27 August 2022

Washington wins as Turkey and Israel restore normal ties

Dr. Brenda Shaffer

Last week, Turkey and Israel announced that they would normalize their diplomatic relations and exchange ambassadors and consuls for the first time since 2018. The announcement follows a series of recent high-level visits, including Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s March trip to Turkey, Israeli Foreign Minister and acting Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s visit in June to Turkey, and Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu’s May trip to Israel.

The conflict between Turkey and Israel surfaced in 2010 and was exceptional in international relations since the two sides have few bilateral disputes: They do not share borders and have no conflicts over issues such as resources or refugees. All disputes between the countries are connected to symbolic issues and policies toward third parties, mainly the Palestinians and Greece and Cyprus. In addition, the dynamics of the Israeli-Turkey conflict were more significantly shaped by developments in each state’s domestic political arena than by their foreign relations.

Accordingly, the conflict itself was largely on the rhetorical level and was never as deep as it appeared. However, the dispute essentially ended military cooperation between the two sides and halted arms sales from Israel to Turkey. Still, the two worked together on anti-terror and other select security issues during this period.

Time for Taiwan to be called Taiwan

Nathan Picarsic

It’s August in Pennsylvania. That means kids across the commonwealth are getting ready to return to school. But a talented few from Hollidaysburg are too busy to sharpen their pencils just yet: They’re in Williamsport chasing dreams in the Little League World Series. Unfortunately, one of their potential competitors, a team visiting Pennsylvania from 8,000 miles away, can’t take the field under their accurate, national label. These boys are from Taiwan. But in the Little League World Series, they are referred to as “Chinese Taipei.”

This is offensive. It’s arcane. And, worse yet, it’s deferential to the increasingly hostile and abusive Chinese Communist Party regime that governs mainland China. That mainland Chinese authoritarian government is carrying out a genocide against ethnic minorities within its borders while also threatening to invade Taiwan, a key U.S. partner.

National sovereignty should mean something in our modern international community. National sovereignty should also mean something in baseball, a sport that is as much a symbol for freedom as is the bald eagle. And that should extend to team names on the scoreboard. Little League leadership in Williamsport should lead by example and permanently correct the error. The team from Taiwan should be called what it is.

China to forgive loans to 17 African countries

Ripples Nigeria

The Chinese government has revealed plans to forgive 23 interest-free loans to 17 African countries.

China also revealed its intention to provide food assistance to struggling nations.

The Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, disclosed the plans in a post on the ministry’s website.

The Minister failed to specify which countries owed the money or the amount of the loans.

“China will waive the 23 interest-free loans for 17 African countries that had matured by the end of 2021,” Mr Wang said at the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, according to a statement.

He pledged that China would continue actively supporting and participating in the construction of major infrastructure projects in Africa through financing, investment and assistance.

Russia’s Invasion Of Ukraine Has Created Drama In The Anti-War Community

Robert Farley

Russia’s War in Ukraine: What Should Anti-War Scholars and Academics Think? What are anti-war activists to do in the face of an aggressive war of conquest launched by an authoritarian state against a democratic government?

“Anti-war” embraces a broad community of thought that runs from pragmatic realists to idealistic pacifists. Anti-war activists tend to reject the idea that war is a legitimate tool of statecraft. At the same time, most (but not all) anti-war thinkers reject as specious the idea that a nation under attack from an aggressor ought to lay down its arms and accommodate itself to the demands of its assailant. For example, few who critiqued the Vietnam War from an anti-war perspective demanded that the Viet Cong lay down its arms, that North Vietnam cease support for the insurgency in the South, or that China and the USSR refrain from supporting the DPRVN. Thus, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has necessarily created tension within anti-war activist circles.

6 lessons the West has learned in the 6 months after Russia's invasion of Ukraine

Daniel Treisman

(CNN)Six months after Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine, it's still not clear how this war will end. Ukraine, which has signaled its intent to launch a new counteroffensive, could retake the Russian-occupied city of Kherson and other parts of the south. But it's also possible that a reinvigorated Russian force will break through to Odesa, closing off Ukraine from the sea. Or the front line might stabilize roughly where it is.

Whatever happens, we can already derive some lessons from the war so far. Its many surprises should force us to question our old assumptions.

One powerful insight from the last half year concerns the importance of individual leaders. The "great man" theory of history is out of fashion these days given the tendency to see human events as the result of deep underlying forces. Those obviously matter. But had Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky run away -- as Putin apparently expected or failed to communicate effectively, the Ukrainian resistance might well have been much weaker. Few anticipated that Zelensky, whose ratings had slumped before the Russian invasion, would prove such an inspiring hero.

What is blowing up those Russian bases in Crimea?


A pair of strikes against Russian bases in Crimea, well behind the Russian military’s lines in Ukraine, sent shockwaves through observers of the ongoing conflict. The damage was obvious, but what remains shrouded in questions are how the attacks were pulled off. Below, Mark Cancian of CSIS goes into the five potential explanations for what happened, and teases out which is the most likely.

The last two weeks have witnessed major attacks on Russian facilities in Crimea, but the mechanism of the attacks remains a mystery. Are Ukrainian special forces infiltrating Crimea? Are missiles or aircraft penetrating Russian airspace? What is the role of sloppy Russian munitions procedures?

So far, there have been two major attacks. The first, and larger, attack was against Saki airfield in central Crimea on Aug. 9. That attack caused four massive and many smaller explosions, captured on video, and open-source imaging shows at least eight aircraft destroyed on the ground.

