19 July 2024

China’s South China Sea Power Play: Escalating Tensions And The Need For A United Response – Analysis

Simon Hutagalung


On July 15, 2024, China implemented a contentious regulation allowing its coast guard to detain foreigners for up to 60 days without trial if they are perceived to jeopardize China’s national security and interests in the South China Sea. This decision has a significant impact on regional stability, presents challenges to international maritime law, and complicates diplomatic endeavours to establish a cooperative Code of Conduct (COC). The reactions from major powers and ASEAN countries underscore the urgent necessity for a unified international approach to address these developments and uphold regional stability.

Consequences of the Decree

The new regulation introduced by China carries significant legal and geopolitical ramifications. Under this regulation, the Chinese Coast Guard is authorized to detain individuals accused of “illegal entry” or “disrupting social and public order,” thereby extending China’s jurisdiction over disputed waters that are not internationally recognized. This decision further escalates the tensions in the South China Sea, where multiple nations challenge China’s expansive territorial claims.

From a legal perspective, the decree raises serious concerns as it appears to contravene principles established under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which governs maritime rights and responsibilities. By enabling detentions in international waters, China is perceived to be undermining the international legal framework designed to ensure maritime order and prevent conflicts. This unilateral move challenges the global consensus on maritime governance and threatens to erode the authority of UNCLOS, which has been instrumental in maintaining peace and stability in international waters.

Japan reemerges as an Asia-Pacific military power

Richard Thomas

After decades of externally imposed and subsequently internally adopted peaceful isolationism, Japan is waking up to a series of new challenges in the western Asia-Pacific , a region that China is seeking to claim for its own in an emergent multi-polar global order.

Detailing key defence priorities in its new Defence White Paper, published on 12 July 2024, Japan includes the nuclear threat posed by North Korea and ongoing concerns around Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and, in a region-specific matter, its occupation of the Kuril Islands chain in the northwestern Pacific.

The new defence paper reaffirmed Tokyo’s commitment to defence spending, stating that Japan would take “necessary measures” to ensure the budget for “fundamental reinforcement of defence capabilities and complementary initiatives” reaches 2% of FY2022 GDP levels by FY2027. At this level, funding was calculated to be approximately Y11trn ($69.6bn) by 2027.

GlobalData forecasts from 2023 indicate that Japan’s total defence expenditure was anticipated to value $85.9bn in 2028, owing to the need to “adequately finance its own national defence capabilities”.

Geography Is a Dealbreaker for Coalition Building in Asia

Kelly A. Grieco, Jennifer Kavanagh

At the 2024 Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin touted a “new convergence” between the United States and its Indo-Pacific allies and partners that is “defining a new era of security in the Indo-Pacific.” Austin came with a list of accomplishments to back it up, hailing expanded U.S. military access to bases in Australia and the Philippines, a “new era” in U.S.-Japan-South Korea trilateral cooperation, and co-production deals with India.

But this “new convergence” is more of an illusion than reality. As we argued in a longer piece in the Washington Quarterly, the United States still lacks military access to critical parts of Asia, a robust regional security network, and well-armed allies and partners capable of self-defense. Worse, trying harder will not solve these myriad problems because the region’s geography—its vast distances and maritime environment—works against coalition-building. Instead of trying to outmatch or outcompete China, Washington should acknowledge the geographic reality and build a more narrow but sustainable coalition to balance Chinese power and prevent Beijing’s regional hegemony.

The Indo-Pacific Mirage

Despite its boasting, the Biden administration has made only limited progress toward any “convergence” in Asia. First, the United States still lacks the military access it needs to establish a more distributed and survivable force posture against China’s missile threats. New access permissions have done little to remedy this situation, as both the Philippines and Papua New Guinea have said the United States cannot conduct strike operations from their soil in a Taiwan contingency.

Chinese soldiers gear up for winter warfare

Anushka Saxena

China is putting great effort into developing its soldiers’ ability to operate in high-altitude and cold environments, increasing its military capacity relative to India. Skills as simple as shovelling snow have become part of combat training exercises. Equipment, facilities and procedures are being improved in what appears to be a highly systematic approach to mitigating the challenges of moving and fighting in the Himalayas and adjacent areas.

Since 2015–16, under the leadership of Chinese President Xi Jinping, the People’s Liberation Army has undergone significant reforms. Those reforms have concentrated on enhancing combat readiness in the information age, transforming the PLA into a joint, network-centric fighting force by integrating its services, arms and systems. The PLA Western Theatre Command (WTC) has been particularly active in adapting to what the PLA calls ‘informatisation’ and ‘intelligentisation’, focusing on securing China’s southern and southwestern borders, preparing for both conventional and unconventional warfare and training its soldiers to operate in the challenging terrains and high altitudes of Xinjiang and Tibet.

Terrain and altitude training is a central pillar of the WTC’s jointness capabilities, as the ability to achieve interconnected goals in complex environments would shape the results of conflict. Moreover, given that it is the largest theatre command by area and covers both the arid northwestern deserts of Xinjiang and the high-altitude areas of Tibet, along the border with India, adaptation to terrain and altitudes determines the ability of soldiers to fight protracted conflict and conceal postures without disrupting the sustainable flow of everyday resources to combat bases.

Reciprocal Access Agreement: A New Chapter in the South China Sea Dispute?

