2 May 2022

Biden’s Dangerous New Ukraine Endgame: No Endgame

Michael Hirsh

In a dramatic series of shifts this week, U.S. President Joe Biden and his NATO allies have escalated their policy of helping to defend Ukraine against Russian aggression into a policy of undermining the power and influence of Russia itself. In so doing, some observers fear, they are leaving Russian President Vladimir Putin little choice but to surrender or double down militarily, raising the possibility of widening his war beyond Ukraine.

On Thursday, Biden urged Congress to provide $33 billion in additional military, economic, and humanitarian assistance for Ukraine—more than double the previous amount—and said he was sending a clear message to Putin: “You will never succeed in dominating Ukraine.” Beyond that, Biden said in remarks at the White House, the new policy was intended “to punish Russian aggression, to lessen the risk of future conflicts.”

Elon Musk’s Twitter Test


LONDON – With Elon Musk set to buy Twitter for $44 billion, commentators are scrambling to understand what the “free speech absolutism” espoused by the world’s richest person will mean for the platform. But the principle could also create headaches for Musk himself.Sustainability 

With the European Union and the United Kingdom about to enact laws aimed at making social media safer and more accountable, Musk has seemingly chosen a bad time to roll back content moderation on Twitter. In fact, despite officials’ threats, Musk will be able to emasculate the platform’s content restrictions in the name of free speech if that is what he wishes to do. But he may reconsider once he realizes that this freedom will soon mean greater accountability.


Yuka Koshino

Geo-economic strategy is not new: deploying economic instruments to secure foreign-policy aims and to project power has long been a core part of many countries’ statecraft even before the advent of the term itself.1 Analysts, meanwhile, have often sought to explain the link between economics and power. Writing in 1938, philosopher Bertrand Russell called economics an element in the ‘science of power’.2 In his seminal 1945 study of Germany’s use of trade policy in the run-up to the Second World War, National Power and the Structure of Foreign Trade, Albert O. Hirschman wrote of how ‘foreign economic relations can be used ... as an instrument of national power policy’.3 Writing in the 1970s, political scientist Joseph S. Nye spoke of ‘the two-edged sword’ nature of economic interdependence in international relations, citing the ‘economic aspect’ of national security.4 In his 1987 study, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, historian Paul Kennedy, analysing imperial overstretch and the economic limits to national power, wrote: ‘all of the major shifts in the world’s military-power balances have followed alterations in the productive balances ... where victory has always gone to the side with the greatest material resources.’ 5 The practice of geo-economics has an inseparable relationship with what might be termed ‘economic security’ – the safe-guarding of national economic prosperity. Without a thriving national economy that is resilient to potential hostile measures by international adversaries, no state can use economic power effectively in order to achieve its geopolitical goals.

Macron eyes pivotal role for France in Europe and beyond

Fabrice Pothier

Foreign policy has played an unusually prominent role in what will be remembered as a ‘drôle de campagne’ – an odd presidential campaign. The 2022 French presidential campaign was overtaken by one of Europe’s biggest security crises in decades, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. As a result, the views and, in some cases the dubious links, of some candidates with Putin’s Russia became one of the Macron campaign’s favourite lines of attack. The fact that France has held the rotating presidency of the European Union since January also meant that the subject of the European project was more central to the political debates than ever.

For Tibetans, Putin’s Invasion of Ukraine Sparks Bitter Memories

Yeshi Dorje

I know what it means when Russian President Vladimir Putin says he is “liberating” Ukraine – China’s Chairman Mao Zedong used the same slogan when he sent his troops to Tibet in 1949-50. Likewise, Putin’s allegation of rampant “neo-Nazis” in a country headed by a Jewish man echoes Mao’s accusation of “foreign powers” ruling in Tibet, a country that did everything possible to keep foreigners out in the name of protecting Buddhism. Tibetans call this “a horn on the rabbits’ head.”

But what the war in Ukraine reminds me of the most is the fundamental human determination to stand up against foreign invaders. Like the Ukrainians resisting Russian invaders, many Tibetans fought the Chinese People’s Liberation Army for years. Even after His Holiness the Dalai Lama and those who followed him escaped to northern India, the men of my hometown continued fighting the Chinese until they were captured or killed.

As Satellite Images Reshape Conflict, Worries Mount About Keeping Them Safe


DENVER – If Russia is defeated in its war against Ukraine, it will be thanks in no small part to publicly available satellite images. Pictures of Russian military movements and actions have helped mount defenses, expose Russian falsehoods and war crimes, and galvanize Ukrainian allies. But precisely because the recent explosion in space-generated intelligence is proving so valuable, industry and military officials are concerned about potential adversaries’ growing abilities to target satellites.