Biden announces another $3 billion in arms for Ukraine -- but Kyiv still frets about long-term US commitment

Stephen Collinson

(CNN)The new $3 billion US package that will send fresh military hardware to Ukraine reinforces a remarkable commitment to President Volodymyr Zelensky's resistance against Russia. Washington warns of a potential Kremlin escalation as the war hits the six-month mark.

Yet even as top Ukrainian officials welcome President Joe Biden's move, which will allow Ukraine to acquire air defense and artillery systems, munitions and radars, they are warning that the world must not tire of a conflict that, if anything, is becoming more brutal and bloody. There are strong political and economic reasons why they might be right to worry.
Biden, who unveiled the package on Wednesday, praised the country's strength on a day that marks the independence to which Russian President Vladimir Putin says it is not entitled.

"Today and every day, we stand with the Ukrainian people to proclaim that the darkness that drives autocracy is no match for the flame of liberty that lights the souls of free people everywhere," the US President said in a statement about a war that has sent shockwaves around the world and has major domestic implications in a tough midterm election year for the White House.

"The United States, including proud Ukrainian-Americans, looks forward to continuing to celebrate Ukraine as a democratic, independent, sovereign and prosperous state for decades to come."

Half a year after unprovoked invasion, the war in Ukraine hasn't gone away despite being overtaken in US headlines by former President Donald Trump and inflation. The stakes have not changed; they are as important now as ever.

But as a conflict that has evolved multiple times reaches another possible pivot point, a familiar question is being raised with new urgency -- especially by Ukrainians: How long is the West willing to stay engaged?

US and European money and military aid remain critical to Ukraine's capacity to stave off Russia's invasion and its hopes of reclaiming territory in the east and south even as it escalates its own attacks in Russian-annexed Crimea.

But senior figures in the Kyiv government are sufficiently concerned that they are again warning of the massive stakes for the democratic world as they face down Putin's troops half a year into the conflict.

"I call it fatigue syndrome, and for me it's one of the main threat(s)," Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said in an exclusive interview with CNN's Sam Kiley. "We need to work with this threat, because we need to ... communicate, to ask people, don't be (in) on this fatigue. Because this is very, very dangerous for us."

Questions about the longevity and intensity of Western commitment is coming at a perilous moment. The State Department on Tuesday advised Americans to leave Ukraine immediately, warning of potential Russian attacks on Wednesday's 31st anniversary of independence.

There are also tenuous fears that the capital's return to a pale imitation of normality could be shattered by Russian strikes after the daughter of influential, ultra-nationalist philosopher and Ukraine war propagandist, Alexander Dugin, was killed in a car bomb on the outskirts of Moscow. Ukraine has denied responsibility and the hasty Russian investigation offers little confidence in its claims that an operative from Kyiv's special services was to blame. But the murder has sparked chilling Russian demands for vengeance and total warfare against Ukraine. In the past, Putin has seized on dubious events as excuses for brutal military action -- unleashing a fearsome assault on Chechnya, for instance, in 1999 after apartment bombings that some foreign observers alleged were false flag operations.

Zelensky warns the world not to get 'tired' of Ukraine

Reznikov is not the only top Ukrainian official worried about waning foreign attention with his country desperately reliant on Western arms and ammunition to keep up a fight that is causing a terrible toll.

President Volodymyr Zelensky told CNN's David McKenzie at a news conference in Kyiv on Tuesday that he understood all countries have their problems, at a time when Western populations are squeezed by a high cost of living. But he added that Ukraine still needs more help. "As soon as the world gets tired of this problem, it will be a very big threat," Zelensky warned.

See how the streets of Kyiv look on Ukraine's Independence Day 02:41

Biden has an unequivocal short-term answer to Zelensky's concerns with his new $3 billion security assistance package, adding to the sophisticated arsenal and ammunition hauls already sent Ukraine's way. This follows last week's $775 million US package that included HIMARS rocket systems and 105mm Howitzer ammunition, anti-armor missiles and mine-clearing capabilities that reflected a Ukrainian desire to launch more offensives against Putin's forces.

There's little doubt about Biden's personal commitment to the cause. He has argued that the fight for Ukraine is central to US interests because it is ultimately about the struggle for democracy, which is under threat globally and at home and on which he has staked his presidency. Asked whether there would come a point whether the US could no longer afford to offer such largesse to Ukraine, John Kirby, the National Security Council's coordinator for strategic communications, reinforced a message spelled out by Biden at a recent NATO summit.

"The United States is going to continue to support Ukraine for as long as it takes and he meant every word of that," Kirby told CNN's Jake Tapper, promising aid packages from the US and "dozens" of other countries.

Biden's war management is a little heralded foreign policy success

Still, the tension of the last few days has trained new attention on the Biden administration's approach to Ukraine, which earlier in the year dominated US news shows and Washington politics for weeks after Putin's invasion set off a World War II-style conflict in Europe, and triggered concerns of a possible US confrontation with an old Cold War foe.

This is more than just a war about Putin's desire to revive the greater Russia's footprint and reverse the geopolitical effects of the collapse of the Soviet Union. It has tested the West's will to stand up to a Russian autocrat trying to rewrite the borders of the European landmass. The US proxy campaign is sustaining a sovereign people attacked by a more powerful neighbor who have suffered atrocities. Ultimately, it is a major fight in a wider duel between tyranny and democracy, a geopolitical tussle that also draws in the rising US super power confrontation with China -- to which Moscow has moved closer in opposition to Washington.

Individual flashpoints in the war also threaten US interests. The current standoff over the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant threatens an environmental catastrophe that could slam the world economy and put large numbers of lives at risk. US Deputy Ambassador to the UN Richard Mills warned Tuesday amid a frantic international diplomatic effort that Russia is "pushing us to the brink of nuclear disaster."

