13 January 2023

The Tawang Effect: Forecasting China-India Relations in 2023

Jagannath Panda

The trend in China-India ties is a predictable affair at present: Bilateral antagonism is taking the lead over any pretense of engagement and stability. Recent years increasingly suggest that.

On December 9, the Indian and Chinese military forces clashed along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Yangtse area of the Tawang sector in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. The conflict resulted in injuries (but not fatalities). This is one of the major incidents in the more than two years after the defining China-India clash at Galwan in the Ladakh region. In 2021, although there were reports of a minor face-off between Indian and Chinese patrol parties in the eastern sector, it did not result in injuries and the matter was resolved at the local military commanders’ level. Before the clashes of 2021, the previous such incident in this sector had been in 2016.

It is highly likely that the high-altitude joint exercises (“Yudhabhyas,” literally meaning war practice) conducted between U.S. and Indian troops in northern India’s Uttarakhand state days before was a catalyst for the December border incident. China’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs criticized the exercises as a violation of bilateral agreements and not conducive to building trust.

What Was Behind the Chinese Foreign Minister’s Midnight Stopover in Bangladesh?

Shannon Tiezzi

For 32 consecutive years, China has made of a point of sending its foreign minister to Africa for the first diplomatic trip of the new year. Newly appointed Foreign Minister Qin Gang was set to continue the trend into 2023, with scheduled visits to “Ethiopia, Gabon, Angola, Benin, Egypt, the African Union Headquarters and the League of Arab States Headquarters… from January 9 to 16, 2023,” according to China’s Foreign Ministry.

But before Qin arrived in Ethiopia, he actually made a surprise stop somewhere else.

During what China’s Foreign Ministry described as “a technical stopover,” Qin “had a brief meeting with Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Abul Kalam Abdul Momen at an airport in Dhaka.”

“The two sides spoke highly of the friendship between China and Bangladesh, and agreed to strengthen exchanges in the new year and jointly work for new progress in bilateral relations,” the ministry said in a statement.

Moves Being Made Towards Resolving The Sri Lankan Ethnic Issue

P. K. Balachandran

Both government and the Tamil National Alliance find meeting ground

Positive moves are being made by both President Ranil Wickremesinghe and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) towards resolving the seven decades-long ethnic issue.

Following the President’s declared resolve to secure an agreement on the broad contours of a settlement by Sri Lanka’s Independence Day on February 4, significant progress has been registered.

The two sides will now discuss the question of fully implementing or improving the 13 th. Amendment (13A) which devolves power to the provinces. By agreeing to do so, both sides have come down significantly from their earlier stands.

Sri Lankan governments have all along stuck to the stand that there is no need to improve the implementation of the 13A. It is contended that the 13A itself is flawed, being an “imposition” by India under the India-Sri Lanka Accord of 1987. In fact, off and on, there have been suggestions from the Lankan leadership that the District or the Grama Sabha should be the unit of devolution rather than the Province. Provinces are seen as being ethnicity-based and therefore divisive.

Is China A Mahanian Sea Power?

James Holmes

It wasn’t that long ago that suggesting that China is enamored of Alfred Thayer Mahan’s ideas about sea power was a laugh line. Nowadays it’s common sense. Nor is this some radical notion. Ideas about politics and strategy matter—and they can be imported from other ages, countries, or civilizations. Heck, Mahan was an importer himself. This sea captain and Naval War College president ransacked the European age of sail for inspiration. He beseeched fin de siècle America to pattern itself on Great Britain, the gold standard for seafaring societies in his day. Accordingly, he devoted much of his hefty body of work to exploring how a small island state off the European coast had come to rule the waves, and what British accomplishments could teach an American republic commencing its ascent to regional and world power.

Mahan’s writings were wildly popular overseas, in particular among rising powers that entertained high-seas ambitions. Kaiser Wilhelm II reported trying to memorize the historian’s masterwork, The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660-1783. Imperial Japan was likewise a fervent aspirant to Mahanian sea power. Late in life Mahan recalled that his writings had brought him into “pleasant correspondence with several Japanese officials and translators, than whom none . . . have shown closer or more interested attention to the general subject, how fruitfully, has been demonstrated both by their preparation and their accomplishments in the recent war.”

China’s scientific supremacy shifting balance of power


By at least one measure, China now leads the world in producing high-quality science. My research shows that Chinese scholars now publish a larger fraction of the top 1% most cited scientific papers globally than scientists from any other country.

I am a policy expert and analyst who studies how governmental investment in science, technology and innovation improves social welfare. While a country’s scientific prowess is somewhat difficult to quantify, I’d argue that the amount of money spent on scientific research, the number of scholarly papers published and the quality of those papers are good stand-in measures.

China is not the only nation to drastically improve its science capacity in recent years, but China’s rise has been particularly dramatic. This has left US policy experts and government officials worried about how China’s scientific supremacy will shift the global balance of power.

China’s recent ascendancy results from years of governmental policy aiming to be tops in science and technology. The country has taken explicit steps to get where it is today, and the US now has a choice to make about how to respond to a scientifically competitive China.
Growth across decades

Will Great Power Competition Divide the Gulf?