Zubair Ali Soomro

Amid tensions between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea, a new chapter has emerged following the signing of a defense pact between the Philippines and Japan. The Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) is designed to deploy forces on each other’s soil, allow the conducting of joint military exercises, and facilitate Filipino forces carrying out combat training in Japan. The RAA is tailored to respond to the shared threat represented by China to Japan and the Philippines in the East China Sea and South China Sea respectively. The defense pact carries significance for both signees, creating an impression of deterrence and unity against China. Most significantly, the pact represents a step toward containing the influence of China, with the assistance of the United States, in the South China Sea. Though it should be noted that the RAA still must be ratified by parliaments in Tokyo and Manila.

The pact is the consequence of continuous skirmishes between the Philippines and China in the South China Sea. The most serious occurred on June 17, when Chinese coast guard personnel wielding sticks, knives, and an axe surrounded and boarded three Philippine navy boats during a resupply mission to the Second Thomas Shoal in the disputed Spratly Islands. Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. denounced the actions of China in the South China Sea and warned that the death of any Filipino at the hands of China would be deemed as an act of war. In addition, the government of the Philippines requested $1 million in financial compensation for the June collision.

Unsurprisingly, the Chinese Foreign Ministry deemed the incident a provocation by the Philippines side, claiming that Beijing was merely safeguarding its rights and enforcing law.

China’s Economy Is in Trouble. Xi Jinping Has Other Priorities.

Jason Douglas, Rebecca Feng

Chinese leader Xi Jinping wants to fashion China into a manufacturing colossus that leads the world in technological innovation. His pursuit of that vision is increasingly weighing on China’s economy.

Growth is slowing and becoming more unbalanced, propped up by exports and a gusher of investment into factories, while much of the rest of the economy languishes. Consumers are reining in spending, the housing market is depressed, local governments are swimming in debt and foreign investors are pulling their cash—all at a time when China’s population is rapidly aging.

Yet expectations are low for Xi to make a significant course correction at a Communist Party conclave this week, as he continues to put measures to enhance China’s economic security above other priorities.

The event, known as the Third Plenum, happens every five years. In the past, it has delivered major economic overhauls that reverberated worldwide, such as when then-leader Deng Xiaoping used the 1978 plenum to shove China onto a path of economic liberalization, paving the way for decades of blistering growth.

Cutting-Edge Technology Could Massively Reduce the Amount of Energy Used for Air Conditioning


The Chinese bus company couldn’t work it out. Some days when its buses merely crawled along Shanghai’s streets, their power consumption would go through the roof. The reason why was a mystery. So, a team from the US firm Montana Technologies flew out to investigate. They started clamping electricity meters onto parts of the bus and soon realized what Yutong Bus, the Chinese company in question, had missed.

“They didn’t instrument air conditioning,” says Matt Jore, CEO of Montana Technologies, explaining how the buses’ AC, used to counter the often hot and humid weather in Shanghai, had a huge effect on power consumption. “The driver would turn the air conditioning on, it would just spike up.”

Whenever anyone, anywhere, reaches for the button that activates air conditioning, or lowers the desired temperature in their room a degree or two, energy use rises. A lot. In humid conditions, air conditioners have to work especially hard—more than half of the energy they consume can go toward dehumidifying the air rather than cooling it. The buses struggling in China’s muggy weather gave Jore and his colleagues an idea. If they could make dehumidification more efficient somehow, then they could make air conditioning as a whole much more efficient, too. They headed back to the US wondering how to make this happen.

Trillions in Hidden Debt Drove China’s Growth. Now It Threatens Its Future.

Brian Spegele and Rebecca Feng

Officials were bullish about the future of their factory town in early 2019. The economy was prospering, a new industrial district was on the way and an elevated light-rail system was taking shape.

“The achievements of the past year have not come easily,” Mayor Wu Wei said in a city report at the time. He credited the grit of local party leaders but didn’t mention an ace in the hole.

For years, Liuzhou and scores of other Chinese cities together amassed trillions of dollars in off-the-books debt for economic development projects. The opaque financing was the yeast that helped China rise to the envy of the world.

Today, overgrown construction sites, sparsely used highways and abandoned tourist attractions make much of that debt-fueled growth look illusory and suggests China’s future is far from assured.

Liuzhou, a city in the southern region of Guangxi, raised billions of dollars to build the infrastructure for a new industrial district, where a state-owned financing group acquired land and opened hotels and an amusement park. Other tracts of acquired land sit vacant, and many area streets look practically deserted. Birds flit through the rows of abandoned buildings at an unfinished apartment complex.

What Russia Wants in the Middle East

Hanna Notte

Since Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel, Russia has enjoyed watching the deteriorating situation in the Middle East preoccupy its main adversary, the United States. On April 13, however, Moscow grew concerned when, in retaliation for an attack on the Damascus consulate of Iran, its growing ally, Tehran launched more than 300 missiles and drones at Israel. Although that attack was effectively neutralized by antimissile defenses and coordinated support from the United States and Arab and Western partners, Israel responded six days later with a strike on an S-300 long-range air defense system in Isfahan, a city deep within Iran. When calibrating their actions, both Israel and Iran signaled that they were keen to avoid sliding into war. Yet by directly targeting each other on their own soil, the two longtime foes suggested that the unwritten rules of engagement between them have changed, making it harder for each to gauge the other’s actions and intentions and limit the risk of escalation. This has worried Russia, which has been walking a fine line between undermining U.S. strength in the region and not becoming overly committed and does not want to see a wider war in the Middle East.

