3 October 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.

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.

Pakistan’s “Moderate Taliban” Strategy Won’t Hold Up—For Anyone


Since the Taliban captured Kabul over a month ago, Pakistan’s military and civilian leaders have been desperately trying to convince the world that the Taliban are a newer, more moderate version of the Islamist militant group that ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. Downplaying international fears about the egregiousness of Taliban rule, Pakistani leaders have claimed that the Taliban are, this time, open to sharing power and protecting basic human rights—if only the international community would give them time and money.

The Taliban have been in power for six weeks, but their actions clearly belie these claims of moderation. The Taliban have violated each of the four key promises they made to the international community: the creation of an inclusive government, general amnesty for those who had worked in the previous government or with U.S. forces, the protection of women’s rights, and the denial of Afghan soil to transnational terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda.

But having long nurtured the Taliban as a proxy to exert its influence over Afghanistan, Pakistan’s government continues its feverish diplomatic efforts to convince the international community of the group’s newly found moderation. Even so, its bid to legitimize the Taliban’s usurpation of state power in Afghanistan may be undermined by the group’s intransigence.

America Isn’t Ready to Fight the Islamic State in Afghanistan

Anchal Vohra

The one clear advantage of the Taliban sweeping into power last month essentially unopposed was they seemed to spare Afghanistan more unnecessary bloodshed. But just as the Taliban ceased their own fighting, another brutal jihadi group began to unleash mayhem across the country. The Islamic State-Khorasan, the Islamic State’s Afghan offshoot, has launched at least a dozen terrorist attacks since the change of guard in Kabul.

One of those attacks struck Kabul’s airport on Aug. 26, which was packed with thousands of people at the time. More than 170 Afghans and 13 U.S. service personnel were killed. It was a classic terror tactic deployed by Islamic State-Khorasan to reintroduce itself to the global media, saying although the Taliban might have gone soft and reconciled with the Americans, Islamic State-Khorasan, as the true adherent of puritanical Islam, will not. U.S. President Joe Biden responded by using drones to kill people he claimed were the planners of the attack. The U.S. strike, however, did nothing to discourage the group from carrying out more attacks. A few days later, Islamic State-Khorasan targeted the Taliban and civilians in a spate of attacks in Jalalabad, the capital of Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar Province and a stronghold of the group.

It's time to pull the plug on our toxic relationship with Pakistan


There’s a familiar saying: Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. “Fool me three times, however, and all is forgiven” has become a good description of U.S. policy toward Pakistan in the post-Cold War era.

For more than three decades, our supposed ally in South Asia has systematically lied to and manipulated successive presidential administrations — Republican and Democratic — in ways that have made the U.S. and the world less safe. Islamabad has been the recipient of more than $33 billion in American assistance since 2002, including $14 billion to combat terrorism and insurgents in the region even while Pakistan has been busily doing the opposite.

In the wake of the debacle of withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan, it’s time to radically reassess our policy toward Pakistan. It’s time for policymakers, past and present, to explain why we continue to provide assistance to a country that cozies up to our enemies; has proliferated nuclear technology to some of the worst governments on earth; and has betrayed our friendship time and again.

Why Is South Korea Strengthening Ties with India and Southeast Asia?



For most of its history, South Korea has kept its diplomacy focused predominately on major powers around the Korean Peninsula. China, Japan, Russia, and the United States have an outsized impact on South Korea given their proximity, global economic and strategic influence, and integral role in South Korea’s most pressing foreign policy and security challenges, like inter-Korean peace.

However, as U.S.-China frictions intensify, South Korea is increasingly concerned about being entangled in great power competition. This has been especially true since 2017, when China launched a campaign of economic coercion in retaliation for Seoul’s decision to allow the deployment of a U.S. missile defense system in South Korea. Seoul experienced firsthand Beijing’s willingness to weaponize economic ties to influence its strategic decisions.

To lessen these vulnerabilities, Seoul is looking to diversify its economic and strategic partnerships in the region by strengthening ties with India and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) under South Korea’s New Southern Policy (NSP). The policy’s goal is to elevate ties with India and Southeast Asia to the same level as South Korea’s relationships with China, Japan, Russia, and the United States.

To do so, the policy focuses on deepening South Korea’s economic, political, strategic, and sociocultural cooperation with India and ASEAN members. Though South Korea has had strong ties in the region for many years, the NSP is Seoul’s first major diplomatic framework for improving ties with Southeast Asia and India.


The policy has three pillars: peace (meaning political and strategic cooperation), prosperity (meaning economic cooperation), and people (meaning sociocultural cooperation). The Presidential Committee on New Southern Policy claims that ninety-four major projects have been implemented under this framework since the policy was launched in 2017.

