1 October 2022

The U.S. and China are headed for a showdown at the U.N.

Josh Rogin

The United States and some of its European partners have decided to force a vote at the United Nations next week on whether to debate China’s atrocities against Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities — acts the United Nations’ own human rights commissioner has said may constitute “crimes against humanity.” But Beijing is working overtime to prevent the debate from ever taking place. This is a crucial test for both the United Nations’ and the Biden administration’s commitments on human rights.

On Monday, the United States filed a resolution, formally known as a “draft decision,” that — if passed — would add China to the agenda of the ongoing session at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva. President Biden decided that the United States would rejoin the council when his administration took office. The Trump administration had withdrawn from the council because of its inclusion of several human rights abusers and its overall lack of substantive action. China’s human rights abuses have never been debated there before.

The debate would address the report on China’s abuses released by U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Aug. 31, her last day in that post. The Chinese government had tried to thwart the release of the report and afterward called it “wholly illegal and invalid.” Now, Beijing is working to strong-arm countries that sit on the council, threatening them with economic and other punishments if they don’t vote to bury the Bachelet report, several officials and diplomats told me.

Putin’s Empire Starts to Crumble


VAYOTS DZOR PROVINCE, ARMENIA – The frequency of the ambulances starts to increase the further east you drive. It’s a sign of how bad the situation is. A mix of four-wheel-drive military trucks with red crosses and civilian ambulances are whisking away Armenian casualties in a steady trickle through the mountains.

More than 200 soldiers and civilians have been killed here over the past two weeks; hundreds more have been wounded. It’s the most serious fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia in two years.

On the evening of Sept. 12th into the 13th, Azerbaijan carried out a massive attack across a broad front along the rugged border with their neighbor. The Azeris have advanced inside Armenia to within a few miles of Jermuk, a spa town whose mineral water can be bought in bottles throughout the country.

Nord Stream Leaks Underline Gray-Zone Risks


Around noon local time on September 27, Denmark’s armed forces released footage of leaks in the Baltic Sea. And it wasn’t just any leaks: Russia’s Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 natural-gas pipelines are leaking gas into the Baltic Sea. The day before, Danish and Swedish government agencies had registered unexplained submarine explosions. Russia, it’s becoming clear, is sabotaging its own pipelines – but the more lasting harm will be done to its Baltic Sea neighbors, who are now left with serious damage to their marine environment. But leaking pipelines don’t constitute military aggression. Causing environmental damage constitutes cunning gray-zone aggression – and like all gray-zone aggression, it’s extremely difficult to counter.

The first hint of trouble came around 2 a.m. local time on Monday, when maritime seismic monitors belonging to Swedish Maritime Administration and the Danish Maritime Authority registered mysterious submarine explosions. Around twelve hours later, the crew of a vessel reported leaks on the water surface. Then around 7 p.m., the monitors picked up more explosions, and a little over an hour later reports of new leaks arrived. The explosions and the leaks turned out to be in the same area.

Scandinavian seismological experts and political leaders already agree that the explosions were a deliberate act. Who set them off? In theory, it might have been terrorists or other political extremists, but these lack the technical expertise to stage such sabotage; moreover, it is unclear why they would invest enormous effort and time into sabotage for little apparent gain.

Will PLA Modernization Continue Apace in Xi’s Second Decade?

Joel Wuthnow

Compared to his predecessors, Xi Jinping has been relatively focused on military modernization, which he views as a prerequisite for achieving the “China Dream” of national rejuvenation by mid-century (Xinhua, July 1). Modernization is a process and not an endpoint; Xi will face new tasks and challenges after the 20th Party Congress. This article previews changes in China’s military high command next month, outlines the next steps for People’s Liberation Army (PLA), and identifies challenges that could frustrate Xi and his “strong army” vision in the years ahead.

New Leadership

Xi Jinping will maintain his position as Central Military Commission (CMC) chairman but will have a new slate of senior officers to advise him. Four of the six current CMC members are expected to depart at the 20th Party Congress due to reaching the normal retirement age of 68, including both Vice Chairmen (Xu Qiliang and Zhang Youxia); only two members (Political Work Department Director Miao Hua and Discipline Inspection Commission Director Zhang Shengmin) are likely to remain (Gov.cn). Both Miao and Zhang are professional political commissars, who will provide continuity in sensitive responsibilities for maintaining party control over the PLA. Yet barring a decision by Xi to overturn the age limits, it is likely that no one with operational expertise will remain on the new CMC.

The Economic Outlook for Xi’s Third Term: Mounting Challenges, Dwindling Fiscal and Monetary Options

Alicia García-Herrero


China’s decade-long economic slowdown is accelerating. The pace has picked up since former U.S. President Donald Trump launched his trade war against China in early 2018, and even more so since the COVID-19 pandemic started in early 2020. This year has been particularly difficult as stubborn zero-COVID policies have ground the economy to a halt, further pushed by the bursting of the real estate bubble that had been China’s most important engine of growth for decades.

