6 February 2015

Moving on

Khaled Ahmed
February 6, 2015

Some Pakistanis have been hysterical, TV anchors worst of all. Officially, it was normal till the media hate-hype forced some ministers to go back to the familiar sabre-rattling — with no sabres to speak of as the economy falters under homegrown terrorism. Urdu is the “poisoned mother tongue”, carrying unrealistic challenges based on ghairat (honour) rather than anything credible.

Urdu newspapers leaned helplessly on retired generals, whom they otherwise abominate for having usurped democracy in the past, and let them spew the old ideological stuff on India and that old betrayer, the US. The clerics did their million marches against French blasphemy, recommending that Pakistan break with France as well as the US and resign from the UN if India joins the Security Council as a permanent member.

“The operationalisation of the Indo-US nuclear deal for political and economic expediencies would have a detrimental impact on deterrence stability in South Asia,” said the advisor to the prime minister on foreign affairs, Sartaj Aziz. Former Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said US President Barack Obama “has preferred India to Pakistan”. A columnist wrote, Obama was “a down-and-out first generation American who once slept roofless on a pavement in New York, whose friend was a drug-snorting Pakistani illegal alien, whose first fundraiser for a Senate seat was organised by his Pakistani friends in a Chicago restaurant (they raised $3,000)”.

The bank in a new world

Aditya Puri
February 6, 2015 

We worked very hard to set up a good bank. Only to be told that the brains in Silicon Valley, through the innovative use of the convergence of media, telecom, computing and networks, would blow us out of the water. So, to be at peace, one decided to visit these brains in Silicon Valley.

Detailed discussions with them revealed that no one was contemplating replacing or reinventing a bank. What was being envisaged was the use of the banking platform as a service. Basically, the network would be used with the banking platform to provide greater convenience, efficiency or better pricing to the customer. So if you see “Apple Pay”, it provides one-click shopping, riding on the existing banking/ Mastercard platform. Hoards of entrepreneurs want to provide loans faster and/ or cheaper, or cheaper remittance services, or more convenient shopping. Then there is eCommerce.

Much as I tried, I could not figure how this would kill a bank, unless they lay down and played dead. Otherwise, the bank has the payment system, the customer (corporate and retail), the merchant, the brand, the funding and the network (belongs to all). So, all that the bank has to do is build on its strengths through the use of the network to deliver the same convenience, price and/ or efficiency.

A journey over time would be useful. The physical world developed on the back of a network of roads that carry the cars, trucks, bullocks, cycles, pedestrians and connect cities, leading to the growth of economies. Over time, the network of roads was supplemented by: one, electricity and water networks; two, wireless networks connecting people, phones, laptops and other devices; three, television, radio and telecommunications networks carrying music, movies, data and other content; four, information networks; and five, social networks. Now the networks are getting interconnected, creating big data, social interaction, eCommerce and a new world of complex internet-based adaptive systems.

No end to brutality of ISIS

S. Nihal Singh
Feb 05, 2015

Whatever the future holds for the so-called Islamic State, which occupies considerable territory in Iraq and Syria, the reported gruesome murder of a captured Jordanian pilot by burning him in a cage, represents a further stage in the barbarity of an outfit that evolved out of the Al Qaeda family and is seeking legitimacy in the name of Islam. An America that was seeking to un-entangle itself from West Asia has been forced to return to the area, gingerly dipping its feet in the murderous milieu of passions and politics.

It is indeed strange that in a few short years the promise of the Arab Spring should have given way to an atmosphere of desperation and confusion in which the future of a whole region is on auction. Alignments are shifting around two groupings led by Saudi Arabia and Iran, with Turkey feeling somewhat isolated and the main outside powers led by the United States engaged in fire-fighting operations.

Everyone is agreed that there are no quick-fix solutions to a region possessing more than its share of autocratic rulers, the countries’ oil wealth acting as both a wealth producer and a source of conflict, the Shia-Sunni schism a fault line and any number of outside powers more than willing to fish in troubled waters. What is new is that with the advent of the ISIS, the game is getting uglier and more brutal by the day and the fear is that, whatever a country’s objectives, everyone is fated to lose.

Apart from the legacy of a centuries’ long adventure by the European colonial powers, replaced in the main by the United States in the post-World War II era, the main regional players themselves have contributed to the present stage of killings and impasse. It must, however, be acknowledged that the present predicament can be sourced to the unwise American military invasion of Iraq. President George W. Bush was lured by the romantic idea of remaking West Asia, in the process solving the elemental problem of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Visit successful beyond expectations

C.R. Gharekhan
Feb 6 2015

China, by being in such a haste to downplay the visit of President Obama to India, without even waiting for the visitor to leave India's airspace, has provided the convincing proof that the visit was a success. The Chinese are obviously concerned at the breakthroughs achieved and at the personal chemistry developed and displayed with such obvious glee by both leaders, especially Prime Minister Modi. It is politically correct, and imperative, for any two countries at the conclusion of a successful summit-level meeting to pronounce that their relationship is not aimed at third countries and is not at the expense of friendship with a third country. This is routine, but it does not always convince or satisfy the third country concerned. In this particular case, the Chinese are not completely off the mark. There is no question but that China has been an important factor in the US tilt towards India over the past decade. It was with China in mind that President G.W. Bush went so much out of the way to even amend the US laws to bring India with the fold of nuclear commerce. Commercial considerations are always present when foreign leaders visit India; this is true of the Russian President's visits also. Mr. Obama's enthusiasm for India has likewise something to do with the US-China rivalry. India is big enough and smart enough not to engage with America in an anti-China containment concept, but it has concerns about an assertive China which has not hesitated to flex its military muscles even during the visit of its President to India. It makes good sense for India to welcome American embrace without being suffocated by it. 

