8 September 2022

America’s Institutional Crisis

George Friedman

In my latest book, “The Storm Before the Calm,” I predicted that the U.S. would go through a massive social crisis in the 2020s. That prediction has obviously come to pass. I also forecast that America would go through its fourth institutional crisis. The previous three all followed existential wars and transformed the governing institutions.

The first came after the Revolutionary War, which eliminated British imperial rule and installed a union of states and a republican form of government. Some 80 years later, the second came after the Civil War, which established the federal government's primacy over the states. Eighty years after that, World War II extended the federal government's power over American society and put in place a technocratic government – that is, a government of experts.

We are now 80 or so years removed from World War II, and the nature of this new institutional crisis is becoming clear. It started when the COVID-19 pandemic revealed how ineffective a federal technocracy is in imposing solutions over a vast and diverse continent. As I argued in “The Storm Before the Calm,” experts are essential but insufficient when it comes to governance. Their fundamental weakness is that expertise in one area can be insensitive to or ignorant of the problems their solutions create. Medical institutions did the best they could do under the circumstances, but their solutions disrupted the production and distribution of goods and alienated people from one another. Governance is the art of seeing the whole. Physicians tend to see only their own domain. The federal government responded to expertise in one area without creating systems of competing expertise, and it often failed to recognize the variability of circumstances that the founders envisioned.

The chips are down: Putin scrambles for high-tech parts as his arsenal goes up in smoke


It's the microchips that look set to get Vladimir Putin in the end. Six months into its invasion of Ukraine, Russia is being throttled by a severe technology deficit inflicted by sanctions.

Having fired off (or lost in combat) way more of their missile firepower than they originally anticipated, Moscow's soldiers are now increasingly relying on ancient stocks of primitive Soviet-era munitions while Western-armed Ukrainian forces are battling to turn the tide in a southern counteroffensive with pinpoint strikes on munition dumps and key infrastructure such as bridges.

Kyiv is acutely aware that the outcome of the war is likely to hinge on whether Russia finds a way to regain access to high-tech chips, and is out to ensure it doesn't get them. In order to flag the danger, Ukraine is sending out international warnings that the Kremlin has drawn up shopping lists of semiconductors, transformers, connectors, casings, transistors, insulators and other components, most made by companies in the U.S., Germany, the Netherlands, the U.K., Taiwan and Japan, among others, which it needs to fuel its war effort.

POLITICO has seen one of the Russian lists, which is divided into three priority categories, from the most critical components to the least. It even includes the price per item that Moscow expects to pay, down to the last kopeck. While POLITICO could not independently verify the provenance of the list, two experts in military supply chains confirmed it was in line with other research findings about Russia's military equipment and needs.

At first glance, Russia shouldn't be able to acquire the most sensitive tech on the lists. With only very basic domestic technology, the Kremlin has relied on key players in the U.S., the EU and Japan for semiconductors as suppliers over the past years and these should be out of grasp thanks to sanctions. The difficulty would emerge in whether an intermediary country such as China were to buy technologies, then sell them on to Moscow. In extreme cases, Russians appear to be clawing chips out of household appliances like fridges.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal stressed the war had come to an inflection point where the technological edge was proving decisive.

“According to our information, Russians have already spent almost half ... of their weaponry arsenal," he told POLITICO.

He added that Ukraine estimated that Russia was down to just "four dozen" hypersonic missiles. "These are the ones that have precision and accuracy due to their microchips. But because of sanctions imposed on Russia, the deliveries of this high-tech microchip equipment ... have stopped and they have no way of replenishing these stocks.”

Chips on the menu

Of the 25 items Russia is seeking most desperately, almost all are microchips manufactured by U.S. firms Marvell, Intel, Holt, ISSI, Microchip, Micron, Broadcom and Texas Instruments. Rounding out the list are chips by Japanese firm Renesas, which acquired the U.S.-based IDT; Germany's Infineon, which acquired U.S.-based Cypress; microcircuits by American firm Vicor; and connectors by U.S. firm AirBorn. Some of the items can be easily found in online electronics retailers, while others have been out of stock for months as a result of the global microchip shortage.

The cheapest item on the top priority list, the 88E1322-AO-BAM2I000 gigabit ethernet transceiver made by Marvell, can apparently be sourced by Moscow for 430.83 rubles a piece, or around €7. The most expensive item, a 10M04DCF256I7G field programmable gate array made by Intel, can be sourced at a highly inflated 66,815.77 rubles or €1,107 each, according to the list (before the chips shortage, it would have cost under €20).

James Byrne, director of open source intelligence and analysis at leading defense and security think tank RUSI, said it's likely that Russia has been buying up stock of Western microchips and other essential equipment for years, but could now be running low.

The Russian military procurement program is "extensive, it’s well funded, and they have a huge military and industrial base producing stuff," said Byrne. "But now they’ve expended so much of it in Ukraine, they need a large volume of new supplies. And the sanctions will make it more difficult for them ... So they will have to prioritize critical things, and that’s why we’re seeing these documents. We obviously think they are scrambling to secure supplies."