The policy is broad and far reaching, spanning from efforts to support small and medium enterprises expanding abroad to improving natural disaster response mechanisms. In 2020, the NSP was recalibrated and rebranded as the New Southern Policy Plus to include some policy adjustments and add new areas of emphasis in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Progress in some areas is difficult to measure, especially in just four short years since its launch and during an unprecedented pandemic. However, the policy has certainly contributed to some notable developments in South Korea’s approach to Asia. For example, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has created an ASEAN and Southeast Asian Affairs Bureau and raised it to the same level as the bureaus for China and Japan.

South Korea has also strived to expand trade in the region. The South Korean government has signed a free trade agreement with Indonesia; pursued new trade agreements with Cambodia, Malaysia, and the Philippines; and initiated discussions on upgrading trade agreements with ASEAN and India. The policy has also prioritized more emphasis on development cooperation in the region, and Seoul has committed to doubling funding for projects in Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Vietnam by 2023.


ASEAN members and India are natural partners for South Korea for a few reasons. First, South Korea already has strong ties to these countries, particularly in the economic realm. ASEAN collectively has been South Korea’s second-largest trading partner since 2017, and Vietnam alone accounts for nearly 9 percent of South Korea’s exports. Though South Korea’s trade and investment in India has been relatively stagnant in recent years, India is still South Korea’s seventh-largest export market, and the relationship has huge potential.

As South Korean companies look to move manufacturing outside of China due to the increased risk of doing business there, the low labor costs, proximity, and friendly foreign investment policies of countries like Vietnam make NSP target countries good destinations for South Korean investments in manufacturing. As such, India and Southeast Asian countries are natural destinations to help South Korea diversify its economic portfolio.

These countries also share similar concerns about Chinese influence in the region and a desire to mitigate the uncertainties and risks posed by great power competition. Like South Korea, India and ASEAN have also shied away from directly challenging China to avoid drawing its ire. Instead, Seoul has used the NSP to emphasize improving economic security by diversifying South Korea’s economic partnerships and enhancing cooperation on nontraditional and human-centered security issues like environmental security and public health rather than sensitive regional security issues.


The NSP is highly complementary to U.S. interests in the Indo-Pacific. At the summit meeting between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and U.S. President Joe Biden in Washington in May 2021, the two leaders established that the significance of the U.S.-South Korea relationship “extends far beyond the Korean Peninsula” and agreed to “work to align [South Korea’s] New Southern Policy and the United States’ vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific.” Their joint statement emphasized shared goals to expand “regional coordination on law enforcement, cybersecurity, public health and promoting a green [pandemic] recovery,” while also seeking to enhance connectivity and digital innovation in ASEAN countries and to collaborate on development in the Mekong subregion.

The joint statement marked the Moon administration’s strongest endorsement of the United States’ Indo-Pacific narrative to date. But the Moon government is still reluctant to formally endorse the free-and-open Indo-Pacific rhetoric due to concerns over potential backlash from China.

Though South Korea’s alliance with the United States is very strong and the two countries share similar values and perspectives on security challenges in the region, South Korea is constrained by the geostrategic realties of being so close to China—both physically and economically—and by China’s integral role in managing relations with North Korea.


South Korea’s approach to the minilateral Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (commonly called the Quad) has been similar to its approach to the free-and-open Indo-Pacific narrative—work with partners practically while avoiding open endorsement of their regional strategies.

The Quad members—Australia, India, Japan, and the United States—have been careful not to explicitly call out China in Quad summits. But having faced economic retaliation from China in the past, South Korea is still wary of China’s reaction to the Quad, especially as China has made its distaste for the minilateral forum clear. However, as the Quad has continued to develop and define its priorities, South Korea has shown willingness to cooperate through parallel initiatives, or in some cases to do so directly. Though South Korea is not a member of the Quad, it was a part of the Quad Plus meetings in March 2020, where it participated in talks on the pandemic response.

Last week’s first in-person Quad summit showed positive developments that will give South Korea more opportunities for convergence with the Quad. The group’s continued focus on issues like pandemic management, infrastructure development, climate change, people-to-people exchanges, and emerging technologies align naturally with South Korea’s NSP priorities.

As long as the Quad continues to avoid rocking the boat too much with Beijing, Seoul will likely continue to collaborate on shared priorities—though South Korea remains more likely to do so through bilateral coordination with the United States than by joining the Quad itself, if the opportunity to join were to arise.

Germany, Merkel and the Danger of Self-Confidence

George Friedman

Germany held an election to replace Angela Merkel, who led the German government for 16 years – through much of the implementation of the European Union, the economic crisis of 2008 and the immigration crisis of 2015. Compare her tenure with that of Konrad Adenauer. He presided over the redemption of the German soul, accepting German responsibility for the Holocaust but making certain that the Holocaust was not the final word on Germany. He changed the reality and perception of Germany from the incarnation of evil to another nation, part of the West and part of the force confronting the Soviet threat. In short, Adenauer returned Germany to the family of nations.

