29 November 2021


 Maj Gen P K Mallick, VSM (Retd)

Microsoft released its second annual Digital Defense Report, covering July 2020 to June 2021. This year s 134 pages report is quite detailed, with sections on cybercrime, nationstate threats, supply-chain attacks and Internet of Things attacks. The report includes security suggestions for organizations with remote workforces. It has a section describing the use of social media to spread disinformation. The report is a compilation of integrated data and actionable insights from across 

India in Space Domain - Pathbreaking Developments

Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)


India is now a major spacefaring nation. Initially, the Indian space programme was focused primarily on societal and developmental utilities. Today, like many other countries, India is compelled to use space for several military requirements like intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. Hence, India is looking to space to gain operational and informational advantages.

India has had its fair share of achievements in the space domain. It includes the launch of the country’s heaviest satellite, the GSAT-11 which will boost India’s broadband services by enabling 16 Gbps data links across the country, GSAT-7A, the military communication satellite and the launch of the Geo-synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle GSLV Mk III-D2, the GSAT 29. The Anti-Satellite (ASAT) test is an intrinsic part of today’s geopolitics and the national security context.

Farm laws episode lays bare India’s internal disunity. It’s time to fix it


To some Indians, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surprise announcement about repealing the three farm laws may be viewed as a victory for democracy. The forces at play in the political economy may have demonstrated their democratic strength. But India might have lost. For, there is no dispute that India’s economically and strategically important agriculture sector is in dire need of reform. Another thing that India needs to watch out for is that a weakened government, civil unrest, and inability to carry forward important economic reforms can all be exploited by foes.

For a few decades, farmers have been unwittingly imprisoned by the government, ostensibly to protect them. The argument for protection was based on the need to progress. However, India’s farmers must be set free to decide what they want to grow and whom to sell. Lack of reform has resulted in the overall awful state of the farmers. It is a long overdue and key public policy reform amongst several others for the agricultural sector. Barring some big farmers, the perpetual hardships and negative state of affairs of the majority of India’s farmers should be a cause of concern for the country’s political class.

Discontented farmers, their dependents, and others who are part of the support systems for the agriculture industry across the country can become a flame that fans India’s disunity. In particular, any path giving a religious colour to the farmers’ protests must be eschewed. No doubt, this is easier said than done.

PLI Scheme: New Challenge To Make In India, But Few Takers; Lesson From Vietnam Warranted – Analysis

Subrata Majumder

Make in India lost steam. Prime Minister Narendra Modi escaped success stories from the rampart of Red Fort in Independence Speech in 2019. Several attempts were made to rejuvenate Make in India , invoking major reforms like reduction in corporate taxes, land reforms at state level and downsizing cumbersome procedures by encompassing major labour laws . But, they all failed to unleash a positive impact on manufacturing growth.

PLI (Production Linked Incentive) is a new challenge to give a new lease of life to Make in India. It overrides Make in India by doling out direct incentive through sales. Hitherto, reforms were made to push Make in India through stepping up Ease of Doing business, reduction in corporate taxes, adopting digitization and others , which connote indirect measures.

Damaged by unprecedented COVID 19 pandemic, global manufacturing witnessed dramatic changes . GVC (global value chain) , which accounts for 70 percent of international trade and investment, is in retreat and protectionism is on the rise . USA – the global hub for consumption – headed for protectionism under the Trump philosophy of America First policy and China – the global hub for GVC manufacturing – is losing steam with foreign stake holders shifting to other low cost manufacturing areas in South East Asia.

Lessons from Digital India


MILAN – Over the past five years, India has experienced an unusually rapid expansion of digital connectivity and access to services. This has had a positive impact on the inclusiveness of economic growth; on efficiency and productivity in retail, supply chains, and finance; and on entrepreneurial activity.

India’s engagement with digital technology dates to the late 1980s. Major investments in computer science and education were made under Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s administration (1984-89). And with the expansion of internet access in the 1990s, India became home to many major outsourcing companies in IT administration, business processes, and customer service. But because the infrastructure needed for widespread mobile-internet access remained deficient, penetration lagged and data costs for mobile users ended up being among the highest in the world.

Then, in 2010, when much of the country’s existing service offerings were still in 2G and 3G, IBSL, a small telecoms company, purchased spectrum in an auction that included rights to much faster 4G frequency bands. IBSL was then acquired by billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s energy conglomerate, Reliance Industries, which thus gained the 4G spectrum rights.