Mordechai Chaziza

During his visit to Saudi Arabia in early December, Chinese president Xi Jinping attended the inaugural China-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit. The summit focused on improving China-GCC relations and forming security ties between the parties. In his speech at the summit, Xi called on the two sides to be “natural partners” for cooperation and proposed five major areas for cooperation: energy, finance and investment, innovation and new technologies, aerospace, and language and cultures. Nevertheless, a glance at the engagement shows where the focal point of each partnership lies: energy, technology, and trade. For the Gulf monarchies, trade ties with China will diversify their economies away from the oil that provides most of their national income. More importantly, in the context of global competition, the summit delivered no concrete commitments to deepen the China-GCC strategic partnership, and nothing new was announced in the realm of security.

The China-GCC Strategic Partnership

In the Gulf—where the United States has been the predominant external actor for decades—China has sought to forge close political ties with emerging powers to secure access to vital energy resources, expand its commercial reach, and enhance its strategic influence. While China believes U.S. hegemony in the Gulf is in decline, its approach to achieving great power status and influence has been cautious and hesitant. Fomenting instability does not benefit China, which has neither the will nor the capacity to fill the regional security role held by the United States. Instead, China has developed strategic partnerships with key GCC countries whose support can bolster its great power status and allow it to project its influence into new arenas.

Election Year In Turkey: End Of An Era For Erdoğan?

Bekir Ağırdır

ISTANBUL — Both the world and Turkey are struggling with crises. Global clashes of politics, economics and cultures are reflected in every aspect of our lives. As humanity attempts to move from an industrialized to information society, a series of crises of climate change, food and energy shortages, and regional and global migration undermine our very foundations.

Turkey is facing these multiple crises with its old institutions and rules. It has not yet had the transformations of mentality in terms of education, law, secularist state and gender equality that are the requirements of the industrial age. What’s more, Turkey has to handle the uncertainty and chaos of this tangle of crises with politicians who are unable to overcome their mindsets of political polarization and identity politics.

While the pandemic and the following economic crisis have started to silence the identity politics and given a louder voice to the issues of class tension, injustice and poverty, politicians once again drag us towards identity and polarization.

The opposition parties in Turkey cannot find time to compete with the government, led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who has held power since 2014, as they are busy fighting among themselves. People are trying to get rid of the heavy chains of polarization and identities, but politics is putting them back in chains.

U.S. defeats China in simulated war over Taiwan, but costs are high, says new study on risks

Bill Gertz

A sophisticated new study of a simulated war between China and the U.S. over Taiwan reveals Chinese forces would be defeated in the conflict but with a high cost in casualties and heavy losses of U.S. and allied large ships and aircraft, according to a think tank report made public Monday.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies conducted 24 separate war game scenarios involving an amphibious assault by China across the 100-mile Taiwan Strait, setting off a war with Taiwan, the United States and Japan. U.S. military officials say Chinese strategists see a military “window” for action against Taipei in the next few years.

“In most scenarios, the United States/Taiwan/Japan defeated a conventional amphibious invasion by China and maintained an autonomous Taiwan,” the report concludes. “However, this defense came at high cost.”

The cost, even in the “optimistic scenarios,” according to the report: “The United States and Japan lose dozens of ships, hundreds of aircraft, and thousands of service members. Such losses would damage the U.S. global position for many years. While Taiwan’s military is unbroken, it is severely degraded and left to defend a damaged economy on an island without electricity and basic services.”

In the 21st Century, China is Our Main Adversary and Japan is Our Most Important Ally

Francis P. Sempa

What a difference a century makes. In the 20th century, Germany and the Soviet Union were the main adversaries of the United States, and Great Britain was our most important ally. In the 21st century--at least in its early stages--China is our main adversary and Japan is our most important ally. But the fundamental geopolitics underlying both centuries is remarkably similar despite the scientific and technological changes. And that is so because of the centrality of Eurasia to global politics.

In his book The Grand Chessboard (1997), Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote that “Eurasia . . . is the chessboard on which the struggle for global primacy continues to be played.” Eurasia contains most of the world’s people and resources, and is “the location of most of the world’s politically assertive and dynamic states.” Brzezinski called it the “megacontinent” and wrote that America’s security depended upon the geopolitical pluralism of Eurasia. And he described the most dangerous post-Cold War scenario as “a grand coalition of China, Russia, and perhaps Iran.”

A quarter-century later, that “grand coalition” is emerging. China’s economic and military power has grown faster than even Brzezinski thought likely. It has become a peer competitor of the United States and has formed a strategic partnership with a revived Russia that is flexing its muscles again in Eastern Europe. Iran, meanwhile, sees itself as the preeminent power in the Middle East and has formed strong economic and political ties to China and Russia. This has led some commentators to label the China-Russia-Iran relationship (and some add North Korea) an “axis” that threatens the global balance of power.

Digital defenders: A look at the evolution and elevation of America's Cyber National Mission Force

Mark Pomerleau

In December, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin elevated U.S. Cyber Command’s Cyber National Mission Force to a sub-unified command, which current and former officials say was an endorsement of the important role that cyber warriors play within the Department of Defense and their contribution to defending the nation from digital threats.

