11 March 2014

The Streets Ain't What They Used to Be

Back in the days of the Arab Spring, optimists predicted a bright future for democratic upheavals around the world. But the reality in places like Ukraine, Venezuela, Turkey, and Thailand is far messier.
MARCH 9, 2014

Ukraine isn’t the only country where protesters have been busy battling governments lately. In Venezuela, 18 people have been killed during weeks of big demonstrations against the administration of President Nicolás Maduro. In Turkey, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, having survived months of intense popular discontent, is fighting for his political life. And although the leader of the street protests in Thailand recently decided to end his supporters’ blockade of downtown Bangkok, the showdown there (which has taken the lives of at least 16 people) is far from over.

In some ways all of these rebellions look like extensions of the Arab Spring that started three years ago.

The same motives that drew protesters into Tahir Square and the streets of Tunis and Tripoli still loom large.
The same motives that drew protesters into Tahir Square and the streets of Tunis and Tripoli still loom large. Irate citizens are taking aim at corruption, economic mismanagement, and autocratic overreach -- the same factors that also prompted powerful mass protests last year in countries as diverse as Brazil, Cambodia, andBulgaria (all of which continue to this day in various forms). One might even include the remarkable opposition rallies in big cities around Russia in 2012 -- or perhaps the surprising people power movement that flared up in Bosnia last month. Are we witnessing, perhaps, an oft-predicted “contagion effect” -- the flowering of a new era of demands for democratic accountability?

That’s certainly possible. The mere fact that so many people in so many parts of the world have chosen to put their bodies (and in some cases their lives) on the line certainly suggests that citizens are far less content to unthinkingly accept whatever their leaders dish out. The speed with which information zooms around the world unquestionably plays an inspiring role: when you see big crowds of people on the evening news chanting slogans against their own governments, your first reaction is likely to be, “Why can’t we do that here?

Take a closer look, though, and it soon becomes apparent that there’s a big gulf between today’s would-be revolutions and those that unfolded during the Arab Spring.
Take a closer look, though, and it soon becomes apparent that there’s a big gulf between today’s would-be revolutions and those that unfolded during the Arab Spring. The main difference involves the nature of the regimes that opposition movements are trying to combat. When people took to the streets in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia, they were opposing long-entrenched dictators. But the demonstrators in Turkey, Thailand, and Venezuela are fighting elected leaders who still have the backing of big segments of society. This was true in Ukraine as well.

Navy Adrift

Admiral D K Joshi’s resigning and the succession crisis it triggered are ultimately minor issues. More basic problems afflict the navy.

For instance, the Indian Navy’s high reputation for seamanship and ship-handling has been sullied somewhat by the spate of accidents involving frigates and destroyers ramming into docks and passing vessels. In a recent conversation with this analyst, Joshi dismissed these mishaps as “tire punctures”. At a minimum, it indicates a decline in ship-handling skills.

I recall, in this respect, the late Admiral S M Nanda, the country’s eighth Naval Chief, telling me of an incident from the 1950s when the navy annually exercised with the Royal Navy’s Mediterranean Fleet. In one such exercise, as commander of the cruiser, Mysore, he was asked by the host, who was testing his mettle, to squeeze his large ship into a tight berth alongside British warships in the harbour in Malta. It required intricate docking manoeuvres the British fleet commander was certain Nanda could not pull off and, in trying to bring his ship in unaided crash it into the jetty. But Nanda deftly slid Mysore into the slot without a hitch. The surprised Briton didn’t know, the Admiral told me with a chuckle, that he had captained pilot boats in Karachi harbour in the pre-Second World War days.

The point is that ship-handling skills are learned and the “sea eye” acquired hands-on by subaltern officers (in the rank of sub-Lieutenant and Lieutenant) steering small craft on coastal security duties and skimming in and about crowded harbours, something naval stalwarts will vouch for. It is a hard job, they say, to bring in a 6,000 ton-plus missile destroyer coasting in at 4-6 knots to the quay, and ship commanders lacking sufficient small boat-derived experience often flub this test. Lack of such skills is also reflected in ships running aground, which too has happened lately. Diffident captains opting to have tug-boats escort their vessels in and out of harbours will lack the experience in crisis when ships have to get out to sea in a hurry under their own power.

The trouble is small ship command billets are in short supply because the navy has no more than 20 offshore patrol craft and coastal combatants in its inventory, smaller vessels being monopolised by the Coast Guard (CG) tasked with the coastal security mission. In this respect, the navy has failed to respond to a 10-year-old offer by the CG director-general to sequester six of his vessels exclusively for junior naval officers to command. The skills differential is thus set to widen considering the CG is growing faster with induction of new patrol boats every two-three weeks and, in time, its officers could potentially be better in handling bigger ships than their naval counterparts.

Familiarisation with ships comes, moreover, from pulling time in them. More and more naval officers, however, have ever shorter tenures in rotational posts at sea, affording them insufficient time to familiarise themselves with the ships. It has resulted in an echelon of mid-level officers not quite capable, when commanding ships, of manoeuvring them well or tackling on-board crises and contingencies involving machinery and equipment.

Implications of a Mountain Strike Corps

IssueVol. 29.1 Jan-Mar 2014| Date : 08 Mar , 2014

China’s past history is laced with aggression and blatant disregard to world opinion. The PLA is well ahead of the Indian Army and this ever-widening gap, if not checked and bridged, will catapult Chinese adventurism. We should expect no respite from increasing Chinese pressure. China-Pakistan are hand in glove in waging asymmetric war against India and the situation is likely to get increasingly volatile inadvertently egged on by US-China and US-Pakistan equations and heightened Chinese aggressive posture. India needs to be prepared for a Chinese thrust into Arunachal Pradesh. We should have the capacity to thwart that and go for North Tibet employing not just the Mountain Strike Corps but all elements of national power.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has continued to follow Mao’s legacy of ‘Power Flows from the Barrel of the Gun’…

It is official. India’s first Mountain Strike Corps will be christened 17 Corps. Rhetoric in the Chinese media was on expected lines since they already went ballistic earlier on India raising two Mountain Divisions (56 and 71), which actually was a move only to fill age-old voids in the Corps deployed on India’s North-Eastern borders. A Corps normally has three Divisions. The newly raised 56 and 71 Mountain Divisions constitute the third Division in the respective Corps.