The big picture that emerges from the visit has two aspects. There has long been a conviction in India over many decades since our independence, among officials as well as analysts, that America never wanted India to become a strong or even prosperous power, mainly due to what it perceived as India's hostile attitude during the cold war era, and actively acted to keep India 'down'. America had mortgaged its India policy to the British on Kashmir and other issues and was decidedly anti-India during the Bangladesh crisis. It is not incorrect to conclude after this visit that America has finally and definitively given up this approach and is more than willing to work with India so that India progresses, firmly and reasonably fast to become economically and hence militarily strong. Here too, the China factor is an important consideration. 

Tangibles and imponderables of a visit

M. K. Narayanan
February 6, 2015 

While the Obama visit covered most facets of India-U.S. engagement and imparted greater depth to the relationship, its final verdict will depend on whether the issues discussed reach satisfactory conclusion

As the dust settles on a remarkable odyssey by a foreign leader to our shores, the time is ripe for stocktaking. Talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Barack Obama comprehensively covered most facets of India-U.S. engagement, and imparted greater depth to the relationship. The final verdict will, however, depend on whether issues touched upon, but yet to be completed, reach satisfactory conclusion.

The Joint Statement, together with the U.S.-India Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and the Indian Ocean Region, and the India-U.S. Delhi Declaration of Friendship, convey the impression that the world’s two largest democracies have reached a common understanding, positing closer cooperation in the future.

It also highlights that India’s “Act East Policy” and the U.S.’s rebalance towards Asia, provide opportunities for India, the U.S. and other Asia-Pacific countries to work closely to strengthen regional ties. Accompanying this is the Joint Strategic Vision to guide their engagement in the region.

Areas of cooperation

Several areas of mutual cooperation are mentioned in the Joint Statement. These include defence technology and related aspects as well as defence and homeland security cooperation, with an emphasis on developing new areas of technology cooperation. The importance of closer cooperation in dealing with matters such as transnational crime, terrorism, narcotics, cyber and other threats, and maritime security have been specifically underlined. The statement commits India and the U.S. to achieving a defining counter-terrorism relationship for the 21st Century. However, it is weak on specifics, and does not specify the need for strong action against the LeT and the Haqqani network in Pakistan.

Foreign interference in J&K: A challenge for new government

ByCol Jaibans Singh
05 Feb , 2015

A malevolent religious agenda of foreign elements is aimed at breaking down the culture of Sufism and replacing it with “Wahhabi Islam.”

It is for the better, since, it is only this combination that can provide a stable government to the state while meeting the aspirations of different regions.

A major challenge for the new government would be foreign forces attempting to interfere in the affairs of the state. The interference is not restricted to the incessant cross-border firing that has been witnessed for many months now; it envelopes, within itself, security, societal and economic issues that have far reaching consequences.

While addressing the issues involved, one thing is undeniable – the centre of gravity lies with the people. The term “people”, however, does not constitute only inhabitants of the area; it also refers to pressure groups of foreign origin that have vested interests in the region.

A malevolent religious agenda of foreign elements is aimed at breaking down the culture of Sufism and replacing it with “Wahhabi Islam.”

Pakistan Tests New Air-Launched Cruise Missile

By Franz-Stefan Gady
February 05, 2015

On Monday, February 2, Pakistan successfully tested a cruise missile with stealth capabilities capable of carrying conventional and nuclear payloads. The Hatf-VIII (Ra’ad) is an air-launched cruise missile with an operational range of 350 km and has been first tested by the Pakistani Air Force in August 2007. Other tests were conducted in 2008 with a Dassault Mirage III Rose fighter jet used as a launch platform and in 2011 and 2012 respectively. It is not known whether the weapon can also be launched from Pakistani F-16s. In the future, the JF-17 may also be a likely platform. This week’s test constitutes the fifth time that the Pakistani Air Force tested the missile.

According to media reports, the successful launch was lauded by President Mamnoon Hussain and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who congratulated the scientists and engineers for their accomplishments. The Pakistani Army only tersely commented the test: “The state of the art Ra’ad cruise missile with stealth capabilities is a low altitude, terrain hugging missile with high maneuverability and can deliver nuclear and conventional warheads with pinpoint accuracy.” The army also notes the missiles “strategic standoff capability” on land and sea, which implies that the army is planning to use this new weapon for precision airstrikes on both land and sea targets.

Islamic State Goes Official in South Asia

By Arif Rafiq
February 04, 2015

The group that describes itself as the Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIS or ISIL) has formally entered the fray in South Asia, recently announcing the formation of a wilayah (province) in the region.

