13 October 2021

Gulf security: It’s not all bad news

James M. Dorsey

They fear that the emerging parameters of a reconfigured US commitment to security in the Middle East threaten to upend a more-than-a-century-old pillar of regional security and leave them with no good alternatives.

The shaky pillar is the Gulf monarchies’ reliance on a powerful external ally that, in the words of Middle East scholar Roby C. Barrett, “shares the strategic, if not dynastic, interests of the Arab States.” The ally was Britain and France in the first half of the 20th century and the United States since then.

Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, the revered founder of the United Arab Emirates, implicitly recognised Gulf states’ need for external support when he noted in a 2001 contribution to a book that the six monarchies that form the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) “only support the GCC when it suited them.”

What Developing Countries Need to Reach Net Zero

V. SHANKAR


DUBAI – The recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that the planet will warm by 1.5º Celsius by 2040 unless urgent measures are taken to eliminate greenhouse-gas emissions. After the report’s release, UN Secretary-General António Guterres aptly called it “a code red for humanity.” Global warming is becoming an increasingly urgent problem, and all countries have a role to play in combating it. But as government officials from around the world prepare to set sustainability targets at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow next month, they cannot ignore developing countries’ economic distress.

The climate crisis is occurring at a time when governments and businesses in the developing world are wrestling with the impact of COVID-19. As the global economy begins to emerge from the pandemic, it is obvious that developing countries will recover at a slower rate. And the pace of vaccine delivery will complicate the economic situation further. For example, the poorest countries in Africa may not receive enough doses to vaccinate their entire populations before 2023 at the earliest.

The United States Must Reckon With Its Own Genocides

Emily Prey

Today is Indigenous Peoples Day in the United States, and U.S. President Joe Biden has become the first president ever to issue a proclamation marking the day. But the United States can do far more. Just as Canada is reckoning with its genocidal history of colonization, so must the United States. This is not only a moral necessity at home but one vital if Washington wants to be a credible opponent of abusive regimes worldwide.

In May, 215 unmarked graves were uncovered at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia, Canada. In June, 751 additional graves were discovered near a former residential school in Saskatchewan province. Some of the children were as young as 3 years old. It is believed that between 4,000 and 10,000 children died in such “schools” across Canada.

But forcing Indigenous children to attend residential boarding schools was not a practice exclusive to Canada. The United States has a long and dark history of the same government-sanctioned abuses. Over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, there were more than 350 government funded, and often church run, Indigenous boarding schools across the United States.

How Well Can AI Pick Targets From Satellite Photos? Army Test Aims to Find Out

PATRICK TUCKER

Two live GBU-32 bombs will be dropped on range targets selected by an artificial-intelligence tool on Thursday, part of a U.S. Army effort to see how AI might soon be used on the battlefield.

The F-35 strikes are part of the fourth iteration of the XVIII Airborne Corps’s Scarlet Dragon exercise, which aims to test whether applying AI to multiple data streams can speed up finding and hitting pre-invasion targets. The test will be run by operators with the XVIII Airborne Corps out of Fort Bragg.

The exercise uses the seed software behind Project Maven, the military’s flagship AI-for-targeting effort. But whereas Maven looked at full-motion video feeds from drones, the Army effort applies that same technology to satellite images. That opens up an opportunity to operate in a much larger area. The exercise spans multiple ranges from Virginia to Georgia, with thousands of potential targets spread over some 7,200 square kilometers.

Rational Not Reactive

James Shires and Lauren Zabierek

Executive Summary

The increasing tempo of offensive cyber operations by Iran and its adversaries, including the U.S. and Israel, has led many commentators to label them as “tit-for-tat”: a cyclical action-reaction dynamic where each side seeks to respond appropriately to an earlier violation by the other. However, this interpretation has significant theoretical and empirical deficiencies. Why, then, does a tit-for-tat narrative dominate our understanding of Iranian cyber activity, and what are the consequences?

This paper revisits the longer-term arc of Iranian cyber operations, as well as examining a key “negative” case of the aftermath of the U.S. killing of IRGC General Qassem Suleimani in January 2020, where relevant expert and policy communities expected an Iranian cyber response that was not forthcoming. It argues that unfulfilled U.S. expectations of Iranian cyber responses can be explained by two key factors.

NSA Renews Focus On Securing Military Weapons Systems Against ‘Capable’ Rivals

BRAD D. WILLIAMS

WASHINGTON: The head of the National Security Agency’s Cybersecurity Directorate said that one of his agency’s top priorities has become protecting US weapons systems from cyber threats, representing a shift in focus brought about by the rise of an increasingly multipolar world with highly capable cyber adversaries.

“We spent the past 20 years in Afghanistan, where our weapons systems were not targeted by the foe,” because it lacked the technical capability, NSA’s Rob Joyce told the annual Billington Cybersecurity Summit on Wednesday. “But near-peer adversaries have the capabilities to exploit us when we do things incorrectly,” Joyce continued, referring to China and Russia. Joyce also said Iran and North Korea remain a concern as increasingly capable cyber adversaries.

“In terms of weapons systems, we have computers on wings, at sea, and on land. We don’t think of [weapons systems] that way, but none of them work without computers,” Joyce observed.

