31 March 2024

India has its own reasons for preventing a Taiwan war

Arzan Tarapore

With expanding national interests, India has stronger compulsions to act against far-off hazards. It finds its interests entangled in disputes on the far edges of Asia, including in Taiwan. China claims Taiwan as its own and is feverishly preparing to seize the island by force if necessary, while the United States has increasingly signalled that it would probably fight to defend Taiwan.

India is highly unlikely to fight in a conflict over Taiwan. However, it has vital economic and security interests, and valuable policy levers, to ensure that such a conflict never happens.

New Delhi has three main reasons to do so. First, it has a stake in the status quo, with Taiwan as a self-governing territory that does not declare independence. India and Taiwan have expanded trade seven-fold since 2001 and are exploring a possible free trade agreement. The Taiwanese firm Powerchip Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation has partnered with the Tata Group to build India’s first semiconductor fabrication plant. An agreement was signed recently to send Indian workers to Taiwan. India’s industry, critical supply chains, and overseas population are all increasingly invested in an enduring peaceful status quo across the Taiwan Strait.

Second, any Chinese aggression against Taiwan would be catastrophically costly for India. Such a scenario would, in effect, cripple global trade with China and Taiwan, which would create disruptions throughout Asia and West Asia. A recent Bloomberg study estimates that the costs of a conflict would amount to more than 10% of global GDP. India’s economy would suffer a greater shock than the US economy and its most valuable sectors, from electronics to pharmaceuticals, would run dry of components and materials.

A protracted or general war between China and the US, spreading beyond Taiwan, could spill over in multiple directions. It could ignite the already tense India-China land border. It could wipe out or take offline sizeable portions of Chinese, American, and other regional countries’ industrial capacity, on which the world depends. And it could raise the risk of unthinkable nuclear escalation. A conflict over Taiwan is something that India simply cannot afford, especially as it seeks stability and growth for national development.


Is the World Prepared for More Terrorism?

Ravi Agrawal

Russia is mourning the loss of at least 139 people after the deadliest act of terrorism on its soil in years. Last Friday, gunmen opened fire inside a packed suburban concert hall outside Moscow and also set the building ablaze. Within hours, the Islamic State—the terrorist organization also known as ISIS—claimed responsibility for the attack. U.S. intelligence sources indicated the attackers were likely from an ISIS offshoot, the Islamic State in Khorasan, which has been active in Afghanistan.

Who Is Blowing Up Russia?

Bret Stephens

There are two plausible hypotheses regarding Friday’s terrorist attack at a concert hall outside Moscow, in which at least 139 people were killed. The first is that it was an inside job — orchestrated by Russian security services, or at least carried out with their foreknowledge.

The second is that it wasn’t.

In open societies, conspiracy theories are for cranks. In closed societies, they’re a reasonable (if not always correct) way to understand political phenomena.

In 1999, more than 300 Russians were killed and 1,700 injured in a series of apartment bombings for which authorities blamed Chechen terrorists. The bombings served as a pretext for Vladimir Putin — who had ascended swiftly from secondary apparatchik to director of the Federal Security Service, or F.S.B., to prime minister — to launch the second Chechen war.

Then something strange happened. The police found three enormous sacks of white powder in the basement of an apartment building in the city of Ryazan, connected to a detonator and timer set to go off at 5:30 in the morning. Initial tests of the powder found it contained the same explosive, hexogen, that had been used in other bombings.

The police soon apprehended the culprits who had placed the sacks — and they turned out to be employees of the F.S.B. The Russian government later said the sacks were filled with sugar and had been left in the buildings as a training exercise. But as the historian David Satter and others have documented, the claim borders on the preposterous. And numerous journalists and politicians who sought to investigate the incident wound up poisoned or shot dead.

Why does this history matter? Because it shows that Putin “has no allergy to blood, Russian or any other kind, if spilling it furthers his goals,” as Garry Kasparov noted in The Wall Street Journal.

It says something that Putin seemed to provide a motivation for a false-flag attack by almost immediately pointing the finger at Ukraine for Friday’s massacre — an absurd if telling choice of a culprit, given that Ukraine would immediately destroy its credibility with its Western partners if it had any connection to the event.

Terrorism Remains A Significant Threat To The Five Central Asian Countries – Analysis

Kung Chan and Zhou Chao

Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, there has been a wave of terrorism in the five Central Asian countries, namely Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. In February 1999, extremist forces attempted to assassinate Uzbekistan’s President Islam Karimov, with six bombs exploding along the route of his convoy, but in the end, Karimov survived. In the summer of 1999 and the spring of 2000, several armed groups launched attacks on Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, causing great upheaval in these Central Asian countries. In March 2004, terrorist bombings occurred in Tashkent and Bukhara at Uzbekistan, and smaller-scale terrorist incidents have been occurring frequently in Central Asia.

Overall, however, the frequency of terrorism in the five Central Asian countries has been relatively low since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Relevant studies show that from the transition period to 2012, the average annual number of terrorist attacks in each of the five Central Asian countries was generally below 10, indicating a relatively low frequency and intensity. Furthermore, the five Central Asian countries have been cooperating with major world powers to combat both domestic and foreign terrorism. In recent years, the intensity of terrorism threats in the five Central Asian countries seems to have remained low, with jihadist groups like Al-Qaeda not launching attacks in the region for several years. Therefore, the terrorism threat in the five Central Asian countries appears to be gradually diminishing. Recently, both the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) and the Center for International Security and Strategy (CISS) at Tsinghua University did not mention terrorism risks in the five Central Asian countries in their External Security Risks for China in 2024.

However, considering both historical and current factors, researchers at ANBOUND believe that terrorism remains a significant threat in the five Central Asian countries, with strong potential for proliferation and diffusion, posing a sustained threat to regional stability, including in areas like China’s Xinjiang.