Americans, like people everywhere, have also suffered punishing economic reverberations from the war. Though some agricultural exports have resumed and oil prices responsible for soaring gasoline costs have dipped, the war retains the capacity to inflict financial pain and political consequences thousands of miles away from its killing fields.
There's been little domestic political payback for Biden's approach to the war in Ukraine. But as the last Western leader who was politically active at a high level during the Cold War, as a senator, he has skillfully unified the West in the confrontation with the Kremlin. So far, he has pulled off the high-wire feat of arming Ukraine while avoiding a direct confrontation with Russia that could cause fears of an escalation going all the way up to the brink of nuclear conflict.

A war of attrition looms

But there are reasons why Ukraine's concerns about Western long-term commitment may be well founded. For example, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has been warning of a prolonged war. "Winter is coming and it will be hard," he said in an online summit with Zelensky and other world leaders on Tuesday.

"What we see now is a grinding war of attrition," Stoltenberg said, raising the need for a long Western commitment.

The daunting reality for the West is that this war may be as close to existential as it gets for Putin, who has not balked at the appalling cost in blood for Ukrainians or Russian troops alike. Earlier hopes for a diplomatic solution faded long ago, partly owing to mistrust between both sides. For example, Ukraine's ambassador to the UN said a Security Council session over the nuclear plant at Zaporizhzhia on Tuesday was a waste of time because Russia filled it with "fictitious soundbites." And while Western sanctions have pulverized the Russian economy, there are no signs yet it has led to a wobble in Putin's political position or changed his own calculations.

The elongated proxy clash between the West and Russia now threatens to increase the costs that the alliance's leaders- many of whom face treacherous political conditions and disgruntled constituents- will face for continuing to support Ukraine.

In the United States, there is no guarantee, for instance, that a Republican House of Representatives, which could emerge from midterm elections in November, would be as enthusiastic as Biden in sending tens of billions of dollars in aid to Ukraine. Any GOP House majority could be in thrall to radical, pro-Trump members, several of whom have already questioned the US commitment to Ukraine.

Presidents have large discretion in foreign policy, and the administration has not just relied on new congressional spending to help Ukraine, it has used various devices to tap existing funds and the Pentagon armory. But Trump's deference to Putin and the fact that it was a telephone call to Zelensky that triggered his first impeachment could raise questions about how the former President could weigh on US policy through his leverage in Congress. Longer term, Ukraine might have considerable trepidation at the possibility that Trump makes it back to the White House after the 2024 election.

Of more immediate concern is the unity of European allies in what is shaping up to be a miserable winter of high inflation, soaring energy prices and political discontent. Putin has several times in recent weeks signaled his capacity to increase the agony for Western publics that rely on Russian energy. Natural gas prices have spiked again following several maintenance interruptions of a key pipeline bringing Russian gas to Europe, which were seen as unsubtle signals from Moscow.

Germany in June activated an emergency plan that brought it closer to rationing of natural gas because of supply interruptions. The Berlin government has often been seen as a possible weak link in the Western alliance and especially vulnerable to what officials in Washington see as Russian blackmail over energy supplies. The situation will only get more acute as temperatures drop and as political pressure piles on German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and other European leaders.

So far, every time the commitment of the transatlantic alliance to Ukraine has been tested, it has stood firm. But it is based on a comparatively fragile political foundation, which is why Zelensky and his ministers are yet again sounding the alarm about the stakes of the war.

What Ukraine needs to win the war

Richard D. Hooker, Jr.

In the six months since Russia invaded Ukraine, the Ukrainian military has conducted a stout and stirring defense, inflicting heavy casualties on Russian units and contesting every foot of ground. Against long odds, Ukraine managed to defend the capital, Kyiv, as well as its second largest city, Kharkiv. This has forced Russia to abandon its goal of a quick takeover of the country.

However, staving off defeat is not the same thing as victory. Russian forces today control about 20% of Ukrainian territory, including large tracts in the east and south. What does Ukraine need in order to win the war?

A first step must be to address the disparity in airpower. Success in modern, high-intensity warfare is almost impossible without at least parity in the air. Ukraine began the contest woefully behind the curve with perhaps 100 flyable jets compared to Russia’s more than 1,500. Where Russia has been able to conduct 100-200 sorties per day, the much smaller Ukrainian air force can manage around 10-20.

US Details Its Biggest Ukraine Arms Package Yet


President Joe Biden announced the largest weapons and aid package yet for Ukraine on Wednesday, a $2.98billion package that would push total U.S. aid well past the annual budgets of at least eight federal programs, including the entire judicial branch.

The weapons and aid will be provided through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative and “will allow Ukraine to acquire air defense systems, artillery systems and munitions, counter-unmanned aerial systems, and radars to ensure it can continue to defend itself over the long term,” Biden said in a statement.

The latest package includes: Up to 245,000 rounds of 155mm artillery ammunition.

The Changing Character of War: IS’ Military Tactics

Montassar Adaili


War is usually understood as 'two countries arraying their military forces against each other'[1]. Even if war can involve more than two parties, they are ' typically separated and aligned as two sets of allies'[2]. Yet, this pattern has been declining since the end of the Second World War. The last three decades witnessed an escalation of the irregular wars in many parts of the world[3]. This rise in unconventional warfare has been accompanied with changes in where war is fought, by whom and over what issues.

Some scholars have concluded that the technological revolution 'may generate a much broader revolution in military affairs'[4] and which will affect the way armies are organized, civil-military relation, and the conduct of international conflicts. In fact, technology and urbanization have been key elements in changing the character of war. Yet, little attention has been given to the military tactics as a major factor in changing the character of war.