Although the Mountain Strike Corps was approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) in July 2013, the official announcement is just in time as China has gone aggressive in East China Sea by announcing an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) encompassing Senkaku Islands and has resumed her banter over Arunachal Pradesh being ‘South Tibet’ in wake of President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh. The latter reinforces doubts about China’s sincerity towards joint agreements including the recently concluded Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA).

The Mountain Strike Corps

The 17 Corps is estimated to cost around Rs. 64,000 crore and is slated to comprise two infantry divisions supported by three independent armoured brigades, three artillery brigades, an engineer brigade, an air defence brigade, an aviation brigade and logistics support units. Planned to be raised over the next five to seven years, 17 Corps will enhance the strength of the Indian Army by 90,000 personnel. This would include ancillary support and logistics units. In the interim, elements of the newly raised 56 and 71 Mountain Divisions deployed to plug gaps in the defences in Arunachal Pradesh, are likely to be made available as reserves to the Mountain Corps. Such an arrangement would also continue post-raising and during employment of the Mountain Strike Corps, as applicable to all Strike Corps. The defensive/reserve formations would not only be employed to secure launch pads for offensive operations of the Strike Corps, once the thrust lines have gone in, the defensive formations in wake of the thrust lines would generally come under the command of the Strike Corps to act as reserves and add weight along the axis of attack and exploit success.


By: Philip Ewing

March 6, 2014 01:39 PM EST

http://dyn.politico.com/ printstory.cfm?uuid=E0358738- 70A6-46A5-8623-0307AD3779FD

Afghanistan would begin to deteriorate quickly after a total withdrawal of U.S. military forces, the top American commander in the Middle East warned on Thursday, also cautioning senators about the postwar shock waves that could shake the region.

Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, head of U.S. Central Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Afghan National Security Forces would begin to worsen and weaken very soon if all American troops came home in December, and that a nervous Pakistan to the south might respond to its fear of instability with potentially destructive consequences.

“Without our fiscal support and certainly without our mentorship, we’d see, immediately, a much less effective ANSF,” Austin said. “Over the long term, we could possibly see a fracturing of that force. I would go further to say it would be problematic for the region … very quickly, [we would see] hedging activity as each of the countries in the sub-region really moved to protect their interests. That would be somewhat destabilizing for the region as a whole.”

These threats are why it’s critical for the U.S. to find a way to leave behind troops for the long term, Austin said, although he acknowledged the political problems with Afghan President Hamid Karzai means the path to get there is not clear.

Assuming Washington can find a partner with whom to agree after April’s presidential election, Austin said he supports the NATO plan for a long-term force of between 8,000 and 12,000 troops – “plus special operations,” he said.

That suggested that Austin and other American commanders would consider the special operations troops who’d be assigned the long-term “counterterrorism” mission in Afghanistan over and above the force tasked with training and advising the ANSF. Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey cited the 8,000 to 12,000 range to senators on Wednesday, but neither he nor Austin has made public his specific recommendation for how many American troops should stay in Afghanistan.

Given the stakes he described for Afghanistan and the region, frustrated senators asked Austin, why has Karzai reversed course after negotiating the bilateral security agreement and even having it endorsed by a traditional council?

“I wish I could give you some insight into what the president of Afghanistan is thinking, but, unfortunately, I can’t,” Austin said. He agreed with the committee chairman, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), that Washington should just write off Karzai and look to try to sign a deal with his successor as soon as possible.

China's Newest Threat: Zombies

MAR 7, 2014

In a bit of life-imitating-art serendipity, "The Walking Dead" is a huge hit in China just as the nation faces its own onslaught -- of zombie companies.

Today, China's 1.3 billion people got their first glimpse of the undead as Shanghai Chaori Solar Energy Science & Technology shuffled out of the shadows. According to the Wall Street Journal, the solar-equipment maker scared up China's first domestic corporate bond default. You don't have to be a fan of cable television channel AMC's show or this most-trafficked of Hollywood genres to know that where there's one zombie, there are whole armies of them. Japan proved that well enough.

How President Xi Jinping handles the swarm will decide whether the Communist Party's pledges to internationalize China's financial system are real or mere fiction. I'm a bit doubtful that Xi can muster the political will to let start letting much bigger zombies fall.

Definitions for zombie companies vary, but many China observers look at those with debt loads that double equity. Their ranks have surged since the global crisis. According to Bloomberg News, publicly traded non-financial companies with debt-to-equity ratios exceeding 200 percent jumped 57 percent to 256 from 163 in 2007.

Beijing's willingness to let Shanghai Chaori Solar renege on debt is good news, as these things go. While destabilizing for bond holders and the interest-rate environment in the short run, bond defaults are a vital cleansing process from which markets learn, mature and become more efficient. In China's case, such events are especially needed to police borrowing activities and help investors price credit risks.

At the moment, no one knows the true state of bond-market risks in China because of opacity, the outsized role of the shadow-banking system and a basic inability to discern where the Communist Party ends and state-owned enterprises begin -- never mind the nascent private sector. Western officials harp about the evils of moral hazard, whereby bad business practices are enabled by public institutions. But China's entire financial system is one where there's long been no price to pay for dodgy lending and borrowing decisions.

The symbolism of Chaori Solar's default on a $15 million bond coupon due today could be huge. Or it could be just at aberration. Let's hope it's the former. But how will we know? When China allows much larger defaults in the bloated sectors that need it most: building materials, coal, metal, mining, steel and, of course, solar. China's finance industry also requires a significant purge in the years ahead.