In the leadup to the invasion, images bolstered leaders’ credibility as they issued increasingly dire warnings. After it happened, the photos helped policy makers in Washington, Brussels, and elsewhere marshal support for sanctions on Russia.

Russia’s army is in a woeful state

The job of organising nato’s biggest military exercise since the cold war kept Admiral James Foggo, then the commander of American naval forces in Europe and Africa, busy in the summer of 2018. Trident Juncture was to gather 50,000 personnel, 250 aircraft and 65 warships in the European Arctic in October. As logistically taxing as that sounds, it was small fry compared with what Russia was planning in Siberia in September. The Vostok exercises would be the biggest since the Soviet Union’s mammoth Zapad drills of 1981, boasted Sergei Shoigu, Russia’s defence minister: they would involve 300,000 troops, 1,000 aircraft and 80 warships.

The EU’s plans to replace Russian gas: Aspiration and reality

John Roberts and Julian Bowden

On March 8, the European Commission, delivered the outline of its REPowerEU plan, which is aimed at securing a massive immediate reduction in EU consumption of Russian gas and goes on to make the somewhat vague claim that “phasing out our dependence on fossil fuels from Russia can be done well before 2030.”

The vagueness is inherent in the fact that the EU does not define what constitutes dependence on Russian energy. But the accompanying statement by Commission Ursula von der Leyen made it clear that a massive reduction is envisaged: “We must become independent from Russian oil, coal and gas. We simply cannot rely on a supplier who explicitly threatens us.”

The question, then, is how to replace a very big volume of gas with other gas, other energy sources, and demand reduction.

The War in Ukraine Is a Colonial War

Nicholas Konrad

When Vladimir Putin denies the reality of the Ukrainian state, he is speaking the familiar language of empire. For five hundred years, European conquerors called the societies that they encountered “tribes,” treating them as incapable of governing themselves. As we see in the ruins of Ukrainian cities, and in the Russian practice of mass killing, rape, and deportation, the claim that a nation does not exist is the rhetorical preparation for destroying it.

Empire’s story divides subjects from objects. As the philosopher Frantz Fanon argued, colonizers see themselves as actors with purpose, and the colonized as instruments to realize the imperial vision. Putin took a pronounced colonial turn when returning to the Presidency a decade ago. In 2012, he described Russia as a “state-civilization,” which by its nature absorbed smaller cultures such as Ukraine’s. The next year, he claimed that Russians and Ukrainians were joined in “spiritual unity.” In a long essay on “historical unity,” published last July, he argued that Ukraine and Russia were a single country, bound by a shared origin. His vision is of a broken world that must be restored through violence. Russia becomes itself only by annihilating Ukraine.

Rebels Without a Cause The New Face of African Warfare

Jason K. Stearns

On August 1, 2018, the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo declared an outbreak of Ebola in the country’s war-torn northeast. It was Congo’s tenth recorded outbreak of the deadly hemorrhagic fever, but the first in an active conflict zone. Determined to avoid a repeat of the West African Ebola epidemic in 2014, when outside help was too little, too late, donors threw caution to the wind and pumped more than $700 million into northeastern Congo to fight the disease over the next 20 months. To protect their staff members, the World Health Organization and its partners put both Congolese security forces and local militia members on their payrolls. This created perverse incentives: although the combatants had reason to refrain from attacking aid workers, they also had an interest in prolonging the epidemic so they could keep profiting from it. Between August 2018 and June 2020, when the Ebola epidemic was finally declared over, some militiamen and members of the government security forces stoked violence and instability so that the disease would continue to spread and the international aid agencies would continue to pay them. A well-meaning effort to contain the disease ended up doing the exact opposite.

America Needs a Comprehensive Compellence Strategy Against Russia

Frank G. Hoffman

The Biden administration has formulated a unprecedented response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The coordination of transatlantic diplomacy, including the condemnation of Russia at the United Nations and the implementation of a massive sanctions package, is truly impressive. The president’s recent request for an additional $33 billion from Congress in security, economic, and humanitarian aid for Ukraine demonstrates the seriousness of America’s commitment to European security.

While the White House should be applauded for its response to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, this only tells part of the story. Indeed, none of these diplomatic initiatives would have been necessary had the United States and its allies successfully deterred Russia from attacking Ukraine in the first place. Deterrence failed because the United States and its allies signaled, in advance, that it was not prepared to apply direct military force in Ukraine. It did so because it was afraid of Vladimir Putin’s nuclear threats. America’s risk calculus was framed by the fear of nuclear escalation and Washington’s overestimation of Russian military power.

