22 September 2015

What Will the Chinese Military Look Like in Ten Years?

Andrew S. Erickson
September 20, 2015

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army in 2025

This excellent book examining possible PLA futures has only become more important in light of Xi Jinping’s recently-announced military restructuring! It was an honor for me to serve as a discussant at the conference at which this book’s chapters were originally presented as draft papers, and I can attest that this volume is a worthy product of that great PLA watching community event. For anyone who hasn’t yet had a chance to read them, I highly recommend the other conference reports and books in this series as well.

Roy Kamphausen and David Lai, eds., The Chinese People’s Liberation Army in 2025 (Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College and National Bureau of Asian Research, 2015).

This volume is of special relevance in light of the profound changes occurring within the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA). China’s desire to develop a military commensurate with its diverse interests is both legitimate and understandable. The challenge for U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) is to understand how China will employ this growing military capability in support of its interests. The book addresses the uncertainty surrounding the potential direction of the PLA by examining three distinct focus areas: domestic, external, and technological drivers of PLA modernization; alternative futures for the PLA; and, implications for the region, world, and U.S.-China relations. The analysis provides an insightful perspective into the factors shaping and propelling the PLA’s modernization, its potential future orientation ranging from internally focused to globally focused, and how the PLA’s choices may impact China’s relations with its neighbors and the world.

Xi Jinping and China’s Future: The Bigger Problems Lie Within

September 21, 2015

The apparent rise of China’s assertiveness in Asia has attracted a great deal of interest in the lead up to Xi Jinping’s upcoming visit to the United States to meet with President Obama. Such a focus has been driven by Beijing’s ongoing efforts to bolster its territorial claims in the South China Sea. It was underscored on September 3rd by the display of a new array of military hardware during China’s commemoration of the 70th anniversary of Japan’s surrender that ended World War II.

These developments are cause for concern as they raise questions regarding the overall orientation of China’s foreign policy, its relationship with the rest of Asia, and more broadly the United States. As such during Xi’s state visit to the White House we can expect that President Obama will press his Chinese counterpart on these issues.

America's Last 'Pivot' to Asia: The Vietnam War and the China Factor

September 21, 2015

Fifty years ago this year, the United States embarked on another “pivot to Asia,” albeit one that many Americans may wish to forget. A war that took the lives of nearly 60,000 young Americans, maimed and wounded more than 300,000, and also resulted in the deaths of perhaps 2-3 million Vietnamese on both sides of the conflict, should not be relegated to the annals of another “forgotten war.” 1965 was the year when the U.S. commitment of forces to the Vietnam War went from 23,000 advisors to 184,000 combat troops and American casualties also multiplied by a factor of 20.

In fact, America’s “longest war” (before the current Afghan imbroglio at least) remains quite relevant to the current U.S. rebalance to the Asia-Pacific. The epic failure in US defense policy that was the Vietnam War offers some stern lessons in military hubris, the perils of threat inflation, not to mention the dangers of being entangled in local identity politics (“nationalisms”) on the other side of the planet. But it also has important insight for one of our nation’s foremost contemporary national security quandaries: What to do about China?

China, South America and Regional Integration

By Bruno Gomes Guimarães and Diogo Ives
September 21, 2015

The trip to Brazil, Peru, Colombia, and Chile by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in May this year sought to follow up on the planned cooperation between China and CELAC (the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) announced in January of the same year. This plan’s main goals are to increase bilateral tradeto $500 billion and the inflow of Chinese direct investments to the region to $250 billion until 2025.

The two objectives are linked, since China expects that the bilateral trade will grow if it invests in Latin American infrastructure. This strategy has also been used to bolster China’s economic relations with countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa. Railways, roadways, ports, and airports have been built or revamped to enable Beijing to buy raw materials and sell its manufactures around the world more cheaply and easily.

The investments promised by Li Keqing during his trip to South America are largely in line with this strategy. The flagship project is a $10 billion railroad between Brazil and Peru that will connect the Atlantic and Pacific ports. The railroad will make it easier and cheaper to export of soybeans, beef, and ore from the Brazilian hinterlands. Currently, these exports must first reach Brazilian ports in Pará or Maranhão, and then traverse the Panama Canal to reach the Pacific and China.

Will China and Russia’s Partnership in Central Asia Last?

By Tao Wang and Rachel Yampolsky
September 21, 2015

Leaders in Beijing and Moscow have both been making a concerted effort to extend their connections with Central Asia in recent months. In July, Russiahosted the latest BRICS summit as well as a gathering of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Ufa near the border with Kazakhstan. Earlier, in May, on his fifth visit to Russia since becoming president, President Xi Jinping reached an agreement with President Vladimir Putin to coordinate China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative with the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) in Central Asia. While both countries have clear economic incentives to cooperate in this region in the short term, they will need to overcome a number of hurdles to set their partnership on a path that can be sustained further into the future.

