16 May 2022

How Wars End | War terminations: insights for the Russia-Ukraine War

How and when does the Russia-Ukraine war end? HCSS director of research Tim Sweijs and assistant analyst Mattia Bertolini consider what we can learn from war terminations in the past: how long they lasted, how they ended, whether they relapsed, and what factors contributed to their end.

These insights are used to assess the prospects of war termination in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict and provide recommendations to European policymakers to bring an end to the current war and ensure durable peace between Russia and Ukraine.


John Sullivan

One of the enduring appeals of Sun Tzu’s Art of War is the belief that its author was not only a talented theorist of war, but also a highly successful practitioner. His writings, therefore, were validated in the uncompromising crucible of combat. His crowning achievement of military and strategic prowess, according to conventional wisdom, is found in his brilliant victory at the Battle of Boju, fought in 506 BCE between the forces of Wu and Chu. In Deciphering Sun Tzu, Derek Yuen claims that the battle was one “in which Sun Tzu played a major planning and commanding role, eventually winning a stunning victory against his state’s (Wu) arch-enemy, the state of Chu, [marking] the pinnacle of military operations in the Spring and Autumn Period and represent[ing] Sun Tzu’s greatest military achievement.”

How valid is this claim and what is it ultimately based on? Yuen, like many others who invoke this battle as incontrovertible proof of Sun Tzu’s strategic acumen, provides frustratingly little historical evidence to substantiate assertions of tactical and strategic mastery. This is surprising, because not only the Boju campaign, but the broader century-long Wu-Chu rivalry in which it was fought is documented in extensive detail in China’s oldest historical narrative, the Zuozhuan. Comparing the Zuozhuan’s wider context and detailed account of the campaign with its sensationalized popular version, however, paints a starkly different picture. Wu’s campaign against Chu was a risky gamble, not a masterclass in strategic execution, and Wu lacked a viable plan for how to exploit its early battlefield success. Despite its initial serendipitous victory at Boju, Wu’s territorial gains were quickly erased. Understanding why the state of Wu ultimately failed to achieve its strategic objectives, rather than blindly lauding its Pyrrhic tactical victory, will provide modern strategists more useful historical lessons.

Truce Test: The Huthis and Yemen’s War of Narratives

What’s new? A two-month truce and reconfiguration of executive powers in Yemen’s internationally recognised government represent an opportunity, if not for peace, then at least for negotiations aimed at achieving it. But getting to talks will require overcoming a barrier many see as insurmountable: dialogue with the Huthi rebels.

Why does it matter? The Huthis remain an enigma to many outsiders but are instrumental to a negotiated solution. They have given few signs of late that they will make compromises necessary to end the war, but efforts to engage them stand a better chance than further isolation of convincing them to do so.

What should be done? Diplomats will need both carrots and sticks to bring the Huthis in from the cold. International stakeholders should establish a working group to make overtures to Sanaa and prepare for inclusive Yemeni-Yemeni talks to chart a way out of the conflict.

'Win Without Fighting': The Chinese Communist Party's Political and Institutional Warfare Against the West

John Lee & Lavina Lee

When compared to Western forms of diplomatic conversation and strategic discussion, phrases emanating from Beijing and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) can appear peculiar, platitudinous, and so ambiguous as to be devoid of practical content. China’s paramount leader Xi Jinping speaks frequently about a ‘community of shared future,’ a ‘common destiny for mankind’ as part of his ‘China dream,’ or of his country’s ‘rejuvenation.’ He promises to pursue and achieve a ‘new type of great-power relations’ with the United States that will ‘expand the converging interests of all and build a big global family of harmony and cooperation.’

Yielding to the temptation to dismiss these phrases as glib and meaningless or as empty promises to the world would be a serious mistake. Emerging as the victorious side after the world was reshaped in the aftermath of the Second World War, and, more recently, the formal end of the Cold War, the United States and its allies have generally enjoyed dominance in all forms of power. The challenge and threat of China is largely understood in the context of its increase in material power, which is relatively easy to understand and quantify. In contrast, far less attention is being paid to non-material power, which is, admittedly, more nebulous and difficult to assess.

From Mining To Fishing: How Blockchain Is Addressing Different Challenges Of Supply Chain In Asia – Analysis

Yingli Wang and Imtiaz Khan

International supply chains are lengthy, complex and face risks of disruption. There is also public pressure on firms and governments to ensure supply chains adhere to social and environmental standards. While supply chain resilience can be achieved by developing transparency and traceability capacity, establishing end-to-end (E2E) supply chain visibility is the holy grail of supply chain management — and it can be achieved through blockchain technology.

Cross-border supply chains are often ladened with paper documents. Although bills of lading are one of the most important documents issued from carriers to shippers, only 0.1 per cent of original bills are digitised. The handling and exchange of such paper documents is costly, error prone and time consuming. Supply chain finance transactions share the same problem and typically involve a complicated paper trail that can take as long as a month to be completed.