MARCH 3, 2014

Violence as savage and public as the massacre that took place at a Chinese train station on Saturday shocks the chemistry of a country in a way that years of more remote, simmering conflict do not. Acts of such spectacular violence exert unpredictable forces on the public and on the leaders who are charged with protecting it, transforming judgments of when and how to use force and decisions about what can be sacrificed in the name of security, as well as the definitions of citizenship, patriotism, and innocence. Rarely do they leave anyone better off than they were before.

When eight assailants armed with foot-long sabers set upon men and women in the southwestern city of Kunming, killing at least twenty-nine people and injuring a hundred and forty-three, they struck in a place and a manner that nobody in China had anticipated. For all its epic history of bloodshed, the People’s Republic is unaccustomed to this kind of threat against citizens going about their daily lives, and, by day’s end, the attack was seared into public consciousness in a way that, since 9/11, has become customary for these moments around the world: it is the 3/1 incident. A message in wide circulation declared, “We are all Kunmingers.”

Chinese authorities say the attack was “orchestrated by Xinjiang separatists.” Xinjiang is the homeland of the Uighurs, one of China’s fifty-six officially recognized ethnic groups. Uighurs have been in contact with China for two millennia, but the region was given the name Xinjiang—Mandarin for “new frontier”—in 1884, when it was declared a province of the Chinese Empire for the first time. In 1955, it was converted into the largest of China’s five autonomous regions for ethnic minorities (which include Tibet and Inner Mongolia) and it maintained a fitful relationship with Beijing.

After the train-station attack, state media reported that an Islamic flag was among the items found at the scene, but no group has claimed responsibility. Over the years, militant Uighurs have formed various organizations, including the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (E.T.I.M.), which the U.S. Treasury Department classified as a terrorist organization in 2002, during the period of heightened U.S.-Chinese antiterrorism coöperation that followed September 11th. The Treasury Department later identified the E.T.I.M. leader Abdul Haq as a member of Al Qaeda’s leadership council; he is believed to have been killed in a U.S. drone strike, in 2010. The Chinese government blamed E.T.I.M. for a suicide car crash in Tiananmen Square last October, which killed five people, but the U.S. stopped short of drawing that connection.

Within hours of this attack, President Xi Jinping called for “an all-out effort to punish the terrorists.” As I wrote last year, the pressure posed by ethnic unrest is the biggest story on the Chinese horizon, and that struggle—the pressure from below, and the response it will bring—just moved into the foreground. In ways that may run deeper than even the attackers intended, the Kunming massacre is likely to harden Chinese leaders against critical opposition. For a generation of senior Community Party members, the attack is a sensational confirmation of what has become the most neuralgic issue of their time: the sense that the greatest threat to the country as they know it is the loss of territory. Shortly after taking office, in November, 2012, Xi Jinping, in a speech to Party members, asked, “Why did the Soviet Communist Party collapse? An important reason was that their ideals and convictions wavered. Eventually, all it took was a quiet word from Gorbachev to declare the dissolution of the Soviet Communist Party, and the great party was gone. In the end nobody was man enough to come out and resist.”

US, Japan to Jointly Develop Littoral Combat Ship

The U.S. and Japan will jointly develop a littoral combat ship (LCS) for quick intervention in shallow waters. 

March 07, 2014

Amid escalating tensions between Japan and China, a 12.2 percent budget increase in China’s defense spending, and fears that budget cuts for the U.S. military could have a negative impact on the United States’ ability to “pivot” to Asia, U.S. and Japanese officials have announced plans to co-develop a new high-speed vessel capable of carrying helicopters.

Following a meeting between U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy and Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida on March 4, the two governments announced that the Japanese Defense Ministry and the U.S. Department of Defense would hold studies for the joint development of the vessel under the bilateral Mutual Defense Assistance (MDA) agreement.

Although very little information has been released about the project, analysts contend that the trimaran would likely be a lighter variant of the U.S. Navy’s 3,000-tonne littoral combat ship (LCS), a platform designed primarily for missions in shallow coastal waters.

According to reports in Japanese media, the high-speed J-LCS would give the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) the ability to quickly intervene during incursions by Chinese vessels near the Senkaku/Diaoyu islets and other contested areas of the East China Sea. Chinese analysts speculate that the J-LCS could be intended as a counter to the PLA Navy’s (PLAN) Type 056 corvettes and Type 022 fast-attack boats, two types of vessels that could be deployed to the region should relations continue to deteriorate. Furthermore, early reports indicate that the slightly enlarged hull of the 1,000-tonne-plus vessels could accommodate SH-60K anti-submarine helicopters and MCH-101 airborne mine countermeasures (AMCM) helicopters.

Break Up in the Gulf

What the GCC Dispute Means for Qatar 

March 6, 2014 

Qatar's Crown Prince Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani smiles during his arrival for an economic ties visit at Khartoum Airport, December 4, 2011. (Courtesy Reuters)

On March 5, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Bahrain announced that they had withdrawn their ambassadors from Qatar, claiming that Doha had been violating a clause in the Gulf Cooperation Council charter banning interference in the domestic affairs of fellow GCC members. The decision, unprecedented in the GCC’s history, hints at significant changes to come for the GCC and the balance of power in the Gulf.

The dispute between GCC members had been simmering for a while, and it was only a matter of time before it boiled over. In December, during a GCC Summit in Kuwait, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi had been close to singling out Qatar for its alleged financing of terrorism in Syria and elsewhere. But, at the last minute, the Saudis pulled the plug to avoid embarrassing their Kuwaiti hosts. They opted instead to give Doha a stern private warning. A couple of weeks before that, Saudi leaders scolded new Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim during a meeting in Riyadh that was arranged by Kuwaiti leader Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad. The 33-year-old Tamim was asked to make serious adjustments to his country's foreign policy, including that the country stop allegedly funding al Qaeda­–affiliated groups in Syria. The young Tamim reportedly agreed, but requested some time to make the necessary changes.