In China: The 100-Year Storm on the Horizon and How the Five Big Forces Are Playing Out

Ray Dalio

A few years ago, President Xi Jinping started warning that a 100-year big storm is coming. As is typical of the early days of a hurricane, one can now feel it. The circumstances and the mood in China have indisputably changed to become more threatening. These changes are mostly due to big cycle forces.

The most joyous and productive environments are ones that have freedom, civility, and creativity, and ones in which people can make their dreams into great realities with prosperity that is shared by most people. This happened in China from around 1980 until around five years ago. It is quite typical for such booms to produce debt bubbles and big wealth gaps that lead the booms to turn into bubbles that turn into busts. That happened in China at the same time as the global great power conflict intensified, so China is now in the post-bubble and great power conflict part of the Big Cycle that is driven by the five big forces that have changed the mood and the environment. In this piece, I will first describe in brief how the Big Cycle has transpired over roughly the past century, and then I will explain the current picture of what is happening today, with a focus on the challenges that China is facing. This history and these dynamics are complex and important to world history and the global order—everything I write here is how I see it based on my own experience, relationships, and research.

How the Big Cycle in China Transpired to Create the Conditions from the Beginning of the PRC Through the Current Conditions

  • In the 1930-45 period, there was the last 100-year big storm, which was driven classically by the confluence of 1) a debt bust that triggered a global depression, 2) a civil war in China between the rich rightist-capitalists and the poor leftist-communists (which ended in 1949 when the Communists won), 3) an international great power conflict-war that ended in 1945 when the United States (and, to a much lesser extent, Great Britain and Russia) won, creating the American-led world order, 4) many disruptive acts of nature, and 5) big technological changes. That period ended in the classic ways they end, with a debt and economic collapse, one side winning over the other in the great international war and the new world order beginning (in 1945), and one side winning over the other in the civil war and the new domestic order beginning (in 1949).

How China ended up financing the Houthis’ Red Sea attacks


China is unwittingly helping Iran choke off ship traffic in the Red Sea, impairing global trade flows and damaging Beijing’s own interests in the process, Western intelligence officials say.

China’s illicit purchases of Iranian oil are indirectly financing the recent string of attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels in the Red Sea and have had a chilling effect on shipping. About 15 percent of global trade flows through the corridor that leads from the Gulf Aden through the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, linking Asia and Europe.

China buys about 90 percent of Iran’s oil, including crude sold by the Quds Force, the paramilitary arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) that is responsible for Tehran’s foreign military operations. Quds Force trains and funds Iran’s terror proxies across the Middle East, for example, including both Hezbollah in Lebanon and Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

The Houthis “are attacking international routes, and the first country hurt by it is China itself,” one of the officials said. “I’m not sure they’re aware they’re cutting off the branch their sitting on.”

A spokesperson for the Chinese government did not respond to a request for comment.

Though the Houthis have reportedly vowed not to attack Chinese ships, the rebels fired several missiles earlier this week at the Chinese-owned Huang Pu. The ship, which is registered in Panama, sustained only minor damage. It’s not clear if the Houthis were aware of the ship’s origins.

Nonetheless, the attack underscores the degree to which China’s illicit oil purchases have begun to backfire.

Houthis Attack Chinese Ship Despite Deal Not To

Aadil Brar

Houthi rebels launched a series of anti-ship ballistic missiles at a Chinese-owned and -operated oil tanker, according to the U.S. Central Command, in a move that has angered Beijing.

"From 2:50 to 4:30 a.m. (Sanaa time) March 23, the Iranian-backed Houthis launched four anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBM) into the Red Sea in the vicinity of M/V Huang Pu, a Panamanian-flagged, Chinese-owned, Chinese-operated oil tanker," the U.S. Central Command said in a statement on X, formerly Twitter, on Sunday.

This attack came despite the Houthis' previous assurances "they would not attack Chinese vessels" in the strategic waters of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden," CENTCOM said.

Beijing has publicly stated that it disapproves of disruptions to international shipping and is more generally concerned with maritime security. However, it has not openly condemned the Houthis, who have launched repeated drone and anti-ship ballistic missile strikes on commercial vessels in the Red Sea.

The Houthis have attacked commercial vessels in the Red Sea linked to Israel, the U.S., and the U.K. in support of Palestinian militant group Hamas fighting in the Gaza Strip. Hamas' attack on October 7 has linked the Red Sea shipping crisis to the ensuing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

China’s Economic Collision Course

Daniel H. Rosen and Logan Wright

China’s economy has barely grown in the past two years. The immediate causes, including a decline in property construction and ham-fisted “zero COVID” policies that tanked private-sector investment, are well known. But the roots of the stagnation are systemic, and firms and analysts inside China, as well as governments and businesses around the world, have waited with anticipation for Beijing to clarify its plans to put the country’s economy on a more stable track. Between 2010 and 2019—not long ago—China’s annual GDP growth averaged 7.7 percent, but today the basic policy reforms necessary to support even three or four percent growth are proving difficult for Beijing to achieve.

Domestic and foreign observers pinned their hopes on the biggest policy event on China’s calendar, the National People’s Congress (NPC), for signs of an overdue change in direction. China has run an annual trade surplus for more than two decades, but in 2022 and 2023, a slowdown in China’s domestic demand pushed the country’s exports to exceed its imports by a shocking $1.7 trillion. A year earlier, in 2021, President Xi Jinping had declared that China had become a “moderately prosperous society”—a reference to a concept defined more than two millennia ago in the Chinese poetry collection known as the Book of Songs. In modern economic terms, Xi was taking credit for China’s rise to middle-income status. This transition should come with a policy pivot. After over two decades of strong investment-led growth, China now needs consumption-led growth. Further investment will have diminishing returns unless China can consume more at home. Yet over the past two years, the opposite has happened. Unable to sell goods to domestic buyers, Chinese companies are exporting their excess production abroad.

