4 April 2023

Darkening Waters, Gathering Storm: Sino-Indian Water War on the Brahmaputra River

Austin Wu and Andrew Latham

As the world faces the growing threat of water scarcity, policymakers and scholars are growing increasingly concerned about the potential for water-related conflicts to emerge. While water scarcity has long been an issue in some parts of the world, the problem is becoming more widespread and severe, with two-thirds of the global population currently facing severe water scarcity for at least one month a year. And as the problem grows more acute, the prospect that water scarcity will drive political instability, mass migration, and even geopolitical conflict also becomes more acute. Indeed, water scarcity is rapidly becoming such a crucial political issue in some parts of the world that it is raising the ominous prospect of “water wars” between nations.

Perhaps no two states exemplify this emerging trend as much as China and India. These two countries together comprise over 35% of the global population, but collectively they contain only 11% of the world’s freshwater. This mismatch is further exacerbated by high rates of water pollution and the increasing demands of industrializing economies. Beijing’s population was capped at 23 million due to water overdraw, while Chennai, India’s 7th largest city, recently suffered a “Day Zero,” completely running out of groundwater for several weeks in 2017. Conflict on the Sino-Indian border is not a new phenomenon, but the growing water crisis has the potential to push both states to the brink of war.

Amidst simmering tensions between China and India, the Brahmaputra River – also known as the Yarlung Tsangpo in China – has emerged as a key flashpoint in the growing crisis. The river, one of the world’s largest by volume, runs from Tibet to Northeastern India and is a vital source of hydrological and power generation resources. China’s construction of a mega-dam in the “Great Bend” of the Brahmaputra, touted to generate 60-Gigawatt of energy annually, has raised alarm bells in New Delhi.

India-China relations: Is the Quad the answer?

Isabel Muttreja

India’s border with China became the site of tense conflict in 2020, which led to India reinvesting in the Quad. Arzan Tarapore discusses key issues from his International Affairs article, such as how India is responding to increased aggression at the border and how a reinvigorated Quad may hold answers to balancing China in the Indo-Pacific.

What have India-China relations been like in the past?

Relations between India and China have varied over the decades. In the years following World War Two there was some hope they would find common cause in their international outlooks but that was quite quickly extinguished with their border war of 1962.

Since then, the two countries have oscillated between detente and tension. It took decades for them to normalize their relations and slowly build trust through several confidence-building agreements.

This was a dynamic, iterative process, with incursions prompting India to accelerate its infrastructure development, which in turn probably prompted more incursions by China

More recently it seemed the two countries were both willing to set aside their border dispute in order to profit from their burgeoning economic relationship – as, for both, there is no question development and economic growth is the primary national objective.

The question has been the extent to which their unresolved sovereignty and security issues undermine those goals as, at the same time, they both began paying more attention to the security of their territorial claims.

Reforming Islamic Jurisprudence Shapes The Battle To Define Moderate Islam – Analysis

James M. Dorsey

The world’s largest, most moderate Muslim civil society movement has called for abolishing the concept of a caliphate in Islamic law.

In a radical break with Islamic orthodoxy, Indonesia’s Nahdlatul Ulama, or Revival of Islamic Scholars, wants to replace the concept with notions of the nation-state and the United Nations that are non-existent in Islamic legal tradition.

The reform is one pillar of the Indonesian movement’s campaign to update or, in its words, recontextualise Islamic law, free it from obsolete or outdated concepts, and deprive militants and jihadists of the ability to employ references to the Sharia to justify their theology, extremism, and violence.

Islamic scholars from across the globe discussed the call in February at a day-long gathering in the Javan city of Surabaya.

The call was made public at a commemoration of Nahdlatul Ulama’s centennial, according to the Hijra calendar, attended by more than a million people and Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

“Nahdlatul Ulama believes it is essential to the well-being of Muslims to develop a new vision capable of replacing the long-established aspiration, rooted in Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh), of uniting Muslims throughout the world into a single universal state, or caliphate,” the group said in a declaration read out at the rally.

Singapore Polls Show India’s Growing Influence in ASEAN as More Nations Put Trust in Delhi over Beijing

Satoru Nagao

India doubled its approval from 5.1 percent to 11.3 percent in 2023, taking the third spot out of six, followed by Australia, Britain, and South Korea.

This comes despite India’s neutrality over the Russia-Ukraine war. The reasons for this change are three-fold. India started the “Look East Policy” in the 1990s, later upgraded to the “Act East Policy.”

The engagement, primarily political and economic, acquired a strategic dimension. India and the countries of South Asia share many threats and challenges, especially in the areas of non-conventional security.

India and Southeast Asian nations have been strengthening their defense and security relationship both at bilateral and multilateral levels to address such threats.

Defense cooperation with ASEAN members is now geared toward training fighter jet pilots and submarine crews in Vietnam, Malaysia, and Thailand, maintaining fighter jets in Indonesia, and exporting BrahMos supersonic missiles to the Philippines. This cooperation has improved India’s image in ASEAN countries lately.