Many ask themselves how much of China’s deceleration is cyclical and how much is structural, but also how much can be reverted. On the first issue, the cyclical element of the ongoing deceleration of the Chinese economy is clearly important and adds additional downward pressure to the well-known structural factors, such as aging and decreasing labor productivity.

Zero-COVID Policy and Property Bubble Combine to Dim Growth Prospects

Cyclical factors have been made more acute by zero-COVID policies, which are estimated to have cost the economy two percentage points of growth in 2022 by reducing mobility and, thereby, consumption. In addition, the demise of the real estate sector is another important factor adding downward pressure on growth, whose effects will be more enduring. Against this backdrop, Chinese policy-makers have been announcing successive rounds of fiscal and monetary stimulus for months, as a way to achieve the official 5.5 percent growth (People’s Republic of China [PRC] Ministry of Finance [MOF], August 25). By now, it is apparent that the target will not be achieved notwithstanding these efforts to support the economy on both the fiscal and monetary fronts.

Editor’s Introduction—Special Issue on the 20th Party Congress: The Xi Era Enters its Second Decade

John S. Van Oudenaren

On August 31, state media announced a determination reached at a Politburo meeting the previous day that the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), henceforth the 20th Party Congress, will commence in Beijing on October 16 (People’s Daily, August 31). During the week-long conclave, delegates will select the next Central Committee, the CCP’s de jure highest official body, which includes slightly over 200 full members and around 170 alternate members (Xinhua, October 24, 2017). The Central Committee will then determine the members of the Party’s de facto top leadership bodies: the (most likely) seven-member Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC) and the 25-member Politburo.

On September 9, the Politburo held another meeting, which included reviewing proposed amendments to the Party Constitution (not to be confused with the People’s Republic of China [PRC] state constitution, which was amended at the 2018 National People’s Congress to eliminate presidential term limits). According to the meeting readout, the amendments will update the constitution to fully “reflect the latest achievements in the modernization of Marxism in China and the new governance of the country proposed by the Central Committee” since the 19th Party Congress in October 2017 (People’s Daily, September 10). At the sixth Plenum in November 2021, the Central Committee passed a historical resolution lionizing Xi Jinping’s achievements in governance and ideology, which stated that “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” embodies “the best of the Chinese culture and ethos in our times and represents a new breakthrough in adapting Marxism to the Chinese context” (China Brief, November 12, 2021). In this context, the Politburo’s determination to revise the constitution indicates that the forthcoming amendments will further entrench the centrality of Xi Jinping Thought in contemporary CCP ideology. This and other signs, such as the recent full-throated revival of the personality cult surrounding Xi in state media and mass culture, as well as the comparatively early scheduling of the Party Congress during the traditional October-November time window, support the hypothesis that Xi is in a commanding political position, despite the panoply of international and domestic challenges facing the PRC (China Brief, September 9).

Creeping ‘Yuanization’ of the Russian Economy: Prospects and Implications

Sergey Sukhankin

On September 12, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that, given mounting economic sanctions, full “de-dollarization” of the Russian economy is only a matter of time (RBC, September 12). Putin`s remark was preceded by a statement from Russian Deputy Finance Minister Alexey Moiseev, who argued that “Russia no longer needs the US dollar as a reserve currency.” Instead, Russia must accumulate funds in currencies of so-called “friendly countries,” such as the Chinese yuan, which is playing a key role in this regard (RBC, September 8).

The idea of departing from the US dollar as a reserve currency is by no means new to Russia: It was first entertained in the 1990s. By 2018, Moscow had devised a “plan on the de-dollarization” of its economy. Prior to the outbreak of Russia`s war against Ukraine on February 24, Dmitry Medvedev stated that, if the Kremlin`s operations with US dollars were to be restricted, Moscow could fully switch to the yuan and euro instead (Vedomosti.ru, January 27). However, following Russia`s attack on Ukraine, not only the United States but also the European Union and other large economies have effectively barred Moscow from using their national currencies. As a result, aside from the Turkish lira, the United Arab Emirates` dirham and the Indian rupee—each of which cannot be fully relied on due to a number of factors—Russia has been reduced to the use of the yuan as an alternative reserve currency to the US dollar and euro.

Russia’s Militarization of the Kuril Islands

Ike Barrash

Overshadowed by the invasion of Ukraine, Russia’s recent and rapid militarization of a group of islands claimed by Japan has flown largely under the radar. Taken by Russia at the end of World War Two, Kunashiri, Etorofu, Shikotan, and the Habomai islands of the Kuril Island chain, which Japan claims as its “Northern Territories,” have complicated relations between the two states for decades.

Less than a decade ago it seemed at least some of the islands might be returned to Japan. Throughout the late prime minister Abe Shinzo’s tenure, Japan continually worked to boost Russian relations in hopes of fostering the good will to reach an agreement returning the closest islands. Japan cooperated on local economic development, joint tourism projects and diplomatic talks.