Daniel Brunstetter

The withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan offers the opportunity for a recalibration in the use of force abroad in what is America’s truly longest war—the global war on terror. The Biden administration is poised to increase its reliance on “over-the-horizon” operations—a euphuism for drone strikes and special operations force raids—to ensure that Afghanistan does not, once again, become a safe haven for transnational terrorism. In a speech marking the end of the war in Afghanistan, President Joseph Biden portrayed limited force as a moral alternative to the forever wars, a strategic choice to address terrorist threats in a disordered and divided world. But this framing forecloses serious debate on whether the United States should be resorting to force at all and to what ends. If we are to truly turn the page on the 9/11 era, it is imperative to interrogate the antecedents, assumptions, and principles underlying the over-the-horizon approach. Doing so raises concerns about whether a shift to limited force can really end the forever war, but also points to moral insights that may better guide the “targeted, precise strategy” President Biden has promised.

The Arc of Limited Force

In many ways, the strategic shift in Afghanistan is more of a course correction than a break from the past. Some might say a rebranding. Successive US presidents of both parties have turned to limited force as a less risky, less costly option—in terms of blood, treasure, and public opinion—than conventional warfare. Along the way, policymakers have routinized, institutionalized, and legitimized limited force. Even the terminology has been sanitized to make limited force morally palatable; the United States used to worry about assassinations, but as the lexicon has shifted over time—from “rolling attacks” to “lethal, targeted action” and now to “over-the-horizon” strikes—that worry has receded.

Can Anyone Stop the Narco-Terrorist Taliban?

Brahma Chellaney

Here's What You Need to Remember: If the US does not lead an international effort to tackle Afghanistan’s opioid and meth production, the Taliban’s power—and ability to commit atrocities—will only grow and its narco-state will serve as a haven for al-Qaeda and other violent jihadist groups. As matters stand, the world can expect a major surge in international terrorism and drug overdoses in the months and years ahead.

The strategic folly of US President Joe Biden’s Afghanistan policy has been laid bare in recent weeks. First, the country came back under the control of the Pakistan-reared Taliban. The announcement of the interim government’s composition then dashed any remaining (naive) hope that this Taliban regime would be different from the one the United States and its allies ousted in 2001. Beyond the cabinet including a who’s who of international terrorism, narcotics kingpins occupy senior positions.

Afghanistan accounts for 85% of the global acreage under opium cultivation, making the Taliban the world’s largest drug cartel. It controls and taxes opioid production, oversees exports, and shields smuggling networks. This is essential to its survival. According to a recent report by the United Nations Security Council monitoring team, the production and trafficking of poppy-based and synthetic drugs remain ‘the Taliban’s largest single source of income’. So reliant is the Taliban on narcotics trafficking that its leaders have at times fought among themselves over revenue-sharing.

When It Comes to African Crises, the African Union Is No Solution

Chris Olaoluwa Ogunmodede

A number of recent developments, including the civil war in Ethiopia and a spate of military takeovers in Mali, Guinea, Sudan and Chad, have exacerbated longstanding concerns of democratic backsliding, the return of military coups and the viability of the nation-state in Africa. The reactions of regional bodies and the African Union to these developments have been typified by carefully worded diplomatic statements, suspension of erring member states from group activities and weak sanctions, evoking familiar criticisms of those organizations as “dictators’ clubs” beholden to national leaders at the expense of the citizens they ostensibly serve.

The inability of these bodies to effectively mediate in regional conflicts or reverse illegal power grabs, let alone prevent them, raises questions about their effectiveness in enforcing “good governance” in their regions and across the continent. And for many other observers, the crises in Ethiopia, Mali, Guinea, Cameroon, Sudan and elsewhere also call into question the commitment of member states to enforce protocols they signed up to, and highlight the structural, institutional and ideational hurdles that handicap the ability of these organizations to enforce their policies.

Sri Lanka Bows to Chinese Pressure Again

Sudha Ramachandran

A Sino-Sri Lankan spat over fertilizer has ended in China’s favor. Sri Lanka has reportedly agreed to pay 70 percent of the claim made by a Chinese organic fertilizer company for a shipment that Colombo had rejected as it was found to be contaminated.

According to Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage, Sri Lanka will pay $ 6.7 million to Qingdao Seawin Bio-tech Group for the shipment of 20,000 tons of fertilizer. In addition, Sri Lanka has agreed to buy fresh stocks from the company, Sunday Times reported the minister as saying.

Only a month ago, Aluthgamage had stated that the Chinese organic fertilizer shipment would not be accepted nor would Sri Lanka make any payment towards this shipment.

Sri Lanka has shifted away from that position.

