26 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.

Cyber Weapons – A Weapon of War?

 Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)

The character of warfare has changed fundamentally over the last decade. In the past, it was essential for an adversary nation or insurgent to physically bring weapons to bear during combat. That requirement is no longer a necessity. In cyber operations, the only weapons that need to be used are bits and bytes. In this new era of warfare, logistics issues that often restrict and limit conventional warfare and weaponry are not impediments. This new weaponry moves at the speed of light, is available to every human on the planet and can be as surgical as a scalpel or as devastating as a nuclear bomb.

Cyber attacks in various forms have become a global problem. Cyber weapons are low-cost, low-risk, highly effective and easily deployable globally. This new class of weapons is within reach of many countries, extremist or terrorist groups, non-state actors, and even individuals. Cyber crime organisations are developing cyber weapons effectively. The use of offensive Cyber operations by nation-states directly against another or by co-opting cyber criminals has blurred the line between spies and non-state malicious hackers. New entrants, both nation-states and non-state actors have unmatched espionage and surveillance capabilities with significant capabilities. They are often the forerunners for criminal financial gain, destruction and disruption operations. Progressively, we see non-state actors including commercial entities, developing capabilities that were solely held by a handful of state actors.

China and Pakistan See Eye to Eye on the Taliban—Almost

Derek Grossman

As the dust settles on the Taliban’s reconquest of Afghanistan, regional neighbors are adjusting their policies to take the new geostrategic reality into account. Among these countries are the self-proclaimed “iron brothers”—China and Pakistan. The good news for Beijing and Islamabad is that their respective policies on Taliban-run Afghanistan broadly align. But one particularly touchy and important area of policy—countering security threats from terrorists, separatists, and those labeled as such, especially by China—could become a notable sore point in an otherwise close Chinese-Pakistani relationship. In fact, if the Taliban abandon their much-repeated promise not to allow Afghanistan to serve as a platform for international terrorism once again, China and Pakistan’s decades-long “all-weather partnership” will be tested more than at any time in its history. And it seems entirely plausible that the Taliban will change their mind on terrorism—or turn out unable to control it.

China and Pakistan have both welcomed the Taliban back to power. They will have a friendly partner in Afghanistan who can complicate decision-making for India, a mutual adversary. Since last summer, China and India have been engaged in a military standoff over their disputed border in the Himalayas. Trust between Beijing and New Delhi is virtually nonexistent, and the last thing India needs is another front to worry about. The U.S.-supported former Afghan government was a good friend of India, whereas the Pakistan-supported Taliban—especially if they align with China as well—are likely to become India’s adversaries or even bitter enemies.

Can Social Media Bring Justice for Women in Pakistan?

Hajira Maryam

The killing of a 27-year-old woman in Islamabad in July has sparked an unprecedented furor in Pakistan that hasn’t let up. Noor Mukadam was the daughter of a former diplomat and the man suspected of killing her, Zahir Jaffer, is the son of a business tycoon. Jaffer and his parents, who are accused of alleged involvement in covering up the crime, are in jail awaiting trial. The killing has stirred ongoing outrage on social media, where women—and many men, too—have found an outlet for their frustration with Pakistan’s systemic gender-based violence.

This month, Mukadam’s case was transferred to a special court for a speedy trial. New evidence against Jaffer and his family is surfacing nearly every day, including a police report underscoring that his parents were aware of the killing. Some of Mukadam’s friends organized a protest outside the Islamabad High Court last week to demand justice as the court weighed whether to grant Jaffer’s parents release on bail. Their petition was ultimately denied.

Meanwhile, Jaffer and his family are already facing a trial by social media, and online activists have made clear that an unfair legal outcome will not be tolerated. Mukadam’s killing has stirred a massive response among Pakistan’s civil society that could have ripple effects for women’s rights. In 2018, the #MeToo movement catalyzed some change in Pakistan, but defamation lawsuits against victims have stalled its progress. Mukadam’s case has galvanized a similar feminist movement, with a broader call for social justice.

Helping the Taliban but not Myanmar detrimental to Western interests

Brahma Chellaney

No sooner had the Taliban completed their lightning-quick conquest of Afghanistan than U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that Washington was ready to work on "counterterrorism" with the same marauding Islamist force that has so much American blood on its hands.