Holes in the blockade

Since its latest invasion of Ukraine in February, Western countries have tightened sanctions on Russia, increasingly targeting its supply chains of microchips to decrease its military capabilities. The new sanctions come on top of years of stricter controls of chips sales — which often fall under "dual-use goods" because they're used in military and civilian applications alike — under international agreements like the Wassenaar Arrangement as well as recent EU law.

Experts warn that these export control regimes too often fail to stop transfers of technology to unwanted actors and entities.

"Once chips have left the factory it's very hard to know for sure where they end up," said Diederik Cops, a senior researcher in arms exports and trade at the Flemish Peace Institute, a research organization linked to the Flemish parliament.

Cops said Russian entities supplying the military have various ways to acquire critical goods, ranging from buying them on unregulated online marketplaces to using third-party front shops and post-box companies to smuggle high-tech kit into the country.

"Countries like North Korea and Iran have built up years of expertise to circumvent sanctions. Russia will surely have prepared itself to cope with this in past months ... The Russians can also rely on historic expertise to set up such channels: It was routine during the Cold War. And it has long borders with neighboring countries and a large network of allied states to work with," Cops said.

The U.S., Europe and other Western allies have set up licensing regimes to stop companies from exporting potential military technology to clients who could be deemed a risk to their security. But "it's a huge challenge to monitor the illegal proliferation channels, and even the legal channels, to see who the end user is," Cops said.

The sanctions imposed since February's invasion aimed to close loopholes and further tighten the screws on Russia's military.

According to Damien Spleeters, deputy director of operations at Conflict Armament Research (CAR), an organization specialized in tracking and tracing weapons of war that is currently tracing components found on Ukraine's battlefields, it's too early to say to what extent the sanctions are working: "Everything we've seen so far was produced before the invasion. It's stocks that date from before the sanctions," he said.

But the Russians are definitely “running out of stock," according to Ukraine's Prime Minister Shmyhal. "They are using their Soviet-made equipment and missiles which were produced back in 1960s or 70s," he said.

Russia is so desperate for the most sophisticated semiconductors for its weapons program, it has resorted to stripping microchips from dishwashers and fridges to use in its military gear, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said in May, attributing the intel to Ukrainian officials.

But some American national security veterans disagree with the optimistic assessment from U.S. President Joe Biden’s team. They say Western governments have little ability to stop other regimes — particularly China — from transferring microchips to Russia.

The controls on chips “are about as tight as a screen door,” said Matthew Turpin, the U.S. National Security Council director for China from 2018 to 2019. “China and Russia share a 4,300-kilometer border. There is absolutely no way we could detect if those chips are passed from China to Russia.”

The U.S. Commerce Department has repeatedly said it has seen no evidence that China is transferring technologies to Russia, which could open Beijing to severe sanctions. But the Chinese government has also said it would put no new limits on its commercial relationship with Russia, and Turpin and others say there is almost no way Western governments can be certain of their behavior.

Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security, which oversees tech sanctions, has “fewer than 10 ‘inspectors’ in China which are supposed to determine whether chips have been diverted to Chinese military use,” Turpin said, adding that “we are not effective in inspections” because the Chinese government requires prior warning.

Desperate times, desperate measures

Over the past years, as its relationship with the West turned increasingly frosty, Russia implemented an import substitution program, seeking to create its own high-tech industry. Those efforts have become ever more urgent now.

Russia's ministry of industry and trade has prepared proposals that seek to further incentivize local companies to produce the high-tech components needed by the military-industrial complex, business daily Vedomosti reported last month. The measures, dated August 22, include slashing tax for the relevant companies, reducing insurance premiums, providing preferential loans and guaranteeing purchases. The measures are due to be approved and enter into force no later than January 1, according to Vedomosti.

The problem for Moscow is that such measures have failed in the past, bogged down by widespread corruption and graft, not to mention a brain drain — and that's unlikely to change now.

"Ultimately it hasn’t really been a success," RUSI's Byrne said about Russia's import substitution drive. "There’s loads of high-tech components they can’t replace with home-made alternatives ... A lot of those things are absolutely critical for their weapons program."

An August investigation by Reuters with RUSI showed components of U.S. and other Western technology firms were still rife in Russian military equipment found on the battlefield.

Such Western components, and microchips in particular, are key for Russia's military to keep up its war efforts.

"Russia's missiles, processing computers, and sensors are built with Russian parts. But the most critical components in them, the highest tech, were Western," RUSI's Byrne said. "The Russians have used a lot of their high-end equipment — cruise and ballistic missiles, precision munitions, the latest infantry fighting vehicles. Now, they're resorting to older equipment they’ve brought out of storage. And part of the aim of sanctions is to slow down procurement of high-tech components, and essentially attrit the Russians’ ability to use this high-end stuff, so they will have to rely more and more on outdated equipment."

