20 September 2021

Deterrence Theory– Is it Applicable in Cyber Domain?

Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)


The Deterrence Theory was developed in the 1950s, mainly to address new strategic challenges posed by nuclear weapons from the Cold War nuclear scenario. During the Cold War, the U.S. and the Soviet Union adopted a survivable nuclear force to present a ‘credible’ deterrent that maintained the ‘uncertainty’ inherent in a strategic balance as understood through the accepted theories of major theorists like Bernard Brodie, Herman Kahn, and Thomas Schelling.1 Nuclear deterrence was the art of convincing the enemy not to take a specific action by threatening it with an extreme punishment or an unacceptable failure.

Chinese Cyber Exploitation in India’s Power Grid – Is There a linkage to Mumbai Power Outage?

Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)


On Feb. 28, 2021 The New York Times (NYT), based on analysis by a U.S. based private intelligence firm Recorded Future, reported that a Chinese entity penetrated India’s power grid at multiple load dispatch points. Chinese malware intruded into the control systems that manage electric supply across India, along with a high-voltage transmission substation and a coal-fired power plant.

The NYT story1 gives the impression that the alleged activity against critical Indian infrastructure installations was as much meant to act as a deterrent against any Indian military thrust along the Line of Actual Control as it was to support future operations to cripple India’s power generation and distribution systems in event of war.

What Does A Taliban-Controlled Afghanistan Mean For India’s Foreign Policy? – Analysis

Mark S. Cogan and Vivek Mishra

India’s foreign policy is at a crossroads in Afghanistan, where past policy decisions are producing strategic, moral, and political consequences. To a large extent, India made a mistake, as many Western powers did: it put its faith and confidence in the Ashraf Ghani government, while rivals such as China and Pakistan made overtures toward the Taliban, and are now certain to advance their interests and influence over the country.

India’s losses are huge. The country has invested more than $3 billion in Afghanistan since 2001 on development and reconstruction projects, including the Salma Dam along the Iranian border and Afghanistan’s Parliament building, the latter of which was built to the tune of $90 million and was supposed to symbolize Afghanistan’s transition to democracy. These investments were recently lost as the Taliban swept into power, occupying the very seats India hoped would nurture a more democratic Afghanistan.

While land-locked Afghanistan has deep cultural and historical roots with India, there are direct and indirect security implications to consider. Pakistan, for example could exploit the corridor running from Afghanistan to the Indian line of control, facilitating cross-border terrorism in fragile Kashmir. India now has plenty to worry about. When the Taliban previously held power from 1996-2001, the regime gave free rein to a host of anti-Indian terrorist organizations within Afghanistan, including Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). Taliban safe havens allowed these organizations to regroup, train, and then wreak havoc in Indian-administered Kashmir, which bears the scars of a long-running insurgency.

With Foreign Funds Frozen, Afghan Aid Groups Stuck in Limbo

Isabel Debre

A month after the fall of Kabul, the world is still wrestling with how to help Afghanistan’s impoverished people without propping up their Taliban leaders — a question that grows more urgent by the day.

With the Afghan government severed from the international banking system, aid groups both inside Afghanistan and abroad say they are struggling to get emergency relief, basic services and funds to a population at risk of starvation, unemployment and the coronavirus after 20 years of war.

Among the groups struggling to function is a public health nonprofit that paid salaries and purchased food and fuel for hospitals with contributions from the World Bank, the European Union and the U.S. Agency for International Development. The $600 million in funds, which were funneled through the Afghan Health Ministry, dried up overnight after the Taliban took over the capital.

Could Washington Support Balochistan Independence?

Michael Rubin

In 1899, Great Britain cut a deal with a separatist leader in Kuwait to make the small Persian Gulf territory a British protectorate. For the British, severing Kuwait’s links to Ottoman Iraq made strategic sense: By empowering Kuwait as a separate entity with a foreign policy subordinate to Britain’s own, the [British] India Office was able to stymie a German plan to build a railhead on the Persian Gulf.

Pakistan may be riding high after the Taliban victory in Afghanistan. Many of Pakistan’s most senior officials celebrate American defeat. This should not surprise anyone. While the United States and Pakistan were allies during the Cold War, the bilateral partnership was always fraught. Pakistan, with reason, resented both that they were America’s second choice and successive U.S. administrations treated them as a fair-weather friend: embracing the Pakistanis when the United States needed the country’s assistance, but ignoring if not sanctioning them when Pakistani support was no longer important for the problem at hand.