Heat Wave Scorches India’s Wheat Crop, Singes Its Export Plans

Aniruddha Ghosal

An unusually early, record-shattering heat wave in India has reduced wheat yields, raising questions about how the country will balance its domestic needs with ambitions to increase exports and make up for shortfalls due to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Gigantic landfills in India’s capital New Delhi have caught fire in recent weeks. Schools in the eastern Indian state of Odisha have been shut for a week and in neighboring West Bengal, schools are stocking up on oral rehydration salts for kids.

Winning the Interdiction Fight in Ukraine

Benjamin Jensen

While most analysts are focused on Russian land operations in the Donbas region, the next phase of the war will likely be decided in western Ukraine along the network of roads, small airports, and rail lines connecting the nation to Europe. To survive, Ukraine needs massive shipments of ammunition and fuel, which Russia will increasingly attempt to interdict. If Ukraine can protect these lines of communication, Kyiv has a real chance to deny Russian military objectives and force a political settlement.

In military theory, interdiction represents actions to disrupt, delay, or destroy enemy military capabilities—to include precursors like logistics—before they can be brought to bear against friendly forces. While historically interdiction includes activities ranging from the maritime commerce raiding to aerial strafing of rail lines and other logistics nodes in Second World War, Korea, and Vietnam, modern interdiction often involves cruise missiles, cyber operations, and special forces.

Data Dive: The Private Sector Drives Growth in China’s High-Tech Exports

Scott Kennedy

One clear goal of China is to be a high-tech leader, and one indicator is to be a leading exporter of high-tech products. Historically, most high-tech exports have come from foreign-invested enterprises (FIEs), both subsidiaries of multinationals as well as Chinese-foreign joint ventures. In the 2000s, such firms accounted for well over 80 percent of China’s high-tech exports. In 2011, in fact, they accounted for 84.2 percent of high-tech exports.I’ve not looked at this data for a while, and I was curious to what extent the pattern has changed under Xi Jinping. As everyone knows, over the last decade Chinese policies have given greater support to state-owned enterprises (SOEs), giving rise to the idea of “state ahead, private back” (国进民退, guojin mintui). Private companies have only episodically received state support, and in fact, for the last year and a half there has been a massive crack down on private Internet services firms.

Lessons from India’s attempt to marry biometric and voter ID databases

Patrick Jones

Over the past decade, the Indian government has assembled a sprawling biometric database designed to improve the delivery of social services to the country’s more than 1 billion citizens. The Aadhaar database is one of the world’s largest biometric identity programs and has been credited with making it easier for Indians to access subsidies and pension payments. Using fingerprints and iris scans, Aadhaar has made it possible for the government to verify the identity of the country’s residents with relative ease. Now, the Election Commission of India wants to link their voter registration database with Aadhaar, a move that would have profound consequences not only for the privacy of Indian citizens but for the future of biometric databases worldwide.

Macron 2.0 and Europe: A Bumpy Ride Ahead


When Emmanuel Macron was reelected in France with a comfortable majority on Sunday, April 24, there was a sigh of relief in all European capitals. And the road ahead may look wide open for the French president to carry out his well-known ambitions for Europe.

Yet Macron 2.0 will be facing a much more complex political landscape than the one he embraced in 2017, when first elected. The EU and, for that matter, the geopolitical realities of the world surrounding it have gone through a complete transformation. These underlying shifts may well complicate the ambitions of the French president as the challenges ahead, imposed notably by the Russia–Ukraine war, make the French vision of a future EU hard to swallow for many of its European partners.

Why Indonesia’s Palm Oil Export Ban Could Backfire


A stunning move from Indonesia has further upended global food markets already shaken by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. On Friday, Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced a ban on the export of palm oil, the most widely used vegetable oil in the world. The ban covered both crude and refined palm oil exports, which are crucial for goods ranging from shampoos to Nutella to fried foods. Soon after, Indonesia clarified that it would not ban exports of crude palm oil, only the refined versions. Then, on Wednesday, it reversed itself and stated that the ban would in fact include the export of crude palm oil. The government implemented the export ban to mitigate rising food prices and to quell local unrest, but the fallout may upend the country’s economy anyway, while forcing global prices even higher.

The Only Five Paths China’s Economy Can Follow


The first quarter GDP numbers that China’s National Bureau of Statistics released last week have renewed what was already an aggressive debate about whether or not China would be able to meet the 5.5 percent GDP growth target it set for itself this year. Two weeks ago, for example, for the second time in three months, the International Monetary Fund lowered its GDP growth forecast for the country to 4.4 percent from 4.8 percent in January 2022 and 5.6 percent last October. Given the serious headwinds the economy is facing, many analysts question whether China can achieve even this rate of growth.