Of course, mounting tensions between Iran and Israel could have advantages for Moscow. For one thing, further escalation in the Middle East would almost certainly divert Washington’s attention and supplies from Ukraine, where Russia is currently on the offensive. This dynamic was already apparent in the immediate aftermath of October 7, when the Biden administration sent additional Patriot batteries to the Middle East, drawing from a limited stock of systems that Kyiv was desperately seeking. In April, in anticipation of Iran’s retaliatory strike against Israel, the United States moved more military assets to the region to assist Israel’s defense. Then, in June, amid growing tensions between Israel and Hezbollah, Washington dispatched ships and U.S. Marines to the region. Further escalation would demand a commitment of additional U.S. resources, which the Kremlin can only welcome. Moreover, a Middle Eastern war would likely drive up oil prices, complicating the Biden administration’s efforts to tame fuel costs for the average American consumer months before the U.S. election. Russian President Vladimir Putin would surely rub his hands at President Joe Biden’s predicament.

Tactical Brilliance, Strategic Blindness


The situation in Iraq was dire at the end of 2006 when President George W. Bush implemented the surge of an additional 30,000 U.S. forces and selected General David Petraeus to command it. Returning to Baghdad in early February 2007, Petraeus found conditions worse than expected. The deterioration since his departure in September 2005 was sobering. Violence, which had escalated dramatically in 2006 after the bombing of the Shiite al-Askari shrine in Samarra, was out of control. With over 50 attacks and three car bombs daily in Baghdad alone, the plan to hand off security to Iraqi forces was failing. Sectarian battles and infighting in the Iraqi government and the Council of Representatives created a dysfunctional political environment. Many oil pipelines were damaged, electrical towers toppled, roads in disrepair, markets shuttered, and citizens feared for their lives. Government revenue was down, and basic services were inadequate. Life in many areas of the capital and country was about survival.

The surge was deemed necessary to rescue a floundering strategic mission with many points of failure. The most critical problem to solve was the unchecked violence, which the addition of nearly 30,000 troops to Iraq by 2007 was meant to cure. While the surge of forces was crucial, the most significant change was the shift in strategy and operational plans. Instead of handing off security tasks to Iraqi forces, the U.S. shifted to focusing on the security of the Iraqi people using largely U.S. forces. The core idea guiding this strategy was recognizing that the most critical terrain in the campaign was the human terrain—the people. This made the primary mission to improve their security. This improvement would allow Iraq’s political leaders time to forge agreements, reduce ethno-sectarian disputes, and establish a foundation for further efforts to improve the lives of average Iraqis. The hope was that the Iraqi people would invest in the new state's success and choose peace and support for the new nation. To do this, General Petraeus ordered the U.S. troops to live amongst the people. The message was clear: get out of the bases and seek the most violent areas and make them secure. The idea was “big” then and seemed to work as violence did drop. On the surface, things appeared to improve, especially regarding the violence.

Insights From Sufi Culture For Participatory Development – OpEd

Manvi Harde

As a Jain, I have learned the importance of anekantvada at a very early age. Anekantvada or the multiplicity of viewpoints was instilled into me as a way of understanding the truth as a summation of all its parts. We were taught that every person’s beliefs are important and true, and we must do our part in honoring and cherishing that truth.

This is why I also have fallen in love with the teachings of Sufis. For me, my faith pervades my each thought and action, especially when it pertains to work done for the betterment of others. This is why I believe that, in Morocco, a land where Sufism has deep roots, its principles offer valuable insights for participatory development. As a Jain with a profound admiration for Rumi, I am particularly excited about the potential for these insights to shape participatory development practices in Morocco.

Sufism, the mystical expression of the Islamic tradition, is a centuries-old major cultural, social, political, and religious influence in diverse Muslim cultures. The term “Sufism” comes from the Arabic word “suf,” which mens wool, referring to the simple woolen garments worn by early Sufis as a symbol of their asceticism.

Thermite Terror: Russia Faces New Threat In The Skies Over Ukraine – Analysis

Girish Linganna

A new kind of weapon is now being used in Ukraine. Thermite is being attached to drones.

Thermite burns at very high temperatures, hot enough to melt through metal. Made from a mix of iron oxide (rust) and aluminum, this material generates its own oxygen and can even burn underwater. When this weapon is used, it does not cause an explosion, or produce thick white smoke, but can burn right through metal—even the metal roof of a house. The weapon can melt and fuse the metal parts of any object it touches.

According to a report from Interesting Engineering, the Ukrainian forces recently used this weapon to attack a house occupied by Russian troops. At first, two ‘first-person view’ (FPV) drones with small explosive warheads targeted the house, but they only managed to break a few windows. The thermite, however, burned straight through the metal roof. In the context of drones, FPV refers to a method of controlling a drone using a live video feed from the drone’s onboard camera, allowing the operator to see what the drone sees in real time.

A video shows a third FPV drone crashing onto the corrugated metal roof, followed by footage from a reconnaissance drone. The crashed FPV fizzes like firework, shooting out sparks and continuing to burn. According to a report from Fortune, the munition burned through the metal roof, destroying any equipment stored underneath.