The Drone Unit that Helped the Taliban Win the War

Fazelminallah Qazizai

As the U.S. began its final drawdown of troops from Afghanistan in the spring, the Taliban’s drone unit moved into position for its most important mission yet. A team of 12 engineers-turned-assassins, it was tasked with firing what would turn out to be one of the decisive shots in the closing stages of the war.

The target was a regional-level official in the north of the country named Piram Qul. Like so many of Afghanistan’s now deposed ruling elite, Piram Qul was a beguiling mixture of the charismatic and corrupt, a veteran of the mujahedeen’s struggle against the Soviets in the 1980s who had come to regard his youthful principles as an impediment to power. He was an ethnic Uzbek warlord who was part of many anti-Taliban Afghan factions, including Ahmed Shah Massoud’s Jamiati-i-Islami. In the years since the U.S.-led invasion, he had served as a member of Parliament and presided over local militias accused of a range of human rights abuses, including kidnapping and murder. What mattered to the Taliban, though, was the stranglehold he had on Takhar, a province on Afghanistan’s border with Tajikistan — an area traditionally hard for them to influence. Piram Qul was one of the last dominoes that needed to fall if the insurgents were to sweep across the north and trigger a decisive advance on Kabul. Their plan to assassinate him was motivated by necessity, not vengeance.

Initial Taliban Moves Fail To Convince Afghanistan’s Neighbors

James M. Dorsey

The Taliban’s record in recent weeks on making good on promises to respect human and women’s rights as well as uphold freedom of the press is mixed at best. Afghanistan’s neighbours and near-neighbours are not holding their breath even if some are willing to give the Central Asian country’s new rulers the benefit of the doubt.

A litmus test of Taliban willingness to compromise may come sooner than later.

It’s most likely only a matter of time before China knocks on newly appointed Afghan acting interior minister Sirajuddin Haqqani’s door demanding the extradition of Uighur fighters.

The Chinese demand would be challenging not only because of the Taliban’s consistent rejection, no matter the cost, of requests for the expulsion of militants who have helped them in their battles.

The Taliban already made that clear two decades ago when they accepted the risk of a US invasion of Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11 by refusing for the umpteenth time to hand over Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. There is little in Taliban 2.0 that suggests that this has changed.

Though Wary of Border Instability, Uzbekistan Ready to Handle Any Outcomes in Afghanistan

Umida Hashimova

Tashkent continues to warily watch the developments on the Afghanistan-Uzbekistan border. The Taliban had swept through the northern parts of Afghanistan in June to claim control of all border checkpoints, and now the group is attempting to consolidate its power by force instead of negotiating with the other power centers in the country. Although no Central Asian country faces an imminent military threat from Afghanistan at the moment, Uzbekistan has multiple concerns regarding the events developing on the other side of its southern border. Tashkent’s immediate worry is to avoid becoming the recipient of refugees from the war-torn country. But its longer-term concern is the type of government Afghanistan will organize itself into and whether this will lead to a peaceful coexistence or protracted clashes between the Taliban and other indigenous groups that include ethnic Uzbeks, Tajiks and other minorities.

For now, Uzbekistan’s government is focused on preventing the entrance of people from Afghanistan and ensuring the security of the border between both countries—in fact, an enduring topic in Tashkent’s negotiations with the Taliban soon after it entered into backdoor negotiations with the militant group in 2019 (Kun.uz, August 27, 2021). Tashkent has made clear that it would not welcome refugees from Afghanistan no matter how desperate their situation might be. The Uzbekistani government is considering any attempt to cross its border a legal violation rather than a humanitarian issue. From the earliest instance, when a group of 53 people, mainly military personnel, crossed into Uzbekistan on June 23, as fighting in northern Afghanistan began, to the present, following the departure of the international coalition, Tashkent has been consistent about turning Afghan nationals back at the border (Kun.uz, June 23).

Taliban 2.0. - What they say

Mona Kanwal Sheikh & Amina Khan

This text is based on recent interviews with two high-ranking and serving Taliban officials which took place in August 2021, shortly before the Taliban took over Kabul. They are summarized in their raw form but accompanied by brief – emboldened - comments by the authors. The interviews were conducted under conditions of confidentiality, and the interviewees are treated anonymously, since they can potentially display sensitive internal debates within the movement. However, both officials are aware that extracts from our conversations with them are being published. Most of the messages and viewpoints referred to below resonate with official and publicly available Taliban statements.

