5 February 2015

A mortar-for-bullet game

Happymon Jacob
February 5, 2015

New Delhi and Islamabad should now begin negotiations to conclude a new ceasefire agreement instead of engaging in military one-upmanship

The conclusion of a number of significant agreements by India and the United States during President Barack Obama’s recent visit to New Delhi has attracted a great deal of adverse commentary from Islamabad. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Foreign Affairs pointsman Sartaj Aziz has voiced serious concerns about the regional “strategic imbalance” arising out of the Indo-U.S. deals at a time when Indo-Pak relations have reached a new low due to ceasefire violations along the LoC (Line of Control) and the International Border (IB). Pakistan, according to him, “is examining the imbalance and the possible ways and means for redressing it.” Strategic assessments such as these, made in the wake of the recent spate of violence along the border, could potentially lead to a renewed standoff between the South Asian adversaries. There is therefore an urgent need to put in place mechanisms to get the relationship back on track.

The India-Pakistan ceasefire agreement is dead, after having survived hundreds of ceasefire violations since its inception in 2003. It is no less than a miracle that this agreement actually lasted over 11 years despite there being absolutely no document guiding it. New Delhi and Islamabad should now begin negotiations to conclude a new ceasefire agreement instead of engaging in a “mortar-for-bullet” game of military one-upmanship and killing each other’s soldiers and hapless villagers residing astride the contested lines in Jammu and Kashmir.

China tightens rules on Internet use, online comments

February 5, 2015 

China has announced that users of blogs and chat rooms will be required to register their names with operators and promise in writing that they will avoid challenging the Communist political system, further tightening control over Internet use.

The announcement follows what technology companies say are official efforts in recent weeks to block virtual private networks that are used to circumvent China’s extensive Internet filters. China has the world’s biggest population of Internet users with 649 million people online, but increasing censorship has chilled the popularity of social media.

Beijing has required Internet companies since 2012 to obtain real names of some users. But compliance was uneven and the rules failed to specify what services were covered.

The latest announcement extends that “real name” registration requirement to blogs, microblog services such as the popular Sina Weibo, and website comment sections. Such settings offer many Chinese their only opportunity to express themselves in public in a society in which all media are controlled by the ruling Communist Party.

The rules also require Internet services for the first time to have users sign a contract that includes a pledge to refrain from “illegal and unhealthy” activity.

The ruling party encourages Internet use for business and education but tries to block material deemed subversive or obscene. Beijing regularly launches new censorship initiatives to respond to changes such as the growing popularity of social media.

The twist in the growth story

C. Rangarajan
February 5, 2015 

Reforms must be part of a continuing agenda. The basic principle guiding reforms must be to create a competitive environment with a stress on efficiency. In many ways the coming decade will be crucial for India as growth is the answer to many of its socio-economic problems

The data on national income released recently give a new twist to India’s growth story. The most significant change is with respect to the growth rate for 2013-14. While the earlier estimate showed a growth rate of 4.7 per cent, the growth rate according to the new estimate is 6.6 per cent. Much of the pessimism seen in the Indian economy during 2013-14 is not vindicated by the new data. While the investment rate did show a sharp decline during the last three years, a greater part of it was due to the decline in the investment rate of households rather than the corporate sector. Thus, the slowdown in the economy was not as severe or extended as was feared earlier. Nevertheless, it is useful to review the developments so that the errors can be corrected and the country can move on to the high growth path.

Slowdown and its causes

Under the impact of the financial crisis, the Indian economy registered a growth of 6.7 per cent in 2008-09, after having posted a growth rate exceeding 9 per cent for three consecutive years. The recovery from the impact of the global crisis was however swift and sharp. The economy achieved a growth rate of 8.6 per cent in 2009-10, despite a severe drought. The growth rate rose further to 8.9 per cent in 2010-11. Then the decline began. In 2012-13, the growth rate came down to 4.5 per cent according to the old estimate and 4.9 per cent as per the new estimate. In 2013-14 the growth rate was 4.7 per cent and 6.6 per cent according to old and new estimates respectively.


Terra Lawson-Remer
February 5, 2015 

Greece’s leftist party, Syriza, swept into power on January 26, buoyed by fiery rhetoric from its leader, Alexis Tsipras, who promised to renegotiate the terms of Greece’s 2010-12 debt bailouts. Those deals with creditors saved Greece from default and free fall during the global economic crisis, but left the country crushed under huge loan obligations and committed to wrenching cuts in public spending.

Over the past four years, the austerity bailout has been terrible for Greece: shrinking gross domestic product by almost 20 per cent, trapping more than a quarter of the population in unemployment and pushing debt as a share of GDP to 175 per cent (from a pre-crisis level of 109 per cent).