IS is positioning itself as a competitor to the Afghan Taliban and al-Qaeda in South Asia. It is unlikely to supplant the two groups. Still, the establishment of a wilayah in the region raises the risk of an increase in sectarian attacks not just against Shias in Pakistan and Afghanistan, but also against fellow Sunnis. It may also complicate the Kabul government’s efforts at reconciliation with the Afghan Taliban and give IS an opportunity to use the region to attack Shia Iran.

On January 26, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, the IS spokesman, officially recognized the wilayah of Khurasan – a region that encompasses Afghanistan, much (if not all) of Pakistan, and parts of neighboring countries. IS commanders in Khurasan control little terrain, and so the wilyah is more notional than physical. But, importantly, IS has formed a single group operating on both sides of the Durand Line. In contrast, al-Qaeda has largely worked through Taliban groups operating separately in Afghanistan and Pakistan. IS has yet to identify the boundaries of Khurasan, and so it’s unclear whether this wilayah includes all of Pakistan, or whether the provinces of Punjab and Sindh fall outside of its orbit.

China's Central Asian Opportunity

By Ankit Panda
February 05, 2015

Earlier this week, I penned an admittedly pessimistic take on Central Asia’s short- and medium-term economic fortunes owing primarily to the collapse of the ruble. Even though the current crisis should be an important reminder of the risks of economic over-reliance on Russia, these states should seize the opportunity to appeal to China’s westward impulses. Critically, by attracting Chinese trade and investment at a time of economic need, these former Soviet republics could bring some much-needed balance to their economies. Given China’s strategic interest in Central Asia, perhaps best captured by Beijing’s “March West” concept, attracting Beijing should not be an insurmountable task for these countries.

Beijing’s interest in marching west, toward Central Asia and Eastern Europe, is in part due to a desire to hedge its current over-reliance on Asia’s fragile sea lanes — fragile in the sense that Beijing is entirely vulnerable to sea-based interdiction by hostile foreign powers. Beijing’s massive land borders with the Central Asian republics and Russia carry none of the inherent geographical risk of the increasingly volatile South China Sea. Beijing has already invested in a China-Central Asia gas pipeline which starts at the Turkmen-Uzbek border city of Gedaim and runs through central Uzbekistan and southern Kazakhstan on its way to China’s Xinjiang province. As of late 2014, China had concluded several inter-governmental agreements with Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.

China and India Want a Breakthrough on Their Border Dispute

By Shannon Tiezzi
February 05, 2015

Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj was in Beijing this week to participate in a trilateral meeting with her Russian and Chinese counterparts. While there, she also held separate meetings with both President Xi Jinping and Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Swaraj told reporters that, in addition to the trilateral meeting, one of the main purposes for the visit was laying the groundwork for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s trip to China in May 2015. Apparently, part of that groundwork will be a concerted effort to see concrete progress in discussions over China and India’s disputed border.

The Telegraph, citing an Indian government official, said that New Delhi in particular hopes to hammer out the Framework for a Resolution of the Boundary Question. “That’s the next big diplomatic target for the government,” one official told The Telegraph of India. “The breakthrough has to be ready to be announced when the PM visits in May.” India’s national security adviser, Ajit Doval, is expected to travel to Beijing soon to continue the negotiations.

India and China dispute two large swaths of territory: Arunachal Pradesh to the east of Bhutan and Aksai Chin on the western edge of the India-China border. Arunachal Pradesh is administered by India as a state while Aksai Chin is administered by China as part of Xinjiang. In the 1990s, China and India effectively agreed to hold to the status quo, with both countries agreeing to abide by the Line of Actual Control until their governments could agree on a true border. However, the LAC remains ill-defined and incursions by both sides are frequent.

How to Push Back against an Aggressive China: Enter the 'Quad'

James Jay Carafano
February 5, 2015

Face it. China is a problem. Nations across the Pacific and Asia are looking for constructive solutions. And that’s the promise of a Quad Dialogue—a forum for developing cooperative, synchronized policies among India, Australia, Japan and the United States.

Start with the facts. China's economic policies are increasingly mercantilist. It is developing military capabilities to exclude others from operating in Asia. Beijing is no friend of democracy. From a Chinese perspective, all these initiatives might make sense: they are reconstructing a world that looks like the Middle Kingdom. The rest of the world, however, would probably prefer to live in the 21st century.

China is going to be China. That's not going to change anytime soon. So unless the nations that have the power to punish bad behavior and take constructive steps, the neighborhood is going to get worse for everybody.

It’s past time to do something positive.

Interest in a four-way dialogue between India, Australia, Japan and the United States enjoyed a brief flurry of attention during the Bush administration. It quickly died, partly out of concern about antagonizing China. More fundamentally, there was no strong sense of common cause among the four powers.

Obama’s Visit and the Paradox of Countering Chinese Expansionism and Western Messianism

P. Stobdan
February 04, 2015

India's outlook towards global politics is at a turning point and it could mark the beginning of a new role for India on the global stage. Underlying this is the seeming desire of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to recover the lost dignity and pride (swabhimaan) of India or at least regain its primacy in Asia.

Among his many steps, the invitation to President Obama for a historic second visit was clearly meant to serve the twin goals of bolstering bilateral ties and finding a clear strategic congruent to contain China’s rise. To be sure, Modi stood firm in terms of not compromising upon India’s independent foreign policy, not buckling under US pressure to ink a climate deal, and his disagreement about Russia’s bad behaviour.

