27 December 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.

“Recognition” and the Taliban’s International Legal Status

Ben Saul

No country has “recognised” the Taliban as Afghanistan’s new government since it took power in August 2021. There has been much speculation about the preconditions and consequences of recognition. One important question is whether and how recognition or non-recognition may affect counter-terrorism efforts.

Governments under International Law

The conventional approach is that foreign recognition is not legally “constitutive”, or determinative, of whether an entity is the government of a state. Rather, an entity qualifies as the government if it effectively, independently and durably controls the state’s territory, its authority is recognised (but not necessarily supported) by the population, and there is no rival effective authority. Recognition may then simply be “declaratory” of this legal situation; but even in the absence of recognition, the entity will still be the legal government.

This is the case even if the entity came to power unconstitutionally, at least where there is no rival entity with a valid constitutional claim; and even if it is not democratic or does not respect human rights. The essential rationale is that international law abhors a vacuum. To pretend that a government does not exist where a political entity is obviously exercising authority would mean that the entity is not bound by the state’s international obligations or responsible for breaches of them. It would also mean the entity cannot assert the state’s rights, including to protect its people’s interests or defend the state from foreign intervention.

Pakistan-China Relations in a Changing Geopolitical Environment

Masood Khalid

The paper analyses the historical evolution of Pakistan-China relationship and the context of its growing importance in the wake of fast changing regional and global developments. This partnership, often cited as a model in inter-state relationships, has flourished despite numerous headwinds over the last 70 years. An enigma to most, this unique partnership is underpinned by the rationale of mutual trust, common interests and a convergent outlook.

A discussion of Pakistan-China relations evokes different reactions in different settings. The Western perspective essentially views the relationship based on expediency and geopolitical considerations. In Pakistan and China, on the other hand, a more euphoric estimation is found in catchy phrases like the friendship being “higher than the mountains” and “sweeter than honey”.[1] Basically, such phrases intend to convey the ‘substance’ of the relationship, not mere rhetoric. Skeptics generally overlook the fact that no relationship can possibly thrive between two unequals, and that too for long, if it is only driven by rhetoric. Still, for most China watchers, it remains an enigma, and, therefore, some references from history are relevant to contextualise it.


Peter Mills

Key Takeaway: The Taliban central leadership continues to consolidate its power within Afghanistan by asserting control over the judicial system, replacing civil servants with Taliban loyalists, expelling some Taliban fighters, and meeting with Shi’a community leaders. The Taliban leadership will continue to appoint Taliban members throughout the Afghan bureaucracy in order to exert control over the state and reward its fighters and commanders. The Taliban’s work with Shi’a communities may run into conflict in the future, however, as the Taliban has historically persecuted Shi’a communities in Afghanistan and some hardline elements of the Taliban may not support this change in policy.

The Taliban government recently enacted changes to Afghanistan’s legal system that will enable it to exert greater control over the judicial process at the cost of depriving Afghans of their right to due process. Abdul Hakim Sharae, the Taliban minister of justice, published a decree stripping the Afghanistan Independent Bar Association (AIBA) of the authority to license lawyers on November 23.[1] That same day, up to 50 armed Taliban guards forced their way into AIBA’s offices and took over the premises.[2] Sharae’s decree gave the power to license lawyers to the Ministry of Justice and laid out the criteria for whom should be appointed as lawyers and provincial officials. Specifically, the decree stated that lawyers and officials must be “honest and loyal to the Islamic Emirate,” have not worked with the previous administration, and have taken part in the “jihad” of the last 20 years. The decree went on to state that those who do not meet these standards should be replaced.[3] Very few, if any, non-Taliban figures will meet these qualifications.

Chinese Hypersonic Weapons Developments Must Be Countered

Peter Brookes and John Venable
Source Link

China’s development of hypersonic weapons (HSWs) should seriously concern the U.S., as well as allies and partners. Washington must address this capability gap now—before the imbalance undermines stability in the Indo–Pacific and provides China with an operational edge in a future conflict with the U.S. The United States could—and should—quickly catch up with Chinese (and Russian) advances in HSWs for the purposes of both conventional and strategic stability, especially at a time when there are growing questions about U.S. global leadership. China’s summer launch may not exactly have been a near-Sputnik moment, but it was definitely a hypersonic shot across the bow of the American ship of state.