The ‘Look East Policy’ of New Delhi was complimented by policies of Southeast Asian nations like the ‘Look West Policy’ of Thailand, and Singapore’s support for New Delhi’s engagement with ASEAN-led forums acted as an impetus that opened new avenues of engagement between India and the larger Southeast Asian region.

China and the Not Very New Cold War

Dan Blumenthal

The Cultural Revolution, Mao Zedong’s last grand scheme, was finally petering out, having ravaged the People’s Republic of China. Many of the country’s top political and intellectual leaders had been purged: persecuted, “sent down” to work camps in rural areas, or even killed. It was December 1978. At the Third Plenum of the Eleventh Central Committee, held at the Jingxi Hotel in Beijing, Deng Xiaoping, survivor of many purges, returned to power, outwitting his main political rival, Hua Guofeng.

Since the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward, which preceded it, China’s economy and international standing had declined. Living standards were lower than on the eve of the takeover by the Chinese Communist Party in 1949. To its north, the PRC faced a hostile Soviet Union; to its south, Vietnam was gaining hegemony over mainland southeast Asia, including Laos and Cambodia. Deng maintained that the “correct path” to socialist modernization was a set of sweeping economic reforms: China would let foreign capital and technology pour into the country, permit free-enterprise competition with state-owned enterprises, and introduce other, limited capitalist measures.

“Capitalist tools in socialist hands,” China’s leaders called the plan. They were not espousing economic liberalism, they insisted, or changing China’s governing ideology. Despite limitations that the latter imposed, the great Chinese economic boom soon began. Since the Third Plenum, China’s GDP has grown over 9 percent per year on average; its share of world GDP, 3 percent in the 1970s, had risen to 20 percent in 2015. Raising itself from abject poverty, it is now the world’s second-largest market.

The main challenge for Deng and his comrades was to put aside Mao’s “continuous revolution” without appearing to jettison the revered leader. In China after Mao, Frank Dikötter, a Dutch historian at the University of Hong Kong, explains how they pulled it off.

China Creates a New World Order as Biden Ignores the Threats

Peter Rough

In the opening weeks of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, European Union foreign-policy chief Josep Borrell placed his hopes in China to resolve the conflict.

“There is no alternative,” Borrell said. “We cannot be the mediators, that is clear. And it cannot be the US either. Who else? It has to be China, I trust in that.”

A year later, Borrell’s faith has proven misplaced, as China has only disappointed Western policymakers. Once the repository of American and European hopes, Beijing has shown no interest in restraining Russia and restoring the pre-war European order.

Instead, it has leveraged the Ukraine war to begin building an alternative, Sino-centric system.

Its efforts are bearing fruit: As Chinese President Xi Jinping told Russian President Vladimir Putin at the end of their three-day summit in Moscow last week, “Right now we’re seeing a change we haven’t seen for 100 years, and we’re driving this change together.”

The change Xi references is most evident in the Middle East, where Russia’s war on Ukraine is driving America’s Gulf ally Saudi Arabia into the embrace of China.

China this month brokered the normalization of ties between Riyadh and Tehran in a diplomatic coup that shocked Washington.

Riyadh’s alarm over Iran’s military breakout, given insufficient attention by Washington, spurred the deal.

Riyadh’s Motivations Behind the Saudi-Iran Deal


On March 10, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and China issued a joint statement announcing an agreement to resume diplomatic relations between Riyadh and Tehran. After seven years of military and diplomatic hostility, the two Gulf powers agreed to work toward resolving their disagreements based on a set of international rules and two bilateral agreements signed in 1998 and 2001. This year’s agreement came after five days of comprehensive and intense negotiations in Beijing—and two years of Saudi-Iranian closed-door talks in Iraq and Oman.

Much of the analysis has focused on China’s growing role in the Middle East amid global power competition. But Saudi motivations go beyond hedging against U.S. withdrawal from the region or balancing one great power against another.


Both the substance and process of this agreement is a case study of China and Saudi Arabia’s shared understanding of a rules-based international order and of international security. This is an agreement on the principles of conflict resolution between two states rather than an agreement on the solutions to be reached. It reiterates recurrent Saudi and Chinese attachment to norms such as nonintervention in the domestic affairs of nations that have been constant pillars of the Sino-Saudi partnership since 2006, shown in their joint statements, actions within the UN system, and in China’s Global Security Initiative.

China’s mediation also helped navigate a long-standing dispute between Saudi Arabia and Iran over the conflict in Yemen. Riyadh’s initial position included preconditions for any talks with Iran on Tehran “leaving Yemen to Yemenis,” as the kingdom viewed Iran’s support for the Houthis as a main obstacle to any de-escalation. But over the past two years, the Saudi position has evolved, and China helped broker a compromise by which Riyadh agreed to Tehran’s request to announce the restoration of diplomatic relations before Iran halted support to the Houthis.