President Obama’s visit was a huge success. Western policy thinkers particularly hailed the China-centric “Joint-Strategic Vision” document on the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region as a triumph for the United States. They see it as a major success in terms of weaning India away from its long-pursued posture of neutralism to finally join the global line-up drawn by the US. Henry Kissinger, in his appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee, interpreted it as India entering the “Asia equation” and a system of US-China relationship. Zbigniew Brzezinski, however, cautioned that this could antagonise China and make it uncooperative on key global issues. Not surprisingly, the Chinese media quickly cautioned India not to fall into the US “trap” and wrote off Obama's visit as a “superficial rapprochement", reflecting more “symbolism than pragmatism”.

The Islamic State May Have Derailed Japan’s Foreign Policy Outreach

By Aki Peritz and Joshua W. Walker
February 05, 2015
Source Link

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been cast into a decidedly treacherous and unexpected foreign policy conundrum as of late: The Islamic State (IS) took two Japanese nationals hostage, and after making unrealistic demands executed both adventurer Haruna Yukawa and journalist Kenji Goto. Having originally demanded the release of Sajida Al Rishawi, a failed suicide bomber held in Jordan since 2005 for Goto, this week they released video of the Jordanian pilot being burned alive. The Jordanian king met with officials in Washington immediately and announced the execution of Al Rishawi in retaliation, while Japan remained on the sidelines.

But a further victim might be Japan’s most aggressive effort to engage on foreign policy issues in years. Abe has been the most foreign policy-focused prime minister Japan has had for a very long time, with a record-setting itinerary of international travel. This hostage crisis has not only underscored Japan’s inability to force change on the ground when it really matters, but also might well compel Abe to spend less time engaging with the world and more time shoring up his power back at home.

Rather than seeing Japan as the pacifist, humanitarian-focused nation Abe has tried to present throughout his time in the region, IS simply cast Japan into the same camp as the U.S. and its allies. At some level, Tokyo must be shocked. Japan has long sought to have a more neutral Middle Eastern policy detached from merely following America’s lead. But this doesn’t really matter since Japan ultimately lacked ties and leverage to the various Islamist factions within Syria when it counted, which is now.

Shinzo Abe vs. ISIS: Japan's Military Goes Abroad?

Shihoko Goto
February 5, 2015

As the horror of the beheadings of two Japanese hostages sinks in, the debate not only about what might have been done to prevent the killings, but also what Tokyo should do moving forward is gaining momentum. For Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the lesson to be learned is that Japan needs to strengthen its capabilities to protect its citizens from hostile situations abroad, and also take on a greater role in international military operations with allied nations. For others, however, their concern is more about avoiding such situations in the future and keeping its citizens out of harm’s way to begin with. 

Bound by its 1947 constitution to mobilize troops solely for self-defense purposes, Abe has been trying to push through a legal revision that would allow the Self Defense Force to take a more active role in peacekeeping beyond its own borders, as tensions with neighboring China mount over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea on the one hand, and the threat of North Korea continue to loom on the other. The murders of journalist Kenji Goto and businessman Haruna Yukawa have raised Japanese consciousness of the threat of ISIS to unprecedented levels, and have broadened the debate about prospects for Japanese military engagement overseas.

The day after the video of journalist Kenji Goto’s killing was released, Abe told policy makers that restrictions preventing the SDF from evacuating Japanese nationals from emergency situations abroad should be lifted. The proposal is expected to be submitted as one of the security bills that will be presented to the Diet this spring. Members will also be considering a bill that will be based on last year’s decision to reinterpret Article 9 of the Japanese constitution that would allow Japan to assist in international operations for collective self-defense purposes.

How to Start a Proxy War with Russia

Michael Kofman
February 5, 2015

The release of a report this week calling for a vast expansion of U.S. military aid to Ukraine, titled “Preserving Ukraine’s Independence, Resisting Russian Aggression,” helped reignite the debate in Washington, D.C. on the provision of lethal weapons and a reassessment of the U.S. role in the conflict. The authors are prominent former diplomats and highly respected members of the national-security establishment, including Michele Flournoy, Strobe Talbott and Steven Pifer, amongst others. As a result, the president’s administration has come under heavy political pressure to reevaluate the existing policy of support for Ukraine. The prominence and experience of the political figures behind this report makes it impossible to ignore. It is a concise piece of argument, demanding the United States supply $1 billion per year in defense articles to Ukraine, ranging from anti-tank missiles to advanced air defense, and a variety of technical enablers for the Ukrainian military.

The proponents of this armaments proposal have treated support for arming Ukraine as a litmus test for supporting Ukraine in its hour of need. But this is a false equivalence. In fact, it is entirely reasonable to support Ukraine fully and simultaneously oppose sending additional weapons into a volatile conflict region. Indeed, the proposed arms shipments would do little to help Ukraine militarily and might actually worsen the situation. Kyiv is in desperate need of financial, technical and political support to achieve vital objectives, which include a fledgling reform agenda and negotiating a durable settlement to hold the country together. This in fact is the position adopted by Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and other U.S./NATO allies.

