software to install the patch. However, Equifax failed to install the patch on its Automated Consumer Interview System (ACIS). On May 13th, attackers infiltrated Equifax’s system and located unencrypted usernames and passwords which allowed access to systems outside of ACIS. Equifax was unable to detect the breach due to an expired security certificate, and the infiltration was not discovered until July 30th, 76 days after the attack was initiated.

US-Russian Contention in Cyberspace: Are Rules of the Road Necessary or Possible?

Lauren Zabierek, Christie Lawrence, Miles Neumann and Pavel Sharikov

In recent years, as news of U.S.-Russian tensions in the cyber domain has dominated headlines, some strategic thinkers have pointed to the need for a bilateral cyber “rules of the road” agreement. American political scientist Joseph Nye, a former head of the U.S. National Intelligence Council, wrote in 2019 that, even “if traditional arms-control treaties are unworkable” in cyberspace, “it may still be possible to set limits on certain types of civilian targets, and to negotiate rough rules of the road that minimize conflict.” Robert G. Papp, a former director of the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence, has likewise argued that “even a cyber treaty of limited duration with Russia would be a significant step forward.” On the Russian side, President Vladimir Putin himself has called for “a bilateral intergovernmental agreement on preventing incidents in the information space,” comparing it to the Soviet-American Agreement on the Prevention of Incidents on and Over the High Seas. Amid joint Russian-U.S. efforts, the Working Group on the Future of U.S.-Russia Relations recommended several elements of an agreement in 2016, among them that Russia and the U.S. agree “on the types of information that are to be shared in the event of a cyberattack” (akin to responses to a bio-weapons attack) and prohibit both “automatic retaliation in cases of cyberattacks” and “attacks on elements of another nation’s core internet infrastructure.” Most recently, in June 2021, a group of U.S., Russian and European foreign-policy officials and experts called for “cyber nuclear ‘rules of the road.’”

Climate Policies Could Hand Power and Profits Back to OPEC

By Ellen R. Wald

While U.S. President Joe Biden preaches a net-zero emissions goal for 2050 to slow global warming, and activist shareholders force Exxon Mobil Corp. to embrace solar and wind power, Saudi Arabia sees a bright future for what it knows how to do best: pumping oil.

Let others indulge their fantasies that alternative fuels can nullify the need for new investment in petroleum supplies, said Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman. Asked about a report by the International Energy Agency that made such a recommendation, the 61-year-old royal was ready with a snappy comeback. “I believe it is a sequel to the La La Land movie,” he said at the online OPEC+ press conference on June 1. “Why should I take it seriously?”

Biden’s Worried About Ukraine’s China Fling

By Jack Detsch

U.S. President Joe Biden and his European allies are worried China is making inroads into Ukraine’s defense industry by buying up companies, an effort officials believe Beijing is using to establish a beachhead to extend its influence into Eastern Europe.

Since former U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration, U.S. officials have urged their Ukrainian counterparts to halt sales of defense companies to China, including Motor Sich, an aerospace engineering company that designs engines for helicopters and larger aircraft, and Trident Defense, a manufacturer of .50-caliber machine guns. The acquisition of Motor Sich is currently being challenged in Ukrainian courts.

How to Avoid Fueling the Fires of Misinformation

The ease of access to information today is a great public utility. However, this means there is also greater access to misinformation.

When business leaders are sharing anything with their teams, they have to be sure the information is accurate and fact-based. Otherwise, something may be interpreted incorrectly and the rumor mill may start turning at your organization.

To help leaders ensure they're not contributing to the spread of misinformation, 15 members of Newsweek Expert Forum shared their best tips for businesses.

1. Encourage People to Express Differing Viewpoints

As a leader, your words—including the words of others that you share—carry weight. Foster an environment that promotes the expression of differing viewpoints and gather input from diverse sources to avoid echo chambers. Lastly, openly address misinformation when you become aware of it. - Jennifer Grayeb, The Nimble Co.

2. Think Critically About Any Claims Made

Russia is Hammering the U.S. in Cyberspace, Why is Biden Meeting with Putin at All?