The United States, the European Union, Japan, and other advanced and developing countries worry that this trend will continue—that China is preparing to export its way out of the economic slowdown. Beijing has declined to prioritize domestic demand and openly denigrated consumer stimulus proposals, and it has promised to sustain support for the very industries that are driving China’s export growth. These policies will result in larger Chinese trade surpluses and foreign deficits, undercutting competition abroad and threatening to put Western firms out of business and their workers out of jobs.

The outcome of the NPC, which concluded on March 11, will heighten rather than allay foreign countries’ legitimate worries. Faced with an economic situation that calls for structural reform to enhance productivity and bring domestic demand more in line with production, China’s leaders have instead put forward a policy mix that will delay necessary changes and deepen the economy’s reliance on foreign sources of demand. To protect their own economies from the damage caused by inexpensive Chinese exports, foreign governments will increasingly turn to antidumping tools, which typically include tariffs on Chinese goods produced below cost.

Closing the Defense Capabilities Gap

Zalmay Khalilzad & Robert C. O’Brien

The Biden administration’s new defense budget and a recent commission on defense procurement both recognize what most Americans know: China is the greatest threat to America. Unfortunately, the documents also reflect that the United States is not positioned to deter conflict with China, much less do so while holding other persistent threats like Iran, Russia, and North Korea at bay. A dramatic change in course is necessary.

On March 11, the administration released its proposed defense budget for the next fiscal year. The previous week, the congressionally created Commission on Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution Reform released its final report calling for significant changes to our current process of defense procurement—one that is plainly dysfunctional and has left our service members without the means to deter, let alone win, major conflicts.

The budget request claims that it “prioritizes China as America’s pacing challenge,” yet there is no indication that the White House or the Pentagon is taking the big steps necessary to transform our military into a force that can prevail against global threats from China and other adversaries simultaneously.

It is critical to understand that the competition between the United States and China is not limited to the Taiwan Strait or the South China Sea; it is far more global. For example, China has sought to exploit the perceived U.S. withdrawal in the Middle East by expanding its influence there.

Nor is it just Russia and China that benefit from a perceived weak United States. Regional bad actors flourish when America cannot project power globally. Iran, whose government has long seen itself as at war with America, has accelerated its push for regional hegemony. Venezuela is threatening to invade its neighbor Guyana to steal oil and gas fields. Sensing Washington’s lack of resolve, many nations will feel it necessary to appease the dictators and autocrats, thereby further weakening the Free World.

Chinese AI Companies A Perfect Match For Domestic Chipmakers – Analysis

Megha Shrivastava

Some China observers contend that Washington’s export control strategies incentivise Chinese enterprises to bolster their self-reliance. Nvidia, a US chipmaker, has garnered attention for consistently introducing ‘China-specific’ redesigned chips, relieving Chinese chipmakers grappling with business constraints.

Following the implementation of export control measures, Nvidia’s 2023 revenue and stock prices surged. During a visit to China in January 2024, Nvidia’s CEO Jensen Huang referred to 2023 as a ‘dream year’ for the company. Nvidia commands approximately 90 per cent of China’s chip market, particularly in artificial intelligence (AI) chips.

TrendForce, a Taiwan-based technology consultant, forecasts that by 2030, Nvidia’s revenue from China will decrease to less than 50 per cent. Nvidia identified China’s tech giant, Huawei Technologies, as its most significant competitor in its annual report.

Despite heavy dependence on Nvidia’s leading-edge chips, Chinese chipmakers are showing a diminishing interest in the company. Market leaders in China have expressed growing apprehensions about buying more stock from Nvidia, citing significant downgrades in chip performance leading to cost inefficiencies.

A rising number of Chinese chipmakers believe that a sustained, long-term partnership with Nvidia is untenable, prompting them to explore domestic alternatives. In their pursuit of long-term stability, Chinese chipmakers seem inclined to endure short-term challenges, with China’s Huawei emerging as a prominent contender.

Huawei’s diligence in promoting Chinese innovations has ensured long-term trust in domestic innovative capabilities. Huawei’s breakthrough success with a 7nm AI-powered chip has regained confidence in China’s chip market against US sanctions. Huawei’s priority to replace Nvidia’s position in the domestic market is an effort to reduce reliance on foreign advanced graphic processing units, vital to AI training, gaming and electronic vehicles.

4 Key Takeaways Emerging From China’s Trade Data

Gabriele Manca

“Economic globalization represents the trend of history. Like the world’s great rivers, the Yangtze, the Nile, the Amazon and the Danube – they all surge forward in relentless flow, and nothing can stop their mighty movement, not the current of undertows or hidden shoals or rocks beneath the water,” Chinese President Xi Jinping said in his keynote speech, delivered at the opening ceremony of the second China International Import Expo in 2019. In his address, Xi emphasized the irreversible nature of economic globalization, despite the rise of trade protectionism and anti-globalization sentiments. 

Almost five years later, amid escalating tensions with the United States and other Western nations, China continues to stress the significance of fostering economic integration and embracing free trade and open markets. However, it does so in its own way. With Washington and its allies adopting a wary approach and implementing measures to limit Chinese global economic and political influence, Beijing has felt the growing need to construct an alternative system that better aligns with its interests. This recalibration requires a departure from conventional trade practices, entailing a pivot in export-import dynamics and a strategic reorientation toward nations more aligned to what Beijing terms as “win-win” partnerships.

The manifestations of these strategic shifts are palpable in China’s trade data. Four salient takeaways provide insights into the trajectory of its evolving economic pattern.  

FTAs Are a Top Priority for China 

To develop an independent trade architecture from the United States and the European Union, signing bilateral and regional free trade agreements (FTAs) is a top priority for Xi Jinping’s China. Currently, Beijing has bilateral or multilateral FTAs covering 29 countries, notably not including the U.S. or any EU member countries. According to Financial Times calculations, in the 12 months leading up to October 2023, this network covered almost 40 percent of China’s exports and trade between China and FTA partners was worth approximately $1.3 trillion.