Tamim eventually managed to reduce Doha's involvement in the Syrian conflict. But, realizing that it had lost in Syria, Doha doubled down on outreach to the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoots in the region, including Hamas. In addition, it continued efforts to cozy up to Iran and Turkey, support the Al Houthi rebels in Yemen, and test the waters with Hezbollah. In doing so, Doha was touching every nerve and ringing every alarm bell in Abu Dhabi and Riyadh, where officials were doing all they could to finish off the Muslim Brotherhood (including labeling it as terrorist group and propping up Egypt's military chief, Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, by paving the way for his presidency).

Why Are Hundreds of European Muslims Going Off to Fight in Syria?

March 9, 2014

Why European Muslims fight in Syria

Colin Randall
The National (UAE)

LONDON // For some westerners who follow the trail of would-be militants in Syria’s conflict, it is a gesture comparable to idealists of the late 1930s volunteering to fight General Franco in the Spanish civil war.
Others believe, in defiance of the outspoken condemnation of moderate Muslim leaders and political leaders, they acting as “soldiers of Allah”.

Their backgrounds may be in juvenile delinquency or promising academic study. All insist, often under the influence of figures they meet in mosques or online, that they are waging a just war against the brutality of Bashar Al Assad’s regime.

Muslim leaders are deeply concerned at the “manipulation” of impressionable people as young as 14-16, increasingly including girls.

That was brought into sharp focus in Saudi Arabia on Friday as the government added two Islamic extremist rebel groups fighting in Syria to its list of terrorist organisations. Riyadh, which supports moderate and western-backed rebel groups, also set a 15-day deadline for its citizens fighting in Syria to return home or face up to 20 years in jail.

Those fears extend to the West and in the French Riviera resort of Nice, the city council has created a crisis centre to coordinate the work of social services and community groups confronting the problem.

Boubekeur Bekri, the imam of a Nice mosque and vice president of a regional Muslim council, tells of 15 local people, mostly in their teens and twenties, who have left for Syria. It is, he says, a “great tragedy causing untold anguish” to parents while also playing into the hands of France’s anti-immigration, anti-Islam far right.

The Future of Libya: Is ‘Pakistanisation’ a Foregone Conclusion?

RUSI Newsbrief, 7 Mar 2014
By Jason Pack and Haley Cook

More than three years after the arrest of human-rights activist Fathi Terbil in Benghazi sparked Libya's anti-Qadhafi uprisings, Libyans are still in search of a shared political vision and a coherent roadmap for a transition to constitutional governance. It remains to be seen whether Libya will follow in the footsteps of its neighbours – whose revolutions began only weeks before Libya’s – by either generating a constitution and a compromise caretaker government, as in Tunisia, or by becoming mired in an undemocratic power grab, as in Egypt.

There still remains a narrow window for Libya to navigate its present obstacles, but this opportunity is fast closing as the state's finances rapidly deteriorate in the face of oil blockades, and as the political legitimacy of the country's parliament is imperilled by popular protests and the fudged compromises that have allowed it to temporarily overstay its mandate – but which have also transformed it into an Islamist-backed body. Given rising political violence and the massive unpopularity of the 'lame-duck' administration of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, Libya's path forward will be far rockier than Tunisia's. But due to its natural-resource wealth, small population and positive ties with outside powers, as well as its lack of sectarian and ideological cleavages, or a hegemonic army, Libya could yet escape Egypt’s fate. Sadly, however, Libya is being let down by its current inexperienced leaders and by the many non-state actors who feel that they can 'save Libya' by protecting their own interests at the point of a gun.

Indeed, the real cause of Libya’s current problems in the security sector, the economy and the transition to constitutional government is the authorities’ penchant for appeasing their opponents. This goes against conventional wisdom, which sees the post-Qadhafi authorities as lacking the power to confront their opponents and which blames Qadhafi-era policies, Libya’s primordial social and regional structures, and the absence of strong institutions for the deteriorating security situation. Yet while these factors have certainly contributed to the current malaise, they have also been exacerbated by the practice of appeasement.

Since the defeat of Qadhafi in October 2011, armed groups have repeatedly taken over government buildings and used them to blackmail the government. In response, the National Transitional Council – the body established to link together the county's disparate anti-Qadhafi uprisings – and later the General National Congress (GNC) – its elected replacement – have bent over backwards to placate their enemies by issuing subsidies, promulgating constitutional amendments and doling out powerful positions via cabinet reshuffles. Such appeasement has, in turn, irrevocably nurtured the federalist movement in the country's east.

Ukraine Could Lose Most of Its Navy to Russians Occupying the Crimea

March 9, 2014

Ukraine facing loss of its navy as Russian forces in Crimea dig in

NOVOOZERNOE, Ukraine (Reuters) - Lashed by the wind as it whips across Crimea’s biggest lake, a third of Ukraine’s warships have nowhere to go and nothing to do but rise and fall on its choppy waves.

Russian forces have blocked their only exit point to the Black Sea by sinking two ageing vessels there, and Russia’s well-armed Moskva missile cruiser can be seen treading water a short distance off the coast, with menace.

With six more of Ukraine’s two dozen warships similarly blockaded and Russian forces building up their strength ahead of a referendum that seems likely to result in Crimea becoming part of Russia, Ukraine is facing the humiliating loss of its navy.

Pacing up and down a spartan room in an outbuilding overlooking a row of warships, support vessels, and tugboats, Brigade Commander Vitaly Zvyagintsev says he can’t believe the Russian Black Sea Fleet - with whom the Ukrainian navy regularly held exercises in the past - has turned hostile.

"I have two theories," he told Reuters in an interview. "The first is that they want to prevent Ukrainian ships leaving their base and blockading them as they are us now. The second is that they want to make sure that if and when Crimea joins Russia, Ukraine can’t get its ships back."

"Georgia doesn’t have a fleet any more and the same thing could now happen with Ukraine," he said gloomily, referring to the 2008 Russia-Georgia war which ended with Russian forces taking control of a fifth of Georgia’s territory.

The Ukrainian navy has around 25 warships including one submarine, 15 support vessels of different categories and around 15,000 men under arms, 10,000 of whom are based on the Crimean Peninsula.