Above all, Merkel maintained. She oversaw the transformation of Germany into the dominant power in the European Union, a region that had been the heartland of world economic and military power. Under her stewardship, Germany become the fourth-largest economic power in the world, the arbiter of Europe and the engine that drove its economy. Perhaps most important, she did so without conjuring more than the inevitable unease about the reemergence of Germany as a European boogeyman. She helped make Germany merely another, if singularly powerful, European country. She exercised power without generating the utter terror Germany had evoked a few years before she was born.

The U.S.-India Relationship Is the Quad’s Litmus Test

Harsh V. Pant and Chirayu Thakkar

Last week, U.S. President Joe Biden hosted the leaders of Australia, India, and Japan at the White House for the first in-person summit of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad. The four leaders issued an ambitious joint statement—rather than separate ones, as in the past. The agenda focused largely on solving global challenges such as climate change and access to vaccines, signaling that the Quad is not merely a geopolitical clique, as China has asserted.

Even so, geopolitics remains important as the United States makes a foreign-policy shift in Asia. In less than six months, the Quad has become more than just a “flexible group of like-minded partners,” as the four leaders wrote in March, to boldly include issues such as peace and security in the Taiwan Strait in its remit. Last week’s summit also occurred under the shadow of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, which has dampened Europe’s optimism toward Washington.

Biden met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of the Quad summit last week. India is uniquely positioned between the western flank from which the United States appears to be retreating and the southeastern flank where it is making newer promises. Unlike with allies in Europe, these mixed signals from Washington have not yet strained New Delhi’s credulity.

Right Thinking and Self-Criticisms: Military Modernization With Chinese Communist Characteristics

Derek Solen

In mid-August the Chinese air force, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF), conducted the 10th iteration of Golden Helmet, its annual air combat competition for the PLAAF’s best fighter pilots. This year the PLAAF instituted more changes to make the competition more realistic. However, the PLAAF seems to have also used Golden Helmet 2021 to test various methods of instilling greater élan or “fighting spirit” into its fighter pilots. Such efforts are of dubious value, but they underline the fact that no matter how technically proficient the PLAAF and the Chinese military as a whole become, these forces will remain encumbered by the Chinese Communist Party’s efforts to mold the thoughts and feelings of their warriors.

Golden Helmet has evolved throughout the last decade, expanding and becoming more realistic. It began as a simple one-on-one air combat competition, but in 2014 a two-on-two dog-fighting event was added, and by this year even four-on-two dogfights were being held. From 2014 the PLAAF began regarding the infliction of a certain degree of simulated damage to an aircraft as a kill, and from 2017 it changed the focus of the competition to achieving certain missions rather than just shooting down one’s opponents – or not being shot down by them. Apparently, until 2017, if a participant could not shoot down his opponents, he would often “flee” in order to run down the clock and have the engagement end in a tie.

Why China crushed its tech giants

China's ban on all cryptocurrency transactions, announced on Friday, is just the latest of a series of bombshells that over just one year have profoundly reshaped the country's technological landscape. It is not only bitcoin miners, crypto-traders, or video gamers that have suddenly found themselves in Beijing's crosshairs. By and large it is China's largest internet platforms that have been feeling the heat. One after another, tech giants like Ant, Meituan, and Didi have been targets of antitrust probes. This has intersected with a tightening of data protection regulation, which is seen as a national security issue, and a general drive to curb capitalist excess. Ride-hailing firm Didi, for instance, hasn’t just come under antitrust scrutiny: two days after its New York IPO in June, it was forced to stop accepting new users while regulators investigated suspicions it might leak user data to the US.

Just a few years ago, China’s technology companies used to seem immune to regulation. Their CEOs were idolised. Almost every STEM student in China wanted to work in consumer tech, not hardware. The government favoured these companies, which never would have gotten so big without it. They were allowed to grow in a nurturing policy environment with no competition from overseas tech giants, enjoying what Tiffany Wong, a consultant at China-focused research firm Sinolytics, calls an “experimental Wild West period of growth”.

Coal Shortages Force Blackouts Across China

Jesse Turland

Much of northeast China has been intermittently without power since Sunday as the country comes to grips with a litany of issues, ranging from depleted coal inventories to far-reaching consequences of its national energy policy. Traffic lights and medical clinics in Jilin and Liaoning provinces have been intermittently without power, according to residents’ posts online.

Although the problem is most acute in the frigid northeast, blackouts have been occurring in at least 17 provinces nationwide, including Guangdong, Zhejiang, Shandong, Anhui, and Jiangsu.

On Sunday evening, one Jilin utility company issued a notice that electricity cuts were expected to “occur frequently” until March 2022 and would likely be “irregular, unplanned and unannounced.” Average daily temperature lows in Jilin’s capital, Changchun, are 10.8°C (51°F) in September dropping to -19°C (-2°F) in January.