The Taliban currently face several different challenges. The first is to establish themselves as a party rather than a guerrilla movement. Whether the Taliban can remain a coherent movement when the USA, their common enemy), has withdrawn its troops, political posts need to be allocated and the boundaries of sharia law need to be agreed is still uncertain. Second, the Taliban face the challenge of ensuring that their power-sharing agreement will be seen as legitimate and that they can create a government that can deliver: this is a matter not of only stability, but also of providing services and economic opportunities and respecting human rights. A third challenge relates to their ability to create stability after the US withdrawal in face of the presence in the country of the Islamic State Khorasan movement (ISKP) and armed resistance in the Panjshir Valley led by Ahmad Massoud and supported by Amrullah Saleh. Despite this resistance, it currently appears that a variety of Afghan stakeholders are willing to engage with and even work with the Taliban. Other forms of civil resistance might occur from human rights organisations or civil-society actors with an equality or democracy agenda.


Andrew Milburn

In December 1992, as an infantry platoon commander, I was among the first Marines to land in Mogadishu at the onset of Operation Restore Hope. It was a mission that made sense to me and my fellow Marines at the time: to keep the warring factions in check and enable the delivery of relief supplies to the long-suffering population. Ten months later, after the death of nineteen US servicemen and hundreds of Somalis in the Battle of Mogadishu, that mission seemed much less clear. It dissolved altogether with the withdrawal of US forces in March 1994 and the subsequent collapse of the UN mission less than a year later. Somalia, as prevailing wisdom had it, was an irredeemable disaster, a place destined to wallow in its own misery, where the benefits of intervention were unlikely to be worth the price.

In 2019 and 2020, I returned to Mogadishu, this time as a civilian helping to train officers of the Danab Advanced Infantry Brigade. It was clear to me then why General Stephen Townsend, the commander of US Africa Command (AFRICOM), was able to cite Somalia as a place where the command was seeing real progress. But last December, despite this progress, US troops were withdrawn.

Raisi Presidency Challenged to Tackle Three Major Problems Between Iran and Azerbaijan

Rahim Rahimov

As new Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi forms his government, Baku and Tehran are expected to enter the next uneasy and uncertain phase in their bilateral relations. In particular, issues relating to the unfinished railway segment of the North-South Transport Corridor (NSTC) and the controversial hydropower projects on the Azerbaijani-Iranian border remain unresolved. On top of those, the augmenting Azerbaijani-Israeli partnership is a major factor that continues to complicate Tehran’s perspective on Azerbaijan.

In 2018, Baku formally approved the allocation of a $500 million loan for the construction of the missing 211-kilometer Rasht–Astara segment (inside Iran) of the railway component of the NSTC (a transcontinental, multimodal route extending from India and the Gulf to Russia and Europe via Azerbaijan and Iran) (see EDM November 9, 2017). But Baku has yet to disburse the loan to Tehran. The Iranian ambassador to Azerbaijan, Seyid Abbas Musevi, has said that the loan issue “has been discussed in our recent meeting with [Azerbaijani] President Ilham Aliyev. Currently, there are some technical problems in that direction and we are trying to tackle them” (Report.az, June 22, 2021). According to Iranian expert Dr. Vali Kaleji, Iran is “concerned that a revival of [a] Soviet-era railway [in the South Caucasus] will sideline the Rasht–Astara railway project” (Cacianalyst.org, July 8).

Why is everyone so afraid of Xi Jinping's 'common prosperity' doctrine?


Chinese President Xi Jinping’s announcement that China must ensure that wealth is more evenly distributed across the country – a policy known as “common prosperity” – has been, in large part, received negatively internationally.

Mr Xi’s intention to “regulate excessively high incomes” and “encourage high-income people and enterprises to return more to society” might sound par for the course in many countries, but the common prosperity policy has, according to some publications, sent “luxury stocks tumbling” and provoked “uncommon angst among China’s elite”. It has been portrayed as part of a “regulatory onslaught” that risks “slower economic growth and more volatile financial markets”. The word “crackdown” has enjoyed many outings.

Never mind that these new regulations include one that parents elsewhere may envy: Chinese children are now banned from playing online video games for more than three hours per week. It is clear that some are framing common prosperity as another instance of Mr Xi exercising his authority. That is something those who are hawkish on China will always portray negatively.