Twilight of the Wonks


Impostor syndrome isn’t always a voice of unwarranted self-doubt that you should stifle. Sometimes, it is the voice of God telling you to stand down. If, for example, you are an academic with a track record of citation lapses, you might not be the right person to lead a famous university through a critical time. If you are a moral jellyfish whose life is founded on the “go along to get along” principle and who recognizes only the power of the almighty donor, you might not be the right person to serve on the board of an embattled college when the future of civilization is on the line. And if you are someone who believes that “misgenderment” is a serious offense that demands heavy punishment while calls for the murder of Jews fall into a gray zone, you will likely lead a happier and more useful life if you avoid the public sphere.

The spectacle of the presidents of three important American universities reduced to helpless gibbering in a 2023 congressional hearing may have passed from the news cycle, but it will resonate in American politics and culture for a long time. Admittedly, examination by a grandstanding member of Congress seeking to score political points at your expense is not the most favorable forum for self-expression. Even so, discussing the core mission of their institutions before a national audience is an event that ought to have brought out whatever mental clarity, moral earnestness, and rhetorical skills that three leaders of major American institutions had. My fear is it did exactly that.

The mix of ideas and perceptions swirling through the contemporary American academy is not, intellectually, an impressive product. A peculiar blend of optimistic enlightened positivism (History is with us!) and anti-capitalist, anti-rationalist rage (History is the story of racist, genocidal injustice!) has somehow brought “Death to the Gays” Islamism, “Death to the TERFS” radical identitarianism, and “Jews are Nazis” antisemitism into a partnership on the addled American campus. This set of perceptions—too incoherent to qualify as an ideology—can neither withstand rational scrutiny, provide the basis for serious intellectual endeavor, nor prepare the next generation of American leaders for the tasks ahead. It has, however, produced a toxic stew in which we have chosen to marinate the minds of our nation’s future leaders during their formative years.

Aid for Ukraine Benefits the U.S. in More Ways Than One | Opinion

Nancy Brinker and Philip Breedlove

As tensions escalate and democracy faces a defining test in Ukraine, it is imperative for the United States to stand firm in its commitment to support this besieged nation. Russian President Vladimir Putin's increasingly hostile aggression, coupled with Ukraine's relentless pursuit of freedom and democracy, demands an unwavering response from the international community, and particularly from the U.S.

Having held roles as a former U.S. ambassador in eastern Europe and a NATO supreme allied commander, we have witnessed firsthand the power of international unity and support in the face of threats from abroad. It is strongly in America's interest that the U.S. House of Representatives follows the Senate's lead in illustrating strong, bipartisan support for Ukraine in the face of Putin's savage aggression and tyranny.

Ukraine stands at a crossroads, fighting not only for its sovereignty but also for the fundamental principles of democracy and human rights. The Ukrainian people have bravely stood up against corruption and oppression, demanding a future where freedom and justice prevail. It is our moral obligation to stand with them in their quest for a better tomorrow.

A resident of the house near the epicenter of the explosion is crying out of fear on March 25, in Kyiv, Ukraine. A hypersonic missile hit the Kyiv State Academy of Decorative and Applied Arts.

Ukraine Takes the War to Russia’s Oil Refineries

Keith Johnson

In recent weeks, Ukraine has found a way to overcome a lack of aid and a dearth of ammunition, using long-range drones to strike oil industry assets deep inside Russia. The attacks on Russian oil refineries—which number at least a dozen so far, including some very long-range strikes—have damaged Russia’s ability to process and refine its huge output of crude oil, dealing a small but meaningful blow to a Russian energy sector that has so far weathered the war and Western sanctions in surprisingly good shape.

The campaign, which has been tacitly acknowledged by Ukrainian security services and officials, is meant to strike at both the economic and logistic sinews of Russia’s war effort, which is still grinding its way through the third year of its invasion of Ukraine. (Ukrainian drones have also targeted Russian defense production plants.)

“These attacks are on a major source for the Russian budget, and that budget is being spent on military equipment,” said James Henderson, an expert on the Russian energy sector at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies.

Moscow gets about 40 percent of its federal budget from the export of crude oil and refined products (and that share is even bigger when converted into Russian rubles), making the sector a key part of the Kremlin’s ability to increase defense spending, rebuild its shattered armies, and purchase huge amounts of foreign-made weaponry to use against Ukraine. Russian refineries also churn out millions of barrels a day of products such as diesel and aviation fuel, which are needed for Russia’s perpetually logistics-constrained armed forces.

The Ukrainian strikes so far, which have damaged numerous refineries and started several fires, have knocked out anywhere between 400,000 and 900,000 barrels a day of refining capacity, according to estimates from energy experts and defense officials. Russia has an installed refining capacity—not all of which it uses—of about 6 million barrels a day, and refineries processing more than 2 million barrels a day have been targeted by Ukrainian strikes, some that did superficial damage and some that did more, in recent months.

While the impact of the Ukrainian attacks has varied from refinery to refinery, they present two big problems for Moscow. First, the continued attacks will further stretch Russia’s limited air defenses across even farther-flung bits of its sprawling territory. Second, due to years of Western sanctions, repairs to more advanced refinery components could be much trickier than in normal circumstances, which could affect Russia’s ability to churn out higher-value petroleum products, such as high-octane fuels.

Putin Is 'Losing Control' in Russia: Dictator Expert

Brendan Cole

The terrorist attack at a Moscow concert hall exposed Russian President Vladimir Putin's image as the "great protector" of his country and showed how he is "losing control," according to a British journalist and author who has written about the dictatorship of Nazi Germany.

Roger Boyes, who has written books about how Adolf Hitler rose to and maintained power, started an op-ed in The Times of London by asking if dictators keep their citizens safer than democracies do.

Co-author of Surviving Hitler: Corruption and Compromise in the Third Reich and Seduced by Hitler, Boyes was the newspaper's Eastern Europe correspondent based in Warsaw, Poland, where he covered the Solidarity revolution and the imposition of martial law.