It would seem, however, that Abe’s olive branch failed to persuade Russia to return the islands. Rather than moving toward handing over the islands, Russia has increased its permanent military presence on them since at least 2015. Media reports and satellite imagery show Russian barracks, airstrips, and other infrastructure have been constructed over the last several years as close as 14 miles from Hokkaido. Russia’s steps to boost its presence suggest that the islands will continue to play a pernicious role in the future of Russo-Japanese relations and that Japan and the United States should deepen consultations regarding Russia’s activities in the region.

Pathways to Implementing Comprehensive and Collaborative JADC2

Cynthia Cook, Rose Butchart and Gregory Sanders


The future of military command and control (C2) will be enabled by revolutions in information technology (IT). Step changes in computing power, almost unlimited cloud-enabled data storage, and advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) have opened up new opportunities for the Department of Defense (DoD) and the joint force. The capabilities enabled by this technological revolution have been a powerful motivator for new service-level programs working to enhance the capabilities available to military commanders. That said, the future fight demands that service capabilities work together seamlessly to ensure coherent multidomain warfighting strategies, meaning service-level C2 and targeting programs need to work together as a coherent whole. Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) is the DoD’s concept to connect sensors and communications from all of the military services—Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Space Force—into a single network.1 As laid out in the JADC2 strategy, the goal is to ensure that the joint force commander has “the capabilities needed to command the Joint Force across all warfighting domains and throughout the electromagnetic spectrum to deter, and, if necessary, defeat any adversary at any time and in any place around the globe.”2

The Air Force’s Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS), the Navy’s Project Overmatch, and the Army’s Project Convergence are the three main efforts for advancing C2 at the service level. These programs seek cutting-edge targeting networks that match the right sensors to the right effectors to make forces more capable. Despite this unifying vision, these programs vary in approach, due to the different capabilities of each service. Project Convergence, the Army’s effort, focuses far more on exercises and experimentation as opposed to engineering enablers for existing capabilities.3 Project Overmatch and ABMS have a strong engineering emphasis with a focus on technology development, although there are fewer publicly available specifics on Project Overmatch.4

U.S.-India Trade Turbulence: Quieter, Not Gone

Richard M. Rossow

In both Washington and New Delhi, commercial ties seem relatively stable on the surface. Trade is hitting new records in both directions and foreign direct investment numbers remain solid. However, the range of disputes that the Biden administration inherited remain. Our current tools and pace of talks should be revisited soon to ensure these festering trade disputes do not cause more damage in the relationship. Our current forums for improving commercial ties are failing.

There are two very different ways to look at the state of U.S.-India commercial relations. On the positive side, actual trade and investment is booming. U.S. goods trade with India totaled $130 billion in the 12 months through July 2022, up 33 percent year-over-year. U.S. exports to India and imports from India both grew at about the same pace. Apart from goods trade flows, India has attracted $61 billion in foreign direct investment (FDI) in the 12 months through July 2022. While this is down from the mid-2021 peak, it is well above India’s historical average.

However, these positive numbers hide a range of pain points that have emerged in recent years. India has a stated goal to expand its manufacturing base from 15 percent in 2014 to a target of 25 percent by 2025. A manufacturing boom will help India reduce reliance on imports, improve the nation’s trade balance, and increase employment opportunities—in particular for low-skilled agriculture workers looking to improve their incomes.

Drone-Operator Training Becomes New Front In Ukraine’s Fight Against Russia’s Invasion – Analysis

Sam Skove

(RFE/RL) — Ruslan, a 41-year-old former sales manager who asked that his surname be withheld for security reasons, started learning the ropes of drone warfare in the immediate wake of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February.

Ruslan’s unit of part-time reservists was near Kyiv’s Hostomel airport on the first day of the war when elite Russian paratroopers stormed it. As Ukrainian forces scrambled to beat back the Russian bridgehead, Ruslan’s unit learned that the 72nd Artillery needed help with targeting.

Although Ruslan’s unit had no trained drone operators, he and his comrades stepped up.

“One of the guys on the team had a drone,” he recalled. “We had eight guys: one flew, and the others guarded him.”

‘Patriotic Hacking’ Is No Exception

Jason Healey, Olivia Grinberg

The nations of the world agreed to politically binding norms for cyber conduct just in time to have them undermined by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The issue is not just Russian cyber operations against civilian infrastructure, but also Ukrainian patriotic hacking with clear encouragement, if not coordination, from state officials. While government support for patriotic hacking is not unprecedented, the Ukrainian campaign stands in stark violation of recently agreed-to norms on state behavior in cyberspace, as well as the foreign policy positions of NATO members and the European Union.