Challenges and Progress in China’s Development of 5G and 6G

Elizabeth Chen

On July 5, ten central government departments led by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) released the “5G Application ‘Set Sail’ Action Plan (2021-2023)” ([5G应用 ‘扬帆’ 行动计划 (2021-2023年)], 5G yingyong ‘yangfan’ xingdong jihua) to promote industrial and social applications of 5G+ “in order to implement the important instructions of [Chinese Communist Party (CCP)] General Secretary Xi Jinping on accelerating the development of 5G” (State Council, July 5). The Action Plan noted that while some 5G adoption indicators had improved—including a 200 percent annual growth rate of 5G users and a 35 percent penetration rate of 5G applications in industry—there was room for further growth in “key industries” such as media, transportation, agriculture, water conservation, energy, mining, smart city, smart education, smart health care and smart cultural tourism. The Plan called for China’s 5G network to achieve a 40 percent penetration rate of personal mobile phone users in the next few years and for the number of 5G users to exceed 560 million by 2023 (Xinhua, July 18).

Less than two weeks later, it was announced that the home-grown Chinese telecommunications equipment provider Huawei Technologies Company had won majorities in three contracts shared between China Mobile and China Broadcasting Network (CBN) to build 700-megahertz (MHz) 5G base stations in mostly rural areas. The contracts, worth an estimated 38.4 billion RMB ($6 billion), represented roughly 60 percent of a planned 480,297 new 5G base stations, 400,000 of which are scheduled to be finished this year. Media reports noted that Huawei’s winning bid demonstrated the Chinese state’s continuing loyalty to the telecom company, which has received considerable international backlash for its alleged ties to the PRC national security apparatus and been excluded from numerous foreign 5G networks as a result (South China Morning Post, July 19).

China Leadership Monitor

What is Behind China’s Dual Circulation Strategy

Dual circulation may sound like a buzzword without much relevance, but it is not. It actually enshrines China’s long-standing ambition to become self-sufficient. Such an ambition was made known to the world in 2015 after the launch of China’s industrial policy masterplan, Made in China 2025, even though the world at the time was still in full engagement with China. Since Trump’s push for a trade and technology war against China, the Chinese leadership has been relying on a dual circulation strategy to support China’s growth. This basically means insulating the domestic market from the rest of the world by eliminating any bottlenecks, whether in terms of natural resources or technology, so as to vertically integrate its production and achieve self-reliance served by China’s huge domestic market. A relevant consequence for the world, though, is that China will no longer need to import high-end inputs, with obvious negative consequences for major exporters of technology, such as Germany, Japan, South Korea, and the U.S. As if this were not enough, the second aspect of dual circulation, boosting external demand, in a context of Western containment, will increase the importance of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to ensure open markets in the emerging world. In essence, dual circulation is part of China’s masterplan to become self-reliant in terms of resources and technology but also in terms of demand through its huge market as well as through third markets available through the BRI.

Hoover's China Leadership Monitor

China Leadership Monitor

What is Behind China’s Dual Circulation Strategy

Chinese Views of U.S. Decline

The Emergence of the Central Office of Foreign Affairs: From Leadership Politics to “Greater Diplomacy”

The CCP’s Domestic Security Taskmaster: The Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission

Xi Jinping–Style Control and Civil Society Responses


Amy Gaudion

In May of 2017, the WannaCry attack, later attributed to North Korea and Russia respectively, resulted in the loss of billions of dollars for governments and private companies across the globe. A month later, the NotPetya attack, later attributed to Russia, wreaked additional and more devastating havoc, again on a global scale. Both attacks exploited a vulnerability found in the Microsoft Windows operating system. The United States government had discovered the same vulnerability many years earlier. Rather than notifying Microsoft of the vulnerability so that it could be patched, the United States government decided to keep the vulnerability secret so that it could be utilized for national security and intelligence purposes. In assessing whether to disclose or retain the vulnerability that led to the WannaCry and NotPetya attacks, the United States government followed an internal executive branch policy called the Vulnerabilities Equities Policy and Process, more commonly known as the VEP.

The VEP guides the decision-making process when the United States government discovers exploitable weaknesses, or vulnerabilities, in information systems. It is the process by which the government decides whether to disclose the security flaws it discovers or to keep the flaws secret for national security, intelligence, or law enforcement purposes. According to the charter, the VEP provides an interagency mechanism that seeks to balance “whether to disseminate vulnerability information to the vendor/supplier in the expectation that it will be patched, or to temporarily restrict the knowledge of the vulnerability to the USG, and potentially other partners, so that it can be used for national security and law enforcement purposes, such as intelligence collection, military operations, and/or counterintelligence.” Since its inception, scholars, journalists, and former government officials have warned of the VEP’s limitations, loopholes, and the need for oversight. Despite these warnings, the VEP has remained a policy in the shadows. A confluence of recent events, however, has created a window of opportunity for substantive review and meaningful reform of this little-known but consequential policy.

