19 May 2023

Biden, Modi Seek to Deepen Their Bonds, But Geopolitical Friendships Have Limits

Josh Boak and Ashok Sharma

President Joe Biden has made it a mission for the United States to build friendships overseas — and the next few weeks will offer a vivid demonstration of the importance he’s placing on a relationship with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The two are both scheduled to attend this week’s Group of Seven summit in Japan, a subsequent gathering of Pacific island leaders in Papua New Guinea, and a later meeting of Indo-Pacific leaders in Australia. Those travels will be followed by a June 22 state visit by Modi to Washington, a sign that both seem willing to deepen their bonds.

But like many geopolitical friendships, things are complicated between the world’s largest economy (the United States) and its most populous nation (India).

The personal outreach has a clear strategic calculus as both countries respond to China’s economic rise and increased global prominence. Yet while Biden champions democratic ideals and openly opposes Russia for invading Ukraine, Modi has offered tepid criticism of Russia and opponents say he is eroding India’s democratic traditions.

“It’s a long game of steady forward movement in defense relations and some fairly rapid intensification of business ties — with the pace of both determined by the speed of movement on the Indian side,” said Kurt Tong, a former ambassador for the United States who is now managing partner of The Asia Group, a consultancy.

Biden last year publicly called India’s response to the war in Ukraine “shaky.” India abstained from voting on U.N. resolutions condemning Russia and refused to join the global coalition against Russia. Modi had a relatively warm relationship with Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, and has made some efforts to forge a connection with Biden, who is known to focus on his Irish roots even when meeting with leaders of other nations.

When Modi came to Washington in September 2021, he brought with him documents about people with the last name “Biden” in India.

India tilts West as Russian ties cool


In a nutshellIndia will cut dependence on Russia for weapons, but not energy

New Delhi will seek to remain a nonaligned Global South leader

The U.S. and India are cooperating more closely on China policy

The United States envisions cooperation with India as crucial to helping ease Washington’s concerns over the destabilizing activities of China in the Indo-Pacific. The U.S. also sees Russia as a strategic threat. India, however, has a historic and enduring relationship with Russia. Russia is a significant exporter of arms, about $13 billion in the last five years, and oil, about 1.6 million barrels per day in February, to India. With Russia’s ever-closer relationship with China, the U.S. evaluates the long-term prospects for Indian-Russian relations and how they might affect cooperation with India in responding to mutual concerns.
The nature of Indian-Russian ties

During the Cold War, U.S.-Indian relations were strained over the Indian nuclear weapons program and close American ties with Pakistan, with which India has territorial disputes that erupted into armed conflict. U.S. sanctions led India to turn to Russia as its principal arms supplier. In addition, New Delhi emerged as the global nonaligned movement leader. While the movement purported to eschew choosing sides in the Cold War, the Soviets actively supported it. Further, many Indians went to Russia for advanced military, scientific and public education.

In recent years, India has developed much closer ties with America. The nation sees American power and influence as key in balancing the rise of China in the Indo-Pacific. The capstone of cooperation emerged in establishing the Quad, a joint Indian, U.S., Australian and Japanese forum aimed at promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific and managing the security challenge from China. Nevertheless, India continues to have strong economic, diplomatic and military ties with Russia.

The challenge of Chinese-Russian cooperation

Is Pakistan’s Powerful Military on the Ropes?

Kiyya Baloch

Police officers throw stones towards supporters of Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan during clashes, in Islamabad, Pakistan, May 10, 2023.Credit: AP Photo

Last week, supporters of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) went on a rampage, expressing great anger toward Pakistan’s powerful army. Between May 9 and 12, PTI workers in several Pakistani cities vandalized the houses of high-ranking senior army officers in military cantonment areas, set fire to key government and army installations, blocked roads, and damaged metro stations.

The violence erupted hours after the Rangers, a paramilitary force led by Pakistan Army officers, arrested former cricket star turned politician and Pakistan’s ex-Prime Minister Imran Khan on the premises of Islamabad High Court in a corruption case on May 9.

After Khan’s arrest, the videos and pictures of vandalism from Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province, were unprecedented. It reminded me of the Arab Spring, when several Arab nations launched an uprising in the early 2010s against monarchies and undemocratic forces. The majority of the Arab Spring protesters were middle-class youth seeking dignity. They were seen burning down the properties of powerful rulers and monarchies on the streets. In a similar pattern, thousands of angry young men and women took to the streets in Pakistan to resist the arrest of Khan on May 9.

While the current government insists Khan was arrested after an impartial legal investigation, the PTI alleges that the former prime minister was targeted at the direction of the powerful military. The military has massive influence in local politics, having directly ruled the country for approximately 35 years out of Pakistan’s 75 years history. Even when not directly in control, the military has a proven track record of political interference, manipulating and breaking political parties and using politicians against each other in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s top court ruled on May 11 that Khan’s arrest was illegal and ordered his release. After being granted interim bail by the Islamabad High Court on Friday, Khan again criticized Pakistan’s intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and further went on to blame the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Asim Munir, for his dramatic arrest.

Pakistan: In the Eye of the Political Storm

Joe Wallen

Security escort a vehicle carrying Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan and his wife Bushra Bibi after their court appearance, in Lahore, Pakistan, May 15, 2023.Credit: AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary

Pakistanis could be forgiven for waking up on Tuesday morning and questioning whether the previous week’s events were an unnerving nightmare.

The world’s fifth most populous country is no stranger to political unrest. No prime minister has ever completed their tenure in Pakistan’s history, but never before has a politician challenging the country’s all-powerful military and intelligence services, known as the establishment, enjoyed such public support.