China is now outpacing the United States in hypersonic weapons development.

This dynamic has the potential to undermine strategic and conventional stability and deterrence in the Indo–Pacific.

The United States must address this challenge, developing and/or improving both hypersonic and counter-hypersonic capabilities.

This summer, a Chinese civilian Long March space launch vehicle (SLV) shot through the atmosphere into low-Earth orbit, carrying a hypersonic weapon (HSW).1

China’s Soft-Power Advantage in Africa

Lina Benabdallah

When U.S. policymakers consider China’s influence in Africa, they often think of big-ticket infrastructure development programs such as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Over the past two decades, Beijing has spent billions building dams, highways, railways, and ports in countries from Egypt to South Africa.

But those sorts of projects are only part of the story. China’s evolving presence in Africa, including the BRI, is based as much on investment in building social and human capital as it is on giant infrastructure projects. Since the beginning of this century, Beijing has invested heavily in cultivating political, educational, and institutional relationships with leaders and citizens in almost all African countries with which it has diplomatic relations. As similar opportunities for Africans with Western states have declined, China has stepped into the breach.

To its own detriment, Washington has failed to fully reckon with these less visible elements of Beijing’s diplomacy. If the administration of President Joe Biden is serious about countering Chinese influence across the developing world, it would do well to understand how China’s policies actually work and the benefits that the country stands to gain from its efforts in Africa—and across the globe.


Many U.S. officials, policymakers, and experts have raised concerns about China’s loans, investments, and infrastructure projects worldwide. In response, the Biden administration announced the Build Back Better World plan (B3W)—a global infrastructure program meant to counter China’s influence in the global South—at the G-7 meeting in June 2021. B3W is designed to outperform Beijing by offering alternative investment projects intended to entice countries into choosing the United States over China as their preferred partner.

The administration’s plans, however, reflect a narrow understanding of China’s global role. Although Beijing has poured billions of dollars into infrastructure projects across the developing world, it has also invested heavily in developing relationships and people-to-people connections with political, security, and business elites in many African countries. To be sure, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s engagement with the global South dates back to the Mao era, but the scope of these exchanges has accelerated rapidly. As of 2018, for instance, more than 80,000 African students were studying in China, compared with fewer than 2,000 in 2003. These scholarships are designed to improve China’s image overseas and showcase its development success story to visiting students.

Since 2018, moreover, the Chinese government has invested heavily in a series of annual visits to China for African government officials and defense attachés. High-ranking delegations from 50 African countries spend two weeks in China attending seminars and visiting People’s Liberation Army, PLA Navy, and PLA Air Force sites to learn more about China’s military capabilities. In 2018, as part of these exchanges, all sides agreed to expand Chinese-hosted trainings for African peacekeeping and police forces. For Beijing, these emerging military-to-military relationships represent an important investment in the future of Chinese diplomacy. If properly cultivated, such networks can build trust between Chinese and African militaries—and also yield potentially lucrative arms deals.

The Biden administration’s plans reflect a narrow understanding of China’s global role.

Beyond these extensive exchange programs, the CCP frequently sponsors trainings and seminars for civilian political party elites from across the continent. These programs are designed to teach leaders about the CCP’s approach to development, party leadership, and political organization. Typically, such opportunities also address the role of technology in governance, which presents an opportunity for Chinese technology companies to market their products.

Beijing has also sponsored a series of joint research initiatives between Chinese and African universities and think tanks—including partnerships with schools in 46 African countries that currently host Confucius Institutes, a network of state-sponsored Chinese language and cultural centers. These partnerships are meant to improve exposure to Chinese culture, history, and language across the continent. For the Chinese government, such programs also represent one way of reversing Western hostility to the country’s development model and reducing Beijing’s image deficit abroad.