Working toward responsible competition with China

Patricia M. Kim


The announcement that Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping will meet in a virtual summit before the end of the year have raised prospects that Washington and Beijing can begin to set “guardrails” to prevent U.S.-China competition from tipping into outright conflict. Despite Biden’s emphasis in his speech at the United Nations General Assembly that the United States is “not seeking a new Cold War or a world divided into rigid blocs” and Xi’s statement that disputes should “be handled through dialogue and cooperation,” the intensifying rivalry between the two states has been very much in the spotlight. The current trajectory of U.S.-China relations and trendlines in the Indo-Pacific are concerning, and wise leadership on the part of Washington, Beijing, and the middle powers of the region will be essential to prevent a drift toward zero-sum conflict.

STILL NO MODUS OPERANDI FOR U.S.-CHINA RELATIONS

Since coming into office, the Biden administration has proposed that the United States will simultaneously confront and compete with China, while seeking cooperation in areas of common interest. Beijing, however, has rejected this framework, making the case that Washington should not expect China’s cooperation on issues like climate change as long as it continues to challenge China’s policies elsewhere. Chinese leaders have expressed that the “ball is in the U.S. court” to rectify its “misguided policies.” This past July, Beijing presented U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman with “three bottom lines” and “two lists.” Included in these are demands that the U.S. must refrain from criticizing China’s domestic system and its policies toward Hong Kong, Xinjiang, Tibet, and Taiwan, and that all sanctions, tariffs, and export restrictions imposed on China be removed.

The Metamorphosis of Growth Policy

DANI RODRIK

CAMBRIDGE – Development policy has long been divided between two types of approaches. One approach targets poor people directly and seeks to alleviate the poverty of individual households – through income support, health and education interventions, and enhanced access to credit. The other focuses on enhancing economic opportunities and raising overall productivity – through economy-wide macroeconomic and trade policies or legal and regulatory reforms. Call the first social policy and the second growth policy.

These two types of policies are generally complementary. Aggregate growth may not always help everyone, especially the poor. Consequently, anti-poverty programs will be necessary even when growth policy is doing its job properly. Occasionally, however, social and growth policies have been viewed as substitutes.

For example, the increased use of randomized policy experiments has allowed analysts to develop causal evidence about social policies – such as cash grants or education and health interventions – in ways that are rarely possible with macroeconomic or economy-wide policies. This, in turn, has led many academics and practitioners to downgrade the practical importance of growth policy relative to social policy.

Taming Techno-Nationalism: A Policy Agenda


This is creating incentives for states to treat access to sensitive technologies as a zero-sum game and to pursue policies to expand national control over and international influence through sensitive technologies. The “geopoliticization” of sensitive technologies – even those which, on first sight, appear banal and/or consumer-focused in nature – are on clear display in debates surrounding European telecom providers’ use of Huawei technologies within their 5G networks, fresh discussions regarding Johnson & Johnson’s purchase of Crucell, and the United Kingdom’s (UK’s) response to NVIDIA’s proposed acquisition of ARM.

Sensitive technologies are, in other words, growing to be more and more closely associated with “European strategic autonomy,” the notion that European Member States should be able to make consequential decisions without being constrained by their relationships with countries like the US or China.

THREE SCENARIOS FOR EUROPE’S CONFLICT LANDSCAPE IN 2030

Florence Schimmel

The aim and purpose of this undertaking was to test a foresight methodology for developing an EU Civilian Capability Profile for EU crisis management. An important first step for this exercise was to sketch out a panorama of conflicts that the EU could be confronted with in and around 2030. Subsequently, the scenarios provided the foundation for an exercise in strategic planning. During follow-up sessions in October 2020, we established capability areas for possible civilian CSDP missions for the scenarios. Details and lessons learned can be found in the accompanying Policy Brief.

The foresight methodology that was used does not claim to predict the future, but rather to develop a probable version of the future. Exploring a well-thought-out possible future is an opportunity to improve early warning, more efficiently allocate resources, and future-proof overall decision-making. Therefore, this methodology can help the EU and its member states make long-term decisions about the future of EU civilian crisis management and its role in the EU’s external action toolbox. For this purpose, we tweaked a classic foresight methodology to accommodate our field of interest, and transferred it online due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Cryptocurrencies' Next Stage

ALEH TSYVINSKI

NEW HAVEN – Regulators around the world are cracking down on cryptocurrencies. China has banned them. The United States is considering a range of measures aimed at reining them in. The Bank of England is developing capital requirements for financial institutions that hold them. But, far from spelling disaster for the crypto industry, regulation is vital to its long-term prospects.

The crypto market’s development began with what can best be described as the “product innovation” stage. Blockchain technology enabled people to approach old questions (What is money? How can art be created and valued?) in new ways. This resulted in highly visible applications, such as virtual currencies and tokenized artworks. But it also enabled less glamorous innovations in a wide range of areas, from tracking container shipments to improving the integrity of health-care records.

Will blockchain’s impact be revolutionary? It depends what you consider a “revolution.” Northwestern University’s Robert Gordon, for example, questions whether the impact of more recent technological innovations will be as far-reaching as that of previous breakthroughs. Will smart phones prove to be as important as electricity? Will e-commerce be as transformative as steam power? Can the internet’s impact compare to that of radio and the telegraph?