One week ago, on May 9, former Prime Minister Imran Khan was violently beaten and then detained by the country’s paramilitary. This led to several days of rioting across Pakistan.

While he has since been released – after Pakistan’s Supreme Court ruled that his detention on an alleged land fraud charge was “invalid” and “unlawful” – the current stalemate will be temporary, not permanent.

Khan, who narrowly survived an assassination attempt in November, plans to resume his campaigning for early elections in Pakistan on Wednesday.

Ousted from power in April 2022 in a no confidence vote after falling out with the country’s establishment, Khan’s popularity is now at an all-time high. There is little doubt that if free elections are held, as planned, in the autumn, he will return as prime minister. The Pakistani people are seemingly prepared to take on the country’s establishment, for the first time in history, in an attempt to ensure that happens.

Taiwan loses another diplomatic partner as Nicaragua recognizes China

Nicaragua’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it would no longer have any official contact with Taiwan, which Beijing claims is a province of China. Describing Taiwan as an “inalienable part of Chinese territory,” the ministry said it “recognizes that there is only one China in the world.”

In a statement on Twitter on Friday in Asia, Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said that Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega had “disregarded” a “long-standing friendship.” “It’s with great regret we end diplomatic ties with Nicaragua,” it said, adding that “Taiwan remains unbowed [and] will continue as a force for good in the world.”

The break in ties, which leaves 14 countries that recognize Taiwan, comes amid tensions between China and the United States and aggressive Chinese actions toward Taiwan. The democratic island has close unofficial links with Washington despite U.S. diplomatic ties with Beijing under the one-China policy, which acknowledges Beijing’s claim to Taiwan without formally recognizing it.

The dispute over Taiwan’s status dates back to the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949, when defeated Nationalist forces fled to the island and established an administration there, eventually transitioning to democracy decades later. China’s ruling Communist Party has asserted sovereignty over Taiwan ever since, but it has never ruled the island, and there is limited support in Taiwan for a union with Beijing.

Nicaragua’s announcement came after months of worsening relations with the United States, which imposed sanctions on a national security adviser of Ortega and called the president’s win last month of a fourth term a “pantomime election.”

Nicaragua's Foreign Minister Denis Moncada said “there is only one China in the world” in a televised announcement on Dec. 10. (Video: AP)

“Nicaragua sees China as a way out,” said Teng Chung-Chian, a professor at National Chengchi University’s Department of Diplomacy. “The U.S. sanctions were the fuse, coupled with Taiwan’s close relationship with the United States.”


The Third Ministers’ Meeting of the China - CELAC Forum took place, virtually, on December 3rd, 2021.

The People’s Republic of China and the CELAC Member States (hereinafter “the Parties”), hereby agree to adopt the China-CELAC Joint Action Plan for Cooperation in Key Areas (2022-2024) through friendly consultations on an equal standing, the text of which is detailed below:

I. Political and Security Cooperation

1. Strengthen high-level contacts and meetings between leaders and representatives of both Parties in multilateral fora and other forms of exchange, and to expand contacts at different levels to share governance and public administration experiences to a greater extent.

2. The possibility of holding a CCF Summit in 2024 on occasion of its tenth anniversary will be explored.

3. Respectful of domestic laws of each country and based on the principles of international law, promote dialogue and cooperation in combating all forms of terrorism and its financing, as well as violent extremism and the dissemination of hate speech in cyberspace, and share knowledge, policies, technologies and experiences in this regard. Agree to promote and implement United Nation (UN) Security Council’s Resolution 1373.

4. In accordance with the respective domestic laws of each country and the agreed international conventions, strengthen dialogue and cooperation against all manifestations of transnational organized crime, illicit arms trafficking, and illicit financial flows and address the illicit production and trafficking of narcotic drugs, and psychotropic substances.

5. Cooperate to facilitate the implementation of United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolution 1540 (2004), to effectively advance on disarmament and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (nuclear, biological and chemical) and their means of delivery, and to strengthen dialogue and cooperation on conventional arsenal and ammunition control. China is willing to further strengthen its contacts and cooperation with the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (OPANAL).

Chinese Investment Near Panama Canal, Strait of Magellan Major Concern for U.S. Southern Command

John Grady

Army Gen. Laura Richardson, gives the keynote address during the Metropolitan State University of Denver on Dec. 17, 2022. US Southern Command Photo

Restrictions to the passage of traffic through the Panama Canal and the Strait of Magellan as China moves aggressively to expand its footprint across Central and South America are the top concerns of the current U.S. Southern Command head told a Senate panel.

“[Those] very strategic lines of communication that must be kept open,” said Army Gen. Laura Richardson in a Thursday hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

In Panama, PRC-based companies are engaged in or bidding for several projects related to the Panama Canal, a global strategic chokepoint, including port operations on both ends of the canal, water management, and a logistics park,” according to Richardson’s written testimony.

“We have a lot of ground to make up” with the government of Panama in investing in projects important to [Panama] as Beijing has done, she added. Richardson cited a Corps of Engineers major water project as a step in the right direction.

Likewise, the Chinese have invested heavily in a space-research project in Argentina that would allow Beijing to track U.S. satellites and also won the rights to build facilities near the Magellan Strait that would also give China access to Antarctica.

Richardson told the panel the Beijing’s investments in Central and South American infrastructure, particularly ports, follow the pattern it developed in Africa. Right now, the “Chinese have 29 port projects” across the command, including a major one in El Salvador that has economic implications for other Central American nations.

Ports have civilian and military value.

To date, the Chinese have not participated in large-scale military exercises in the region, although they have sold anti-ship missiles to Venezuela in the last two years. Iran is also reported to have sold similar systems to Caracas.

