18 August 2021

Social Media in Violent Conflicts – Recent Examples

 Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)

Alan Rusbridger, the then editor-in-chief of the Guardian in his 2010 Andrew Olle Media Lecture, stated, “News organisations still break lots of news. But, increasingly, news happens first on Twitter. If you’re a regular Twitter user, even if you’re in the news business and have access to wires, the chances are that you’ll check out many rumours of breaking news on Twitter first. There are millions of human monitors out there who will pick up on the smallest things and who have the same instincts as the agencies—to be the first with the news. As more people join, the better it will get. ”

The most important and unique feature of social media and its role in future conflicts is the speed at which it can disseminate information to audiences and the audiences to provide feedback.

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.

An Expert Explains: What Kabul means in Delhi

Gautam Mukhopadhaya

With the Taliban entering the outlying districts of Kabul Sunday and issuing a formal declaration that they do not intend to conduct a witch-hunt against those with the Islamic Republic Government while it waited for the completion of a ‘transition process’, and amid parallel reports of efforts to form a transitional or interim government for 6 months, the wheel has come full circle on the post-9/11 US ‘war on terror’ in Afghanistan since 2001 and the country’s experiment with an Islamic republic in 2004.

India should be a first responder in the current crisis for humanitarian and longer-term political reasons.

Why the capitulation

First reports from Kabul describe tension and doomsday fears, but no serious outbreaks of violence in the city. The immediate challenge is a massive humanitarian crisis on account of the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced who have left other war zones and taken shelter on pavements and parks in Kabul. The second is the panic and rush for passports and visas for those who fear for their lives from the Taliban or their sponsors. India should facilitate emergency visas and evacuation of those close to India who will be under threat. Outbreaks of violence and political persecution should be anticipated. The biggest losers in the transition will be Afghan women and youth who had tasted political, civic, economic and human rights and opportunities, and media freedoms.

International Powers’ Role In Afghanistan Under Taliban – Analysis

P. K. Balachandran

Stakeholders could be thinking of the roles they might like to play under a new set-up

As the countdown begins for the end of the war in Afghanistan and the establishment of a Taliban government in Kabul in the next few months or even weeks, it is likely that the many international stakeholders in Afghanistan are thinking of the roles they might like to play under a new set-up.

The Taliban are currently sweeping through the Afghan countryside, capturing ten provincial capitals including the historic city of Gazni and Kabul. And Kandahar is about to fall. But unfazed by the discouraging ground situation in Afghanistan, the international stakeholders met in the Qatari capital of Doha on Wednesday and Thursday with a pious intention to bring unity and peace.

US Claims Control Of Kabul Airport As City Falls To Taliban

Jeff Seldin

U.S. officials watching armed Taliban fighters move into the Afghan capital of Kabul say American forces “firmly control” the U.S. embassy and the city’s international airport, even as the top U.S. diplomat described the scene as “heart-wrenching.”

Taliban leaders declared victory Sunday in the lightning-like offensive as the last of the Afghan security forces melted away, leaving the gates to the Afghan capital open to the insurgent forces.

But despite claims by Taliban that their fighters were securing parts of the capital, a U.S official told VOA that the U.S. embassy itself, as well as Hamid Karzai International Airport, were safe.

“Our forces continue to flow in and firmly control HKIA [the airport] and the embassy,” the official told VOA on condition of anonymity.

Letter to the Editor: Critical Afghanistan Assessment

I received the following letter from a longtime (decades long) friend and colleague with whom I served in the Army. He is former Special Forces NCO/Officer, speaks regional languages, and has extensive experience on the ground through the region to include the FATA. He is using his nom de guerre because he is serving in a sensitive position in an international organization.


First, thanks a million for taking the time each day to compile and publish the daily National Security News and Commentary. I hope others on your mailing list and reading Small Wars Journal appreciate your efforts and dedication.

I’m currently part of a Crisis Coordination Center for Afghanistan. With my time crawling around Afghanistan and Pakistan, being in the direct presence of the Taliban and having produced multiple predictions and forecasts, I’ll share some thoughts on the Afghan-related pieces in your daily. Pardon any misspellings. I’m typing on a phone with one thumb.

After the fall of Kabul, what’s next for Afghanistan?