Finally—and perhaps most notable—Chinese and African officials have launched a number of prominent multilateral events, including the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. The FOCAC meeting, held every three years, is now one of the largest regular diplomatic gatherings of African leaders. The United States, by contrast, hasn’t convened a comparable event since the Obama administration’s 2014 U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C.

Like the BRI, the FOCAC is not focused just on developing joint infrastructure and lending programs. The forum is also designed to grow and deepen people-to-people connections between African countries and China. During the 2018 FOCAC meeting, for example, Beijing pledged to sponsor 50,000 new training opportunities for African professionals in the information technology, energy, tourism, and disaster relief sectors; announced a new cooperation plan between Chinese and African universities; and launched several training programs for African law enforcement personnel. Although limited by COVID-19 pandemic travel restrictions, FOCAC 2021, held in Senegal, produced a similar set of commitments.


Taken together, these activities represent a formidable expansion of China’s influence across the continent. Beijing’s efforts are already paying dividends. Today, 63 percent of Africans view China’s influence in the continent as “somewhat positive” or “very positive,” and China is now the preferred development model for a growing number of countries, including Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, and Mali.

Beyond measures of popularity, however, China’s diplomacy—including forums such as FOCAC—serves several other crucial purposes. For one, when hosted in China, these gatherings showcase Beijing’s development model. China’s booming e-commerce platforms, new infrastructure, and use of technology in governance are all on display to those who visit. The opportunity to “show and tell” China’s success helps government officials shape the narrative about Beijing’s growth and its potential applicability beyond China’s borders.

Washington downplays Beijing’s social and human capital investments in Africa at its own risk.
Forum diplomacy is therefore an ideal way of marketing Chinese products, practices, and norms. Several countries have already taken Beijing’s way to heart. With Chinese support, political parties in South Africa and Tanzania have opened training academies modeled after the CCP’s party schools (which train future party cadres), including the Julius Nyerere Leadership School near Dar es Salaam and an institute outside of Johannesburg sponsored by the African National Congress. Chinese-trained educators also founded Uganda’s Luyanzi Institute of Technology, a vocational training school near Kampala.

The benefits of Chinese diplomacy aren’t limited to these institutional outcomes, however. Testimony from students who attend Chinese schools on government-sponsored scholarships suggests that recipients frequently work to improve bilateral relations with China upon their return home. Proficiency in Mandarin is another straightforward way that this plays out: in non-Anglophone African countries, communicating with Chinese counterparts can be complicated. Civil servants with language skills and an understanding of Chinese culture inevitably facilitate smoother communication and collaboration on complex projects.


Today, Washington downplays Beijing’s social and human capital investments in Africa at its own risk. These programs have quickly become a central pillar of China’s foreign-policy making in Africa, and they will continue to operate well into the future. Such efforts also address a growing need, as the number of U.S. and European scholarships, visas, and exchange programs available to citizens from African countries decreases and anti-immigrant sentiment in the United States and Europe rises.

China is beginning to fill this vacuum across a range of sectors. According to a recent UNESCO report, for example, 16 percent of all scholarships for citizens from African countries to study abroad were sponsored by the Chinese government—making Beijing the single largest provider. Even among wealthy members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States trailed in fifth place. If Washington is serious about improving its relationship with the African continent, increasing educational opportunities for African students is a good place to start.

If Biden’s B3W plan stands a chance of transforming Washington’s relationship with the developing world, his administration must realize the power of building people-to-people connections. Policymakers must take seriously the importance of investing in long-term relations with everyday citizens in countries across Africa and elsewhere, regardless of their governments’ ideologies. Divisive events such as the Summit for Democracy, by contrast, can end up pushing excluded countries closer to Beijing. Programs that focus on human capital development aren’t just the right thing to do; they’re also sound policy.

In an era of evolving threats, the military needs diversity more than ever


Too often, the utility of the American war machine is perceived on a limited understanding of the realities inherent in a direct military confrontation.

What should go without saying, but doesn't in today’s hyper-politicized environment, is that our military should be focused on exploiting every avenue, resource and talent pool in our growing global competition with authoritarian power brokers in Beijing, Moscow and elsewhere. However, the perception of that competition among talking heads turns into hero worship and promotion of the kind of savagery that rational leaders understand isn’t the path towards securing a functional, rules-based world order.