No less shocking was the statement from the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, that it is "possible" the U.S. will coordinate with the Taliban to conduct counterterrorism strikes on other Islamist terrorists.

British Chief of Defense Staff Gen. Nick Carter called the Taliban -- responsible for the killing of more than 2,000 American soldiers and hundreds of allied troops -- "country boys" that "live by a code of honor and a standard." Carter's claim that the Taliban have "changed" and "want an Afghanistan that is inclusive for all" has already been contradicted.

The Taliban's all-male regime of hard-core extremists is a who's who of international terrorism, with 17 of the 33 cabinet ministers on the United Nations' terrorism-related sanctions list, and four former Guantanamo Bay inmates and several others who remain U.S.-designated global terrorists. The regime is headed by Mohammad Hassan Akhund, a U.N.-listed terrorist and architect of the 2001 destruction of the monumental Buddhas of Bamiyan.

China and the United States Could Sabotage EU Emission Efforts Again

Ludovica Meacci

When it comes to environmental governance, the European Union is one of the most ambitious actors in the international arena. Sustainability has always been a cornerstone of its policies, and Brussels takes pride in being recognized as a “leading proponent of international action.”

However, despite a high level of domestic undertaking, the ambition and success of European green policies increasingly depend on other countries’ commitments to reduce carbon emissions. If Brussels aspires to be a catalyst for international action, diffusing its policies to third countries, it needs to convince others to follow its lead toward a more sustainable future. One big way to do that is the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM), a policy introduced this July but has faced substantial opposition from both Beijing and Washington.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has made clear that reducing greenhouse gas emissions faster represents an unavoidable priority. The commission has said its flagship project, the European Green Deal, aims to reconcile the economy with the planet, so Europe’s “man on the moon” moment paves the way for European global leadership on green matters.

China’s Leaders Are Having Fun With Us. Who Can Blame Them?

Thomas L. Friedman

Anyone who says that China’s President Xi Jinping does not have a sense of humor is definitely not following the news from the Pacific these days.

China last week applied for membership in the Trans-Pacific Partnership — the trade deal that was originally negotiated by President Barack Obama precisely to counter China’s economic power in the Pacific. Unfortunately, President Donald Trump promptly tore it up rather than learn what it was about and get Congress to ratify it, and the Democrats have since then made no move to revive the deal, known as the TPP.

Beijing applying to join the TPP is the diplomatic equivalent of the U.S. asking to be a member of China’s “belt and road” trade and investment initiative in Asia, or Russia applying to be a member of the new NAFTA because it controls part of the Arctic north of Canada. In other words, a deliciously mischievous ploy.

But it’s a ploy that exposes a real weakness in U.S. foreign policymaking toward China, which has become the biggest challenger to American pre-eminence in setting the rules of today’s international system in both trade and diplomacy.

The Biden administration just stalled China’s advance in the Indo-Pacific

Robert D. Kaplan

Culture and tradition matter. The Anglosphere is a real grouping that comprises elements of trust going back decades and centuries. The agreement between the United States, Britain and Australia to build the latter nation eight nuclear-powered submarines effectively erects a core Anglo-Saxon military alliance fitted to a multicultural and globalized world. This is nothing less than the Atlantic Charter finally extended to the Pacific, eight decades later. Just as Britain has served since before World War II as a geopolitical platform for the United States close to mainland Europe, Australia, situated at the confluence of the Pacific and Indian oceans, will now do the same for the Indo-Pacific region close to mainland China.

There are few things more hidden and precious in the U.S. defense arsenal than the production process for nuclear submarines. The United States shared those secrets only once before, with Britain in 1958, and is doing it again, for the second time, with Australia. This builds on the long-standing Five Eyes intelligence-sharing agreement among the three countries that also extends to the other two Anglo-Saxon nations, Canada and New Zealand, whose geographies and small populations make them geopolitically less relevant.