China moves to join the CPTPP, but don’t expect a fast pass

Mireya Solís

China has been sending signals of interest in joining the trade agreement for a while, and at the last Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit meeting, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced that China will “favorably consider joining” CPTPP. The formal accession bid is a masterful stroke for Chinese diplomacy, even if the intended outcome of membership is far from assured.

Entry into CPTPP would consolidate China’s economic integration drive, building from its joining the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade agreement; its state-sponsored Belt and Road Initiative; and the Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. The CPTPP would be a particularly valuable feather in China’s cap as champion of economic globalization. It would reverse the persistent narrative of economic decoupling, as China would appear more centrally integrated to the world economy with an ambitious trade agreement under its belt, whilst the United States looks from the outside in, marginalized from the CPTPP of its own volition.

Some observers feel good about the prospects of China acceding to CPTPP. They argue that China is closer to CPTPP standards than usually acknowledged, that the flexibilities built into the text of the agreement will enable China to join even in areas where domestic reform is hard, and that the existing CPTPP members have a strong interest in deepening trade and investment relations with an economic giant like China.

Assessing China’s “common prosperity” campaign

Ryan Hass

Beijing’s spate of actions has sparked questions among policymakers, investors, journalists, and interested observers about what is motivating China’s actions. Why would the normally tightly controlled Chinese media communicate such sweeping changes in a ham-fisted way that would lead to over $1 trillion in market value for China-listed firms being wiped out? Is China teetering on the cusp of social upheaval, or is the leadership using a moment when it feels strong at home to make major policy adjustments?


According to China business and technology reporter Chang Che, China has 14 “crackdowns” simultaneously underway on business sectors and individuals at the time of this writing. Many — though not all — of the crackdowns fall under the umbrella of the concept of “common prosperity.” President Xi Jinping highlighted this concept during his comments to the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee for Financial and Economic Affairs on August 17, suggesting that “common prosperity” is a fundamental requirement of socialism and is necessary to balance growth and financial stability. Following its meeting, the committee called for “reasonably adjusting excess incomes” and encouraging high-income individuals and businesses to “give back more to society.”

Why Xi’s Coal Pledge Is a Big Deal

Lauri Myllyvirta

Last week, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced at the United Nations General Assembly that “China … will no more build new coal power plants abroad.” A new policy for Beijing’s overseas energy finance had been expected for months, but Xi’s statement was still surprising in its bluntness and scope. China now joins the ranks of South Korea and Japan—the only other countries that still fund coal plants abroad—that have recently pledged to end public financing for new coal power.

Beijing’s new stance will make countries that are still planning for new coal and rely on international financing—such as Indonesia, Vietnam, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, and Turkey—seriously rethink their power development plans. And now that both China and the United States are pledging support for green energy in developing countries, the move also sets the stage for an even more competitive race to build clean energy.

How big a deal is this?

For more than a decade, China has been the largest supporter of coal projects that rely on international financing. From 2010 to 2020, 180 gigawatts of China-backed coal plants were built or began construction—more than half of the global total outside of China—amounting to 1.5 times the entire coal-fired capacity of the European Union and the United Kingdom.

Looking Past China’s Rise for the Trends Shaping Asia

Under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, China has begun to more aggressively challenge America’s role as the key economic and political power in Asia. Increasingly repressive at home, Xi has not shied away from asserting China’s regional influence, positioning Beijing as the powerbroker on everything from trade routes to the ongoing efforts to denuclearize North Korea. And with its Belt and Road Initiative, China’s influence is spreading well beyond Asia, into much of Africa and even Europe. China’s ascendance is also evident in how much attention other global powers are paying to Beijing and its policies.

But while China’s rise often makes headlines, it is not the only trend shaping events in Asia. Illiberalism has become a force in democracies like India, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi rode the wave of Hindu nationalism to a massive victory in the country’s 2019 parliamentary elections. And in the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte’s electoral gains in midterm elections in 2019 left even fewer checks on his increasingly autocratic behavior. Meanwhile, Myanmar’s already faltering process of democratization came to an abrupt end in February, when the military seized power from the democratically elected government. The subsequent protests and the military’s violent crackdown in response have left the country teetering on the edge of civil war and failed state status.

Where Iraq and Syria Meet, Unrest Follows

Harith Hasan

Two years after the eradication of the caliphate claimed by the Islamic State group, the Iraqi-Syrian borderlands continue to be restless. From American and Israeli strikes on the bases of Iranian-linked militias, to Turkish airstrikes and threats, to Iran-backed militias in the region, this border remains a theater for conflicts involving states as well as nonstate and para-state actors.