“We cannot afford to damage diplomatic relations over this issue,” Aluthgamage said explaining the government’s volte face.

China and Sri Lanka have strong relations. Over the past decade, China has emerged Sri Lanka’s largest investor and has played a huge role in the island’s infrastructure development. So deeply steeped in Chinese debt is Sri Lanka that it is said to be caught in a Chinese debt trap. Importantly, Beijing has repeatedly defended Sri Lanka from censure at global human rights forums. An important component of the Sino-Sri Lankan relationship is the strong equation between Beijing and Sri Lanka’s ruling Rajapaksa family.

China Is Holding the Planet Hostage


LONDON – The verbal emissions at the recent United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow were understandably extensive but fortunately less environmentally damaging than the energy path on which the world remains set. Governments reached a fragile agreement that still just about keeps in play the 2015 Paris climate agreement’s main target of limiting global warming to 1.5° Celsius above pre-industrial levels. But unless countries do a great deal more, and quickly, the actual temperature rise is likely to be at least a full degree higher.

The biggest disappointment in Glasgow was the last-minute watering down of the proposed (and widely supported) agreement to “phase out” the use of coal in energy production. With India providing political cover for China in vetoing this language, the final conference proposal was to “phase down” coal – an expression that has never left my lips or pen in several decades of speaking and writing English. It is entirely devoid of conviction. If an alcoholic promises to “phase down” his alcohol consumption, the result will almost certainly be trouble.

The Chinese PLA’s New ‘Army’

Ben Lowsen

In December 2015, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) established its Army, part of the sweeping military reforms President Xi Jinping has hinted since taking office but revealed only over the past several months. The chart below is my prediction of what this organization will look like.

An Army Establishing an Army?

The PLA encompasses the whole of China’s armed forces on land, sea, air, and beyond. It is now establishing a dedicated staff, called the “Army Leading Organ,” to field its ground force component. Of course the PLA has always had a ground force. It began as such, although the Chinese word for “Army” in PLA is perfectly appropriate for a joint force. The ground force offices were scattered throughout the PLA’s high command, most obviously within the former General Staff Department. These offices have now been moved to the Army staff, including the Army Aviation Department and the offices responsible for armor, artillery, engineering, and chemical defense (See: The PLA as Organization).

Adding an Army staff alongside its Navy, Air Force, and other headquarters brings the PLA into alignment with militaries worldwide. Note however that the Army and other staffs are not responsible for commanding forces, but rather for organizing, training, and equipping forces for employment within the five new joint Theater Commands, similar to the division of responsibilities between the U.S. service staffs and Unified Combatant Commands.

The Army Leading Organ’s task is thus to build the best possible ground force to deter or defeat threats to China’s interests. General Li Zuocheng, former commander of the Chengdu Military Region, is its commanding officer. But besides the offices mentioned above, what will his staff look like? There is little official information or outside commentary to answer that question, although an understanding of the bureaucratic structure can give us some idea.

Under the former system, each office or unit contained within it offices corresponding to – and with a requirement to report to – the PLA’s four top-level general departments: the General Staff, Political, Logistics, and Armaments Departments. Now that these have been reduced in scope and joined by 11 other independent departments (mostly taken from within the General Departments), it stands to reason that the Army and other subordinate units will wherever possible organize along these lines as well.

Without the old general departments to report to, the newly independent areas (discipline inspection, training, militia mobilization, military law, science and technology, strategic planning, organizational reform, international cooperation, and auditing) will move to consolidate control of their areas, creating a number of important new players. Although several of these are unlikely to warrant a separate office on the Army staff, I believe that training, discipline inspection, military law, organizational reform, international cooperation, and auditing will. The PLA Army Leading Organ will thus more closely resemble the complexity of the U.S. Army Staff than the simplicity of the former PLA general departments.

Other Areas

Another notable factor is that the Army and other staffs are likely to have a higher-profile intelligence function combining both human and technical intelligence. These functions had separate offices in the old system but have been combined into the PLA’s new Strategic Support Force. This may ease the flow of intelligence, although barriers between the two branches will likely remain.

Finally, given that both the PLA Navy and Air Force have navigation offices, the Army is likely to want one too. Overall I expect the Army staff to function adequately, although I wouldn’t count on it creating a more cohesive joint force.

China creates vast research infrastructure to support ambitious climate goals

China, the world’s top carbon emitter, has for the first time published plans broadly outlining how it might achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2060, and a peak of emissions before 2030 — promises it made in 2019.