His piece referred to the Cold War, suggesting that Putin's political survival was built on being "more protective of the motherland" than the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, as well as a "steadier hand" than his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends the ceremony of State Awards for Youth Culture Professionals on March 26 in Moscow. Putin has claimed that terror attacks on Moscow's Crocus Hall, which killed 140 people, had Western.

Despite the war he started in Ukraine with the February 24, 2022, invasion, "Russian towns have by and large been sheltered from the nastiness. He was the Great Protector." However, in Boyes' view, he was "no longer."

Fallout From the Attack in Russia

Antonia Colibasanu

Four days after the terrorist attack in Moscow, the most important question is how the Kremlin will respond – which itself will depend on who was behind the attack. Islamic State took credit for it; U.S. intelligence believes it was the work of the IS offshoot operating in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Tajikistan; and there is a lot of evidence to support both claims. Moscow, however, says it is unconvinced.

To be fair, there are some unusual aspects to the incident. Four alleged shooters have been apprehended, and Russia’s Federal Security Service believes it got the right guys thanks to AI-powered scanning systems used to monitor traffic. Apparently, the attackers drove away in the same car in which they arrived – a rare occurrence given that attackers tend not to make it out of situations like this alive. They were arrested on the highway leading to Kyiv in the Bryansk region, near the border with Ukraine (but also not far from Belarus). This has been cited by Russian President Vladimir Putin as one reason to suggest Ukrainian involvement. Lastly, the perpetrators, who are Tajik immigrants not previously known as radicals, allegedly conducted the attack for about $5,000 – a sum unusually low for individuals not apparently committed to a cause. According to the Russian newspaper Izvestia, which is well connected to state security services, the four men came together only a few weeks ago and possibly used Turkey as a base. (Radicalism isn’t unheard of in Turkey, either; in January, a shooter later found to have connections to Tajikistan killed one person in a Catholic church in Istanbul.)

Even so, the Ukrainian connection doesn’t entirely make sense. Some in Russian media argued that if they had just returned home after the incident, the gunmen would have blended in with the millions of migrants who dwell in Russia, making it difficult to identify them. CCTV around Moscow reportedly had no trouble capturing them speeding along roadways. Driving toward the tightly guarded Ukrainian border – in the same car that took them to and from the attack – was ill-considered. It’s as if they wanted to be caught.

Yet Moscow doesn’t think the attackers are stupid. Though there is evidence to suggest that muftis in Turkey hired them, Russian officials seem to believe that Kyrylo Budanov, Ukraine’s spymaster, arranged for the gunmen’s hire in coordination with radical Islamists at the Ukrainian Embassy in Turkey. There is no evidence to support this. After all, Ukrainian planners would know that the highways out of Moscow are blanketed in CCTV and likely would not set themselves up.

The weakest links in the global economy are on the mend


Emerging world powerhouses such as India and Indonesia weathered the turbulence of recent years in solid shape and are widely recognised for their success. Now many of the emerging world’s most troubled economies are reforming their way towards recovery as well, and markets are starting to reward them for it. 

They include most prominently Turkey, Argentina, Egypt, Nigeria and Kenya, and they carry some weight. All five of these reforming countries are in the 40 largest emerging economies, so their turn for the better is reinforcing the global economic recovery as well. 

Battered by high inflation, debt and deficits, their foreign exchange coffers were emptying when global interest rates rose sharply in 2022. As higher borrowing costs drove their debts deeper into distress, they had no choice but to change. Their leaders — who in Argentina, Kenya and Nigeria were newly elected with a mandate for reform — don’t quite say so out loud, but their plans came straight from the pages of the old and much-maligned Washington consensus. Budget discipline and heeding market forces are the only policy choices that work when a nation runs out of money. 

The five reforming nations are still widely under-appreciated. Just a year ago, they were running deficits above 5 per cent of gross domestic product. Their inflation rates were in the high double digits on average, and more than 200 per cent in Argentina. Investors either demanded a huge premium to hold their sovereign bonds, pushing yields to 15 percentage points above US bonds, or shunned them. If emerging market monikers were still in fashion, these economies would have been labelled the “fragile five” of this decade. 

As capital fled, their foreign exchange reserves hit new lows, registering maximum declines of a third on average. At first, the governments resisted these pressures, trying to stabilise the currencies through controls. That only pushed investors into black markets, where the five currencies traded on average 45 per cent below the official exchange rate. 

 Then came the turn. The beleaguered countries started bowing to market realities, most recently in Egypt under Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. After being in power for a decade, he announced his latest reforms last month. His regime took steps to lower the deficit by cutting spending on new mega projects. It moved to stabilise the pound, raising interest rates to beat inflation and allowing its value to float freely, leaving black marketeers no reason for being. 

Why the Baltimore Bridge Collapsed So Quickly


Just shy of half past 1 in the morning, the MV Dali, a giant container ship, was sailing gently out of the port of Baltimore when something went terribly wrong. Suddenly, lights all over the 300-meter-long vessel went out. They flicked on again a moment later, but the ship then began to veer to the right, toward one of the massive pylon-like supports on the Francis Scott Key truss bridge—a huge mass of steel and concrete that spans the Patapsco River.

The Dali’s lights went out a second time. Then the impact came. The ship plowed into the support, with large sections of the bridge’s main truss section instantly snapping apart and falling into the river. It took just 20 seconds or so for the structure to come down.

Now, a major US port is in disarray, and several people who were working on the bridge at the time of its collapse are missing. A rescue operation is underway. President Biden has called the disaster a “terrible accident.” Ship traffic is currently stuck on either side of the crash site, and a major roadway through Baltimore has been cut off.

“It’s a dreadful tragedy and something you hope never to see,” says David Knight, a bridge expert and specialist adviser to the UK’s Institution of Civil Engineers. But commenting on footage of the bridge collapse, he says he is not surprised by the manner in which it crumpled.