Cops, the Belgian researcher, said: "More and more 'dumb' rockets are being found in Ukraine, demonstrating how Russia is battling supply chain shortages."
Friends with benefits

While the EU, U.S., Japan and other countries have slapped sanctions on Russia, Moscow has a friend in Beijing, which has already provided the country with off-road vehicle exports for command personnel, drone components, and naval engines. But like Russia, China has also struggled to catch up with its competitors when it comes to the most high-tech components Russia needs.

"A lot of these [Western] companies, they’re really specialized in the specialized kit, they’ve been making it a long time. The Chinese semiconductor industry doesn’t have capability to make those things," RUSI's Byrne said.

Kevin Wolf, former assistant secretary of commerce under the Obama administration, said China’s difficulties in access indicate new global norms, as countries around the world coordinate to put pressure on Russia.

“As horrible as the invasion of Ukraine is, one dramatic effect is the accelerated pace of the U.S. to work with its offshore allies to impose common controls outside of the regular regime process, that are especially painful to China given the state of their [semiconductor] industry," Wolf said.

National security concerns put Western industry between a rock and a hard place, as companies argue sales to China provide critical revenue to support their research and development efforts.

Above all, the wide use of Western tech in Russia's military equipment shows it's extremely hard to even understand the global arms trade, Spleeters, at Conflict Armament Research, said.

"Everything can be regulated … But you need to have an observation component to it," Spleeters said. "You need to monitor how it's being used, how it's being acquired. If you lack that vision on the field you risk missing a lot of the possible trade routes and ways to circumvent the rules."

The Dangerous Decade A Foreign Policy for a World in Crisis

Richard Haass

“There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen.” Those words are apocryphally attributed to the Bolshevik revolutionary (and Foreign Affairs reader) Vladimir Lenin, referring to the rapid collapse of tsarist Russia just over 100 years ago. If he had actually said those words, Lenin might have added that there are also decades when centuries happen.

The world is in the midst of one such decade. As with other historical hinges, the danger today stems from a sharp decline in world order. But more than at any other recent moment, that decline threatens to become especially steep, owing to a confluence of old and new threats that have begun to intersect at a moment the United States is ill positioned to contend with them.

On the one hand, the world is witnessing the revival of some of the worst aspects of traditional geopolitics: great-power competition, imperial ambitions, fights over resources. Today, Russia is headed by a tyrant, President Vladimir Putin, who longs to re-create a Russian sphere of influence and perhaps even a Russian empire. Putin is willing to do almost anything to achieve that goal, and he is able to act as he pleases because internal constraints on his regime have mostly disappeared. Meanwhile, under President Xi Jinping, China has embarked on a quest for regional and potentially global primacy, putting itself on a trajectory that will lead to increased competition or even confrontation with the United States.

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.

Why China is fuming over NASA’s Artemis program


Most of the civilized world is thrilled at the mission of Artemis I, the NASA-led first step for returning human beings to the lunar surface. The same cannot be said about China. An article in the Global Times, China’s English-language mouthpiece, has some snarky things to say about Artemis and NASA in general. The article stated, “As NASA is trying hard to relive its Apollo glories, China is working on innovative plans to carry out its own crewed moon landing missions.”

The article accused the United States of fomenting a new space race: “China’s crewed moon landing is more in line with scientific principles, but NASA might grow more hostile against China in the space domain given the huge pressure it is facing to maintain its global leadership in moon exploration.”

A recent CNN article suggests that the Chinese are right when they accuse the United States of conducting a space race. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson referred to such a contest.

Time to Rethink America’s Nuclear Strategy How to Learn the Right Lessons From the Cold War

Francis J. Gavin

Late in the afternoon of Sunday, February 27, Russian President Vladimir Putin convened a group of senior Kremlin officials to witness an extraordinary public statement. Putin announced that he had taken the “unprecedented” step of ordering Russia’s nuclear warheads to be prepared for “special combat readiness.” Between Putin’s nuclear saber rattling and growing anxiety over the prospect of a military conflict with China over Taiwan, once arcane questions of nuclear strategy and deterrence have returned to the center of world politics.

Since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, the fear of great-power nuclear conflict played such a central role in international affairs. The nuclear-strategy learning curve has been steep for many of the world’s policymakers and elected officials. Those old enough to remember Cold War–era nuclear debates are learning that the field has transformed and that the lessons and beliefs that once guided policy are rarely applicable today.

The unique challenges of the Cold War shaped strategic thinking about deploying nuclear weapons in particular ways. Today’s circumstances are quite different, and merely applying past lessons would be wrong-headed and even dangerous. Unfortunately, much of the nuclear muscle memory in the United States—intellectual, strategic, and organizational—has its roots in a Cold War experience that sheds little light on our present and future nuclear challenges.

Russia-Ukraine WarShelling Cuts Off Outside Power to Ukrainian Nuclear Plant

KYIV, Ukraine — Europe’s largest nuclear power plant was disconnected from the nation’s power grid after renewed shelling nearby on Monday, according to Ukrainian energy officials, once again placing critical cooling systems at risk of relying solely on emergency backup power.