Israel’s Fragile North and the Art of ‘Intelligence’ Diplomacy

The Cipher Brief: There’s been a lot of diplomacy by the U.S. both via Secretary of State Antony Blinken and CIA Director Bill Burns, who is focused on negotiating the release of the hostages who are still being help by Hamas. The danger of a new front to the north is worrisome.

Goff: It’s a good sign that the parties are engaged in what we call “espionage diplomacy” behind the scenes – where you have the head of the (Israeli intelligence service) Mossad leading negotiations for Israel and you have the head of CIA, Director Bill Burns – a very talented diplomat in his own right – leading the U.S. and dealing with all of the various parties in the region, the intermediaries. There have been a lot of intermediaries for Hamas and I think it’s a great effort, but looming behind all of this is the internal political dynamic inside Israel itself.

The Cipher Brief: Let’s talk a little bit more about the “espionage diplomacy” that’s happening behind the scenes. You were in government for a long time. You had a very interesting vantage point to how negotiations like this occur. What are the pros and cons of trying to negotiate a situation like this using this kind of espionage diplomacy instead of more traditional diplomatic paths?

Goff: Personally, I believe there are more pros than there are cons, which is why I think espionage or intelligence diplomacy has become a much more common fixture in today’s diplomatic arena. You know, Bill Burns is the perfect candidate to lead a larger effort in this field because of his background as a diplomat, and his high-level experience from his days at the State Department, and his two terms as an ambassador and now as a very successful head of CIA.

New Ukraine War Phase Is 'Death by a Thousand Cuts': Former General

Brendan Cole

The numerous daily Russian attacks on Ukraine are having a cumulative impact on the latter's fighting force, according to a former general who has called for Kyiv's allies to step up their support in the fight against Vladimir Putin's aggression.

The comments by Mick Ryan, a retired Australian Army major general, came as Russia continues with its "meat grinder" assaults and a push in the north of the Kharkiv region that has seen a spike in casualties among Moscow's troops.

Ukraine's General Staff said on Sunday that the situation near Toretsk in Donetsk Oblast is "tense," and that the heaviest fighting is near Pokrovsk as heavy fighting between the cities has expanded the active front line.

But Ryan told Forces.net that every day, Ukraine's troops had to defend "against dozens and dozens...of individual attacks across hundreds of kilometers of the frontline every day."

"That does slowly but surely weigh down a military and a nation," he told the outlet which published the interview on July 9, "it really is this death by a thousand cuts."

Marines on the hunt for rifle-mounted jammers to defeat enemy drones


The Marine Corps sent a sources-sought notice to industry Monday as it looks for solutions to meet an “emerging urgent requirement” for new tools to help dismounted troops fend off small enemy drones.

Vendors with mature capabilities that seem promising may be invited to an industry day in September at Twentynine Palms, California, to see how their systems perform against live targets, according to the RFI.

The service is looking for new technologies to help “every” Marine defend against unmanned aerial systems. At the squad level, that includes a “non-kinetic” capability with a directional radio frequency and/or GPS jammer, “ideally able to mount on organic rifle,” per the RFI. At the platoon level, the Corps is eyeing omni-directional jammers and spoofers.

For “kinetic” solutions, the service is interested in a rifle/rifle optic that can track and shoot down Group 1 and Group 2 unmanned aerial systems — which are categories of drones that are on the small end of the spectrum — with “enhanced ammunition” for existing firearms.

Marines also need sensors that alert them to adversaries’ UAS. That’s why the Corps wants a passive detection system that uses acoustic or RF detection.

Overuse of National Guard threatens to undermine preparedness - Opinion

Major General Daryl Bohac (Ret.), General Joseph Lengyel (Ret.), General Craig McKinley (Ret.), Brigadier General Allyson Solomon (Ret.), and Dr. Paul Stockton

Among the branches of the United States military, the National Guard is unique. It serves as a reserve force ready to be deployed to combat overseas and it is also available to help respond to natural disasters and other emergencies here at home.

If used wisely, the National Guard is an invaluable asset to our national security and well-being. However, we have become concerned that the Guard is being used for an increasing number of missions outside of its core functions. That is why we, along with a group of other retired civilian and military leaders, recently published a statement attempting to help recalibrate the use of the National Guard.

In recent years, Guard members have been asked to execute an increasing variety of nontraditional missions. They have patrolled the border, taught in high schools, guarded prisons, filled in for civilian police officers, and served in a range of situations that stretch the definition of “emergency.” More and more often, governors and presidents — from both political parties — call upon the Guard to address problems that are typically handled by civilian authorities.

These missions come at a considerable cost to state and federal taxpayers, and they run the risk of diverting resources that could be dedicated to training and preparedness for core National Guard responsibilities as the primary combat reserve of the United States Army and the United States Air Force.

U.S. Strategic Culture, Homeland Ballistic Missile Defense, and Mutual Vulnerability

Jacob Blank

Culture is an indispensable element of strategic policymaking. From Sun Tzu to Carl von Clausewitz, renowned theorists of strategic studies have consistently noted the importance of cultural considerations in the conduct of warfare and the shaping of national security outputs. Such insights lacked a dedicated field of study until the latter half of the 20th century, when Jack Snyder coined the term “strategic culture” in 1977 as part of an effort to explain the differing nuclear behavior between the United States and Soviet Union. The roughly fifty years since Snyder’s work has seen continuous scholarship on the influence of strategic culture on the security outputs of a given state.

