24 July 2022

Europe’s war economy gets real


At the last scheduled meeting of European commissioners before the summer recess on Wednesday, Brussels technocrats will attempt their most far-reaching power grab yet seen in 2022: the right to impose mandatory gas rationing on the bloc's 27 member countries.

As citizens from Portugal to Poland swelter and perish in record-breaking heat, their governments are being asked to sign over their right to energy sovereignty in six days. The measures are being rushed through using emergency protocols, which mean no country will be able to veto the plan and the European Parliament will have no say.

Such extraordinary steps show just how close European countries have come to the edge of what is viable as a consequence of their actions to support Ukraine against Russia's invading forces. With inflation already spiking across the region, in part driven by war-induced market disruption, the EU's fight with Russia over gas is set to test the bloc's resolve to the limit. The economic hit may only just be beginning.

Satellites Will Defend America Against Incoming Hypersonic Missiles

Kris Osborn

Evolving missile technologies continue to complicate missile defense efforts. Enemy intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) stream through space along with decoys, debris, and countermeasures. Hypersonic missiles travel so quickly along the boundary of the earth’s atmosphere that it is nearly impossible to develop a continuous “track” as they transit from one radar aperture to another.

Missile defense technology has made staggering steps forward in recent years and is now poised for additional breakthroughs, yet an even newer paradigm is needed to counter an emerging generation of threats that includes hypersonic weapons, high-speed multiple re-entry vehicles, and advanced countermeasures that fly alongside ICBMs.

Recognizing this, the Pentagon is moving quickly to launch new constellations of high-tech, networked satellites for the specific purpose of establishing that continuous track and strengthening the existing layers of missile defenses.

Biden Energy Adviser: We Could Soon See $4 Per Gallon Gas

Ethen Kim Lieser

Atop White House energy adviser stated this past weekend that the nation’s gas prices—currently sitting at an average of $4.49 per gallon—could soon dip below $4.

“We already have many gas stations around the country that are below $4,” Amos Hochstein, the special presidential coordinator for international energy affairs, told CBS News’ Face the Nation on Sunday.

“This is the fastest decline rate that we’ve seen against a major increase of oil prices during a war in Europe where one of the parties in the war is the third largest producer in the world,” he continued.

Can Drones Do It All? A New Report Thinks So

Caleb Larson

The Congressional Research Service, a non-partisan think tank that prepares reports for the U.S. Congress, recently released a document describing what the future of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) could be and what role they might play in the future.

One of the document’s most interesting sections laid out what the roles of unmanned aerial aircraft could be and explained “potential UAS roles and missions in future military operations. These include aerial refueling, air-to-air combat, combat search and rescue, strategic bombing, battle management command and control, suppression and destruction of enemy air defenses, and electronic warfare.”

Unmanned Aerial Refueling

Putting a UAS to work refueling other aircraft—particularly on long-distance missions such as in the Indo Pacific—“can potentially reduce the threat to crewed tankers.” It added that the U.S. Navy is “procuring the MQ-25 Stingray carrier-based UAS for such operations,” a UAS that, while not as discrete as some manned aircraft, nonetheless benefits from a somewhat stealthy design.

CIA Director: Russian Invasion of Ukraine a ‘Strategic Failure’

Trevor Filseth L

Central Intelligence Agency director William Burns criticized the Russian government on Wednesday for attempting to purchase drones from Iran, suggesting that the move was an indication of the poor state of Russia’s armed forces.

“It’s true that the Russians are reaching out to the Iranians to try to acquire armed drones,” the CIA director and longtime U.S. diplomat said during his remarks at the Aspen Security Forum in Aspen, Colorado—confirming earlier reports that Russia had attempted to purchase drones from Tehran. Some Western experts had treated these claims with skepticism, noting Russia’s traditional role as an arms exporter to Iran rather than the opposite.

Burns acknowledged that relations between Moscow and Tehran were sometimes fraught, and suggested that the extent of the two nations’ cooperation on security issues remained unclear: “They need each other, they don’t really trust each other, in the sense that they’re energy rivals and historical competitors.”

A War of Wills: The True Battle for Ukraine, Russia, and the West Lies Ahead

Joergen Oerstroem Moeller

The time has come to seek clarity about the war in Ukraine and determine when and how it can be brought to an end. For this, there is no one better to look to than the Prussian strategist Carl von Clausewitz (1780-1831) who famously laid down a number of principles in his monumental book On War. The two principles that are most relevant in this context are the following.

1. War is not merely a political act, but also a real political instrument, a continuation of political commerce, a carrying out of the same by other means.