Whither Iran and China? A Limited Partnership, yet Deep and Durable

Raz Zimmt, Yuval Rymon

Iran-China relations have seen several twists and turns over the past few months, from unusual Chinese statements against Iran during President Xi’s visit to Saudi Arabia and diplomatic tension between the countries, followed by a precedent-setting visit by Iranian President Raisi to China and the signing of continuing economic agreements, to Chinese mediation in formulating the agreement to renew Iranian-Saudi relations. China-Iran relations are stable and based on strong foundations of common opposition to US hegemony in general and in the Middle East in particular, significant mutual economic interests (notwithstanding greater Iranian dependence on China than Chinese dependence on Iran), and security cooperation. Yet despite declared progress in their relations through the recent series of agreements, sanctions against Iran harm their economic relations and make it difficult to realize these agreements. However, China may still leverage its relations with Iran as a bargaining chip vis-à-vis the US.

In mid-February 2023 Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi visited China at the invitation of President Xi Jinping. The visit aimed first and foremost to balance the visit by China’s President to Saudi Arabia and the summit meeting there with the Gulf Cooperation Council states. A large delegation of ministers accompanied Raisi, and during the visit short and long-term agreements were signed in the fields of commerce, agriculture, industry, and infrastructure. Likewise, the two sides continued to advance the implementation of the long-term 25-year agreement that they signed in March 2021, and almost twenty memoranda of understanding valued at some $10 billion were signed. During the visit, President Xi declared that Beijing resists the meddling of external powers in Iran’s internal issues and issues that harm security and stability, and promised to cooperate with Iran on subjects that involve the two countries’ vital interests. On the nuclear issue, he expressed willingness to take part in talks to renew the agreement, criticized the US for withdrawing from the agreement, and called for its implementation.

America's Dangerous Short War Fixation

Raphael S. Cohen and Gian Gentile

Americans have long been fixated on the idea of the short, decisive war. At the start of the American Civil War, Washington gentry traveled to watch the First Battle of Bull Run—to partake of a spectacle they presumed would soon end. In 1898, U.S. Secretary of State John Hay expected the Spanish-American War to be a “splendid little war,” culminating in a quick victory for the newly emerging global power. As U.S. troops neared the Yalu River in November 1950 during the Korean War, Gen. Douglas MacArthur promised (PDF) that his soldiers would “eat Christmas dinner at home.” In 2003, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld predicted that the Iraq war “certainly isn't going to last any longer than [five months].” Multiple administrations underestimated (PDF) the timeline of the war in Afghanistan.

A similar obsession with short wars colors the coverage of the Ukraine war today. In 2022, as it became clear Russia was about to invade Ukraine, U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, the U.S. intelligence community, and most outside experts predicted a Russian victory in a matter of days. As the Russian advance sagged, a handful of commentators then predicted a speedy Ukrainian victory. Many more have judged the war unwinnable and called for a quick end through negotiations. The media, for its part, has labeled the war a stalemate during just about every lull in fighting.

History has not been kind to any of these predictions. The Civil War lasted four years and remains one of the bloodiest conflicts in U.S. history. The Spanish-American War devolved into a yearslong insurgency in the Philippines. MacArthur's push towards the Yalu triggered Chinese intervention, which prolonged the conflict by years, not months. The Iraq War lasted an order of magnitude longer than Rumsfeld predicted, and Afghanistan turned into Washington's longest war. Today, the war in Ukraine has not resulted in a quick win for either side—but it is not a stalemate, either, as the battlefield continues to evolve.

India-China Border Tensions and U.S. Strategy in the Indo-Pacific

Lisa Curtis and Derek Grossman

India-China border intrusions and clashes have become more frequent and threaten to lead to all-out conflict between the two Asian giants. In recent years, China has upped the ante in its border disputes with India through infrastructure development, military deployments, capability enhancements, and periodic efforts to encroach into territory controlled by India. The first deadly border clash between the two countries in 45 years occurred on June 15, 2020, in the Galwan River Valley, where 20 Indian troops and at least four Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops were killed. More recently, on December 9, 2022, Chinese and Indian forces clashed along the disputed border in the mountains near Tawang in the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh after an estimated 300 Chinese PLA soldiers tried to cross the border.

While the Chinese and Indian militaries have since pulled back forces from the most contentious standoff sites where the 2020 buildup occurred and established temporary buffer zones, both sides retain high numbers of troops forward deployed along the disputed frontier, and there are several flashpoints that could erupt into another border crisis at any time. The most recent clash that took place near Tawang is a reminder that, even though recent attention has been focused on the Ladakh region, there are multiple trigger points along the 2,100-mile-long Line of Actual Control (LAC) that bear monitoring.1 With both China and India enhancing infrastructure and introducing new and advanced weapons systems on their sides of the disputed border, combined with forward deployments and heightened lack of trust, the chances for continued standoffs that could erupt into local or even full-blown conflict remain high.

While the Chinese and Indian militaries have since pulled back forces from the most contentious standoff sites where the 2020 buildup occurred and established temporary buffer zones, both sides retain high numbers of troops forward deployed along the disputed frontier.

The AUKUS Alliance Has a Lot More to Offer Than Submarines

Lauren Kahn

As the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia determine a path forward for Australia to acquire the nuclear-powered submarines promised by the Australia-United Kingdom-United States trilateral security pact (AUKUS), the agreement has faced domestic criticism in member states and external criticism from both China and Russia, which have condemned it as a threat to international stability. In the United States, lawmakers have argued that AUKUS is coming at a direct and unwise cost to U.S. security, worried that the undue burden resulting from the promised submarines to Australia will push an “already-strained industrial base” to its “breaking point.”