In March 2021, the governments of every member of the United Nations agreed to 11 cyber norms, such as the responsibility to promote interstate cooperation on the stability and security of information and communication technologies (ICT) (Norm 13a), prevent the misuse of ICTs within one’s territory (Norm 13c), exclude critical infrastructure from the scope of attacks (Norm 13f), and ensure supply chain integrity (Norm 13i).

These commitments are not legally binding like those of the Geneva Conventions, which are enforceable in international courts. But they are far more than merely “voluntary.” The government of every U.N. member state made a political commitment to individually and collectively abide by them. Originally advanced in 2015 by a U.N. Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) made up of representatives from 25 states, these norms were approved in an all-U.N.-member-inclusive Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) report and then approved again by every member state of the United Nations.

What are tactical nuclear weapons? An international security expert explains and assesses what they mean for the war in Ukraine

Nina Srinivasan Rathbun

Tactical nuclear weapons have burst onto the international stage as Russian President Vladimir Putin, facing battlefield losses in eastern Ukraine, has threatened that Russia will “make use of all weapon systems available to us” if Russia’s territorial integrity is threatened. Putin has characterized the war in Ukraine as an existential battle against the West, which he said wants to weaken, divide and destroy Russia.

U.S. President Joe Biden criticized Putin’s overt nuclear threats against Europe. Meanwhile, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg downplayed the threat, saying Putin “knows very well that a nuclear war should never be fought and cannot be won.” This is not the first time Putin has invoked nuclear weapons in an attempt to deter NATO.

I am an international security scholar who has worked on and researched nuclear restraint, nonproliferation and costly signaling theory applied to international relations for two decades. Russia’s large arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons, which are not governed by international treaties, and Putin’s doctrine of threatening their use have raised tensions, but tactical nuclear weapons are not simply another type of battlefield weapon.

Is India Squandering its Social Capital in Sri Lanka?

Rathindra Kuruwita

In the first half of 2022, as the economic crisis in Sri Lanka spiraled out of control, India emerged as the island’s savior. Perhaps for the first time in decades, there was visible goodwill toward the South Asian giant among Sri Lankans of all communities.

However, in the past few months, the mood seems to have changed as Sri Lankans have become uneasy about India’s intentions. Additionally, India seems to be making a strategic error by banking on the Ranil Wickremesinghe administration. India’s backing of Wickremesinghe is bringing together groups that look at India with suspicion.

Aid and Trade

In 2022, India provided $4 billion in total credit support to Sri Lanka. This included $377 million as loans in the first four months of this year, a $700 million credit line for fuel imports, and a credit facility of $1 billion for the procurement of food, medicines and other essential items from India.

The assistance, albeit most of it coming in the form of loans, created a sense of goodwill towards India. However, there is growing wariness among Sri Lankans as New Delhi and Colombo have signed a number of strategic and commercial agreements, which brings Sri Lanka under India’s sphere of influence. People are questioning the motivations behind India’s help.

Sri Lanka has signed a slew of deals with India over the past year. In 2021, a Chinese company won a competitive tender for setting up hybrid power plants in northern Sri Lanka but had to halt operations due to Indian concerns. In March 2022, India and Sri Lanka signed an agreement for the same project.

In May, Sri Lanka signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Indian state-owned Bharat Electronics Ltd to establish a Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) in Colombo. This is a part of India’s Security and Growth for all in the Region (SAGAR) Initiative in the Indian Ocean. The following month, chairman of the state-run Ceylon Electricity Board M.M.C. Ferdinando told Parliament’s Committee on Public Enterprises that the country awarded a tender to build a wind power plant in Mannar to India’s Adani Group after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi exerted pressure on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Upon the completion of the wind power plant, Sri Lanka will purchase a unit of electricity from Adani at 7.55 cents, paying twice the rate under competitive tendering. On September 30, 2021, Adani signed an agreement to develop the Colombo West International Container Terminal (CWICT). More recently in August, Sri Lanka granted Lanka Indian Oil Corporation, a subsidiary of Indian Oil Corporation, more gas stations.

Also in August, India attempted to block the docking of the Chinese research vessel Yuan Wang-5 at Hambantota Port. After authorizing the vessel’s arrival in July 2022, Sri Lanka requested China to defer the ship’s docking due to pressure from India and the U.S. While most Sri Lankans were initially sympathetic towards India, they subsequently viewed this as an infringement of Sri Lanka’s sovereignty.

It was a concerted campaign by friends of China, a coalition of left-leaning political parties, China friendship societies and public intellectuals that led the Sri Lankan government to allow Yuan Wang-5 to anchor at Hambantota Port when Indian and U.S. envoys failed to provide a concrete reason for their objections to its docking.

In what is widely seen as an attempt to punish Sri Lanka for not showing sensitivity to its concerns regarding the Chinese ship, India hit back by criticizing Colombo at the 51st Session of the UNHRC for “lack of measurable progress” in finding “a political solution to the ethnic issue,” and calling on it to fully implement the 13th Amendment. The 13th Amendment is seen by many Sri Lankans as a solution forced by India in the late 1980s when it called the “shots in Sri Lanka.”