Anastasia Kapetas

After their rapid victory in Afghanistan, do the Taliban have the capacity to govern and keep unified control?

David Kilcullen, professor of international and political studies at the Australian Defence Force Academy, says the Taliban have got a lot better at governing but the future is uncertain. ‘They have trained governance cadres and they are much better at communications and messaging. They also run a shadow government in most provinces and a kind of guerrilla government in major cities.’

This is a critical source of revenue for the Taliban, says Kilcullen. ‘They have a pretty effective local taxation system, and take cuts of drug, agricultural and timber production.’

But once the big push is over, unity may become a problem. There’s been a long history of dissention among the Quetta, Peshawar and Miran Shah shuras that direct Taliban activities.

The Painful Lessons of Afghanistan


General Joseph L. Votel (Ret.) joined BENS as CEO & President in January 2020 following a 39-year military career where he commanded special operations and conventional forces at every level; last serving as the Commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) where he was responsible for U.S. and coalition military operations in the Middle East, Levant, and Central and South Asia. General Votel’s career included combat in Panama, Afghanistan, and Iraq and he led the 79-member coalition that successfully liberated Iraq and Syria from the Islamic State Caliphate. General Votel preceded his assignment at CENTCOM with service as the Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command and the Joint Special Operations Command.

The Cipher Brief: Did you ever envision that the U.S. would pull out so quickly or completely leaving the Afghan military on its own without U.S. air support?

General Votel: I did not anticipate this during my time – but once the President sets a hard departure date – then a fast withdrawal is inevitable. No Commander wants to accept unnecessary risk with troops on the ground when you are up against a clearly articulated departure date.

20-year US intervention in ruins as Taliban enters Kabul

Adam Weinstein

There are reports this morning that the Taliban have entered the capital city of Kabul. Developments on the ground are happening quickly after a week in which the insurgent group took one key provincial city after another, exposing the weakness of the Afghan military forces to hold them, and the government in Kabul to resist them.

According to the Washington Post, the Taliban have been instructed by its leadership not to push further into the city with force and that talks with the government were supposedly underway.

As of this morning the U.S. embassy was still functioning, but the majority of personnel were expected to be evacuated after Biden announced that 5,000 U.S. troops would be sent in to bring Americans and those Afghans with special immigrant visas out of the country.

Once America invaded Afghanistan and upended the internal and regional power dynamics the cost of withdrawal became a suspended prison sentence. President Biden’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan was the correct one, but its execution suggests that Washington may not have learned the right lessons from the last 20 years. Our engagement need not make the false choice between indefinite military intervention and total disengagement.

Did Biden Lose Afghanistan?

Jacob Heilbrunn

On July 8 President Joe Biden declared, "There’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of a embassy in the—of the United States from Afghanistan....The likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely." Well. A few weeks later and it looks like the Taliban do indeed own, or at least control, the whole country as America scrambles to extricate its remaining embassy personnel along with its interpreters from Kabul.

Is it Biden’s fault? Writing in the Washington Post, Max Boot says you bet it is. According to Boot, “This is the worst U.S. foreign policy failure since the fall of Saigon in 1975—worse even than the fall of Mosul, Iraq, in 2014 to the Islamic State, another disaster that might have been averted by keeping a small U.S. troop presence in Iraq.” Boot contends that Biden did not have to abide by the deal that Donald Trump signed with the Taliban. There was no cogent reason to withdraw American troops, which amounted to a paltry 2,500. A stalemate would have prevailed.

This is, in essence, the argument that the military chiefs, including General Mark Milley and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, made to Biden. He was told that the Taliban would prevail absent American forces. Biden overruled the generals. He was not about to continue hoisting the gonfalon of intervention in Afghanistan.

Biden's stain: U.S. flees Kabul

Mike Allen

Rarely has an American president's predictions been so wrong, so fast, so convincingly as President Biden on Afghanistan. Usually military operations and diplomacy are long; the outcomes, foggy. Not here.

Flashback: Just five weeks ago, President Biden assured Americans: "[T]he likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely."
In April, Biden said: "We will not conduct a hasty rush to the exit. We'll do it responsibly, deliberately and safely."