The military effectiveness shown by the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant made us rethink of the military tactics of the terrorist group. The paper examines the military tactics of ISIS and their influence on the character of war. To do so the research answers the following questions: Did the military tactics of ISIS change the character of war? What are these tactics? How can they impact the character of war?

Tibet: An Underexplored Strategic Lever

John Kraus

On Wednesday, August 10th, the Indian Air Force (IAF) deployed a military helicopter to transport Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, to a sacred monastery located in a remote village near the Line of Actual Control (LAC), a contested border shared with the Chinese to its east. Afterwards, the Indian government leaked a photo of its air force personnel standing around the Buddhist monk in a deliberate show of solidarity with Tibet, who has faced an uptick in persecution by the Chinese government in recent years. In June, the CCP announced its plans to relocate approximately 130,000 Tibetan people over the span of eight years under the pretense of “both the ecological protection and people’s demand for a better life,” according to Forestry and Grassland Administration Director Wu Wei. The state-affiliated Xinhua News Agency reported that 18,000 former residents of Tsonyi County have already been relocated, many of whom are subsistence farmers accustomed to nomadic traditions for centuries.

The ethnic cleansing campaign is also executed through various means of political repression against Tibetan displays of indigenous pride. This month, Beijing issued warnings barring Tibetans from posting online photos or congratulations to one of the prominent Buddhist spiritual leaders, the Kirti Rinpoche, on his 80th birthday. Over the last several years, hundreds of Tibetans have been detained for possessing photos of the Dalai Lama as well. Viewed as a human incarnation of God by fellow Buddhists, the Dalai Lama was labeled an enemy of the state by the Communist regime after he fled the region in 1959. Today, concerns over preserving political unity have driven the CCP to denounce the globally popular Buddhist leader and tighten its grip on Tibet. By curtailing Tibetan freedoms, the Communist Party is looking to cement a more secure political footing in the region, satisfy its ambitious domestic infrastructural development goals, and extract from Tibet’s bounty of natural resources as global stocks diminish.

China’s Digital Inroads in the Global South

Bryce C. Barros and Nathan Kohlenberg

Earlier this month, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman announced while on a tour of the Pacific Island states that U.S. President Joe Biden “is looking forward to welcoming” Pacific Leaders in September 2022. Although the exact date of this unofficial Pacific Islands summit has not been announced, the summit appears to be part of the larger U.S. response to an April 2022 framework agreement on security cooperation between China and Solomon Islands.

The vaguely worded draft agreement, leaked on social media in March – the final text has not been made public – discussed a deepening of relations between China and Solomon Islands to include the deployment of “police, armed police, military personnel and other law enforcement and armed forces” at the request of the Solomon Islander government. The security agreement was met with surprise and concern from officials across the Indo-Pacific, especially in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States.

What’s Behind China’s ‘Action Guidelines on Military Operations Other Than War’?

Ying Yu Lin

On June 13, China announced in a press release that its paramount leader Xi Jinping, in his capacity as chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), had signed an order for the implementation on an experimental basis of the “Action Guidelines on Military Operations Other Than War,” which took effect from June 15. While the full text of the mandate has yet to be publicly released, China’s state-run media have summed it up as comprising 59 articles in six chapters, setting up norms specifically for main subjects such as fundamental principles, organization and command, various forms of operations, logistics support for operations, and political work so as to provide the legal basis for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to undertake military operations other than war (MOOTW).

The promulgation of the trial action guidelines on MOOTW (hereafter referred to as Action Guidelines) aroused considerable speculation from the outside world. It is assumed that the Action Guidelines are comparable to the Anti-Secession Law passed in 2003, giving the PLA legal justification for intervening in affairs in the Taiwan Strait or conducting military operations against Taiwan. Are the new Action Guidelines China’s equivalent to Russia’s ongoing “special military operation” in Ukraine? These are the issues that grabbed the attention of the whole world.

China’s Growth Sacrifice


NEW HAVEN – Since the days of Deng Xiaoping, economic growth has mattered more than anything for China’s leaders. The 10% annualized hyper-growth from 1980 to 2010 was widely seen as the antidote to the relative stasis of the Mao era, when the economy grew by only about 6%. But under President Xi Jinping, the pendulum has swung back, with 6.6% average growth from 2013 to 2021 much closer to the trajectory under Mao than under Deng.

Some of the slowdown was inevitable, partly reflecting the law of large numbers: Small economies are better able to sustain rapid growth rates. As China’s economy grew – from 2% of world GDP in 1980 at the time of the Deng takeoff to 15% when Xi assumed power in 2012 – an arithmetic slowdown became only a matter of time. The surprise was that it took so long to occur.

What Are the West’s Strategic Goals in the Ukraine War?


WASHINGTON, DC – The Ukraine war and the world’s reaction to it will be a decisive factor in shaping the global political and economic order in the decade ahead. In particular, the Western allies’ actions, narratives, and planning regarding both Russia and the role of the Global South in Ukraine’s postwar reconstruction will indicate what their long-term strategic goals are. Does the West simply want to see Russia defeated and NATO enlarged and strengthened, or can it envisage a “victory” in Ukraine that lays the foundations for a world in which democracy is more secure and global governance more inclusive and effective?

While the outcome of the fighting remains uncertain, the West’s strategic aims, particularly how it intends to treat Russia in the event that Ukraine prevails, will have huge consequences. The big question is whether the allies will seek to punish Russia as a whole by imposing severe reparations or instead target President Vladimir Putin’s autocratic regime in a way that limits the burdens imposed on the Russian people.