However, nearly all of the global attention has been laser-focused on the nuclear-powered submarines and has not sufficiently accounted for the broader, arguably more significant impact AUKUS could have on innovation incubation, technology and information-sharing, and reinforcing a stronghold in the Asia Pacific. Critics who focus solely on the cost of the submarines miss the bigger picture: AUKUS can provide one of the most robust means for the United States and its allies to counter China's technological advancements, and it represents a cost-effective investment in national security. Moreover, the partnership is not a one-way street; the U.S. stands to gain not only critical knowledge and expertise from partner countries on emerging technologies, but an avenue to more quickly and effectively research and develop capabilities that should not be overlooked.

Winning the New Cold War: A Plan for Countering China

James Carafano, Michael Pillsbury, Jeff Smith and Andrew Harding


The Heritage Foundation’s “Winning the New Cold War” describes the ends, ways, and means to secure America’s future while confronting the greatest external threat the U.S. has faced since the collapse of the Soviet Union—the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). To be successful, this plan requires real and sustained U.S. economic growth, greater political will, stronger external partnerships, synchronized economic and security policies, resilient supply chains and borders, adequate military deterrence, and American energy independence. It also requires buy-in from the whole of American society. In order to implement a whole-of-nation strategy, the U.S. government must educate the American public and business community, from Main Street to Wall Street, about the scope of the threat from the CCP.


The People’s Republic of China is an adversary of the United States, and the two countries are embroiled in a New Cold War.

The U.S.’s decades-long engagement strategy toward China, an even more capable adversary than the USSR, has left the American people and economy vulnerable.

The Russo-Ukraine War: Possible Lessons for the IDF

Dr. Eado Hecht 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The war in Ukraine is an example of modern high-intensity warfare. As such, it offers a number of lessons that can be learned about the capabilities, limitations, and requirements of armies conducting such warfare. New technology and methods have added capabilities, but have not rendered more traditional methods of warfare and technology obsolete. The IDF should learn to merge the new with the old by acquiring competence in new technology and tactics while maintaining technical and tactical competence in the veteran ”basics”.

This article will point out a few of the more important lessons the IDF can learn from the Russo-Ukraine War. Before discussing those lessons, however, a caveat must be stated. The political and military situations of Israel, Russia, and Ukraine are different, so not every lesson being taught by the warfare in Ukraine is relevant to Israel. Also, some lessons might be relevant “as is” while others might require adaptation.

A Shift in Expectations

There has been discussion for decades in Western armies and academia, as well as in Israel, on the changing characteristics of warfare. It has been proposed that these changes represent not merely an evolution but a revolution, in that changes are occurring not only in the characteristics of warfare but perhaps even in the nature of war itself. Some of this discussion is purely theoretical, while some is based on analysis of wars conducted in the 1990s and early 2000s. The year-long war in Ukraine has added much fuel to this debate.

In Preparation for Spring Offensive, Ukraine Organizes Additional Assault Brigades

Mykola Vorobiov

Before the first anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion, the Ukrainian Interior Ministry announced the creation of additional assault brigades to be called the “Offensive Guard,” which includes the new formations “Azov,” “Spartan,” “Iron Border,” “Frontier” and “Fury,” along with other units aimed at liberating the occupied Ukrainian territories, including in Donbas and Crimea (Storm.mvs.gov.ua, accessed March 21). In the first two weeks after their creation, almost 15.000 volunteers had enrolled, with 800 having already passed the military medical exams and being deployed to their places of military service (Hromadske.ua, February 3; Novynarnia, March 20). While the precise locations of their deployment is not publicly available, these forces will likely take part in the anticipated counteroffensive operations in Ukraine’s occupied territories.

In the Ukrainian army, assault brigades traditionally consist of current and former military and law enforcement officers, as volunteers can choose which section they prefer to serve in: National Guard, State Border Service or National Police. Overall, the National Guard deploys six brigades, while the National Police and State Border Service deploy one each (Focus.ua, March 21). First and foremost, these volunteers consist of those who obtained experience during the military campaign (anti-terrorist operation) in Donbas in 2014–2015, as well as some who have already fought against Russia’s full-scale re-invasion in 2022. As of March 11, almost 28,000 applications have been received for these units (Interfax, March 11). All candidates must pass a military medical exam that includes psychological and physical tests. After successful completion, recruits are enrolled in their selected brigade for training, which is planned for a few months, before they are deployed to the frontlines.

Central African Republic Mine Attack: Can China Protect its Overseas Nationals?