The United States of Sanctions

Daniel W. Drezner

In theory, superpowers should possess a range of foreign policy tools: military might, cultural cachet, diplomatic persuasion, technological prowess, economic aid, and so on. But to anyone paying attention to U.S. foreign policy for the past decade, it has become obvious that the United States relies on one tool above all: economic sanctions.

Sanctions—measures taken by one country to disrupt economic exchange with another—have become the go-to solution for nearly every foreign policy problem. During President Barack Obama’s first term, the United States designated an average of 500 entities for sanctions per year for reasons ranging from human rights abuses to nuclear proliferation to violations of territorial sovereignty. That figure nearly doubled over the course of Donald Trump’s presidency. President Joe Biden, in his first few months in office, imposed new sanctions against Myanmar (for its coup), Nicaragua (for its crackdown), and Russia (for its hacking). He has not fundamentally altered any of the Trump administration’s sanctions programs beyond lifting those against the International Criminal Court. To punish Saudi Arabia for the murder of the dissident Jamal Khashoggi, the Biden administration sanctioned certain Saudi officials, and yet human rights activists wanted more. Activists have also clamored for sanctions on China for its persecution of the Uyghurs, on Hungary for its democratic backsliding, and on Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians.

What’s Next? Honoring the Promises to U.S. Allies in Afghanistan Post-withdrawal

Elizabeth Hoffman

On August 31, 2021, the last U.S. troops left Afghanistan. While the Biden administration touted the withdrawal as the fulfillment of a promise to end a decades-long war, to the Afghan allies left behind, it was a promise irrevocably broken. The fate of thousands of Afghans who not only worked with the U.S. government, but who dared to believe in the universal values of freedom and democracy is in question. There should be an accounting of the events that transpired over the last month, but for now, policymakers should turn to the more pressing and immediate question: How can the United States save the lives of thousands of its Afghan allies left behind?

First, the administration must answer some basic questions. In order to assess next steps, an accurate accounting of the number of current and eligible applicants for Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) and Priority 1 (P1) and Priority 2 (P2) refugee status remaining in Afghanistan is crucial. The individuals eligible under these designations represent not only translators who worked alongside coalition forces, but those who supported U.S. government entities or U.S.-funded projects and are deemed to be at high risk. Further information on evacuees that were successfully airlifted out of Afghanistan is also necessary. Administration sources have given differing accounts of these numbers, and planning next steps without reliable information is extraordinarily difficult.

Twenty Years after 9/11: The US Army at a Crossroads

Colonel George Shatzer

No retrospective on the September 11 attacks can escape the bleak pall cast by the tragic events unfolding in Afghanistan today. Despite the enormous financial investment in the country and the grim human costs borne by the United States, its allies, and Afghans over the past 20 years, the US and NATO military missions have ended in ragged, ignominious failure. The question of how well these operations protected the United States and the world from Islamist terrorism remain open. But there is no doubt that the other stated purpose of creating a functioning, friendly, Afghan government and effective security forces that can prevent the reemergence of terrorism from within the country is now forfeit.

The Lessons of 9/11 for Defense Planning

The Enemy Within

Minhaz Merchant

RICHARD VERMA SERVED as the US ambassador to India from 2014 to 2017. An Indian-American, Verma recently addressed students of an Indian university. Here’s what he said: “I look out at the year 2030, for example, and I see an India that may lead the world in almost every category… [The] most populous nation, the most college graduates, the largest middle class, the most cellphone and internet users, along with the third largest military and third largest economy, all coexisting in the world’s largest democracy…The journey to global leadership has begun.”

The young students at Jindal University’s School of Banking and Finance listened with rapt attention. The message they were hearing from a distinguished former diplomat who had travelled widely in India as US ambassador, and met the country’s entrepreneurs, NGOs, activists, journalists, politicians and ordinary people, was very different from the downbeat assessment they receive daily from the media—Indian and Western.

Was Verma being overly optimistic? Do facts bear out his projections?

The Taliban back in power: an assessment of al-Qaeda and IS two decades after 9/11

Dino Krause & Mona Kanwal Sheikh

9/11 and the US-led invasion of Afghanistan that followed have been defining events for the development of global jihadism during the past twenty years. With the return of the Taliban to power in Afghanistan, al-Qaeda and IS are back in the international spotlight. The latter organisations have managed to regroup, reorganise and strike back over the years: how will the Taliban takeover affect their future, both in Afghanistan and abroad? And what can research tell us about the development of al-Qaeda and IS over the past two decades?