How Deep Are China-Russia Military Ties?

China’s decision to tacitly side with Russia despite its February 2022 invasion of Ukraine renewed fears of a China-Russia military alliance. The two countries have so far eschewed a formal alliance, but they share deep military ties centering on arms sales and joint military exercises. Russian arms sales to China have been invaluable to China’s efforts to rapidly modernize the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Joint military exercises have likewise aided the PLA and offered Beijing a suite of other benefits.

Yet military ties between Beijing and Moscow are not without considerable hiccups. China’s repeated theft of Russian technology is a major sore spot, and arms sales are becoming a less important focal point of the broader bilateral relationship. With respect to joint exercises, shifting power dynamics between China and Russia are upsetting the status quo with mixed results for China.

Military Aid and Arms Sales

Over the decades, military technology cooperation has been an important and symbolic element of China-Russia relations. Politically, Russian military aid and arms sales have helped undergird the broader diplomatic relationship. Militarily, arms sales have provided the PLA with equipment that it struggled to produce on its own, like advanced aircraft, engines, and air defense systems. However, China has repeatedly stolen Russian technology and know-how, creating friction between Beijing and Moscow. Going forward, arms sales could become a less important area of the relationship or even become a point of contention as China advances and competes with Russia in the global arms industry.

Why Quantum Computing Is Even More Dangerous Than Artificial Intelligence

Vivek Wadhwa and Mauritz Kop

Today’s artificial intelligence is as self-aware as a paper clip. Despite the hype—such as a Google engineer’s bizarre claim that his company’s AI system had “come to life” and Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s tweet predicting that computers will have human intelligence by 2029—the technology still fails at simple everyday tasks. That includes driving vehicles, especially when confronted by unexpected circumstances that require even the tiniest shred of human intuition or thinking.

The sensationalism surrounding AI is not surprising, considering that Musk himself had warned that the technology could become humanity’s “biggest existential threat” if governments don’t regulate it. But whether or not computers ever attain human-like intelligence, the world has already summoned a different, equally destructive AI demon: Precisely because today’s AI is little more than a brute, unintelligent system for automating decisions using algorithms and other technologies that crunch superhuman amounts of data, its widespread use by governments and companies to surveil public spaces, monitor social media, create deepfakes, and unleash autonomous lethal weapons has become dangerous to humanity.

1 Year Later, the Taliban Are in Full Control

Michael Kugelman

Welcome to Foreign Policy’s South Asia Brief.

The highlights this week: assessing the Taliban regime one year after it took over in Kabul, why India’s response to the attack on Mumbai-born author Salman Rushdie is muted, and a Chinese ship docks in Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port.

Afghanistan, 1 Year On

One year since the Taliban took over Afghanistan, they still hold a firm grip on power; they control most of the country and face no viable opposition. The war that ended when the Taliban entered Kabul last year has not resumed. However, that the group remains in full control is surprising: Its regime has faced immense challenges, including struggles for legitimacy and internal divides. The Taliban’s hold on power could still become shaky in the next year.

On Sunday, Al Jazeera published an interview with Taliban leader Anas Haqqani about the last year. He repeated the narrative that has dominated the group’s public messaging since its takeover: that the Taliban ended the foreign occupation of Afghanistan and restored peace. However, Haqqani responded to inconvenient questions—such as those about Afghanistan’s economic crisis or the U.S. drone strike that killed al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul—with characteristic defiance.

What Does China Want?

Hal Brands and Michael Beckley

The greatest geopolitical catastrophes occur at the intersection of ambition and desperation. Xi Jinping’s China will soon be driven by plenty of both.

In our new book, Danger Zone: The Coming Conflict with China, which this article is adapted from, we explain the cause of that desperation: a slowing economy and a creeping sense of encirclement and decline. But first, we need to lay out the grandness of those ambitions—what Xi’s China is trying to achieve. It is difficult to grasp just how hard China’s fall will be without understanding the heights to which Beijing aims to climb. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is undertaking an epic project to rewrite the rules of global order in Asia and far beyond. China doesn’t want to be a superpower—one pole of many in the international system. It wants to be the superpower—the geopolitical sun around which the system revolves.

That ambition is now hard to miss in what CCP officials are saying. It is even more obvious in what the CCP is doing, from its world-beating naval shipbuilding program to its effort to remake the strategic geography of Eurasia. China’s grand strategy involves pursuing objectives close to home, such as cementing the CCP’s hold on power and reclaiming bits of China that were ripped away when the country was weak. It also includes more expansive goals, such as carving out a regional sphere of influence and contesting American power on a global scale. The CCP’s agenda blends a sense of China’s historical destiny with an emphasis on modern, 21st-century tools of power. It is rooted in the timeless geopolitical ambitions that motivate many great powers and the insatiable insecurities plaguing China’s authoritarian regime.

Lessons for the West: Russia’s military failures in Ukraine

Denys Davydenko, Margaryta Khvostova

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has been going on for almost six months. Enough time has passed that policymakers in the United States and the European Union should now be able to pinpoint the weaknesses of the Russian military. And they will need to do so if they are to determine how best to help the Ukrainian armed forces. The recent explosions at Saki air base in Crimea – a facility that is 225km away from the front line, in an area the Russians have declared to be shielded by their air defence system – show that Ukraine has found new ways to exploit flaws in Russia’s military machine. So, what should the West have learned about Russia’s motives, tactics, and strategy?