This morning, the Taliban is entering the Afghanistan capital, Kabul, "from all sides," a senior Afghan official told Reuters. Jalalabad, the last major city besides the capital not held by the Taliban, fell earlier today.

Afghans Need a Humanitarian Intervention Right Now

Charli Carpenter

In the run-up to the final U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, the situation for civilians has predictably worsened. As of Wednesday, the Taliban had overrun nine provincial capitals and is closing in on Kabul, with characteristically brutal methods. Prisoners are being summarily executed; civilians, journalists, and aid workers are being rounded up and beheaded; and families are caught in the crossfire. Strangleholds on supply lines mean siege warfare will quickly lead to deaths and suffering from deprivation as well as bullets. Members of the Afghan military are deserting, and urban warfare has erupted between militias defending their cities and advancing Taliban troops. This is why Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary-General for Afghanistan Deborah Lyons told the United Nations Security Council last Friday that Afghanistan is now in “a different kind of war, reminiscent of Syria recently or Sarajevo in the not-so-distant past.”

In the face of all this, some have questioned U.S. President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw the U.S. military from the country, but his administration has shown no signs of budging. The administration’s response has been limited to scolding the Taliban: “There is no military solution,” the U.S. special representative stated last week. Nonetheless, it is precisely a military solution that is working for the Taliban, and words will not save the civilians caught in their path. Yet so far, the United States has stood resolute in its stance that Afghans must fend for themselves, fearing if it steps in to help Kabul, it will be drawn back into an endless quagmire.

The Blame Game Starts on Afghanistan

Sumantra Maitra

At the time of writing this, the Taliban blitz has resulted in the capture of ninety-two percent of the Afghan landmass and the capture of the Afghan fifth army corps with the billions of dollars in military equipment donated by U.S. taxpayers. Mazar-i-Sharif, an anti-Taliban bastion and the first town to fall to the coalition forces of Northern Alliance and the United States in 2001, has fallen again and is now back in the hands of the Taliban, with the local warlord the anti-Soviet Abdul Rashid Dostum fleeing. Kabul is under siege, with one corps and one commando group being under direct government control. The history of feudal Afghanistan, with cities constantly changing rulers, apparently continue to this day, a blistering end to the twenty years crisis.

Almost like clockwork, however, this new carefully constructed blame game is starting to appear, which blames Americans, especially the administrations of Donald Trump and Joe Biden, for failing to protect and ensure women’s rights in Afghanistan. Curt Mills quipped, justifiably, that Americans shouldn’t be lectured by the Brits on military matters. The cause being that the Economist, wholly incorrigible by the last twenty years, published an article that blames America for doing too little. “Ideally, America would not be withdrawing its forces at all. For several years, with only a few thousand troops who sustained few casualties, it had managed to maintain a stalemate between the Afghan government and the Taliban, thanks largely to air power.” The American presidents are to blame, for listening to what the overwhelming majority of American people desire. “Mr. Trump wanted a quick end to the twenty-year deployment, and President Joe Biden has stuck by that callous decision.”

Three paths for counterterrorism after the Afghanistan withdrawal

William F. Wechsler

The US military intervention in Afghanistan began in the crucible of terrorism. Twenty years later, as US forces withdraw from the country and the Taliban go on the offensive, it is yet again terrorism—or a lack thereof—that could determine how President Joe Biden’s Afghanistan policy is remembered.

The threat that the Taliban now poses to the Afghan people is dire. But Americans also have a vital interest here in addition to the grave humanitarian concerns. Peering into the future in Afghanistan, there are only three possible scenarios from a counterterrorism perspective: (1) the terrorist organizations in Afghanistan will no longer seek to conduct external attacks against Americans or vital US interests; (2) the terrorist organizations will still seek to conduct such external attacks, but the Taliban will prevent them from doing so, or at least against Americans; (3) the terrorist organizations will eventually conduct such external attacks.

The burden of proof lies with those who might argue that the first scenario will emerge, since thus far Salafi-jihadist groups have an impressively consistent track record of seeking external attacks after achieving sanctuary. The second scenario appears perfectly logical from an American perspective, since it requires only that the Taliban act in what we see as their own self-interest. Alas, our decades of experience with the Taliban strongly suggest that our views of the Taliban’s interests often don’t match their actual interests. Moreover, the scenario both overstates likely Taliban capabilities and discounts the extent of the interdependence between al-Qaeda (but not the Islamic State) and the Taliban. So while some in Washington might hope that the second scenario emerges, it is an extremely risky bet to make.