Clint Watts
Source Link

In 2009, while working in Washington, D.C., I remember the issue of Russian criminal syndicate hacking arising for the first time. Discussions about an appropriate measured response—one that would deter criminal hacking groups in places like Russia—quickly led to a common refrain: “America has too much to lose in cyberspace; we’re too vulnerable, and if we were to strike back, our infrastructure and our economy could be crippled by cyber attacks.” In subsequent years, Richard Clarke, former presidential advisor for counterterrorism who’d warned of al Qaeda and Bin Laden before 9/11, published his book Cyber War, which warned of the next great threat to America’s national security: a no-notice catastrophic cyber attack. Clarke accurately foretold of the coming danger on the internet battlefield. After 2011, every cybersecurity conference or event mentioned the possibility of a “cyber Pearl Harbor” or a “cyber 9/11.”

While Clarke was likely writing his book, we later found out that in 2010, “elite hackers, most likely from Russia, used at least two zero-day vulnerabilities to penetrate the computer network operated by Nasdaq Stock Market, a hack that allowed them to roam unmolested for months and plant destructive malware.” Again, I sat in a meeting of cybersecurity experts and asked: “Why don’t we fight back? Why don’t we do a counterattack?” Again, arguments claiming that we “have more to lose” and we’re “too vulnerable” arose. The same solutions posed five years before were again offered as a vision for cyber defense: improve our cybersecurity at home, harden our systems, increase user training, and improve information sharing regarding attacks and attackers between the public and private sectors. The U.S. incrementally took these steps, each year spending more and more to defend America from hackers of all types. And yet, the hacking continued and became more voluminous and sophisticated.

A Summer Reading List for Guardedly Optimistic Multilateralists

Richard Gowan

What should people who care about international organizations and conflict management order for their summer reading this year? Closely following the back and forth of day-to-day events can sometimes make it hard to get a clear sense of the health of the international system. The Biden administration has promised that “multilateralism is back,” for instance, but when it comes to handling crises like the coup in Myanmar and challenges like global vaccine distribution, international cooperation still seems distinctly lackluster. With summer here, it’s a good time to sit back, pick up a smart book and try to see the big picture instead.

A good place to start is “Diplomacy and the Future of World Order,” a collection of sober and thoughtful essays edited by Chester A. Crocker, Fen Osler Hampson and Pamela Aall. The editors are seasoned observers of conflict resolution, with a series of hefty volumes on the topic to their credit, and they are not easily impressed by alarmist claims that the rules-based world order is collapsing. They are indeed mildly optimistic that “many elements” of the current international system “appear likely to survive today’s turbulence, because many important states and groupings of states wish it to survive.” A perspicacious phalanx of authors looks at these elements of the post-1945 system, such as the nonproliferation regime and peacekeeping, plus institutions like the United Nations and the policies of major powers.

Accidents, Paradoxes and the Epistemic Future of Nuclear Policy

Aditi Verma

The nuclear community must learn to imagine the unimaginable and sit with uncomfortable facts.

On March 11, 2011, at 2:46 pm Japan Standard Time an earthquake measuring 8.9 struck just off the east coast of Japan. At the time of the earthquake, three reactors were in operation at the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) owned Fukushima Daiichi site. Three others were shut down and undergoing scheduled inspections. All six reactors at the site were boiling water reactors based on American General Electric designs. The peak ground acceleration resulting from the earthquake caused the three operating reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant to shut down automatically.

The earthquake also damaged the transmission towers with an immediate loss of offsite power supply to the plant. Following this loss of power, the Emergency Diesel Generators (EDGs) at each of the three operating reactor units started up automatically to remove the decay heat from the recently shut down reactors as well as to cool the spent fuel pools.

A tsunami caused by the earthquake arrived at the Fukushima Daiichi plant site approximately 45 minutes after the earthquake. The maximum wave height of the tsunami, 49 feet (15 meters), exceeded the height of the 16 foot (5 meter) sea wall around the plant. Seawater surged over the seawall, submerged and damaged the EDGs and units 1 through 5 lost AC power. The tsunami water also disabled two out of three EDGs at unit 6 (but the remaining EDG, which was air-cooled and located at a slightly higher elevation, supplied emergency AC power to reactor units 5 and 6.)

Illusions of Autonomy: Why Europe Cannot Provide for Its Security If the United States Pulls Back

Stephen G. Brooks

Europe’s security landscape has changed dramatically in the past decade amid Russia’s resurgence, mounting European doubts about the long-term reliability of the U.S. security commitment, and Europe’s growing aspiration for strategic autonomy. Could Europeans develop an autonomous defense capacity if the United States withdrew completely from Europe? If the United States were to do so, any European effort to develop an autonomous defense capacity would be fundamentally hampered by profoundly diverging threat perceptions and severe military capacity shortfalls that would be very costly and time-consuming to close.