President Vladimir Putin’s use of inaccurate data often undermines his decisions. Putin’s wishful thinking about the power of the Russian military is reflected in his apparent expectation that it could conquer Ukraine with only 150,000 military personnel. This is significantly less than the 250,000 soldiers in the Ukrainian armed forces and far off the ratio of offensive to defence forces traditionally needed for a successful campaign – 3:1. Putin seems to have decided to launch the invasion based on the expectation that Ukrainian citizens would surrender without a fight and their political leaders would run away. Clearly, the data he drew on was deeply flawed. Several publicly available studies conducted shortly before the full-scale invasion showed that Ukrainians would resolutely take up arms to defend their homeland. But the Kremlin – like many Western experts – must have simply ignored them.

Russia’s Newest Nuclear Threats

Stephen Blank

From the outset of Moscow’s re-invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, nuclear threats and blackmail have been integral to Russia’s overall strategy. President Vladimir Putin’s declaration of the “special military operation” was accompanied by the usual blood-curdling threats, expecting that such loaded language would deter or inhibit Western reactions to his war (Kremlin.ru, February 24). Moreover, initial Russian naval activities on the eve of the war clearly simulated possible conventional and nuclear missile strikes on Europe and the United States for the same purposes (Nipp.org, June 15).

Putin and his entourage deeply believe in the efficacy of nuclear threats. Therefore, they continue to feign nuclear catastrophe in every way imaginable, believing they can intimidate the West into ceasing support for Ukraine. To date, in fact, several dozen such threats have been made, the most recent being the suspension of inspections as provided by the New START Treaty and the attempt to use Europe’s largest nuclear reactor, captured near Zaporizhzhia early in the war, as a shield behind which Russian forces can fire missiles into Ukraine at will (State.gov, accessed August 11; T.me/energoatom, August 7). Since taking the plant, Moscow has spurned repeated international entreaties from foreign governments to leave the reactor and turn it over to international supervision. The Kremlin’s failure to do so has generated suspicions that it seeks to provoke an incident whereby Ukrainian forces returning fire generate an international catastrophe, which Moscow can then spin in its favor (Nv.ua, August 7).

How Does China Deter America In The Taiwan Strait?

James Holmes

The topic of this panel is conventional deterrence vis-à-vis China, so I thought it would be fun and maybe even enlightening to try some role reversal and consider how China thinks about deterring America through conventional means. We sometimes seem to assume that we can deter an antagonist for all time if we make its leadership a believer in our power and resolve. And so we might, for awhile. But dynamism pervades strategic competition. Contenders grapple constantly for strategic advantage, trying to one-up each other.

The red team tries to deter us even as we try to deter the red team. So it’s worth looking at deterrence through their eyes. If I’m Xi Jinping & Co., how do I deter U.S. intervention in the Taiwan Strait, the hotspot that dominates the news of late?

Well, if I were Xi, I would crack open my volume of Clausewitz. While the Prussian grandmaster was writing about open war, he also hands us tools for thinking about peacetime deterrence. The Chinese Communist Party leadership subscribes to his logic but carries it to the nth degree. For example, founding chairman Mao Zedong repurposed the Clausewitzian definition of war as a continuation of political intercourse carried out with the addition of violent means. Mao proclaimed that war is politics with bloodshed while politics is war without bloodshed.

Turkish attempt to reconcile with Assad resembles pulling a rabbit out of a hat

James M. Dorsey

At first glance, there is little that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, an Islamist and nationalist, has in common with Dogu Perincek, a maverick socialist, Eurasianist, and militant secularist and Kemalist.

Yet it is Mr. Perincek, a man with a world of contacts in Russia, China, Iran, and Syria whose conspiratorial worldview identifies the United States as the core of all evil, that Mr. Erdogan at times turns to help resolve delicate geopolitical issues.

Seven years ago, Mr. Perincek mediated a reconciliation between Russia and Turkey after relations soured following the Turkish air force’s downing of a Russian fighter.

Now, Mr. Perincek is headed for Damascus to engineer a Russian-backed rapprochement with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose overthrow Mr. Erdogan had encouraged for the past 11 years ever since the eruption of mass Arab Spring-era anti-government demonstrations that morphed into a bloody civil war.

The Assassination Of Al-Zawahiri May Not Have Been A Good Idea – Analysis

Murray Hunter

The recent assassination of Al-Qaeda’s Ayman Al-Zawahiri is likely to create a number of ramifications. Al-Zawahiri was assassinated by two Hellfire R9-X missiles from an MQ9 Reaper drone, that had flown over or originated in a third country, in the heart of Kabul, which the US evacuated from in August last year. Al-Zawahiri had a US $25 million bounty upon his head and had been the “invisible” leader of Al-Qaeda since 2011.

Such a hit lent credence to US President Biden’s doctrine of over the horizon counterterrorism in Afghanistan. However, the intelligence team that reported Al-Zawahiri’s whereabouts to the White House, and the consequential decision to take him out with a drone strike, is likely to have unintended consequences for the future direction of Al-Qaeda.

The strike occurred around the time of House of Congress Speak Nancy Pelosi’s provocative trip to Taiwan, the president in isolation after positive tests for Covid-19, and just before a critical vote in the Senate for one of Biden’s signature bills to fund his agenda.

Germany depends on Russian gas. Will it still stand with Ukraine through a brutal winter?

Nikhil Kumar

It is November 2022. After a scorching summer, Europe finds itself in the grip of a harsher-than-expected winter. And in Germany, authorities have just learned that the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline, which brings Russian gas to the continent’s largest economy, is running empty; the Kremlin has turned off the tap. There has been no warning; it takes up to 24 hours for the Germans to realize that their biggest source of natural gas, and a principal source of the country’s energy supply, has gone dry.