Despite widespread consensus on salient aspects of American strategic culture, there is one area of policy that fails to generate the expected result—missile defense. Strong emphases on technological innovation, an optimistic and problem-solving mentality, a positive approach to machines and engineering, and other elements of American strategic culture point to what should be a decisive path toward comprehensive missile defense; yet, the United States has consciously chosen to remain vulnerable to the overwhelming majority of adversary ballistic missiles since the signing of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty in 1972.[1] The incongruity between U.S. strategic culture and mutual vulnerability required by the mutually assured destruction (MAD) approach has failed to eradicate the allure of mutual vulnerability from portions of the defense policymaking community. U.S. strategic culture is more consistent with deterrence by denial measures, such as robust homeland ballistic missile defense, than mutual vulnerability typical of an assured destruction approach; however, mutual vulnerability has played a disproportionate role in guiding U.S. security policy since the Cold War.
Social Manifestations of U.S. Strategic Culture

Intelligence: The god that failed


On October 22, 1963, US President John F. Kennedy invited the publisher of the New York Times for lunch. During the meal he suggested that the Times transfer its correspondent in South Vietnam, David Halberstam, to another posting.

Halberstam’s reporting indicated that the Saigon regime was losing the war against its communist Vietcong adversary. This contradicted the reports that Kennedy was getting from official American sources, which all claimed that the Saigon regime had the upper hand.

Halberstam was not removed from his position, and Kennedy would have done well to pay more attention to his reporting. But the president did not, preferring to depend on official channels that provided him, one must assume, with the news that he wished to hear, namely that Saigon, Washington’s ally, was winning the war.

It was obvious that Halberstam as a journalist and a civilian did not have anywhere near the volume of first-hand knowledge that was available to the government. However, he had numerous sources within the American counter-insurgency community, operating at the grass roots level, who shared with him, albeit confidentially, their misgivings about how the war was progressing.

Who Governs the Palestinians?

Kali Robinson


A complex mix of authorities governs the 5.5 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip and West Bank territories. Palestinians, like Jews, trace their ancestry to the geographic area that now forms the state of Israel and the two Palestinian territories. Yet, the Palestinians do not have a universally recognized state, with their aspirations to create one depending not just on Palestinian leadership, but also on Israel and recognition by foreign powers.

Officially, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) represents Palestinians worldwide at international fora, while the Palestinian Authority (PA), a newer institution led by a PLO faction known as Fatah, is supposed to govern most of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In reality, the PA has overshadowed the PLO, and both are deeply troubled; Israel has exercised significant control over the Palestinian territories, de facto and official; and Gaza has been ruled by the militant Palestinian group Hamas, which Israel and multiple other countries have designated as a terrorist organization. Palestinian leaders will have to grapple with these and other challenges—including succession concerns and yet another war between Israel and Hamas—to deliver their peoples’ dream of an independent Palestinian state.

Israel Launches Major Attack Against a Senior Hamas Commander

Ronen Bergman, Patrick Kingsley and Adam Rasgon

Israel conducted a major airstrike in southern Gaza on Saturday morning that it said had targeted a top Hamas military commander who is considered one of the architects of the Oct. 7 attack on Israel, according to six senior Israeli officials.

The Gaza Health Ministry said that 90 people had been killed in the assault, half of them women and children, and 300 wounded.

The commander targeted in the attack, Muhammad Deif, is the leader of the Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing. He is the second most senior Hamas figure in Gaza, after its leader in the territory, Yahya Sinwar.

As of Saturday night, the status of Mr. Deif and Rafah Salameh, the leader of Hamas forces in Khan Younis, who Israeli officials say was also targeted in the attack, was unclear.

Speaking to reporters Saturday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel confirmed that Israeli forces had tried to assassinate Mr. Deif but that Israel did not yet have “absolute clarity” as to whether he had been killed.

Inside the Trump Plan for 2025

Jonathan Blitzer

One evening in April of 2022, a hundred people milled around a patio at Mar-a-Lago, sipping champagne and waiting for Donald Trump to arrive. Mark Meadows, Trump’s former chief of staff, stood in front of an archway fringed with palm trees and warmed up the crowd with jokes about the deep state. The purpose of the gathering was to raise money for the Center for Renewing America, a conservative policy shop whose most recent annual report emphasized a “commitment to end woke and weaponized government.” Its founder, Russell Vought, a former head of the Office of Management and Budget under Trump, and a leading candidate to be the White House chief of staff in a second term, was in attendance, chatting amiably with the guests. He is trim and bald, with glasses and a professorial beard. His group is a kind of ivory tower for far-right Republicans, issuing white papers with titles such as “The Great Replacement in Theory and Practice.” In 2021, he wrote an op-ed for Newsweek that asked, “Is There Anything Actually Wrong with ‘Christian Nationalism’?”