Thus, the clip of political commentator Jesse Kelly telling Fox News’ Tucker Carlson last week that the military is “too gay-friendly, and too woman-friendly” exhibits dissonance and forgets that the talent pool he decries took the same oath to defend the constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, as he did while serving in the Marine Corps.

CNN Exclusive: US intel and satellite images show Saudi Arabia is now building its own ballistic missiles with help of China

Zachary Cohen

Washington (CNN)US intelligence agencies have assessed that Saudi Arabia is now actively manufacturing its own ballistic missiles with the help of China, CNN has learned, a development that could have significant ripple effects across the Middle East and complicate the Biden administration's efforts to restrain the nuclear ambitions of Iran, the Saudis' top regional rival.

Saudi Arabia is known to have purchased ballistic missiles from China in the past but has never been able to build its own -- until now, according to three sources familiar with the latest intelligence. Satellite images obtained by CNN also suggest the Kingdom is currently manufacturing the weapons in at least one location.

US officials at numerous agencies, including the National Security Council at the White House, have been briefed in recent months on classified intelligence revealing multiple large-scale transfers of sensitive ballistic missile technology between China and Saudi Arabia, according to two sources familiar with the latest assessments.

The Biden administration is now confronted with increasingly urgent questions about whether Saudi's ballistic missile advancements could dramatically change regional power dynamics and complicate efforts to expand the terms of a nuclear deal with Iran to include restraints on its own missile technology -- a goal shared by the US, Europe, Israel and Gulf countries.

White House: Russia Stepping Up Disinformation In Possible Invasion Prelude


Moscow has “stepped up efforts” to portray Ukraine and the United States as the instigator of increased tensions that include a massive buildup of Russian forces along the Ukrainian border, a senior White House official told reporters on Thursday.

That came hours after Russian leader Vladimir Putin told reporters that U.S. actions, particularly its financial and military support of Ukraine, were to blame for the rising standoff.

“How would the Americans react if on their frontier with Canada we deployed our missiles,” Putin said. ...“It's a question of security and you know our red lines.”

The White House official said, “To be clear, we see no evidence of that escalation on the Ukrainian side. And we have tried to be very clear to partners and allies that this is a Russian disinformation effort that's underway. It's not unexpected; it fits a standard playbook.”

Japan, US draft operation plan for Taiwan contingency: sources

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan's Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military have drawn up a draft joint operation plan that would enable the setup of an attack base along the Nansei island chain in the country's southwest in the event of a Taiwan contingency, according to Japanese government sources.

Japan and the United States will likely agree to begin work to formalize an operation plan when their foreign and defense chiefs meet in early January under the "two-plus-two" framework, the sources told Kyodo News by Thursday.

The development will likely draw a backlash from China, which regards the self-ruled island of Taiwan as a renegade province to be reunified with the mainland, by force if necessary.

Under the draft plan, U.S. Marines will set up a temporary attack base at the initial stage of a contingency on the Nansei Islands, a chain stretching southwest from the Japanese prefectures of Kagoshima and Okinawa toward Taiwan. Okinawa hosts the bulk of U.S. military installations in Japan.

The Good News In 2022 Will Be The Economy – OpEd

Dean Baker

This is probably a minority position, but I feel very confident in saying that 2022 will be a very good year for the economy. We are looking at a situation where we have low unemployment, falling inflation, and rising real wages. It is likely to be the best economy we have seen in many decades.

In recent weeks, inflation has been front and center in people’s minds as the media have given us endless stories about higher prices for gasoline, milk, and other items. Many have been convinced that inflation will only get higher, outstripping wages and leaving most workers worse off. This is not going to be the case.

We now see inflation driven by supply chain problems associated with reopening. This is demonstrated by the fact that we see big jumps in inflation almost everywhere. The United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, and many other countries have all seen a rise in prices similar to what we see in the United States.

The reason this matters is because we will get through these supply chain problems. When we do, inflation will slow, and in many cases, be reversed.