Researchers say the documents, released ahead of the COP26 climate talks that concluded on 15 November, send a strong message to industry, government agencies and universities in China to ramp up their efforts to help the country meet its climate goals.

Already this year, more than ten prominent universities and institutions have set up carbon-neutrality-research institutes; the Chinese Academy of Sciences launched a centre last month.

“We start right now,” says Jiang Kejun, a modeller at the Energy Research Institute in Beijing.

The country is experiencing a “national movement”, says Wu Libo, an environmental economist at Fudan University in Shanghai, as companies, regional governments and academia shift gears.

The US and China are already at war. But which kind?

Gillian Tett

Early in November, the esteemed Harvard professor Graham Allison went down to Washington’s Senate to deliver a Greek history lesson. The topic was the Athenian historian Thucydides who, of course, penned the account of war between Sparta and Athens in the fifth century BC.

This kind of conflict used to only excite students of the classics. But in 2017 Allison wrote a tome called Destined for War: Can America and China escape Thucydides’s Trap?, and it became a surprise bestseller.

US President Joe Biden held a virtual meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, earlier this month. AP

Allison argued, as Thucydides himself first noted, that whenever a ruling power is challenged by a fast-rising rival, it traps them in a pattern that can easily spark war. The dynamic between Sparta and Athens was one example of that.

Now US senators are wondering whether history is about to be repeated.

Allison’s message is both encouraging and depressing. To start with the latter: the core thing to understand from history, he explained to me (and the senators), is that power shifts create problems around three “Ps”: perception, psychology and (domestic) politics.
Overreact and miscalculate

Most notably, a ruling power that starts to feel insecure about a rival tends to overreact and miscalculate.

So, too, when a rising power feels snubbed. If this is combined with febrile domestic politics, small aggravations can quickly spin out of control as, say, when Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in 1914 in Sarajevo, sparking World War I.

Those three “Ps” are on display right now, and insecurity, belligerence and misunderstandings keep bubbling up.

“When a rapidly rising power seriously threatens to displace an incumbent one you have a predictable dynamic,” Allison says. “If you look at China and the US as a rising and ruling power, they seem to be doing everything possible to stay on this script.”

Thankfully, outright hostilities have been avoided so far, but this does not mean that war is not a real risk.

On the contrary, as hedge fund luminary Ray Dalio notes, a striking feature of the 21st-century world is that conflicts can erupt on many fronts, not just kinetic.
Five kinds of war

As Dalio recently told me, “There are five kinds of war, and they are not all shooting wars. There’s a trade war, a technology war, a geopolitical war, a capital war and there could be a military war. We are certainly in varying degrees in the first four of those ... and there’s good reason to worry about the fifth type.”

On the other hand, the fact that war can be fought in so many ways in the 21st century might just possibly reduce the need for actual military conflict. It’s cold comfort for those on the receiving end but if China wants to threaten Taiwan, it does not necessarily need to do it with tanks or bombs. It can use cyber attacks, or other financial and trade weapons.

This is already happening in the US-China conflict.

A senator recently told me that China is stealing $US300 billion ($414 billion) – $US500 billion worth of intellectual property from the US each year and, while it is impossible for outsiders to verify that number, the fact that such figures are being bandied about suggests a cyber war is already being waged – probably in both directions.

Similarly, this week in Washington new hints of a capital war bubbled up after a report from a bipartisan commission to Congress argued that China is using capital flows to attack America.

That too is alarming, particularly to Wall Street leaders such as Jamie Dimon or Larry Fink, who want to do business there, and to those who hope that capital integration could reduce the chance of conflict. But the threat of a capital war, or trade war, is still less outright scary than the military type.

Of course, some like Dalio might retort that the former could lead to the latter. But there is one more reason for a modicum of optimism in the details of Allison’s own historical data set, neatly laid out online on a website run by Harvard’s Belfer Centre.

This lists all the Thucydides-style conflicts in centuries past and shows that while 12 out of 16 such geopolitical shifts did produce outright war, four did not.

Biden administration blacklists 27 companies over national security concerns

Danielle Haynes

Nov. 24 (UPI) -- The Biden administration on Wednesday blacklisted an additional 27 companies and individuals from China, Japan, Pakistan and Singapore, citing national security and foreign policy interests.

The Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security added the organizations to its entity list, which requires a license for the export or transfer of some items in response to unethical behavior or that which otherwise threatens U.S. national security.

"Global trade and commerce should support peace, prosperity, and good-paying jobs, not national security risks," Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said.

"Today's actions will help prevent the diversion of U.S. technologies to the [People's Republic of China]'s and Russia's military advancement and activities of non-proliferation concern like Pakistan's unsafeguarded nuclear activities or ballistic missile program.