Herman Galushchenko, Ukraine’s energy minister, said a fire resulting from the shelling had severed the Zaporizhzhia plant’s last connection to a reserve line that had provided its only source of outside power.

Reactor No. 6, the only working reactor at the plant, was still producing power for the facility itself, and as of Monday evening, engineers had not switched on diesel generators, according to an official from Energoatom, the Ukrainian company responsible for operating the facility.

Mr. Galushchenko said it was yet another precarious moment made more threatening because firefighting crews had not been able to reach the blaze site.

A Slowing China Helps Rein In Inflation Around the World

Gwynn Guilford

A global slowdown, in particular in China, is taking the edge off inflation pressures, especially for key imports and commodities.

Global inflation eased in July, to 0.3% on a monthly basis, down from an average of 0.7% a month in the first half of the year, according to analysis by Nora Szentivanyi, a global economist at JP Morgan, and colleagues. The figures omit Turkey, where inflation is unusually high.

“Weaker global demand in the face of diminished purchasing power through the past year is now driving disinflation through two main channels,” said Ms. Szentivanyi—first, by weighing on some commodity prices, and, second, by easing global supply-chain constraints.

She and her colleagues estimate falling commodity prices and easing goods price pressures will lower global inflation to a 5% annualized rate in the second half of 2022, from 9.7% in the second quarter.

Brent crude oil fell to around $93 a barrel Friday from more than $120 in early June. Copper is down around 28% from mid-April. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s food price index fell 1.9% in August from July, the fifth straight monthly decline. Prices of U.S. imports, excluding autos, rose 1.9% in July, down from 3.2% in March.

Foreign-made manufactured goods like furniture, recreational equipment and home entertainment increased just 2.8% in July, compared with 4.8% in April. That relief on import prices should flow through to consumer prices in the coming quarters, said Omair Sharif, who leads forecasting firm Inflation Insights.

To be sure, many other forces are still pushing the other way on U.S. inflation: service prices are rising, in particular for housing, and tight labor markets have pushed wage growth to its highest in at least 20 years. Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell recently said July’s slightly slower pace of inflation was far too little for the central bank to ease its campaign of raising interest rates.

Recent research by New York Fed economists found that price increases from imported inputs have passed through to U.S. domestic producer prices at a much higher rate recently than pre-Covid. But whether the reverse will also be true depends on how the U.S. economy is doing.

Import prices for consumer goods, excluding autos, fell 0.5% in July from April, while consumer prices for those same goods rose at a steady clip. If that divergence persists, the likely reason is domestic factors “such as unstable inflation expectations, higher wage inflation, strong pricing power of domestic distributors and higher transportation costs,” said Aichi Amemiya, senior U.S. economist at Nomura Securities.

China is a key driver of easing external price pressures. The world’s second-largest economy after the U.S. grew just 0.4% from a year earlier in the second quarter, its weakest in two years. While wide-scale Covid-19 lockdowns drove much of spring’s decline, China’s property collapse is now dragging heavily on growth.

Slumping investment by developers, in particular, has quashed demand for industrial and energy commodities. The volume of gasoline imports fell 36% in July from a year earlier, while that of steel dropped 25%, according to Chinese government data.

China in 2021 consumed 72% of the world’s iron-ore imports, 55% of refined copper and more than 15% of oil globally. Any slowing of its resource-hungry economy tends to put downward pressure on commodity prices everywhere, said Edward Gardner, commodities economist at Capital Economics.

A prime example is iron-ore prices, which are down around 40% from their peak earlier in the year, said Warren Patterson, head of commodities strategy at ING.
China's producer price index, change from​the same month a year agoSource: China's National Bureau of Statistics

“China is the largest importer by some distance,” he said. “With the weakness in the property market, this raw material for steel production is really suffering.”

The country’s producer-price index—a broad measure of pipeline inflation pressures—fell 1.3% in July from a month earlier.

“You have weak domestic demand and plenty of supply, and that tends to be deflationary,” said Thomas Gatley, a senior analyst at Gavekal Dragonomics.

As Chinese factories struggle to sell at home, they face more pressure to cut prices abroad—which will likely translate into a boom in Chinese net exports, said Mr. Gatley.

So far, there is no clear sign of this impact in U.S. trade data, said Nomura’s Mr. Amemiya. Prices for U.S. imports from China increased 2.8% from a year ago in July, down from a 4.9% pace in March. But price gains for imports overall also slowed, including for manufactured goods like computers and electronics that China exports.

One factor pushing up global price pressure is natural gas. An artificial shortage engineered by Russian President Vladimir Putin has driven up natural gas and electricity prices. European natural-gas future prices have more than tripled since the beginning of this year.

Europe has increasingly turned to U.S. exports of liquefied natural gas, putting upward pressure on U.S. gas and electricity prices.

“This year, the Russia and Ukraine and implications for energy markets might end up overwhelming the effects of what happens in China,” said Bill Adams, chief economist at Comerica Bank. “China’s housing and its effect on global inflation is likely to be a big deal in 2023.”