Responding to Russia’s New Military Buildup Near Ukraine

What’s new? A second large-scale Russian military buildup near Ukraine's borders in 2021 has raised fears of a major war between the two countries.

Why did it happen? With peace talks stalled, Moscow appears disillusioned with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy even as it has not abandoned its goal of an aligned Ukraine, which it sees as increasingly threatened by that country’s ever closer military cooperation with NATO member states.

Why does it matter? Although Moscow may hope the threat of war alone will attain its goals, it has already proven its willingness to fight in Ukraine. A Russian military offensive would have horrific immediate effects and risk escalation as NATO countries that have vocally supported Ukraine respond with a range of tools.

What should be done? Western capitals and Kyiv should define how they would respond to Russian aggression and clearly communicate the danger of escalation to Moscow. If the Kremlin backs down, renewed talks over Ukraine should be paired with agreements to limit military deployments and actions around European flashpoints.

Good News from the Russian Front

Graham Allison

Thirty years ago on December 25, 1991, the Soviet Union disappeared. The Cold War that threatened nuclear Armageddon ended a whimper rather than a bang. As someone who had worked enthusiastically for Ronald Reagan, this was a vision about which I had dreamed but not expected to see. That Christmas Day, I had the good fortune to stand in Moscow’s Red Square and watch as the Soviet flag came down at the Kremlin for the last time.

The good news was that the “evil empire”—as Reagan rightly named it—was erased from the map. The looming question remained: what would happen to its superpower nuclear arsenal now left in Russia and fourteen other newly-independent states. If there were a struggle for operational control of the nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles left in Ukraine aimed at U.S. targets, would some of these be fired? How many of the thousands of tactical nuclear warheads in the Soviet arsenal would become “loose nukes” and be for sale in international arms bazaars?

U.S. Considers Warning Ukraine of a Russian Invasion in Real-Time

Helene Cooper and Julian E. Barnes

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is working on a plan to provide Ukraine with battlefield intelligence that could help the country more quickly respond to a possible Russian invasion, senior administration officials said.

The assistance, if approved by President Biden, is sure to raise the ire of Russia, which has portrayed any American military aid to Ukraine as provocative.

But as more than 100,000 Russian troops mass at the Ukrainian border, the Biden administration is seeking to project support for the former Soviet republic’s independence from Moscow and its territorial integrity. The United States and its allies have warned President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia that an invasion would bring both economic pain for his country, in the form of sanctions, and military losses.

Officials in the Biden administration have moved cautiously to avoid escalating the situation, even as they consider ways to better assist Ukraine and deter Russia.

Ukraine’s Military Has Come a Long Way Since 2014

 Amy Mackinnon and Jack Detsch

Western officials are unsure whether Russian President Vladimir Putin has made a final decision to launch another invasion of Ukraine, but they are furiously working to build up a package of responses to deter Russia and bolster Ukraine’s ability to defend itself—which is already a lot better than it was seven years ago.

When Russian troops invaded eastern Ukraine in 2014 and occupied the Crimean Peninsula, they faced little resistance from a decrepit Ukrainian military—inexperienced, hollowed out by decades of corruption, and lacking the most basic supplies, such as medical kits, boots, and proper helmets. Now, after years of reform and billions of dollars of security assistance from the United States, the Ukrainian military is battle-hardened and highly motivated after seven years of conflict with Russian-backed rebels in Ukraine’s separatist-held Donbass region.

“It’s certainly not going to be an easy operation. It’s not going to be a quick victorious war [for Russia],” said Andrii Zagorodniuk, who served as Ukraine’s defense minister from 2019 to 2020.

US, Japan draw up joint military plan for possible Taiwan emergency: report


The U.S. and Japanese militaries have made a draft plan for a joint operation should an emergency with Taiwan arise, Japan's Kyodo news agency reported Thursday.

The report cited unidentified Japanese government sources.

Under the draft plan, the U.S. Marine Corps would deploy troops to and set up temporary bases on the Nansei island chain, an archipelago of Japan that stretches toward Taiwan, at the first sign of a Taiwan emergency, Kyodo said.