Zvyagintsev and another senior commander decline to say how many Ukrainian sailors serve on this desolate base, which nestles in a landscape dotted with little apart from wind turbines and rundown Soviet-era apartment blocks.

They say they don’t have the technical equipment - cutters and cranes - to remove the sunken ships blocking them in.

Though facing what they euphemistically describe as a “complex situation,” black humour prevails.

"It’s even quite satisfying that the Russian Black Sea Fleet considers my ships to be so battle-ready that they have left behind the Moskva, a ship that is designed to sink aircraft carriers," said Zvyagintsev with a wry smile.

Russia and Ukraine: the Empire Will Strike Back

RUSI Analysis, 24 Feb 2014By Dr Jonathan Eyal, International Director and International Studies Director

With a revolution under way, it is unlikely for Russia to have tanks rolling into Ukraine. But humiliated now for a second time there, Russia does not need a military intervention to achieve its objective of squeezing Ukraine hard.

For the moment, Russian President Vladimir Putin has avoided making public statements on the revolution in Ukraine; his lieutenants have made plenty of grunts and noises, but the ‘great man’ himself has remained perfectly silent.

There are at least three main reasons for the silence. The first is timing: Mr Putin was unpleasantly surprised by the flare-up in the troubles in Ukraine while the Sochi Olympics were still going on, and was determined to do nothing to overshadow this particular propaganda showcase.

Silence was also advisable since Mr Putin was loath to admit that the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych and his gang of pro-Russian oligarchs amounts to the most serious setback for Russia’s foreign policy in decades; the humiliation is personal for Mr Putin who gambled on Yanukovych not once, but twice (the first time back in 2004), and lost the gamble on both occasions. People like Putin, who set great store in appearing invincible, don’t like to admit that they are not, so silence is often the preferred reaction.

But probably the most interesting interpretation of Mr Putin’s reticence to talk about Ukraine is that he knows that ambiguity about what Russia may do is now Moscow’s biggest asset.

Officially, the Russian foreign ministry accuses the Ukrainian opposition of ‘seizing power’ in violation of a peace deal thrashed out last Friday, ignoring the fact that the deal was overtaken by events once the Yanukovych regime collapsed, as swiftly as all dictatorships crumble once they no longer inspire fear. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has branded Ukraine’s revolutionary leaders ‘pogromists’, a historic reference to the thugs who, during the Nineteenth century, massacred Jews and other ethnic groups in Eastern Europe. What he failed to recall is that the old pogroms were inspired by the Russian government itself, but that’s a tiny detail on what otherwise was a catchy phrase, particularly in Russian.

The GOP's Foreign-Policy Problem

After the crisis in Ukraine, international affairs could play a big role in 2016—to the Republicans' disadvantage.

MAR 8 2014,

Ronald Reagan addresses a crowd in 1984. (Wikimedia Commons)

In January, Rand Paul was invited to give a foreign-policy address to a distinguished Washington crowd that included Henry Kissinger and Brent Scowcroft. Paul didn't embarrass himself, but for a fairly sophisticated audience expecting to hear the views of a possible Republican presidential contender, it was underwhelming stuff. The senator from Kentucky delivered what could only be described as a basic primer on his ideological journey from extreme libertarianism to balanced realism, an effort at playing to the largely traditionalist GOP audience at the Center for the National Interest (or what used to be known as the Nixon Center). "It was simplistic," said one former senior member of the Reagan administration who attended the event. "He didn't connect it up with anything actually happening in the world." Paul's speech was stocked with fairly obvious observations, such as "diplomacy only is successful when both parties feel that they have won." And in the end he appeared slightly apologetic, saying, "I hope I haven't insulted anyone—or too many of you—with a physician's thoughts on diplomacy."The party of Eisenhower, Nixon, and Reagan has no foreign-policy giants waiting in the wings.

For other senior GOP foreign-policy experts, Paul's speech was evidence of a more worrisome issue, one that no one is talking about now but that is brought into relief by the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, with its Cold War overtones. Whether you include embattled New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in the group or not, the leading Republican Party names in the presidential sweepstakes possess precious little foreign-policy experience. As in, virtually none. And they may be going up against a Democratic opponent whose last job was secretary of state and who has been traveling the world and giving speeches on foreign policy for the past 20 years, ever since, as first lady, she delivered a famous address on global women's rights in Beijing. Republicans may like to go on about Benghazi, but, according to a new Pew poll, 67 percent of Americans approve of Hillary Clinton's performance as secretary of state, and 69 percent view her as "tough." Another leading potential Democratic contender, Vice President Joe Biden, the longtime chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also has a reputation as a foreign-policy expert.

Darpa’s Tiny Lasers Will Soon Hunt for Biochemical Weapons


The Joint Biological Stand-Off Detection System (JBSDS) is an example of stand-off chemical and biological threat detection too large for today’s needs, says Darpa. Image: Darpa 

The Pentagon learned in August 2013 — when the U.S. came close to striking Syria over the Assad regime’s use of sarin gas — that it was woefully unprepared to face chemical or biological weapons on the battlefield. 

Now Darpa thinks it has a solution, called the Laser UV Sources for Tactical Efficient Raman program, or LUSTER. The Defense Department’s research arm announced this week it would begin developing a small-scale, portable and budget-conscious detection system that will rely on high power and efficient ultraviolet lasers. 

Darpa says the military already has the technology to detect and identify chemical and biological weapons, but that it’s too expensive, too big and too limited in its functionality to be truly effective in the scenarios the military now envisions when it comes to chemical and biological threats. 

“Today’s standoff detection systems are so large and heavy that trucks are required to move them,” said Dan Green, Darpa program manager, in a statement. “LUSTER seeks to develop new laser sources for breakthrough chemical and biological agent detection systems that are compact and light enough to be carried by an individual, while being more efficient than today’s systems.” 

“We also want to take a couple of zeroes off the price tag,” he added. 