Cambodia’s Ream naval base attracts competing patrons5 September 2022

Abdul Rahman Yaacob, ANU

Cambodia’s Ream Naval Base — a facility in the Gulf of Thailand — has in recent years been the subject of interest from major powers competing for influence in Southeast Asia. China’s efforts to access the base first surfaced in July 2019 after the Wall Street Journal reported an alleged agreement allowing the Chinese military to use the base. The Cambodian government facilitated a visit to the naval base for 70 local and foreign journalists to counter the findings of the report.

Despite Cambodia’s efforts to dispel allegations of a Chinese military presence at the Ream Naval Base, suspicions continued to mount. Following US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman’s visit to Phnom Penh in 2021, the Cambodian government agreed to a visit by the Cambodia-based US Defence Attaché. But the visit marked a downward trend in US–Cambodia relations as the US Embassy in Phnom Penh claimed that Cambodian military officials refused full access to the base.

A Cambodian defence official, interviewed under Chatham House Rules, provided a counter-narrative on the US visit. In response to Sherman’s request, the Cambodian government formed a Coordination Working Group to meet the US Defence Attaché’s requirements. The visit included a one-hour meeting, visits to newly constructed buildings, an Australian-supported naval workshop and the construction of the new Tactical Command Headquarters at Koh Preab.

Next Wave of Nuclear-Power Plants Sees New Life in Climate Bill

Jennifer Hiller

Smaller-scale nuclear-power proposals are getting a boost of federal support under the recently passed climate, healthcare and tax bill. Now their backers must prove the projects can be delivered on time and on budget.

Investor interest in what are known as advanced reactors—pitched as the next generation of nuclear power—has grown in recent years because the reactors are potentially cheaper and faster to build than their predecessors. But their economics are unproven and none are currently under construction in the U.S.

The projects would qualify for production or investment-tax credits also available to wind and solar power under the new law. They could receive an enhanced credit if they are placed near former coal-fired power plants, an idea that has taken hold among utility companies in search of new, stable forms of power generation. Projects eventually could receive billions of dollars through the credits, say analysts.

As Russian Oil Exports Rise, Governments and Shipping Companies Play Cat-and-Mouse


According to analysts and observers, Russia is exporting “more oil than ever” despite Western attempts to cut off one of Moscow’s economic lifelines and new tools and technologies that make it harder to hide energy shipments. Some governments, it seems, are determined to buy Russia’s oil even if they don’t support its war on Ukraine.

Robin Brooks and his colleagues at the Institute of International Finance, or IFF, built a database to track the movement of oil tankers out of Russian ports. That’s not as easy as it sounds because those tankers “are registered and flagged all over the place,” to hide their actual ownership, according to an August 25 briefing note from the association obtained by Defense One. “We trace the ultimate owner through shell companies as needed, which provides some perspective on who has been helping to ship Russian oil around the world,” the note says. “This work concludes that tanker capacity out of Russia has been robust overall.”

Brooks, the IIF’s chief economist, put it more directly on Twitter: “Russia is exporting more crude than ever.”

How U.S. Grand Strategy Is Changed by Ukraine

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Angela Stent, Stephen M. Walt

Shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Foreign Policy asked a group of prominent thinkers how Europe’s first major war since 1945 will shape U.S. grand strategy going forward. While their perspectives differed, most agreed on one thing: The war marks the end of the post-Cold War era and the return of heightened superpower competition in Europe and the Pacific.

Now that the war has passed the half-year mark, we asked the question again—and found several surprises, along with themes already visible the first time around. The liberal West has held together astonishingly well, with NATO reinvigorated by the addition of two new members and the European Union discovering a new role waging economic war. The conflict’s lessons reach far beyond Europe, impacting strategic competition with China as well.

The war also points to some problems for Washington’s strategists. First and foremost: Most countries outside the West have refused to choose sides. The conflict has also accelerated a painful process of decoupling between the superpowers—especially in technology—which likely puts the final nails in the coffins of unfettered globalization and open markets, key planks of the post-Cold War order. That, too, will require new thinking on many policy fronts.

Lithium Monopoly In The Making? Beijing Expands In The Lithium Triangle

Daniel A. Peraza

China aims to expand its influence in the “Lithium Triangle” as a component of a broader campaign to construct a near-monopoly in the global lithium market. The Lithium Triangle, comprising Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile, accounts for approximately 56% percent of global lithium supply. Beijing’s acquisition of multiple Argentinian, Chilean, and Bolivia lithium mining operations enables China to dominate regional lithium operations. From 2018- 2020, China invested approximately $16 billion on mining projects in the Lithium Triangle and will likely continue to invest in the region.