Japanese armed forces, meanwhile, would provide logistical support with ammunition and fuel supplies.

Asked about the draft plan, a Defense Department spokesperson told The Hill that the United States and Japan "share a strong commitment to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait" and are "committed to enhancing resiliency and interoperability between U.S. and Japanese forces and deepening operational cooperation during peacetime and various regional contingencies."

The Top 22 Security Predictions for 2022

Dan Lohrmann

Where do we go from here?

As we head into 2022, the nation and the world ponder that question on topics ranging from the spread of the omicron coronavirus variant to new job prospects to the rise of inflation and interest rates to when international travel will return to pre-pandemic levels.

And in the midst of our accelerating digital transformation that has redesigned government and business processes over the past two years with remote work and more, the vast number of online trends, cyber forecasts, and security predictions are growing in breadth and depth more than ever before.

As I predicted back in early 2016 (see the end of this article on how to benefit from security predictions): “The more the security and technology industries grow, the more predictions we will have. From the Internet of Things, to new technologies to robots to self-driving cars, do you really think we will be talking about security and privacy less in 2020? I don’t.”

Opinion: The Navy SEALs, a Christmas story

David Ignatius

It might seem like a stretch to view the Navy SEALs, among the most fearsome warriors on the planet, as a Christmas story of humility and renewal, but let me explain.

Two years ago, the SEALs were near rock bottom. Almost two decades of vicious war in Iraq and Afghanistan had exhausted and degraded these elite fighters. SEALs were carrying hatchets into battle. Some bragged of “canoeing” their victims by splitting their heads open with a bullet. Too many were behaving like pirates rather than disciplined warriors.

“We have a problem,” Rear Adm. Collin Green, the SEALs commander, announced in July 2019. The most obvious example was Special Operations Chief Eddie Gallagher, who had been convicted that month by a military court for posing with a trophy photo of a dead Islamic State prisoner in Iraq.

The problem was much deeper than that. Gallagher was a symbol of a force that had become too glamorous for its own good. America wanted heroes after 9/11, and the SEALs fit the bill. Gallagher was a walking poster boy: He was super-fit, fearless, churchgoing, movie-star handsome and ready to do anything and go anywhere to destroy America’s enemies.

To Govern, Chile’s Boric Will Have to Build Bridges

Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser 

In winning Chile’s presidential election on Dec. 19, Gabriel Boric set two new records. First, at the age of 36, he will become the youngest president in Chile’s history. Second, his tally of 4.5 million votes is the most ever for a Chilean presidential candidate.

These two new records are intimately related. Boric and his team represent a new generation of leadership, and as such, they were able to mobilize sectors of the electorate that had previously remained uninvolved in electoral politics. Since Chile’s transition to democracy in 1989, the country’s politics has been characterized by declining turnout levels. However, the second round of the presidential election, which took place Sunday, can be thought of as a turning point. More than 8 million people went to the polls, the highest level of electoral participation in Chile’s democratic era. Initial analyses of exit polls suggest that this increase was due to the massive mobilization of younger cohorts, particularly women and inhabitants of large cities, as well as socio-economically deprived groups that normally don’t participate.

As such, Boric’s rise to power already represents major change for Chile’s politics. But whether it will also augur major changes ahead depends on his ability to forge partnerships beyond the ranks of the far-left political family from which he has emerged.

Two main factors help explain why Boric—who came to prominence as a leader of the student protest movement in the early 2010s and has served as a far-left representative in Congress since 2014—won so many additional votes compared to the first round of the presidential election, which took place on Nov. 21. On the one hand, although he continued to defend leftist policy proposals, he also showed signs of moderation, particularly with regard to his embrace of progressive, rather than far-reaching economic and tax reforms. By showing a willingness to compromise, he was able to secure the support of two important political rivals—the Christian Democratic Party and the Socialist Party—while also reassuring large sectors of the electorate that want to see gradual, rather than sweeping transformations. On the other hand, he addressed several topics—in particular, the need to rethink migration policy and combat crime—to which he had not given much emphasis previously and which are normally topics of predilection of the Chilean right, rather than the left.