This new and de facto Anglo-Saxon alliance effectively joins NATO to the Indo-Pacific through Britain. In doing so, it alerts our other Pacific allies, notably Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam and Singapore, that the United States is more capable than they previously assumed at keeping them from being “Finlandized” by China. This will further incentivize them to stand up to Beijing. The same goes for India, which suffered a geopolitical setback with the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. In one bold move, the Biden administration has stalled, perhaps even reversed, the seemingly inevitable and creeping geopolitical advance of China over the Indo-Pacific.

Xi Jinping’s New Political Economy: Part 1

François Godement

The Rationale
Every day, new rules and moves are bringing Xi Jinping one step closer to regaining complete control of China's economy and society. One aspect of Xi’s psychology, like Mao’s, is how he can turn on a dime, how little past commitments to partners are worth and how much he remains shaped by his initial years of struggle, something he seldom forgets to bring up. Still, we had all become complacent: we knew he wasn’t a fan of the large-scale market economy, but he seemed perfectly at ease with hybrid conglomerates and national champions that have consistently delivered China’s fast growth. We understood his anti-corruption campaigns as first and foremost a political tool against real or potential opponents. We also saw his initial proclamations of economic reform as largely stillborn. We saw China’s increasing global economic leverage as key to Xi’s ambition for his mandate. As regards domestic economic policies, they still followed the stop-and-go budget and credit cycle of previous reform decades. Where Xi differed was in the strength of his red and nationalistic political rhetoric, in the additional boost given to high tech developments also started by his predecessors, and by a "take no prisoner" attitude to any potential challenger, at home or abroad.

It turns out we were wrong. Xi Jinping is now changing the face of China’s political economy. And it is not in the direction of market reform that China’s international partners awaited for years before giving up hope. In doing this, he is ready to incur risks beyond anything his predecessors had been willing to accept since Mao’s death. After describing the purely political face of this revolution, the economic aspect needs to be equally scrutinized.

Israel Isn’t Strong Enough to Attack Iran

Sajjad Safaei

Not for the first time in recent memory, Israel wants the world to know it is ready and willing to militarily strike Iran—alone if it has to.

In recent weeks, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz has twice spoken of Israel’s readiness to strike Iran militarily to prevent it from advancing is nuclear program. “I do not rule out the possibility that Israel will have to take action in the future in order to prevent a nuclear Iran,” he said at a briefing of foreign ambassadors and envoys. And as though to add to the alarmist mood, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of General Staff Aviv Kochavi claimed that the “progress in the Iranian nuclear program has led the IDF to speed up its operational plans” for an attack on the country and that a recently-approved “defense budget … is meant to address this.” A dedicated team, he boasted, had been assembled to boost preparation for a strike on Iranian nuclear facilities should such a strike be ordered by Israel’s political leadership. For his part, Israeli Prime Minister Neftali Bennett has said his country is ready to “act alone” against Iran if it ever feels the need to do so. He made the remarks after an attack on an Israeli-managed tanker off the coast of Oman, for which Tel Aviv and its allies blamed Iran.

To be sure, Israel has in the past carried out relatively limited operations against Iran—such as raids on Iranian allies in Syria and nuclear sabotage—and may continue to do so in the future. But to what extent should we believe Tel Aviv is truly ready and willing to launch a strike on Iran because of advances in the Iranian nuclear program, knowing full well that this is likely to push the two countries and their allies into war? The political and military constraints on Israeli decision-makers suggests such a military showdown is highly unlikely.

Turkey Capitalizes on Afghanistan Distraction to Attack Kurdish Forces in Syria

Elizabeth Flock

Zeynab Serekaniye was not a hardened soldier. The 26-year-old joined the all-female, Kurdish-led Women’s Protection Units, or YPJ, just nine months ago. Since the Islamic State was largely defeated in Syria in 2019, daily combat had ceased, so Serekaniye spent much of her time at her base in Tal Tamr in northeast Syria making tea for the other female fighters or reading their fortunes from leftover coffee grounds. But at night, one of the women always stayed awake to listen for the buzz of drones in the sky from their main adversary, Turkey.

When I interviewed Serekaniye for a piece about the YPJ published in the Guardian in July, she said she’d been a tomboy, growing up with four brothers. She said she never planned to join a militia, but that living in a country with increasing conflict and a growing occupation by Turkey had made it a necessity.