Afghanistan’s End Portends a Darker U.S. Future

Kurt Volker

America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan is causing the implosion of the Afghan government, a massive humanitarian catastrophe, and a permanent stain on the credibility and honor of the United States.

All of these outcomes were predictable – and indeed predicted. The U.S. administration made its decision with eyes wide open. The calculation, as we have heard several administration spokespeople say, is that this is no longer America’s responsibility, and the Afghans must fight for their own country.

While the human tragedy is the most immediate and heart-rending aspect, it is the damage to America’s position in the world that will matter most in the long run. That this was a conscious U.S. policy decision is mind-boggling.

On December 1, 2009, then-President Barack Obama announced his intention to begin withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan within 18 months, following an initial surge. Several times throughout his presidency, and especially during his re-election campaign in 2012, President Obama repeated his intention to “end” the war in Afghanistan by withdrawing U.S. forces. By the end of his Presidency in 2017, he had still not done so.

The Afghan government’s collapse is a humiliation for the United States and Joe Biden


Twenty years after a US-led invasion toppled Taliban rule, the militant group is once again in control of Afghanistan. President Ashraf Ghani appears on the brink of resigning and ceding power to a Taliban-led interim government as talks between the government and the group get underway. The collapse of the Afghan government follows days of stunning Taliban advances across the country, as city after city fell to the group, often facing little or no resistance from Afghanistan’s much larger US-trained army. Militants now encircle Kabul, though they have promised not to take the city by force.

The speed of the government’s collapse has exceeded all expectations. On 12 August, the US media cited an intelligence assessment that Kabul might fall within 90 days. In the event, it was closer to 90 hours.

On 8 July, US President Joe Biden, defending his policy of withdrawing all remaining troops from Afghanistan, said: “The likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely.”

Pakistan PM Imran Khan Offers Talks to Baluch Insurgents: Will it Work?

Sudha Ramachandran

On July 5, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan announced that his government is considering “talking to insurgents” in Baluchistan province. Speaking at a meeting with local elders and students in Baluchistan’s coastal Gwadar district, Khan observed that if funds meant for the province’s development had been put to good use rather than channeled away by corrupt politicians, Pakistan would not have had to worry about insurgency in the province. The Baluch people had “grievances,” Khan said, which “other countries” like “India may have used… to spread chaos” in the province (Dawn, July 5). A day later, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry stated that the government was “working on a plan for talks” with “disgruntled or nationalist Baloch leaders who were not directly linked with India” (Samaa.tv, July 6). Soon after, the government appointed Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP) head and member of the National Assembly, Shahzain Bugti, as the Prime Minister’s special assistant on reconciliation and harmony in Baluchistan (Geo News, July 7).

This is not the first time that Islamabad offered talks to the Baluch rebels. Successive governments have engaged in dialogue with them, even talking to those in self-imposed exile (Dawn, July 12, 2011; Dawn, January 31, 2014 and Dawn, August 15, 2016). However, none of these initiatives bore fruit or even took off. Will this be the fate of this latest initiative?

Hiding books, buying burqas: Kandahar prepares for Taliban rule


When the fighting got so near that the walls of his house shook, Abdul, a retired teacher in Kandahar, decided it was time to hide his books. Reading has been a respite for Abdul since the Taliban began their extraordinary advance on Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second city, a few months ago. Until recently, Kandahar hosted one of the largest American military bases in Afghanistan; Abdul fears that insurgents will take revenge now they are in control of the city.

“I have not slept all night,” he says. “The government has failed our country.”

Abdul is part of a book club that allows people to swap titles with each other: Kandahar has no libraries. Self-help books, many of them by foreign authors, have helped him manage his anxiety. He also reads essays on politics and terrorism.

But even such simple pleasures are now under threat. The author of one of his books about fundamentalism was assassinated in Kabul a few weeks ago. Abdul owns a collection by Kandahar’s most famous poet, Abdul Bari Jahani, who now lives in America. Last time the Taliban were in charge they banned his books.