The Center for Renewing America is one of roughly two dozen right-wing groups that have emerged in Washington since Trump left office. What unites them is a wealthy network based on Capitol Hill called the Conservative Partnership Institute, which many in Washington regard as the next Trump Administration in waiting. C.P.I.’s list of personnel and affiliates includes some of Trump’s most fervent backers: Meadows is a senior partner; Stephen Miller, Trump’s top adviser on immigration, runs an associated group called America First Legal, which styles itself as the A.C.L.U. of the maga movement; Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department lawyer facing disbarment for trying to overturn the 2020 election, is a fellow at the Center for Renewing America. All of them are expected to have high-ranking roles in the government if Trump is elected again. “C.P.I. has gathered the most talented people in the conservative movement by far,” someone close to the organization told me. “They have thought deeply about what’s needed to create the infrastructure and the resources for a more anti-establishment conservative movement.”

An Assassination Attempt That Seems Likely to Tear America Further Apart

Peter Baker

When President Ronald Reagan was shot by an attention-seeking drifter in 1981, the country united behind its injured leader. The teary-eyed Democratic speaker of the House, Thomas P. O’Neill Jr., went to the hospital room of the Republican president, held his hands, kissed his head and got on his knees to pray for him.

But the assassination attempt against former President Donald J. Trump seems more likely to tear America further apart than to bring it together. Within minutes of the shooting, the air was filled with anger, bitterness, suspicion and recrimination. Fingers were pointed, conspiracy theories advanced and a country already bristling with animosity fractured even more.

The fact that the shooting in Butler, Pa., on Saturday night was two days before Republicans were set to gather in Milwaukee for their nominating convention invariably put the event in a partisan context. While Democrats bemoaned political violence, which they have long faulted Mr. Trump for encouraging, Republicans instantly blamed President Biden and his allies for the attack, which they argued stemmed from incendiary language labeling the former president a proto-fascist who would destroy democracy.

Israel’s military, worn down by Gaza, looks warily toward war in Lebanon

Shira Rubin and Lior Soroka

KIBBUTZ SASA, northern Israel — Israeli leaders say that they do not want a war in Lebanon but that their country is ready for any scenario.

Israel is “prepared for a very intense operation,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on a visit to the Lebanese border last month. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant threatened to take Lebanon “back to the Stone Age.”

How Can Europe Reduce Its Military Dependency on the United States?

Steven Erlanger

Even the European members of NATO say that they must do more to defend themselves as the war in Ukraine grinds on and the United States shifts its priorities to Asia and a rising China.

The possibility that former President Donald J. Trump will return to the White House heightens the concern, given his repeated threat to withdraw collective defense from countries that don’t pay their way in the alliance.

In fact, European member states have made considerable progress in the last few years to restore more credibility to deterrence against Russia. But they began from a low base, having cut military spending sharply after the collapse of the Soviet Union and reacting with complacency to Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

There is a lot more that the Europeans should do to become less dependent on the United States, NATO officials and analysts said this week during the alliance summit in Washington. That includes committing more money to defense, building up arms manufacturing and coordinating the purchase of weapons systems that could replace those now provided solely by the Americans.

Modernizing space-based nuclear command, control, and communications

Peter L. Hays and Sarah Mineiro


The NC3 system is one of the most opaque, complex, hardened, least understood, and perhaps least appreciated foundations for nuclear deterrence and strategic stability. While each military service is busy developing and attempting to resource its instantiation of combined joint all domain command and control (CJADC2), NC3 has not yet enjoyed this same focus and attention. As security dynamics and technology developments continue to evolve, the United States must commit appropriate resources and focus to ensure the continuing effectiveness of NC3. In simple terms, NC3 is the protected and assured missile, air, and space warning and communication system enabling the command and control of US nuclear forces that must operate effectively under the most extreme and existentially challenging conditions—employment of nuclear weapons. The 2022 US Nuclear Posture Review explains the five essential functions of NC3: “detection, warning, and attack characterization; adaptive nuclear planning; decision-making conferencing; receiving and executing Presidential orders; and enabling the management and direction of forces.”1

The NC3 system must never permit the use of nuclear weapons unless specifically authorized by the president, the only use-approval authority (negative control), while always enabling their use in the specific ways the president authorizes (positive control). Risk tolerance for NC3 systems is understandably nonexistent; there can be no uncertainty in the ability of the United States to positively command and control its nuclear forces at any given moment. The DOD and Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration use the term “nuclear surety” to describe their comprehensive programs for the safety, security, and control of nuclear weapons that leave no margin for error. The requirement for nuclear surety is constant, but it is becoming more difficult to deliver because threats to US NC3 systems are increasing, due to geopolitical, technical, and bureaucratic trends and developments.

18 July 2024

The United States Still Needs an Indian States Strategy

Richard M. Rossow

India’s surprise election results brought coalition politics back to prominence. While this result may have been difficult to predict for this particular election, coalitions have been the norm in India for decades. Over a dozen of India’s regional parties have exerted significant influence over Union government policymaking in recent years—including on issues important to U.S.-India ties.

Let this be an inflection point—the United States needs to build a far more robust and consistent program of work to engage and support India’s states.

There are two critical reasons why the United States must do more to deepen subnational cooperation:
  1. States Drive Development: India’s progress in areas like education, healthcare, sanitation, climate, and investment will primarily be determined by state governments. The 7th Schedule of the Indian Constitution has devolved power in these areas to states, and states have not further devolved authority to cities.
  2. Regional Parties Can Exert a Powerful Influence on U.S.-India Relations: We do not have to look far back into the history books for proof here. The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) could not muster enough regional parties to assure clean passage of legislation to set liability for a civil nuclear accident. The compromise legislation approved in 2010 has precluded any nuclear trade with the United States.
The network of U.S. consulates plays a key role in building local connections with state governments. But sometimes, a senior U.S. visitor is required to really show commitment to engaging India outside of the Delhi-Mumbai lane. The United States has consulates in Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, and Hyderabad, and is planning two additional consulates—in Ahmedabad and Bangalore—in the coming years.