2. Fighting is a trial of strength of the moral and physical forces by means of the latter. That the moral cannot be omitted is evident of itself, for the condition of the mind has always the most decisive influence on the forces employed in war.

Can South Korea Mend Ties With Japan?

Mitch Shin

Japan-South Korea relations have apparently deteriorated since then-South Korean President Moon Jae-in took office in May 2017. Among many issues promoting disharmony, Tokyo’s denials on historical issues such as “comfort women” and forced laborers have critically aggravated bilateral relations between South Korea and Japan for decades.

With Washington pushing its allies to mend their deteriorated ties to cope with regional issues effectively, South Korea’s government, now under conservative President Yoon Suk Yeol, has taken the initiative to end Seoul’s disagreement with Tokyo.

South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin met Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio on Tuesday, conveying Yoon’s condolences over the death of former Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo. Kishida expressed appreciation for Yoon’s condolences.

China-Serbia Relations Enter a New Phase

Stefan Vladisavljev

The announcement of the signing of a free trade agreement between Serbia and China, the arrival of a Hainan Airlines flight from Belgrade to Beijing, and an increased level of interaction between Serbian and Chinese diplomats on a bilateral level are the most recent developments contributing to Serbia and China’s so-called “steel friendship.” Increased diplomatic activities and new aspects of economic cooperation could mark the start of a new phase in Belgrade-Beijing relations.

The Hainan Airlines airplane that landed at Belgrade’s Nikola Tesla airport on July 16 was greeted by Chinese flags and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, holding bouquet of flowers in his hands. This was the first direct flight from Beijing to Belgrade since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is also the renewal of a direct flight operated by the same airline that was canceled in 2018, citing a lack of passengers at the time.

Elite Power Struggles After Stalin and Mao

Mercy A. Kuo

The Diplomat author Mercy Kuo regularly engages subject-matter experts, policy practitioners, and strategic thinkers across the globe for their diverse insights into U.S. Asia policy. This conversation with Dr. Joseph Torigian – assistant professor at the School of International Service, American University and author of “Prestige, Manipulation, and Coercion: Elite Power Struggles in the Soviet Union and China After Stalin and Mao” (Yale 2022) – is the 327th in “The Trans-Pacific View Insight Series.”

Explain the interplay of prestige, manipulation, and coercion in elite power struggles post-Stalin and Mao.

Political scientists have often characterized Leninist regimes as institutionalized systems of exchange – in other words, individuals compete for leadership by promising the most popular policy or patronage platform among some defined group. The conventional historiography of the post-Stalin and Mao transitions paints a similar picture: that “reformists” defeated “conservatives” or “radicals” in a political environment shaped by, albeit limited, inner-party democracy. But the new evidence we have about those eras suggest a very different story. Instead, the post-cult of personality power struggles in history’s two greatest Leninist regimes were instead shaped by the politics of personal prestige, historical antagonisms, backhanded political maneuvering, and violence.

Why Vietnam Should be Worried About Laos’ Economic Crisis

Khang Vu

Laos is facing one of its worst economic crises in many years. Last month, inflation hit a 22-year high of 23.6 percent, according to official reports. Consequently, the price of fuel, gas, and gold has increased by 107.1 percent, 69.4 percent, and 68.7 percent, respectively, compared to June 2021’s price. Long lines at gas stations are no longer rare occurrences, which has, in turn, hurt the country’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The value of the local currency, the kip, has fallen from 9,300 to the U.S. dollar in September 2021 to around 15,000 today. With only $1.2 billion in foreign reserves, Laos is on the brink of sovereign bankruptcy, as the state cannot meet its debt obligations, which require it to pay $1.3 billion per year until 2025. Of Laos’ $14.5 billion in foreign debt, about half is owed to China to fund projects including the newly inaugurated $5.9 billion China-Laos railway connecting Vientiane to the Chinese border.

Against the backdrop of the crisis, Vietnam and Laos this month celebrated the 60th anniversary of the establishment of bilateral relations (1962-2022) and the 45th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation (1977-2022). The leaders of both countries affirmed their “special relationship,” that Vietnam and Laos are not just neighbors but are “brothers and comrades” engaged in the joint task of national and socialist construction. Nguyen Phu Trong, the general secretary of the Vietnamese Communist Party described Vietnam-Laos ties as “invaluable” and “one of a kind” in world history. Lao Vice President Bounthong Chitmany asserted that Vientiane is determined to cultivate the “comprehensive unity of the great Vietnam-Laos relationship.”