How “I Am Not Ashamed” T-Shirts Have Become a Symbol for Russia’s New Normal


The start of the second phase of the “special military operation” in Ukraine announced by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, 72, appears to have coincided with the gerontocratic development phase of the post-Soviet model of the Russian state. In 1979, there was a direct link between the increasingly decrepit state of the politburo and the decision to send Soviet troops into Afghanistan. Now the sight of Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reading haltingly from pieces of paper to a President Vladimir Putin—long dubbed “Granddad”—seemingly frozen to his chair and awkwardly gripping the table cannot help but suggest an indirect link between the moral and mental decrepitation of the current “politburo” and the disastrous decision to begin the “special operation” in Ukraine.

The Ukraine War Is Reshaping the Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict


With the world’s eyes fixed on Ukraine, the standoff between Armenia and Azerbaijan is shifting quickly, and Russia and the United States are uncertain about how to respond. A 2020 Russian-brokered ceasefire that ended the second Karabakh war has brought neither full stability nor security to the region, and even prior to the Ukraine war, Moscow’s peacekeepers have struggled to do their jobs. But a new peace process between Baku and Yerevan may be emerging anyway with a new broker—the European Union—increasingly active. These dynamic changes over the past two months highlight how Russia’s war against Ukraine is shaking up the Eurasian landscape.

The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan has its origins in the late Soviet period, when residents of the ethnically Armenian autonomous region of Nagorno-Karabakh requested that Moscow sever the enclave from the Azerbaijani Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) and attach it to the Armenian SSR. The move led to a rise in nationalist sentiment on both sides and a protracted, bloody conflict.

India Can’t Keep Delaying Its Personal Data Protection Bill


For the past five years, India has been on a journey to create a comprehensive data protection law. Those efforts include a report from a committee formed to study privacy issues in India, data protection bills, and most recently, a report from a committee tasked with studying one of those bills. Despite these efforts, no laws have been passed—and the recent committee report produced a number of causes for concern. For example, several members noted their objections to the provisions that enable the government to exempt its agencies from the bill’s provisions.

Why the Indian Air Force’s Modernization Process Has Stumbled


In 2021, the Indian Air Force (IAF) lost five MiG-21 fighter aircraft to crashes, killing three Indian pilots. While incidents like these have spotlighted concerns about the aircrafts’ serviceability, the larger question is why a fighter jet inducted in 1963 still serves. The MiG-21 jets were initially supposed to be retired by the mid-1990s, but India’s inability to procure replacements has required that they remain in service. As recently as October last year, the air force chief claimed that the IAF would retire its remaining four squadrons of the MiG-21 in the next three to four years. However, it is unclear what will replace them, forcing a fighter plane that has outlived its utility to remain in service even longer.

China’s Influence in Nepal Isn’t Limitless


Last week’s visit to Nepal by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was the first political-level contact between the neighbors since Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit in October 2019. Then, Xi’s visit had been a high-water mark of Chinese diplomacy in its periphery. Now, Nepal’s own political maneuverings are putting China on defense.

Before the last visit, the Chinese Communist Party had worked hard at unifying and successfully bringing the Nepal Communist Party to power in 2018. Nepali prime minister K.P. Sharma Oli was viewed as Beijing’s man. In return, Beijing secured binding assurances that the Nepali government would back China on top Chinese concerns like Taiwan and Tibet, as well as a clear commitment to Nepali participation in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The newly minted strategic partnership was testimony to China’s success in weaning Nepal away from India’s overriding influence. Nepalis believed that Chinese promises of new connectivity and financial largesse would end their traditional dependence on India.

Ukraine’s Three-to-One Advantage

Elliot Ackerman

A few nights ago in Lviv, after an early dinner (restaurants shut at 8 p.m. because of curfew), I stepped into the elevator of my hotel. I was chatting with a colleague when a man in early middle age, dressed and equipped like a backpacker, thrust his hand into the closing door. “You guys American?” he asked. I told him we were, and as he reached for the elevator button, I couldn’t help but notice his dirty hands and the half-moons of filth beneath each fingernail. I also noticed his fleece. It had an eagle, a globe, and an anchor embossed on its left breast. “You a Marine?” I asked. He said he was (or had been—once a Marine, always a Marine), and I told him that I’d served in the Marines too.

Transcript: IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva on "Face the Nation," March 13, 2022

MARGARET BRENNAN: Last week, harsh financial sanctions and trade restrictions were put in place to punish Russia and cripple its economy. Among them, the banning of all Russian imports of oil, gas, and coal, as well as goods like vodka and caviar. Joining us now is the managing director of the IMF, Kristalina Georgieva. Welcome to FACE THE NATION.


MARGARET BRENNAN: I wonder how you can calculate the total impact of all of these restrictions that have been put on Russia. I mean, it- will Russia default on its debts and what impact will that have to the global economy?