Enter Think Tanks

Both India and China seem to be unable to read properly the ground realities and the mood of the people. China started with great advantages thanks to decades of work put in by China-friendly societies and left-leaning political parties. It squandered that social capital on the Rajapaksa clan. India too squandered several opportunities to win over Sri Lankans and solidify public support. This could be the result of the lack of area expertise.

This is evident, for instance, from reports put out by think tanks. In early September, a research paper published by the New Delhi-based think tank, the Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF) said that India must communicate to Sri Lanka certain red lines that it must not cross.

According to the VIF report, India should be “relieved” to have Ranil Wickremesinghe as the President of Sri Lanka, and Milinda Morogoda as Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to India. “Even in his Throne Speech (Aug 03) to the Parliament, PRW [President Ranil Wickremesinghe] devoted several minutes talking about India and it was exceptional as no other country was mentioned directly or indirectly. This is unprecedented in recent times that no Sri Lankan Head of State has used the parliamentary platform or diplomatic event to articulate positive statements on India,” the VIF report notes.

It goes on to caution India against the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) and the Inter University Students Federation (IUSF) – Sri Lanka’s three largest leftwing parties.

The behavior of the JVP and the FSP over the past few years cannot be termed anti-Indian or pro-Chinese, although it is a well-known secret that Indian diplomats in Sri Lanka view both organizations as well as opposition leader Sajith Premadasa with suspicion, probably a hangover from developments in the 1980s.

While the JVP and the FSP are among the largest Sri Lankan left-wing parties, there are a number of other left-wing groups that are decidedly pro-China. These groups had played a major role in changing the government’s decision to defer the arrival of a Chinese research vessel in August.

Although the JVP, FSP and the other left-wing groups hardly cooperated with each other in recent years, things have been changing in recent months. Cooperation between these parties and the JVP and FSP has been growing after President Wickremesinghe and his pro-Rajapaksa backers started arresting left-wing activists. Indian hostility towards the JVP and the FSP, and their support of the government, could only draw them more towards their pro-Chinese allies.

Top Pakistan Diplomat Urges Flood Aid, Patience with Taliban

Ellen Knickmeyer

Pakistan’s foreign minister says the international community should work with Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban, not against them, when it comes to combatting foreign extremist groups and the economic and humanitarian crises in that country — even as many U.S. officials say the Taliban have proved themselves unworthy of such cooperation.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Pakistan’s top diplomat, spoke to The Associated Press in the final days of a trip to the United Nations General Assembly in New York and to Washington that has focused on trying to draw more world attention to unprecedented flooding that has one-third of his country underwater.

Unrelenting monsoon rains that scientists say are worsened by climate change have killed more than 1,000 people in Pakistan, caused tens of billions of dollars in damage and destroyed much of the country’s staple food and commercial crops.

Trafficking Data: China’s Pursuit of Digital Sovereignty

Mercy A. Kuo

The Diplomat author Mercy Kuo regularly engages subject-matter experts, policy practitioners, and strategic thinkers across the globe for their diverse insights into U.S. Asia policy. This conversation with Dr. Aynne Kokas – associate professor of Media Studies at the University of Virginia; C.K. Yen Chair at the Miller Center for Public Affairs, and author of the forthcoming book “Trafficking Data: How China is Winning the Battle for Digital Sovereignty” (Oxford, November 2022) – is the 337th in “The Trans-Pacific View Insight Series.”

Explain China’s politics of data governance and pursuit of cyber sovereignty.

The Chinese government asserts cyber sovereignty, or control over all of China’s digital resources, including servers, user data, technical infrastructure, and tech firms operating in China, both within the country and globally. China’s 2017 Cybersecurity Law requires firms that offer critical information infrastructure in China (broadly defined) to store their data on Chinese government-run servers, allowing the Chinese government access to resources like Apple’s China-based iCloud data. Extending that oversight outside of China, the 2020 Hong Kong National Security Law gives the Chinese government control over what it deems as crimes against China’s national security committed outside of Hong Kong, including issues related to data protection. Finally, China’s 2021 Data Security Law empowers the Chinese government to conduct national security audits over firms operating in China that gather user data. These laws are just the tip of the iceberg of China’s efforts to extend data oversight beyond its borders.

Pakistan’s Vicious IMF Cycle

Kunwar Khuldune Shahid

On August 29, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) released the last remaining $1.1 billion in funds for Pakistan, following a combined seventh and eighth review of the extended fund facility provided to the country. The $6 billion bailout agreed upon in 2019 conditioned the IMF loan to market-determined exchange rate and rebuilding of official reserves in order to reduce public debt, ensure fiscal growth, and increase the country’s per capita income. The fund facility, extended until June 2023, is the 23rd IMF program that Pakistan has received in its 75-year existence.