Indonesia on the Cusp of BrahMos Missile Purchase: Report

Sebastian Strangio

Indonesia could soon become the second Southeast Asian nation to order the potent Indian-Russian BrahMos supersonic cruise missile, according to an Indian media report. India’s FinancialExpress.com reported on July 19 that Indonesia was in the final stages of talks for the possible order of the shore-based anti-ship variant of the BrahMos weapons system.

“Talks with Indonesia are in advanced stage for the export of the Indo-Russian BrahMos supersonic cruise missile,” the report cited one source as saying. “The deal could have been signed earlier, however, due to internal matters of that country, by year end, or early next year the deal is expected to be sealed.”

The BrahMos missile, which has been developed by BrahMos Aerospace, a joint venture between India and Russia that was set up in India in 1998, is the world’s fastest supersonic cruise missile. It can be launched from submarines, ships, aircraft, or from land platforms, and flies at nearly three times the speed of sound, making it nearly impossible for targets to evade.

China Won Over Southeast Asia During the Pandemic

Dominique Fraser and Richard Maude

On January 13, 2021, Indonesian President Joko Widodo sat, sleeves rolled up, receiving his first dose of the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine, proudly displaying the packaging to a live TV audience. Chinese vaccines arrived in Indonesia and the rest of Southeast Asia at a moment of great need: medically, socially, and economically. They came at a moment when the region’s leaders needed to demonstrate they had a plan for the gathering crisis. And China delivered.

The Pandemic: China’s Opportunity

The global pandemic, which began when the virus causing COVID-19 spread beyond China’s borders, could have been a disaster for Beijing’s influence with regional governments. But China found opportunity in adversity. It acted to meet the region’s needs through broad diplomatic and material support, looking outward while the U.S. and its allies were mostly looking inward. China’s ability to respond early, to craft a resonant message, to maintain trade flows, and to show up in person created favorable impressions that have persisted even as the U.S. and others catch up.

Europe Has Descended Into the Age of Fire

EUROPE IS ON fire: For days, temperatures have skyrocketed above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius), shattering records and triggering huge wildfires that have forced tens of thousands from their homes. From Portugal to Spain to Greece, the flames have spread like a contagion. In the countryside surrounding Bordeaux, France, 75 square miles have charred in the past week. Blazes are even breaking out across London, a city not exactly known for fire weather.

Wildfires are, of course, a perfectly natural phenomenon and have periodically reset ecosystems for new growth throughout history. But in modern times, thanks to humanity’s meddling with the climate and the landscape, these fires have ballooned into unnatural beasts that instead obliterate ecosystems. Fire historian Stephen Pyne has termed this the Pyrocene, an age of flames.

Operationalizing the Quad

Lisa Curtis, Jacob Stokes, Joshua Fitt and CDR Andrew J. Adams


The Quad—made up of Australia, India, Japan, and the United States—is becoming the principal multilateral group shaping the geo-economic and technological future and the strategic orientation of the Indo-Pacific. Strengthening the Quad is a central pillar in the Biden administration’s strategic plan to compete more effectively with a rising China. Although the Quad leaders currently avoid publicly discussing defense-related initiatives and do not seek to make the Quad into a NATO-like organization, the Quad’s purpose is undeniably strategic. Its aim is to provide a counterweight to China’s growing economic and political influence in the Indo-Pacific and put forth an alternative vision of a free, open, transparent, inclusive, and peaceful region as opposed to one dominated by China’s authoritarian ideology.

The idea of a Quad dialogue among Australia, India, Japan, and the United States was conceptualized by then–Prime Minister of Japan Abe Shinzo around 2007. Abe was inspired by the formation of the Tsunami Core Group, which was created in response to the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean as a way for the four nations to cooperate on disaster relief efforts.3 The first-ever Quad meeting of senior officials occurred in 2007 on the sidelines of an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum meeting. Days before the meeting, China démarched all four capitals, inquiring about the agenda of the meeting and whether it would have an anti-China focus.4 That same year the Quad countries plus Singapore participated in the Malabar naval exercise, which India holds annually with the United States and Japan, in the Bay of Bengal. The Australians decided to withdraw from the Quad in 2008, in a move likely aimed at placating China, a major trading partner. The Indians—who share a disputed border with China over which they fought a war in 1962—also indicated a degree of uneasiness with the Quad around the same time.5

America's Campaign Against Putin's War Crimes Can't Ignore Syria


During a surprise trip to Ukraine in June, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the creation of a new War Crimes Accountability Team that will assist Ukrainian officials in identifying and apprehending Russian war criminals.

"We will pursue every avenue available," Garland said, "to make sure that those who are responsible for these atrocities are held accountable."