Key Decision Point Coming for the Panama Canal

Daniel F. Runde and Amy Doring

The Panama Canal sits at the nexus of international political and economic concerns. Following the Canal’s expansion in 2016, the waterway annually registers nearly 14,000 transits, a value equal to 6 percent of global trade. The Canal’s global shipping role has only increased amid the disruption of global supply chains during the Covid-19 pandemic and U.S. calls for nearshoring away from China. The United States remains the top user of the Canal—in 2019, 66 percent of the cargo traffic transiting the Canal began or ended its journey at a U.S. port; cargo from or destined to China made up 13 percent of Canal traffic. Still, China is the primary source of products going through the Colón Free Trade Zone and its increasing presence in and around the Canal has made the waterway a flashpoint for U.S.-China competition over spheres of influence. China’s influence in the Panama Canal has only grown since 2017 when then-president Carlos Varela severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan and recognized China, further opening the door to China’s expanded footprint in critical Canal infrastructure and laying the groundwork for alignment with the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Q1: How is the Panama Canal currently governed?

A1: The Panama Canal has been fully owned and administered by the Republic of Panama since the transfer of management from the joint U.S.-Panamanian Panama Canal Commission in 1999. Today, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) is charged with the administration and maintenance of the waterway’s resources and security as an independent entity of the national government. Governed by the 11 members of its board of directors, the ACP’s members maintain overlapping terms to ensure independence from each presidential administration. Designated by Panama’s president, the chairman of the board holds the rank of minister of state for Canal affairs and under the supervision of the board, the designated Canal administrator heads the ACP, implementing the decisions of the board. Through contract awards, the ACP in turn grants concession agreements to companies for port operations.

China To Finance Development & Logistics Of Argentina’s Beagle Channel Around South America?

Silk Road Briefing

China’s Antarctic and LatAm interests make a match for Argentinian developments

With Argentina having joined China’s Belt & Road Initiative earlier this year, becoming the largest LatAm economy to do so, discussions are apparently taking place concerning the development of the Beagle Channel, an inland strip of water separating Argentina and Chile at the southern tip of South America. It is one of three main routes that allow shipping to navigate around the continent, which is notorious for poor shipping conditions.

At present, the route most often used by commercial vessels needing to round South America is the open ocean, Drake Passage. However, global warming is affecting weather and the tendency for this route to become more perilous over time. The Beagle Channel (named after the ship used by Charles Darwin on his naturist explorations) can handle deep water vessels and crucially, being inland offers protection against extreme Oceanic weather. It runs for 240km and is 3km wide. It can also function as a gateway to Antartica, where China has four research and exploration bases.

Argentina has already developed an integrated naval base and an Antarctic Logistic Pole in Ushuaia, on the Beagle Channel, to be used as an Antarctic logistics base. This involves the building of a pier to dock deep sea vessels, including icebreakers, the building of facilities to house an increase of military personnel stationed in the area, while the existing Ushuaia Naval base and its logistics, plus other facilities such as workshops for the repair of vessels, covered storage spaces, scientific labs for the different government agencies linked to Antarctic activities, a fuel plant and a runways for heavy duty aircraft are all part of this project.

Argentina has been increasingly turning to China to help bail out its appalling economic record, with the US-controlled IMF politicizing loans due to Argentina’s support for the Venezuelan Government, which Washington does not recognize. China’s Antarctic interests and the further development of a South American trade route present an interesting opportunity for China to develop commercial trade in a region Washington has long neglected and interfered with. Argentina has been replacing loans and aid from the IMF with increasing ties to Chinese-led policy banks such as the AIIB.

Adm. Faller Remarks, Project 2049 Conference on U.S.-China Strategic Competition in the Western Hemisphere

Chairman Shriver, Randy, Mr. Shriver, all the above, great to see you again, and great to see such a talented team. I really appreciated our time together when you were the Assistant Secretary of Defense for INDOPACOM, and your intellect and focus, and calm, cool, collected nature, despite 23-hour trips at times.

Also great to see Dr. Chavez, Rebecca. Good to team up again in another venue. And Ms. Mukai, nice to meet your acquaintance virtually, and look forward to the discussion today.

An important discussion. We talked about Secretary Mattis and the National Defense Strategy. The key concept that was baked into that strategy by then Secretary Mattis was this idea of expanding the competitive space. Being the best that we can be across all dimensions, and being the best on the field, to use a sports analogy. Part and parcel of that was (the) recognition that the problem we faced was recognizing that we were in competition and to be able to talk openly and honestly about that.

And today we find ourselves talking a lot and focusing a lot on the Indo-Pacific region, rightly so. The tensions in the Taiwan Straits, the South China Sea, the building of islands, all demand our attention. The Pacific deterrence initiative and other initiatives are so important. INDOPACOM Commander Admiral Davidson in his last testimony before he retired stated that China is the number one strategic threat we face in the 21st century, and I could not agree more with his statement.

But that competition and borderline conflict in some domains is not just playing itself out in INDOPACOM. It’s right here, right now in this region, our neighborhood of the Western Hemisphere. And it’s playing out around the globe.

My dad 83 years old. Well-read, very smart, watches too much TV, lives in Central PA, asks me all the time: “hey, what are you doing this week, why should I care?” Why should Americans or why would any of our international audience care about Latin America and the Caribbean in the context of global competition with China?

For us, it’s about values. It’s about democracies and the importance of those institutions going forward. I look at this region, our neighborhood here as a region of real promise. The proximity, location matters, the distance to the United States is key. The people, those values associated with the people and the cultural connections. The economic dependencies, and the important economic powerhouse that this region really is and then resources, and fresh water at the top of that resource list. A very underappreciated dimension of the resources, that are truly a blessing in this region.