The latest plan was agreed after Pakistan ended the Fiscal Year 2021-22 with a $17.4 billion current account deficit, six times larger than the deficit at the end of the previous fiscal year. That signaled the ominous continuation of the country’s perpetual balance of payment crisis. In July, the rupee sank to an all-time low against the U.S. dollar, with the Pakistani currency losing over a third of its value in the first seven months of 2022. The weekend before the IMF extension of funds last month, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP)’s reserves had plunged to $7.69 billion – the lowest since July 2019, amounting to little over a month of import cover. The 27.26 per cent inflation seen in August was the highest in 49 years.

The End of Senior Politics in China

Zhuoran Li

Many China watchers consider institutionalization as the key to China’s political stability at the elite level since the 1980s. Andrew Nathan identified the institutionalization of power transitions as one of the main reasons behind China’s authoritarian resiliency. However, as Joseph Fewsmith has noted, what China scholars defined as political institutions in China are nothing more than norms. Since the Deng Xiaoping era, these norms have been constructed and guarded by senior figures in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), who are the main stabilizing force within the Party.

These seniors (元老) are retired national leaders who remain politically influential through their networks and proteges. They have historically played a significant role in Chinese politics by mediating elite conflicts, forging factional consensus, and setting the direction of policy. They played a vital role in personnel affairs by promoting followers, designating successors, and even deposing the top leader.

Where are our weapons going? US transparency is taking a nosedive

Connor Echols

For around 60 years, the United States published an annual study called the World Military Expenditures and Arms Transfers (WMEAT) report. The document provided detailed information on global arms transfers, defense spending, and a range of other military-related topics.

For reasons that remain unclear, last year’s defense spending bill put an end to the report. The State Department published its final edition last month, quietly marking the end of an era in military disclosures.

“At one point in history, the WMEAT report was the model for transparency around the world,” Jeff Abramson of the Arms Control Association said, noting the importance of its Cold War-era origins.

What Ted Cruz and Tucker Carlson Don’t Understand About War

Phillips Payson O’Brien

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his generals aren’t the only people who think that the more ruthless, hypermasculine, and reflexively brutal an army is, the better it performs on the battlefield. That view also has fans in the United States.

Last year, Senator Ted Cruz recirculated a TikTok video that contrasted a Russian military-recruitment ad, which showed a male soldier getting ready to kill people, with an American recruitment video that told the story of a female soldier—the daughter of two mothers—who enlisted partly to challenge stereotypes. “Perhaps a woke, emasculated military is not the best idea,” Cruz tweeted sarcastically. The Texas Republican is not alone in trumpeting a Putinesque ideal. Several months earlier, the Fox News host Tucker Carlson had similarly complained about a supposedly “woke” Pentagon, which he likened to the Wesleyan University anthropology department. By promoting diversity and inclusion, he insisted, military leaders were destroying American armed forces, supposedly the last great bastion of merit in the country. More recently, Carlson has complained that America’s armed forces are becoming “more feminine, whatever feminine means anymore,” just as China’s are “more masculine.”

Arguments like these were much easier to make before Putin unleashed his muscle-bound and decidedly unwoke fighting machine on the ostensibly weak Ukrainians, only to see it perform catastrophically. More than seven months into the war, the Ukrainian army continues to grow in strength, confidence, and operational competence, while the Russian army is flailing. Its recent failures raise many questions about the nature of military power. Before Putin ordered his troops into Ukraine, many analysts described his military as fast and powerful and predicted that it would “shock and awe” the overmatched defenders. The Ukrainian armed forces were widely assumed to be incapable of fighting the mighty Russians out in the open; their only option, the story went, would be to retreat into their cities and wage a form of guerrilla war against the invaders.

Networked Warfare

Seth Cropsey

The U.S. military stands at an intellectual and structural crossroads. It seeks to field new, transformative capabilities while maximizing the current force, optimizing itself for high-end combat against a peer adversary. In this quest for lethality, the U.S. can embrace a truly networked, distributed force – but only if it makes the necessary investments in connectivity and information security. 5G development must therefore be a military priority, conducted with defense needs in mind.

We rarely get a clear look at the future of combat. A twenty-year gulf separated the Great War and World War. The conflicts between were either too small to provide a real window into future war or spilled over into the World War. The same was true of the gap between 1870 and 1914: there was little recognition of the way space, time, and mass had been refracted through the railroad and long-range artillery piece, modifying operational calculations.

The interstices give us the adage about fighting the “last war,” focusing on the wrong systems, and misunderstanding or incorrectly anticipating a variety of operational demands. France’s Maginot Line is the most notorious example. The French Army staff tightly controlled military innovation and determined that concentrated fires and methodical advances were the only way to win wars. A different technical-tactical combination, German bewegungskrieg, (maneuver warfare based on deep penetration of the enemy) was more effective, albeit also luckier. The U.S. is equally guilty of fighting the last war. It never conceived of operational theory to the same degree of sophistication as the Soviets. The classic trope that the Soviet Union relied on mass, while the U.S. looked to technology, is only half-right. Both sides depended on mass, but the Americans relied on technologically induced mass, while the Soviets coupled mass with a sophisticated understanding of operational art. It was not until the 1970s that the U.S. “caught on”, and developed a doctrine based on the intellectual demands of modern combined-arms large-scale combat.