In the Belly of the Beast: A European View on Sending Arms to Ukraine

Tim Boersma
February 4, 2015

As a European at Brookings, I have a privileged view into the world of American strategic thinking. It is a confusing picture. On most days, I am awe-struck at the depth and subtlety of my American colleagues’ knowledge and ideas. But on some days, I am simply struck at the aggressiveness and solipsism of these ideas. The heralded report titled Preserving Ukraine’s Independence, authored in part by my Brookings colleagues Strobe Talbott and Steven Pifer, is a case in point. In essence, the authors propose that the U.S. government spend $3 billion on weapons to strengthen Ukraine’s defense forces to deter further Russian aggression.

The Flaws in Arming Ukraine

Various flaws in this proposal have been pointed out already, including by other Brookings colleagues. In my view, the most questionable assumption that the authors seem to make, is that by increasing the amount of body bags being sent to Moscow, the Russian regime will be incentivized to negotiate peace. But for a European, and although I agree with many of the arguments already made, even the critics miss the central point. We are talking about a possible full-fledged war on Europe’s very doorstep. Many Americans seem awfully cavalier about risking that war in somebody else’s house. The authors of this report do not appear to have discussed their proposals with any European national officials outside NATO or even seriously considered European views on the subject. The rather stiff reaction of German Chancellor Angela Merkel to the idea implies that that may have been a mistake. The French defense minister dismissed the idea of sending lethal weapons too.

US-Thailand Relations and Cobra Gold 2015: What’s Really Going On?

By Prashanth Parameswaran
February 05, 2015

As Cobra Gold – the Asia-Pacific’s largest annual multinational military exercise – is set to commence on February 9 in Thailand, uncertainty continues to cloud specifics amid strained relations between Bangkok and its ally the United States.

In over 30 years, Cobra Gold, which began as a bilateral drill between the United States and Thailand – Washington’s oldest ally in Asia – has now grown into one of the world’s largest multinational exercises involving some 30 countries. Last year, more than 13,000 servicemembers from the United States, Thailand, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea participated, with China taking part in humanitarian projects and other nations including Myanmar sending observers.

This year’s Cobra Gold, however, has been mired in controversy. A May 22 coup in Thailand led by General Prayuth Chan-o-cha forced the United States to suspend aid and cancel some exercises and exchanges. After much deliberation, Washington also decided in October to scale down Cobra Gold in 2015 but still keep it going. In doing so, the Obama administration sought to both signal its disapproval with the coup while also preserving a critical engagement that is not only a crucial part of its relationship with the Thai government and the Thai people, but builds trust between the regions militaries and demonstrates Washington’s commitment to the Asia-Pacific.


By Geoffrey F. Weiss
FEBRUARY 5, 2015

On December 5, 2013, with the stroke of a pen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin E. Dempsey profoundly altered the U.S. approach to the pressing problem of air and missile defense. On that date—coincidentally, 70 years to the day after the U.S. Army Air Corps began Operation Crossbow, the Anglo-American bombing campaign against Adolf Hitler’s V-1 and V-2 missile forces and a missile defense milestone—General Dempsey signed the Joint Integrated Air and Missile Defense: Vision 2020.1 This seminal document for air and missile defense (AMD) outlines the Chairman’s guidance to the joint force and, by extension, to all the stakeholders that contribute to the air and missile defense of the U.S. homeland and its regional forces, partners, and allies. What makes the new vision both exceptionally timely and highly relevant is that it accounts for the volatility and reality of 21st-century strategic and threat environments characterized more often than not by rapid, enigmatic change.

By crafting a holistic integrated air and missile defense (IAMD) vision—that is, one that encompasses a full range of integrated means including passive, nonkinetic, and left-of-launch—the Chairman has definitively departed from the previous paradigm that addressed an era of fewer, less capable threats. No longer can the United States reasonably expect to unilaterally defeat most air and missile threats with its own active defense systems or to outpace growing threat capabilities by outspending all of its potential adversaries. Instead, the new vision directs the joint force to embrace a broad spectrum of cost-informed options that enable greater IAMD adaptability and create flexibility to meet the challenges presented by proliferating air and missile threats across the global battlespace.

Guantanamo's Place in U.S. Caribbean Strategy

February 4, 2015

Last week, the Cuban government declared that for the United States and Cuba to normalize relations, the United States would have to return the territory occupied by a U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay. Washington clearly responded that returning the base is not on the table right now. This response makes sense, since quite a bit of politicking goes into the status of the base. However, the Guantanamo Bay issue highlights a notable aspect to the U.S.-Cuban negotiations - one that is rooted in the history of the U.S. ascension to superpower status as it challenged European powers in the Western Hemisphere.

U.S. Expansion in the Western Hemisphere

Cuba, the largest island in the Caribbean, has a prominent position at the mouth of the Gulf of Mexico, separating access to the gulf into two choke points: the Yucatan Channel and the Straits of Florida. It is also situated on the sea-lanes between the U.S. East Coast and the Panama Canal, the shortest route for naval traffic between the two coasts of the United States. Cuba thus has been pivotal to the U.S. strategy to safeguard economic activity in the Gulf of Mexico and naval transport routes beyond that. The evolution of U.S. naval capabilities, however, has changed the part that Cuba, and thus the base at Guantanamo, has played.