“It’s very difficult to see your country occupied by someone else,” Serekaniye said. She wore utilitarian clothing and liked to carry her Kalashnikov slung over her shoulder. She walked with a limp from an injury she’d gotten during training. But her earnest, often goofy manner betrayed any sense of toughness. She never saw battle.

The Middle East’s Jihadis Are Copying the Taliban Model

Anchal Vohra

The Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan has boosted the morale of numerous jihadi groups in the Middle East. But it also offers a political example to emulate—namely, an agenda more focused on local or national—as opposed to global—goals. The U.S. deal with the Taliban and subsequent withdrawal from Afghanistan suggest Washington could learn to reconcile with, and perhaps even rehabilitate, extremist groups that do not claim to be a direct threat. Jihadis in the Middle East have noticed and are hoping to eventually cut similar deals with the Biden administration.

Some analysts feel this new strategy might indeed help the United States cut costs as well as rebalance Middle East power dynamics in its favor. Others fear the links between local jihadi groups and global ones like al Qaeda—whether through direct affiliation, indirect links, or general sympathy—will be impossible to separate. Either way, the United States seems like it might be just as desperate to retreat from the Middle East as it was to pull out of Afghanistan. That makes emulating the Taliban a timely and attractive option for jihadi groups willing to claim to have reformed.

Among those groups is Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a Syrian jihadi group affiliated with al Qaeda that currently controls the last rebel-held enclave of Idlib, Syria. It was among the loudest to celebrate the Taliban’s rise to power. On the day the Taliban captured Kabul, HTS dispatched its fighters to distribute sweets in Idlib’s market squares, wave the Taliban’s flag, and chant “Allahu akbar,” or “God is great.” In a statement, the HTS officially congratulated the Taliban and promised to derive “steadfastness from such living experiences,” with an eye to recruiting more Syrians to continue fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Despite the chaos of U.S. troops leaving Afghanistan, the world still needs American leadership

John Weaver

With the 76th General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) underway, President Biden finds himself in a tenuous position. The precipitous withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces from Afghanistan and the subsequent fall of the government in Kabul has relegated the U.S. to a country that appears weak and incompetent.

That stated, this country remains the hegemonic power of the planet. Biden needs to leverage his leadership to restore America’s image quickly and his speech next week to the General Assembly could help him move in that direction.

Aside from the global pandemic and resulting economic crisis, there are other real threats to peace and stability that will likely continue into the foreseeable future; these will require U.S. leadership and cooperation among most of the countries of the world. Likewise, globalization of trade, its proliferation and inextricable linkages among most countries’ economies has made it increasingly difficult in knowing whether one is a friend or foe.

This is particularly true when turning to the relationship of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) otherwise referred to as the P5: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The relationships among the five member nations are not as clear as was the case three decades ago during the Cold War when we lived in a bipolar world.

The Specious Special Relationship


NEW YORK – Two days before the Normandy landings in June 1944, Charles de Gaulle demanded the right to govern France after it was liberated by the Allies. Franklin D. Roosevelt, who detested de Gaulle, had no intention of agreeing to this. Winston Churchill, who rather admired de Gaulle’s illusions of grandeur, sided with Roosevelt. He told the Free French leader that if he had to choose between de Gaulle and Roosevelt, he would always choose Roosevelt.

Churchill’s attitude was entirely understandable. Europe was occupied by Nazi Germany. The Free French were largely a symbolic force. And Britain was one of the three major Allied powers. Later, however, Britain’s choice to cling to the United States come what may (with one or two exceptions, including the Suez crisis in 1956 and the Balkan war in the 1990s) came with a heavy price.1

Flush with wartime victory, Britain turned down every opportunity to shape European institutions in the 1950s, and when Prime Minister Harold Macmillan concluded in the early 1960s that Britain could remain a serious country only within the European Economic Community, de Gaulle stood in his way. British membership of the EEC was vetoed by the general in 1963, and again in 1967.