A Chinese Perspective on the Future of Cyberspace

The Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace (GCSC) and The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies is pleased to announce the launch of the first Cyberstability Paper Series.

Since the release of the final GCSC report in November 2019, the concept of cyberstability has continued to evolve. A number of new ‘conditions’ are emerging: new agreements on norms, capacity building and other stability measures have solidified. The constellation of cyber initiatives is expanding, underlining the need to connect the traditional state-led dialogues with those of the Internet communities. Gaps continue to close, not only between the global north and south and between technology and policy, but also between the stability in and the stability of cyberspace.

The first Paper Series explores these “New Conditions and Constellations in Cyber” through twelve papers from leading experts, each providing a glance into the challenges and contributions to cyberstability. The papers are released on a rolling basis from July until December 2021, culminating in an edited volume.

China eclipses Russia as the world's 'biggest bad' actor


While the July 1 hundred-year anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party headlined in major media houses within and outside China, a second anniversary quietly flew by several days later. It was 50 years ago on July 9, 1971, that Henry Kissinger, then President Nixon’s national security adviser, made a secret visit to meet with Zhou Enlai, the first premier of the People's Republic of China. In the middle of the Cold War with the Soviet Union, Nixon and Kissinger courted Communist China, an event that ultimately led to normalization of relations between the countries in 1979.

Today the United States and China are vastly different from the way they were in the 1970s, and their bonhomie has been dying a slow death in the intervening years. In his recent address on the drawdown of troops in Afghanistan, President Biden pronounced that the U.S. must “focus on shoring up America’s core strengths to meet the strategic competition with China and other nations that is really going to determine our future.” This is an important cue, indicating that the U.S. no longer seeks to engage with China in ways that it did for the past 40 years.

The Pallone Amendment and US Military Assistance to Azerbaijan in Context

Fuad Shahbazov

On July 28, The United States’ House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly in favor of an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2022 Foreign Aid Bill proposed by Congressional Armenian Caucus co-chair Frank Pallone to restrict US foreign military financing and training assistance to Azerbaijan. According to the amendment, Azerbaijan is banned from receiving any military aid under International Military Education and Training (IMET) and Foreign Military Financing (FME) programs (Armenpress, July 29).

While this decision was widely cheered in Armenia, it passed by largely unnoticed in Azerbaijan, even though US military aid to the country had become an object of frequent debate in recent years, particularly during the years of the Donald Trump administration. The White House’s attention to the region at that time was emphasized by the visit of then–National Security Advisor John Bolton, in October of 2018 (see EDM, October 29, 2018). The Trump administration’s main interest in Azerbaijan mostly revolved around that country’s role in strategically important trans-regional energy projects (Southern Gas Corridor) as well as its proximity to Middle East antagonist Iran. Hence, the growing bilateral cooperation between Washington and Baku resulted in a short-term influx of military aid allocated to Azerbaijan, estimated at around $58.6 million in 2018 and $42.9 million in 2019, respectively. During this period, the Azerbaijani State Border Service and State Customs Committee received from the United States 401 surveillance radars and related electronics equipment, 60 all-terrain motorcycles and other types of vehicles, and 59 high-speed boats and other maritime equipment (Securityassistance.org, 2019).

John Kerry Wants the ‘Greatest Economic Transformation Since the Industrial Revolution’

Michael Hirsh

Later this month, John Kerry, U.S. President Joe Biden’s climate envoy, plans to visit China for yet another diplomatic arm-wrestling bout with his counterpart, Xie Zhenhua. Kerry will be bringing a message that Xie and anti-American nationalists in Beijing won’t like.

China is the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide, and given the dire new United Nations report on quickening climate change, Beijing’s pledge to wait until 2030 to start seriously cutting emissions isn’t nearly enough, Kerry plans to say. In a major speech in London last month, he said that “if China sticks with its current plan and does not peak its emissions until 2030, then the entire rest of the world would have to go to [net] zero—zero!—by 2040 or even 2035” to have any hope of avoiding climate catastrophe. That’s obviously not possible.

In an interview with Foreign Policy, Kerry confirmed he plans to push Beijing harder, especially in reducing its coal plant exports worldwide. “What I hope to do is get a stronger pathway than the one we’re currently on with China, so—in effect—it sends a message: It does require a stronger commitment on coal,” he said. “China could stop funding external coal plants around the world in favor of funding renewable plants. … And China could clearly peak sooner than 2030.”