US and North Korea: Talking About Talks

By Ankit Panda
February 04, 2015

The United States and North Korea “have been secretly discussing having ‘talks about talks,’” notes one headline over at the Washington Post, accurately capturing the long-standing hesitance and skepticism on both sides of the negotiating table. After all the hullabaloo toward the end of 2014 concerning the possibility that North Korea had sponsored a major cyber attack against Sony Pictures on U.S. soil, the two countries are trying to revisit the possibility of opening talks regarding denuclearization on the Korean peninsula. What, then, can be said about this latest effort at returning to talks?

Say what you will about the United States’ North Korea policy, but as Russia, China, and even Japan vacillate on their positions toward Pyongyang on a variety of issues, the U.S. has hardly budged from the position it held when the Six Party Talks died in 2009. In short, the United States’ position, emphasized as recently as fall 2014 by senior U.S. diplomats, is that the United States is unwilling to return to the Six Party Talks without guarantees from North Korea that it fully accepts the 2005 joint statement, which included affirmations from the United States, South Korea, and North Korea on denuclearization. Kim’s father, Kim Jong-il, had “committed to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs and returning, at an early date, to the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons and to IAEA safeguards” as part of that statement. Of course, much has changed in the meantime. North Korea has carried out multiple nuclear tests and the current regime sees its nuclear program as perhaps the best guarantor of its long-term security; as a result, its isolation from the international community has increased. The road back to the Six Party Talks is long indeed.


Anthony King
February 4, 2015

American Sniper has been nominated for six Academy Awards and, according to initial viewing figures, is likely to be one of the most successful war films of all time. In the first 10 days of release, the film grossed over $200 million. A biopic of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, America’s most successful sniper, the film is an explosive depiction of the insurgency in the Sunni Triangle between 2004 and 2007.

Yet, the most powerful scene in this film is completely silent. It consists of 15 words in plain white font on a black background which appear at the very end of the film: “Chris Kyle was killed later that day by the marine he was trying to help.” On his return from his last tour in Iraq, Chris Kyle, perhaps as part of his own therapy, began to help physically and mentally wounded veterans, counseling them by taking them shooting. On one of these trips, he was murdered by a psychologically disturbed veteran. After all the simplistic heroism of the previous two hours, the stillness of Kyle’s epitaph is devastating. It is a brilliant moment of filmmaking, inverting what had seemed to be a righteous statement about war into a question. It introduces doubt where there had been only certainty.

The effect is palpable. Having survived four tours of Iraq, Kyle is destroyed by a random act of insanity by a fellow American soldier. A stunned silence descends on the theatre: the audience shocked by the unexpected futility of Kyle’s end.

Europe’s Expanding ‘Right to Be Forgotten’

FEB. 4, 2015

European officials are pushing an idea that will encourage autocrats everywhere to demand greater censorship on the Internet. They want companies like Google and Microsoft to abide by the European Union’s recently recognized legal principle of a “right to be forgotten” not just in the 28 countries of the union but everywhere.

In May, the European Court of Justice ruled that individuals could ask Internet search sites to remove links to web pages that contained “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant” information about them in the results page for searches of their names. Google, which is the dominant search engine in Europe, has removed more than 250,000 links since that ruling.

But the company says it only removes links from results displayed on its websites for European countries like Google.fr in France or Google.de in Germany but not from results on its non-European sites, includingGoogle.com, the primary site in the United States. European policy makers say this approach fails to protect the “right to be forgotten” because it is easy for people to search on Google.com or using virtual private networks to find links that are not displayed in their countries.

As a result, European regulators and judges are demanding that Google and other companies remove links covered by the right-to-be-forgotten principle from all results pages in all countries and regardless of where the search takes place. This would allow Europeans to decide what information citizens of every other nation can access. Google has, so far, refused to comply with these demands, but it may find it harder to resist once European officials enshrine the right to be forgotten into law, which officials are negotiating now.

The European position is deeply troubling because it could lead to censorship by public officials who want to whitewash the past. It also sets a terrible example for officials in other countries who might also want to demand that Internet companies remove links they don’t like. For example, the military government of Thailand could decide that it wants Facebook and Twitter to remove content that runs afoul of that country’s strict lèse-majesté law everywhere in the world. Autocratic leaders like Vladimir Putinof Russia and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey might feel emboldened to try to silence critics not just in their own countries but elsewhere by levying fines on Internet businesses or blocking their websites entirely.


By Julio Godoy

The governments of Russia and the United States are using the Ukraine crisis as a justification for upgrading their formidable nuclear arsenals.

This escalation became evident January 25, as the conservative German Sunday newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung (FAS) opened its edition with a whole page devoted exclusively to accuse Russia of “threatening gesturing” with its nuclear weapons.

Under the headline “Atom weapons come again into play“, the FAS reported, without giving any source, of a long list of incidents involving Russian military “nuclear capable” – mind the ambiguity, for it is important – vehicles, from armoured tanks to airplanes, all allegedly occurred during the last couple of months.