Democracy and Autocracy in the Fight for AI’s Future

Harrison Schramm & Regan Copple

The conflict that will define the next era pits liberal democracies against authoritarian / autocratic forms of government, and the battlefield will be shared between the literal battlefield as well as the development and deployment of advanced technologies, to include but not limited to Artificial Intelligence (AI). This was reflected in many of today’s comments around how the free countries of the world will employ AI in this conflict as opposed to how the adversaries of freedom will; discussion of this conflict was the key issue at the recent Special Competitive Studies Project Summit (SCSP).

In this piece, we take the SCSP’s question and turn it on its head, expanding it into a far greater issue. Not only do we need to consider how AI will shape the current competition, but also how this competition will shape the future of AI. We begin with the assumption that the differences in what is desirable and expected for AI between free and autocratic governments are stark. It is our opinion that the strongest protections and championship for individuals in in this space are currently in the European Union[i], with the United States following very closely behind. In short, the US and her Allies believe in both the agency and freedom of the individual. Taken from a sufficient perspective, both sides of the US political aisle – in their own ways – champion individuality and freedom, although they do not completely agree on this means. The situation is not bleak however, because while free people do not agree on what ‘free’ means, we can rapidly, strongly, agree on what it does not mean, and we should work with that as a start.

Three Strategies to Power the Intelligence Community Workforce


PRIVATE SECTOR PERSPECTIVE — National security leaders know that adapting faster to escalating change and nation-state competition is imperative, yet how to choose the most efficient path? Focusing on unlocking and leveraging the diverse talents of people while retaining top talent is key to staying ahead of the adversary.

We see three critical areas for creating resilience: integrating innovators, empowering a hybrid workforce, and cultivating the next generation of the intelligence community (IC). None of these objectives are new, but all have complexities which make it difficult for government organizations to tackle. These goals require diverse partners and talents. The good news is, each of the below recommendations reinforces the others—and the capabilities to fuel success are available now.

First, integrate the innovators. At this moment, brilliant minds are creating tools and techniques that can accelerate IC capabilities—from activating AI at the edge to automating multi-intelligence fusion. It’s time to use the same technologies that are transforming the private sector to transform the public sector. Silicon Valley offers the advantage of fast timelines, with shorter funding cycles than the government’s formal acquisition and development process.

Putin’s Military Draft Is Unpopular. So What?


Russian President Vladimir Putin’s nationwide mobilization has dramatically raised the stakes — not just for the war in Ukraine, but for his legitimacy at home. Putin is wagering that the addition of 300,000 or more reservists will turn the tide for Russia’s attempted neo-imperial conquest of Ukraine.

The risk, though, is that the Kremlin’s heavy-handed mobilization — really, a forced conscription — will undermine Russian domestic support for the war effort, and potentially topple the Putinist regime itself. Already, stories and videos are emerging of young men fleeing Russia by air, rail, and road, inflicting gruesome injuries upon themselves in hopes of disqualification, protesting the mobilization, or tearfully acceding to an uncertain fate on the front lines.

And while it is still too soon to say whether Putin’s gamble will ultimately help him or hurt him politically, he’s not the first Russian autocrat to attempt a mass mobilization to change the tide in a war of uncertain value to ordinary Russians. In the 20th century, there were two that sparked similar unrest — one in 1904 for the Russo-Japanese war, and another in 1914 during World War I.

The U.S. Must Exercise Restraint in Central Asia

Alex Little

Before the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SC) summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan this month, two member states, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, clashed over territorial disputes. September 20 marked the official signing of a peace treaty and although the future of Tajik-Kyrgyz security remains unclear, the United States appears interested in engaging with Central Asian countries economically and diplomatically.

A recent Politico report noted that U.S. officials have been quietly negotiating with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to trade fifty American helicopters flown across their borders by Afghan pilots last year in exchange “for help hunting terrorists in Afghanistan” and “to gain a foothold in a region where the U.S. military no longer has a presence on the ground.” This would be a tragic mistake; any future U.S military involvement in Central Asia should be out of the question. It would open an easy pathway to entanglement in more unnecessary wars with countries like Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and other great powers.

Xi Jinping Makes Public Appearance, Quashing Coup Rumors

Trevor Filseth L

Chinese president Xi Jinping visited a public art exhibition in Beijing on Tuesday, according to the country’s state-run television network—proving false rumors last week that he had been placed under house arrest by a faction within the People’s Liberation Army.