Myanmar’s junta implosion, revolution and national balkanisation

Graeme Dobell

The extraordinary arc of failure of Myanmar’s military has gone from coup and crack-down to the brink of regime crack-up.

When seizing power in February 2021, the military expected to consolidate power and crush resistance. Instead, the junta’s violence pushed popular opposition to become revolution and civil war. The military’s hold on Myanmar shrinks as it suffers a ‘succession of humiliating defeats’.

The spreading authority of rebel groups mean Myanmar’s government no longer controls most of the country’s international borders. The military dictatorship holds less than 50 percent of the country.

As the centre’s grasp on the country weakens, one possibility is that the centre collapses. The implosion prospect is about more than battlefield defeats but goes to the junta’s internal cohesion and vanishing legitimacy.

The junta head, Min Aung Hlaing, will be keeping a Caesar-like ‘et tu’ eye on his fellow generals. The daggers may not be plunged into his toga, but defeat makes any strongman disposable. This is not the coup Min promised. The shock and awe effects are on the military.

From Cold War to Cold Wars

Michael Kimmage

Russian president Vladimir Putin’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine has caused its share of intellectual confusion. Putin has never coherently or consistently explained his intentions, and Russia’s decisionmaking has often been baffling. Although hostilities have stayed mostly in Ukraine, this has hardly been a localized or regional war. It has had extensive global consequences. This war is simultaneously a high-tech conflict, pushing the boundaries of drone and missile technology, and one of tanks and trenches, much like the world wars of the twentieth century. The nuclear parameters of this conflict evoke the Cold War that ran from the late 1940s to 1991.

However this unusual war is categorized, it is not necessarily the United States’ primary foreign policy challenge. The mounting tensions between China and the United States can overshadow Europe and the conflict in Ukraine. The relation of the war in Ukraine to actual and possible crises and invasions that might take place in Asia is at least as confusing as the war itself. Is Ukraine an omen of war in Taiwan? Or is Ukraine a footnote to the world war that might begin in Asia? In his new book, David Sanger, a distinguished New York Times journalist, cuts through the confusion. Among the many virtues of New Cold Wars: China’s Rise, Russia’s Invasion, and America’s Struggle to Defend the West (Crown, 2024) is its narrative and analytical clarity.

China’s Communist Party meets to set direction for troubled economy

Simone McCarthy

After months of unexplained delay, top officials from China’s ruling Communist Party are gathering in Beijing this week to signal the direction forward for the world’s second largest economy as it faces major economic challenges and friction with the West.

Stakes are high for the meeting, which takes place every five years and is known as China’s third plenum. It has historically been a platform for the party’s leadership to announce key economic reforms and policy directives.

China is grappling with a property sector crisis, high local government debt and weak consumer demand — as well as flagging investor confidence and intensifying trade and technology tensions with the United States and Europe.

Those challenges were underscored by its latest economic growth data, which were announced Monday. China’s gross domestic product expanded by 4.7% in the April to June months, compared to the previous year.

That represents a slowdown from the 5.3% growth reported for the first quarter and also missed the expectations of a group of economists polled by Reuters who had predicted 5.1% expansion in the second quarter.

China’s Economic Growth Comes in Worse Than Expected, Adding Pressure on Xi

China’s economy grew at the worst pace in five quarters as efforts to boost consumer spending fell short, piling pressure on Beijing to lift confidence at a twice-a-decade policy meeting this week.

Gross domestic product expanded 4.7% in the second quarter from the same period a year earlier, undershooting economists’ median forecast of 5.1%. Retail sales rose at the slowest pace since December 2022, showing a flurry of government efforts to juice confidence have done little to reinvigorate the Chinese consumer.

“The government will need to mull greater policy supports to deliver its annual growth target of around 5% after the disappointing second quarter data,” said Xiaojia Zhi, an economist at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong. “The increasing likelihood of Trump 2.0 also means that China will need additional policy efforts to boost its domestic demand in a timely manner, as external demand downside risks loom.”

President Xi Jinping is betting on manufacturing and high-tech sectors to propel China’s growth in the post-pandemic era. That strategy already faces uncertainty as Beijing’s trade partners erect new barriers against Chinese goods, with former President Donald Trump threatening more curbs if reelected. The second quarter data shows policymakers will also need to focus efforts on lifting domestic spending to keep the world’s No. 2 economy on track.

Ahead of the Third Plenum, diverging visions for China’s private sector

Christina Sadeler

As economic challenges loom, Chinese experts discuss their country’s private sector and how to boost its economy again. These voices broadly represent two groups – one that reflects current party policy with a high level of saliency in public discourse, and another, a well-established but now-marginalized cohort representing market-leaning reformers, aiming to address the crisis of confidence in the private sector. With the announcement of the CCP’s long-delayed third plenum that usually sets out China’s economic program for the next five years, now is a good time to take stock of these ongoing debates, ones that will not end after the major gathering in July.

