16 April 2022

Russian Mercenaries in Great-Power Competition: Strategic Supermen or Weak Link?

Molly Dunigan and Ben Connable

Along with China, Iran, and North Korea, Russia is one of a handful of strategic competitors posing a substantial threat to U.S. strategic interests.

Russia has now interfered to some extent in at least three democratic elections in the United States. Russian hackers are probably responsible for the recent SolarWinds attack on U.S. government agency networks. Russia has been aggressively undermining U.S. interests in proxy wars in Syria, Libya, and across the African continent, and it is backing the Taliban against the United States in Afghanistan.

South Asia Economic Focus

The uneven recovery from the pandemic has left countries in South Asia with multiple policy challenges, exacerbated by the impact of the war in Ukraine. While several countries are navigating rising inflation and growing difficulties to finance fiscal deficits and trade deficits, the region must also chart a new way forward to address rising inequality, accommodate an energy transition, and unleash new growth potential. To reshape their economies, the region cannot avoid redesigning tax systems, increasing competition, and challenging vested interests and existing gender norms. This issue of the South Asia Economic Focus, describes recent economic developments, analyzes the economic impact on South Asia of the war in Ukraine, presents growth forecasts, provides risk scenarios, and concludes that reshaping economies goes hand in hand with reshaping norms.

It’s Time for America and India to Talk Trade

Kenneth I. Juster, Mohan Kumar, Wendy Cutler, and Naushad Forbes

With the war in Ukraine raging, news about the Indian-U.S. relationship tends to focus on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s reluctance to criticize the Russian invasion. But the frustration the Biden administration has voiced over that position obscures the broader trajectory of the countries’ bilateral relationship: over the past 22 years, the United States and India have steadily widened and deepened their partnership to cover almost every area of human endeavor, ranging from defense and counterterrorism to health and education. There is, however, one area that has repeatedly caused friction: trade.

China scrambles for cover from West's financial weapons


HONG KONG -- The Western-led freeze on half of Russia's gold and foreign exchange reserves after its invasion of Ukraine came as a shock to Moscow -- and an unwelcome surprise to Beijing. The move underscored a brutal truth for China, the world's largest holder of foreign reserves: One day, its international assets could be a tempting target, too.

Ensuring a stronger US-Taiwan tech supply chain partnership

Jason Hsu

This piece is part of the Taiwan-U.S. Quarterly Analysis series, which features in-depth analysis of important issues in Taiwan and the U.S.-Taiwan relationship by leading experts, with the goal of providing a range of perspectives on developments relating to Taiwan.

In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the world has become even more ideologically polarized. As the war and Russian atrocities continue, the United States and its allies are targeting Moscow by imposing a series of sanctions on finance, technology, and trade. While there are concerns that such sanctions could strain global supply chains, it is imperative that actions be taken to uphold democracy and the international rules-based order.

The EU Has Lots of Options for Targeting Russian Oil. It Should Use Them

Thijs Van de Graaf

In banning Russian coal imports from August onward, the European Union has finally broken the “energy taboo” that had beset its discussions of punitive sanctions against Russia for the war in Ukraine. Yet, the coal ban is not going to hit Russia’s economy very hard. With the clock now ticking as Russia prepares its next offensive in eastern Ukraine, Europe should press ahead and move swiftly toward measures that target Russian oil imports.

Western sanctions adopted against Russia since the start of the war in Ukraine have been unprecedented in both scale and scope. They have also been insufficient. Russia’s economy has not crumbled, and the ruble has even recovered to its pre-war level. The key reason why these sanctions against Russia have largely missed their mark is because they had a significant blind spot: Energy exports from Russia to Europe were not targeted.

Surveillance Fears and Privacy Shield

James Andrew Lewis

It’s good to have a strong sense of self-worth but sometimes it can go too far. A January 2022 ruling by the Austrian Data Protection Authority (DSB) is an example of this. The DSB ruled that the use of Google Analytics by an Austrian health website violates the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) as it exports visitors’ data to servers in the United States, which the DSB believes opens the door for monitoring of individuals by “U.S. intelligence services.”

India’s Electricity Outlook and the Challenges for Achieving a Sustainable Power Mix

A.K. Saxena and T.C.A. Avni

This essay examines the near-term outlook for India’s energy sector and considers the challenges facing the country’s ambitious plans through 2030 for transitioning to renewable energy.

India And The UK: Crafting A New Legacy – Analysis

Harsh V. Pant

The war in Ukraine has brought unexpected changes in the world as global powers seek to recalibrate their foreign policies. India’s position has been in the spotlight in recent days with New Delhi hosting diplomats and dignitaries from various countries. On March 31, the U.K. Foreign Secretary, Elizabeth Truss, visited New Delhi as a part of a wider diplomatic push. She had visited India last October. Ms. Truss met with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and also participated in the inaugural edition of the India-U.K. Strategic Futures Forum, a Track 1.5 Dialogue.