Greece’s new prime minister now appears to be on a collision course with the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund — the troika, as it’s commonly called, that together holds roughly 80 per cent of Greek sovereign debt. If Tsipras and the troika can’t reach a deal, Greece could default or lose access to the bank liquidity currently greasing its economy.

This could in turn precipitate a rapid exit from the eurozone and the certainty of even worse suffering for Greek citizens, not to mention contagious instability across the European Union, especially in heavily indebted Italy and Spain.

Obama’s woes back home

Inder Malhotra
Feb 5 2015 

FOR quite some years, especially since the advent of the quaintly named Tea Party, an extreme rightist group, entered the Republican ranks in the United States, I have been pondering one question: Is there greater hatred between the Congress and the BJP in the world's largest democracy or that between the Republicans and the Democrats in the most powerful? 

After deep thought, I am inclined to conclude that although the BJP-Congress adversarial relationship here is articulated so vehemently as to sometimes border on the vulgar. Remember the Ramzada vs Haramzada speech of a sadhvi? It is the Republicans' enmity with the Democrats, with President Barack Obama in particular, that takes the cake. 

We in this country have, for good reasons, been so absorbed in Obama's visit here on Republic Day that we have hardly taken note of something happening in Washington gravely to damage the president. It has also caused deep and widespread concern in the Middle East that we call West Asia. 

Ever since the Republicans acquired control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate they have been determined to make Obama's life as miserable as possible. 

A major foreign policy issue they have chosen to confront the president is Iran’s nuclear programme and Obama's “pusillanimous” policy on it. They want harshest additional sanctions on Iran immediately, but they haven’t prevailed so far. So what did the Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, do? 

Obama's Parting Words in India: Tough but Necessary

By Raymond Vickery and Michael Kugelman
February 04, 201

Imagine that you go to the home of a friend — a friend with whom you have considerable business and political dealings. Imagine as well that you have heard that your friend’s supporters may not be living up to the ideals that you share.

When you arrive, you essentially have two options. Either you speak up or you hold your tongue — and let the conversation revolve around your friendship and your mutual business and political interests.

When he visited New Delhi last week, U.S. President Obama — or “Barack,” as his friend Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India repeatedly called him in public — chose to speak up. In a remarkable public address at Siri Fort auditorium delivered to an audience composed primarily of young Indians, Obama reprised for his hosts the themes of unity and equality that first catapulted him to national attention and eventually to the presidency. In the past, Obama had presented these themes in relation to U.S. partisanship and race relations. In New Delhi, the primary targets were the equality of women and the relations among people of different religions.

The theme of gender equality was explosive enough. Against a backdrop of widespread adverse publicity about gang rapes and sexual harassment in India, the theme of the Republic Day parade (which Obama had attended as Modi’s guest the previous day) was women’s empowerment. Indeed, Obama had watched as women’s military units paraded — and as a female officer commanded the honor guard. In his speech, Obama skillfully wove his own experiences as an African American into a narrative that called for the empowerment of women. Gender equality was not only a moral imperative, he declared, but would also be a boost for India’s economic development.

Obama's India Visit: An Indian Foreign Policy Tilt

By Rohan Joshi
February 03, 2015

Narendra Modi’s government is finally letting go of the past and opening a new era in relations with the United States. 

On December 3, 1971, while Indian and Pakistani forces were engaged in pitched land and air battles, then-U.S. National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger convened a meeting of the National Security Council’s Washington Special Actions Group (WSAG). “I’m getting hell every half hour from the President that we are not being tough enough on India,” Kissinger is reputed to have said to the WSAG, “…he does not believe we are carrying out his wishes. He wants to tilt in favor of Pakistan.”

By the ninth day of the war and with Indian troops barely 100 kilometers away from Dacca, the capital of East Pakistan, the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Enterprise sailed into the Bay of Bengal ostensibly on a rescue and relief mission for stranded U.S. citizens in East Pakistan. Although this did little to influence the eventual outcome of the 1971 India-Pakistan war — Pakistani forces surrendered to the Indian army five days after the aircraft carrier’s arrival — India construed the act as hostile and as an intent to coerce.as


By Manoj Joshi
FEBRUARY 3, 2015
Even before the hype over US President Barack Obama’s visit has died down, the Modi government is on the move to enhance its ties with China. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s ongoing visit is an important part of this effort, especially as she is accompanied by new Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar, who had done a full three-year term as ambassador to China till 2013.

Ms Swaraj was in China to work out the preliminaries of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s China visit most probably in May, which is expected to even the keel of the Sino-Indian relations that have been tilted by US President Obama’s recent visit to India. In her remarks in Beijing, Ms Swaraj, for the first time for an Indian leader, explicitly declared that “my government is committed to exploring an early settlement”. She buttressed this with the remark that her government, “had the political will to think out of the box” on this issue. As part of this effort, the National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, who is also India’s Special Representative (SR) and pointsman for Sino-Indian border negotiations, would visit China between now and the PM’s planned visit for the 18th round of talks with his Chinese counterpart, State Councillor Yang Jichei.