It's a welcome initiative—but in its bid to hold Russian war criminals accountable, the Department of Justice shouldn't limit its efforts to Ukraine's borders. In my home country of Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin's intervention to prop up murderous dictator Bashar al-Assad has enabled the regime to torture and slaughter tens of thousands of political prisoners. Holding those torturers and executioners accountable isn't merely the morally right thing to do—it's also part and parcel of the struggle against Putin's assault on the rules-based international order.

Ukraine Invites Weapon Makers To 'Test Products' on Russian Forces


Ukraine's defense minister has urged the U.S. and other international partners to keep sending cutting-edge weapons to the war torn country, describing the battlefields as a valuable "testing ground" for new arms.

Oleksii Reznikov said on Tuesday that Ukraine's resolute defense against Russia's ongoing invasion showed Kyiv's forces are capable of handling the most modern and devastating weapons that NATO nations have to offer.

These include the U.S.-made HIMARS rocket artillery system partially credited with stabilizing the front line in the east and south in recent weeks, Reznikov said.

Does Delhi Have a New Playbook for Taliban-ruled Afghanistan?

Monish Tourangbam and Rushita Shetty

The war in Ukraine relegated the developments in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan to the background once more. However, just months before Russia invaded Ukraine and the whole world turned its eyes to the European crisis, the United States’ hasty withdrawal from a war spanning more than two decades in Afghanistan and the Taliban’s quick takeover of the reins of power caught global attention. The change of political powers in Afghanistan has been nothing less than a roller coaster ride: the U.S. intervention after the 9/11 attacks, which overthrew the Taliban regime, through two Washington supported-presidencies — Hamid Karzai and Ashraf Ghani — and now coming full circle with the return of the Taliban to power.

When the Taliban swept into Kabul in August last year, India was one of the many countries to shut down its embassy in the Afghan capital. But on June 23, 2022, India reopened its embassy in Afghanistan after over 10 months. New Delhi deployed a “technical team” consisting of diplomats and others as a step toward re-establishing its presence in Afghanistan, with the stated mission to closely monitor and coordinate the delivery of humanitarian assistance to Kabul.

The Limits of China’s Economic Leverage Over South Korea

Andy Hong

South Korea’s economic dependence on China is a well-documented fact. In spite of Beijing’s decision in 2017 to embargo Korean goods and services as punishment for Seoul’s deployment of U.S. anti-missile batteries, South Korea’s reliance on Chinese imports has only grown since then. South Korean industry is particularly reliant on Chinese suppliers for critical components such as large-capacity batteries.

Most Korea watchers in Washington see this economic dependence as a major vulnerability in South Korea’s national security amid rising Sino-American competition. Some, like Cato Institute’s Doug Bandow, go as far as suggesting that the South Korean “shrimp” will be forced to eventually “choose” between the U.S. and Chinese “whales.” This line of thinking implies that South Korea, like the United States’ European partners, will surely fold as soon as its economic lifeline becomes threatened by bad-faith actors in Beijing.

Understanding the Taliban’s War on Women

Ezzatullah Mehrdad

Before the Taliban’s August 2021 return, Fatima Wojohat, 19, grew up learning of her mother’s dark life under the Taliban in the 1990s. After their return to Kabul, Wojohat began living that same life in 2022.

Wojohat was raised in a Kabul without the Taliban in power. She painted blast walls that stood between Afghan government facilities and Taliban suicide bombers in Kabul. Once Taliban fighters rode their motorbikes into Kabul in August 2021 and officials emptied the facilities behind the walls, Wojahat faced the Taliban on her own.

“I was terrified,” she said of the time she looked at a Taliban from a vehicle’s window in September 2021.

As months elapse, Wojohat’s life has grown more like her mother’s as the Taliban have closed public space to her.

China’s Poor Global Image Is Undermining Its Strategic Goals

Joshua Kurlantzick

In the past four years, China’s global image, which had been positive or at least neutral in many parts of the globe for the prior two decades, has deteriorated extensively. This deterioration has occurred not only among leading democracies such as the United States and Japan, with whom China already had prickly relations, but also among developing countries in Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe. China enjoyed positive relations with states in these regions between the 1990s and late 2010s. In some parts of the world, China now has its worst public image in many decades.

From more favorable perceptions between the 1990s and mid-2010s, Beijing’s public image and overall soft power now have bottomed out, even as it has boosted its foreign assistance through the Belt and Road Initiative; billions spent on state television, radio, and other mass communication; and a wide range of efforts to expand its cultural diplomacy, visitor programs for foreigners, and scholarships for students to attend university in China.

White House: Russia Laying Groundwork to Annex More of Ukraine

Mark Episkopos

Russia is forming plans to annex more parts of Ukraine, according to the White House.