On 11 September 2001, a group of jihadists affiliated with al-Qaeda, at the time led by Osama bin Laden, hijacked and crashed four commercial airplanes, two of which were steered into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, causing thousands of civilian victims. The events were crucial in defining the further development of global jihadism in various ways, starting with the US-led invasion of Afghanistan later that year, the temporary expulsion of the al-Qaeda network from its former safe haven, and its subsequent creation of affiliate branches in countries such as Algeria and Yemen. In 2014, al-Qaeda’s Iraqi branch formerly split from the organisation and transformed itself into a transnational actor in its own right, the so-called Islamic State (IS). The group then declared a caliphate and established its rule over a territory spanning wide parts of northern Iraq and Syria, until by March 2019 an international coalition comprising Kurdish-led units and pro-Iranian Shia militias, as well as heavy US air support, managed to oust IS from all population centres in its core territory. Most recently, the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan has placed al-Qaeda and IS, both of which remain active in the country, back in the international spotlight.

Combating Terrorism Center (CTC)

CTC Sentinel

Twenty Years After 9/11:

Reflections from Michael Morell, Former Acting Director of the CIA

Reflections from General (Ret) Joseph Votel, Former Commander of U.S. Central Command

Reflections from Ambassador (Ret) Dell Dailey, Former Coordinator for Counterterrorism, U.S. Department of State

Reflections from Ali Soufan, Former FBI Special Agent

Reflections from Alex Younger, Former Chief of the United Kingdom’s Secret Intelligence Service (MI6)

The Terror Threat From Afghanistan Post the Taliban Takeover

The Fight for Supremacy in Northwest Syria and the Implications for Global Jihad

The Jihadi Threat in the Arabian Peninsula

The Threat in Africa—The New Epicenter of Global Jihadi Terror

What Is the Future of the Global Jihadi Movement?

Hoover's China Leadership Monitor

What Do Russians Think About the Relationship With China?

Craig Kafura

In recent U.S. strategic planning documents, Russia and China have been presented as a joint threat to U.S. power and prestige. That connection was readily apparent in President Joe Biden’s most recent trip to Europe. At all three of Biden’s high-profile engagements in June – including the G-7 summit in the U.K., the NATO summit in Brussels, and the one-on-one meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva – China and Russia were rarely far from the discussion.

Most analysts focus on Beijing and Moscow’s growing economic ties, shared ideological interests, or the personal relationship between Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping. In turn, they also offer advice on how to break up this happy Eurasian couple. But 2021 polling by the Chicago Council and Levada-Center finds that Russians themselves see their relationship with China as a beneficial one.

EU launches ‘Global Gateway’ to counter China’s Belt and Road

The European Union will launch "Global Gateway" as a scheme to compete with China's Belt and Road Initiative — the massive, geopolitically influential network of infrastructure and transport investments that Beijing uses to link its exporters to western markets.

"We want to turn Global Gateway into a trusted brand around the world," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said during the annual State of the Union address Wednesday. "We will build Global Gateway partnerships with countries around the world. We want investments in quality infrastructure, connecting goods, people and services around the world."

She didn't shy away from her primary target — China, which has been criticized by the West for extending its strategic reach and creating debt dependence through its multibillion-dollar infrastructure and investment scheme.

"We want to create links and not dependencies!" von der Leyen said.

"We are good at financing roads. But it does not make sense for Europe to build a perfect road between a Chinese-owned copper mine and a Chinese-owned harbour. We have to get smarter when it comes to these kinds of investments," she said.

A priority, she added, would be for the EU to discuss connectivity projects with Africa during a regional summit in February.

Her remarks come three months after the 27 EU leaders tasked her team to come up with a name and a logo for the EU's new plan against the Belt and Road.

Neither Russia nor China Could Fill a U.S. Void in the Middle East

Jon Hoffman

The 20th anniversary of 9/11 and America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan have renewed debate over whether the United States should remain so deeply engaged militarily in the broader Middle East. These debates typically center on whether such a presence is needed to ensure the safe transit of oil out of the Persian Gulf, prevent terrorist attacks, or prevent a single power from dominating the region.

More recently, however, the topic of great-power competition among the United States, Russia, and China in the Middle East has increasingly moved to the forefront of such debates, and U.S. officials and policy analysts have begun raising the alarm over the possibility of Moscow or Beijing filling the void if Washington were to withdraw militarily from the region.

But such concerns are misguided. Neither Russia nor China is capable of filling a supposed U.S. void in the Middle East, nor do they desire to.