Large steel structures may seem invulnerable, but steel, explains Knight, is relatively lightweight for its size. As soon as it is pushed or pulled the wrong way with enough force, it can fold like paper. In this case, the Francis Scott Key Bridge was a “continuous,” or unjointed, bridge that had a 366-meter-long central truss section. (Truss bridges use steel beams, arranged in triangular shapes, to support their load.) The central truss was made up of three horizontal stretches, known as spans, with two sets of supports holding these above the water. It was the third-largest structure of its kind in the world.

‘Mayday’ call from ship stopped Baltimore bridge traffic, saved lives

Justin Jouvenal

As a cargo ship the size of a skyscraper drifted dangerously close to a major Baltimore bridge that carried more than 30,000 cars a day, the crew of the Dali issued an urgent “mayday,” hoping to avert disaster Tuesday.

First responders sprang into action, shutting down most traffic on the four-lane Francis Scott Key Bridge just before the 95,000 gross-ton vessel plowed into a bridge piling at about 1:30 a.m., causing multiple sections of the span to bow and snap in a harrowing scene captured on video.

“C13 dispatch, the whole bridge just fell down!” someone shouted on an emergency channel.

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (D) hailed those who carried out the quick work as “heroes” and said they saved lives, but the scale of the destruction was catastrophic and will probably have far-reaching impacts for the economy and travel on the East Coast for months to come.

Much of the 1.6-mile bridge fell, sending at least eight construction workers repairing potholes into the 48-degree waters of the Patapsco River. Two were rescued, including one who was seriously injured. Authorities announced Tuesday night that six were presumed dead and suspended the search. Authorities planned to resume the hunt for the victims at 6 a.m. Wednesday.

The collapse halted shipping at the Port of Baltimore — one of the nation’s largest — and severed a crucial portion of Baltimore’s Beltway, which is also a major artery in the busy corridor between Washington and New York.

President Biden pledged that the federal government would foot the bill for the repairs and work quickly.

The impact led to a scene of utter destruction — mangled bridge trusses, shipping containers split open like tin cans and the cargo ship wedged under fallen debris. Officials turned to Hollywood to register the magnitude of what happened.

“This is a tragedy you can never imagine,” Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott (D) said at an early-morning news conference. “Never would you think that you would see … the Key Bridge literally tumble down like that. It looked like something out of an action movie.”

How to Ensure Israel Has the Weapons It Needs

Bradley Bowman & Richard Goldberg

Since the October 7 Hamas terror attack, the United States has provided Israel with an enormous number and variety of weapons, which have played a vital role in helping Israel defend itself. Yet some in the United States have called for curtailing or stopping the flow of weapons to Israel, leaving Israelis concerned that the United States might not have its back in a future war.1 Accordingly, many Israelis are pushing to dramatically expand Israel’s defense industrial base (DIB) so it can meet its own needs for weapons and reduce its dependence on the United States.2

To ensure Israel has the weapons it needs in the future, it should pursue a hybrid strategy focused on quickly acquiring key munitions in large quantities from the United States when possible while making targeted investments to expand Israel’s domestic DIB. Israel is a technological superpower, not an industrial one, lacking the capacity to build many of the platforms, weapons, and munitions it needs. While Israel seeks “to defend itself, by itself,” its already outsized defense budget is not sufficient to meet current requirements, raising serious doubts as to its ability to afford a large, across-the-board DIB expansion. But at the same time, between the political realities of the American left and isolationist right and the increased pressure on America’s DIB, Israel needs to reduce its reliance on the United States, particularly for the munitions it most needs to fight enduring battles on multiple fronts.

By focusing on targeted DIB expansions for the munitions most likely to be in short supply from the United States in the future (whether for practical or political reasons), aligning American and Israeli DIB initiatives where possible, and establishing select manufacturing redundancies in both countries, Israel can effectively stockpile the weapons it needs for near-term conflicts, maintain investments in high-tech research and development, and still make its own DIB somewhat less dependent on Washington.

To explain why this is the best approach, this memo discusses the security assistance the United States has provided Israel since the October 7 terror attack, explains growing Israeli concerns about the future of such assistance, and recommends policies that Israel should pursue in the short- to medium-term to ensure it has the means to defend itself and its citizens in future conflicts. Admittedly, significant reform of Israel’s DIB will take decades, but this memo focuses on some initial steps that Israel should take to put it in a better position for a major war later this decade while jumpstarting necessary first steps in a process to enhance Israel’s DIB that will take a generation.


Megan K. McBridePamela G. FaberKaia HaneyPatricia J. KannapelSamuel Plapingerwith contributions by Heather M. K. Wolters


US allies and adversaries have used tools of persuasion and influence throughout the 20th century, and adversary attempts to use persuasion and influence to harm the US and its allies have been considered a national security priority for decades. In this context, the US has long worried about foreign efforts to use persuasion and influence against US servicemembers. Though concern about this issue waned with the end of the Cold War, the need to harness research to actively protect US servicemembers from malign persuasion and influence—from mis-/dis-/mal-information (MDM)—has once again become pressing. According to a May 2020 survey directed by senior Army leadership, almost 90 percent of US Army soldiers and civilian employees had not received any information from their units regarding adversarial propaganda about COVID-19 despite the fact that both Russia and China had been circulating virus-related MDM since March 2020. This lack of awareness—and lack of counter-MDM training—left servicemembers vulnerable to external influence. It also effectively ceded the battlespace to US adversaries, allowing Russia and China to act with uncontested impunity to potentially influence servicemembers in the information sphere.

In promising news, an increasingly robust body of research addresses how to effectively counter MDM. Much of this research builds on 20th-century work by social scientists, with adjustments to compensate for the reality of social media, which has seriously exacerbated the scope of this threat. In this paper, we offer a plain-language explanation of the evidence-based research on four types of counter-MDM interventions: inoculation, debunking, fact-checking, and media literacy. More specifically, we discuss the origins and logic of each intervention, summarize overall research findings, identify issues of ongoing analysis, and discuss how long the effects of each intervention typically last.