China’s Growing Influence in Latin America

Diana Roy

China is South America’s top trading partner and a major source of both foreign direct investment and lending in energy and infrastructure, including through its Belt and Road Initiative.

It has invested heavily in Latin America’s space sector and has strengthened its military ties with several countries, particularly Venezuela.

Washington is wary of these developments, and critics say Beijing is leveraging its economic might to further its strategic goals.


China’s role in Latin America has grown rapidly since 2000, promising economic opportunity even while raising concerns over Beijing’s influence. China’s state firms are major investors in the region’s energy, infrastructure, and space industries, and the country has surpassed the United States as South America’s largest trading partner. Beijing has also expanded its diplomatic, cultural, and military presence. Most recently, it has leveraged its support in the fight against COVID-19, supplying the region with medical equipment, loans, and hundreds of millions of vaccine doses.

But the United States and its allies fear that Beijing is using these relationships to pursue its geopolitical goals, including the further isolation of Taiwan, and to bolster authoritarian regimes. U.S. President Joe Biden, who sees China as a “strategic competitor” in the region, is seeking ways to counter its growing sway.

What is China’s history with Latin America?

China’s ties to the region date to the sixteenth century, when the Manila galleon trade route facilitated the exchange of porcelain, silk, and spices between China and Mexico. By the 1840s, hundreds of thousands of Chinese immigrants were being sent to work as “coolies,” or indentured servants, in Cuba and Peru, often on sugar plantations or in silver mines. Over the next century, China’s ties to the region were largely migration-related [PDF] as Beijing remained preoccupied with its own domestic upheaval.

China’s Influence in LatAm Is Fueled by Billions of USD in Investments

Carlos Rodríguez Salcedo

Beijing’s money has grown as a proportion of total projects in the region. The US is no longer indifferent to the support deployed by the Asian power.

Bogota Metro.The mayor of Bogota, Claudia Lopez, arrives at the signing of the act of commencement of the construction of the Bogota subway at an event held in October 2020.(Christian Martinez)

The people of Bogota had to wait 77 years and almost 20 governments to sign the final contract that would give life to the first subway line in the capital of Colombia, a project that was conceived in 1942 and that only until 2019 saw the final step so that it could become a reality. Four years earlier, but in Brazil, one of the main deals in Latin America took place in 2015 when a tender was held for the concessions of the Ilha Solteira and Jupiá hydroelectric plants for US$3.68 billion. Although it might seem that the two projects have nothing in common, they do have a commonality. Both projects are financed by China, the world’s second largest economy.

And this is no coincidence. The Asian giant, which today faces the collapse of the real estate giant Evergrande, went from representing less than 1% of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the world to 11% in 2020, becoming the third largest source of FDI in the world after the European Union and the United States.

The Latin American and Caribbean economies have not been unaffected. A report by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), a United Nations agency, analyzed the growth of Chinese investment in the region. To do so, it took into account mergers and acquisitions of assets located in the countries and announcements of new investment projects.

Chinese Interest and Investment in Latin America and the Caribbean

Charles Davis.

Never before in modern human history has a state so powerful, so fundamentally put at risk the global institutional order, security, freedoms and prosperity of the rest, employing an approach that was so superficially benign, and disarming its targets from within by playing to their short-term material interests. – Evan Ellis 1/27/2021

In June 2022, the United States hosted its 9th Summit of the Americas. However, a summary Congressional Research Report indicates only 23 of the 35 member heads of state participated. [1] The decision to boycott, by so many leaders, hinged on President Biden’s decision to exclude Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. And while the leaders of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela are undesirable partners for the United States, the response from other Latin American Countries reinforces a regional perception that only US interests are a priority for the United States.

Final commitments from the Americas Summit are firmly nested in the Biden Administration’s climate initiatives as it seeks to establish a resilient Caribbean region regarding natural disasters, catastrophic weather events, and migration. However, on a geo-political stage, China may have been the big winner at an event it didn’t even attend. With every American misstep, China’s influence in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) continues to expand.
China’s Belt and Road Initiative

Based on the Green Finance & Development Center reports, of the 33 countries in LAC, 20 state leaders have committed to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in the region. [2] Key among those participants are Argentina, Cuba, Venezuela, Panama, and Chile. While not a member, Brazil remains heavily tied to significant loan obligations as well. [3] These economic ties did not occur overnight, but the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has made significant inroads over the past 20 years while the United States remained focused on the Middle East. Chinese trade in LAC has continued to rise. In 2002 trade peaked at 18 billion USD, reaching 449 billion USD in 2021. [4]

Why Xi Is Ghosting Biden

Craig Singleton

Chinese leader Xi Jinping is ghosting U.S. President Joe Biden. Indeed, it has been six months since the two leaders last spoke—in the interim, Beijing has blamed busy schedules and even balloons for the extended lapse in leader-to-leader engagement. All the while, Xi found time to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow and host high-level diplomatic delegations from France, Germany, and Brazil. Having exhausted every possible excuse, China recently acknowledged that it might not want to talk at all. “Communication [with the United States] should not be carried out for the sake of communication,” Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Wang Wenbin said in March.

Henry Kissinger explains how to avoid world war three

In beijing they have concluded that America will do anything to keep China down. In Washington they are adamant that China is scheming to supplant the United States as the world’s leading power. For a sobering analysis of this growing antagonism—and a plan to prevent it causing a superpower war—visit the 33rd floor of an Art Deco building in midtown Manhattan, the office of Henry Kissinger.