The U.S. bureaucracy sits at a decision point—to benefit from lessons learned, or to pay lip-service while changing nothing, continuing a troubling strategy development and implementation.

The rapid withdrawal of U.S. partner and allied forces from Afghanistan, and the simultaneous and precipitous fall of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)-supported Islamic Republic of Afghanistan government to the Taliban, has reignited the debates among senior political leaders, retired military leaders, academics, media pundits and many others on the failures in the Afghan strategy. While everyone can talk, identify failures and find fault in the execution of strategy—or the lack thereof—and even go so far as to identify particular decisions that resulted in such a collapse, the fact of the matter is, everything has happened too recently to allow the wide scope necessary for a proper evaluation of events. The nearness in time, the classification of source materials, and limited adversarial sources, combined with personal and emotional connections, hinder the full understanding of these events, resulting in unsatisfying answers unlikely to identify a grand purpose or justify the human and fiscal expenses.

The debate’s current focus seems to bypass several critical facets of strategy. Strategy is not a science, nor is it ever a finished product. The U.S. military should not develop or implement a strategy without continuous discussion and guidance from senior political leaders. Correspondingly, strategy executed in coordination with partners and allies must be developed in consultation with them and, as such, is almost always a compromise. Admittedly, though these maxims on strategy are crucial to understanding, implementing and developing a sound strategy, in some instances, an ideal strategy does not exist. Sometimes, the only possible strategy is to manage a situation by trying not to make it worse.



Starting with the end in mind does not work. It binds you to one definitive end. What happens when the goal or even the enemy is no longer located at or near that end? Worse yet, what happens when the enemy has shifted or changed, and your ways and means are incapable of change? This is what we have witnessed in so many of the U.S. Army’s recent conflicts, from Vietnam to Afghanistan.

The ends will never justify the means. This leads to a finite mindset in strategy and in war. Starting from an intention, and understanding that war is infinite, is a better approach. In the Army, we must start basing decisions on intentions, not ends. Although we use the term “ends,” we fail to use it in its plural form. Instead, we use “end.” Our strategy is based on a finite end. The Army must move away from this flawed strategy and move to a probabilistic and contextual approach that allows for continuous change; probabilistic meaning that any probable course may be followed even though an opposed course is or appears more probable.

Intentions develop into decisions. Decisions lead to some form of action, which engenders the need for new intentions. There is no end for the U.S. or the U.S. Army. Not in Afghanistan, nor Iraq. Yet, we can make smarter decisions by removing the idea of “ends.” I propose that the Army use a contextual and probabilistic approach allowing it to move through a wave of continuous change, where all decisions are preceded by an intention.

Russia Won’t Let Ukraine Go Without a Fight

Michael Kimmage and Michael Kofman

Ominous signs indicate that Russia may conduct a military offensive in Ukraine as early as the coming winter. Moscow has quietly built up its forces along the Ukrainian border over the past several months, which could be a prelude to a military operation that aims to resolve the political deadlock in Ukraine in its favor. Although Russian President Vladimir Putin may once again be engaging in coercive diplomacy, this time around Moscow may not be bluffing. If no agreement is reached, the conflict may renew on a much larger scale.

Why would Putin risk geopolitical and economic upheaval by reigniting the military confrontation with Ukraine? After all, he has good reason to be invested in the regional status quo. Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, walking away with one of the largest land grabs in Europe since World War II. Western sanctions imposed on Russia for its invasion have not bitten particularly hard, and Russia’s macroeconomic situation is stable. Russia also retains a firm hold on the European energy market: the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which will cement German dependence on Russian natural gas, marches toward activation despite legal snags. Meanwhile, the United States and Russia are in the midst of strategic stability talks. Putin met with U.S. President Joe Biden in June as part of the effort to build a more predictable relationship between the countries.

Time for a global ban on satellite destruction tests

Nitin Pai

Russia is a top-rung space power. In terms of technological capabilities, it ranks alongside the US and even surpasses it in some areas. The Russian establishment has a highly sophisticated understanding of the space domain. Moscow’s intellectual horsepower in space science, economics and strategy is outstanding. The Soviet Union and its successor, the Russian Federation, have demonstrated no less responsibility towards the preservation and protection of space for human activities than any other power. That is what makes Moscow’s anti-satellite (ASAT) test surprising.