The Chinese have been signalling that they want an early settlement ever since Xi Jinping said in a statement in March 2013 in Durban that “China and India should improve and make good use of the mechanism of Special Representatives to strive for a fair, rational solution framework acceptable to both sides as soon as possible.” Subsequently, Chinese leaders Li Keqiang in May 2013 in New Delhi and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who was in New Delhi in June 2014 have also emphasised the point that the Chinese are ready for a border settlement.

V-22 Osprey: Options for India

Air Marshal Raghu Rajan
04 Feb , 2015

The Boeing V-22 Osprey is the only operational tilt-rotor aircraft that combines speed, payload capability and reach of a fixed-wing transport aircraft with hover-landing capability of a helicopter.

The V-22 Osprey combines speed, payload capability and the reach of a fixed-wing aircraft with the hover-landing capability of a helicopter…

In June 2009, CV-22s of the 8th Special Operations Squadron of the United States Air Force (USAF), delivered 20,000kg of supplies by way of humanitarian assistance to remote villages in the Honduras that were inaccessible by road. In 2010, a US military helicopter was wrecked during a raid in Afghanistan. Dozens of combatants, who were thus stranded, came under enemy mortar fire. When other helicopters were turned back by dust storms and the high peaks of the Hindu Kush, two CV-22 Ospreys flew the rescue mission over 800 miles, climbing to 15,000 feet to clear the mountains. These two aircraft were able to rescue in under four hours the 32 US personnel in the two helicopters that were shot down. A year later, in a combat CASEVAC mission, an F-15 pilot, who had crashed in Libya, was rescued by an MV-22 flying from an amphibious assault ship. The marines could return the pilot to the vessel 150 miles away in just about 30 minutes.

US Military Reverses Decision to Classify Data on Afghan Forces

February 04, 2015

The U.S. military command in Afghanistan has abruptly reversed a decision to classify data on the status of the Afghan National Security Forces. On January 30, the U.S. government watchdog for U.S. tax dollars spent in Afghanistan, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), announced in its 26th Quarterly Report to Congress that it could no longer publicly report on many aspects of the $65 billion effort to build up the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).

According to the commander of NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, the rationale behind the initial classification of data was the fear that it could be exploited by Taliban insurgents. However, as I listed here, one was hard pressed to discern in what way the release of information on non-combat related activities (such as literacy training for ANSF, salaries, or details on how $25 million allocated for women in the Afghan Army are used), would jeopardize the lives of U.S. and Afghan troops in the field.

Yesterday, this decision was reversed. While some data will remain classified (e.g. readiness assessments of army and police forces) around 91 percent of the data requested by SIGAR has now been declassified, according to U.S. military authorities. Stars and Stripes quotes Col. Brian Tribus, a spokesperson for the U.S. military command in Afghanistan:


Myra MacDonald
February 3, 2015

In one of the many revealing anecdotes in Andrew Small’s new book on the relationship between China and Pakistan, a Chinese expert describes worries about the Islamization of the Pakistan Army. “We’re not worried about the generals, we’re worried the brigadiers,” the Chinese expert says. The generals were old enough to have established their habits by the time military ruler Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq seized power in a coup in 1977 and promoted a militant strain of Islam in the country and its army. “They drink, they send their children to study in the United States or Great Britain. The younger ones are sending their children to study in the Gulf.”

The comments highlight an often-overlooked ambivalence in China’s attitude to Pakistan. Though Beijing has always been willing to use Pakistan to counter India, its support is conditional. Like the United States and India, China worries about the threat posed by the rise of violent Islamism to the outside world and to Pakistan itself. That makes it a potential ally in helping to stabilize Pakistan. As Washington and New Delhi forge ever closer ties—highlighted by President Barack Obama’s visit to India—they will need careful diplomacy to avoid alienating China with talk of containing it and instead seek to enlist its help.

In The China-Pakistan Axis, Small recounts China’s role in helping Pakistan obtain nuclear weapons and nuclear-capable missiles by supplying technology and expertise—going as far as flying in supplies of highly enriched uranium—to help it keep pace with India’s nuclear weapons program. But China has never committed troops on Pakistan’s behalf, even during its many conflicts with India, and has often been more inclined to work with the United States to try to defuse a crisis than provide Pakistan with support.

Islamic State in Afghanistan: Start of a Turf War?

By Ankit Panda
February 03, 2015

The turf war between the Taliban and the Islamic State may be intensifying in Afghanistan. On Monday, masked gunmen claiming to fight for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS, or IS) killed Abdul Ghani, a Taliban commander, in Logar province. The incident was reported by Afghanistan’s Pajhwok News based on the testimony of the administrative chief for Charkh district in Logar. After killing the Taliban commander, the militants ordered civilians and bystanders to refrain from watching television. The attack took place during the daytime in the main district bazaar.