Lindsey Graham Says Biden 'Seems Oblivious' to Terrorist Threats Posed by Taliban-Run Afghanistan


South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham criticized President Joe Biden for seeming "oblivious" to the potential for future terrorist attacks from Afghanistan as the Taliban seized control on Sunday.

"It is only a matter of time until al-Qaeda reemerges in Afghanistan and presents a threat to the American homeland and western world," Graham said in a statement sent to Newsweek on Sunday. "President Biden seems oblivious to the terrorist threats that will come from a Taliban-run Afghanistan."

In the statement, parts of which he also tweeted, Graham called the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan "a sad and dangerous event for U.S. national security interests and the world at large."

It is only a matter of time until al-Qaeda reemerges in Afghanistan and presents a threat to the American homeland and western world.

President Biden seems oblivious to the terrorist threats that will come from a Taliban-run Afghanistan.— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) August 15, 2021

European Strategic Autonomy and the US–China Rivalry: Can the EU "Prefer not to Choose"?

Sylvie Bermann

The US–China rivalry is not just a battle between democracies and autocracies, in such a complex context the EU should find a path that transcends mere balance of power considerations. This competition – often referred to as a new Cold War – has not only a trade and economic dimension, with the technology as the main area of focus, but also a soft and hard power scope. In such a multifaceted scenario, the EU’s decisions should be based on European interests on a case-by-case basis and should not be constrained by decisions taken in Washington. Brussels is still a powerful economic actor and should, as such, build a strategy that does not necessarily entail embracing US decoupling. Instead, while pursuing greater autonomy concerning technology and standard-setting, the EU should also develop a more realistic human rights policy toward China and strengthen its ties with other Indo-Pacific countries. Only by acknowledging its strength, the Brussels Consensus can find its spot alongside its American and Chinese counterparts. US–China rivalry, already established but exacerbated by the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, will be the defining geopolitical framework for the coming decades. It will have an impact on the whole planet and particularly the EU, which will have to define its place and role.

Paper prepared in the framework of the project "Politiche e strumenti per promuovere l’autonomia strategica dell’Ue nei settori della difesa, del commercio internazionale e dell’allargamento". A previous version has been presented on 25 June 2021 during the webinar “EU Strategic Autonomy and Trade Policy in a Post-Covid World”.

The Tusk Effect


WARSAW – In July, Donald Tusk, the former European Council president who previously served as Poland’s prime minister from 2007 to 2014, returned to Polish politics. Many voters remember him as the politician who raised the country’s retirement age – a policy that was reversed in 2017 by the Law and Justice Party (PiS). In fact, the PiS has blamed Tusk for pretty much everything that is wrong in Poland.

The swift fall of Kabul recalls the ignominious fall of Saigon in 1975. Beyond the local consequences – widespread reprisals, harsh repression of women and girls, and massive refugee flows – America’s strategic and moral failure in Afghanistan will reinforce questions about US reliability among friends and foes alike.2Add to Bookmarks

Other paranoid accusations leveled against Tusk include that he collaborated with Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2010 to arrange the plane crash that killed President Lech Kaczyński, the identical twin brother of PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński, and that he is, in fact, a German backed by Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Russia’s Entry to Sixth-Generation Warfare: the ‘Non-Contact’ Experiment in Syria

Roger McDermott

Executive Summary
Russia’s adoption of high-technology assets aims to increase a broad spectrum of military capabilities, but it does not seek to emulate its foreign counterparts or to risk becoming involved in a post–Cold War variant of an arms race. Moscow’s experimentation with cruise missiles during operations in Syria fits into long-known Russian military theoretical works concerning the evolution of modern and future warfare, defined in this context as “sixth-generation” warfare, with its highest form being “non-contact.” The particular origins and leading Russian military advocates of such concepts reveal how high-precision strikes fit naturally into modern Russian military thought and doctrine.

While considerable interest among Western analysts of Russia’s military modernization has focused on the speeches and published articles of the chief of the General Staff, Army General Valery Gerasimov, his comments on the role of the military in operations in Syria since September 2015 are replete with an emphasis on the “limited” application of hard power, culminating in articulating this as an emerging “strategy of limited actions,” in such conflicts. Gerasimov has also referred to “non-contact” warfare and the employment of high-precision weapons systems.