On 16 November, Russia destroyed one of its old satellites by causing a tail-on collision with an ASAT rocket it had fired, at an altitude slightly higher than that of the International and Chinese space stations. The thousands of pieces of debris that resulted now pose a risk to space-stationed astronauts, other spacecraft that occupy low-earth orbits and launch vehicles destined for higher orbits. Space debris move faster than bullets and even tiny bits have enough kinetic energy to severely damage spacecraft. The lower the elevation of the fragments from earth, the sooner the junk will fall back upon the planet and burn up in the atmosphere. Debris at higher altitudes can remain in space for years and decades before falling down.

Space is vast, but the probability of collision increases with the number of objects in orbit. Junk from the Russian test is expected to intersect with the International Space Station’s (ISS) orbit 31 times a day, before spreading out further.

CIA director warns Russian spies of ‘consequences’ if they are behind ‘Havana Syndrome’ incidents

John Hudson

CIA Director William J. Burns delivered a confidential warning to Russia’s top intelligence services that they will face “consequences” if they are behind the string of mysterious health incidents known as “Havana Syndrome” afflicting U.S. diplomats and spies around the world, according to U.S. officials familiar with the exchange.

During a visit to Moscow earlier this month, Burns raised the issue with the leadership of Russia’s Federal Security Service, the FSB, and the country’s Foreign Intelligence Service, the SVR. He told them that causing U.S. personnel and their family members to suffer severe brain damage and other debilitating ailments would go beyond the bounds of acceptable behavior for a “professional intelligence service,” said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss highly sensitive conversations.

The warning did not assign blame for what U.S. officials are calling “anomalous health incidents,” or AHIs. The fact that Burns formulated the warning by saying “if” suggests that after four years of investigations across multiple administrations, the U.S. government remains unable to determine a cause of the unusual incidents. Nevertheless, the director’s decision to raise the possibility of Russian involvement directly to his counterparts in Moscow underscored the deep suspicion the CIA has of Kremlin culpability.

How Far Would Biden Go to Defend Ukraine Against Russia?

Michael Crowley and Julian E. Barnes

WASHINGTON — At a news conference a few days ago, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken was asked whether the Biden administration had a “red line” in Ukraine, a point beyond which Russian aggression toward the country would incite a dramatic American response.

Mr. Blinken wouldn’t bite. “The U.S. has real concerns about Russia’s unusual military activity on the border with Ukraine,” he said, with notable understatement. No red line was drawn. The State Department spokesman batted aside a similar question on Tuesday, saying only that “any escalatory or aggressive actions would be of great concern.”

U.S. officials often avoid questions about red lines, which when crossed can damage their credibility if they do not act. But in the case of Russia — which has been moving the estimated 90,000 troops it has on its border with Ukraine in ways that officials say might presage an invasion — the Biden administration has been conspicuously vague about when, and how, it might come to Ukraine’s defense.

Central Asian Elites Choose China Over Russia – Analysis

East Asia Forum

The rationale to explain these Central Asian elites’ choices is that they may be better off embracing China while subtly distancing themselves from Russia, as Beijing increasingly aligns with its Central Asian counterparts with greater success than Moscow. Despite Central Asian countries being independent for three decades, it is common to find Russian assertions that they still effectively own the region. Some Russian officials have even publicly claimed that the entire territory of Kazakhstan was a gift from Russia, which was denounced severely among Kazakh elites.

Arguments about expansion and loss of sovereignty are dubious in Central Asia. Nowadays, Central Asian elites enjoy full sovereignty to defend their national interests. When the legislation around long-term land leases by foreign countries stirred up massive protests against the Kazakhstan government and Chinese influence, the bill was ditched and Beijing did not react. Kazakh elites also rejected Russian President Vladimir Putin’s proposal to construct nuclear power plants there. When Turkmenistan closed Russian language courses, the local Russian embassy expressed regret, but nothing tougher.

Numerous ethnic Russians live in Central Asia and the annexation of Crimea looms as a precedent. Central Asian elites might never express their fear of Russian annexation freely, but it is certainly a concern. In contrast, very few ethnic Han Chinese reside in Central Asia. The cardinal interest of China in this part of the world is to eliminate terrorism and separatism, purchase resources and trade with Europe through Central Asia. None of these interests constitute any potential territorial threat to Central Asia.

Digital Currency Governance Consortium White Paper Series

Innovations in technology are driving rapid development of new forms of money. The way global leaders from public and private sectors develop, coordinate and regulate such digital currencies will have profound implications on society’s capacity to harness their benefits and avoid the potentially significant risks they introduce. Two distinct forms of digital currency – central bank digital currency (CBDC) and “stablecoins” – have caught the attention of policy-makers and the private sector in recent years.