Japan Increases Involvement in Central Asia

Paul Goble

Almost two decades ago, Japan adopted the 5+1 approach to dealing with Central Asia, a model other outside players have copied. Now, Japan is increasing its involvement in the region given the Taliban’s recent victory, which has created new diplomatic opportunities but also uncertainties for many major powers. Japan is the third-largest economy in the world and is committed to dealing with other countries primarily in terms of economic development rather than geopolitics and in terms of regions rather than simply in bilateral terms. Given these factors, Tokyo’s presence in Central Asian capitals individually and Central Asia as a region is likely to expand, making it a far larger player in the future than it has been up to now.

In 2004, Japan reached an agreement with the five countries of Central Asia on what all sides called a “5+1” basis. On the one hand, that arrangement prevented any suggestion that Tokyo would play one regional player off against another—something other outside powers have done. And on the other hand, it has ensured that Japan could focus most of its time on economic projects instead of geopolitical ones, allowing all five Central Asian countries to benefit from this Japanese involvement, rather than excluding one or more because of political differences. And importantly, this agreement has enabled Turkmenistan, which often stands apart from the other four because it wants to maintain its neutrality, to be a full participant (see EDM, November 26, 2012; CAA Network, March 14).

Over the last 16 years, Japan and the regional republics have held 38 meetings within the 5+1 format: 7 at the ministerial level, 14 at the deputy ministerial level, and 17 at the experts’ level. Significantly, every one of these meetings has been attended by representatives of all six participating countries. In addition, there have been a growing number of bilateral meetings between Japanese officials and the governments of the Central Asian quintet. These meetings have been more successful than many perhaps expected, for three reasons. First, the Japanese have focused on economic issues and done their homework. They have brought their development officials and experts to each meeting, and they have used the large number of Japanese officials in international financial institutions to multiply their impact. Second, they have steered clear of the political issues that have been divisive and deleterious to the success of other countries’ “5+1” initiatives. And third, the Japanese have presented themselves as fellow Asiatics rather than as part of the West, and they have avoided appearing as immediately and overwhelmingly large as China so as to not be seen as a threat (Ia-centr.ru, September 12).

By operating under the political radar as it were, Japan has seen its bilateral trade with these countries go up dramatically and its influence on the five rise as well. Because of its approach, Japan, according to Russian expert Denis Borisov, a professor at Novosibirsk State University of Economics and Management, is perhaps better positioned to take advantage of the uncertainties in Central Asian capitals in the wake of the Taliban victory in Afghanistan. Tokyo is certainly making an effort in that direction, he suggests. Indeed, he argues Afghanistan’s regime change may give Tokyo new advantages by forming a new, third leg to its approach to the region—one that had been based primarily on economics and support for the idea of Central Asia as a comprehensive region, but now could acquire greater “soft power” by allowing Tokyo to present itself as an honest broker uninterested in extending its power there (Ia-centr.ru, September 12).

That Japan is certainly thinking about expanding its influence in Central Asia is suggested by Masato Toriya, a specialist on the region at Tokyo’s Foreign Language University. He says that the situation in Afghanistan may rapidly descend again into civil war, with negative consequences for the countries of Central Asia and the world. Masato contends that the best means to prevent civil conflict would involve a united front in Central Asia with the joint efforts of the United States, the European Union, Russia and Japan, elevating Tokyo to a position in South Asia which it has never held before (Sputnik News, September 14).

Tokyo may not actually aspire to such a role; still, meetings, agreements and discussions among Japanese and Central Asian officials in the past two weeks indicate that it will adopt a much more active role in Central Asia than ever before. For example, there have been discussions of Japanese involvement in the construction of a nuclear power plant in Kazakhstan (Zona.kz, September 13), Japanese participation in the construction of a hydro-electric dam in Turkmenistan (SNG.fm, September 6), expanded trade with Uzbekistan and the region as a whole (Regnum, August 30) and promotion of the idea that the 5+1 approach Tokyo uses should be the model for relations with outside powers (Halva.tj, September 6).

This last point is especially important because it provides an opportunity to include Turkmenistan in a grouping it has often avoided. Thus, what Japan began in 2004 may be extended in unusual ways by other powers who hope to rope in Ashgabat but have had little luck so far. If that is the case, then Japan as both a model and an actor will have assumed a much larger role in the future of Central Asia than anyone is now contemplating (Mift.uz, August 28; SNG.fm, SNG Today, August 30).

Russian Authorities Seek Total Control Over Internet

Kseniya Kirillova

The final months ahead of the elections to the Russian State Duma (lower chamber of parliament) were marked by a total cleansing of the political field (see EDM, September 13). This included an aggressive crackdown on the Anti-Corruption Foundation (ACF) (RIA Novosti, June 9), entailing reprisals against everyone who supported the structures of Alexei Navalny (Deutsche Welle—Russian service, May 17), and the denouncement as “foreign agents” of the overwhelming number of opposition media outlets (BBC News—Russian service, August 20).