The military has struggled with its approach on how to handle the potential threat of chemical weapons, even though it had spent significant resources on the matter immediately after 9/11. 

During the Syrian crisis, the Pentagon couldn’t muster the confidence to put to use so-called Agent Defeat weapons — warheads meant to destroy chemical weapons without dispersing them — despite spending tens of millions of dollars on their development. 

Testifying before the Intelligence, Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee in October, a group of unconventional weapons experts warned of the decline of attention paid to biochemical threats. 

“What we need is more conversations like this going on, but I don’t see those going on,” said Bruce Bennett, a senior defense analyst at the RAND Corporation. “We need to raise the consciousness.” 


March 7, 2014 · 

Putin’s Stuxnet Moment: Russian Cyber Weapon Stalked U.S./Ukraine Since 2005

Techworld.com’s John Dunn is reporting this morning that “the mysterious ‘Uroburos’ cyber weapon outed last week in Germany, has been stalking its victims since as far back as 2005.” The U.K. defense/security firm BAE Systems is urging that large enterprises and governments pay serious attention to the threat it poses. BAE’s report, “Snake Campaign and Cyber Espionage Toolkit,” is attached.

The German firm G Data dubbed the new cyber virus/weapon Uroburos; while BAE’s Applied Intelligence Division calls the newly discovered cyber virus “Snake.” According to BAE Systems, “the Snake has been slithering silently around networks in the U.S. and its NATO allies, and former Soviet states for almost a decade, — stealing data, getting more complex, and modular, and remaining almost invisible.”

“To be clear, this isn’t any old malware,” says Mr. Dunn, who adds that “the Snake has been too long-lived, too targeted, too sophisticated, too evasive, and too innovative. It appears to be on par with any of the complex cyber weapons attributed to the U.S. such as Flame, first analyzed by Kapersky Lab in 2012.”

“After several months of research,” BAE Systems, for the first time, takes what we previously understood about the Snake, and enlarges the totality of the threat this particular cyber virus poses. BAE researchers identified the Snake 32 times in the Ukraine since 2010, 11 times in Lithuania, 4 times in the U.K. and a handful of times altogether in the U.S., Belgium, Georgia, Romania, Hungry, and Italy,” according to their report. While not totally conclusive, BAE’s research makes a compelling case that the Snake has been exclusively targeted against Western, and Western-aligned countries. In 2008, Mr. Dunn notes that DoD reported something called Agent btz in some of their systems, something BAE says was probably an earlier version of the Snake.

Clues that this cyber weapon is likely a state-sponsored Russian cyber virus include: Compile times show a time offset of UTC+4 hours, while Russian references have been found in the code. BAE says this cyber virus is “clearly not commercial malware, and would have required large government resources to invent and deploy in the manner that was discovered. BAE also concluded that the cyber virus originated from a country who’s name begins with the letter R.

“The element of attribution is always difficult,” says BAE Systems Applied Intelligence Cyber Security Managing Director, David Garfield. “It turns into conjecture, and it would be dangerous to make too many guesses. But this is a call to arms [The malware], is highly complex. It has all the elements of a cyber espionage toolkit. It is highly serious.”


March 8, 2014 · 


Cyber Snake plagues Ukraine networks

By Sam Jones, Defence and Security Editor

An aggressive cyber weapon called Snake has infected dozens of Ukrainian computer networks including government systems in one of the most sophisticated attacks of recent years.

Also known as Ouroboros, after the serpent of Greek mythology that swallowed its own tail, experts say it is comparable in its complexity with Stuxnet, the malware that was found to have disrupted Iran’s uranium enrichment programme in 2010.

The cyber weapon has been deployed most aggressively since the start of last year ahead of protests that climaxed two weeks ago with the overthrow of Viktor Yanukovich’s government.
Ouroboros gives its operators unfettered access to networks for surveillance purposes. But it can also act as a highly advanced “digital beachhead” that could destroy computer networks with wide-ranging repercussions for the public.

Cyber warfare experts have long warned that digital weapons could shut off civilian power or water supplies, cripple banks or even blow up industrial sites that depend on computer-controlled safety programmes.

The origins of Ouroboros remain unclear, but its programmers appear to have developed it in a GMT+4 timezone – which encompasses Moscow – according to clues left in the code, parts of which also contain fragments of Russian text. It is believed to be an upgrade of the Agent.BTZ attack that penetrated US military systems in 2008.

The malware has infected networks run by the Kiev government and systemically important organisations. Lithuanian systems have also been disproportionately hit by it.

Investigators Find Dozens of Ukrainian Government Computers Infected With Cyber Espionage Virus Called “Snake”; Suspicion Falls on Russian Intelligence

March 9, 2014

Suspicion Falls on Russia as ‘Snake’ Cyberattacks Target Ukraine’s Government

David E. Sanger and Steven Erlanger
New York Times

WASHINGTON — Since the first major protests in Kiev that triggered the current crisis with Moscow, American intelligence agencies have been on high alert for cyberattacks aimed at the new government in Ukraine. They were a bit late: the attacks started long before President Viktor F. Yanukovych was forced from office, and as might be expected, no one can quite pinpoint who is behind them, although some suspicion is falling on Russia.

According to a report published by the British-based defense and security company BAE Systems, dozens of computer networks in Ukraine have been infected for years by a cyberespionage “tool kit” called Snake, which seems similar to a system that several years ago plagued the Pentagon, where it attacked classified systems.

The malware appeared many more times this year in Ukraine, as the protests in Kiev picked up their pace. The protesters were angered by Mr. Yanukovych’s decision not to pursue closer trade and political ties with Europe, which has been vying with Russia for influence in Ukraine.

Snake — also known as Ouroboros, for the serpent in Greek mythology — gives attackers “full remote access to the compromised system,” according to the BAE report released Friday. BAE cited circumstantial evidence that the attacks originated in Russia, saying that the malware developers operate in the Moscow time zone and that there is some Russian text in the code.

But American intelligence officials said that it was unclear if the use of the malware was state-sponsored, and that Snake was just one of many types of malware that Ukraine is battling every day.