State Department Plans ‘China House’ to Counter Beijing

Jack Detsch

The U.S. State Department is planning to expand the number of officials dedicated to monitoring China, a bid to track Beijing’s growing footprint in key countries around the world. The changes, which could include adding between 20 to 30 staff members, would include a boost for regional China “watch” officers: a category of officials first created during the Trump administration to track Beijing’s activities around the world under the State Department’s regional bureaus.

The effort to carve out a more central China desk at State, termed “China House” by some in Washington, follows a move at the U.S. Defense Department to create a central hub to handle Washington and Beijing’s military relationship. The State Department initiative would add officers in both Washington as well as to embassies around the world to monitor China’s activities in specific countries, according to current and former officials familiar with the matter.

One official said the State Department is also looking at adding more staff to track China’s procurement of emerging technologies and efforts to tackle climate change. A State Department spokesperson declined to comment.

When the White House Changed Hands, It Changed Tone but Not Policies

Elise Labott

U.S. President Joe Biden’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday seemed a throwback to happier times in which the United States and its allies were in lockstep. His renewed commitment to international cooperation against the world’s ills such as COVID-19, climate change, and creeping authoritarianism was a sharp break from former President Donald Trump’s naked isolationism—rhetorically, at least. In Biden’s telling, the United States is “back at the table,” and the country “will not go it alone.”

But eight months into his presidency, Biden has yet to turn that rhetoric into policy. He might have scorned Trump’s “America first” approach to the world, but he’s doing his best to carry on Trump’s legacy on everything from foreign policy to trade and immigration.

Biden’s promise not to “go it alone” must have sounded a little rich to the French, who are still seething over being blindsided by Washington’s deal with the United Kingdom to provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines. That secret deal nixed a French contract to build new submarines for Australia signed five years ago. After making efforts to woo European allies who’d been bruised by four years of the Trump administration, Biden’s handling of the matter was at best clumsy and at worst worthy of his predecessor.

It’s time to break up the military-industrial complex

Katrina vanden

Two days after the United States withdrew from Afghanistan, the House Armed Services Committee voted to set the Pentagon’s 2022 budget. Given that U.S. officials claim to be winding down decades-long wars, even maintaining current levels of military spending would seem a mystifying choice. But the committee didn’t just vote to maintain current spending levels. It voted to increase them by a whopping $24 billion.

Which begs the question: Are we spending this money because we need to, even though our military budget is already higher than those of the next 11 largest countries combined? Or are there other incentives at play?

Ties between the government and the private sector — what President Dwight D. Eisenhower famously called the “military-industrial complex” — form the foundations of our national defense. Since 9/11, between one-third and half of the nearly $14 trillion the Pentagon has spent went to for-profit defense contractors. Dozens of members of Congress and their spouses own millions of dollars’ worth of stock in those companies.

Why the Fine Words of Biden’s U.N. Speech Rang Hollow


President Joe Biden delivered his first address to the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday morning, a speech of fine words but discordant resonances. He hailed “the noble mission of this institution” and reaffirmed the central role of “partners and allies,” declaring that “our own success is bound up with others succeeding as well.”

The speech must have struck many in the chamber as a refreshing contrast to Donald Trump’s final address to the Assembly, a seven-minute drone of hectoring and whining that dissed the very concept of mutual security. Still, Biden couldn’t drown out the hubbub over America’s actions—Biden’s actions—of the past several weeks, notably the bungled pullout from Afghanistan and the backroom deal to displace France as the supplier of submarines for Australia.

It wasn’t the actions themselves that caused rancor—there was a good case for leaving Afghanistan, and the Australians were looking to back out of the deal with France, whose submarines were technically inferior, behind schedule, and way over cost. Rather, it was that Biden announced the moves without first consulting the allies, whose central importance he was now lauding before most of the world’s heads of state.

Congo renews push to resolve Nile dam dispute

Muhammed Magdy

CAIRO — After more than five months since the last round of negotiations on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) failed in Kinshasa in April, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is seeking to revive talks between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia in a bid to solve the decadelong dispute over the controversial dam.

On Sept. 15, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the DRC Christophe Lutundula Apala arrived in Cairo as part of his tour to the three disputing parties as part of efforts to revive the tripartite negotiations on the GERD.