The paper goes as far as to claim that the next North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) meeting of defence ministers, to take place February 5 in Brussels, Belgium, will be devoted to analyse “the aggressive way Russia is targeting its nuclear capabilities against” NATO members, in Europe and North America, and its unofficial allies, such as the Ukraine.

Apart from the anonymity of its sources, the alarmist nature of the FAS report includes an important misrepresentation: It claims that until the outbreak of the Ukraine crisis in 2014 the NATO felt under pressure to reduce its own nuclear arsenals.


Bill Gertz
February 4, 2015

The ultra-violent Islamic State terrorist group is expanding beyond Syria and Iraq and is establishing a foothold in Libya, which is becoming a safe haven for terrorists, the nation’s top military intelligence official told Congress Tuesday.

China, meanwhile, is deploying its aircraft carrier-killing DF-21D missile, and Russia is significantly expanding its strategic nuclear forces with new missiles, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart said in testimony to House Armed Services Committee on global threats.

Stewart presented a dire picture of growing threats in Iraq and Afghanistan—where national forces remain unable to defend their countries without foreign assistance, despite billions of U.S. dollars in support and training.

The growing threats posed by China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea are being made more difficult to deal with because of cuts in U.S. defense spending, Stewart said in a prepared statement, noting that recent events, when “taken in aggregate, have created security challenges more diverse and complex than those we have experienced in our lifetimes.”

“Our challenges range from highly capable, near-peer competitors to empowered individuals and the concomitant reduction in our own capacity will make those challenges all the more stressing on our defense and intelligence establishments,” he said.

“This strategic environment will be with us for some time, and the threat’s increasing scope, volatility, and complexity will be the ‘new normal.’”

The Vast Majority of the Government Lacks Clear Cybersecurity Plans

Kevin C. Desouza and Kena Fedorschak 

The public and private sectors use information technology (IT) every day to monitor, manage, and simplify their daily operations. The omnipresence of these technologies has introduced new vulnerabilities. Intelligence agencies, hackers, and other digital vandals can exploit security lapses and inflict extraordinary damage. The recent hacking of Sony Corporation, exposed authentication credentials for various internal systems, financial records, and private employee data including social security numbers and health records. Moreover, revelations that Sony’s IT director previously served as a marketing executive and stored confidential information in plaintext demonstrates a flagrant disregard for cybersecurity.

Cyber Threat Proliferation

Cyberattacks have increased dramatically in recent years. Last January, Target opened the year by announcing that hackers gained access to 40 million credit and debit card numbers. In August, J.P. Morgan Chase announced a breach that affected an estimated 76 million households. In September, Home Depot disclosed a payment system breach affecting 53 million individuals.

These prodigious hacks have impacted government entities as well. According the GAO, the number of cyber threats to federal agencies increased by 782 percent between 2006 and 2012. The recent hacking of the U.S. military’s Central Command Twitter account by the militant group ISIS is the most recent reminder of government vulnerability to cyber threats. Additionally, the Center for Strategic and International Studies has estimated the likely annual cost of cybercrime at over $400 billion. These figures underscore the importance of increased cybersecurity investments. 

Shifting Paradigms: The Case for Cyber Counter-Intelligence

Adam Firestone

Cyber Counter-Intelligence and traditional information security share many aspects. But CCI picks up where infosec ends -- with an emphasis on governance, automation, timeliness, and reporting.

It’s early morning, sometime between 1:30 and 3:00 AM, and you, our intrepid cyber defender, can’t sleep.

You’re contemplative rather than restless or uncomfortable. It’s times like this that you become brutally, soul-searchingly honest with yourself. You admit, for example, that you’re not really pushing yourself as hard as you could at the gym. Or that your latest mobile phone upgrade was the result of clever rationalization. And that your demand for larger volumes of threat intelligence is driven more by the sexy-cool factor than by architecturally validated cyber defense requirements.

Wait. What?

Exercise and personal electronics notwithstanding, contemporary cybersecurity practice is biased toward externally focused intelligence collection and analysis. Cyber intelligence, in the words of Chris Reilley, a former US intelligence community analyst and cyber warrior who spent more than a decade inside the US intelligence community, is:

The collection, analysis, and dissemination of cyber-related information to satisfy identified requirements and deliver relevant and timely cyberspace situational awareness to decision-makers to enable understanding and mitigation of strategic and functional risks. It includes adversary tactics, techniques, procedures (TTPs), global attack trends, impact and countermeasure assessments, environmental footprints, threat models and predictive analysis.

Scientists trial system to improve safety at sea

Feb 03, 2015

Each of the 58 satellites carries a camera which can take images of objects on the ocean surface, providing detail ranging from a few tens of cm to hundreds of meters. This animation illustrates the satellites (green dots) orbiting the Earth, with the field of view of each camera shown as a yellow patch as it scans the surface recording images.Video courtesy University of Leicester. Watch avideo on the research here. 

A space scientist at the University of Leicester, in collaboration with the New Zealand Defence Technology Agency and DMC International Imaging, has been trialling a concept for using satellite imagery to significantly improve the chances of locating ships and planes, such as the missing Malaysian flight MH370, lost at sea.

A preliminary study published this month in the International Journal of Remote Sensing, identified 54 satellites with 85 sensors, currently only taking images of land, which could be used to take images of the Earth's oceans and inland waters.