For all Boric’s skillfulness as a campaigner, however, another factor is crucial when it comes to understanding why so many people voted for him: his opponent. Jose Antonio Kast spent his political career in the Union Democrata Independiente, or UDI, one of Chile’s traditional right-wing parties, but he opted to run for president as an outsider, creating his own electoral vehicle, the “Partido Republicano,” to do so. His criticisms of mainstream right-wing leaders and parties for their alleged betrayal of conservative principles, as well as the policy agenda he ran on, put him in the mold of Donald Trump in the United States and Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil. Kast’s followers argue that his immediate and conciliatory concession to Boric after the election results became clear Sunday shows that he should not be equated with these far-right leaders. However, Boric’s massive victory gave him no room to claim fraud.

In fact, Kast’s program articulated a populist, radical right agenda, characterized by the defense of authoritarian values, the promotion of nativist ideas and the formulation of harsh criticism against progressive actors who are depicted as “the corrupt establishment.” On the campaign trail, he spoke about the need to build walls and ditches on Chile’s border to deal with illegal immigration, proposed to close the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, and promised to combat not only crime but also social protests with an iron fist.

That platform resonated with Chileans who fear the transformations the country has experienced over the past two years, in which social protest movements called into question the neoliberal model that was installed under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, but remained relatively untouched well into the democratic era. Nevertheless, as Sunday’s results demonstrated, those voters proved to be in the minority. As importantly, Kast’s agenda continues to be deeply resisted by large swaths of the population. Pre-election opinion polls by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation and the polling company DATAVOZ revealed that almost half of the Chilean electorate disapproved of Kast, compared to just over one-third that was unfavorable to Boric.

Nor is it a coincidence that women and younger voters, in particular, were crucial to Boric’s victory. Similar trends have been observed in Western Europe, where the populist radical right has also generated strong feelings of disapproval that can then lead to the mobilization of important segments of the voting public against its candidates.

Worryingly, despite Kast’s extremism, Chile’s mainstream right-wing parties continued to vocally support him, arguing that Boric’s election would usher in policies that would turn Chile into a duplicate of Venezuela under the late Hugo Chavez. In doing so, the Chilean right once again stumbled on its conservative dogmatism, instead of recognizing that what Chilean voters are demanding is a welfare model similar to that of Western Europe, as well as respect for progressive values on issues related to the environment and gender. This was also reflected in Kast’s focus during the campaign on aspects of Boric’s political background that raised fears among a small segment of the electorate, but made little sense to most others.

Rather than embrace the approach of modern center-right figures such as former German Chancellor Merkel in Germany or French President Emmanuel Macron, right-wing leaders and parties in Chile almost automatically endorsed the agenda of a populist, radical right demagogue, a brand of politics that is putting democracy at risk worldwide. This is certainly bad news for Chilean democracy and for Boric, as he is almost guaranteed to face staunch opposition from the very beginning of his presidency.

As a result, one of the main challenges for the new president will be his ability to govern. He does not have a majority in Congress, which was elected on Nov. 21 at the time of the first round of the presidential election, and his coalition includes the Communist Party, which is not keen on the incremental approach Boric campaigned and won on. Meanwhile, the business community is maintaining a “wait and see” attitude toward Boric, and it remains to be seen the extent to which he can build an alliance with mainstream figures and parties on the left that he has criticized in the past.

One thing Boric has going for him, though, is that he is not alone. He is part of a new generation of leftist politicians that has emerged in the past decade, first as leaders of successive waves of social protest movements, and more recently in Congress. Some of them are particularly gifted campaigners and organizers, but they have limited experience at the executive level. For this reason, building bridges between these new progressive forces and the older ones that preceded them is crucial. Without the support and involvement of longstanding leftist politicians, as well as of like-minded independents, Boric’s government is doomed to fail.

On the other hand, if Boric can build a broad alliance between progressive forces, he can pave the way for the emergence of a powerful political project that seems to be attractive to a sizeable share of Chile’s electorate. And in so doing, he might transform the country into a role model for a novel left-wing agenda that can succeed beyond Chile.