On May 27th Mr Kissinger will turn 100. Nobody alive has more experience of international affairs, first as a scholar of 19th-century diplomacy, later as America’s national security adviser and secretary of state, and for the past 46 years as a consultant and emissary to monarchs, presidents and prime ministers. Mr Kissinger is worried. “Both sides have convinced themselves that the other represents a strategic danger,” he says. “We are on the path to great-power confrontation.”

With Taiwan in Mind, China Observes Attack Helicopter Operations in Ukraine

Lyle Goldstein and Nathan Waechter

In shaping patterns of future warfare, there is little doubt that militaries across the world will be seeking to absorb the key lessons of the Russia-Ukraine War, ranging from the employment of tanks to the use of anti-ship cruise missiles and the ubiquitous drones. For the Chinese military, these lessons might even assume a greater importance, since the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) lacks recent major combat experience, and has also leaned heavily on Russian weapons and doctrine for its rapid modernization over the last few decades.

Chinese media coverage of the war in Ukraine has been extensive. The close nature of the China-Russia “quasi-alliance” means that Chinese military analysts have not engaged in the ruthless critiques of Russian military performance that have been commonplace in the West. Yet, Chinese military analyses are still probing deeply for lessons to understand the shape of modern warfare. They have taken particular interest in the U.S. employment of novel weapons and strategies.

To fully grasp the scope and depth of these Chinese analyses it is important to take assessments from a full range of Chinese military media, which is more extensive than is often appreciated in the West. These articles are generally associated with research institutes that are directly involved in the Chinese military-industrial complex.

This exclusive series for The Diplomat will represent the first systematic attempt by Western analysts to evaluate these Chinese assessments of the war in Ukraine across the full spectrum of warfare, including the land, sea, air and space, and information domains. 

Over the last 20 years China has invested in building up a massive force of modern military helicopters. Chinese sources explicitly state such forces “were largely designed around cross-sea flight operations” – namely for the Taiwan scenario.

Belt & Road encircles Latin America and the Caribbean


My recent pair of articles based on an interview with Professor David Arase of the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, published in Asia Times under the title
Belt & Road Phase 2 moves beyond infrastructure and ‘Greater Eurasia’: Belt & Road expands in Africa, detailed the evolution of China’s Belt & Road Initiative beyond large infrastructure projects and its expansion in Africa.

This article follows up with a review of the Chinese economic and strategic presence in Latin America and the Caribbean, which is attracting more and more attention from concerned US foreign policy specialists.

For one thing, as Arase points out, “The number and distribution of port investment projects is impressive and can make China’s Maritime Silk Road circumnavigate the globe, from the South Pacific to Latin America, through the Panama Canal and the Caribbean to Brazil, and then to Belt & Road ports in West Africa.”

Overall, what’s happening undermines the notion that Latin America is the United States’ “backyard.” Admiral Craig Faller, the head of US Southern Command, recently told NBC News: “Chinese influence is global, and it is everywhere in this hemisphere, and moving forward in alarming ways.”
Cuba joins Belt and Road

On December 25, 2021, Cuba and China signed a “cooperation plan” for the joint promotion of the Belt and Road Initiative.

Call it a Christmas present for US President Joe Biden, Senator Marco Rubio and others in Washington, DC, who don’t like either country. Or a reminder that Taiwan is not the only offshore island of strategic interest.

Cuba joined Belt & Road in 2018 through a memorandum of understanding. The cooperation plan, in the words of China’s Global Times, clarifies the “key… projects for China and Cuba … including infrastructure, technology, culture, education, tourism, energy, communications and biotechnology, which are in line with Cuba’s development plans for the short and long term.”

Countries of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)

In March 2022, the number of countries that have joined the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with China is 148*. Accordingly,

149 countries including China are part of the BRI*according to www.yidaiyilu.gov.cn, 149 countries had signed MoUs including Palestine, which is not an independent country under the United Nations.

The countries of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) are spread across all continents:44 countries are in Sub-Saharan Africa

35 BRI countries are in Europe & Central Asia
25 BRI countries are in East Asia & Pacific (including China)
21 BRI countries are in Latin America & Caribbean
18 BRI countries in Middle East & North Africa
6 countries are in South East Asia

The BRI also works with 18 countries of the European Union (EU) and 9 countries of the G20.

*For some countries that are listed as having signed an MoU for the BRI, the availability of independent information is limited and partly contradictory . For example, Austria, Niger and Russian Federation have not published a confirmation of signing a full MoU for bilateral cooperation under the BRI or even denied it. Some countries’ MoUs have potentially also expired due to their initial duration of 5 years. Some of these countries are listed as “unclear” in the following map of countries of the Belt and Road Initiative.

2022 Summit of the Americas

The United States hosted the Ninth Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles on June 6-10, 2022. The Summits of the Americas, held roughly every three years since 1994, serve as opportunities for the Western Hemisphere’s heads of government to engage directly with one another and address issues of collective concern. The official theme of the summit was “Building a Sustainable, Resilient, and Equitable Future.” However, much of the media attention in the lead-up to the meeting focused on which leaders would attend. As the summit was about to start, the Biden Administration announced the authoritarian governments of Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela would be excluded, leading Mexico and a few other countries to send lower-level delegations and St. Vincent and the Grenadines to boycott the meeting. 