It’s a nightmare scenario — and it’s also a real possibility, given German dependence on Russian gas and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s repeated reminders of the leverage his country holds regarding energy. German officials and many German citizens are imagining — and planning for — the worst.

The fallout would be immediate for the German economy: Under an emergency plan laid out by the government, the first blow would fall on German industry — to ensure that households, small businesses, schools and hospitals are not left cold and literally in the dark. Many large industrial customers get their gas on what are known as “interruptible contracts” — meaning that, in the event of a sudden crunch, they will be the first to see cuts in supplies. That in turn will lead to shutdowns at factories and reductions in working hours at large companies to ensure that broader Germany society — almost half of all German homes rely on natural gas for heating — can get through the cold months.

The hit to industry would, of course, ultimately hit ordinary Germans. While the country has moved rapidly to ease its energy dependency, the country still relies on Russia for more than a third of its gas needs, down from around 55 percent before the Ukraine invasion. One projection suggested that a complete shutdown of Russian gas supplies could shave almost 3 percent off Germany growth next year. As Petr Cingr, the chief executive of SKW Stickstoffwerke Piesteritz, a major German chemicals producer, told the Financial Times recently, a shutdown of Russian gas would mean that “we have to stop [production] immediately, from 100 to zero.”

It’s a scenario that policymakers from Berlin to Brussels and beyond are racing to avoid. Germany is ground zero for these worries, given its dependency on Russia and the Nord Stream 1 pipeline.

“There are a lot of moving parts. It depends on what Russia does, it depends on winter, on how bad it is, and it depends on demand,” Timothy Ash, a senior strategist at the London-based financial services firm Bluebay Asset Management, told Grid. “It’s touch and go, put it that way. It looks like it is going to be a very difficult winter.”

The consequences could stretch well beyond energy. Europe has surprised many observers with its reaction to the invasion of Ukraine, implementing far-reaching economic sanctions on Russia, sending billions of dollars in military and financial aid to the Ukrainian resistance — despite its long-standing dependence on Russian oil and gas. Perhaps the greatest surprise came from Germany in late February, when newly minted Chancellor Olaf Scholz proclaimed a “turning point” for his country’s foreign policy, tearing up prohibitions dating to World War II and shipping weapons to Ukraine.

But as summer ends, and the temperatures begin to dip, the difficult questions will loom. There’s already an energy crunch across Europe — felt as keenly as anywhere in Germany. Wholesale gas prices on the continent have spiked to levels as high as 14 times their average over the past 10 years; what will happen if and when Putin further weaponizes the energy card? Will the support for Ukraine last? Certainly, experts warn, Putin has a clear incentive to make things harder for Europe — and in turn, to pressure Ukraine.

“I think he will be looking for some kind of peace deal this autumn, and to prepare Europe for that he’ll probably further restrict energy supplies to create a gas crisis this winter, so Europe will try and force Ukraine to concede ground,” Ash said. “We have to assume Putin will be a bad guy.”

Preparing for the nightmare

That’s the bad news. The good news is that Germany — and the continent as whole — isn’t waiting for the nightmares to come. There are already several measures underway that would put Germany and other nations on a stronger footing before the weather turns. These involve boosting gas reserves, turning to available alternative energy sources, and imposing energy rations on businesses and individuals both. Some of these measures appear to be working.

In Germany, gas storage facilities are already nearly 80 percent full — meeting a recent European Parliament goal to raise storage levels for all member countries to that mark by Nov. 1. Overall, Europe-wide storage levels are at around 77 percent.

But questions remain about whether the resolve will last, as Russia is currently supplying only about 20 percent of what it normally does through the Nord Stream pipeline. Moscow has blamed the reduction on maintenance issues caused by Western sanctions; the flow could decrease further later this month when Russia says it will shut the pipeline completely for three days — again, it says, for maintenance. The result: German regulators are warning that they might not meet their next goal of bringing storage levels to 85 percent by October and 95 percent by early November.

Still, the progress thus far has impressed many experts. “I think Germans should be concerned but not panicked,” Noah Gordon, a fellow in the Europe program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told Grid. “Fears of people freezing in their homes because of a lack of gas are overblown. … It’s a crisis, but it is not the end of the world.”

This assessment, echoed by others who spoke to Grid, is based not only on efforts to boost storage, but also cuts in consumption. The European Union has set a goal of reducing overall energy use by 15 percent by next March. Germany has responded with a broad range of steps: In Berlin, lights at some 200 historic monuments were turned off over the summer; in Hannover, hot water at public showers and baths was cut off, and air conditioning use restricted in public buildings; and hundreds of apartment complexes in Dresden have seen their supplies of hot water reduced. Companies are doing their share: Deutsche Bank, for example, has cut air conditioning use at its offices, stopped the supply of hot water in all restrooms and turned off the fountain in front of the bank’s headquarters in Frankfurt.

Meanwhile, the war has actually driven usage down by driving up energy bills. That has led many Germans to use less power — even where there are no government mandates or restrictions. And that has helped — both by moving Germany more swiftly toward its overall targets and by boosting storage levels.

“It now seems like price rises have actually reduced demand,” Ash, from Bluebay Asset Management, told Grid. “So now it’s looking a bit better.”

In Germany alone, the International Monetary Fund estimates that gas consumption was already down by 8 percent in June and 15 percent in July compared with averages for the past five years.

A comeback for coal

The energy war has led to a strange twist in Germany, a country with a powerful Green Party and commitment to the environment: Namely, coal is making a comeback. As Grid has reported, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has prompted a reboot of global demand for the dirtiest of fossil fuels. And Germany is among those countries that have cleared plans to reopen shuttered coal-fired power plants.