John S. Van Oudenaren

On March 19, gunmen stormed a gold mine near Bambari, in the heart of the Central African Republic (CAR), killing nine Chinese workers. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) Embassy in the CAR issued successive warnings for Chinese nationals to evacuate all areas outside of Bangui, the capital. On the same day as the attack, the Embassy called on Chinese citizens in the CAR’s external provinces to immediately evacuate themselves and report their whereabouts (PRC Embassy in CAR, March 19). A subsequent Embassy warning on March 22 went further, stressing that the situation in the CAR is now “red” or “extremely high risk,” emphasizing that the March 19 attack demonstrated the “extreme necessity of evacuating Chinese companies and nationals” in areas outside the capital “as soon as possible” (PRC Embassy in CAR, March 22). Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin stressed that General Secretary Xi Jinping was closely monitoring the situation and had instructed that immediate action be taken to ensure the safety of Chinese nationals in the CAR and to “severely punish the murderers” (严惩凶手) (PRC Foreign Ministry [FMPRC], March 20). Exactly who perpetrated the attack remains, however, unclear.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam: Cooperation and Conflict Resolution

Ethan Chiu

This content was originally written for an undergraduate or Master's program. It is published as part of our mission to showcase peer-leading papers written by students during their studies. This work can be used for background reading and research, but should not be cited as an expert source or used in place of scholarly articles/books.

Infrastructure development is often hailed as a requirement to become a developed nation. Nevertheless, building infrastructure in developing countries frequently comes with a host of health, social, economic, and political issues exacerbated by conflicting superpower and regional power interests. Currently, a major infrastructure project is the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), a massive hydroelectric dam under construction on the Blue Nile River in Ethiopia. Upon completion, the GERD is expected to be the largest hydroelectric power plant in Africa and provide much-needed electricity for Ethiopia’s rapidly growing economy. However, the construction of the dam has also sparked controversy and a contentious international dispute.[1] As such, the GERD presents a unique international cooperation problem in which uncoordinated infrastructure development is harmful, and coordination would be much more beneficial. This paper will begin with an overview of the GERD cooperation problem, prior efforts at reconciliation, undesirable outcomes of non-cooperation, and cooperative recommendations. Overall, this paper will argue that cooperation regarding the GERD would allow Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan to avoid war while mutually increasing domestic and regional economic growth.

The War in Ukraine: A Process Sociological Perspective on How We Got Here

Alexandros Koutsoukis

This article is part of a series on process sociology, which was compiled and edited by Alexandros Koutsoukis and Andrew Linklater (before his untimely passing).

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has been described as the return of geopolitics, the return of 19th Century imperialism or as a struggle between democracies and autocracies. Discussions tend to be reduced to the attribution of (direct) blame. Should one blame NATO’s eastward enlargement, Putin’s imperialism or autocracies’ character? These questions revolve around the motivations of a major power such as Russia and the role of domestic politics in fuelling this conflict. Realists may disagree about Putin’s motivations, but realism at its heart is a perspective that sees a world characterised by the recurrence[1] of realpolitik and, thus, of spheres of influence (Mearsheimer 2019). In contrast, for liberals, like Fukuyama (2012 [1992]; 2022), international politics is primarily defined by domestic politics and the character of political regimes some of which, such as Russia, are insufficiently modernised or on the wrong side of History. Despite their differences, realists and liberals perceive something similar: an almost inevitable conflict due to an aggressive great power or an aggressive autocracy. Though partially correct—NATO’s expansion has been consequential, and Russia is an aggressive, imperialist autocratic state—this picture of the war in Ukraine misses some important aspects of the crisis. Process sociology can illuminate the gradual and increasing emotional and political disentanglement of Russia from the West by offering a distinct answer to the question of how we got here.

VP Kamala Harris’ visit to Africa: Delivering on US commitments or countering China and Russia?

Landry Signé

United States Vice President Kamala Harris arrived in Ghana on March 26 to kick off her weeklong visit to three countries in Africa at a unique time in U.S.-Africa relations. Her visit comes in the wake of the progress achieved at the second-ever U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, held in December 2022. The summit was the first tangible outcome of the Biden administration’s newly announced U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa, which set the scene for the administration to reposition the U.S. as a valuable partner that reaffirms “African agency.” The summit brought together about 49 African heads of state and resulted in several major commitments from the United States including: a $55 billion pledge to support the African Union’s Agenda 2063; creation of a new Digital Transformation with Africa (DTA) initiative intended to invest over $350 million in financing Africa’s digital transformation; the appointment of Ambassador Johnnie Carson as the special presidential representative for U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit implementation; President Biden’s endorsement for the inclusion of the African Union (AU) as a permanent member of the G-20; and creation of the President’s Advisory Council on African Diaspora Engagement, among others.

While the commitments that emerged from the summit span many topics, including partnering on human rights, democracy, and gender inclusion, one topic that Vice President Harris should specifically highlight during her visit is deepening trade and investment between the U.S. and Africa. In addition to the $15.7 billion worth of private sector investments and partnerships reported by Prosper Africa during the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, the U.S. signed a memorandum of understanding to support the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), signaling a predominant focus on shifting from “aid to trade.” With the momentum rolling after a successful summit, it is critical that the vice president’s visit reiterate these priorities and that the administration continue to find ways to leverage America’s “core strengths” in private capital, advanced technologies, and soft power to implement these commitments nationally and continentwide.

Furthermore, at the global, national, and local levels, the vice president’s visit comes at a critical juncture in terms of advancing the implementation of the commitments from the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit.