Five Fault Lines: Reflections On South Asian Frontiers

Jasnea Sarma, Claudia Chia

The past partitions, frontier-making and border demarcations in South Asia have produced uneven geographies, identities and territories that continue to underpin some of the region’s most critical conflicts and social struggles today. The region’s fragmented and fractured ‘fault lines’ continue to alter due to new infrastructure connectivity projects, ecological changes and ongoing militarisation. As a result, there has been a welcome shift in academia and policy circles toward broadening the intellectual lineage of border studies in South Asia and employing cross-disciplinary, critical and transnational approaches to studying South Asian borders and frontiers.

The Institute of South Asian Studies partnered with Konrad Adenauer Stiftung to jointly organise the International Conference on South Asia from 10 to 19 May 2021. The conference, titled ‘Five Fault Lines: Reflections on South Asian Frontiers’, brought together a diverse mix of scholars and practitioners to discuss and analyse the colonial origins, postcolonial legacies and contemporary congealing of frontiers and borderlands in the region. This Special Report encapsulates the key ideas, research and debates raised in the conference.

A Scramble for Gas: Qatari LNG and EU Diversification Plans

Pier Paolo Raimondi

Amidst a worsening geopolitical and energy crisis in Europe, the EU is scrambling to increase liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports as one component of its larger objective to reduce its overdependence on Russian gas. In 2021, the EU imported 155 billion cubic metres (bcm) of natural gas from Russia (140 bcm via pipeline and 15 bcm of LNG). Under its REPowerEU initiative, the European Commission aims to increase LNG imports to replace 50 bcm of Russian gas by the end of 2022.[1]

In this quest for energy diversification, the state of Qatar has emerged as a key pillar of the EU’s strategy. In 2021, Qatar provided for 24 per cent of Europe’s total LNG imports, behind the US (26 per cent) and before Russia (20 per cent).[2] In 2021, total EU LNG imports reached 77 bcm; the figure increases to 108 bcm if the UK and Turkey are added. Recently, the EU, along with the US, has extensively engaged Qatar given its leading role in the LNG market and close relations with the West. Qatar’s LNG industry is highly centralised, unlike those of other LNG exporting countries (i.e., the US[3] and Australia), which implies that Doha enjoys greater control over the sector and its export policies.

A Fine Line: U.S. Lays Out New Rules for Intelligence Sharing With Ukraine

Mark Episkopos
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The White House has laid down new rules to curb certain kinds of intelligence sharing with Ukraine.

Citing U.S. officials, the Washington Post reported that the Biden administration has drawn up new intelligence-sharing guidance that is designed to avoid further inflaming tensions with Russia over the war in Ukraine.

There are reportedly two principal guidelines. The first is that the United States “cannot provide detailed information that would help kill Russian leadership figures, such as the most senior military officers or ministers.” Such top figures as Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and Valery Gerasimov, chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, would fall into that category.

The Weaponisation of Finance and the Risk of Global Economic Fragmentation

Nicola Bilotta

The decision by the US and Europe to disconnect select Russian banks from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) and to freeze Russia’s foreign reserves might have significant, long-term effects on the international monetary system. While transformations in this system have historically been slow to materialise, the range and scope of the recently deployed sanctions will likely catalyse a global push to diversify from the US dollar-centric global financial system.

Whether the US and European countries, as well as their allies, will strengthen or reduce financial sanctions against Russia in the future, the “weaponisation” of finance against a G20 country like Russia sets an historical precedent that will amplify concerns that one day any country could be disconnected from western-dominated financial infrastructure.[1] In the latest G20 meeting of finance ministers, Chinese Minister of Finance Liu Kun strongly criticised the “politicisation” of the global economy, warning that such moves may undermine international economic cooperation.[2]

How to Avoid War Over Taiwan

Zhang Tuosheng

Since Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party came to power in 2016, she has refused to explicitly recognize the 1992 Consensus and has followed a path of “gradual Taiwan independence,” “cultural Taiwan independence” and de-Sinicization — all of which resulted in the suspension of institutional dialogue between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait and a severe regression in cross-Strait relations. The peaceful development trend of the previous eight years was disrupted.

From the moment Donald Trump assumed office as U.S. president in 2017, his administration regarded China as a major strategic rival and began to play the Taiwan card. The authorities on the island took this opportunity to ally themselves with the U.S. against China and accelerated their pace toward independence.

Can the U.S. Air Force Dominate Chinese Skies?

Kris Osborn
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Could the U.S. Air Force dominate the skies in a war with China? This simple question is greatly relevant to Pentagon planners and members of Congress alike given the escalating threat environment in the Pacific and the alarming pace of Chinese military modernization.

This question was presented to Air Force secretary Frank Kendall and Air Force chief of staff Gen. Charles Brown by Rep. John Rice Carter (R-TX) during a budget hearing at the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.

“We’ve got to dominate the airspace to protect armor. As we draw down and take down a lot of platforms, we hope to get to the future quickly. A drawdown in anticipation we will dominate the future causes great concern to me,” Carter told senior Air Force decisionmakers.