The CNMF — formerly one of Cybercom’s headquarters elements — is made up of 39 joint teams and thought to have the DOD’s most talented cyber operators at the cutting-edge of their profession. It is aligned in task forces organized against specific threat actors. They have been on the front lines of defending elections from foreign influence, protecting critical infrastructure and, most notably, for conducting so-called hunt forward operations which involve physically sending defensively-oriented cyber protection teams to foreign countries to hunt for threats on their networks at the invitation of host nations.

Former officials described a natural evolution in the elevation to a sub-unified command for CNMF, highlighting the importance in continued maturation for the still young U.S. Cyber Command.

“It’s a great indicator of the continued maturation. It’s a great testament to the hard work of those men and women and the strong leadership they have,” Michael Rogers, who served as commander of Cybercom from 2014 to 2018, told DefenseScoop. “It’s an endorsement by the Department of Defense, I think, of the importance of the mission and the need to generate structures that are optimized to execute the mission … It shows the department believes that that’s the right direction, too, as well. It isn’t just the cyber guys going, ‘We need to do this.’ It’s the whole department thinking, ‘Yeah, it’s the appropriate thing for us to do.’”

Diversity among diplomats will strengthen U.S. foreign policy

Leland Lazarus

Last year, during the same week that President Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping met in Bali, a group of 10 Black foreign-policy professionals who specialize in understanding China gathered in Washington, D.C., as part of the African-American China Leadership Fellows Program. I was lucky to be among them. Each day, we met with leaders from Congress, the Departments of State and Defense, private companies, and think tanks. Our discussions included U.S. strategy toward China, controls on microchip exports, Taiwan scenarios and standing up the State Department’s new China House.

In a field long dominated by White males, we were the majority in the room discussing United States-China relations and recommending how policy should be carried out. In the process, I realized that Black and Brown foreign policy professionals provide unique perspectives. Washington needs such fresh views at this crucial moment of diplomacy between the two superpowers.

As the United States and China compete for global leadership, each government tells a story about itself that’s meant to win hearts and minds around the globe. In the U.S. narrative, race relations have always threatened to overshadow its image as a shining “city on a hill.”

US $3 Billion Military Package To Ukraine Aims To Change Battlefield Dynamics

Jim Garamone

DOD officials unveiled the more than $3 billion package of military capabilities to help Ukraine drive the Russian invaders from their soil.

“The war in Ukraine is at a critical point right now, and we have to do everything we can to help the Ukrainians continue to resist Russian aggression,” Laura Cooper, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, said.

The presidential drawdown authority announced this week is the largest the United States has committed to so far. The authorization of presidential drawdown of equipment from U.S. inventories is valued at up to $2.85 billion and there is an additional $225 million in foreign military financing to contribute to the long-term capacity and modernization of Ukraine’s military, Cooper said.

The major announcement was the inclusion of 50 M2-A2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles for the Ukrainian military. These armored vehicles — enough to outfit a mechanized infantry battalion — will come with 500 tube-launched, optically sighted, wire-guided, or TOW, anti-tank missiles and 250,000 rounds of 25 mm ammunition.

The drawdown authority also includes 100 M-113 armored personnel carriers and 50 mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles. The U.S. will also provide 138 Humvees.

Ukraine War: Dispelling Popular Lend-Lease Myths

Julian McBride

As the Ukraine war continues to rage with no end in sight, there have been growing grievances over the amount of aid the United States is sending to the country. Some are legitimate, but others are steeped in disinformation; for example, calling aid to the embattled nation a “money laundering scheme.”

As President Biden recently signed a Lend Lease Act for Ukraine, nothing Kyiv will receive is for free. Here is how the Lend-Lease works and why it is in our national security interest to enhance Ukraine’s security.

In the wake of Russian offensives and the ongoing unwillingness of Vladimir Putin to stop the onslaught, both chambers of Congress and President Joe Biden ratified the Ukrainian Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act this past spring. The law allows for military aid to be sent to Kyiv for as long as it takes to repel Moscow’s invasion and re-secure the country’s 1991 post-Soviet independence borders.

The bill was officially signed by President Biden on May 9, 2022 – which ironically is the day Russia celebrates Victory Day of WWII, signifying to Putin that this time, he is the one on the wrong side of history.

The battle for Ukraine’s Soledar: ‘What madness looks like’

Ukrainian forces are still holding out in the eastern mining town of Soledar despite a massive Russian onslaught, Ukraine’s deputy defence minister said.

The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence said earlier on Tuesday that Russia had probably captured most of the town after four days of advances, a rare success for Moscow’s troops after a string of humiliating retreats last year.

“Heavy fighting to hold on to Soledar continues. The enemy disregards the heavy losses of its personnel and continues to storm actively,” Ukraine’s deputy defence minister Hanna Maliar said in a statement.

“The approaches to our positions are simply strewn with the bodies of dead enemy fighters. Our fighters are bravely holding the defence.”

Soledar is 20km (12 miles) away from the highly contested city of Bakhmut, where both sides have suffered large losses.

Does the U.S. Need to Contain China in Africa?

Ivan Eland

Last month’s U.S.-African Leaders Summit aimed to compete with China, Russia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and other nations for “influence” in Africa, a continent that is growing in prominence. According to the New York Times, China, which recently gave a whopping $60 billion in aid and loans to African nations, is leading the race for influence on the rising continent, with the United States falling behind in the giveaways. Really, that’s just fine.