Hybrid Warfare and Active Measures

Gabriel Lloyd

Introduction

Since Vladimir Putin’s inauguration as Russia’s president following the tumultuous tenure of Boris Yeltsin, Russia has implemented a coordinated policy of conventional espionage measures, cyber intrusions, and information operations targeting the United States. Validated on the multi-domain battlefields and computer networks of vulnerable Baltic neighbors, Russia’s active campaigns of intelligence and influence operations have caught the United States off-guard. Four successive U.S. presidential administrations have grappled with Russian aggression, but U.S. responses have consistently lacked cohesion, strategy and effectiveness in deterrence. Russia’s weaponization of social media and willingness to attack the foundations of American democracy have made the development of a coherent U.S. strategy a matter of urgent national importance. By examining the underlying doctrine of hybrid warfare, the specific tactics that Putin’s Russia is using against the United States and highlighting recent U.S. responses to Russian espionage and cyber influence campaigns, this paper identifies the potent tools and patterns of hybrid warfare strategy that collectively constitute a growing threat to U.S. national security. While hybrid warfare falls short of conventional military conflict in the metric of physical destruction, its deleterious effects on American security are undeniable and suggest the need for a long-term, comprehensive strategy from the United States.

Behind NATO’s ‘cognitive warfare’: ‘Battle for your brain’ waged by Western militaries

BEN NORTON
NATO is developing new forms of warfare to wage a “battle for the brain,” as the military alliance put it.

The US-led NATO military cartel has tested novel modes of hybrid warfare against its self-declared adversaries, including economic warfare, cyber warfare, information warfare, and psychological warfare.

Now, NATO is spinning out an entirely new kind of combat it has branded cognitive warfare. Described as the “weaponization of brain sciences,” the new method involves “hacking the individual” by exploiting “the vulnerabilities of the human brain” in order to implement more sophisticated “social engineering.”

Until recently, NATO had divided war into five different operational domains: air, land, sea, space, and cyber. But with its development of cognitive warfare strategies, the military alliance is discussing a new, sixth level: the “human domain.”

A 2020 NATO-sponsored study of this new form of warfare clearly explained, “While actions taken in the five domains are executed in order to have an effect on the human domain, cognitive warfare’s objective is to make everyone a weapon.”

NGA Must ‘Treat Data As A Strategic Asset,’ Director Says

THERESA HITCHENS

GEOINT 2021: The explosion of available observational data about the Earth and human activity around the world is challenging the ability of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) to be able to make sense of it all — especially on the shortened timelines desired by warfighters, said the agency’s director, Vice Adm. Robert Sharp.

“The growth in GEOINT data from government and commercial sources here and around the world is staggering. This exponential growth in data leads us to one of our biggest challenges: managing all of the data,” Sharp said in his keynote Wednesday at the GEOINT 2021 conference in St. Louis, Mo., sponsored by the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation.

“Kind of like the mountains Lewis and Clark had to scale, data is a mountain we have to climb,” he said. “So, as I see it, it’s critical that we team up with others who are experts in data integration.”

Q&A with Gen. Murray, Leader of Army Futures Command

Jon Harper

Taking a big picture view, how would you assess Army Futures Command’s efforts so far in terms of shepherding the service’s modernization? And are there areas where you are further ahead or further behind than you expected to be by this point?

If you go back four or five years and where we were with modernization, and you look at where we are today, I think we’ve made great progress. … You've got a requirements process that used to take three to five years just to write the requirement, and we've gotten that down to well under a year, in a lot of cases three to five months, for our signature programs. We've got efforts that, from the identification of a need to the delivery of the capability to our soldiers, in one case [it took just] 23 months, which is significantly different and faster than we've done in the past.

We have several efforts that faltered. And I think it's a tribute to the Army senior leadership and the Army writ large, [that a decision was made] to step back and admit that we may not have this right before we get into a program that costs us billions of dollars or tens of billions of dollars before we decide that we can’t execute.

12 October 2021

Deterrence Theory– Is it Applicable in Cyber Domain?

Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)

Introduction 

The Deterrence Theory was developed in the 1950s, mainly to address new strategic challenges posed by nuclear weapons from the Cold War nuclear scenario. During the Cold War, the U.S. and the Soviet Union adopted a survivable nuclear force to present a ‘credible’ deterrent that maintained the ‘uncertainty’ inherent in a strategic balance as understood through the accepted theories of major theorists like Bernard Brodie, Herman Kahn, and Thomas Schelling.1 Nuclear deterrence was the art of convincing the enemy not to take a specific action by threatening it with an extreme punishment or an unacceptable failure.

Cyber Weapons – A Weapon of War?

Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)

Introduction 
The character of warfare has changed fundamentally over the last decade. In the past, it was essential for an adversary nation or insurgent to physically bring weapons to bear during combat. That requirement is no longer a necessity. In cyber operations, the only weapons that need to be used are bits and bytes. In this new era of warfare, logistics issues that often restrict and limit conventional warfare and weaponry are not impediments. This new weaponry moves at the speed of light, is available to every human on the planet and can be as surgical as a scalpel or as devastating as a nuclear bomb.