Ultimately, 23 of the hemisphere’s 35 heads of government participated in the summit, along with representatives of eight other countries. Three official stakeholder forums occurred alongside the summit, bringing together civil society, youth, and private sector representatives to discuss regional challenges and interact with the assembled leaders. Many in Congress have expressed interest in the Los Angeles summit and in efforts to strengthen hemispheric ties. The Senate adopted a resolution (S.Res. 120) recognizing the summit and reaffirming the U.S. commitment to the hemisphere; the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing to assess the prospects for enhanced cooperation; and Members of both houses, including the Speaker, traveled to Los Angeles to observe the proceedings and meet with regional leaders. Some Members also introduced measures in advance of the summit that would seek to enhance economic ties (S.Res. 661 and H.R. 7935), support democratic governance (S. 4285), and increase energy security (H.R. 7934) in the hemisphere. Moving forward, Congress may consider those measures and/or other legislation, including appropriations, to support the multilateral commitments and U.S. policy initiatives announced in Los Angeles.

Armed with Storm Shadow, Ukraine could ‘starve’ Russian front lines of logistics, leadership


WASHINGTON and FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The UK’s decision to arm Ukraine with the long-range Storm Shadow missile could serve as a game changer, with a top British officer telling Breaking Defense the weapon will be especially valuable in taking out sites vital for Russia’s logistics.

However, questions remain, including whether Ukraine is operating under restrictions with the weapon, how many weapons are being shipped to Kyiv’s aid, and what platforms might actually be used to deliver the weapons onto Russian forces.

On May 11, UK MoD confirmed several days’ worth of rumors that London would be providing the air-launched, MBDA-made Storm Shadow to Ukraine. Defence Secretary Ben Wallace announced to parliament that the long-range missiles “are now going into, or are in, the country itself.”

Storm Shadow’s 155-mile range more than triples the reach of the longest-range weapon provided thus far from the US as part of the HIMARS rocket artillery system. It plugs a clear gap in Ukraine’s capability for the kind of strike weapon that would enable Ukrainian forces to hit Russian command posts deep inside Crimea.

“These missiles will help them to hit the command-and-control nodes, the logistics, where you have a sort of coalescence of Russian soldiers,” Rear Admiral Tim Woods told Breaking Defense in a Monday interview. “And what that means is, you are much better able to starve the front line of direction, logistics, weapons and people. And so yeah, it’s critical that we have something with this range. Because you know, that enables them to sort of fight that deep battle better.”

Woods serves as the Defence Attache at the British embassy in Washington, making him a key interlocutor for the “special relationship” between the UK and US. But he also carries significant first-hand knowledge of the Ukraine conflict, having served as the military attaché to Kyiv directly before this posting — a term that overlapped with Russia’s invasion.

Russia-Ukraine War U.S. Officials Confirm Damage to Patriot Defense System in Kyiv Attack

Russia fired a wave of missiles and drones overnight, many aimed at Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, but all were shot down, Ukrainian officials said.CreditCredit...Gleb Garanich/Reuters

Ukraine’s air defense intercepted six hypersonic Kinzhal missiles fired by Russia early Tuesday, several Ukrainian officials and one American official said. The strikes are further evidence of Ukraine’s ability to shoot down one of the most sophisticated conventional weapons in Moscow’s arsenal.

In one of the largest aerial assaults since early March, Russia also launched nine Kalibr cruise missiles from ships in the Black Sea, three short-range ballistic missiles from land and a number of drones, according to the commander in chief of Ukraine’s Armed Forces. All of the drones and missiles were shot down, the military said.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said that at least one Kinzhal was used in the attack on Tuesday and claimed that a Kinzhal had hit a Patriot air defense system. Two U.S. officials confirmed that a Patriot system had been damaged in the attack but added that the Patriot remained operational against all threats.

It was not immediately clear how many Russian missiles were aimed at the capital, Kyiv, which local officials said was targeted overnight with an “exceptional” blitz of missiles and drones. The skies over Kyiv lit up around 3 a.m. with thunderous explosions as air defenses collided with the incoming missiles, raining debris across the city.

A statement from Ukraine’s Air Force about the Kinzhals came quickly. It did not specify whether an American-made Patriot air defense system was involved in shooting down the Russian missiles, but Ukraine until recently lacked the capability to intercept Kinzhals and had pressed allies for Patriot systems that it hoped would provide protection.

In an address by video link later Tuesday to the Council of Europe, the main institution governing human rights on the continent, President Volodymyr Zelensky said: “At 3 o’clock in the morning, our people woke up to explosions. Eighteen Russian missiles of different types were in our skies, in particular, ballistic ones, which the terrorist state has boasted about.”

The end of Ukraine aid is rapidly approaching. Reupping it won’t be easy


The $48 billion Ukraine aid package that Congress approved in December has about $6 billion left, meaning U.S. funding for weapons and supplies could dry up by midsummer.

That’s raising fresh concerns among lawmakers about what the White House is planning next, including when the administration will ask for another major package and whether it will be enough.

The funding, many members say, needs to continue to flow without interruption, especially as Kyiv prepares to launch what’s expected to be a sweeping counteroffensive and retake ground in the east from the Russians.

“It is critical that the administration provide Ukraine with what it needs in time to defend and take back its sovereign territory,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) told Pentagon leaders during a hearing on Thursday. “We expect the administration not to wait until the eleventh hour if the Ukrainians need more before the end of the fiscal year.”

The White House is discussing a new package, and it will be timed to keep support for Ukraine flowing, said a senior administration official who was granted anonymity to speak ahead of an official announcement.

The official added that it’s unclear how Ukraine’s needs might change during or after the counteroffensive, but that the administration is “fully committed” to supporting Kyiv during and after the fight “for the long haul.”

But this isn’t the same Congress that approved the last big batch of money, nor is it the same set of circumstances.