After World War II, during the Cold War, and 150 years after the Constitutional Convention, the United States deviated from its traditional foreign policy of being a reluctant and late participant in overseas wars. President Harry Truman, in choosing to help the autocratic governments of Turkey and Greece fend off Communist influence in 1947, pledged the United States to compete for influence in a global Cold War with the Soviet Union. In that forty-two-year Cold War, the United States spent huge amounts of blood and treasure reflexively competing all over the world to contain, and in a few cases roll back, Communism. This established a muscle memory for gaining ever more ethereal “influence” in far reaches of the planet. When the East Bloc and Soviet Union suddenly collapsed and the United States was perceived to have “won” the Cold War, such uncharacteristic American interventionism appeared to have validation. (In reality, the Soviet Empire collapsed because its creaking economy could no longer support its overextended empire. If the United States had not contested the then-basket cases of South Korea, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia and instead let the Soviets bear the cost of conquering and administering them, perhaps the Soviet Union would have collapsed faster than it did.)

Will Crypto Replace National Currencies?

Jerry Haar

The infamous three letters FTX will be removed from the arena that serves as home to the Miami Heat basketball team and as a popular venue for musical events. The collapse of the cryptocurrency exchange has impacted many other organizations as well, such as ProPublica, the non-profit investigative news outlet, that received a $1.6 million donation from FTX. (They have indicated they intend to return it).

What has transpired with FTX is, in the words of its new CEO John Ray, “really just old-fashioned embezzlement.” But the debacle does call into question the financial instrument itself that was the elixir of FTX—cryptocurrency.

In truth, the verdict is still out on cryptocurrency, a type of digital currency that generally exists only electronically. The advantages of crypto are compelling: protection from inflation, security and privacy, self-governed and managed, decentralized, and cost-effective for transactions and funds transfer. The negatives are significant, however: crypto can be used for illegal transactions such as drug and gun trafficking, money laundering, and funding terrorism; data losses can cause financial losses; adverse effects of coin mining on the environment (because of the enormous amount of energy required); susceptibility to hacks; and no refund or cancellation policy.

What Will African Leaders Seek to Gain From Welcoming China’s New Foreign Minister?

Yixin Yu and Charlie Zong

China’s new foreign minister, Qin Gang, arrived in Ethiopia this Tuesday for his first overseas trip, a week-long visit to the African continent that will also take him across Gabon, Angola, Benin, and Egypt. It’s a 33-year-long tradition for China’s foreign minister to make his first trip of the new year a tour of African countries. Since 2007, China’s leadership has paid 123 visits to the continent (versus 251 by African leaders to China).

Qin, 56, was the envoy to the United States before he succeeded Wang Yi to be China’s foreign minister on December 30, 2022. It is Qin’s first official visit to Africa and he will meet leaders and foreign ministers of the five countries as well as the African Union and the Arab League.

This visit is also special as it comes just one day after China reopened its border to the world after three years of global isolation, a rule change that marked the ending of China’s zero COVID policy. While trade with the African continent has remained robust over the COVID-19 period, nevertheless a key Chinese ambition over this and future overseas missions will no doubt be to reassure partners of China’s commitment to strengthen economic ties, including through stronger cross-border people movement.

Russia’s Economic Self-Destruction and Its Conseuqences

Vladislav Inozemtsev

By starting its war against Ukraine, Russia opted for a radical disjunction from the outside world—at least from the West and its historical offshoots. Many experts and policymakers argued that this trend signalizes nothing less than a de-globalization. In fact it is more accurate to see Russia as having chosen to turn its back on the global economy.

Back in 1989, the Soviet Union exported 184.7 million tons of oil and petroleum products, 37.5 million tons of coal, and 101 billion cubic meters of natural gas—but in 2021 a much smaller Russia delivered 374.7 million tons of oil and petroleum products, 223 million tons of coal, and 251 billion cubic meters of gas to the world market. In all other sectors, except agriculture and some minor resource industries, Russia’s exports decreased, reflecting a profound de-industrialization of what once was an economic powerhouse for at least a half of the world.

Russia now depends entirely not only on the import of high-tech components for its defense sector, aviation, and automobile industries, as well as tele­com equipment, computers, smartphones and pharmaceuticals, but also the supply of uniforms for its troops, for example those that have been ordered recently from Turkey and North Korea. Russia’s recent path differs not only from that of China, but also those of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates who all opted for becoming diversified industrial and service economies deeply integrated into the global system. Russia was, and remains, a pure resource economy that the West might rely on, but is not dependent on. Therefore, the “disappearance” of Russia cannot significantly hurt the world economy or change the trends that emerged since the start of the millennium.

How France sees the war in Ukraine

Pascal LTH

Last week’s announcement that the French government would send AMX-10 RC vehicles to Ukraine may have caused surprise in some quarters.

Over the course of the war, it became a common belief that France and Germany were equally reluctant to arm Ukraine. By extension, not many of the people expounding this belief would have expected France to lead in taking the next step in providing Ukraine with military hardware.

Yet it should not have come as a surprise at all and to see France and Germany in the same light is to fundamentally misunderstand France’s perspective and foreign policy goals.

