8 July 2021

The PLA’s Developing Cyber Warfare Capabilities and India's Options

Maj Gen P K Mallick, VSM (Retd)

Chinese President Xi Jinping has made it clear that his objective for China is to emerge as a ‘cyber superpower’. China wants to be the world’s largest nation in cyberspace and also one of the most powerful. The information technology revolution has produced both momentous opportunities and likely vulnerabilities for china. China is home of largest number of ‘netizens’ in the world. It also hosts some of the world’s most vibrant and successful technology companies. It also remains a major victim of cyber crime. 

Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) believes that with the rise of the Information Age future wars will be contests in the ability to exploit information. Wars will be decided by the side who is more capable to generate, gather, transmit, analyse and exploit information.

China’s Cyber-Influence Operations

Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)

… With its growing assertiveness in the international arena, China uses new technologies to achieve its foreign policy goals and project an image of responsible global power … spending billions on influence operations across the world ... fits in with China’s larger aim of expanding its soft power alongside its growing economic and military power … reach of Beijing’s overseas media is impressive and should not be underestimated. But the results are mixed ...

A Tale of 2 Navies: Reviewing India and China’s Aircraft Carrier Procurement

Rick Joe

In recent months, China’s third aircraft carrier, known as 003, has received increasing media attention as its construction proceeds apace at the Jiangnan shipyard in Shanghai, with a launch currently estimated to occur by the first quarter of 2022. Simultaneously, at Cochin shipyard in Kochi, India, the domestically built INS Vikrant is also treading to reach its own milestones, aiming to embark on its long-awaited sea trials in coming months.

The progress of the Vikrant and 003 are useful representations of the fascinating way in which the Indian Navy (IN) and China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) have approached their respective carrier programs. This article, the first in a two-part series, will review the trajectory of the IN and PLAN carrier programs from the recent past to the present, and consider their future prospects in the context of the two nations’ strategic naval priorities.

Setting the Stage

If Afghanistan Falls


BISHKEK – On July 2, the US military handed control of the vast Bagram Air Base to the Afghan government. US troops and their NATO allies are now on track to leave Afghanistan by mid-July, well ahead of US President Joe Biden’s September 11, 2021, withdrawal deadline.

According to a new analysis by researchers at Brown University, America’s two-decade war in Afghanistan cost it nearly $2.3 trillion. Now, Afghanistan’s neighbors – Pakistan, Iran, China, India, and the Central Asian countries – are wondering just how much it will cost them to maintain security after the United States is gone.

In late June, the US intelligence community concluded that the Afghan government could collapse within six months of the US withdrawal – a stark downward revision of its earlier, more optimistic assessment. As the Taliban has swept through northern Afghanistan, capturing dozens of districts and major cities, Afghan security forces have often surrendered without a fight. According to a June report from the United Nations Afghanistan Sanctions Monitoring Team, the Taliban now exercises direct control over more than half of the country’s regional administrative centers, and controls up to 70% of the territory outside urban areas.

Fighter Jets Leave Afghanistan as US Departs Bagram


U.S. troops vacated their last operating base in Afghanistan on Friday, effectively marking the end of a 20-year military campaign launched to avenge the Sept. 11 attacks but that had faded from the public eye and devolved into what the White House called “not a winnable war.”

Departing U.S. forces turned over Bagram Airfield, a massive base that had been at the center of military operations there since 2001. But questions remain about how the United States will support its post-war military and diplomatic presence in the country.

U.S. force presence now will be centered around Kabul. The few remaining U.S. military aircraft will be located there, as will other U.S. forces, to secure the primary transit point for U.S. personnel and potentially thousands of Afghan translators who worked with the U.S. military over the last two decades and who are seeking to flee the country.

“Security at the airport is still a concern,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said at a briefing Friday.

How the Afghanistan Withdrawal Costs the U.S. With China


Announcing the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan two months ago, President Joe Biden invoked the need to focus on Washington’s No. 1 foreign-policy priority: China. Ending the war would, the president argued, permit America to redirect its energies toward new, more pressing challenges, foremost among them “extreme” competition with an assertive Beijing. As a rising authoritarian superpower threatens to eclipse the United States technologically, militarily, and economically, the thinking goes, we can hardly afford to be tied down in an endless war.