At the same time, Russian hackers made public the databases of ACF supporters as well as the “smart voting” system championed by Navalny, designed to help any candidates opposing the ruling United Russia party to enter the parliament. As of the end of August, more than 700 people registered in the databases reported visits to their homes by law enforcement officers demanding “explanations” for their actions or donations to the ACF (Deutsche Welle—Russian service, August 21).

State-supported “hacktivism” and law enforcement repressions have been accompanied by a systematic—though often veiled—increase in censorship on the Internet. Pressure on Western companies has become one method. Thus, Russia entered the top three countries sending the largest number of requests to remove content from Twitter (Meduza.io, July 14). Google also was forced to remove about half a million links from search results based on the requirements of Roskomnadzor and the new Russian law aimed at combating virtual private networks (VPN—a means of circumventing local firewalls) (Cnews.ru, July 22).

Russia and the Technological Race in an Era of Great Power Competition

Emerging and disruptive technologies (EDTs) are often perceived as carrying the potential to revolutionize governmental structures, economies, militaries, and entire societies. Russian leadership shares that belief. The Kremlin perceives the ability to innovate as a capability of a great power, helping to achieve the goals in strategic competition. Russia recognizes that EDTs will be fundamental to the country’s overall military deterrence and defense posture and will also allow the regime to increase control over Russian society. Therefore, Russia joining the technological race seems less of a choice and more of an existential necessity for both external and internal reasons.

Trends in the Technological Race

Although a new era of “great power competition” has invited comparisons with the Cold War, today’s strategic competition between the United States, Russia, and China—with multiple simultaneous competitions under different or overlapping sets of rules—is more complex and unpredictable than the previous U.S.-Soviet rivalry. Long-term economic interdependencies coexist with core strategic disagreements, while ideological and institutional contests focus on the making and interpretation of rules and norms. Consequently, the ways and means of engaging in strategic competitions vary from pursuing security and prosperity through cooperative and institutional terms strictly in the economic arena, to sharp political-military competition for power and status. The race for technological superiority is a central pillar of this competition, one that could potentially produce a game-changing, war-winning advantage.


Lee Fang

IN 2018, when the government awarded a massive $769 million contract to Alion Science and Technology, a defense contractor, the company promised that the money would go to “cutting edge” intelligence and technological solutions “that directly support the warfighter.”

The Alion contract supports work from the Remote Sensing Center, an intelligence hub that assists the military with ground, maritime, and airborne intelligence. Much of the work, records show, went to subcontractors such as Venntel, a firm that hoovers up location data from smartphones, and Leidos, a technology firm that services a variety of weapons systems and intelligence agencies.

But part of the money embedded in that contract also flowed to the nation’s foremost hawkish think tanks, which routinely advocate for higher Pentagon budgets and a greater projection of America’s military force.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies, or CSIS, and the Pacific Forum are just two of the independent research institutes that were given parts of the $769 million to Alion Science as subcontractors. (The others — the Russia Research Network Limited, Center for Advanced China Research, and Center for European Policy Analysis — are less prominent.) The indirect funding, channeled through a contract meant for advancing the government’s warfighting ability, is unusual among the many Pentagon grants that flow to research institutes.

Military Intel Officials Highlight Efforts to Counter Online Disinformation

Brandi Vincent

“Watching Facebook and Reddit and Twitter and [Russian social media site] VK and [Chinese search engine and internet company] Baidu after and during the Afghanistan mission—everyone should take a look,” Army G-2 Senior Advisor for Science and Technology, and Innovation, Alex Miller noted. “It's a great example of what happens when we have a serious traumatic issue that we're trying to respond to in real-time, and our adversaries are deliberately messaging. They're putting out malign influence messages. They're putting out misinformation. They're putting out true information, just spinning it. So all of that is out there, and it's really hard to do anything about it if you don't understand what's happening.”

Miller joined top officials from the Space Force, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Corps during a panel at the Intelligence and National Security Summit hosted by INSA and AFCEA.

The G-2 in Miller’s title refers to certain military intelligence staff in the Army. He said one of the routes personnel take to confront timely, malicious efforts to spread falsities online involves the OODA loop—a four-step approach to decision-making established by military insiders meaning to observe, orient, decide and act. Army insiders, he noted, are also figuring out what to do in this realm under the auspices of “information advantage,” or a concept the Defense Department is embracing that has evolved from information warfare.