At the root of this misunderstanding is an incorrect assessment of why France engages with Russia in the way it does.

Historically there has certainly been some closeness and exchange between the two countries at a political and cultural level and this does go some way to explain why France doesn’t see Russia in the same light as, say, Estonia.

But we shouldn’t go overboard with this – outside of the French far-right who are open fans of Putin, such history has little impact on today’s foreign policy.

Ramaphosa’s Last Chance: Can the ANC Root Out Corruption and Save South Africa—and Itself?

John Rapley

On December 13, South Africa’s embattled president, Cyril Ramaphosa, survived a vote in Parliament on whether to impeach him over misconduct allegations. Less than a week later, on December 19, he won a second term as head of the ruling African National Congress (ANC). It was a remarkable turn of fortunes for a leader who, a month earlier, in the wake of a lurid scandal involving a cash-stuffed sofa, appeared to be confronting the end of his presidency. But Ramaphosa now faces the challenge of his political career. Although the recent ANC leadership race exposed, once again, the fragility of Ramaphosa’s grip on his party, his ultimate success in that race may finally have given him the mandate he needs to tackle the deep-rooted corruption that is eroding the state and strangling the economy. But it is also possible, as his critics allege, that with or without the authority to tackle the problem, Ramaphosa lacks the will. South Africans are about to find out.

In 2017, Ramaphosa seized the presidency of the ANC and subsequently became president of the country, casting himself as the savior who would rescue South Africa from the catastrophic plunder—or “state capture,” as everyone took to calling it—that occurred under the administration of his predecessor, Jacob Zuma, who had served in the role since 2009. But five years into a presidency that has yielded insufficient progress on corruption, Ramaphosa finds himself mired in a crisis of his own making. Amid crippling factional battles in the ANC, the government’s popularity has collapsed, and voter surveys suggest that it is likely to lose South Africa’s next general election, in 2024. With a fragmented opposition that has, to date, struggled to produce a credible candidate, the country appears headed for chaos.

Dirty bomb fears as 'several kilos of URANIUM' is found in cargo at Heathrow: Package 'shipped from Pakistan to UK-based Iranians' is at centre of Met Police anti-terror probe after being discovered when it triggered airport alarmsShipment of uranium has been seized at Heathrow airport, sparking terror fears


A major counter-terrorism investigation has been launched after several kilograms of uranium was seized at Heathrow airport.

The deadly nuclear material - which could potentially be used in a ‘dirty bomb’ - arrived on a flight from Oman, in the Middle East, on December 29.

The shipment was addressed to an Iranian-linked firm in the UK, it is understood.

Sources said the uranium was ‘not weapons-grade’ - and so could not be used to manufacture a thermo-nuclear weapon.

But the security services are understood to be investigating whether the undeclared package could have been destined for an improvised nuclear device, known as a ‘dirty bomb’.

Such a device - which has long been a nightmare scenario for counter-terror experts - combines conventional explosives with nuclear material to disperse a lethal radioactive plume.

The package originated in Pakistan before arriving at Heathrow’s Terminal Four aboard an Oman Air passenger jet from Muscat, sources told The Sun.

U.S., Allies Prepare Fresh Sanctions on Russian Oil Industry

Andrew Duehren

WASHINGTON—The U.S. and its allies are preparing their next round of sanctions on Russia’s oil industry, aiming to cap the sales prices of Russian exports of refined petroleum products in a step some market watchers warn could squeeze global supply.

In meetings across Europe this week, Treasury officials are discussing the details of the coming sanctions on Russian oil products, which are set to go into effect on Feb. 5. The penalties will set two price limits on Russian refined products: one on high-value exports such as diesel and another on low-value ones such as fuel oil, according to people familiar with the plans.

The new limits will follow moves last month by the U.S., European Union and their allies in the Group of Seven advanced democracies to cap the price of Russian crude exports at $60 a barrel. Those sanctions have had a relatively muted impact on global prices, encouraging Western officials who want to pressure Russia’s budget while minimizing volatility in critical global energy markets.

New penalties on petroleum products will apply to Western companies that finance, insure or ship seaborne cargoes of Russian products.

Japan Matters If China Invades Taiwan

James Holmes

Nikkei Asia recently interviewed retired marine general and assistant secretary of defense Wallace “Chip” Gregson (also a 19FortyFive contributor) on the subject of how Japan can best contribute during a cross-strait war between China and Taiwan. Chip held forth about the need for the Japan Self-Defense Forces to fight jointly, to buttress their ability to move among Japan’s nearly 7,000 islands to repel invaders, and to acquire counterstrike arms. Tokyo, in other words, should shrug off its post-1945, passive approach to national defense and assume a posture befitting Japan’s standing as a beneficent great power.

The money quote from the interview, though, was this:

“The biggest contribution Japan can make to a Taiwan contingency is the rock solid protection of Japanese territory, while the U.S. does some of the other things.”


If Japan possessed armaments and warriors adequate to protect itself, the U.S. armed forces wouldn’t need to. They could provide goods Japan can’t—such as extended nuclear deterrence, or sea-lane security far from Japanese shores—while concentrating on other endeavors that advance allied interests, such as safeguarding Taiwan. In fact, you could go further and make this a general rule. The Pentagon’s slogan governing outreach to allies and coalition partners would go something like this: to help the alliance, help yourself.