Strategies Behind China And Asia-Pacific’s Military Base Construction – Analysis

Felix K. Chang

(FPRI) — Military bases are no rarity in the Asia-Pacific. That is hardly a surprise given the frequency and length of conflicts that were waged across the region for much of the twentieth century. But, in the decade-and-a-half after the Cold War, the Asia-Pacific experienced a remarkable period of interstate peace and stability. Military bases were consolidated, scaled down, or shuttered entirely. Most notably, the United States vacated what once were its two largest overseas bases in the Philippines and incrementally reduced its footprint in South Korea. While Washington claimed that it would make up for its smaller forward presence with new, long-range “global strike” assets, the closures appeared to signal an American pullback from the region.

Nepal’s Geopolitical Stakes Are As High As The Himalayas – Analysis

Gaurab Shumsher Thapa

Nepal occupies a crucial geostrategic location in South Asia. It is sandwiched between powerful and competing neighbours in India and China, outstripping the Himalayan nation in size, population, economy and military might. Yet it is one of the few countries that has remained independent throughout history. Maintaining that independence is now just that much more challenging.

Geopolitical realities necessitate maintaining a fine balance in Nepal’s relations with its immediate neighbours. Relations with India are deeply embedded in historical, cultural, socio-economic, religious and familial ties. The open border arrangement between the two countries eases the flow of people and goods. But politically, India and Nepal have seen ups and downs. Although Nepal and China also share historic relations, the bilateral relations are more focused on political and economic issues rather than people-to-people exchanges. Still, China has greatly increased its influence in Nepal over the past decade. The United States is also now one of Nepal’s most important development partners.

Finland And Sweden’s Steady March Toward NATO – Analysis

Rikard Jozwiak

(RFE/RL) — It is almost a certainty now that Finland and Sweden will join NATO, making it the biggest political and military redrawing of the European map since the countries of Central and Eastern Europe joined the military alliance, as well as the European Union, in different waves in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

The big questions right now are no longer if, but rather when Finland and Sweden will join NATO, if they will do so together, and — perhaps most crucially — if they will get certain security guarantees in the (likely) period of months between their applications and actually being approved as full members of the alliance.

US Has Provided $2.6Bln To Ukraine; Pentagon Says Security Assistance Support Not Affecting US Readiness

Todd Lopez

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Feb. 24, the U.S. government has provided $2.6 billion in security assistance to the Ukrainians to help them regain and defend their sovereignty. Much of what has been sent has come straight out of U.S. military stockpiles. Nevertheless, the U.S. military’s own readiness has not been affected by having sent that gear overseas, said Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby during a briefing Thursday.

To Buy Or Not To Buy Russian Oil: Uncertainties Ahead For India’s Energy Security – OpEd

N Chandra Mohan

Although India’s foreign policy is increasingly aligned with that of the West, especially the US, it also has strategic relationships with major powers like Russia in a multi-polar world. For such reasons, it has preferred a delicate balancing act in not joining the chorus of Western nations in condemning Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine while appealing for an immediate cessation of violence.

The West led by the US has announced unprecedented financial sanctions, including bans on imports of Russian oil and gas (US and Japan) and is exerting pressure on India not to increase its reliance on energy imports from that country. India, for its part, has held firm in its resolve to purchase deeply-discounted Russian oil to enhance its energy security.

Laser Trailblazer: US Navy Conducts Historic Test Of New Laser Weapon System

Source Link

The ground-based laser system homed in on the red drone flying by, shooting a high-energy beam invisible to the naked eye. Suddenly, a fiery orange glow flared on the drone, smoke poured from its engine and a parachute opened as the craft tumbled downward, disabled by the laser beam.

The February demonstration marked the first time the U.S. Navy used an all-electric, high-energy laser weapon to defeat a target representing a subsonic cruise missile in flight.

5 Years of Local Governance in Nepal

Biswas Baral

They are tall and tacky – and mighty popular among the TikTok crowd.

As Nepal heads into local level elections scheduled for May 13, the ubiquitous “view towers” (up in the mountains) and “welcome gates” (down in the plains) are being repeatedly cited in Nepali media as markers of local governments’ profligacy. The local bodies are apparently competing to build these eye-catching structures that otherwise offer no tangible benefits to their citizens.