The idea that the U.S. needs to extricate itself from the greater Middle East to get serious about the Indo-Pacific has a natural appeal. It is also not new. The Obama administration similarly justified its withdrawal from Iraq as part of a pivot to Asia.

Yet as details of the Biden administration’s post-withdrawal strategy for Afghanistan emerge, its benefits for American competitiveness against Beijing look nebulous. In fact, the U.S. departure from Kabul could end up undermining, rather than strengthening, America’s strategic hand against China.

An Officer Stabbed. A Bomb Plot Foiled. A Specter of Violence Divides Hong Kong.

Vivian Wang

HONG KONG — Last week in Hong Kong, on the politically sensitive anniversary of the city’s return to China, a man stabbed a police officer on a busy commercial street, then killed himself.

Then, on Tuesday, the police said they had arrested nine people — including six teenagers — and accused them of plotting to make bombs and plant them in courtrooms, railways and other public areas.

In a city besieged by political turmoil, the authorities cast the incidents as terrorism and proof of the threat posed by some parts of the opposition. They said the episodes underscored the necessity of a national security law Beijing imposed last year, and they have suggested that even stricter measures may be required.

“These show that ‘black violence’ has transformed from actions conducted by a crowd on the ground, to hidden, individualized acts,” Carrie Lam, the city’s chief executive, told reporters on Tuesday of the recent developments.

Why are Chinese troops assembling on the Myanmar border?

John Walsh

In the wake of the Myanmar coup in February and with no signs of a resolution to the crisis, China has plenty of reasons to be uneasy about its interests in the country. It now appears that China is making contingency plans to deploy troops to protect those interests.

China’s interests in Myanmar has gradually increased in recent years through three different but related means — individuals privately investing mostly in Mandalay and northern Myanmar, corporations investing in industrial estates and farming land, and state-level investment in long-term developmental projects such as oil and gas pipelines from Kyaukpyu to Kunming.

But for these investments to succeed, peace and order in Myanmar is necessary. Chinese institutions and individuals know all too well that when there is internal disorder, ethnic Chinese families and businesses can very quickly be victimised. And such disorder is widespread in Myanmar — especially in the northern border regions — due to armed uprisings against the state and against rival factions. Cash-based trade in narcotics and precious stones pose another threat to law and order.

China Is Preparing For Nuclear War

Gordon Chang

Recently released satellite imagery reveals that China has embarked on what the Washington Post termed “a building spree that could signal a major expansion of Beijing’s nuclear capabilities.”

Nuclear analyst Jeffrey Lewis revealed that China is building what appears to be 119 missile silos across more than 700 square miles in the Gansu desert. Construction began in February.

The silos suggest Beijing no longer seeks to maintain only a “minimal deterrent.” The Chinese military may even be building a nuclear “war-fighting” capability.

Lewis, the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, has also identified another 26 silos in China.

The Risks of Favoring China

Rizal Ramli

Not long ago, while I was serving as Indonesia’s coordinating minister for maritime affairs, I overheard a prominent businessman talking with his friend about the merits of doing business with China compared to the United States. “What’s the point of even bothering with America? All the money is coming from China.”

I was hardly surprised. After all, China’s trillion dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) offers the prospect of untold riches. In the Indo-Pacific alone, China has already committed hundreds of billions of dollars in loans for recipient countries to modernize their infrastructure, including seaports, power stations, gas pipelines, highways and rail projects. America can’t even come close to competing.

Just take the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, as one example. Starting from the warm water port city of Gwadar in the south of Pakistan abutting the Indian Ocean and stretching north into China’s Xinjiang province with projects valued at over $60 billion, the corridor represents a golden opportunity for Pakistan to transform its economy.

China’s Ambitious Space Programs Raise Red Flags

Mandy Mayfield

China is making progress with several space-related initiatives that are becoming a growing concern for the United States and its allies.
Pentagon officials have grown increasingly worried in recent years about the vulnerability of spacecraft to anti-satellite weapons as Beijing’s space programs continue to mature.