Cyber attacks in various forms have become a global problem. Cyber weapons are low-cost, low-risk, highly effective and easily deployable globally. This new class of weapons is within reach of many countries, extremist or terrorist groups, non-state actors, and even individuals. Cyber crime organisations are developing cyber weapons effectively. The use of offensive Cyber operations by nation-states directly against another or by co-opting cyber criminals has blurred the line between spies and non-state malicious hackers. New entrants, both nation-states and non-state actors have unmatched espionage and surveillance capabilities with significant capabilities. They are often the forerunners for criminal financial gain, destruction and disruption operations. Progressively, we see non-state actors including commercial entities, developing capabilities that were solely held by a handful of state actors.

Why India Can’t Wean Itself Off Coal

Vijaya Ramachandran

When the United Nations climate summit convenes in Glasgow, Scotland, in just a few weeks, rich countries will once again pressure India to speed up its energy transition. India is the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, and its use of fossil fuels is still rapidly growing as it continues to industrialize and raise its standard of living. Because India is so dependent on carbon-based fuels—especially coal—and has understandably little interest in curtailing its own development, it has been a notable holdout in the current global climate negotiations, including an agreement to phase out coal consumption and end the financing of coal plants. India skipped the pre-summit ministerial meeting in London, the only one of 51 invited countries to do so. And while Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the Glasgow summit, New Delhi risks once again being painted as an obstacle to the global fight against climate change.

Yet those who point to India as a climate boogeyman—mainly policymakers, activists, and journalists in the developed world—are holding it to an unfair standard they would never apply to themselves. Yes, we all know that burning coal is bad for the environment, not to mention the health of coal workers and local communities. But it is not fair to ask a developing country like India to bear the costs of an exit from a carbon-based economy without developed countries making significant emissions reductions first—which they are demonstrably not doing. What’s more, weaning India off coal too fast would come with terrible human costs that cannot be ignored.

It’s a truism but bears repeating: One of the main reasons Indians are still poor is that they don’t have enough access to energy. Modern energy services such as reliable electricity, clean cooking fuels, and mechanical power are critical for lifting people out of poverty, ending malnutrition, improving health and education outcomes, and raising productivity in agriculture and industry. The Indian government’s Economic Survey shows that Indian states where more schools have access to electricity have higher rates of literacy. When health care facilities have a reliable supply of electricity, fewer patients and babies die. The need to lift more Indians out of poverty is once again acute: The Pew Research Center estimates that the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic pushed 75 million Indians into poverty, nearly doubling the number of people who live on less than $2 per day.

After the Fall of Afghanistan, the U.S. Must Re-Engage with Central Asia

Luke Coffey

SUMMARY

Central Asia has been, is now, and will continue to be an area of geopolitical importance to the United States. The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan is a stark reminder of this. If the U.S. is to have a strategy to deal with the geopolitical fallout from the crisis in Afghanistan, policymakers in Washington simply cannot ignore Central Asia. Unfortunately for the U.S., the level of engagement by Washington in the region has been minimal in recent years. The U.S. needs a new approach to protect its national interest in the region and must re-engage—smartly—with the five countries of Central Asia.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Especially after the Taliban’s return to power, Central Asia is once again—and will continue to be—an area of geopolitical importance to the United States.

Central Asia has often been ignored until it was too late; the Biden Administration has not taken any meaningful steps to enhance U.S. relations with Central Asia.

The U.S. should rebuild relations in Central Asia, and unlike in past decades, do so in a way that will be lasting and genuine.

After 20 years, the Taliban recaptured most of Afghanistan when the U.S. and international withdrawal precipitated a collapse of the Afghan government and security forces.

The five Central Asian countries—Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan—have a new reality on their doorstep and are nervously watching it unfold. In the coming months and years, Afghanistan will likely become a place of instability, as it was in the 1990s. While options are limited, the U.S. must mitigate the geopolitical fallout from the fall of Afghanistan.

The Central Asian region will be an important part of any approach. The Biden Administration needs to develop a new Central Asia strategy, build confidence and trust between the U.S. and the Central Asian states by routine senior-level visits, prioritize improving relations with Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, specifically, and cooperate on security and terrorism issues with all countries in the region when possible, at a pace with which they are comfortable.

Central Asia is a region often ignored by U.S. policymakers until it is too late. In the early 1990s, after the fall of the Iron Curtain, the U.S. began to pursue relations with these newly independent republics. But after a few years, that initial enthusiasm for engagement in the region declined.

During the Afghan civil war in the mid-1990s, different Central Asian countries backed different warlords and powerbrokers in Afghanistan—but all were unified in stopping the Taliban from taking power. In the aftermath of 9/11, the U.S. had to scramble to rebuild relations with the region because of the need for military bases. Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, both of which played an important role backing opposition to the Taliban in the 1990s, also played a vital role in the opening days of America’s military involvement in Afghanistan in late 2001.

At this time, the U.S. established two air bases in Central Asia. One was at Karshi-Khanabad in Uzbekistan, on an old Soviet air base, the other at Manas International Airport in Kyrgyzstan, near the capital Bishkek. These two bases helped the U.S. and its NATO partners to conduct military operations in Afghanistan.