Some point to this as further testimony that the artificiality of the border is the root cause of ongoing instability in the area. Based on this logic, only by redrawing these borders to create more “natural” units, with greater congruence between the populations’ cultural identities and their political entities, can such restlessness end. Many have highlighted problems that stem from this fabrication of borders in the Middle East, arguing, for example, that the main feature of Arab politics is the incongruence between the Umma (pan-Islamic or pan-Arab nation) and the Dawla (state). This is reflected in the coining of two different translations of the word nationalism in Arabic: Wataniyya (territorial nationalism) and Qawmiyya (ethnic or cultural nationalism).

The Islamic State evoked this narrative of artificiality when it spectacularly announced in 2014 the end of what it wrongly identified as the Sykes-Picot border between Iraq and Syria, hoping to achieve the long-awaited congruence between the Umma and Dawla.

Turkey’s Drones and Proxies are Turning the Tide of War

Will Smith

In the fall of 2020, as Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a brutal war in the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region, Turkish-made drones and Syrian mercenaries recruited by Turkey supported the Azerbaijani military on the front lines. While the arrival of Syrian fighters in the Caucasus may have been a shocking development, it was emblematic of the new model of hybrid warfare that Turkey has used to influence regional conflicts and advance President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s increasingly assertive foreign policy. Through the use of low-cost domestically produced drones and a proxy force of Syrian mercenaries, Turkey has turned the tides of conflicts in Syria, Libya, and the Caucasus and furthered its long-term strategic interests.

Although this approach may be an effective tool as far as the Turkish government is concerned, it has had brutal consequences for those directly impacted. From exploiting the impoverished Syrians it recruited—by lying about their salaries and how dangerous their duties would be—to slaughtering civilians with drone strikes, Turkey’s recent interventions have left a trail of suffering in their wake. Unfortunately, this model will only be used more frequently as Turkey attempts to expand its regional influence and the Turkish domestic defense industry becomes more self-sufficient.

Is Biden's Foreign Policy Failing?

Stephen M. Walt

When Joe Biden became president, many assumed his administration would manage America's relations with other countries in a disciplined, predictable, and sophisticated way. The era of self-defeating swagger and diplomacy-by-tweet would be over, and responsible public servants would be back in charge. Biden's mantra—America is back—suggested that diplomacy would replace military power as the preferred instrument of U.S. foreign policy, which is exactly what the American people say they want. Biden's team is an experienced group of mainstream figures, in sharp contrast to the neophytes and oddballs who initially staffed former President Donald Trump's foreign-policy team. Given all the above, there was every reason to expect a smoothly functioning foreign-policy operation.

It hasn't quite worked out that way. To be sure, Biden & Co. can claim some number of initial successes: rejoining the Paris climate agreement and the World Health Organization, restarting talks with Iran on its nuclear program, spearheading a global agreement to crack down on offshore tax havens, committing more vaccines to the global effort against COVID-19, and mending fences with key NATO allies at the Brussels summit in July. Plus, Biden has done more to actually make a pivot to Asia than either of his two predecessors, which is no small thing in itself. Nobody in Biden's inner circle had to resign in disgrace after three weeks in office—as Michael Flynn, Trump's first pick for national security advisor, was forced to do—and the Biden White House hasn't committed the embarrassing gaffes (such as getting the names of foreign leaders wrong in official communiques or releasing statements filled with spelling mistakes and factual errors) that were a frequent occurrence in the "snake pit" of the Trump White House.

AUKUS is deeper than just submarines

Arzan Tarapore

But while AUKUS shows a seriousness about naval power, it shows an even greater seriousness about alliances. The trilateral initiative seeks to expand an existing alliance structure — the Five Eyes intelligence alliance — into the field of leading-edge defence technology and industry. AUKUS goes much deeper than submarines — but it cannot do everything.

The Biden administration promised to prioritise strategic competition with China, and to reinvigorate Washington’s alliances. Progress on this has been positive, but incremental. Aside from some high-level visits, Biden’s most notable initiative was elevating the Quad — comprising Australia, India, Japan and the United States — to the summit level.

AUKUS is qualitatively different. The submarine deal alone enmeshes the United States and United Kingdom into the region for decades. But more ambitiously, beyond submarines, AUKUS seeks to win the technology competition with China by pooling resources and integrating supply chains for defence-related science, industry, and supply chains. This will be the decades-long and multifaceted purpose of AUKUS — a transnational project racing to seize advantages in artificial intelligence, quantum computing and cyber technology.

What’s Causing the U.K. Fuel Crisis?

Zinya Salfiti

Long lines of people at gas stations anxiously waiting to fill up their cars has become an unnerving reality in the United Kingdom in recent days, giving the government a black eye and sparking fears of another winter of discontent. As many as two-thirds of the Petrol Retailers Association’s nearly 5,500 independent retail outlets ran out of fuel as of Monday, with the rest following soon.