The research team believe regularly updated images of the seas via these satellites could enable the reduction of search areas for missing ships to just a few hundred square miles. This offers the possibility of dramatically reducing search and rescue times and significantly improving chances of survival for missing ships.

To Combat Spying, Chinese Military Imposing Tough New Restrictions On Internet Usage By Chinese Troops

February 4, 2015

BEIJING — China’s military will toughen ideological background checks on its troops and strictly control their internet and mobile phone use in an effort to combat spying by “hostile forces”, state media said on Wednesday.

China and the United States frequently trade accusations of hacking and internet spying, increasing tension between the two countries, and Communist Party rulers in Beijing have tightened controls on ideology and speech, saying hostile forces from the West pose a threat to Chinese culture.

The guideline issued by China’s powerful Central Military Commission and carried by the official People’s Liberation Army Daily said military personnel were forbidden from blogging and using online chat programmes.

"Some Western countries have intensified plotting against our country with ‘colour revolutions’, an online ‘cultural Cold War’ … trying in vain to uproot the spirit of our military officers and soldiers," a commentary in the PLA Daily said.

China’s education minister said last week the country must remove “Western values” from its classrooms. In late December, President Xi Jinping called for greater ideological guidance in universities and urged the study of Marxism.

Political and ideological education must be implemented to improve the military, the guideline added. The armed forces must also toughen measures to prevent the leaking of secrets, it added.

Toughening political examinations of military personnel would prevent “sabotage by hostile forces and corrosion by degenerate ideas and culture,” the guideline added.

NSA’s Utah Data Center May Be Target of Recent Massive Cyber Attack

Lee Davidson
February 4, 2015

Five years ago, Utah government computer systems faced 25,000 to 30,000 attempted cyber attacks every day.

At the time, Utah Public Safety Commissioner Keith Squires thought that was massive. “But this last year we have had spikes of over 300 million attacks against the state databases” each day: a 10,000-fold increase.

Why? Squires says it is probably because Utah is home to the new, secretive National Security Agency computer center, and hackers believe they can somehow get to it through state computer systems.

"I really do believe it was all the attention drawn to the NSA facility. In the cyberworld, that’s a big deal," Squires told a legislative budget committee Tuesday. "I watched as those increases jumped so much over the last few years. And talking to counterparts in other states, they weren’t seeing that amount of increase like we were."

Rep. Curt Oda, R-Clearfield, said the state should approach NSA or the federal government for money to help in defending against the cyberattacks.

"They are costing us a ton of money," Oda said. "They need to pony up."

Squires — whose department includes a team that investigates cybercrimes not only against the state, but also against its residents — said any time the state finds itself in controversy, cyberattacks seem to increase.

New Online Document Collection on US Intelligence Operations in Europe During Cold War Now Available

February 4, 2015 

The Dutch publishing house Brill today has published an online collection of 4,023 declassified documents (almost 25,000 pages of material) concerning U.S. intelligence collection operations and analytic reporting on Europe covering the period from the end of World War II in 1945 until the end of the war in Bosnia in 1995. And yes, I am the editor of the collection. A brief summary of the collection can be found here

The following are examples of some of more interesting documents contained in the collection: 

* Newly declassified documents concerning CIA’s use of Nazis for intelligence purposes during the Cold War. For example, a former Nazi named Walter Kopp (codename KIBITZ 15), who ran the CIA’s largest stay-behind network in West Germany during the 1950s, had to be fired and his network disbanded after CIA headquarters in Washington discovered that his extreme anti-semitic views could potentially compromise Agency operations in Germany if discovered by the German press. 

* The collection contains hundreds of pages of documents providing the first details of over a dozen failed CIA covert action operations in West Germany, East Germany, Albania, Bulgaria and Romania. For example, the collection includes: 

(1) 160 documents concerning the botched CIA covert action operation Project BGFIEND, which sought to overthrow the communist regime in Albania operation from 1948 to 1954 

(2) A dozen declassified documents concerning the CIA covert action operation Project QKBROIL, which sought to recruit a resistance army inside Romania using agents parachuted into the country. 

(3) Over 20 documents concerning the CIA covert action operation Project QKSTAIR/BGCONVOY, which sought to recruit a resistance army inside Bulgaria using agents infiltrated in to the country by parachuted and overland from Greece. 

The 5 Most Overrated Weapons of War

Dave Majumdar
February 5, 2015

Throughout history, mankind has developed new and often deadly weapons for waging war. Some systems have proven to be effective in battle and have justifiably developed fearsome reputations for their brutal efficiency. Other times, weapons acquire fearsome reputations that are not wholly justified due to their high cost and lack of effectiveness. And some weapons fall into a strange category—holding a reputation completely out of proportion to their actual usefulness on the battlefield and are entirely overrated. Sometimes, these reputations rise to the level of mythology—but hide underlying weaknesses.

Here are five such weapons—some of the most overrated of all-time—from the past century:

The Battleship:

The battleship as we imagine it today emerged with the HMS Dreadnought when it entered service with the British Royal Navy in 1906. At the time, her design was revolutionary. Unlike previous generations of battleships, Dreadnought was armed with an all big-gun armament of ten 12 inch guns. The design rendered all previous battleships obsolete.