Some Rules of Global Politics Matter More Than Others

Stephen M. Walt

If there's a phrase that (supposedly) defines what U.S. foreign policy is all about these days, it's "the need to uphold a rules-based order." Case in point: a desire to strengthen the current order is one of the main reasons the Biden administration has worked so hard to assemble a set of like-minded nations this week, in the second iteration of its so-called Democracy Summit. One can understand why: Saying the United States is just trying to uphold the rules is politer than saying its goal is to preserve U.S. primacy in perpetuity, weaken China permanently, topple governments it doesn't like, or undermine its other adversaries.

Of course, when U.S. officials say "rules-based order," they mean the current order, whose rules were mostly made in America. It's not the existence of rules per se that they are defending; any order involving modern states must by necessity be rules-based, because the complex interactions of a globalized world cannot be managed without agreed-upon norms and procedures. These norms range from foundational principles (e.g., the idea of sovereign equality) to mundane everyday practices (e.g., the use of English as the standard language for international air traffic control). This raises the question: Which parts of the current order is the United States most eager to defend? Which norms matter most?

For many in the West, the essential element of today's world order is the norm against territorial conquest. As U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last summer, Russia's invasion of Ukraine had challenged "the fundamental principles of peace and security … that one country can't simply change the borders of another by force or subjugate a sovereign nation to its will or dictate its choices or policies."

U.S.-China Rivalry: The Dangers of Compelling Countries to Take Sides

Gregg A. Brazinsky

As the U.S.-China rivalry intensifies — with some speculating a new Cold War is in the offing — many Asian countries are looking on with concern. If Washington seeks to maintain its role as a global leader, it should be judicious in how it contests Chinese influence in Asia, which seems likely to be the key battleground of the new Sino-American rivalry. The United States must understand that Asian countries do not want to be forced to constantly manage competing pressures from superpowers. Cold War-era Sino-American competition demonstrates that forcing Asian countries to choose sides can ultimately be counterproductive and undermines one of the United States’ chief attributes in this global competition.

As the White House hosts its second Summit for Democracy this week, it should recall a vital lesson from the Cold War that ultimately helped Washington prevail: one of the United States’ key advantages over China — then and now — is the allure of the democratic model it shares with its allies in the free world.
Lessons from the Cold War

While the Soviet Union was America’s most significant great power rival during this era, in Cambodia, Laos and other countries in the region, the United States often devoted more resources and energy to hindering Chinese efforts to gain recognition and influence. But these policies had few successes and often ended up alienating the very people whose loyalties the United States was ostensibly vying to win.

Navigating the Deployment of Russian Tactical Nuclear Warheads in Belarus: Key Factors and Considerations

Dr. András Rácz, Dr. Christian Mölling

Russia plans to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus. Many details are still unknown, including the types of warheads and storage facilities. The weapons will stay under Russian command, preventing Belarus from becoming a nuclear-armed country. Despite the announcement, the regional balance of forces is not expected to change significantly.

On March 25, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced plans to deploy tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus, a long-standing request by Belarusian leader Aliaksandr Lukashenka. The decision reportedly comes as a response to Britain's decision to supply Ukraine with ammunition containing depleted uranium - a common component of anti-tank ammunitions due to its high density and hardness. However, it is important to note that depleted uranium ammunitions are not classified as nuclear weapons, whereas tactical nuclear warheads are.

To properly assess the implications of this announcement, several important details should be taken into account.

First, Russia will retain ownership and command of these weapons. Consequently, Belarus will not become a nuclear-armed country, and nuclear proliferation will not occur. Russian soldiers stationed in Belarus will be responsible for guarding, maintaining, and operating the deployed nuclear weapons.

Silicon Valley Bank shows the perils of regulators fighting the last war

Gillian Tett

How could regulators have missed the risks at Silicon Valley Bank? That is the question many shocked investors were asking on Monday.

After all, the fact that SVB was sitting on a massive, unhedged portfolio of long-term Treasuries was no secret; last year, JPMorgan circulated shocking calculations to its clients (which were recirculated this week) that showed that these (then) unrealised losses could wipe out tier one capital.

But while some former clients of SVB tell me that this prompted them to withdraw money back then, the bank’s regulators — namely the Federal Reserve and California regulators — seemingly did nothing.

Worse still, SVB’s top managers were permitted to sell their shares two weeks ago, just before a bungled attempt at capital raising. This is shocking.

So what made people so blind? One factor was America’s fragmented regulatory structure, which often causes problems to fall between the cracks.

Another was politics. Republicans have pushed to loosen bank regulations in recent years and banks such as SVB have previously lobbied to be excluded from the category of “systemically important banks” — meaning they faced lower capital and liquidity standards. This is mad.

Ukraine Is Forming Three New Army Corps—Should It Bring Back Divisions Too?

Sebastien Roblin

How should Ukraine organize its forces? The most important fighting units in Ukraine’s massive ground war to roll back the Russian invasion are the armed forces’ dozens of brigades of infantry and armor, each of which counts between 1,000 to 4,000 personnel.
Ukraine Corps Strategy

Organizationally, the prominence of the brigade is in line with most 21st-century armies. But what’s unusual is that Ukraine’s brigades aren’t assigned any permanent headquarters in a higher organizational echelon—like divisions, corps, or field armies. Instead, they’re shuffled between Ukraine’s four regional commands, which then undertake to provide vital logistical and combat support.