China’s economic involvement within Argentina’s lithium mining industry allows Beijing to establish a stronger position in the global lithium market, undermining future U.S mining operations within the region. Argentina harbors 21% of global lithium reserves. On 17 May 2021, China’s Ganfeng Lithium and Argentina’s mining ministry signed a memorandum of understanding, securing Chinese-backed development of a lithium battery manufacturing plant in Jujuy province. On 4 February 2022, Chinese Zijin Mining Group funded construction of a $380 million lithium refinery plant in the Tres Quebradas project. On 11 July 2022, Chinese Ganfeng Lithium secured $964 million for the acquisition of Lithium mining company Argentinian Lithea. On 28 July 2022, China’s Zangge Mining and Argentina’s Miner Ultra commenced investment collaboration, investing $290 million toward the Laguna Verde Project. These developments will expand China’s economic influence in Argentina’s lithium sector.

Crossing the Strait: China’s Military Prepares for War with Taiwan

Joel Wuthnow, Derek Grossman

Both the U.S. and Chinese militaries are increasingly focused on a possible confrontation over Taiwan. China regards the island as an integral part of its territory and is building military capabilities to deter Taiwan independence and to compel Taiwan to accept unification. These efforts have shifted the military balance in China’s favor and heightened the risk of war. At the same time, the United States insists that China and Taiwan resolve their dispute peacefully and is strengthening its military capabilities in the Western Pacific to deter a possible Chinese attack.

Crossing the Strait: China’s Military Prepares for War with Taiwan explores the political and military context of cross-strait relations, with a focus on understanding the Chinese decision calculus about using force, the capabilities the People’s Liberation Army would bring to the fight, and what Taiwan can do to defend itself. Based on original research by leading international experts, Crossing the Strait explores China’s military options and the PLA’s ability to execute them. The authors use a range of Chinese sources to assess the PLA’s improved amphibious, airborne, logistics, sealift, command and control, and urban warfare capabilities and how they might be employed in a military conflict. The authors conclude that the PLA has made significant improvements and can already execute several military campaigns, but still lacks critical airlift, sealift, logistics, and other capabilities necessary to invade and occupy Taiwan. Under the guidance of current Central Military Commission Chairman Xi Jinping, the PLA is working hard to address these shortcomings.

The Rules Of The Game: Great Power Competition And International Law – Analysis

Durward Elton Johnson

These words were delivered by U.S. diplomat George Kennan during lectures at the National War College to describe the Soviet Union in 1946. It was the beginning of the Cold War and the U.S. policy of containment. The case is being made that these words still apply today. Consider the National Security Strategy,1 National Defense Strategy,2 and operational concepts in joint military doctrine3 painting a bleak picture of global threats and persistent competition. In fact, these documents portray the United States as being at another inflection point in modern conflict with a return to Great Power competition. For the Department of Defense (DOD), a renewed focus on state-on-state strategic competition is premised on revisionist powers, such as Russia and China, and rogue regimes, such as Iran and North Korea, exploiting U.S. vulnerabilities by taking deliberately malicious actions carefully crafted to avoid armed conflict and a powerful military response.4 This is a problem.

U.S. military operational concepts describe the notion of a competition continuum—“a world of enduring competition”5—acknowledging the need for the U.S. military to reframe how it competes in the space between peacetime and armed conflict, commonly known as the gray zone.6 To do so, DOD calls for a more nuanced approach, characterizing the traditional peace/war binary model as an artificial distinction in today’s global environment. Military doctrine portrays strategic, operational, and legal uncertainty in the gray zone, making it difficult to respond, fight, and win. In this space, a critical first step is identifying whether a legal framework can enable strategic and operational solutions within the boundaries of the law. This is especially true for nations such as the United States that promote the rule of law and advocate compliance with international law.

Beyond Liminality: India’s Geopolitical Concerns In Sri Lanka – Analysis

K.M. Seethi

Does the commissioning of India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant—amid the wrangle over the visit of China’s Yuan Wang-5—auger well for the Indian navy and the country’s maritime strategy in the Indian Ocean? India’s Defence Minister Rajnath Singh categorically stated that INS Vikrant “will enhance India’s capability of fulfilling its requirement of collective security.”

The reference to ‘collective security’ has apparently a feisty geopolitical dimension for India’s ‘Grand Strategy’ in the Indian Ocean and beyond—a dream nurtured by Sardar K.M. Panikkar seven decades back. Describing it as “the largest ship ever built in the maritime history of India,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that “in the past, security concerns in the Indo-Pacific region and the Indian Ocean have long been ignored. But, today this area is a major defence priority of the country for us. That is why we are working in every direction, from increasing the budget for the Navy to increasing its capability,” he said. Many experts believe that the commissioning of the 47,400-ton warship in Kochi has sent a strong signal to China and its potential clients across the Indian Ocean region. This also has tricky implications for India’s maritime strategy in dealing with small states in the region, such as Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

The Irreversibility of Globalization


WARSAW – Just over three decades ago, the Cold War ended, and former Soviet-bloc countries began their transitions to market economies, which enabled them to engage with the rest of the global economy. The world’s division into three segments – advanced capitalist economies, centrally planned socialist economies, and the “Third World” – appeared increasingly outdated. It was not, as Francis Fukuyama famously put it, “the end of history,” but it was an economic and political breakthrough, and the beginning of the contemporary era of globalization. Is that era now ending, as many claim?