Abbas Sharaki, a professor of geology and water resources at Cairo University, believes there is a renewed Congolese will to resolve the issue. He told Al-Monitor Apala’s visit comes after months of calm surrounding the GERD dossier after the issue was last raised at the UN Security Council on July 8.

The visit, he added, also coincided with the UN Security Council’s statement on Sept. 15 that called on the concerned parties to resume negotiations “within a reasonable time frame.”

Competition and Cooperation in the Maritime Domain

Competition over the world’s maritime resources and territorial disputes over maritime borders are becoming increasingly prominent in international affairs. At the same time, depleted fish stocks and polluted waters make the question of how countries can collectively manage maritime resources a central one, particularly in discussions over climate change.

Against the backdrop of heightened competition in the maritime domain, China has been rapidly modernizing and expanding its naval capabilities thanks to an unprecedented shipbuilding effort. By contrast, the U.S. Navy is struggling to meet its ambitious goals toward expanding its fleet while nevertheless maintaining a demanding operational tempo.

Meanwhile, the resources that lie beneath the ocean’s surface are increasingly at risk of overexploitation. Illegal fishing is devastating already diminished global stocks and may soon present a severe crisis to countries whose populations depend on seafood for their diets. In the South China Sea, competition over fishing rights as well as offshore oil and gas reserves has been a major driver of tensions and conflict.

From the Kabul airlift to BTS at the UN: South Korea’s middle power role

Andrew Yeo

Lost in the flurry of media coverage on Afghanistan last month was a bright piece of news featuring Afghan families, including dozens of children clutching pink or white teddy bears, exiting South Korea’s Incheon International Airport on August 26. They were part of the 391 Afghans airlifted out of Kabul by the South Korean military following the city’s fall to the Taliban. Deemed as “persons of special merit,” many of the Afghans had worked as translators, medical assistants, vocational trainers, and engineers with the South Korean government. What does the U.S. withdrawal mean for allies such as South Korea who offered support for U.S. missions in Afghanistan (and also Iraq), and more significantly, what should South Korea’s broader role be in an increasingly “multiplex world”?

The frantic withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan and the recent passing of the 20th anniversary of 9/11 have put spotlights on the wisdom of U.S. intervention and on America’s role in the world in the 21st century thus far. This in turn has spurred further debate about the best course of action for U.S. foreign policy going forward. Whether one advocates for greater restraint or greater activism on the global stage, however, most experts seem to agree that U.S. allies can do more to support regional stability and global order.

How A Rising China Complicates Europe’s Future

James Jay Carafano Silviu Nate and Oana-Antonia Colibasanu

Beijing’s relentless drive to transform itself into a global power places it in direct competition with the U.S. That has affected both nations’ relations with regional powers, such as Russia and Turkey, and those effects will continue to ripple across Europe. Along the borderlands, from the Baltics to the Balkans, friction with China will only increase.

The China Problem

China’s economic diplomacy is the most astringent irritant in great power politics. Under the Belt and Road Initiative, Beijing established the 17+1 (now 16+1 since Lithuania pulled out in May) cooperation mechanism with Central and Eastern European countries stretching between the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea, and the Adriatic. Chinese investment has focused mainly on infrastructure such as the transportation, energy, and telecommunications sectors.

From 2009-2019, the arrangement has generated financial flows estimated at around $13.5 billion (two-thirds of this in the last five years). This figure includes not just foreign direct investment, but also development loans, grants, mergers, and acquisitions of local assets or through long-term concession agreements.

The Global North's Great Test


EDINBURGH – With low-income countries in Africa and elsewhere still imploring rich countries to stop stockpiling millions of unused COVID-19 vaccines, there are still real doubts as to whether the United States and Europe will honor the promise made at this year’s G7 summit to vaccinate the world by the end of 2022.

US President Joe Biden’s administration has said that the Global North can deliver enough doses for everyone by next September’s United Nations General Assembly. But the gulf between the vaccine-rich and vaccine-poor has grown so vast that under 2% of adults in low-income countries are fully vaccinated, compared to over 50% of adults in most high-income countries. Worse, millions of doses in high-income countries are now being wasted because they are not being used in time.