According to the district chief’s testimony, the gunmen were dressed in black and claimed that they were soldiers of the Islamic State. Since its rise to prominence last summer in Iraq, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State, declared the creation of a caliphate spanning Iraq and Syria and set himself up as the caliph. The Islamic State has spent considerable energy since then in recruiting would-be jihadists in Pakistan and Afghanistan to its cause. The incident in Logar province could simply be the result of a local flare-up. Alternatively, it could foreshadow broader conflict between the Islamic State and the Afghan Taliban. The Islamic State’s presence in Afghanistan should not be overstated by any means; the Taliban remain the stronger militant outfit by far. The Islamic State’s popularity is growing, but it lacks a well-institutionalized presence in Afghanistan.

Evidence of an Islamic State presence in Afghanistan isn’t entirely absent. In a separate Pajhwok report, Mohammad Omar Safi, the governor of the northeastern region of Kunduz province, said that about 70 IS-affiliated militants were operating in the province. Safi cautioned that the Afghan government needed to develop a strategy to combat the Islamic State’s growing influence within his province. In Helmand province, around 300 IS-affiliated militants are being led by Mullah Abdul Rauf Khadim, a former Taliban commander. Khadim was reportedly captured with around 45 supporters just under a week ago by the Afghan Taliban for “anti-Islamic activities.” As U.S. troops leave Afghanistan, the primary objective of the Afghan National Army is neutralizing the threat from the Taliban and affiliated militant groups. Islamic State-affiliated militants could considerably complicate the Afghan government’s efforts to improve the country’s security situation.

Pakistan to Revive Military Parade Amid Tensions with India

By Prashanth Parameswaran
February 03, 2015

Pakistan is planning on reviving its annual military parade this March following a seven year hiatus and may invite Chinese president Xi Jinping as the chief guest amid tensions with neighboring rival India, Pakistani military officials told the Dawn newspaper Monday.

The Republic Day parade — which, like in neighboring India, provides Pakistan the opportunity to strut military hardware from its three armed services — has not been held since 2008 due to persistent terrorism threats and lingering security concerns. Senior Pakistani military officials now say the army, navy and air force will all participate in a parade this year, which will be held on March 23. The exact venue has not been confirmed, but the location will reportedly be in Rawalpindi, where Pakistan Army General Headquarters is situated. A diplomatic source also told Dawn that Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to attend the parade as chief guest.

The decision comes just a week after U.S. president Barack Obama became the first U.S. president to attend India’s Republic Day parade as chief guest. As The Diplomat reported previously, while Obama was in India, China welcomed Pakistan’s army chief, General Raheel Sharif, to Beijing for talks.

Crowded Waters: The South China Sea's Next Big Flashpoint?

Sean Mirski
February 4, 2015 

The South China Sea ranks high on any list of the world’s geopolitical hotspots. But though the region has been volatile for centuries, the last two decades have witnessed a subtle shift in the underlying drivers of conflict. Through most of the second half of the twentieth century, the biggest threats to regional stability were claimant states angling to carve out their own slices of the Sea. Today, states continue to covet islands controlled by their neighbors, but none is willing to run a significant risk of war in order to improve its position vis-à-vis the others.

Unfortunately, this good news has been offset by the rise of a different risk factor. Propelled by a combination of waning marine resources and misguided government policies, fishermen are sailing further from their shores and into disputed areas. There, they are increasingly likely to bump prows with either foreign competitors or antagonistic coast guards. The outcome in either case could be disastrous.

Accordingly, Washington has fallen short in its most recent proposal asking states to “freeze” the status quo. Rather than focusing their diplomatic energies exclusively on the behavior of foreign navies, American policy makers should recognize that the next crisis could inadvertently start in the waters between a fishing trawler and a zealous coast-guard cutter.

Xi’s Anti-Corruption Campaign: Moving China’s 'Cheese'

By Yang Hengjun
February 04, 2015

Supporting anti-corruption is right and proper — you don’t need a reason for it, right? And yet I have to write a piece defending myself; you can see how serious the situation is. I personally don’t care if I am misunderstood, but the attitude more and more people have toward anti-corruption can’t help but incite caution and consideration.

Anti-corruption is the will of the people; only a few corrupt officials oppose the anti-corruption movement – this has been the common consensus for many years, right? But as soon as the current government showed it meant business – that it wanted to “scrape the poison off the bone” – more and more people’s initial excitement has turned to slight unease and dislike. I can see the seriousness of the problem from the changes in the way my friends react to my support for anti-corruption. In pursuing anti-corruption, whose “cheese” have Xi Jinping and Wang Qishan moved?