Now, some lawmakers are also looking at extending the life of the last of its nuclear reactors. Germany’s last three nuclear facilities are currently slated to shut down by the end of this year; former chancellor Angela Merkel pledged to phase out nuclear power following the 2011 meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan. But with a potential energy crisis looming, nuclear power — much like coal — is back in the conversation.

“There’s a lot to be said to use the three nuclear power plants that we have,” German Finance Minister Christian Lindner said recently. Germany has also made efforts to boost imports of liquefied natural gas by investing in new terminals and striking new deals with international suppliers.

Energy wars — and the actual war

Critical questions remain — nearly all of them hinging on exactly how far Russia goes in using its leverage. As Ash told Grid, if supplies from Russia continue to fall, and the winter proves harsher than anticipated, “then I think Europe has more problems.”

“The great uncertainty is whether Russia will cut off all gas supplies or whether it will continue to just constrict them over time,” David Goldwyn, a former State Department coordinator for international energy affairs, told Grid.

The worst-case scenarios — a shutdown of Russian supplies and a particularly harsh winter — have led to concerns beyond the energy supply itself. In particular, the question of when and whether an energy crisis might affect German support for Ukraine.

So far, that support has proved robust, even as energy prices have skyrocketed. In a July opinion survey by the German broadcaster ZDF, some 70 percent of those polled said they backed their government’s support for Ukraine.

“German and European support for Ukraine has really remained remarkably high considering the slowdown in economic growth and the historic spike in energy prices they are already suffering,” Goldwyn told Grid. He believes the support is strong enough to withstand whatever winter might bring. “Frankly, the more hostile or the more aggressive Russia is with respect to using energy as a weapon,” Goldwyn said, “I think the more popular support there is in Europe for the defense of Ukraine, because it is not solely about protecting Ukrainians, it’s about deterring the Russian threat, which can clearly be aimed and has been aimed at other countries.”

Gordon, from the Carnegie Endowment, is also optimistic, though there might be “some more grumbling,” as he put it. “People’s attention does go away … and a lot of the high price of gas has not yet been passed through to consumers because they fixed prices and then the meter gets read at the end of the year,” he told Grid. “There will be some shock when people get their bills.” What helps, Gordon believes, is the solidarity with Ukraine that many Germans feel because of their proximity to the war zone. “It really feels close when you are in Berlin,” Gordon said. “Support for Ukraine will remain high if the government can ensure that the higher energy cost is spread around.”

Even as Berlin and other European capitals brace themselves for the coming winter, the longer-term outlook is for a clean break — an end to their dependence on Russia. Last year, the European Union relied on Russia for 45 percent of its gas imports. For policymakers in Brussels, Berlin and beyond, the clear lesson from this crisis is that such dependence is untenable; following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the EU announced plans to end its reliance on Russian energy by 2027.

“Ultimately, we’d all agree on that Russia is not a reliable energy partner anymore for Europe,” Ash told Grid. “Europe will diversify; Russia will be cut out of European supply chains. But we still have to get through this winter, and it is going to be hard.”

In Crypto: Google’s $1.5bn cryptocurrency investment

Google is the world’s biggest backer of cryptocurrency and blockchain companies.

The tech giant’s parent company Alphabet invested $1.5 billion into just four crypto startups since September 2021, according to a report from Blockdata.

The companies backed were digital asset custody platform Fireblocks, Web3 game company Dapper Labs, Bitcoin infrastructure tool Voltage and venture capital firm Digital Currency Group.

Samsung was the most active investor in the period, backing 13 companies with a total investment of $979.2 million.

BlackRock and Morgan Stanley invested more than Samsung – $1.2bn and $1.1bn respectively, but across just three and two rounds of funding.

Goldman Sachs was fifth with $698m across five investment rounds, followed by BNY Mellon ($690m in three rounds) and PayPal ($650m in four rounds).

Ukraine War Reveals Need for More Anti-Drone Tech, US Army Says


Russia’s heavy use of a wide variety of drones against Ukraine has the U.S. Army rethinking its anti-drone plan, service officials said.

Much of the Army’s current thinking is based on the Army’s experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Maj. Gen. Sean A. Gainey, who runs the service’s Joint C-UAS Office. In those wars, the United States could deploy very large armed drones virtually anywhere while adversaries such as ISIS were just beginning to use small drones to drop small munitions. So the United States developed and published a plan for dealing with small UAS in January 2021.

“What we're seeing in Ukraine,” Gainey said, is that “when you scale this capability from a small quadcopter all the way up to a larger group three” —a drone that weighs around 1,300 pounds and flies at 1,800 feet—”and are able to leverage [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] to put other effects of other systems to bear, [it] really shows the importance of having counter UAS at scale, not just at a fixed site.”

The Withdrawal of the Proposed Data Protection Law Is a Pragmatic Move


The Indian government withdrew the Personal Data Protection (PDP) Bill, 2019 from Parliament on August 4, 2022. The bill had been pending in Parliament since 2019 and a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) had submitted a detailed report on it. The sudden move to withdraw the bill has been met with cautious optimism in some quarters and disappointment in others. The withdrawal indicates the desire for a serious rethink on the shape and scope of data regulation within the government.

Typically, once a bill is in Parliament, the government is free to make changes before the bill is taken up for final discussion and voting. Governments usually do so if, for example, they wish to incorporate suggestions from parliamentary committees. This would have been the most likely process if it were just a question of incorporating the JPC’s recommendations. In this case, however, the government has withdrawn the bill completely. IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnav has stated that the PDP bill will be replaced by a new one that is part of a “comprehensive legal framework.”