Maintaining access to these bases was not easy, however. In 2005, American forces were evicted from Karshi-Khanabad after the Bush Administration condemned the Uzbek government for its crackdown on the 2005 protests in Andijan, which left dozens—perhaps hundreds—of protesters dead. The U.S. presence in Manas proved to be more resilient. However, mounting Russian pressure on Bishkek to close the base meant that the lease for the base was not renewed in 2014.

Other external powers also established military presences in the region in the aftermath of 9/11. Germany maintained an air base in Termez, in southern Uzbekistan, from 2002 until 2014. It was used to resupply and support German forces operating just across the border in northern Afghanistan. France maintained a small aviation detachment in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, to support its operations in Afghanistan. That base closed in 2013.

When President Barack Obama ended U.S.-led combat operations in Afghanistan in 2014, U.S. engagement in Central Asia waned yet again. While the Trump Administration did try to increase engagement, Russia and China did the same. The C5+1 initiative,1


The primary goal of the C5+1 initiative is to create a multilateral format for the five Central Asian republics and the U.S. to build relations with each other. The C5+1 nations are the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Republic of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, the Republic of Uzbekistan, and the U.S. started by the Obama Administration and continuing today, rarely delivers anything tangible in the U.S.–Central Asia relationship and has morphed into a stale talking shop. So far, the Biden Administration has not taken any meaningful steps to enhance U.S. relations with Central Asia.

Time for U.S. Engagement

Due to the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the U.S. needs a close relationship with countries in the region. However, years of neglect from Washington will make this difficult. The U.S. should re-build relations in Central Asia, and unlike before, do so in a way that will be lasting and genuine. To do so, the Biden Administration should:
Develop a new Central Asia strategy. In February 2020, the Trump Administration launched the first U.S. strategy for Central Asia in half a decade. The strategy emphasized Afghanistan’s role in the region. Two of the six “policy objectives” in the strategy directly dealt with Afghanistan: “Expand and maintain support for stability in Afghanistan” and “[e]ncourage connectivity between Central Asia and Afghanistan.”2

U.S. Department of State, “United States Strategy for Central Asia 2019-2025: Advancing Sovereignty and Economic Prosperity (Overview),” February 5, 2020, https://www.state.gov/united-states-strategy-for-central-asia-2019-2025-advancing-

sovereignty-and-economic-prosperity/ (accessed September 21, 2021). While the strategy was well received by the regional governments and policymakers in Washington at the time, current events now make it out of date. A strategy is urgently needed that reflects the new reality in the region.

Increase U.S. government and diplomatic presence in the region. No sitting U.S. President has ever visited Central Asia. It is time for this to change. In the meantime, a good way to start re-engagement easily and symbolically would be with a few high-level visits by U.S. officials. The U.S. should send Cabinet-level visitors to build relations in the region. Considering the new reality in Afghanistan, regional countries, such as Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, are natural partners. The U.S. should pursue a pragmatic relationship with these countries based on mutual strategic and regional interests.

Increase bilateral military and security relations with willing countries in the region—at a pace decided by them. The U.S. has a history of basing troops in the region. However, even though it would benefit the U.S. to re-open a military base in Central Asia, the likelihood of this happening anytime soon is remote. Many do not trust the U.S. in the region and Washington has not put in the legwork over the years required to keep close relations. Instead, the U.S. should take steps to rebuild trust and confidence and focus on restoring bilateral relations with the Central Asian states. Then, someday the circumstances might allow another U.S. base in the region.

Increase U.S. engagement in the South Caucasus. The geography of Eurasia means that getting in and out of Central Asia is not straightforward. Pakistan is not often a solid partner when it comes to accessing the region. China, Iran, and Russia obviously are not options for the U.S. either when it comes to accessing Central Asia. This leaves a very small, narrow corridor from Turkey through Georgia and through Azerbaijan’s Ganja Gap.3


There are only three ways for energy and trade to flow overland between Europe and Asia: through Iran, through Russia, or through Azerbaijan. With relations among the West, Moscow, and Tehran in tatters, that leaves only one viable route for hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of trade—through Azerbaijan. This small trade corridor, only 100 kilometers wide, is known as the Ganja Gap—named after Azerbaijan’s second-largest city and old Silk Road trading post of Ganja. If Washington is serious about getting more involved in Central Asia, it must also engage more with the countries of the South Caucasus.

An Important Region

Central Asia has been, is, and will continue to be an area of geopolitical importance to the United States. The situation developing in Afghanistan is a reminder of this. If the U.S. is to have a strategy to deal with the geopolitical fallout from the crisis in Afghanistan, policymakers in Washington simply cannot ignore Central Asia. Unfortunately for the U.S., the level of engagement by Washington in the region has been minimal in recent years. The U.S. needs a new approach to protect its national interest in the region.

Al Qaeda Could Throw a Wrench in China's Plans for Afghanistan

Saba Sattar

Where once the United States was perceived as the “far enemy” by Al Qaeda operatives, China can expect trouble with Al Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K) as it seeks to invest in the post-war torn Afghanistan.

Beijing has already dispatched $31 million in emergency aid, including essential food items and coronavirus vaccines. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid also stated the new regime’s “desire” to join the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Beijing’s flagship $62 billion endeavor, that serves a larger part of the trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Launched in 2013 as one of the critical ways of realizing the Chinese Dream, or the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, the BRI is a global critical infrastructure development strategy spanning across 139 nation-states. The CPEC forms a crucial component of the BRI to extend China’s strategic foothold into landlocked Central Asia to diversify its sources of energy from Western maritime trade interdiction in the first island chain.