Of course, the anti-corruption campaign will touch on the basic interests of some people, first and foremost the corrupt. According to reports, in the past few years of anti-corruption, we’ve already seen close to 200,000 corrupt officials arrested, dismissed, or set aside. The “casualty rate” is close to that of a revolution. At the beginning, some officials thought that this was just a case of a new government asserting its authority, that everything would “go back to normal” after a little while. Those officials have finally discovered that’s not the case.

Ruling the PLA According to the Law

By Susan Finder
February 04, 2015

China watchers the world over were amazed on January 15, 2015 when the Chinese Ministry of Defense made public a list of 16 high ranking corrupt PLA officers. The future prosecution and conviction of these officers by China’s military criminal justice system brings Chinese military law and legal institutions into international focus. Chinese military legal officials have identified the inadequacy of those institutions as one of the underlying causes for significant corruption in the Chinese armed forces and national defense industry.

In the Third and Fourth Plenum Decisions, the Party leadership flagged the importance of improving Chinese military law as part of modernizing the Chinese armed forces and national defense, although it attracted little attention outside of China. During the fall of 2014, General Ding Xiangrong, one of the named drafters of the Fourth Plenum Decision, was appointed head of the Central Military Commission (CMC)’s Legislative Affairs Commission, the military equivalent to the State Council’s Legislative Affairs Office.

General Ding and several other senior military officials have provided few details about the major legal policy initiatives on the CMC’s agenda to overcome this crisis within the PLA, as there is much less transparency in the military legal system than in the civilian legal system. But press reports are slowly being released.

China Warns Against Obama-Dalai Lama Meeting

By Shannon Tiezzi
February 04, 2015

As rumors fly that U.S. President Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama will both attend the National Prayer Breakfast on February 5, Beijing reiterated its strong opposition to meetings between the exiled spiritual leader and foreign politicians.

“Tibet-related issues bear on China’s core interest and national feelings. We are against any country’s interference in China’s domestic affairs under the pretext of Tibet-related issues, and are opposed to any foreign leader’s meeting with the Dalai Lama in any form,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in a press conference on Tuesday.

According to John Rizzo, the communications director for Senator Bob Casey (a co-chair of the prayer breakfast), the Dalai Lama “was invited by the organizers of the event” (rather than by the White House). The Dalai Lama “plans to be there,” Rizzo told The Huffington Post. The U.S. president historically attends the event as well – meaning Thursday could be the first time Obama and the Dalai Lama have appeared together in public.

The two men have met together three times previously (in 2010, 2011, and 2014). No media personnel were allowed to cover those meetings, which each took place in the Map Room of the White House (rather than the more official Oval Office, where George W. Bush hosted the Dalai Lama in 2007). Obama also famously declined to meet with the Dalai Lama in October of 2009, sparking widespread accusations that the president was giving in to Chinese pressure.

India Joining the China Containment Brigade? Not So Fast.

By Shannon Tiezzi
February 03, 2015

Analysts around the world (especially in the U.S. and India) are still buzzing about President Barack Obama’s trip to India as the chief guest at the Republic Day parade. The prevailing theory is that India is tilting toward the U.S. in its foreign policy, after decades of keeping Washington at arm’s length under the policy of non-alignment. But it’s important to keep in mind that a friendlier U.S.-India relationship will not automatically translate into a chill in New Delhi’s ties with other regional powers – including China.

As proof of this fact, a week after Obama’s much-feted visit to India, Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj met with her counterparts from China (Wang Yi) and Russia (Sergei Lavrov) in Beijing for the 13th Russia-India-China trilateral foreign ministers’ meeting. The joint statement issued after their meeting agreed that the three countries “need to further strengthen coordination on global issues and practical cooperation.”

The joint statement highlights several areas where Indian, Russian, and Chinese interests continue to converge in ways the U.S. would not approve of. First and foremost, all three countries are keen to see the international order reconfigured to provide rising powers with more voice. “Russia, India and China are determined to build a more just, fair and stable international political and economic order,” the statement said. As a dominant voice in the current system, the U.S. has so far resisted reforms to existing structures, including financial bodies such as the World Bank and IMF.

Japan, Philippines Boost Defense Ties

By Prashanth Parameswaran
February 04, 2015

From January 29-31, Philippine defense secretary Voltaire Gazmin paid a three-day visit to Japan where he led talks with his counterpart Gen. Nakatani to boost the defense relationship between the two countries.

Japan and the Philippines have a long relationship that extends beyond contemporary concerns about China. As I have noted previously, it was in Manila that former Japanese prime minister Takeo Fukuda delivered his famous “Fukuda Doctrine” speech in 1977, which heralded Tokyo’s new approach to Southeast Asia after the relationship had been marred by Japanese occupation during WWII. But while economics has long been a major part of the relationship, under Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and amid growing anxiety about Chinese actions in the East China Sea and South China Sea, both countries have been strengthening their defense ties under a strategic partnership inked in 2011.