“We have information today, including from downgraded intelligence that we’re able to share with you, about how Russia is laying the groundwork to annex Ukrainian territory that it controls, in direct violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty,” John Kirby, the communications director at the National Security Council, said in a press briefing on Tuesday.

“We’re seeing ample evidence in the intelligence and in the public domain that Russia intends to try to annex additional Ukrainian territory. Russia is beginning to roll out a version of what you could call an ‘annexation playbook,’ very similar to the one we saw in 2014,” Kirby added, referring to Russia’s annexation of Crimea in February 2014.

Lavrov Says Russia’s War Aims Have Expanded Beyond the Donbas

Trevor Filseth L

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov announced on Wednesday that the territorial goals of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had expanded beyond the Donbas region into southern Ukraine. Lavrov vowed that the Kremlin would also support those regions’ independence from Kyiv—a statement that Western experts widely condemned as laying the basis for their annexation by Moscow.

Lavrov’s comments came during an interview with the Russian state-run RIA Novosti news broadcaster, during which he claimed that Russia’s willingness to accept initial peace proposals from Ukraine had been “based on the geography of March 2022,” or its alleged initial aims to secure the independence of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) and the Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR), the two pro-Russian proto-states in the Donbas region.

“The geography is different now,” Lavrov said. “It is not only about the DNR and LNR, but also the Kherson region, the Zaporizhia region, and a number of other territories,” he added, referring to the dubious Russian claim that the territories its military had occupied during the first months of its invasion sought to break away from the central government in Kyiv.

How the NSA Is Moving Toward a Quantum-Resilient Future

Patrick Shore

Quantum computing is a rapidly advancing technology that has the potential to transform industries by solving complex optimization problems that elude classical computers. But what happens when a quantum computer is used against the digital infrastructure that safeguards our nation’s most sensitive data? This is a question that the National Security Administration (NSA) is not waiting to find out, and neither should private organizations.

Quantum computers utilize the quantum properties of subatomic particles to perform countless calculations simultaneously and, in a matter of seconds, solve problems that even today’s most powerful supercomputers would take thousands of years to complete. Consider the uses for such a computer in optimizing financial investment portfolios, vehicle routing, manufacturing processes, energy resource allocation, and drug development, and the transformational potential of quantum computing becomes clear. However, the rapid development of these revolutionary supercomputers has caused alarm in the defense sector as adversarial nation-states are currently investing billions of dollars to weaponize quantum computers.

Sri Lanka’s Future May Not Be All That Bleak

Luke Hunt

COLOMBO — Sri Lanka’s Acting President Ranil Wickremesinghe has declared yet another State of Emergency ahead of the next sitting of Parliament, whern politicians have promised an All Party Government (APG) will be formed and a new president elected this week.

The next task will be to negotiate an IMF bailout, this country’s 17th since independence in 1948, and a restructuring of debts totaling $51 billion while reining in hyperinflation, ending acute fuel shortages, and sending children back to school.

It’s a big ask.

Ganeshan Wignaraja is an internationally known development economist. He is a non-resident senior fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore and a senior research associate at ODI Global in London.

Rivals Within Reason?

Kevin Rudd

In the year and a half since President Joe Biden took office, competition between the United States and China has only intensified. Rather than dismantle former President Donald Trump’s tough policies toward Beijing, Biden has largely continued them, underscoring that the two powers are almost certainly headed for a protracted period of sharp and militarily dangerous strategic rivalry. But that doesn’t mean that the United States and China are moving inexorably toward crisis, escalation, conflict, or even war. To the contrary, Beijing and Washington may be groping toward a new set of stabilizing arrangements that could limit—though not eliminate—the risk of sudden escalation.

Assessing the state of U.S.-Chinese relations at any given time is never easy, given the difficulty of distinguishing between what each side says about the other publicly—often for domestic political effect—and what each is actually doing behind the scenes. Yet despite the harsh and often heated rhetoric, some early signs of stabilization have emerged, including the tentative reconstitution of a form of political and security dialogue aimed at managing tensions.

The privatization of Haifa Port: India 1 China 0

James M. Dorsey

The acquisition by a close associate of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a joint bid with Israeli company Gadot, constitutes success in US-backed efforts to counter China's first starter advantage as its infrastructure-driven, multipronged Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) seemingly stalls.

The port deal, in which Mr. Adani has a 70 per cent stake, puts the duo in charge of the port until 2054.

Under US pressure, Israel backed away from allowing China to manage Haifa Port, which the US Sixth Fleet frequents. The port also straddles the exit from an adjacent naval base that hosts Israel’s submarine fleet, believed to have a second-strike nuclear missile capability.