DRONE STRIKES GONE WRONG: FIXING A STRATEGIC PROBLEM

 Andrew Milburn

Watching the chaotic scenes in Kabul airport this last August, it is difficult to make sense of the manner in which Washington pulled the plug on a two-decade Coalition effort leaving our allies non-plussed and our partners to the mercy of a vengeful enemy. Less than three weeks later, these images came again to mind during the testimony of Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and two of his four-star generals before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Nothing in that testimony, however, brought a sense of closure. Instead, repeated attempts at justification, and ultimately – a collective refusal to take responsibility – only rubbed salt in the wound.

As we wait for the investigations and inquiries to play out, however, I want to focus here on critical lessons from a single incident. It was the last offensive action taken by the United States in a 20-year war – a drone strike that failed to hit its target, killing instead several civilians. The mistake was no isolated incident but part of a pattern that has implications not just for US counter-terrorism strategy but for US foreign policy going ahead. I discuss here what the problem is, why it matters, and how to fix it.

China Will Test America On Taiwan. What Will Joe Biden Do?

Brent Sadler

Chinese military activity around Taiwan has risen to unprecedented levels over the last few months. Chinese warplanes have breached Taiwan’s air defense zone more than 150 times in just this last week.

Given the stakes, and rather ambiguous assurances from the U.S. regarding Taiwan’s security, what happens when Beijing tries to test U.S. resolve?

The current Taiwan Relations Act does not provide any guarantee or assurance of a U.S. military response should China attack. But the 1979 Act does stipulate that the U.S. will provide Taiwan with arms to defend itself and that Washington will maintain the military capacity to compel a peaceful resolution between China and Taiwan.

Deterring China from starting a war over Taiwan is what matters most, and that only works as long as the military balance remains unfavorable to China.
nning in 2019, the Trump administration declassified three internal Reagan-era memos. These memos became known inside government as providing the “six assurances.” They made clear then, as do continued arms sales to Taiwan and proximate U.S. military presence today, that the U.S. will act to ensure the situation is resolved peacefully.

An Azerbaijani-Iranian War Will Lead to a Regional Conflagration

Taras Kuzio

Iran is escalating its military rhetoric against Azerbaijan as Tehran holds its largest military exercises in three decades on its border with Azerbaijan. Meanwhile, patriotism in Azerbaijan, which is already high following its recent victory in the Second Karabakh War, is being mobilized to counter the Iranian threat.

A military conflict between Iran and Azerbaijan would lead to a regional conflagration. Given that Turkey just formed a security pact with Baku by signing the Shusha Declaration in June, Turkey will be certain to support Azerbaijan. Pakistan, an ally of Turkey and Azerbaijan, would also increase military pressure on Iran’s eastern border. Meanwhile, Armenia, which has been unwilling to accept its defeat, could be tempted to use the distraction of an Azerbaijani-Iranian war to retake what nationalists call “Eastern Armenia,” leading to another war over Nagorno-Karabakh. Furthermore, a regional conflagration would be detrimental for Russian security policy in the South Caucasus because it would jeopardize Russia’s so-called “peacekeeping” operation in Nagorno-Karabakh. The Kremlin could no longer pretend to be neutral if its regional allies—Iran and Armenia—were involved in military operations.

The challenge facing the National Defense Strategy

DOV S. ZAKHEIM

The Pentagon has begun the process of developing a strategy to meet the congressional requirement for a National Defense Strategy (NDS) report in 2022. The defense strategy is likely to expand upon the 2018 strategy, which identified China and Russia as peer competitors and assigned highest priority to deterring adventurism on the part of both states.

China’s increasingly aggressive stance against Taiwan — notably, its recent four-day surge of nearly 150 combat aircraft into the island’s air defense identification zone, as well as the expansion of its conventional and strategic nuclear forces — underscores the ongoing need for maintaining a credible deterrent against Beijing. Similarly, Russia’s continuing pressure on Ukraine, its ceaseless efforts to employ cyber to disrupt American political and economic activity, and its military modernization programs justify the priority that the 2022 NDS, like its immediate predecessor, is likely to assign to deterring Moscow’s aggressiveness.

The second world war was fuelled by imperial fantasies


Why another single-volume history of the second world war? Richard Overy has himself written more than 20 books covering different aspects of the conflict and the global crisis of the first half of the 20th century. But his aim in “Blood and Ruins” is to question the widespread assumption that the war was simply the result of the territorial aggression of the Axis powers, and Allied resistance to it. Instead, he sees the policies pursued by Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and the Japanese military establishment as effects of the crisis as well as a leading cause.
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It makes more sense, Mr Overy argues, to think in terms of a “long” second world war that began in China in the early 1930s and ended there—and in South-East Asia, eastern Europe and the Middle East—only in the decade after 1945. The origins of the war, he says, lay in the zenith of European colonialism in the late 19th century; it became imperialism’s violent nemesis. His title comes from Leonard Woolf, a Bloomsbury intellectual who in 1928 wrote: “Imperialism, as it was known in the 19th century, is no longer possible, and the only question is whether it will be buried peacefully or in blood and ruins.”