The recent visit was another sign that the relationship between the two sides could grow closer still in this dimension. The list of proposed measures in their joint press statement, released on January 30 and seen byThe Diplomat, is ambitious. Yes, the two sides did brief each other on maritime security issues, which have brought them ever closer over the past few years. But they also signed a memorandum of understanding outlining specific steps to enhance defense cooperation and exchanges between their two defense ministries.

Saudi Arabia's Threat Perception

RSN Singh
04 Feb , 2015

The discovery of oil in 1938, in the eastern province of Saudi Arabia came just six years after the formation of the state. Post World War II, Saudi Arabia assumed great strategic significance as European countries required cheaper sources of oil for rebuilding their shattered infrastructure and economy. In fact, it was the kingdom’s importance as an oil producer that guaranteed its protection during the 1991 Gulf War. After the war, Saudi Arabia’s standing in the world oil market increased because it was the only major oil producing country that had significant excess capacity of crude oil production and thereby a strong influence on international oil supplies and prices. Saudi Arabia contains 260 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, which is the largest in the world.

Its oil reserves constitute more than one-fourth of the estimated global reserves. It is the also the largest exporter of oil and, therefore, plays a leading role in the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Saudi Arabia maintains a crude oil production capability of around 10 million barrels a day (bbl/d) and claims that it is capable of increasing it up to 15 million bbl/d. It is the key oil supplier to US (approximately 18 per cent of US oil imports); China, Japan, South Korea (40 per cent of Saudi oil exports); and Jordan (50 per cent of Jordan’s oil imports). Although, Saudi Arabia has around 80 oil and gas fields, more than 50 per cent of its oil reserves are contained in eight fields, which include Ghawar (world’s largest oil field) and Safaniya (world’s largest offshore oil field). Ghawar accounts for about half of Saudi Arabia’s total production capability. Saudi Arabia also produces oil (more than 0.6 million bbl/day in 2003) in the Saudi-Kuwaiti neutral zone and jointly with Bahrain in the Abu Safah offshore oilfield (nearly 0.15 million bbl/day in 2003). Saudi Arabia donates all the income generated from this oil field to Bahrain.


By Adrian A. Basora
FEBRUARY 4, 2015

Given the launch in early January of a vigorous new separatist offensive in eastern Ukraine, backed by a reported 9,000 Russian troops and abundant new armaments, it is now incontrovertible that Moscow is engaged in a full scale war in Ukraine.

Phase I of this initially undeclared war was the lightning Russian take-over of Crimea in March/April 2014, under the initial cover of a seemingly plausible separatist movement.

Phase II was the establishment of self-declared separatist governments controlling parts of the eastern provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk, initially with crude attempts at plausible deniability as to the extent of direct Russian military involvement.

Phase III has now begun, with the separatists attempting to expand their enclaves to include the entirety of both of the contested provinces –this time with blatant Russian military backing on a larger scale.

Given Moscow’s now-familiar pattern of escalating military support for the separatists each time the Ukrainian military seems to be gaining ground, this is now clearly a war that Ukraine cannot possibly win absent sharply increased U.S. and European backing.

The Great Exodus: Ukraine's Refugees Flee to Russia

Mary Elizabeth Malinkin, Liliya Nigmatullina
February 4, 2015

The fact that most of the Ukrainians who fled their country last year went to Russia may come as a surprise to some. The reasons for this are interesting and have been skillfully examined in recent articles. Where are the Ukrainian refugees going in Russia and what awaits them when they arrive? How are they being treated and what do they think of their new surroundings? We took a closer look at these questions in Perm, a city and region in the Ural Mountains, which in 2014 became one of the major hubs in Russia for Ukrainian refugees.

“Where is Perm?”

Perm may not be on the radar of most Western readers, with the exception of fans of Sergei Diaghilev or Boris Pasternak, who each lived in the Perm region for a time, or those familiar with the dissident movement. Perm-36 included some of the harshest labor camps where the Soviet government sent political prisoners during the crackdown in the 1960s and early 1970s. The last political prisoner held there was released only in the late 1980s. The thought of seeking refuge in a place with such a dark history might sound strange, but this question is not likely in the forefront of the refugees’ minds. Instead, a more common thought might be “Where is Perm?” as one refugee in Donetsk asked in Andrew Roth’s articlelast fall.


Sean Kay
February 3, 2015

Russia remains parked in Ukraine’s east where Moscow-backed separatists continue to create mayhem. Meanwhile, the western allies are maintaining a general consensus that has led to the political isolation of Russia, the slow ramping up of economic sanctions, and the symbolic but important reassurance of nervous eastern European members of NATO – accomplishments trumpeted by President Barack Obama in the State of the Union address. The recent increase in the Russian presence in eastern Ukraine is reason for reviewing options. The problem is that, given the risks involved, the only realistic and thus most likely effective option is long-term, patient resolve to stay the course. Nevertheless, there is a growing chorus in the United States that believes the next steps should be to send military aid to Ukraine. This would be a risky gamble at this time, not worth the potential dangers.