2023 could be the year that exposes populism for the sham that it is

Fareed Zakaria

It’s hard not to be fixated on the drama unfolding in the House of Representatives, where the Republican Party is having a nervous breakdown in full public view. This crisis is entirely of the party’s own making. For decades it has whipped its base into a righteous fury by promising radical policies that offer emotional satisfaction to their hardline constituents — from rolling back Medicare and Social Security to defaulting on the national debt to eliminating whole government agencies. But because these policies are totally unworkable, they never happen.

The lesson that the base has internalized is that cowardly moderates were constantly betraying it. The solution now is to maintain a permanent vise grip on the House speaker, ensuring that he or she will always do what the hardliners want. This is, as many have noted, a recipe for permanent blackmail and constant chaos.

The Republican Party’s troubles are severe. Newt Gingrich told Axios that the party is in its worst shape in almost six decades. But it is not alone. In many countries around the world, populists are flailing.

Look at Britain, where Brexit — perhaps the ultimate 21st-century populist cause — has caused havoc within the Conservative Party, which used to be described as the world’s oldest and most successful political party. Britain has had five prime ministers in the six years since 2016; the prior five prime ministers spanned more than 30 years. The self-defeating decision to exit its largest market, the European Union, continues to depress the country’s economic prospects, and it remains the weakest of the Group of Seven economies. In the Group of 20, only Russia is projected to do worse than Britain in the near future.

Time is not on Ukraine’s side

Condoleezza Rice and Robert M. Gates

Vladimir Putin remains fully committed to bringing all of Ukraine back under Russian control or — failing that — destroying it as a viable country. He believes it is his historical destiny — his messianic mission — to reestablish the Russian Empire and, as Zbigniew Brzezinski observed years ago, there can be no Russian Empire without Ukraine.

Both of us have dealt with Putin on a number of occasions, and we are convinced he believes time is on his side: that he can wear down the Ukrainians and that U.S. and European unity and support for Ukraine will eventually erode and fracture. To be sure, the Russian economy and people will suffer as the war continues, but Russians have endured far worse.

For Putin, defeat is not an option. He cannot cede to Ukraine the four eastern provinces he has declared part of Russia. If he cannot be militarily successful this year, he must retain control of positions in eastern and southern Ukraine that provide future jumping-off points for renewed offensives to take the rest of Ukraine’s Black Sea coast, control the entire Donbas region and then move west. Eight years separated Russia’s seizure of Crimea and its invasion nearly a year ago. Count on Putin to be patient to achieve his destiny.

Meanwhile, although Ukraine’s response to the invasion has been heroic and its military has performed brilliantly, the country’s economy is in a shambles, millions of its people have fled, its infrastructure is being destroyed, and much of its mineral wealth, industrial capacity and considerable agricultural land are under Russian control. Ukraine’s military capability and economy are now dependent almost entirely on lifelines from the West — primarily, the United States. Absent another major Ukrainian breakthrough and success against Russian forces, Western pressures on Ukraine to negotiate a cease-fire will grow as months of military stalemate pass. Under current circumstances, any negotiated cease-fire would leave Russian forces in a strong position to resume their invasion whenever they are ready. That is unacceptable.

New variant XBB.1.5 is ‘most transmissible’ yet, could fuel covid wave

Fenit Nirappil and Lauren Weber

Three years after the novel coronavirus emerged, a new variant, XBB.1.5, is quickly becoming the dominant strain in parts of the United States because of a potent mix of mutations that makes it easier to spread broadly, including among those who have been previously infected or vaccinated.

XBB.1.5, pegged by the World Health Organization as “the most transmissible” descendant yet of the omicron variant, rose from barely 2 percent of U.S. cases at the start of December to more than 27 percent the first week of January, according to new estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More than 70 percent of cases in the Northeast are believed to be XBB.1.5.

While there is no evidence so far that XBB.1.5 is more virulent than its predecessors, a recent swirl of misinformation linking the rise of new variants to vaccination has cast a spotlight on this latest strain and raised concern among some health experts that it could further limit booster uptake.

Now Fighting for Ukraine: Volunteers Seeking Revenge Against Russia

Carlotta Gall

KYIV REGION, Ukraine — The sharp crack of sniper fire rang out across the snowbound valley. Soldiers in white camouflage crouched low, shooting at the hill opposite to provide cover as four men evacuated a casualty.

The action was part of a live-fire training exercise for new recruits on a recent morning outside the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv. But there was an unusual element to the event. While a Ukrainian Army officer was giving the orders, the trainees were members of a volunteer Chechen battalion that also mixed in some Crimean Tatars and Ukrainians.

Ukraine’s military commanders have long said they do not lack soldiers for the war, but they have nonetheless welcomed to their ranks thousands of volunteers, including foreign citizens. Many of them, like the Chechens, are refugees from Russia itself. Others have come from surrounding nations, like Georgia, that have a history of opposition to Moscow and the leadership of President Vladimir V. Putin.

“We saw what was happening,” said Muslim Madiyev, a gray-bearded deputy commander of the Chechen battalion, wearing ear protectors to muffle the sound of gunfire as he watched the training exercises. “Ukraine has no shortage of men, but we have to join and be a part of this war.”