China recently designated space as a military domain, and official documents state that the goal of space warfare and operations is to achieve superiority using offensive and defensive means, according to a report released in April by the Secure World Foundation, a non-profit focused on secure and sustainable uses of outer space.

“China has recently reorganized its space and counterspace forces … and placed them in a new major force structure that also has control over electronic warfare and cyber,” said the report, “Global Counterspace Capabilities: An Open Source Assessment.” However, “it is uncertain whether China would fully utilize its offensive counterspace capabilities in a future conflict or whether the goal is to use them as a deterrent against U.S. aggression,” it added.

Why Did We Invade Iraq?

Fred Kaplan

Nearly two decades have passed since President George W. Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq in 2003, arguably the greatest strategic blunder in American history. It led to the deaths of more than 4,400 US military personnel and (according to the research group Iraq Body Count) up to 208,000 Iraqi civilians, to say nothing of the destabilization of the Middle East and the deadly convulsions that followed—sectarian violence, the emergence of ISIS, and a refugee crisis larger than any since World War II, among other calamities. And yet we still don’t understand just why the US went to war.

Conventional wisdom lays the blame on neoconservatives, mainly midlevel officials of the Reagan administration who, in their exile during Bill Clinton’s presidency, founded the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), a think tank that advocated a foreign policy stressing “US preeminence” to “secure and expand the ‘zones of democratic peace’” through, if necessary, the forcible removal of hostile dictators, not least Saddam Hussein.

Spies Like Us

Amy Zegart

On January 6, throngs of supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump rampaged through the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to derail Congress’s certification of the 2020 presidential election results. The mob threatened lawmakers, destroyed property, and injured more than 100 police officers; five people, including one officer, died in circumstances surrounding the assault. It was the first attack on the Capitol since the War of 1812 and the first violent transfer of presidential power in American history.

Only a handful of the rioters were arrested immediately. Most simply left the Capitol complex and disappeared into the streets of Washington. But they did not get away for long. It turns out that the insurrectionists were fond of taking selfies. Many of them posted photos and videos documenting their role in the assault on Facebook, Instagram, Parler, and other social media platforms. Some even earned money live-streaming the event and chatting with extremist fans on a site called DLive.

Amateur sleuths immediately took to Twitter, self-organizing to help law enforcement agencies identify and charge the rioters. Their investigation was impromptu, not orchestrated, and open to anyone, not just experts. Participants didn’t need a badge or a security clearance—just an Internet connection.

This is as good as it gets for the US economy

Ruchir Sharma

Driven by the success of America’s vaccine rollout and massive government stimulus, the US economy is expected to grow as fast as 7 per cent this year and is currently leading the world recovery. The commentariat is talking up an “American Renaissance” in a nation that on Sunday marked its 245th Independence Day.

But there is a problem: America just went through an economic renaissance. It’s not likely to be reborn again.

A decade ago, in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, Standard & Poor’s downgraded US government debt for the first time ever, triggering dire forecasts of American decline. Instead, the 2010s saw an expansion of American economic power, driven by its tech prowess and its relatively quick resolution of the debt crisis.

The US share of global gross domestic product rose from a 2011 low of 21 per cent to 25 per cent last year. Average incomes started the decade 26 per cent higher in the US than in Europe in real dollar terms and finished more than 60 per cent higher. The US income lead over Japan grew even more dramatically. By early 2020, despite talk of “despair” in the jobless middle classes, US consumer and small business confidence hit highs unsurpassed since the 1960s.

Playing catch-up: Britain’s re-engagement with Southeast Asia


Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab made a whirlwind trip last week to Vietnam, Cambodia and Singapore – three key nations that figure prominently in the UK’s post-Brexit trade calculations. Raab boasted the Cambodia visit was the first to the country by a British foreign secretary in three decades, but the major theme across each country was trade and deepening bilateral cooperation. Raab had also visited Kuala Lumpur last year to promote the Johnson government’s “Global Britain” strategy, but his latest trip to Southeast Asia coincided with a nationwide Covid-19 lockdown in Malaysia.

The United Kingdom has already expressed its willingness to play a bigger role in the Indo-Pacific.