This white paper series, composed of eight parts, explores numerous critical topics related to CBDC and stablecoins, including an evaluation of their value proposition for the under-served, identification of key policy and regulatory actions, and discussion of salient technology considerations and trade-offs.

The Glasgow summit on climate change: What has it achieved?

CoP-26 was widely hyped as the last chance to save the planet. It began with a bang, but has ended on a more modest note. But was it just “blah blah" and “corporate greenwashing", as some climate activists termed it, or did it make some progress even if much less than was needed? We attempt to provide our assessment in two articles. Today’s article focuses on what has been achieved in agreements on action to contain emissions, which we consider a definite move forward. Tomorrow’s will assess what has been agreed in assuring financial assistance to developing countries to make an energy transition, where progress has frankly been very disappointing.

New global and country targets: CoP-26 had to deal with the disturbing prospect that the world was set to reach nearly +3° Celsius by the end of the century, well above the 2015 Paris Agreement target of “well below 2°C" and ideally 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Scientific evidence was mounting that even 2°C would have dangerous effects on tropical and low-lying areas. The Glasgow Climate Pact has rightly targeted global warming not to exceed +1.5°C and also got about 140 countries to announce target dates for bringing emissions down to net zero. This is a significant achievement, considering that in Paris in 2015, while all developing countries agreed to take steps to limit carbon emissions, they did not agree to reduce emissions, but only to reduce the “emissions-intensity" of GDP.

4 key cybersecurity threats to new central bank digital currencies

With G7 officials recently endorsing principles for central bank digital currencies (CBDC), and over 80 countries launching some form of initiative related to CBDC, it seems their widespread deployment is a matter of time. CBDC is a digital form of central bank money that can be accessible to the general public; essentially, it consists of individuals and firms having access to transaction and savings accounts with their home country’s central bank. Those of the Bahamas, China and Nigeria have all implemented early CBDC programmes, with more expected in the future. If successful, CBDC could help policy-makers achieve goals around payment efficiency, financial inclusion, banking and payment competitiveness, access to safe central bank money in the era of digital payments, and more.

Yet like any digital payment system, CBDC is vulnerable to cyber security attack, account and data breaches and theft, counterfeiting, and even farther-off challenges related to quantum computing. For citizens to be comfortable adopting CBDC, they will need to be confident in its security. Ultimately, it will not be successful if it does not carefully consider and invest in a robust cybersecurity strategy. Decision-makers should look to cyber security best practices such as those published by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Microsoft “STRIDE” model. This article, which summarizes key points from the World Economic Forum’s new white paper on CBDC Technology Considerations, lays out additional imperative considerations for CBDC cybersecurity.

How can we make sure CBDC is secure for decades to come? We discuss four major dimensions to its cyber security below:

1. Credential theft and loss

CBDC access credentials are needed for accessing and transferring funds. Such credentials could be given in the form of a passphrase that could be easily communicated even on paper, or a hardware token that stores the private keys. Regardless of the form, the threat of theft and credential loss is significant, meaning account funds and data could be compromised.

Theft can be physical or virtual, especially in the case of passphrases. Given the arsenal of modern attackers, techniques such as social engineering, side-channel attacks and malware could be used to extract credentials from a CBDC user’s device. Moreover, if passphrases or hardware tokens are lost/damaged due to fire/water or natural calamities, CBDC users should not simply lose all their funds and data. Therefore, the system should have built-in credential recovery mechanisms.

If a CBDC is based on blockchain technology, it might use a multi-signature (“multi-sig”) wallet where at least two other trusted parties hold credentials to the same wallet (this could be the central bank itself and/or family members or other contacts of the end users). The drawback of multi-sig wallets is that they are less user-friendly, since for any transfer one needs to coordinate with at least one other party. Such security-usability trade-offs are common even nowadays with internet banking where 2 Factor Authentication (2FA) is extremely common. If CBDC is based on traditional technology, a privileged authority could simply update a database entry with new credentials.

Over 80 countries are launching some form of initiative related to CBDC
Image: BIS

2. Users with privileged roles

One concern is that central bank or government insiders, law enforcement and other agents may have roles that allow privileged actions, such as the freezing or withdrawal of funds in CBDC accounts without the user’s consent. These capabilities are in line with today’s compliance procedures in regulated payment systems. Though such roles are likely to be a functional requirement of a CBDC, it is possible for them to enable malicious insiders to abuse the system. As with other types of information security, the central bank – and any intermediaries involved – should have and execute a cybersecurity risk-management plan covering such privileges. Multi-party mechanisms, such as those employed by multi-signature wallets or other protections, could increase the difficulty of such attacks.