The United States and Europe hold overwhelming political, economic, and military advantages over Russia. Russia, in fact, grows weaker by the day –as made evident by the recent S&P downgrade of Russian credit to “junk” level. Russia is fundamentally weak in terms of its unsustainable long-term force projection and the erosion of its economy. However, Russia does not need to apply much pressure to keep Ukraine destabilized enough to maintain significant leverage over Kiev’s future alignments; one should anticipate this standoff lasting for some time. It is unclear how adding fuel to the fire would help. As Matt O’Brien wrote recently in The Washington Post:


Eurasia Review
FEBRUARY 3, 2015

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Tuesday urged all sides to halt the dangerous escalation in the fighting in eastern Ukraine. He called on States and all those with influence in the region to take measures to ensure full compliance with the Minsk accords, which have a direct bearing on the human rights situation in the east of the country.

“Bus stops and public transport, marketplaces, schools and kindergartens, hospitals and residential areas have become battlegrounds in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine – in clear breach of international humanitarian law which governs the conduct of armed conflicts,” High Commissioner Zeid said.

“The death toll now exceeds 5,358 people, and another 12,235 have been wounded since mid-April last year. In just the three weeks up to February 1, at least 224 civilians have been killed and 545 wounded*. Any further escalation will prove catastrophic for the 5.2 million people living in the midst of conflict in eastern Ukraine.”

In particular, there has been a high civilian death toll from the indiscriminate shelling of residential areas in both Government-controlled territory, such as the towns of Avdiivka, Debaltseve, Popasna and Shchastia and the settlement of Stanytsia Luhanska, as well as the cities of Donetsk and Horlivka controlled by the armed groups. In the single most deadly incident involving civilians, at least 31 people were killed and 112 wounded in Mariupol, following two attacks by multiple launch rocket systems.

Why Is Ukraine’s War So Bloody? The Soviet Union Trained Both Sides.

Anna Nemtsova

KIEV — Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian rebels have intensified exchanges of heavy artillery fire in several towns and villages in eastern Ukraine these last few days, destroying houses, slaughtering the people in them, blowing to bits passengers in public transport and mowing down pedestrians.

Time and again, each side blames the other for the needless carnage and the massive collateral damage. But that’s not the only reason it’s sometimes hard to tell who is doing what to whom. The real problem is that the commanders on both sides of the lines used to be in the same army before the breakup of the Soviet Union, and even the younger ones have learned the same military doctrines that date back to the days of Stalin, and are absolutely brutal.

Vasily Budik, an adviser to Ukraine’s defense ministry, described the core approach of the combat operations in the eastern Ukraine: “First we work with massive artillery fire to clean up space and then infantry and tanks roll in,” he told me over the phone. “That approach has been the same forever.”

Just so. It’s not about hearts and minds, it’s about bodies and real estate.

The Ukrainian military also uses a lot of the same equipment as the Russians, with minor differences. For example, the Ukrainian military mount their Grads (multiple rocket launchings systems) on Ural trucks, while pro-Russian forces used Kamaz trucks.

Ukraine Rebels Upbeat After an Infusion of Aid

FEB. 2, 2015

HORLIVKA, Ukraine — The rebel commander casually led the way down a muddy trench, shoulder high with shaved walls of moist earth, his boots slapping at wooden slabs sunk into the muck. Finally, he reached an earth-covered observation post.

“There, you see,” he said, pointing a gnarled index finger, its brown nail twisted after 30 years in the coal mines. A few hundred yards away, across an icy lake and a field, were some scattered office buildings, close enough to count the windowpanes.

“There are the Ukrainians,” said the commander, whose real name is Pavel and who asked that his surname not be used, for fear of reprisals. His fighters call him Batya, an endearment for father in Russian and a common nom de guerre for rebel commanders in easternUkraine.

The smack of artillery fire rose from a village in the valley below, captured just a few days earlier by Batya’s rebels. A nearby crack, a tense pause, then a distant thud somewhere beyond the lake.

“Sometimes, at night, they come at us with their tanks,” Batya said. “But we do not let them advance.”

Rebel fighters at a front-line position in Horlivka, Ukraine. Their commanders have declared an end to a four-month cease-fire. CreditBrendan Hoffman for The New York Times

The mood here on the rebel front lines is upbeat these days. Two weeks ago, Russian-backed rebels captured the airport in Donetsk, kicking off the fiercest round of combat in the region since last fall. Their commanders declared a four-month-old cease-fire defunct and vowed new attacks, which began almost immediately, including one in which a barrage of rockets struck a crowded market in a Black Sea coastal town, Mariupol, that left 31 dead.