This time around, any late-summer proposal by the White House could run up against the raging debate over the debt ceiling, and will almost certainly face opposition from a small but vocal group of Republicans that wants to slash spending on Ukraine.
Keeping the money flowing

Kyiv says it shoots down volley of Russian hypersonic missiles

Gleb Garanich and Sergiy Karazy

KYIV, May 16 (Reuters) - Ukraine said on Tuesday it had shot down six Russian Kinzhal missiles in a single night, thwarting a weapon Moscow has touted as a next-generation hypersonic missile that was all but unstoppable.

When asked about the Ukrainian claim, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu dismissed it, the RIA news agency reported. His ministry said a Kinzhal had destroyed a U.S.-built Patriot surface-to-air missile defence system.

“A high-precision strike by the hypersonic Kinzhal missile hit a U.S.-made Patriot anti-aircraft missile system in the city of Kyiv,” the defence ministry said in a statement.

Two U.S. officials said a Patriot system likely suffered some damage but had not been destroyed, and one said discussions on repairing it were underway and it did not appear the system would have to be removed from Ukraine.

The commander-in-chief of Ukraine's armed forces, Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, had said earlier that his forces had intercepted the six Kinzhals launched from aircraft, as well as nine Kalibr cruise missiles from ships in the Black Sea and three Iskanders fired from land.

Russia's Shoigu was quoted as saying the number of claimed Ukrainian missile intercepts in general is "three times greater than the number we launch".

"And they get the type of missiles wrong all the time. That's why they don't hit them," he said, without elaborating.

It was the first time Ukraine had claimed to have struck an entire volley of multiple Kinzhal missiles, and if confirmed, would be a demonstration of the effectiveness of its newly deployed Western air defences.

The United States and the European Union have supplied Ukraine with weaponry to defend itself since Russia invaded in February 2022.

What Secrets Are in the Leaked Pentagon Documents — and Who Leaked Them?

Chas Danner

Astunning leak of a cache of classified Pentagon documents appears to be one of the most significant breaches of U.S. intelligence in decades, revealing national-security secrets regarding Ukraine, Russia, Asia, and the Middle East, as well as details about U.S. espionage methods and spying on adversaries and allies. The Pentagon has confirmed the leak’s authenticity, and while the documents had been made available online for more than a year, U.S. officials weren’t aware of the leak until April 6, the day it was reported by the New York Times. The Justice Department quickly opened an investigation, and within a week the FBI arrested the 21-year-old suspected leaker, National Guard airman Jack Teixeira. Below is what we know about the leak and Teixeira thus far, including what secrets the documents reveal.

Revelations So Far

Although no news organization or government source has confirmed the accuracy of the information contained in the leaked documents, there is at this point no doubt they are authentic assessments based on U.S. intelligence. Below are some of the key purported revelations from the cache.

Wagner Group chief Yevgeniy Prigozhin offered Russian troop locations to Ukraine

The Washington Post reports that in late January, Prigozhin offered to provide Russian troop locations to Ukraine if they withdrew their forces from the fight for Bakhmut, where Wagner Group forces defending the city were taking heavy losses. According to U.S. intel documents in the leak, Prigozhin — a key Kremlin ally who has publicly criticized Russia’s support for Wagner Group fighters — made the offer to contacts in Ukraine’s military intelligence, though it’s not clear what troop positions he offered. Per the Post, Ukrainian officials confirmed that Prigozhin attempted to reach out multiple times, but that they didn’t take it seriously:

Deterrence by Detection: A Key Role for Unmanned Aircraft Systems in Great Power Competition

Thomas G. Mahnken, Travis Sharp, Grace B. Kim

In CSBA’s latest study, Deterrence by Detection: A Key Role for Unmanned Systems in Great Power Competition, CSBA President and CEO Dr. Thomas G. Mahnken, Research Fellow Travis Sharp, and Senior Analyst Grace Kim propose a new operational concept to deter Chinese and Russian aggression, one that uses a network of existing non-stealthy long-endurance unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to maintain real-time, persistent situational awareness in key geographic areas in the Western Pacific and Eastern Europe The authors argue that real-time situational awareness is critical to countering the twin challenges of sub-conventional gray zone aggres­sion and a conventional fait accompli gambit promptly and effectively.

Return of CJADC2: DoD officially moves ahead with ‘combined’ JADC2 in a rebrand focusing on partners


The Joint Staff’s Joint All-Domain Command and Control Campaign Plan Experiment 2 allowed Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines nodes to share near-real time information to enable sensor to shooter linkages and display it on a common operational picture. (U.S. Army Joint Modernization Command)

WASHINGTON — The point of the Defense Department’s Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) effort is to connect “sensors to shooters” throughout the future battlespace, but an official said today that “going forward,” the acronym to look out for is “CJADC2,” reflecting a renewed emphasis on “combined” efforts with international partners as well as different military commands.

“The ‘combined’ is to highlight that we’re going to start out with these capabilities by being interoperable from the beginning,” Lt. Gen. Mary O’Brien, director of C4 and cyber and chief information officer, J6 of the Joint Staff, said today at the Potomac Officers Club 4th Annual CIO Summit. O’Brien suggested JADC2 needed to be effective globally, whether leveraged by different US combatant commands or foreign allies.

The focus on the “C” follows what DoD was tasked to do in the National Defense Strategy, which says that interoperable command, control, communications and computers (C4) warfighting capabilities need to be developed with allies and partners to “facilitate global force integration and supportive and combined joint operations,” O’Brien said.

“CJADC2” isn’t entirely new. It was the term used by officials back in 2020 when the Army and Air Force inked an agreement to build out a network that would pull data from all domains for the effort, though each would maintain their own individual contribution to JADC2. And although the Navy wasn’t a part of that collaboration, service officials have said they want to “plug into JADC2” with Project Overmatch, their own contribution to JADC2. (At the time, the “combined” part referred to allies, whereas “joint” referred to unity among the services themselves.)