But it’s not actually a fuel shortage—it’s a labor shortage. For the last few months, a shortage of over 100,000 qualified truck drivers, also known as heavy goods vehicle drivers, has disrupted many industries such as food and fuel, causing ripple effects in grocery stores, restaurants, and now gas stations.

Is it because of COVID-19? Is it because of Brexit? There’s a little bit of everything behind the mess. But beyond the political upheaval, it’s bringing the country to a standstill.

What’s causing the fuel crisis?

Though the trucker shortage has been a problem in many other European countries, the U.K. has been hit particularly hard. Most fingers, especially in Europe, point directly at Brexit as the culprit. Tax changes and new, tightened immigration laws have made it more difficult and time-consuming for European Union nationals to move in and out of the country for work. Many foreign workers are seeking other less strict destinations, not just truckers.

The Role of Nuclear Weapons: Why Biden Should Declare a Policy of No First Use

Ambassador Thomas Graham Jr.

Nuclear weapons are going to be with us for a long time. Heightened nuclear-weapon fears generated by the Iran question, the North Korea issue, and the nearness of chaos caused by rapidly advancing global warming associated with climate change, as well as other issues, have made the possibility of nuclear war greater than it was 10-15 years ago. We simply must find a way to make the world a safer place. And one of the most important goals is to reduce the risk of nuclear war resulting from accidents, miscalculations, or misunderstandings. The adoption of a policy of no first use of nuclear weapons would go a long way toward this objective. With the Biden administration preparing its Nuclear Posture Review, the time may be ripe.

During World War II, the United States built the world’s first nuclear arsenal via the Manhattan Project, fearing that Nazi Germany, with its world-class nuclear physics capability, would get them first and win the war. After the war, the United States built only a few weapons before the first Soviet test in 1949, which was itself largely possible only because of Soviet espionage that involved stealing technology from the United States. In response, the United States began to build nuclear weapons at an “industrial rhythm,” as the French put it.

America also developed what was then called “The Super” — the hydrogen bomb. By the 1960s, the United States had produced more than 70,000 nuclear weapons, with approximately 31,200 fully constructed weapons in the national stockpile at one time. The Soviet high point of production was 55,000, with about 40,200 in its stockpile.


Bruce Goodwin


Policymaking for nuclear security requires a strong grasp of the associated technical matters. That grasp came naturally in the early decades of the nuclear era, when scientists and engineers were deeply engaged in crafting policy. In more recent decades, the technical community has played a narrower role, one generally limited to implementing policies made by others. This narrower role has been accentuated by generational change in the technical community, as the scientists and engineers who conceived, built, and executed the programs that created the existing U.S. nuclear deterrent faded into history along with the long-term competition for technical improvements with the Soviet Union. There is thus today a clear need to impart to the new generation of nuclear policy experts the necessary technical context. That is the purpose of this paper. Specifically, to: introduce a new generation of nuclear policy experts to the technical perspectives of a nuclear weapon designer, explain the science and engineering of nuclear weapons for the policy generalist, review the evolution of the U.S. approach to nuclear weapons design, explain the main attributes of the existing U.S. nuclear stockpile, explain the functions of the nuclear weapons complex, and show how all of this is integrated to sustain future deterrence. I wish to acknowledge Thomas Ramos, Richard Ward, and Jacek Durkalec for their invaluable contributions to this paper. Without them, it could not have been written.

The Revolution in Physics That Led to the Bomb

 First, a little history. I will use some technical terms in this section that may not be familiar. I beg your patience as I lay out the nuclear revolution. Following this, I will define these technical terms in excruciating detail before I describe the physics of nuclear weapons. You can also consult the glossary at the end of the paper. Nuclear weapons came into being from the scientific advancements that occurred in the five decades from 1895 to 1945. It begins with Roentgen’s 1895 discovery of radiation in the form of X-rays. Then in 1905, Albert Einstein developed his Special Theory of Relativity positing that matter and energy could change from one form to the other. The next necessary technical advance was Chadwick’s 1932 discovery of the neutron. The final technical step was the discovery in 1938-1939 of fission by Otto Hahn and Lisa Meitner. This final development led Niels Bohr to quietly voice concerns to the UK government over the possibility of atomic weapons development by Nazi Germany. Thus, the MAUD committee was created to study the feasibility of an atomic bomb. This group wrote the UK MAUD report and transmitted that report to the U.S. government in 1941. It was given to the United States as it was realized that only America had the industrial capacity to produce the nuclear materials needed to determine if an atomic (i.e. a fission) bomb was feasible. By the way, some have hypothesized that the codename MAUD stood for the Military Application of Uranium Detonation. This is not true. In fact, Maud was the name of Niels Bohr’s housekeeper.1 Things then began to move very quickly. In February 1941, Glenn Seaborg discovered plutonium (Pu), the first manmade fissionable element, thus doubling the possible paths to a bomb. He did this by bombarding uranium-238 with neutrons. After Pearl Harbor brought the U.S. into World War II in December 1941, the Manhattan Engineering District (a code name), under the direction of General Leslie Groves, was formed in May of 1942 to develop the atomic bomb. This was followed by the establishment of the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory on November 25, 1942, under the direction of Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer of the University of California, Berkeley. The first manmade fission chain reaction was achieved on December 2, 1942, by Enrico Fermi’s team in the first nuclear reactor (a graphite pile reactor) under the grandstands of The University of Chicago stadium.