Have We Finally Broken the Climate?

Francesco Collini, Johann Grolle

The television interview given by Jan Polderman on the Monday before the fire laid bare just how suddenly things changed. A smile on his face, the mayor of Lytton told a reporter that his counterpart from the neighboring town of Lillooet owed him a beer. The two had made a bet over which of the two towns in the Canadian province of British Columbia would experience the hotter temperatures, and Polderman was proud to have won. He had no way of knowing that just 48 hours later, his community would no longer exist.

Lytton is known for high temperatures, with a sign on the Trans-Canada Highway welcoming visitors to "Canada’s hotspot.” The town is located on the floor of Fraser Canyon, where heat tends to collect in the summer months. Still, nobody there was prepared for what happened at the end of June: On Sunday, June 27, the local weather station registered a value that was two degrees warmer than the 80-year-old record, topping out at 46.6 degrees Celsius (115.9 degrees Fahrenheit).

It was even hotter the next day, reaching 47.6 degrees Celsius, and the temperature still wasn’t done climbing. That Tuesday, it was 49.6 degrees Celsius (121.3 degrees Fahrenheit). A canyon in Canada was suddenly experiencing desert-like temperatures and weather experts around the world took notice. "What is going on?" wondered climate researcher Jochem Marotzke of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg.

Managing The Political Economy Of Climate Change Policies

Davide Furceri, Michael Ganslmeier, and Jonathan D. Ostry

Few issues have sparked more attention than how to avoid environmental and human catastrophe from climate change. But even in the wake of massive public protests and an ambitious agenda since the 2015 Paris Agreement, governments are wary of the political costs of enacting climate mitigation policies.

In recent IMF staff research, we identify strategies that can minimize or even eliminate such challenges.

In the first analysis of its kind, we combined information on the political aftermath (governmental popular support) of policy changes with information on the policy changes themselves in a sample of 31 OECD countries. Our data on political support comes from the private consultancy PRS Group’s International Country Risk Guide.

We found that climate change policies - especially market-based measures such as a carbon tax on fossil fuels, which are the most effective to limit pollution levels - are likely to face opposition not only from energy-using industries, but from the public at large.

Chinese and Russian militaries link up, but analysts say both sides have differing objectives

Brad Lendon

Hong Kong (CNN)Jets screamed across the sky and cannons boomed in northern China on Friday, as 10,000 People's Liberation Army and Russian troops gave a live-fire finale to a week of military exercises touted by both countries as a new high in bilateral military relations.

The joint exercises were the first of their kind to use a joint command and control system, with Russian troops integrated into Chinese formations, according to a statement by China's Defense Ministry.

The exercises also provided an opportunity for both sides to test new weaponry, and for Russian troops to use Chinese-made equipment, including armored assault vehicles, for the first time.

The joint drills, which were partially intended to enhance anti-terrorism capabilities, come as the security situation in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate amid the collapse of the US-backed governemnt in Kabul.


The US government and its social media partners are bolstering their defenses against foreign election interference and campaigns to corrode democratic governance. Those efforts are vital but inadequate for the emerging security environment. The United States should also account for the risk that in intense regional crises, adversaries will use information operations (IOs) to coerce US and allied behavior. In particular, opponents will seek to convince US and allied policymakers that unless they back down, their nations will suffer punishment that dwarfs any gains they hope to achieve. If adversaries cannot prevail through IOs alone, they may fulfill their threats and launch increasingly destructive cyberattacks, paired with warnings that further punishment will follow until the US and its allies capitulate.

The US military is rapidly improving its ability to conduct coercive operations against US opponents. Yet, the federal government has barely begun to develop strategies and capabilities to defeat equivalent campaigns against us. This study examines the vulnerabilities of the US public and policymaking process to coercive IOs and analyzes Chinese and Russian technologies to exploit these vulnerabilities with unprecedented effectiveness. The study also proposes options to defeat (and, ideally, help deter) future coercive campaigns, in ways that uphold the Constitution and leverage progress already underway against electoral interference and the corrosion of democratic governance.