Nightmare or Necessity: Is It Time for Regime Change in Russia?

James Carden
February 4, 2015 

On Friday, Newsweek published an op-ed by Rutgers University professor Alexander J. Motyl calling for regime change in Russia. While noting that “regime change” has—in light of recent history—become a “dirty phrase,” it would, we are told, constitute “the best thing that could happen to Russia.” Motyl’s article will no doubt bolster Russian president Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s oft-voiced suspicions that the real goal of the Western sanctions against Russia has always been regime change.

The ideas underpinning Motyl’s argument are familiar ones. Implying causality, Motyl says, “Putin’s regime is oppressive at home and imperialist abroad.” Further, Putin lacks legitimacy; his regime is sustained only by his “cult of personality” and “his ability to project a hyper-masculine image of vigor and vitality.” In spite of this, “the regime is fast crumbling and could easily collapse in the coming months or years.” This last is but one in a series of predictions by observers such as AEI’s Leon Aaron, who, in the pages of Foreign Policy magazine in February 2012, declared, “Putin is already dead.”

In light of American-led efforts at regime change in Kosovo (1999), Afghanistan (2002), Iraq (2003) and Libya (2011), a call for regime change against the world’s largest country by size and 8th by GDP should raise more than a few eyebrows. The idea that Putin’s regime is “imperialist” abroadbecause it is “oppressive” at home is a core tenet of Democratic Peace Theory, which posits that a regime’s internal politics shapes it outward-facing posture.

Russia to Hold Joint Military Drills with North Korea, Cuba

Zachary Keck
February 3, 2015 

Russia is in discussions to conduct joint military exercises with North Korea and Cuba, a senior Russian military official announced on Saturday.

Valery Gerasimov, the chief of staff of the Russian military, made the announcement on Saturday at a meeting attended by all the top service chiefs as well as the Russian defense minister, Sergey Shoygu.

“We are planning an expansion of the communication lines of our military central command. We are entering preliminary negotiations with the armed forces of Brazil, Vietnam, Cuba and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” Gerasimov said, according to aNewsweek report.

He added: “We are going to conduct a series of joint naval and air force exercises, as well as joint drills of our ground troops and air assault troops.”

Voice of America Korea and Russian news outlets also reported Gerasimov’s comments.

Newsweek quoted Steven Pifer, the former U.S. ambassador to Russia and currently a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, as saying that the move was likely aimed at proving that Moscow isn’t isolated on the world stage.

Revealed: How to Avoid a U.S.-China War

Micah Zenko
February 3, 2015 

In book one of The History of the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides provided his explanation for why the Spartans (or Lacedaemonians) broke the thirty years’ truce treaty with the Athenians after just fourteen years: “I consider the truest cause the one least openly expressed, that increasing Athenian greatness and the resulting fear among the Lacedaemonians made going to war inevitable.” Thucydides reiterates later how the Spartans assembly voted “that the treaty had been broken and that they must go to war not so much because they were persuaded by the arguments of their allies as because they feared further increase in the power of the Athenians, seeing the greater part of Hellas under their control.”

Historians and political scientists have remained focused on the hypothesis offered by the Athenian historian two and a half millennia ago: shifts in the relative balance of power between competing states or alliances can—intentionally or unintentionally—culminate in the most consequential outcome in international relations, great power war. Rising powers often hide their grand strategic objectives (assuming there are coherent preferences among that country’s leadership)—such as whether they accept the status quo or seek to change the international system. In the face of such uncertainty during power transitions, there may be incentives for declining powers to undertake preventive, aggressive actions against the rising power—the “better now than later” thinking.


T.X. Hammes
February 3, 2015

Political leaders in the United States need to start a serious conversation about alternatives for new long-range strike capability. Unfortunately, to date, the vast majority of those who are speaking have already decided that the solution is a new manned aircraft—in particular the proposed Air Force Long Range Strike-Bomber (LRS-B). Writing in The National Interest, Representatives J. Randy Forbes and Chris Stewart argued that Congress must push for rapid development of the Air Force LRS-B. They state this effort is essential to ensure the United States can pursue more mobile targets deep in Chinese or Iranian territory. Robert Martinage recently proposed the Pentagon “accelerate development and expand procurement of the LRS-B” and add the mission of “stand-off precision attack” to the bomber’s capabilities.

Before we jump on the bandwagon of the LRS-B, we should consider its ability to execute the planned missions, its procurement timeline, its cost, and then potential alternatives.


The requirement for a long-range strike capability in the era of increasingly effective anti-access weapons systems is clear. It is less clear that this capability requires a manned aircraft. Proponents argue that the United States must be able to “contend with more mobile sets of targets,” “hold targets at risk,” and finally, “to hit hardened and deeply buried targets.” Let’s consider each in turn.