Russia in the Mediterranean: Here to Stay


Russia’s strategy in the Mediterranean is an integral part of its strategy for the wider European theater, which has long been the principal arena of its foreign policy triumphs and setbacks. Europe’s dominant position on Russia’s foreign policy agenda is a product of its strategic culture, which is in turn shaped by geography, historical legacy, and an elite worldview that considers the West a threat to the domestic political order. It is impossible to understand Russia’s current posture in the Mediterranean without viewing it within this larger context and against the backdrop of the country’s centuries-old involvement in the region and retreat from it during the quarter century that followed the end of the Cold War.

Since Russia’s 2015 intervention in Syria, alarms have been sounded about the Kremlin’s ambitions and military capabilities in the Mediterranean. These alarms have been unfounded.; Russian capabilities in the Middle East and the Mediterranean region are modest, and the Kremlin’s ambitions there are constrained by geography and geopolitics, limited resources, a transactional approach to relationships, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO’s) formidable force posture on its southern flank. As much as Russia may aspire to regional domination, it lacks the means to achieve this goal.

AI could help defend against cyberattacks

Ina Fried

A new report suggest machine learning could help in the fight against cyberattacks, but cautions that AI is far from a panacea.

Why it matters: Attacks, including ransomware, have been on the rise across a variety of industries and institutions.

Several factors have led to the increase in attacks, including the digitization of more of the economy, the growing role of cyber attacks as part of international politics and a lack of security experts, according to the report from the Center for Security and Emerging Technology.

"Machine learning can help defenders more accurately detect and triage potential attacks," CSET said in its report. "However, in many cases these technologies are elaborations on long-standing methods — not fundamentally new approaches —that bring new attack surfaces of their own."

Apple’s and Google’s New AI Wizardry Promises Privacy—at a Cost

SINCE THE DAWN of the iPhone, many of the smarts in smartphones have come from elsewhere: the corporate computers known as the cloud. Mobile apps sent user data cloudward for useful tasks like transcribing speech or suggesting message replies. Now Apple and Google say smartphones are smart enough to do some crucial and sensitive machine learning tasks like those on their own.

At Apple’s WWDC event this month, the company said its virtual assistant Siri will transcribe speech without tapping the cloud in some languages on recent and future iPhones and iPads. During its own I/O developer event last month, Google said the latest version of its Android operating system has a feature dedicated to secure, on-device processing of sensitive data, called the Private Compute Core. Its initial uses include powering the version of the company’s Smart Reply feature built into its mobile keyboard that can suggest responses to incoming messages.

Apple and Google both say on-device machine learning offers more privacy and snappier apps. Not transmitting personal data cuts the risk of exposure and saves time spent waiting for data to traverse the internet. At the same time, keeping data on devices aligns with the tech giants’ long-term interest in keeping consumers bound into their ecosystems. People that hear their data can be processed more privately might become more willing to agree to share more data.

Water and Warfare: The Evolution and Operation of the Water Taboo

Charlotte Grech-Madin

Distinct from realist and rationalist explanations, the historical record of the post–World War II period reveals the rise of an international normative inhibition—a “water taboo”—on using water as a weapon. Focused process tracing exposes the legal-normative developments in the international community that have prioritized water’s protection, even where its weaponization offered strategic benefits. These findings offer new avenues for research and policy to better understand and uphold this taboo into the future.

Houthi ‘Terror’ Scuds Now Threaten Most Of Saudi Arabia


A new variant of the Houthi’s Burkan missile has a range of at least 1,200 km, putting almost all of Saudi Arabia within range of the Northern Yemeni rebels, posing a new threat to the kingdom.

Ansar Allah, as the Houthis are formally known, released footage in August 2019 of a new ballistic missile, called the Burkan-3 (or Borkan-3). They claimed that they had used it to attack Dammam but no such attack was confirmed at the time. Then, on March 7, a Houthi ballistic missile indeed did hit Dammam.

This is more than 1,200 km from their usual launching area and puts most of Saudi Arabia in range.

The obvious questions are, how did Ansar Allah achieve this and what does it mean for Saudi Arabia. Cast your eye on Iran. Based on an analysis of open-source images and video evidence, via computer simulations of missile trajectories, the Burkan-3 most likely is a variant of the Iranian Qiam, with longer propellant tanks and a smaller warhead mass. Combined with the notorious inaccuracy of most Scud variants, the reduction in payload required to achieve its longer range means that the Burkan-3 is essentially a terror weapon, not a precision guided weapon.