It is important to acknowledge, at the outset, that a comprehensive human-centric approach to this challenge (versus a technology-centric approach such as using AI to identify MDM) must take into consideration the fact that this is both a psychological and social issue. As such, it is critical that we identify, design, and implement counter-MDM solutions that address both the psychological vulnerabilities that make us receptive to MDM (e.g., our tendency to accept at face value content that looks official), and the social structures that make organizations vulnerable to the spread of MDM (e.g., our tendency to believe content from authoritative figures in hierarchical organizations). This work focuses on the former, but work on the latter is equally important.

Haiti’s collapse reveals the governance crisis in Latin America

Irene Mia

The ongoing unrest in Haiti is unique in contemporary Latin America for the dramatic extent of its institutional collapse, escalating armed violence and lawlessness. It is also the result – and culmination – of the country’s very specific internal dynamics. Since the overthrow of the almost three-decade-long Duvalier dictatorship in 1986, the country has been grappling with political instability and insecurity, widespread corruption, and criminal infiltration and capture of state institutions. The assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021 served as a pivotal moment in Haiti’s recent history, bringing these enduring institutional, economic and security challenges to the fore.

The rise of criminal governance amid corrupt or absent state institutions is a growing trend across the region. Over the past few decades, non-state armed groups (NSAGs) have significantly expanded their influence, wealth and reach across Latin America. Fuelled by the large profits generated by various illicit activities, they have increasingly challenged the state’s monopoly of force and governance. The International Committee of the Red Cross counts close to 70 armed groups operating in Latin America, with just over 33 million people living under their full or partial control. Most of these groups provide some essential public services such as security, healthcare and education, and some collect taxes from the population in their areas of influence.

Irrespective of the specific characteristics of the various groups and countries in which they operate, these organisations have shared a common trajectory: the imperative to secure their strategic goals has transformed them from predominantly criminal entities into quasi-political actors. This has entailed infiltrating state institutions, influencing elections – using votes and political violence as bargaining chips – and direct military confrontation with the state. Recent examples of these varied strategies abound across the region, ranging from the assassination of electoral candidates in Ecuador and Mexico, to the pervasive, large-scale armed violence unleashed by criminal groups in Central America and Ecuador, which has resulted in repeated and prolonged states of exception. The declaration in January by Ecuadorian president, Daniel Noboa, that the state was now engaged in an ‘internal armed conflict’ against criminal groups signifies the severity of the situation.

Moscow’s Disturbing Reaction To Crocus City Hall Attack – Analysis

Paul Goble

On the evening of March 22, a small group of armed terrorists broke into Moscow’s Crocus City Hall, opened fire, and torched a large portion of the facility. More than 150 people were killed—a figure almost certain to rise as many have been hospitalized with serious injuries.

The fires caused almost $100 million in damages to the concert venue (RBC, March 26). While ambulances rushed to the scene, some media reports have alleged that law enforcement and the security services were far slower to react. The Kremlin has strenuously denied such claims (Novaya Gazeta Europe;Deutsche-Welle Russian, March 23; Current Time TV, March 25). The authorities managed to arrest at least 11 suspects, including four said to be directly involved in the attack. The Russian security services tortured the suspects to trigger confessions and publicly released videos of the interrogations (Istories.media, March 24; Echofm.online, March 25).

In the immediate aftermath, Moscow officials and commentators offered several, often conflicting versions of the attack (Novaya Gazeta Europe, March 22; Nezavisimaya Gazeta, March 24). As of now, Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to have settled on a narrative that acknowledges that Islamist fighters carried out the attack but asserts that Moscow is more concerned with who ordered it, focusing on links between the terrorists and Ukraine. The Kremlin promises vengeance, with many saying that Moscow has been too soft up to now (Prosleduet.media, March 23; Echofm.online, March 24; Kommersant; Moskovskij Komsomolets, March 25).

The events have already had three significant consequences that cast a dark shadow on Russia’s future. First, the terrorist attack has further divided rather than united Russia and the West, similar to the Chechen bombings in 1999. That year, several deadly bombings of apartment buildings were carried out. Many analysts believe that Putin ordered or at least allowed these bombings to happen to justify the second post-Soviet war in Chechnya and bring himself to power. (For a comprehensive discussion, see John B. Dunlop’s The Moscow Bombings of 1999, 2014;Semnasem.org, March 23.)

Why we mustn’t ban TikTokThe West’s China hawks have their own agenda

Thomas Fazi

For the third time in just over a century, the US is, once again, in the grip of a full-blown Red Scare. The home of the “communist threat” may have changed — China rather than the Soviet Union — but the elements are all there: moral panic, paranoia, authoritarianism, repression. This became apparent earlier this month, when Democrats and Republicans, in a rare show of national unity, joined forces to confront one of the gravest threats facing America today. No, not rampant crime, not illegal immigration, not falling living standards — but TikTok.

On March 13, with a resounding majority, the House of Representatives passed a bill calling for a nationwide ban against the hugely popular social media app, used by roughly 170 million Americans. If the bill, which has the White House’s support, is approved by the Senate, TikTok’s parent company, Beijing-based ByteDance, will be forced to sell the social media platform to a US-based company or stop operating in the country.

The US lawmakers’ main claim is that TikTok represents a national security threat due to its ties to the Chinese government, which they fear may use the app to access American user data. In this, Beijing’s critics are in good company: just yesterday, the UK and the US accused China of launching a “prolific” campaign of cyberattacks against the West.

It’s worth noting, however, that neither US intelligence nor the bill’s sponsors have produced any evidence that TikTok has ever coordinated with the Chinese government. In interviews and testimony to Congress about the app, leaders of the FBI, CIA and the director of national intelligence have in fact been careful to qualify the national security threat posed by TikTok as purely hypothetical. Indeed, when cybersecurity officials in Connecticut asked the FBI for advice on whether to ban the app on government devices, they were informed that similar bans introduced in other states appeared to be based “on news reports and other open-source information about China in general, not specific to TikTok”.