The face of globalization has changed significantly since those early years. While economic and political globalization initially went hand in hand, economic globalization soon pulled ahead. We now have a globalized economy, but without an effective system of global governance. The European Union shows an integrated economy with advanced policy-coordination mechanisms. But the institutions that were supposed to do this on a global scale – such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization, the International Labor Organization, and the World Health Organization – lack adequate instruments for economic-policy coordination.

Is Nuclear War Inevitable?


CAMBRIDGE – Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and nuclear saber rattling against the West have revived a debate about nuclear weapons. Last year, when a United Nations treaty to ban such weapons outright entered into force, none of the world’s nine nuclear-weapons states was among the 86 signatories. How can these states justify possessing weapons that put all of humanity at risk?

That is a pertinent question, but it must be considered alongside another one: If the United States were to sign the treaty and destroy its own arsenal, would it still be able to deter further Russian aggression in Europe? If the answer is no, one also must consider whether nuclear war is inevitable.

It’s not a new question. In 1960, the British scientist and novelist C.P. Snow concluded that nuclear war within a decade was “a mathematical certainty.” That may have been an exaggeration, but many believed Snow’s prediction would be justified if a war occurred within a century. In the 1980s, Nuclear Freeze campaigners like Helen Caldicott echoed Snow in warning that the buildup of nuclear weapons “will make nuclear war a mathematical certainty.”

From Defending the Open Internet to Confronting the Reality of a Fragmented Cyberspace:

Adam Segal

Nine years ago, a Council on Foreign Relations-sponsored independent task force published a report on U.S. cyber policy entitled “Defending an Open, Global, Secure, and Resilient Internet.” Last month, CFR issued the report of a new task force, “Confronting Reality in Cyberspace: Foreign Policy for a Fragmented Internet.” (I was project director for both reports.) The 2013 report was CFR’s first attempt to introduce those in the foreign policy community who were unfamiliar with the politics of cyberspace to the most pressing issues. It explained how the increasing fragmentation of the internet and the rising threat of cyberattacks negatively affected U.S. interests, and it covered many of the concepts that have shaped U.S. cyber policy for the past two decades: deterrence, norm building, cyber alliances, digital trade agreements, information sharing, and public-private partnerships. Conversely, the 2022 report moved past the prior discussions around the importance of digital technologies, instead aiming to shift the debate on what the United States should try to accomplish in cyberspace. The 2022 report’s focus is narrower, highlighting foreign policy tools and spending less time on areas like domestic authorities or workforce training. Reading the two in tandem is a reminder of how high public expectations were for what Washington could accomplish in cyberspace. It also illustrates how significantly the United States’ position in cyberspace has worsened over the past decade.

The new report’s headline finding immediately tells the story: The era of the global internet is over. The internet is more fragmented, less free, and more dangerous. U.S. policymakers have long assumed that the global, open internet served American strategic, economic, political, and foreign policy interests. They believed that authoritarian, closed systems would struggle to hold back the challenges, both domestic and international, that a global network would present. This has not proved to be the case. Freedom House, which tracks internet freedom across the world, has seen sustained declines in empirical measures of internet freedom, especially in Asia and the Middle East, for over a decade. More states are launching political influence campaigns, hacking the accounts of activists and dissidents, and sometimes targeting vulnerable minority populations. A growing number of states choose to disconnect entirely from the global internet. According to Access Now, at least 182 internet shutdowns across 34 countries occurred in 2021, compared with 196 cases across 25 countries in 2018

In Defense of the Global, Open Internet

Jason Pielemeier, Chris Riley

In the global race for internet governance, freedom is the West’s strategic advantage. And yet, a recent report from the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) declares provocatively that “the era of the global internet is over.” The report’s evidence for this claim is an assertion that the past decade-plus of democratic investment in global internet freedom has failed, and it is therefore time for the United States to jettison the vision it has championed of a global, open, secure, and interoperable internet. The report argues that the United States should focus instead on responding to the geopolitically driven cyber activities of China and Russia, countries that position the internet as a cyber-military battlefield rather than a space designed to empower innovation and social progress. As CFR’s Adam Segal writes in Lawfare, this is an intentional departure from the organization’s 2013 report and reflects “a sense of lost possibility and influence.” Indeed, the world has changed. But moving the goalpost in by abandoning even the aspiration of protecting global human rights online, as the new report recommends, would be a strategic mistake. It would likely harm individuals living in repressive environments in the short term and hamper the ability of Western governments to advance shared goals of security and openness in the long term.

Cyber warfare and information warfare are undoubtedly in our midst. However, embracing the CFR report’s narrative and changing the course of U.S. policy in response to the continued trajectory of attacks not only would undermine human rights, democracy, and the internet itself but also would empower governments like China and Russia that benefit most from the “every country for itself” approach to the digital world. Instead, the United States should recommit to its vision for internet freedom by articulating and demonstrating how democratic states can address complex cybersecurity threats and digital harms through innovative, collaborative, and democratic means.