Versions of Snake’s predecessor have been around since 2005, but the highly sophisticated one found in Ukraine appears to have been directed at government agencies. The attacks were aimed mostly at siphoning data from local computers to other servers, the report said. It identified 14 cases of Snake in Ukraine since the start of 2014, compared to eight cases in the whole of 2013. In all there have been 32 reported cases in Ukraine since 2010, out of 56 worldwide.

Only Realists Spread Democracy

History leaves no doubt that realists have been the most successful foreign policy faction in exporting democracy. 

March 07, 2014

Back in January, I had the pleasure of attending the Center for the National Interest’s annual conference, where one of the many distinguished speakers was Henry Kissinger, America’s most beloved realist. Early on in his remarks, Kissinger noted that the United States “is the only country in which being called a realist is a criticism.”

Indeed, while the American people are more sympathetic to realism than is often believed, there can be little doubt that realism is a dirty word among the political elites in the United States. This hostility derives largely from the belief that realism is morally nihilistic and cares little for things like democracy and freedom.

A perfect (if caricature) example of this viewpoint comes from James Kirchick, previously of RT fameand now a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. On Monday, Kirchick published a piece in the Daily Beast that was appropriately titled “How the ‘Realists’ Misjudged Ukraine.” The piece argues that one similarity (of many apparently) between the Soviet Union’s Iron Curtain and Russia’s recent invasion of Crimea is that both policies had apologists in the West. The Western apologists, according to Kirchick, are “these foreign policy ‘realists,’ identifiable by their abjuring a role for morality in American foreign policy and the necessity of US global leadership, [and] locate the real imperialists in Washington and Brussels, not Moscow.”

Kirchick declines to give an example of a realist individual from the Cold War era that fits this description. As far as contemporary ones go, he does briefly mention a tweet by Steven Walt, but focuses mainly on Stephen F. Cohen, a NYU and Princeton Professor who specializes in Russian history, and MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes. I’m not too familiar with either Cohen or Hayes’ work, though I had certainly heard of both of men before. From some research I can find nothing that suggest that Cohen is a realist, nor nothing that necessarily disqualifies him from being one.

It’s even harder to understand Kirchick’s reasoning with regards to Chris Hayes. As far as I can tell, Hayes has never demonstrated much of an interest at all in foreign policy issues. A look at the archive of his articles for The Nation, where he used to be an editor (Cohen’s married to the current editor), suggest most of his work has focused on U.S. domestic issues, where he usually takes the type of fairly far left leaning positions that one would expect from a primetime anchor at MSNBC. At times he has dabbled in foreign policy, and from what I can tell, usually takes positions on foreign policy that bear more resemblance to Noam Chomsky than Kenneth Waltz.

*** Governing the oceans The tragedy of the high seas

New management is needed for the planet’s most important common resource

Feb 22nd 2014 |

IN 1968 an American ecologist, Garrett Hardin, published an article entitled “The Tragedy of the Commons”. He argued that when a resource is held jointly, it is in individuals’ self-interest to deplete it, so people will tend to undermine their collective long-term interest by over-exploiting rather than protecting that asset. Such a tragedy is now unfolding, causing serious damage to a resource that covers almost half the surface of the Earth.

The high seas—the bit of the oceans that lies beyond coastal states’ 200-mile exclusive economic zones—are a commons. Fishing there is open to all. Countries have declared minerals on the seabed “the common heritage of mankind”. The high seas are of great economic importance to everyone—fish is a more important source of protein than beef—and getting more so. The number of patents using DNA from sea-creatures is rocketing, and one study suggests that marine life is a hundred times more likely to contain material useful for anti-cancer drugs than is terrestrial life.

Yet the state of the high seas is deteriorating (see article). Arctic ice now melts away in summer. Dead zones are spreading. Two-thirds of the fish stocks in the high seas are over-exploited, even more than in the parts of the oceans under national control. And strange things are happening at a microbiological level. The oceans produce half the planet’s supply of oxygen, mostly thanks to chlorophyll in aquatic algae. Concentrations of that chlorophyll are falling. That does not mean life will suffocate. But it could further damage the climate, since less oxygen means more carbon dioxide.

For tragedies of the commons to be averted, rules and institutions are needed to balance the short-term interests of individuals against the long-term interests of all users. That is why the dysfunctional policies and institutions governing the high seas need radical reform.

Building a U.S. Army of 125,000 Spartans

March 6, 2014

Defense cuts are coming. The only question is how much. As it has grappled with the fiscal realities of sequestration, the U.S. Army has sought to define its mission in a post-war environment. The Pentagon’s latest budget request would reduce Army end strength to 440,000. While this reduction has caused a great deal of consternation in some quarters, this is not nearly enough.

In this age of budgetary and strategic uncertainty, the best course of action is to radically transform the Army by cutting the number of active-duty personnel by more than 75% to 125,000. To compensate for the resulting downsizing, the Army should adopt a multifaceted-approach to increase the quality, flexibility, and combat power of the force. This approach would entail stricter recruiting and promotion selection standards, significantly higher pay, greater emphasis on education and training, lengthier enlistment terms, longer deployments, a no-tolerance policy for criminal and disciplinary infractions, an increased use of private contractors for non-combat roles, and a rethinking of our reliance on the National Guard and Reserve.

Many people become afraid when the size of the Army shrinks. This is good news! Cuts to Army end strength are already happening. Again, good news! The bad news is that these cuts do not appear to be part of a cohesive strategy and may provide only temporary budgetary relief. What is worse is that these haphazard cuts may be damaging Army core competencies for decades to come. Some of our best warfighters are already leaving the military and there are very real concerns about our readiness, combat proficiency, military education, and troop conduct and morale. This rudderless erosion of our force must stop.