Post-Brexit Britain is keen to revamp its old image of a regional security provider and register its presence independent of the European Union (EU) in Southeast Asia and the wider Indo-Pacific region. The United Kingdom signed trade pacts not just with Vietnam and Singapore, but also with Japan and Australia. To keep the trade momentum, the United Kingdom has also pledged to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) – one of the largest trade blocs in the world. The influence of the EU is still evident. For instance, there is a remarkable similarity between the EU–Singapore and UK–Singapore trade pacts. Raab also signalled in Singapore an aim to put cooperation over the digital economy on the agenda.

Technocratic Mitigation – The European Way of Managing the China Challenge

Grzegorz Stec

The evolution of the EU’s policy towards China may come across as contradictory. But fine-tuning is taking place, and the outcome may well be a more assertive Europe.

A year ago, EU High Representative Josep Borrell famously remarked that in managing its relationship with China the EU ‘should be like Frank Sinatra’ and pursue ‘my way’. Although the prominence of the term ‘Sinatra doctrine’ has faded over the past year, Borrell’s comment captured the EU’s commitment to its unique approach to China policy. This approach focuses on the practice of ‘technocratic mitigation’, through which the EU attempts to tackle specific challenges posed by China without pursuing an outright political confrontation. The increasing external and internal tensions of the broader relationship with China are making this approach harder to sustain, but its guiding principles are likely to remain in place, given that they are firmly rooted in the bloc’s institutional design and geopolitical position.

Yet the last few months have tested the European way of engaging China to the point of prompting observers to wonder whether a coherent European China policy even exists, as expressions of increased European assertiveness have been frequently followed by counterbalancing actions.

Climate Change Takes Center Stage Again at the Pentagon

Chris J. Krisinger

Speaking to American troops at RAF Mildenhall, England, on his trip to Europe, President Biden recounted an exchange with the Joint Chiefs as vice president: "This is not a joke. You know what the Joint Chiefs told us the greatest threat facing America was? Global warming." Those comments were the latest in a Pentagon policy redux to return climate change to Obama-era status that it is an "urgent and growing threat to our national security."

This began only days after his inauguration when President Biden signed several executive orders again elevating climate change to a national priority. The Pentagon soon followed suit, stating that it would begin incorporating climate risk analysis into modeling, simulation, wargaming, analysis, and the next National Defense Strategy. "There is little about what the [Defense] Department does to defend the American people that is not affected by climate change," defense secretary Lloyd Austin declared. "It is a national security issue, and we must treat it as such."

This shift reverses Trump administration policy that removed climate change from the list of global threats to the U.S. Implications are that Biden administration security policy will give climate change status on par with more traditional and conventional threats like great power competition, terrorism, and nuclear proliferation while declaring that the danger it poses overshadows more pressing threats.

The White Elephant in the Room: Antarctica in Modern Geopolitics

Michael Gardiner, Ryan Morrissey & James Hurley

The Antarctic region historically has minimal significance among states. Despite a brief scramble among colonial powers to stake claims in the 19th and 20th centuries, the continent has avoided being the site of conflict—a stark contrast to many other examples that involve overlapping borders with resource potential. In large part this is because the Antarctic region has been extremely challenging for states to establish and sustain a presence, complicating efforts to extract utility from it, or to enforce claims.
Emblem of the Antarctic Treaty (Wikimedia)

From 1959, the Antarctic Treaty codified the territorial status quo and enshrined the region’s preservation for peaceful, scientific purposes. Militarisation and commercial resource-extraction are forbidden. Human installations there have largely followed these rules, emphasising research into aerospace, astronomical, and climate science. Norms accompanying legal codes have further spared Antarctica from entanglement in states’ strategic and security policies.

The 3 Simple Rules That Underscore the Danger of Delta

Fifteen months after the novel coronavirus shut down much of the world, the pandemic is still raging. Few experts guessed that by this point, the world would have not one vaccine but many, with 3 billion doses already delivered. At the same time, the coronavirus has evolved into super-transmissible variants that spread more easily. The clash between these variables will define the coming months and seasons. Here, then, are three simple principles to understand how they interact. Each has caveats and nuances, but together, they can serve as a guide to our near-term future.