Erdogan says Turkey is looking at further defence steps with Russia

On the return flight to Turkey from the talks, Erdogan told reporters he also proposed working with Russia on construction of two more nuclear power plants, and Putin suggested developing platforms for space rocket launches, broadcaster NTV reported.

NATO member Turkey's 2019 purchase of Russian S-400 missile defence batteries prompted Washington to cancel the sale of U.S. F-35 fighter jets and sanction Turkey's defence industries.

When Erdogan suggested last week that Turkey will buy more S-400s, Washington said Turkey could face further measures under U.S. legislation penalising countries that buy Russian arms.

Judy Asks: Can Germany Provide Leadership to Europe?



Of course, it could—just like in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. So it wouldn’t be Germany actively grasping the mantle of leadership but rather donning it because no other member state does so.

On Sunday, Germans voted for careful change, strengthening the political center rather than the extremes without much of a fuss. That’s more than can be said of France (the other potential leader of Europe going to the polls next, in April 2022) or Italy (voting again… whenever).

Still, it would take a federal government coalition that is ready to tackle all the burning issues for domestic reasons, not because the next chancellor wants to be a leader in and for Europe.

The effects of climate change have now reached the German countryside. And pensions are an issue precisely because of the obvious demographic trends. Tax reform is needed not only to cover the rising cost of the pandemic but also to lessen the gaping inequalities, even in a country that is better off than many others. In that sense, Germany can provide leadership not out of ambition but rather as a side effect of good governance at home.

The Nuclear Balance Is Changing—and Not For The Better

Peter Huessy

The rise of China’s nuclear forces, added to Russian “exotic” new nuclear systems, is raising considerable concern in the United States for two separate but highly interconnected reasons. This rise in power poses a few questions. Is the nuclear force structure that America is planning to rebuild and modernize adequate enough to deter these threats? Is the New START arms control deal that America just extended for another five years in danger of becoming irrelevant? What is the new threat that America faces and is it serious? The answer is: yes, it is serious.

First, the recent discovery of three large silo construction fields in China by commercial satellites let the “nuclear cat out of the bag,” allowing the U.S. government’s top nuclear professionals to publicly lay out the details of China’s secret activity.

Second, according to Bill Schneider, the former head of the Defense Science Board, the Chinese could be heading toward deploying a seriously expanded nuclear force. In his view as many as 250 Chinese new Dongfeng-41 missiles each with ten warheads could be deployed, a far greater build than the assumed doubling warned about earlier this year by our intelligence services.

NSA Cyber Chief Warns Hackers Increasingly Use Commercial Tools to Stay Hidden

Mariam Baksh

“We've seen whole APTs kind of go dark to some of the commercial entities who say 'yeah, I don't see those custom tools from name your favorite threat actor group,' when in reality they're just as active but what they're using now is, you know some of the commercial tools that get them to the same outcomes,” said NSA Cybersecurity Director Rob Joyce. “So it's clouded that space.”

Joyce spoke along with FireEye CEO Kevin Mandia and other cybersecurity leaders from government and industry at the Aspen Cyber Summit Wednesday.

Mandia reiterated long-standing calls for the government to impose consequences on malicious hackers while noting how it’s become increasingly difficult to identify the perpetrators.

“In 2010, we only had 40 groups—like everything we were responding to went nice and neatly into 40 different buckets,” he said. “Now we're up to like 2,900 buckets. It may really only be 40, but everybody's changing so fast that the evidence we see today from the same hacker group is different than three months ago, so it's another number.”

What you should know about ‘Bitskrieg: The New Challenge of Cyberwarfare’

Todd South

Cyberwarfare has evolved as not only a buzzword in defense circles but one that underpins much of what modern warfighting, with or without bombs, bullets and bandages, has become.

Dr. John Arquilla and his colleagues at the Rand Corporation and the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School were peering into the interconnected planet, and especially its future battlespace in the early 1990s. Despite creating new uniformed and civilian jobs in defense, as well as establishing U.S. Cyber Command, Arquilla sees cyber thinking among political and military leaders as potentially fractured or sometimes missing the point.

Arquilla served as an advisor to former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, assisted with information strategy for former Deputy Secretary of Defense John Hamre during the Kosovo War and consulted for Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf during Operation Desert Storm.