For many months earlier this year, Western governments could at least say that there was not enough vaccine supply to meet global demand. But, we are now producing 1.5 billion vaccines every month. As I write this, around 300 million doses of vaccines are lying unused, hoarded in warehouses or on their way to fulfill delivery contracts that have been monopolized by Western countries. As a result, the World Health Organization’s September 2021 goal of vaccinating at least 10% of the population in every low-income country – the basic level needed to cover health workers and the elderly – remains unrealized.

Why Australia Spurned France

George Friedman

The decision by the Australian government to join a U.S.-British consortium to help construct a nuclear submarine capability enraged France, whose previous efforts to that end were abandoned. To smooth things over, Australia explained that there had been significant delays in France’s work, citing cultural issues such as France’s propensity to take the month of August for vacation and to fail to show up at meetings on time. (More important is that Canberra believed a nuclear sub program met its needs better than diesel-electric ones did.) It was a huge contract, and I always enjoy France’s ability to be outraged, as well as Australia’s inability to match it.

Behind the noise, Australia’s decision was about geopolitics, not contracts. When the agreement with France was signed in 2016, and in the years prior to 2016 when the deal was negotiated, the world looked different than it does today. According to some, China was evolving economically, focusing on international trade and evolving toward some sort of internal liberalism. China was a huge customer for Australian minerals, and Chinese students were flooding Australian universities. Australia saw the decision to build a nuclear submarine fleet as part of the modernization of its fleet rather than a preparation for some battle to come. The Australians were aligned with the United States but were not obliged to buy American technology. Nor did Canberra have to consider the issue in the context of maintaining its supply lines.

Russia’s “Hybrid Aggression” against Georgia: The Use of Local and External Tools

Natia Seskuria

August 2021 marks the 13-year anniversary of the August War of 2008, when Russian troops invaded Georgian territories. This five-day war changed the regional security landscape in the South Caucasus and inflicted immense political and economic damage in Georgia. Since then, Georgia has been slowly fading away from the international agenda. Meanwhile, Russia has shifted from the use of conventional military means to hybrid tools that aim to reestablish the Kremlin’s influence over Tbilisi in a more subtle and cost-efficient way.

During the war, the Kremlin established full control over the occupied Tskhinvali region (the so-called South Ossetia) and Abkhazia, which together constituted 20 percent of Georgian territory. Impunity over its aggression against Georgia gave the Kremlin the confidence to continuously violate the six-point ceasefire agreement mediated by the former French president Nicolas Sarkozy. Since then, Russia has been actively militarizing and using the occupied regions as leverage against Tbilisi while also preventing international monitoring missions from accessing these regions.

The Russian and Ukrainian Spring 2021 War Scare

Mykola Bielieskov

The massing of troops and hardware by Russia along its border with Ukraine in April 2021 brought back memories of Russia’s incursion into Ukraine in 2014–15 and raised fears of another round of Russian aggression against its neighbor. Although the worst-case scenario did not materialize, these events require close attention and in-depth research because they could happen again should Russia’s leadership assess that their national security interests are at stake once more.

Several observations arise from a detailed analysis of this spring’s war scare between Russia and Ukraine. First, statements on the number of Russian troops involved were misleading in certain respects—the majority of troops in question were already at Ukraine’s borders from past incursions. Second, Russian armed forces involved in these exercises practiced complex scenarios, including encirclement of the Ukrainian Joint Forces Operation in Donbas and blocking of Ukrainian access to the Black Sea. Third, Russian public justifications of the movement of troops and hardware near Ukraine’s border were unpersuasive upon closer look. It seems that a major driver of Russian actions was the desire to send signals to the new U.S. administration—namely that the Biden administration should not attempt to challenge the status quo vis-à-vis Ukraine by bringing it closer to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) or aid in the liberation of parts of occupied Donbas. Finally, though Russia might have succeeded in sending specific signals to the Biden administration, the intended effect backfired in the case of Ukraine.

Artificial Intelligence is Good at Less Exciting Military Roles Too

John Breeden II

I’ve received a lot of feedback regarding my last few columns about drones, simulations and new uses for artificial intelligence. My most recent column about creating an AI that could task the kind of swarm intelligence found in bee colonies to do some amazing things, like controlling weather satellites, in particular generated a lot of buzz.