The vaccines have always had to contend with variants: The Alpha variant (also known as B.1.1.7) was already spreading around the world when the first COVID-19 vaccination campaigns began. And in real-world tests, they have consistently lived up to their extraordinary promise. The vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna reduce the risk of symptomatic infections by more than 90 percent, as does the still-unauthorized one from Novavax. Better still, the available vaccines slash the odds that infected people will spread the virus onward by at least halfand likely more. In the rare cases that the virus breaks through, infections are generally milder, shorter, and lower in viral load. As of June 21, the CDC reported just 3,907 hospitalizations among fully vaccinated people and just 750 deaths.

Ending the Threat of War in Ukraine: A Negotiated Solution to the Donbas Conflict and the Crimean Dispute

Anatol Lieven

Executive Summary
“Forget the cheese — let’s get out of the trap.”
Robert A. Lovett, U.S. secretary of defense, 1951–1953.

The unresolved conflict between Russia and Ukraine in the Donbas region represents by far the greatest danger of a new war in Europe — and by far the greatest risk of a new crisis in relations between the United States and Russia. The Biden administration does not wish to escalate tensions with Russia, and no doubt appreciates that admitting Ukraine into NATO is impossible for the foreseeable future, if only because Germany and France would veto it. Nonetheless, so long as the dispute remains unresolved, the United States will be hostage to developments on the ground that could drag it into a new and perilous crisis.

A war between Ukraine and Russia could end only in Ukrainian military defeat, and perhaps in the loss of much larger territories. The United States, which has declared “unwavering” support for Ukraine,1 would face the choice of either going to war with Russia (an unthinkable proposition with disastrous consequences for the United States and its citizens, in addition to strengthening China’s hand) or leaving Ukraine to its fate and suffering a severe loss of international credibility.

No End In Sight For Insecurity And Banditry In Northwestern Nigeria – Analysis

Idris Mohammed*

For half a decade, northwestern Nigeria has been facing serious insecurity, ranging from armed group violence to kidnappings and banditry, which has affected most of the population living in Zamafara, Katsina and Sokoto states. According to the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) Maradi, Niger office, as of June last year, the crisis had forced more than 80,000 civilians to flee their communities and find refuge in the Niger Republic (HumAngle.ng, July 17, 2020). Unfortunately, the Nigerian government’s response to the crises in the region has done little to alleviate the security concerns.

Nigeria’s North West region comprises seven states, including Zamafara, Katsina, and Sokoto, as well as Kano, Jigawa, Kaduna, and Kebbi. Endowed with a sizeable landmass of 216,065 square kilometers and a population estimated at approximately 35.8 million people, the region constitutes 25.75 percent of the total population of Nigeria (National Population Commission, 2006 census). The majority of the population are farmers, with others engaged in trade and commerce and animal husbandry.


Maj. Amos C. Fox

Novorossiya, a tsarist era swath of Russian land that is now part of Ukraine, is an important component in Moscow’s foreign policy in relation to Ukraine. Novorossiya originally consisted of six oblasts—Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaparizhzhia, Odessa, Kherson and Mykolaiv—that were annexed during the 18th century by Tsarina Catherine II.1 As part of post-Tsarist Soviet political reshuffling, those oblasts were gifted to Ukraine in 1922.2 Unforeseen at the time, Moscow’s gift to Kyiv would go on to provide the impetus, backstory and cover for contemporary Russian expansion into Ukraine. Indeed, Russian president Vladimir Putin and foreign minister Sergey Lavrov used the term Novorossiya to lend legitimacy to their bellicose foreign policy in Ukraine in 2014.3

The Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, the geographic center of Novorossiya, became the flashpoint of this foreign policy in the spring and summer of 2014. Russia’s truculent policy towards Kyiv materialized in the form of a land-based proxy war in Ukraine’s Donets River Basin (the Donbas). Russia developed a political and military apparatus in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts to wage the proxy war. In Donetsk, they established the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Donetsk People’s Army (DPA), while in Luhansk they organized the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) and Luhansk People’s Army (LPA). Moscow leveraged these partisan actors to wage a manufactured insurgency throughout the Donbas to cash in on Ukrainian political and domestic turmoil that had been boiling throughout 2013 and 2014. In retrospect, Russia’s manufactured insurgency, executed by the combination of partisan proxies, Russian land forces and Russian combat advisers, provides an instructive model through which to examine modern war.