The Army’s most flexible and effective weapon is the individual soldier. Properly managed, a drastically smaller Army would sacrifice little in the way of warfighting capability and would be uniquely adept at managing contingencies on either the low or high ends of the conventional spectrum. Such an elite force could act as an expert special operations and counterinsurgency component, capable of rapid deployment in the event of a hybrid regional contingency. Alternatively, this force could serve as the core leadership cadre for a rapidly expanded force in the event of a major war.

Future Army 2020 report published

06 March 2014

Army 2020 plan is unconvincing, says Defence Committee 

The Army 2020 plan does not present a convincing blueprint for an Army that can effectively counter uncertain threats and unforeseen circumstances, says the Commons Defence Committee in its report, Future Army 2020, published today.

The Committee calls on the MoD to justify how the conclusion was reached that an Army of 82,000 Regulars and 30,000 Reserves represents the best way of countering future threats.

The Committee says that the Army 2020 plan for Reaction and Adaptable Forces, including integrated Reservists, represents a radical vision for the future role and structure of the British Army. It departs significantly from the announcements made in SDSR 2010 and there are considerable doubts about how the plan was developed and tested, and whether it will meet the needs of the UK’s national security.

The Committee calls on the MoD to justify how the conclusion was reached that the Army 2020 plan for 82,000 Regulars and 30,000 Reserves represented the best way of countering emerging and uncertain threats and establishing a contingent capability to deal with unforeseen circumstances.

The report calls for a detailed annual report on the Army’s Fighting Power to be laid before Parliament setting out progress and setbacks in implementing the Army 2020 plan. “Fighting power” refers specifically to the Forces’ ability to fight based on its physical, moral and conceptual components. The first of these reports should be laid before Parliament in January 2015 to allow consideration and debate before the 2015 General Election and to inform the 2015 SDSR.


By Editorial Board, Published: March 8

http://www.washingtonpost.com/ opinions/a-military-defense- budget-based-on-hope/2014/03/ 08/4185d6f2-a544-11e3-8466- d34c451760b9_print.html

IF, AS the Obama administration is convinced, the United States will no longer conduct “long and large stability operations” in foreign countries, then the defense budget it has proposed for next year makes some logical choices. Troop strength, particularly in the Army, is being cut – to the lowest level since before World War II – so that money can be spent on new technology, cyber operations and special operations forces, which will be expanded.

Weapons systems good for fighting ground wars, like the A-6 attack plane, are being eliminated in favor of strategic systems like the new F-35 plane and development of a new long-range bomber. Funding for missile defense is staying roughly level while the old U-2 spy plane is being grounded.

The Pentagon is also making another run at trimming the excessive personnel and basing costs that are displacing needed spending on troops and readiness as the overall budget decreases. Modest increases to the health-care payments asked of troops and retirees, trims in subsidies for housing and commissaries and another round of base closings all are justified and desperately needed.

Mostly likely, though, Congress won’t agree to those, which brings us to the not-so-rational aspects of the administration plan. It counts not only on politically tough decisions legislators are unlikely to make in an election year, but also on large new increases in defense spending above the level agreed on in the last bipartisan budget deal. For next year’s budget, the administration is hoping Congress will approve $26 billion in extra defense spending over the $496 billion request as part of a $58 billion “opportunity, growth and security initiative.” Since President Obama proposes to fund this in part by closing tax loopholes, its prospects are not good.

*** The Men in Uniform – A Class Apart

March 2, 2014 by Team SAISA

This one for all the soldiers who live dangerously to defend the nation – what trauma they personally go through is seldom realised.


Adfar Shah

Edited by Associate Editor Vinita Kaul Gardner


Forces today are beset with certain issues and challenges around the globe. The increased political instability, social rupture, widespread chaos, increased criminality, inequality shaped by disparities, structural violence, crisis and continuing public protests have undoubtedly increased the soldier’s troubles. Men in uniform, be they army or police personnel, are installed like machines to regulate everything peacefully – that too at the eleventh hour, without actually addressing the political and public issues. The soldier turns highly vulnerable and faces the public wrath every time for no of fault of his! The very same soldier also faces a plethora of negative stereotyping by the masses, is labeled in various negative stereotypes (sometimes correctly so) by the public mainly in conflict zones, as inhuman and treated like an enemy. Despite being armed, he is helpless and merely used in a manner similar to the scarecrow, to drive the public off in turbulent times. The question is, has the State forgotten the soldier and his sensitivities? Is there a need to empower the soldier (cop, commando or jawan) in the true sense to enable him to live with emotional balance and fight the challenging fourth generation war? There were many more similar questions that set aflame the questioning process in my mind while interacting with some of the men in uniform, mostly police personnel in the Kashmir Valley. This paper is based on casual interactions with men in uniform, besides the tool of observation and field experiences have been employed to analyze the soldier’s plight in conflict zones. The case of the Kashmir Valley has been taken for the researcher himself belongs to that context.


My best friend belongs to the Jammu and Kashmir Police Force. He came to meet me while I was enjoying my summer vacations at my home in the remote village of Watlar in Central Kashmir’s Ganderbal District. Since Kashmir had witnessed some of the worst summer unrests since 2008,here, I enquired of him about his perception of their fighting the public (mob control/crowd management) in unrests and his feelings about being a cop, when he was fighting his own people. Though not educated enough to conceptualize the topic thematically or philosophize about the whole discourse, he simply replied with utter dismay that they (cops) are empowered but not in the true sense – they have a weapon in hand, but cannot even use it even in self defense; they are like scarecrows installed the field to drive off the birds to save the crop. They never know what their fault is but still face the wrath of the public every time. He further said that they are installed like machines to face the angry masses who abuse them, ridicule them, beat them, throw stones at them and as cops they are just taught how to do one thing and that is ‘maintaining the restraint’. He said it is disgusting to fight back our own people but duty is duty. His treating himself as a mere scarecrow of the State to scare the public, actually reflected his unspoken complaint, a silent protest that he has to face it all finally for no fault of his. I them met a number of friends in police and almost got the same replies. The soldier when installed frequently to crush every legitimate or illegitimate crisis feels like a scarecrow and treats public as birds that he has to drive off when asked for so.