Between his return from Uzbekistan earlier in the month and his appearance on Tuesday, Xi had not made any public appearances, fueling suspicions that he had been overthrown. The supposed coup would have occurred only one month before the Chinese leader is set to win an unprecedented third term in office, making him China’s longest-lasting leader since the country’s modern founder, Mao Zedong. The two-term limit was instituted by Mao’s successor, Deng Xiaoping, who put it in place due to Mao’s excesses while in power. Criticism against Xi’s departure from this norm has largely been censored in the country, making many Chinese elites’ true feelings on the change difficult to determine.

How to Answer Putin’s Escalation in Ukraine

Zalmay Khalilzad

In the face of his recent military setback, Russian president Vladimir Putin has decided to escalate the war in Ukraine by ordering the mobilization of 300,000 reservists, moving to annex Ukrainian territories under Russian control through a sham referendum, and once again threatening to use nuclear weapons.

These steps present big risks and require adjustments to our current strategy. The risks are twofold. The first is the potential use of nuclear weapons and possible drift into nuclear war. The second is the impact on the conflict and allied support for it.

In addressing the nuclear risk, we must consider the consequences of Ukraine pushing to liberate Russian-annexed territory. In that scenario, Putin may demand that the Ukrainians stop their advance and then retaliate with one or more nuclear weapons if they do not comply. This seems unlikely since Putin would not be able to localize the impact of such weapons, and employing them would put his own troops at risk.

Russia’s Defeat Would Be America’s Problem

Stephen M. Walt

At the end of Pericles’s speech convincing his fellow Athenians to declare war on Sparta in 431 B.C., he declared that he was “more afraid of our own blunders than of the enemy’s devices.” In particular, he cautioned against hubris and the danger of combining “schemes of fresh conquest with the conduct of the war.” His warnings went unheeded, however, and his successors eventually led Athens to a disastrous defeat.

Centuries later, Edmund Burke offered a similar warning to his British compatriots as Britain moved toward war with revolutionary France. As he wrote in 1793: “I dread our own power, and our own ambition; I dread our being too much dreaded. … We may say that we shall not abuse this astonishing, and hitherto unheard-of power. But every other nation will think we shall abuse it. It is impossible but that, sooner or later, this state of things must produce a combination against us which may end in our ruin.” Burke’s forecast did not come true, however, in part because Britain’s ambitions remained limited even after France was defeated.

Water Wars: U.S. Counters Beijing's Reaction to Pelosi Visit With $1.1 Billion Arms Sale to Taiwan

Teresa Chen, Alana Nance, Han-ah Sumner

Following House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) visit to Taiwan on Aug. 2, Beijing reacted by holding military exercises around the island. As our previous Lawfare column detailed, China announced live-fire military drills from Aug. 4 to 7, which included the launching of ballistic missiles. Since the conclusion of these large-scale military exercises, Chinese drones have started to buzz the island. In the past few weeks, nearly 30 unarmed drones have buzzed islands belonging to Taiwan near China’s southern coast, an act that Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has labeled a “gray zone” tactic used to intimidate Taiwan.

On Aug. 30, President Tsai stated that she had ordered Taiwan’s Defense Ministry to take “necessary and forceful countermeasures as appropriate” against “drone harassments” and other Chinese gray zone warfare tactics. Shortly after the announcement, Taiwanese troops fired warning shots and flares on Chinese drones for the first time when a drone entered the airspace over Erdan Island and ignored warnings by Taiwanese troops. On Aug. 31, Taiwan again fired warning shots at Chinese drones buzzing islands in the Kinmen chain, which are just off the coast of the Chinese cities of Xiamen and Quanzhou.

Feudal overlords still rule the world The liberal order is on shaky ground


As far as “world order” is concerned, the future may resemble the pre-modern past. The characteristic political institution of modernity is the nation-state. But before the era of European nation-states was inaugurated in Westphalia in 1648, Europe and much of the rest of the world was feudal. Today, the nation-state appears to be disintegrating. As it does, we should expect relationships of power around the world to again take on a feudal character, similar in form to pre-modern feudalism but operating on very different foundations.

I’m not referring to the so-called “neo-feudalism” described by Joel Kotkin — a socially ruinous and politically dangerous polarisation of wealth within nations where the middle class is rapidly vanishing. This primarily economic phenomenon is more accurately described as an extreme form of oligarchy. It is a product of liberal globalisation.

What I see developing is an alternative system of relationships among armed world powers, one which we might call “feudal globalisation.” Liberal globalisation seeks to universalise a “rules-based” order of nation-states cooperating to facilitate economic prosperity and to elevate mutual consent as much as possible over physical violence, which serves as a last resort when negotiation fails. Feudal globalisation embraces intimidation and violent domination of people and resources — embraces it forthrightly, except when trying to play the rhetorical game of liberal norms for diplomatic purposes, as Vladimir Putin occasionally does in his territorial claims.