Israel still fears US approach to Iran

Ben Caspit

US national security adviser Jake Sullivan and his Iraeli counterpart Eyal Hulata and their teams met in the White House Oct. 5, within the framework of the US-Israel Strategic Consultative Group. The press readout following the meeting described the session as “constructive” and “open.” A senior administration official briefing reporters on condition of anonymity said the Biden administration was committed to talks with Iran to prevent it from obtaining nuclear weapons, but if diplomacy fails, he said, "we'll be prepared to take measures that are necessary."

He continued, “Obviously, if that [diplomacy] doesn’t work, there are other avenues to pursue, and we’re fully committed to ensuring that Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon,” but refused to elaborate. At the same time, according to Israeli media reports, Israel will be asking the Americans to put together a package of sanctions against Iran in case the talks fail.

Diplomatic sources say that away from the public eye, the climate in closed meetings is far less favorable. In fact, the opposite may be true. Israeli frustration is growing, as is the realization that Israel and the United States aren't on the same page and their strategic perceptions of the Iranian nuclear threat differ substantially. A senior Israeli defense official, who did not take part in the talks but was privy to their contents by dint of his very close position to Defense Minister Benny Gantz, described the situation to Al-Monitor as follows.

Don't Be So Sure That China Is Going Headfirst Into Afghanistan

East Asia Forum

Here's What You Need To Remember: China is well aware of the maxim that Afghanistan is the ‘graveyard of empires’, and will tread lightly for the time being. Increased investments in the country are still risky as the Taliban remains in conflict with rival militant groups

On 18 July, Taliban leader Hibatullah Akhundzada said the group seeks strong diplomatic, economic and political relations with all countries including the United States. The Taliban soon revealed it had opened several channels of communication with foreign countries. China is among the first in the region to embrace — albeit cautiously — the new political reality shaping Afghanistan. For Beijing, the Taliban takeover presents opportunities as well as threats.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with a top-level Taliban delegation in Tianjin on 28 July. He labelled the Taliban ‘a pivotal military and political force’ and urged them to make a clean break with all militant organisations including the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM). In a phone call with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken — made shortly after Beijing confirmed its Kabul embassy is operating safely under Taliban rule — Wang even appealed for the international community to engage with the Taliban and ‘positively guide them’.

China Will Not Invade Taiwan Today. But Is It Conducting a Test Run?

Kris Osborn

The Chinese military is swarming Taiwan’s airspace and waterways in a massive display of power with fighter jets, bombers, and anti-submarine warfare aircraft. This appears to be a clear effort to intimidate and send a warning to Taiwan.

A force consisting of fifty-two People’s Liberation Army (PLA) aircraft including thirty-four J-16 fighter jets, two Su-30s, two Y-8 anti-submarine warfare aircraft, two KJ-500 plans, and as many as twelve H-6 bombers all entered Taiwan’s southwest air defense identification zone.

A Chinese government-backed newspaper said the power demonstration was in part a response to what it called a “wrong” and “irresponsible” signal from the United States expressing “concern” over Chinese provocations regarding Taiwan. The paper says the large-scale Chinese power demonstration shows China maintains power and control in the areas surrounding Taiwan.

China’s Xi Emphasizes ‘Peaceful Reunification’ With Taiwan, Days After Record Show of Force

Elaine Yu

Mr. Xi’s remarks were part of a speech that marked the 110th anniversary of the revolution that overturned Qing imperial rule in China. In the decades that followed, the Communists and Nationalists jostled for control of China, which later led to a split between China and Taiwan amid a civil war. Nationalist forces withdrew to the island, and communist leader Mao Zedong proclaimed the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949.

The Communist Party considers Taiwan part of China, despite never having ruled the island, and has vowed to take control of it, by force if necessary.

In a response to Mr. Xi’s speech, Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council said China’s continued threat of military action is the key to problems across the Taiwan Strait.

“The Chinese Communist Party’s rigid Taiwan policy doesn’t take a realistic measure of the current situation, completely fails to account for the development of global circumstances, and fundamentally ignores the doubts and opposition of the Taiwanese people,” it said.

Mr. Xi has long spoken of realizing what Beijing has called a peaceful reunification with Taiwan, but his remarks came as concerns within the U.S. mounted over China’s yearslong military buildup and recent threatening moves against the island.

The PLA has flown 150 sorties near Taiwan so far this month, a blitz that has sparked expressions of concern from the U.S., U.K. and Germany.

On Thursday, The Wall Street Journal reported that a small number of American troops have been secretly training local military forces on the island.

Taiwan’s independence is the biggest obstacle to Beijing’s goal of unification and poses a “serious hidden danger to national rejuvenation,” Mr. Xi said. “Those who forget their ancestors, betray the motherland or split the country have always been doomed. They will definitely be spurned by the people and judged by history,” he added.

Mr. Xi said the issue of Taiwan is China’s internal affair and that no external interference is allowed, without naming any country. He didn’t mention the use of force on Taiwan in his speech.

China Will Test America On Taiwan. What Will Joe Biden Do?

Brent Sadler

Chinese military activity around Taiwan has risen to unprecedented levels over the last few months. Chinese warplanes have breached Taiwan’s air defense zone more than 150 times in just this last week.