This wasn’t always the case. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Ukraine’s armed forces inherited 14 divisions as well as three Army Corps HQs (two formed from former Soviet 6th and 8th Tank Armies) which were disbanded in 2004, 2013, and 2015.

The retirement of these large formations, unlikely to maneuver together on the battlefield, probably seemed practical and forward-thinking at the time. And the regional model seemed to work during the first year of Russia’s large-scale invasion, as Ukraine harnessed its secure interior lines of communication to rapidly shuttle its best brigades from one end of the country to the other, slotting in to stamp out operational crises or mount local counter-offensives, then rotating out as they got ground down from combat.

China-Russia links in cyberspace are a source of concern, says America’s top cyber warrior

Bhagyashree Garekar

SINGAPORE - China and Russia are trading information in cyberspace, a development that the United States regards with deep concern, says the man charged with preventing and defeating cyber attacks on America.

“What we see with both China and Russia is a close association of being able to share information,” General Paul Nakasone, the head of the US Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency, told The Straits Times in an interview on Friday.

He was asked if he saw signs that the two countries were collaborating in cyberspace, amid accusations from top US officials that Beijing is considering supplying arms to support Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Referring to the meetings this week in Moscow between Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, Gen Nakasone said the US was in the process of identifying the nature of information that the two countries had shared. “What type of information was shared? What type of discussions are they conducting? This is broadly what we are looking at.”

In its annual threat assessment released in early March, the US said China represents the topmost cyber espionage threat to the US government and private-sector networks. The report also named Russia, Iran and North Korea as other nations with growing cyber attack capabilities.

“We’re very concerned not only about China and Russia, but all adversaries that are operating in this domain of cyberspace. We continue to maintain strong vigilance against those nations to understand what they’re trying to do,” Gen Nakasone said. “What is their tradecraft? What are the techniques that they’re using?”

Reflecting on One Year of War

Clara Le Gargasson, James Black

In December 2021, with Russian troops massed on Ukraine's borders, President Biden ruled out sending U.S. forces to defend Ukraine. A year after the invasion, direct military engagement between NATO and Russia remains out-of-bounds. Despite this, the West finds itself in indirect conflict with Russia, backing Ukraine with weapons, intelligence, training, and an unprecedented package of sanctions against Moscow.

The pressing question is: what kind of conflict? To understand this, and how its dynamics may evolve, it is important to understand concepts such as "sub-threshold" and "gray zone" competition; to be able to identify the main military and non-military levers in use; and to explore how these are being employed by the West and Russia one year on.

RUSI State Threats Taskforce: ‘Assessing the Threats’

This report outlines discussions held on 9 February 2023 on the changing state threats landscape.


In line with the UK’s Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy (IR), RUSI has set up a Taskforce on State Threats, to support the UK and its partners‘ ability to detect, understand, attribute and act in response to such threats. As part of this work, the RUSI team is conducting two expert workshops on different aspects of state threats. The following meeting note provides an overview of the key themes discussed in the first workshop, held online on 9 February 2023, which focused on: state threat actors, vectors and targets of attack; vulnerabilities; and strengths and weaknesses in UK capabilities.

The meeting was structured around an opening plenary discussion, with an initial presentation that outlined the evolving UK government approach to state threats. The presentation noted that the UK government has identified state threats as overt or covert actions orchestrated by a foreign government which fall short of war, and which contain three elements: a state actor; a vector of attack (that is, a method of attack); and a targeted asset. Using this methodology, the UK government has identified five categories of threat: physical threats to (a) people and (b) assets; information acquisition; interference with democracy; and attempts to shape the international order. It has further identified 15 vectors of attack, distributed across the categories. The presentation highlighted some of the weaknesses of the current approach, the most significant of which was a lack of prioritisation, and noted potential ‘lenses’ that might be applied to help with this. These lenses comprised prioritising those threats that were: the focus of the most hostile/capable state actors; directed at the most significant UK vulnerabilities; affected the most significant UK assets; or where the UK currently had more limited capacity to respond.


Russia’s war in Ukraine has fundamentally changed the international order that is based on norms and values of state sovereignty and international law. While the Balkan wars in the nineties were the result of internal turmoil leading to the collapse of Yugoslavia, the Russian-Ukrainian armed conflict marks the return of large-scale interstate warfare in Europe for the first time since the end of the Second World War. A year after the Russian invasion was launched on 24 February 2022, valuable lessons can already be drawn for the characteristics of modern warfare. The conflict has shown – both in the run-up to the invasion as well as after the start of the war – that non-military aspects are part of Russia’s strategy. Well-known examples are the abuse of the European ‘oil and gas dependency’ on Russia, the spread of disinformation, cyberattacks and the channelling of refugees and migration flows. What these means have in common is that they are aimed at undermining the unity of the West and destabilising their societies and democracies. This very complex set of hybrid threats raises new questions on how to respond to them, as the hybrid domain requires the involvement of many different actors at the national and international level: from various ministries and even private companies (such as the energy sector) to the EU and NATO.