Much of the feedback I received was from federal agencies and IT companies working on futuristic AI programs. I’ll probably be highlighting some of them in the near future. But there was also a note from a company called Hypergiant about how they were working with the Army’s Robotic Combat Vehicle program not for some advanced combat project, but simply using AI to help with predictive maintenance tasks.

Founded in 2018, Hypergiant is an enterprise AI company focused on developing world-changing technology to solve the world's biggest problems in the areas of space, defense and critical infrastructure.

Namejs versus Zapad: Military Exercises on Both Sides of the Frontline

Lukas Milevski
Source Link

Autumn is for military exercises. In September two major exercises have occurred in relative close geographic proximity, one in Latvia and the other in western Russia and Belarus. Latvia’s annual large-scale exercise Namejs 2021 kicked off on August 30 and runs until October 3. Russia’s much larger-scale exercise Zapad-2021 began on September 9 with a formal opening ceremony, actual military maneuvers beginning only the following day, and concluded on September 16. Each exercise reflects its respective country’s key security concerns and sought to test national and allied capabilities for responding to identified threats.
Namejs 2021

The annual Namejs exercises are consistently the largest in Latvia and its 2021 iteration is no different, indeed possibly even more ambitious than in previous years. Partially this is a result of its geographical scope. The exercises have moved beyond the Ādaži training grounds and surrounding municipalities to also take place in and around other cities and towns throughout all four of Latvia’s provinces and in the very streets of the capital Riga (prompting one video of the exercise to go viral and leading to an apology from the Ministry of Defense).

Namejs’ ambition is also reflected in its two-phase scenario. In the first half of September, the first phase consisted of responding to a hybrid threat, whereas later in September the exercise transitioned to countering a conventional military threat. The breadth of the exercise has required the involvement of far more than just the military; it includes law enforcement, emergency medical services, local governments, and private businesses. The complexity of the exercise has resulted in a number of subordinate or parallel exercises taking place to focus on specific elements of Namejs 2021.

US Air Force Developing Combat Tanker-Airlifter that Can Land on Water


The U.S. Air Force is working on detachable pontoons and other modifications for its MC-130J Commando II that could enable special forces to rely less on land-based runways in future conflicts, the service said Monday.

The Commando II will be outfitted with a “removable amphibious float modification” to allow water-based operations—either inserting forces or extracting them or even delivering supplies, including fuel.

For the last several years the Air Force, Marine Corps, Army, and Navy have looked at how to modify their footprint in the Pacific to be able to absorb and respond to an attack. The services have looked at dispersing forces from large, vulnerable airfields and military bases in Japan to small island-based airfields throughout the region, but those airstrips would still be vulnerable.

A modified Commando II or other aircraft that are not reliant on land-based runways “will allow for the dispersal of assets within a Joint Operations Area," said Maj. Kristen Cepak, the Technology Transition Branch Chief for Air Force Special Operations Command. "This diaspora complicates targeting of the aircraft by our adversaries and limits aircraft vulnerability at fixed locations."

Nuclear Weapons, Deterrence and What’s Next


OPINION — “Right now, we can hold any target on the planet at risk today. We do. And we do that every day, and everybody knows it. That’s the nuclear weapons that are deployed every day. The adversaries that we face cannot do anything about those nuclear weapons and so that holds everything at risk.”

That’s Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Hyten, speaking late, in an hour-long interview eight days ago, with the Brookings Institution’s specialist in defense strategy, Michael O’Hanlon. Hyten, a former head of Strategic Command (STRATCOM) who is set to retire soon, followed up with the downside of the U.S. position saying, “But if your only ability to hold a target at risk is a nuclear weapon, that is a bad place to be. That is a really bad place to be because that runs the risk of an escalation in a war that we don’t want to risk.”

Hyten then shared an anecdote, saying that as STRATCOM Commander, after he first briefed now-Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley for an hour on the complexities of the U.S. strategic nuclear weapons program, Milley asked for an explanation “in simple English. ‘Why do we have nuclear weapons?’ My answer,” Hyten said, “was one sentence – to keep people from using nuclear weapons on us.”