The Outsiders: How the International System Can Still Check China and Russia

Stacie E. Goddard

In late February, as Russian forces moved into Ukraine, Vladimir Putin declared that his offensive was aimed not just at bringing Russia’s neighbor to heel but also at repudiating the U.S.-led liberal international order. “Where the West comes to establish its own order,” the Russian president railed, “the result is bloody, unhealed wounds, ulcers of international terrorism and extremism.” Moscow would now seek to roll back the expanding order as “a matter of life and death, a matter of our historical future as a people.” Russia’s full-scale war on Ukraine is only the most recent act in a years-long effort to overturn the existing status quo, one that has featured cyberattacks, assassinations, a war against Georgia, meddling in U.S. elections, military involvement in Syria, and the annexation of Crimea.

Are we witnessing the beginning of de-dollarization?


2022 started with a surging omicron variant. A few weeks in, providing a respite, the variant subsided around the globe. However, as if the world was deprived of tragedy and was rejoicing for too long, weeks later, Russia invaded Ukraine, leading to death and destruction in Ukraine and economic turmoil around the globe.

Russia’s Sunken Warship Dents Its Pride and Capabilities

Marc Champion

The loss of the flagship vessel of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet goes beyond wounded pride, robbing the military of important protection and capabilities as the war in Ukraine enters a crucial phase for Moscow.

Ukraine said the ship was struck by two Neptune missiles, a new domestically developed anti-ship system of which just one battery exists. Russia’s Defense Ministry said a blaze caused the warship’s ammunition store to explode, without saying what started the fire.

The Cold War Never Ended

Stephen Kotkin

Does anyone have a right to be surprised? A gangster regime in the Kremlin has declared that its security is threatened by a much smaller neighbor—which, the regime claims, is not a truly sovereign country but just a plaything of far more powerful Western states. To make itself more secure, the Kremlin insists, it needs to bite off some of its neighbor’s territory. Negotiations between the two sides break down; Moscow invades.

Putin Learns A Lesson Washington Knows All Too Well: Military Power Can Kill People, But It Can’t Change Them

Loren Thompson

President Biden has taken to describing Russian military tactics in Ukraine as genocidal.

Some Western leaders, such as French President Macron, think that is rhetorical overkill.

However, there is a simple operational reason why Russia may be resorting to the indiscriminate killing of civilians: Ukrainians are proving to be far less tractable to the application of military force than Russian strongman Vladimir Putin expected.

AI Competition With China Should Be Done the American Way

Melissa Flagg, Dan Patt

With much of the national security community's attention now turned to long-term competition with China, the race to sustain the United States’ global leadership position in science and technology has taken center stage. One of the most frequently discussed aspects of this competition is artificial intelligence (AI), which is often mentioned as a potentially transformative technology.

Space domain awareness: A secret weapon against shadowy threats in orbit

Sandra Erwin

When China fired a missile into one of its own weather satellites in a 2007 show of force, experts called the demo the beginning of a new antisatellite arms race. Fast forward to 2022, and a Chinese space tug is spotted towing a dead navigation satellite into a graveyard orbit above the geostationary belt.

“This is the type of space event that makes the hair on the back of people’s necks stand up,” said Brian Young, a former space control officer at the U.S. Air Force Space Command and now vice president of KBR’s military space business.

The World Deciding if Taliban Get to Lead Afghanistan. What’s the Alternative?

Jason Criss Howk

Eight months have passed since the Taliban-Haqqani terrorist network pushed the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan from power. Today the state of the nation of Afghanistan is reminiscent of the 1990s, a horrible time for Afghans, and an era that produced the Africa Embassy bombings and the September 11 attacks. Diplomats so far have been unable to stop the regime from dragging Afghans back to the dark era of the 1990s Taliban reign.

Panel: China Planning a ‘Go Big, Go Early’ Strategy Against Taiwan

John Grady

While it’s unclear what lessons Chinese military planners are learning from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, they learned to “go big and go early” from America’s quick victory in the first Gulf War, a panel of defense analysts agreed Thursday.

It’s a strategy the Chinese could use against Taiwan.

Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, said if the Chinese don’t win early on they’ll see their cross-strait invasion become “very messy, very quickly.” He added it would “become a slog,” as the Russian drive on Kyiv became. Later, Clark added he didn’t expect China to have the same “nuts and bolts failures” that the Russians have experienced in logistics and command in Ukraine.

How to Win the Battle in Eastern Ukraine

Benjamin Jensen

Russian forces are positioning themselves for a large “cauldron battle” in eastern Ukraine designed to shatter the Ukrainian army and gain terrain to use as a bargaining chip at the negotiating table. Kyiv has a limited window of opportunity to conduct a series of localized counterattacks that limit Russia’s ability to encircle the Ukrainian armed forces.