Small Data’s Big AI Potential

Husanjot Chahal, Helen Toner and Ilya Rahkovsky

Executive Summary

This issue brief provides an introduction to and overview of “small data” artificial intelligence approaches—that is, approaches that help with situations where little or no labeled data is available and that reduce our dependency on massive datasets collected from the real world. According to the conventional understanding of AI, data is an essential strategic resource and any meaningful progress in cutting-edge AI techniques requires large volumes of data. This overemphasis on “big data” ignores the existence and overshadows the potential of the approaches we describe in this brief, which do not require massive datasets for training.

 We present our analysis in two sections. The first introduces and classifies the main small data approaches, which we conceptualize in terms of five rough categories—transfer learning, data labeling, artificial data, Bayesian methods, and reinforcement learning—and lays out reasons for why they matter. In doing so, we aim not only to point out the potential benefits of using small data approaches, but also to deepen nontechnical readers’ understanding of when, and how, data is useful for AI. Drawing from original CSET datasets, the second section presents some exploratory findings evaluating the current and projected progress in scientific research across small data approaches, outlining which country leads, and the major sources of funding for this research. We conclude the following four key takeaways based on our findings:

a) Artificial intelligence is not synonymous with big data, and there are several alternative approaches that can be used in different small data settings.

b) Research into transfer learning is growing especially rapidly (even faster than the larger and better-known field of reinforcement learning) making this approach likely to work better and be more widely used in the future than it is today.

c) The United States and China are competing closely in small data approaches, with the United States leading in the two largest categories of reinforcement learning and Bayesian methods, and China holding a small but growing lead in the fastest-growing category of transfer learning.

d) Tentatively, transfer learning may be a promising target for greater U.S. government funding, given its smaller share of investments in small data approaches relative to investment patterns across AI as a field.

Cyber resilience: Protecting America’s digital infrastructure

Federal leaders need to continue to make progress on the basics of cyber hygiene, but they also have to look ahead to the next generation of threats. In this episode of the McKinsey on Government podcast, McKinsey partner Tucker Bailey and former US congressman Will Hurd discuss the emerging cyberthreat landscape, the role of the chief information officer (CIO), and the future of the federal cyber workforce. An edited transcript of their conversation follows.

Francis Rose: Welcome to McKinsey on Government. Each episode examines one of the hardest problems facing government today and solutions from McKinsey experts and other leaders. I’m the host of McKinsey on Government, Francis Rose. High-profile cyber breaches in government, the private sector, and academia have technology and security leaders rethinking the basics of their cyber postures. The federal government is under orders to build more cyber resilience into its systems. That’s the subject of McKinsey on Government this week with Tucker Bailey, partner at McKinsey, and former congressman Will Hurd, former chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform’s Subcommittee on Information Technology.

Cybercrime Hotspots

Aoibheann Thinnes

Organized cybercrime groups pose the most significant financial threat to institutions and individuals in the United States (U.S.), more so than nation-states or terrorists engaged in cyberattacks, and the volume and cost of these fraud-based cyber campaigns are growing exponentially. In the financial services industry, LexisNexis Risk Solutions reports that from 2018 to 2019 the average number of successful fraudulent attempts increased by 85 percent and the financial services industry suffered more login and payment attacks than any other industry in 2020.

The United States Secret Service (USSS) oversees and protects the U.S. financial and payment systems. The USSS seeks to proactively prepare for cyber threats and successfully intercept cybercriminals and their illicit activities before they inflict serious harm to financial institutions. This report assesses common features of organized cybercrime groups and the socioeconomic conditions that influence cybercrime networks in specific countries. It seeks to provide a preliminary picture of how organized cybercrime groups operate and evolve and the conditions that likely allow them to thrive in particular locations using the case studies of Nigeria, India, and Mexico.

How Could the U.S. Deter Military Conflict in the Taiwan Strait?

Daniel R. Russel, Shelley Rigger, Michael Mazarr and Chas W. Freeman


There are several prerequisites to successful diplomacy. One is being clear about what you are trying to achieve or prevent. Another is understanding your counterpart, particularly in terms of how they tend to make policy decisions, what their priorities are, and what considerations are most likely to influence their judgments. A third is having a functional relationship between key interlocutors. None of these conditions can be credibly ascribed to the current U.S.-China relationship.

If avoiding military conflict with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) over Taiwan were the sole objective of U.S. policy, acceding to Chinese domination of the island would be the most straightforward approach. But obviously there are other powerful policy objectives and considerations shaping Washington’s strategy. These include domestic U.S. politics, America’s global leadership and credibility, the Taiwan Relations Act and the momentum of 40 years of consistent Taiwan policy, opposition to Chinese regional hegemony, and a resolute determination to protect the security and political autonomy of an important democratic partner. Some would add semiconductors to this list. Pursuit of these goals inevitably incurs some risk of military conflict.