Regulation of Social Media in Israel

Tamir Hayman, David Siman-Tov, Amos Hervitz

Social media, which enhance interpersonal connections and champion freedom of speech, also embody negative elements that can heighten alienation and polarization in society, and even threaten national security and national resilience. Professional bots and trolls deepen existing social rifts and weaken the resilience of Israeli society. A timely example is the online cognitive campaign waged regarding the war in Ukraine. In Israel, however, there is insufficient attention to this phenomenon. The question arises, therefore, why have previous attempts not translated into effective action to tackle the problem? This paper analyzes a recent effort by an advisory committee to the previous Minister of Communications to formulate a plan for the restriction and regulation of social media. Building on the committee’s recommendations, the incoming government should take requisite actions and regulate activity in this realm.

In recent years, a number of committees have been involved in the efforts to limit the unchecked discourse on social media in Israel: the Beinisch Committee (2017), which examined the issue of contemporary election propaganda; the Nahon Committee (2019), which examined the issue of ethics and regulation in the context of artificial intelligence; and the Arbel Committee (2021), which looked at means of protection against harmful publications on the internet. Some of the recommendations were implemented, such as the establishment of the Child Online Protection Bureau – 105 national call center, but most were never implemented due to the global difficulty of imposing regulation on social media companies, and due to constraints originating in the political and government system in Israel.

A European Perspective on the New World Disorder

Rüdiger Lüdeking

The first decades after World War II were characterized by the bipolar world order between East and West, which had an impact on almost every aspect of international relations. The world got used to it and respected the other side’s red lines in the interest of avoiding a new major war, possibly fought also with nuclear weapons. And, especially since the late 1960s, the West sought to ensure security and stability through dialogue, cooperation, and the establishment of a sustainable military balance through arms control agreements. This was done under the impression that the confrontation between the “systems” was insurmountable. Dramatically increased armament efforts by the United States and NATO, growing economic weaknesses and overstretching on the part of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, and “softening,” reformist misjudgments, and diplomatic concessions on the part of the Soviet leadership under Mikhail Gorbachev finally led to the bloc confrontation being overcome. The Cold War came to an end at the beginning of the 1990s. Western values, which had already been agreed on in the Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) process (see: Helsinki Final Act of 1975) and originally written off by the Warsaw Pact as purely rhetorical concessions of no relevance, prevailed.

COVID-19 And Its Aftermath

Baby Shaw

Human civilization is actually a history of adaptation. And this is a continuous process of adaptation not only by humans but also by plants and animals. Humans are the children of circumstances because they learn to adapt themselves to circumstances right from their birth. They have to adapt themselves to both ‘good’ and ‘bad’.

This adaptation and compromise bring an enormous change in life. This change takes place in the thought process. At the same time, they also learn how to cope with the adversities of life. This adaptation takes place also in plants and animals. Of course, humans have to sacrifice a lot in doing that. The stories of adaptation have been reflected in literature in every age; COVID-19 is no exception. How a disease may influence civilization, culture, literature— even language, is clearly visible if we look at world literature and culture. A magnificent story is depicted in Albert Camus’ famous novel ‘plague’ where he shows how the dread caused by a disease enters into our language, literature: poetry, stories, novels— even in our existence. It is epidemic and war, which have given rise to the striking philosophy of existentialism which appeared in the 20th century. In fact, every cultural revolution underlies a real fragmented world, and this is what happened in the first halves of both the 20th and 21st centuries. The million-dollar question is this: is COVID-19 going to have the same impact as disease and epidemic impacted our existence in the first halves of both 20th and 21st centuries? More than half a million people died of the COVID-19 and are still dying. It has caused an exemplary global recession which has made millions of people unemployed, and has exerted an enormous impact on our inner world.

Will a Turkish Gas Hub Solve Eurasia’s Energy Troubles?

Nuray Alekberli

Speaking at the Russian Energy Week held in Moscow in October 2022, President Vladimir Putin stated that Russia hoped to turn Turkey into an energy hub so that Russian gas may be transited to Europe via Turkey. Putin’s proposal surprised Ankara, though Turkish Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Fatih Donmez declared in a statement that the project should be seriously evaluated (Indyturk.com, October 17, 2022). While Russia’s offer was unexpected for the Turkish side, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated he viewed Russia’s proposal positively and that the Trakya region was being evaluated as the potential site for the distribution center.

It is quite clear that the project’s realization also depends on the interests and approaches of the European states, a fact that both Russia and Turkey understand well (Indyturk.com, October 17, 2022). After Russia’s re-invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the European Union vowed to reduce the supply of energy resources (including gas) from Russia and diversify its energy sources. In fact, in October 2022, European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen stated that Europe reduced its supply of Russian natural gas from 40 percent of total EU consumption at the beginning of the Ukraine crisis to 7.5 percent. Therefore, it is unrealistic to expect any positive attitudes emanating from Europe regarding new pipeline projects that involve Russia, given European opposition to the South Stream pipeline in 2014, Putin’s frequent use of energy blackmail vis-à-vis the EU and the adoption of a much tougher stance toward Russia today (see EDM, September 12). For its part, the United States has long argued that Europe should diversify its energy supplies and, by extension, reduce its dependence on Russia (Ura.news, October 20, 2022).