The most recent quarterly economic data suggest a more stable growth after a difficult 2023. Still, major challenges affecting the sustainability of China’s economic system remain. These include a struggling real estate sector, piling local government debt, regional inequalities, and a decline of private sector investments in recent years.

The struggling private economy is an issue of concern for the Chinese leadership, given its relevance for economic growth, tax revenues, job creation, and not least for China’s innovation capacities. Compared to pre-Covid years, slowing growth has caused companies to face economic difficulties. So too, confidence of private entrepreneurs has been shaken and not just since the chaotic exit from China’s rigid zero-Covid policy at the end of 2022. The CCP under Xi Jinping has prioritized state-owned enterprises (SOEs), implemented stricter regulations, increased its control, cracked down on the tech-platform sector, mandated patriotism and coerced enterprises into making “donations” – a token gesture to achieve social and economic equality.

How Israel can confront the evil of Iran head-on - opinion


Citing White House aides, The New York Times reported last week that President Joe Biden said he would have “abandoned Israel” had Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu launched a large-scale attack in response to Iran’s attack on Israel.

Although Israel has not yet retaliated, the aggressive direct attack on April 13 – 170 drones, 30-plus cruise missiles, and more than 120 ballistic missiles – was a first, following decades of Iran’s attempts to destroy Israel’s safety and security via proxies.

The decision to attack cannot be minimized or attributed to Iran’s lack of success. If not for the miraculous synchronization of Israel’s various anti-missile defense systems, the attack could have crippled Israel. The fact that it did not has experts baffled.

Unfortunately, Netanyahu buckled under Biden’s threat and did not launch an appropriate counterattack, a natural and expected response from any other country. What’s more, it is common knowledge that Iran will continue to try and attack Israel; they have said as much outright.

The fact is that Iran remains an existential threat to Israel.

Iraq once devastated Iran with chemical weapons as the world stood by. Governments still struggle to respond to chemical warfare

Peyman Asadzade

In April 1915, the German army tried a new tactic to break through allied trenches on the front lines of World War I: the first large-scale use of poison gas. It was a devastating attack on the unprepared allies, and as the heavier-than-air chlorine gas cloud passed over their lines, 1,100 unprotected soldiers died and others retreated, hacking and desperate for air. Although the Germans were slow to press their advantage, the gas had its intended effect and cleared miles of trenches where allied troops had previously stood guard.

Although successful on the surface, the gas attack at the Second Battle of Ypres, a city in Belgium, also highlighted the operational drawbacks of chemical weapons. Targeting an adversary with a weapon that can be dispersed by the whim of the weather and having it reach a target in sufficient quantities without blowing back on the attacking forces is no simple matter. It requires careful observation of the winds and precise placement of the weapons. At Ypres, chemist and future Nobel Prize-winner Fritz Haber, who had advocated for Germany’s use of the poison gas, was personally on hand to manage the placement of thousands of gas canisters. When the allies followed Germany’s example and began engaging in chemical warfare themselves, the overall effect was mixed. At the Battle of Loos, about six months after Ypres, a British chlorine gas attack blew back on the attackers.

Quarantining the Conspiracy Swamps - OPINION

You’d like to think Members of Congress know enough not to indulge conspiracy theories without evidence, but then democracy doesn’t always produce the brightest bulbs. The latest to meet the public’s lowest expectations for our supposed leaders is Rep. Mike Collins, Republican from Georgia’s 10th district, who sent a tweet on Saturday that “Joe Biden sent the orders.”

It’s hard to imagine a more incendiary message in the wake of an assassination attempt. Mr. Collins was retweeting and amplifying a tweet that quoted President Biden’s remark last week that “I have one job, and that’s to beat Donald Trump. I’m absolutely certain I’m the best person to be able to do that. So, we’re done talking about the debate, it’s time to put Trump in a bullseye.”

Mr. Biden was employing a metaphor, however inapt given our current political distemper. He wasn’t giving orders to anyone to shoot Mr. Trump, and if he wanted to do so he wouldn’t do it in public. Mr. Collins is among those who think Mr. Biden lacks the mental acuity to be President, but he then accuses him of masterminding a conspiracy.

It’s embarrassing even to feel obliged to write this, but this is the political world we live in. Social media amplifies falsehoods, which is bad enough when they’re spread by the village idiot. When the village idiot is in Congr

Trump Shooting Is Secret Service’s Most Stunning Failure in Decades

C. Ryan Barber, James Fanelli and Jan Wolfe

Donald Trump’s near assassination presents the biggest crisis for the Secret Service in decades. At the heart of what will be a torrent of investigations: How was a 20-year-old lone shooter able to take up an exposed firing position on an open rooftop not much more than a football field away from the former president?

Scrutiny is likely to focus heavily on the Secret Service’s advance work to secure buildings near the Butler, Pa., rally, including one belonging to American Glass Research where Thomas Matthew Crooks was perched when he shot at Trump.

“The reality is there’s just no excuse for the Secret Service to be unable to provide sufficient resources to cover an open rooftop 100 yards away from the site,” said Bill Pickle, a former deputy assistant Secret Service director. “And there’s no way he should’ve got those shots off.”

A Secret Service sniper shot and killed the suspected gunman just moments after he fired multiple rounds. Crooks used an AR-style rifle that had been purchased by his father, according to people familiar with the investigation. Authorities also found explosive devices in the car he had been driving, according to people briefed on the investigation.