Given the stakes, and rather ambiguous assurances from the U.S. regarding Taiwan’s security, what happens when Beijing tries to test U.S. resolve?

The current Taiwan Relations Act does not provide any guarantee or assurance of a U.S. military response should China attack. But the 1979 Act does stipulate that the U.S. will provide Taiwan with arms to defend itself and that Washington will maintain the military capacity to compel a peaceful resolution between China and Taiwan.

Deterring China from starting a war over Taiwan is what matters most, and that only works as long as the military balance remains unfavorable to China.

Beginning in 2019, the Trump administration declassified three internal Reagan-era memos. These memos became known inside government as providing the “six assurances.” They made clear then, as do continued arms sales to Taiwan and proximate U.S. military presence today, that the U.S. will act to ensure the situation is resolved peacefully.

The China Challenge

ROBERT KUTTNER

There has never been a threat to U.S. well-being comparable to China. Its rapid global expansion challenges America’s economic and geopolitical security, as well as basic democratic values and the rule of law. Joe Biden, taking advantage of a door crudely blasted open by Donald Trump, has reversed the traditional course on China policy. The question is whether Biden’s administration will do so coherently, comprehensively, and effectively.

The Chinese economic model starts with state-directed and -subsidized capital. Imports are either blocked or conditioned on technology transfer and “partnerships” with Chinese state-owned or -allied companies whose eventual goal is to displace imports. Western companies are incentivized by cheap labor and capital subsidies to produce in China, but only for export back to the West (Apple), or locally but subject to sharing trade secrets (GE). Whatever China does not get through negotiated technology transfer, it gets through industrial espionage. Exports, meanwhile, are subsidized, with the objective of making China the worldwide low-cost producer. China also manipulates the value of its currency, to keep export prices artificially low. Wages are suppressed, and of course there are no labor rights.


This model has produced growth rates of 7 to 10 percent per year for more than three decades. It has driven U.S. producers out of industry after industry, making those remaining heavily reliant on Chinese supply chains. It has enriched U.S. financiers and upended America’s domestic middle-class labor market, while trying to mollify consumers with cheap goods. The Chinese state, directed by its Communist Party, is pursuing nothing less than global political and economic hegemony. Undeniably, the U.S. has facilitated this advance.
American Enablers

Can the United States Defend Taiwan from a Chinese Invasion?

Daniel L. Davis

Here’s What You Need to Remember: Taipei should continue to bolster its defenses through an A2/AD strategy of its own so that the cost of forcible unification by China would be so significant—and ultimate success would not be guaranteed—that the Communist Party leaders in Beijing would not risk the potential loss. For American policy, it doesn’t make sense to risk military defeat or financial ruin when our interests are not directly threatened.

There has long been heated debate over whether the United States should defend Taiwan in the case of a Chinese invasion, but little consideration to whether it successfully can. An unemotional assessment of the military capabilities of both China and the United States reveals the odds are uncomfortably high that the U.S. forces would be defeated in a war with China over Taiwan. What’s worse, even achieving a tactical victory could result in a devastating strategic loss. That’s not to say, however, that there aren’t alternative strategies to effectively preserve U.S. interests and at an affordable cost.

Joe Biden’s Nuclear Moment Has Arrived

Rabia Akhtar

Editor’s note: In late September, The National Interest organized a symposium on nuclear policy, nonproliferation, and arms control under the Biden administration. A variety of scholars were asked the following question: “Should Joe Biden seize the opportunity of his administration’s Nuclear Posture Review to redefine the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. security planning? How should U.S. policy change to address the proliferation threats that the United States is facing?” The following article is one of their responses:

Crowded. Competitive. Complicated. This is how Joe Biden described the international landscape when he assured the American people that he would renew America’s commitment to a new era of arms control. That was Biden as a candidate for the presidency. Now, as president of the United States, the world has hope that Biden will deliver, not only on his promises made on the campaign trail, but also on something that he has stood for almost his entire life: a stable, peaceful world led by the United States.

Biden’s vision of this stable world has a denuclearized North Korea. In this world, Iran is not acquiring nuclear weapons and is instead bound by non-proliferation commitments under a renewed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. It is a world where America’s nuclear and conventional deterrent is robust and there is a reduced role of nuclear weapons in the United States’ security strategy. It is a world where China and Russia are held accountable for ensuring strategic stability through binding arms control arrangements with the United States.

U.S. investigators increasingly confident directed-energy attacks behind Havana Syndrome

ANDREW DESIDERIO and LARA SELIGMAN

The U.S. government’s investigation into the mysterious illnesses impacting American personnel overseas and at home is turning up new evidence that the symptoms are the result of directed-energy attacks, according to five lawmakers and officials briefed on the matter.

Behind closed doors, lawmakers are also growing increasingly confident that Russia or another hostile foreign government is behind the suspected attacks, based on regular briefings from administration officials — although there is still no smoking gun linking the incidents to Moscow.

The National Security Council has recently been convening more frequent high-level meetings on the topic, according to a current and a former official with direct knowledge — a sign that the government’s review is accelerating.

“There have been new additional attacks, which is very disturbing,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who has been leading the push for answers on Capitol Hill. “It’s being taken very seriously now due to the director of the CIA … [who] has put very highly qualified people on it.”