Azerbaijan Set to Become a Green Energy Supplier to the EU

Mateusz Kubiak

In December 2022, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Hungary and Romania signed an agreement to build a strategic partnership in the field of green energy development and transmission (President.az, December 17, 2022). According to the document’s text, the four countries plan to work together in developing a 1,195-kilometer submarine power cable under the Black Sea, effectively creating a renewable energy transmission corridor from Azerbaijan, via Georgia, to Romania and further onward to Hungary. The project looks viable in the context of the European Union’s Green Deal (aimed at the bloc’s carbon neutrality by 2050) and specific EU emissions reduction targets for 2030. However, it requires the further development of renewable energy sources (RES) in Azerbaijan, as the country’s green energy sector is still nascent, and the numerous memorandums and partnerships regarding future investment opportunities in the country have yet to materialize.

As a whole, the project will require increased energy transmission infrastructure development in each of the signatory countries. The most expensive part of the project will assuredly be the underwater cable running along the bed of Black Sea. It is expected that this link will have a capacity of 1 gigawatt (GW)—which translates to about 8.8 terawatt hours per year, representing approximately 15 percent of Romania’s overall annual electricity consumption—and is set to be accompanied by additional fiber-optic telecommunication cable (Miniszterelnok.hu, December 17, 2022). The cost of the undertaking (i.e., its submarine section) is estimated at 2.3 billion euros ($2.4 billion) and should be at least partially funded with the EU’s money (Twitter.com/OliverVarhelyi, December 11, 2022). The relevant feasibility study has already been underway since September 2022 (Cesi.it, September 20, 2022), and construction of the cable could be completed by 2029 (Romania-insider.com, December 19, 2022).

The Russian Armed Forces on Steroids

Pavel Luzin

Since January 1, the ceiling of military personnel in the Russian Armed Forces has been increased from 1,013,628 to 1,150,628 service members (Kremlin.ru, August 25, 2022), which exceeds the ceiling for 2006–2016 of 1,134,800 people (Kremlin.ru, November 28, 2005). This is the nominal number as the true number of personnel within the Russian Armed Forces usually tends to be lower. For instance, the officially stated quantity in 2016 was 770,000 and did not change much before February 2022 (Sc.mil.ru, January 2017). Moreover, the real number inevitably decreased after Russia launched its all-out aggression against Ukraine and Russian forces started suffering from heavy losses, increased discharges and a lack of new recruits, as Moscow involved almost all available combat-capable and support forces in the war, about 250,000 service members (Kremlin.ru, December 21, 2022).

In this way, the Russian leadership announced the potential increase of the personnel ceiling in August 2022 and began the so-called “partial mobilization” in September 2022. The main purposes here were: (a) preventing the discharge of tens of thousands of contracted soldiers whose short-term (starting at three months) and standard (starting at two years) contracts were closer to expiration; (b) partially restoring manpower through the mobilization of reservists; and (c) reserving more money in the defense budget for additional combat salaries, equipment and compensation for dead and wounded military personnel by adding 137,000 new positions for military personnel.

The War in Ukraine Has Revolutionized Drone Warfare

Gloria Shkurti Özdemir, Rıfat Öncel

Modern unmanned aerial vehicles, widely known as drones, have been an indispensable part of warfare for the past two decades. America's use of Predator drones for reconnaissance missions in the Kosovo War against Serbian forces is known as the first time drones officially entered into the equation. At that time, hardly anyone noticed the capacity of these vehicles to change warfare. By the early 2000s, the United States began to use drones not only for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions but also for precision strikes, starting in Afghanistan.

For some time, the United States, followed by Israel, monopolized not only drone military operations but also the drone market. While these two states took advantage of the military edge provided by drones, it was impossible for other states to develop military drones with the capabilities of Predator, Reaper, or Heron drones. But this is no longer the case.

The success and effectiveness of drones on the battlefield pushed other states to follow suit. Turkey, among a few other states, was successful in developing its own indigenous, technologically advanced drones. This has resulted in what can be called the second drone age, an age where drone technology is no longer monopolized.

As drones started to be used extensively, new operational concepts started to evolve, radically transforming armed conflict. This is especially visible in the Russo-Ukrainian War, where drone usage dominates most of the highlights of the conflict.

Facial recognition's alarming pitfalls

Alex Fitzpatrick

The breakneck development and deployment of facial recognition technology are outstripping efforts to corral alarming pitfalls.

Why it matters: Police, retail stores, airports and sports arenas are rapidly increasing biometric surveillance. But critics say the results are too often blindly trusted, without enough double-checking of matches.

Catch up quick: The latest face-recognition surveillance technology is designed to identify people seen on security cameras in real-time, or close to it.It aims to match security camera footage of someone with images tied to that person's identity and kept in various databases or publicly available online, such as police mugshots or social media profiles.
Facial recognition also lets you unlock smartphones and tablets without a password.

Driving the news: A Black man was recently jailed for almost a week in Georgia after a facial recognition system incorrectly matched his face with a suspect in a New Orleans robbery, his lawyer told The New Orleans Advocate.The man — who said he's never been to Louisiana — was released after detectives realized their mistake, The Advocate reports.