Upon closer inspection, the US lawmakers’ case looks rather weak. For starters, is TikTok even really a “Chinese app”? The app is owned by TikTok LLC, a limited liability company incorporated in Delaware and based in Culver City, California. The LLC is in turn controlled by TikTok Ltd, which is registered in the Cayman Islands and based both in Los Angeles and Singapore. As it happens, TikTok doesn’t even exist in China, where they use a different version: a sister app called Douyin.

The Fight for AI Talent: Pay Million-Dollar Packages and Buy Whole Teams

Katherine Bindley

Tech companies are serving up million-dollar-a-year compensation packages, accelerated stock-vesting schedules and offers to poach entire engineering teams to draw people with expertise and experience in the kind of generative AI that is powering ChatGPT and other humanlike bots. They are competing against each other and against startups vying to be the next big thing to unseat the giants.

The offers stand out even by the industry’s relatively lavish past standards of outsize pay and perks. And the current AI talent shortage stands out for another reason: It is happening as layoffs are continuing in other areas of tech and as companies have been reallocating resources to invest more in covering the enormous cost of developing AI technology.

“There is a secular shift in what talents we’re going after,” says Naveen Rao, head of Generative AI at Databricks. “We have a glut of people on one side and a shortage on the other.”

Databricks, a data storage and management startup, doesn’t have a problem finding software engineers. But when it comes to candidates who have trained large language models, or LLMs, from scratch or can help solve vexing problems in AI, such as hallucinations, Rao says there might be only a couple of hundred people out there who are qualified.

Some of these hard-to-find, tier-one candidates can easily get total compensation packages of $1 million a year or more.

Salespeople in AI are also in demand and hard to find. Selling at the beginning of a technology transition when things are changing rapidly requires a different skill set and depth of knowledge. Candidates with those skills are making around double what an enterprise software salesperson would. But that isn’t the norm for most people working in AI, Rao says.

For managerial roles in AI and machine learning, base-pay increases ranged from 5% to 11% from April 2022 to April 2023, according to a WTW survey of more than 1,500 employers. The base-pay increases of nonmanagerial roles ranged from 13% to 19% during the same period.

30 March 2024

India Suffering a Quiet Decline in Foreign Direct Investment

Mohamed Zeeshan

This month, India signed a rare free trade agreement with four countries in Europe that make up the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). Coming after 16 painful years of negotiations, the deal will see India lift most import tariffs for industrial products from Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. In return, the EFTA countries will invest $100 billion in India over the next 15 years.

The announcement comes on the back of flagging foreign direct investment (FDI) into India in recent years. Between April and September of last year, India pulled in just a little over $10 billion in FDI — the lowest tally for the first half of a financial year since the 2008 global recession, according to data from India’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). That comes on the back of an overall decline in FDI inflows as a percentage of GDP under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

There are several well-recorded factors for why foreign investment into India has been so tepid in recent years: bureaucratic red tape, a poor record in contract enforcement, and relatively low labor productivity. But an even more significant factor is simply that India hasn’t been signing enough deals to facilitate foreign investment.

In the mid-1990s, amid the push to liberalize its economy, India initiated a series of bilateral investment treaties (BITs) to promote investment from companies abroad. The idea was to codify a set of rules and norms to ensure that the concerns and interests of foreign investors are protected, especially through international arbitration.

The result was a barrage of claims and disputes by foreign businesses operating in India. In 2011, White Industries, an Australian foundry business, took India to international arbitration for breaching its obligations under the India-Australia bilateral investment treaty. The litigation was successful and India was ordered to pay White Industries over $4 million. That was followed by another successful arbitration effort by the British oil company, Cairn Energy, which secured a $1.2 billion award against the Indian government on a 2015 tax complaint.

Why the Rohingya Are Being Treated the Way They Are

Nasreen Chowdhory

Rows and rows of neatly set blocks of two-roomed tenements line the eastern corner of Bhasan Char, a 40-square kilometer sand-bar island off the coast of Bangladesh on the Bay of Bengal within Bangladesh’s territorial waters.

Women cradle their babies in the narrow and cramped balconies of this sprawling mass of concrete while the men idly wander about this bleak island colony. Bhasan Char is now home to about 20,000 Rohingya refugees, relocated a few years ago when the settlements in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar began to get over-populated.

This is just a fraction of the total number of Rohingya refugees – about a million now in Bangladesh – who were settled in temporary shelters in Cox’s Bazar in the wake of the 2017 violent ethnic conflict in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. Around the same time, about 40,000 Rohingya fled to India – via Bangladesh – while several thousands were settled in Indonesia and Malaysia as part of an international effort to address the emergent refugee-humanitarian crisis.

The Bangladesh government’s effort to resettle the Rohingya refugees in Bhasan Char, which has an eerie and ominous ring about it – bhasan in English translates to “drifting” – has met with little success. Several Rohingya dared the sea, often with fatal consequences, to return to Cox’s Bazar, bringing into sharp focus the limits and extent of humanitarianism, especially when these efforts have mostly been “top-down.”

Even as the Bangladesh government aims to relocate 100,000 refugees to Bhasan Char, the Rohingya’s insecurities spring primarily due to extreme weather conditions and restrictions imposed on their right to mobility. The Rohingya have refused to be resettled to such a distant location that was, until recently, submerged under water. This has contributed further to their uncertain and precarious future in Bangladesh.

Today, as the military situation in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, home to the Rohingya, has turned in favor of the rebel Arakan Army, the spotlight has squarely shifted back on the refugees and their condition in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, and Malaysia. After all, the conflict in Arakan State seven years ago forced the Rohingya to cross the borders into Bangladesh and further afield.