As hybrid challenges have become an integral part of modern conflict, the question has arisen what kind of role should be laid down for the armed forces. Hybrid challenges are very often of a transboundary and non-military nature. Therefore, they have to be addressed primarily by civil actors. But in addition, the military can also play a role in countering hybrid threats, and this raises the question of the role of multinational (military) formats such as the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF). The JEF is a multinational military formation of northern European countries with the United Kingdom as the lead nation. Since 2019, the JEF has increasingly focused its activities on the hybrid domain. The war in Ukraine has been a catalyst for increased cooperation in the JEF context at the political, policy and military operational levels. The Russian threat, both physically (conventional forces) and virtually/digitally, has become the main focus of attention. It is in the latter category of threats that the JEF Nations are struggling with the question of what its role should be.

IP23034 | The Offence-Defence Balance and The Air War in Ukraine: Thoughts for Small State Defence Policies

David Fowler

The war in Ukraine illustrates that defense is indeed the stronger form of war. The inability of the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) to overcome Ukrainian air defences and achieve air superiority stymied the chance of a swift and decisive Russian victory. Instead, the war has stagnated into a war of attrition. At a theoretical level, Ukraine’s ability to effect a strategy of air denial against a technologically and numerically superior air force challenges the credibility of military strategies premised on attaining and maintaining air superiority as the cornerstone of defence and deterrence. DAVID FOWLER analyses the success of Ukrainian defence and how small states can adapt similar strategies in their defence policies.


The war between Russia and Ukraine illustrates the truth behind Clausewitz’s aphorism that the defensive form of warfare is intrinsically stronger than the offensive. The moral strength that the Ukrainians have gained from the knowledge they are defending their country appears, for now, resolutely up to the task of offsetting Russian numerical and technological superiority. The strength of the Ukrainian defence, however, depends on more than just the moral advantages of fighting on home turf. The emergence of new defensive technologies has played a critical part in denying Russia the swift and decisive victory that Moscow had perhaps envisioned. The Ukrainian military’s successful denial of effective air superiority to the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) illustrates the relative strength of defence on the modern battlefield.

Athena Has Arrived

Col. Everett S.P.

The mythical Greek goddess Athena was renowned for her ferocity … and her wisdom. Deeply valuing this military and intellectual excellence, many years ago West Point assumed Athena’s helmet as one of its primary institutional symbols. Today, it still adorns many cadet uniforms, academic buildings, sports fields, special equipment and more.

Yet, symbols are only meaningful if they inspire future positive human behavior. If you’re looking for the virtues of Athena in a senior military officer, what knowledge, skills and behaviors would one look for?

Regarding Athena’s military excellence, the U.S. Army has established formal processes such as command selection boards and command assessment programs to select its best leaders and warriors to lead its battalions. Due to both voluntary officer attrition and the Army’s centralized selection process, fewer than one out of every 10 active-duty second lieutenants will ever command an Army battalion. Indeed, the Army’s battalion commanders are among our nation’s finest warriors.

Considering Athena’s academic excellence, Army officers who earn a doctoral degree (typically Ph.D.’s) are even rarer than those who command battalions. Whereas graduation from most undergraduate and master’s degree programs is guaranteed if one adequately completes a specified set of courses, earning a Ph.D. entails the rigors and unknowns of researching a new human, social or scientific phenomenon, and sharing that knowledge with the world through a published dissertation. The Ph.D. graduate is a producer of knowledge versus just a consumer of it. Indeed, the Army’s Ph.D. is among our nation’s finest scholars.

Operation Iraqi Freedom: Learning Lessons from a Lost War

Heather S. Gregg
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Twenty years ago, the United States, together with a “coalition of the willing,” invaded Iraq with the initial goals of eliminating the country’s purported weapon of mass destruction capabilities, severing Iraq’s alleged support of al Qaeda, and deposing Saddam Hussein and Ba’ath Party leadership. In its place, the Bush administration promised to create a democracy in Iraq, develop an economy based on Iraq’s oil wealth, and build a professional military.

Ultimately, the justifications for the invasion were unfounded. Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction program proved to be virtually non-existent and Iraq’s purported ties to al Qaeda were also found to be untrue.

The costs of the war were significant. Between 2003 and March 6, 2023, Department of Defense Casualty Index reports 4,431 US troops died in Iraq and 31,944 were wounded in action. Allies and partners that supported the war in Iraq also lost lives, eroding goodwill and straining important relationships. And, although exact numbers vary and will never be known, estimated deaths of Iraqi civilians are in the hundreds of thousands, with one estimate at nearly half a million. The war also touched off two decades of forced migration, including an estimated 9.2 million refugees and internally displaced persons, and caused a significant “brain drain” from Iraq, depleting it of the talent necessary to run the country. Alongside the toll on the population, Iraq’s physical infrastructure, including its oil production capabilities and electrical grid, were significantly damaged in the course of war. Ironically, the invasion helped create the conditions for the rise of al Qaeda in Iraq and its successor, the Islamic State, which occupied large portions of the country from 2014 to 2017. The fight to defeat the Islamic State caused further death and destruction in Iraq and Syria.