O’Brien said today that the J6 is working closely with the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance on how to also share applications and data. It’s also working with NATO on how to “influence our CJADC2 reference architecture.”

A Strategist’s Guide to Disruptive Innovation

James J. Wirtz - Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California, USA

James J. Wirtz is a Professor of National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California, USA. He recently completed co-editing Intelligence: The Secret World of Spies 6th edition (Oxford: 2023) and is currently updating Colin Gray’s Introduction to Strategic History entitled War, Peace and International Relations 3rd edition (Routledge: Forthcoming).

Disclaimer: This is an abbreviated version of James J. Wirtz, “War Paradigms and Disruptive Innovation,” in Uwe Hartman, et. al. (eds.) Jahrbuch Innere Fuhrung 2022/23 (Berlin: Carola Hartmann Miles-Verlag, Forthcoming). The opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and do not reflect the position of any government, government agency, or commercial firm. The author would like to thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions.

Innovation, especially in peacetime, is a sticky problem for military professionals and scholars. There is a common misperception that most militaries most of the time are hidebound organizations that hold on to well-loved weapons, tactics, and modes of thought long after their expiration date. Nicholas Katzenbach’s brilliant study, “The Horse Cavalry in the Twentieth Century,” for instance, paints a compelling picture of a group of soldiers who would rather be shot off their horses than abandon their mounts in battle.[i]

Others have noted that militaries are rather busy in peacetime, experimenting with all types of new technology, “weaponizing” various science projects by integrating them into force structures.[ii] Carrier aviation, after all, did not miraculously spring into existence with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941; instead, it was the product of a thirty-year long process of experimentation and development.[iii] Nevertheless, as Colin Gray notes, there is no way that militaries can avoid the fundamental problem posed by innovation: “The challenge in peacetime is to guess just how well or poorly novel ideas on tactics and new equipment, and their meaning for operations, will perform in the only test that counts – on the battlefield.”[iv] Only combat itself can provide an answer to what constitutes successful innovation.

Quantum Computers Could Be a ‘Superhighway’ to Experiencing Our Other Selves in the Multiverse


Comedian John Mulaney once said, “I don’t know what my body is for other than taking my head from room to room.” He’s not alone. A lot of people equate their essential selves, their consciousness, with the thoughts in their head; “I think therefore I am.” Shows like Upload and films like Transcendence toy with the idea of achieving immortality by uploading one’s consciousness to a computer. In fact, this is part of a whole movement called “Transhumanism.”

But physicist David Deutsch, often called “the father of quantum computing,” wants to take it a step further. He believes that one day we’ll be able to upload ourselves into quantum computers, which would allow us to see what other versions of ourselves are up to in other universes.

Today, quantum computers are too nascent for this. And nobody knows what consciousness really is. But as quantum computers and quantum biology progress, it might one day be possible.

Ideas about what it would be like if we could use computers as our “bodies” vary. In Amazon’s series, Upload, people’s brains are scanned and uploaded into an avatar body in one of several metaverse worlds: posh, resort metaverses exist for the rich, and meager post-death accommodations greet the poor. For a price, you can update your avatar and even “physically” interact with living folk if they wear haptic-feedback bodysuits that let them experience touch.

But author Louis Rosenberg, an engineer with a doctorate in philosophy, throws a wrench in this digital Valhalla. Rosenberg is an author, and CEO and chief scientist at Unanimous AI which creates artificial intelligence algorithms to capture collective intelligence. He points out that your uploaded self is really just a copy of you. Even if we manage to devise a machine capable of scanning someone’s entire brain—their memories, thoughts, and behaviors, down to the molecular level—and recreate it inside a computer, it wouldn’t actually prolong your experience of life.

Addressing Media Capture

Lindsay Hundley, Yvonne Lee, Olga Belogolova, Sarah Shirazyan 

For years, industry, governments, and civil society have grappled with how to address the potential harm from state media while protecting people’s right to information in the digital domain. In some cases, the harm from state media can be significant. State media outlets have published stories that spread conspiracy theories, deny human rights abuses, and exacerbate political divides. Because internet platforms enable these outlets to grow their audiences—including among those unaware of the government’s influence on their content—some favor restricting state media online. But such restrictions can also be harmful. They can infringe on peoples’ right to information as well as limit their ability to access news about local developments that directly affect their daily lives.

In this piece, we use Meta’s experience as a global platform to offer a framework for navigating the trade-offs inherent to developing policies on state media. Any policy on state media will need to answer two fundamental questions. The first is designation: How should platforms define state media, and which outlets qualify? The second question is treatment: What actions should platforms take to balance the potential harm these outlets can pose against the risks of over-enforcement? Additionally, as learned after the invasion of Ukraine, platforms should also consider a third question: How should they adapt their approaches during and after major civic and geopolitical crises, if at all?

To answer these questions, we consulted more than 100 experts around the world specializing in media development, press freedom, human rights, and governance—including Reporters Without Borders, the Center for International Media Assistance, UNESCO, the Global Forum for Media Development, the Media and Journalism Research Center, and others. These experts noted that—with clear exceptions—stories published by state media are not often individually harmful. Some articles contain important information, such as that related to the provision of government services. However, in the context of the increased attacks on press freedom globally and in online environments where people may engage with content without knowledge of its full context, these outlets can have an outsized impact on public opinion in favor of government positions and diminish accountability for corruption or policy failures. They also noted that the offline harm from biased or misleading information can be especially high in times of crisis.