If the CBDC operates on blockchain technology, where nodes include non-central bank entities that have powers to validate or invalidate transactions, malicious validator nodes can pose security threats. They could also undermine the central bank’s monetary authority and independence by virtue of accepting or rejecting transactions that are contrary to the central bank’s intention. Thus, it is generally not recommended for non-central bank nodes to have transaction validation powers unless absolutely necessary.

3. System integrity and “double spending”

Depending on the consensus protocol used, non-central bank nodes with privileged power could declare transactions as invalid, essentially blocking them from being accepted by the network and creating a denial-of-service attack for CBDC users and censorship of their transactions.

Collusion by non-central bank nodes could also enable “double-spending” attacks, a form of counterfeiting where the CBDC is spent multiple times illegitimately. The nodes may also decide to “fork” the distributed ledger, creating a different track and view of the ledger of transactions that disagrees with the central bank’s. CBDC end users could try to spend funds from their wallets in multiple places, also constituting digital counterfeiting. Risk of double-spend is higher if the CBDC in question has offline capability, depending on the technology with which it operates; in this scenario, double-spend transactions could be sent to offline entities without the high-security validation process that would normally occur online.

By imposing spending limits and transaction frequency when the CBDC user is offline, the impact of such attacks would be reduced. Further, once a device that is conducting transactions comes back “online”, compliance software could sync with any transactions that have concurred during the offline period.

4. Quantum computing

Quantum computing will ultimately impact all financial services as it compromises major data encryption methodologies and cryptographic primitives used for protecting access, confidentiality and integrity of data stored and transmitted. CBDC is no exception. Therefore, the threat of emerging quantum computers, which can compromise the cryptography employed to secure CBDC accounts, must be taken into account during technology design. For instance, central banks should consider the vulnerability of certain primitives to forthcoming quantum computing. Moreover, quantum computers in the future might be able to break the cryptography in the CBDC system without detection.

What is the World Economic Forum doing on cybersecurity

Cybersecurity, along with technical resilience and sound technical governance, are the most important elements of CBDC technical design. Failure to implement a robust cyber security strategy and consider the risks introduced above could compromise citizen data and funds, the success of the CBDC programme, central bank reputational risk and broader opinions of the new currency. Based on past experiences in cybersecurity failures, the bar for security is not only about “keeping the bad guys out” or minimizing unauthorized account access. It must be comprehensive and consider the full spectrum of risks, ensuring that the system works as it was designed and that its integrity remains intact. Only then will CBDC be successful in achieving its goals.

COP26 outcomes aren’t satisfying, but they should leave us hopeful. Here’s why

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The COP26 climate summit in Glasgow this November gathered global leaders from government, business and civil society to drive progress for climate action.
The COP26 summit was expected to deliver on several key outcomes related to limiting global temperature rise, climate finance and carbon markets.
The resulting Glasgow Pact offered few wins against expected COP26 outcomes, but there were critical signs of progress seen beyond the negotiation tables.

The COP26 summit focused the world’s attention on the urgent need to tackle climate change. It was the first large-scale multilateral gathering since the start of the pandemic, one drawing global leaders and more than 20,000 delegates from nearly 200 countries. The two-week event also saw a massive mobilisation from business and finance – as well as tens of thousands of citizens and activists, with many who took to Glasgow’s streets in protest.


Theo Lipsky

I first met Ian Fishback when I walked into his classroom. It was the start of my second semester at West Point. Like many harried, drowsy plebes, my academic experience had at that point consisted of jogging to classes, then nodding through them. Fishback’s course was a required introduction to philosophy, and he one of several rotating military faculty teaching its many sections. The course catalog suggested it would be another sleepy three credit hours in a schedule of nineteen. But Ian Fishback jolted us awake.

As did the news of his death last Friday. Jolted because he was still young, because I knew not of his decline, and because Ian Fishback was a remarkable teacher. His lessons were that meaningful philosophical inquiry separated an officer from a mere killer, that such inquiry was within the ability of every cadet, and that because cadets were able, they had to ask by what right and with what consequence might they one day kill.

Fishback taught these lessons with the force of a deep thinker who had gone to war and returned a witness to the gravity of our studies. He had little patience for the idea, which sometimes wandered into his classroom, that philosophy was a humanist whimsy superfluous to a soldier’s education. He illustrated as much not with imaginary trolleys and imaginary people on their tracks but with improvised explosive devices, the platoons that awaited us, and the noncombatants between the two.