Assessing Wargame Effectiveness: Using Natural Language Processing to Evaluate Wargaming Dynamics and Outcomes

Leah Windsor & Susan Allen

Summary: Group decision-making research, while well-established, is not applied in wargames with a win / lose focus. The deliberative data within wargaming can yield predictive metrics for game outcomes. Computational text analysis illuminates participant effects, such as status, gender, and experience. Analyzing participants’ language can provide insight into the intra-group and inter-group dynamics that exclude or invite potential solutions.

Text: The outcome of wargames reveals who wins and loses – but how do participants and strategists know if this is the optimal outcome from the range of potential outcomes? To understand why groups make particular decisions that lead to success or failure in wargames, the authors focus on the intra-group and inter-group communication that transpires during the wargame itself. The processes of group dynamics influence the outcomes of wargaming exercises, yet little attention is paid to these deliberations. Implicit biases manifest in language and other multimodal signals that influence participants and shape the process of negotiations [1][2].

A novel approach to analyzing wargames would include a process that informs the outcome, and models communicative interchanges computationally by examining linguistic features of participants’ deliberations. Participants’ exchanges and deliberations influence the dynamics within and across wargaming exercises and rounds of play. At present, the authors are aware of no computational models of wargaming deliberations exist that assess the intra-group and inter-group deliberations. A wealth of research using computational text-as-data approaches has established that language has predictive power in analyzing attributes like hierarchy, deception, and closeness [3][4][5].


Maj. Gen. Mick Ryan

In the wake of World War II, the profession of arms had to respond to a new era of security challenges. This included drastic reductions in the size of military forces and new missions such as the police action in Korea. At the same time, major developments were taking place in technology. Nuclear weapons, space surveillance systems, and missile technologies leapt ahead. In the 1970s and ‘80s, precision and stealth technologies evolved. In the 1990s, computers became more widely available, more powerful, and cheaper to acquire. Finally, the internet became widely accessible to businesses and the public. These technological breakthroughs, along with the geopolitical imperatives of the Cold War, drove ongoing transformation in the profession of arms.

To understand the magnitude of change in the profession of arms after World War II, we must conduct an exploration of new technologies. These technologies underpinned significant evolution in how military institutions, and the profession of arms, thought about and conducted military operations.

New Technologies for a New Era

Want to Understand Asian Geopolitics? Go Back to Genghis Khan

Key Point: The Mongols attacked the Xi Xia in 1209, first taking the border settlements north of the Yellow River.

In ad 1205, Mongol ruler Genghis Khan, having completed the unification of his Gobi Desert empire, began looking south toward China for further conquest. The ever-truculent Mongols had been a thorn in China’s side for more than 2,000 years. Their many raids were the main reason the Chinese had constructed a 1,500-mile-long Great Wall from the eastern coast on the Pacific Ocean to the very edge of the Gobi. Not without reason did the Chinese consider the Mongols barbarians—their very name meant “earth shakers.” At the head of a united army of fearsome nomads, Genghis Khan would soon make the earth shake again.

War With Xi Xia

Genghis’s first target was the western Chinese kingdom of Xi Xia. The Xi, known to the Mongols as the Tanguts, had emigrated east from the mountains of Tibet to the hilly grasslands centered on the Yellow River in the 7th century ad. The Mongols and the Xi, as wary neighbors, shared some of the same relatives; one of Genghis’s own stepdaughters was the wife of a Tangut chieftain. Family ties meant little to Genghis Khan. His father, Yesugei, had been poisoned by grudge-bearing members of a Tatar clan when Genghis, then called Temujin, was eight. Five years later, Temujin killed his own half brother Begter in cold blood after the two quarreled over some birds and minnows that Temujin had caught. “Apart from our shadows we have no friends,” he had been taught from the cradle. It was lesson he never forgot. After he had consolidated his power, Genghis Khan killed every male member of the Tatar clan that had killed his father—any boy taller than a wagon wheel was struck down.