Geography Lessons From the 9/11 Terrorist Network

Olivier Walther, Rafael Prieto Curiel, Joseph Padron, Jason Scheuer

On June 3, 2000, Mohamed Atta, the ringleader of the Sept. 11 attacks, cleared Immigration and Customs at Newark Liberty International Airport after arriving from Prague, Czech Republic. Over the course of the next year and a half, Atta and 18 other terrorists embarked on a series of trips within the United States, from the suburbs of Phoenix to the ethnic neighborhoods of Paterson, New Jersey, and from the ritzy beaches of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, to Portland, Maine.

The 9/11 hijackers also traveled extensively internationally, visiting more than a dozen countries and crossing international borders at least 45 times. From the moment they entered the United States until the morning that they killed 2,977 people, Atta and his accomplices each traveled, on average, more than half of the circumference of Earth.

This flurry of travel can help inform an understanding of terrorist networks. Our analysis of the travel patterns of the 9/11 hijackers suggests that mapping the travel geography of members of violent extremist organizations can yield important insights into the group’s overall structure.

Hamas Tells Media to Lie: What Should the Media Tell its Readers?

Toby Dershowitz

In a stunning expose’, a recent Associated Press article revealed a Hamas directive to journalists not to report on Gazans killed by Palestinian rockets that misfired and killed local families rather than their intended Israeli civilian targets. Reports indicate Palestinian Islamic Jihad killed more Palestinians in the early August Gaza-Israel conflict than did Israel.

Hamas also requires all visiting reporters to hire a local “sponsor,” a fixer or stringer, often a Palestinian journalist or translator. Hamas’ media directive says sponsors will be held responsible for what the journalists produce.

Let this sink in: If Hamas judges sponsors to have failed, they and perhaps their families will be punished. Punishment is not merely revoking licenses. Palestinian reporters have been subject to physical violence. Sponsors will make the consequences clear to reporters they assist. And the reporter will know: If bad things happen to my sponsor because of the stories I write, that will be on my conscience.

China Is Furious About Japan’s Military Modernization Plans

Kris Osborn

AChinese-government-backed newspaper is signaling alarm in response to Japan’s expanded military budget and plans to research hypersonic missiles.

An article in the Chinese Communist Party-backed Global Times newspaper accuses Japan of being militaristic and renouncing its pacifist history by further cultivating an offensive strike capability. Citing Japanese media, Global Times claims that Japan may build an arsenal of 1,000 long-range missiles capable of striking “foreign soil”.

“Chinese experts believe that those signals not only show that Tokyo is speeding up the breakaway from its pacifist constitution and embracing expanding militarism, but that the country is also seeking to enhance its ability to strike,” the paper writes.

Referring to Japan’s 2023 defense budget proposal, the Chinese paper claims the full amount was under-reported as if to hide the full extent of its militarization.

Japan doubles down in defense of post-war order


Japan has gone all-in with the Western response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The strategic consequences for Tokyo are considerable. Japan’s long-running efforts to conclude a formal peace agreement with its northern neighbor have come to an end.

Putin’s aggression has also accelerated debate in Japan about its own strategy and future military preparedness. Most important of all, the Japanese people have also defined this crisis as a challenge to the norms of the post-war order that they have relied upon for their own security.

When Russia invaded Ukraine on February 22, 2022, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was quick to take a stand. The Kishida cabinet announced that, along with G7 nations, it would impose sanctions on Russia and it began to mobilize financial support for the Ukrainian government.

Two Cold Wars in a New Bipolar World

Robert Legvold

EVEN BEFORE the Russo-Ukrainian War, confusion prevailed among those sketching where an untethered international political system was headed. Early on, the argument was over its changing structure: no longer unipolar, was it becoming genuinely multipolar or, as Samuel Huntington argued, “uni-multipolar,” sharing elements of both, or, as Council on Foreign Relations president Richard Haass had it, simply non-polar?

Gradually the focus shifted to the uncertain fate of the “liberal international order,” which, for hardened realist theorists like John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt was always something of an illusion, one exposed by the resurgence of great-power politics. For others such as Robert Blackwill and Thomas Wright, the post-Cold War order led by the United States was dissolving into “a model in which many countries choose their own paths to order, without much reference to the views of others, both near and far.” For protagonists of the liberal international order, like John Ikenberry, it remained in place but under assault, less by its Russian and Chinese challengers than by the failure of its democratic architects to protect it. Most Western analysts saw it as a combination of the two: the threat posed by Russia and China to a “rules-based international order,” coupled with the growing incapacity of democratic governments to deal with core problems at home and abroad. For Russian and Chinese thinkers, the liberal international order was a conceit of a U.S.-led West now crumbling as other states gained power and asserted their interests—or as a Chinese saying put it, “the East is rising, while the West is declining.”