Salvaging Xi’s Visit to the US

September 20, 2015

The year 2010 was a difficult one for U.S.-China relations. In January 2010, the Obama administration approved its first arms sale to Taiwan; Beijing cut off military-to-military relations in retaliation. Also in January 2010, U.S. technological firm Google publicly accused China of hacking its servers, sparking a high-profile recrimination from then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

In mid-February 2010, Obama held his first meeting with the Dalai Lama since assuming office, causing more anger in China’s government and media alike. And in July 2010, the United States waded into the South China Sea disputes after Clinton gave a speech outlining Washington’s interests in the region at the ASEAN Regional Forum in Hanoi.

In other words, 2010 saw an outbreak of tensions in areas of intense friction between the U.S. and China: the Taiwan and Tibet issues, cyber issues (including internet freedom), and the South China Sea. Yet tensions cooled noticeably in late 2010 and early 2011, and the cause was clear: both sides were making a concerted effort to reboot their relationship in advance of then-Chinese President Hu Jintao’s January 2011 state visit (his first) to the United States.

Assad’s Strategy Is To Create Refugees

Mike GiglioBuzzFeed News World Correspondent
Sept. 18, 2015

ISTANBUL — The 53-year-old father of two was convinced that Bashar al-Assad wanted him to flee Syria.

More than two years after he buried the bodies from a massacre in his village near Damascus by forces loyal to the Syrian president, he sat in an Istanbul park alongside dozens of other refugees, waiting with their life jackets to make the journey to Europe by sea.

“They want to empty the country,” he said, sitting with his wife and two children as he described how government soldiers had bombed the village of Jdeidet al-Fadel and then executed residents in their homes, suspecting them of rebel sympathies. Some, he said, were “beheaded like chickens.” After helping with the burials, he snuck his family into Turkey.

The refugee crisis isn’t just a by-product of the brutal civil war in Syria, according to many of those fleeing, as well as Western officials and analysts tracking the conflict. It’s part of a concerted effort by the Syrian government, which has killed the vast majority of civilians in a war that has left more than 200,000 people dead.

Russian Involvement and a Redirection of Policy on Syria

September 20, 2015

The recently increased Russian involvement in Syria ought to be viewed as an opportunity, more so than as a threat or as something that needs to be countered. Although Moscow's current involvement is only an extension of its longtime relationship with the Syrian regime, it represents just enough of a change to serve as the closest thing we are likely to have to a peg on which to hang some needed rethinking about the Syrian conflict. The need for such rethinking is reflected in the fact that everyone, including the Obama administration, seems to recognize that the current trajectory of this civil war is unpropitious, notwithstanding disagreements over what to do about the situation.

The most important principle in any revision of policy toward the war needs to be that the untoward effects of this war will be ameliorated only insofar as peace is established in Syria, or as close as Syrians and the international community can come to establishing something passing for peace. It is the continuation of the war, much more than any particular outcome of the war or any particular political configuration of Syria, that is the source of most of the trouble that is worth worrying about.

This is true of at least three major types of trouble. One is the possible spread, quite possibly inadvertent, of instability and combat beyond Syria's borders. The war has, for example, increased the chance of a new war between Israel and Lebanese Hezbollah, given Hezbollah's substantial involvement in the Syrian war and Israel's reactions to Hezbollah activity in Syria.

New Report Examines Cross-border Traffic of Russian forces Into Eastern Ukraine

September 21, 2015

Bellingcat Investigation – Russia’s Path(s) to War


The extent of Russia’s role in the ongoing conflict in Eastern Ukraine has yet to be determined. Thus far, Russia denies any direct involvement in the war. However, most Western nations do not share Russia’s position and assume that Russia is directly or at least indirectly involved. This same ambiguity, which continues to affect the conflict in Eastern Ukraine to this day, also characterized the annexation of Crimea last year. At first, Russia denied any direct involvement in the military operations that blocked Ukraine’s armed forces and led to the seizure of key buildings and other locations on the peninsula. Later, however, Moscow acknowledged the active role played by Russian servicemen. (It should be noted that photographic and video evidence had already clearly depicted the involvement of Russia’s armed forces in March 2014.)

The current state of the conflict in Eastern Ukraine is similar to the situation in Crimea in March 2014. Russia claims that its forces are not involved despite a plethora of evidence to the contrary. Reports have been published analyzing the presence of Russian equipment in Ukraine, documenting cross-border artillery attacks, and demonstrating the participation of active Russian servicemen in the conflict. This report examines one aspect of the Russian-Ukrainian war, namely, the alleged cross-border traffic of Russian forces into Eastern Ukraine. If it is possible to link cross-border traffic to Russia’s armed forces, this not only provides additional evidence for Russia’s involvement, it also allows for a better assessment of the extent of Russia’s involvement. This report, which primarily focuses on events in the summer of 2014, is solely based upon open source information; the identification and verification of border crossings was performed relying on publicly available satellite imagery.

HOW RUSSIA’S GAMBIT IN SYRIA CHANGES THE GAME

SEPTEMBER 21, 2015

By upping the ante, Putin hopes to deter the West from encroaching too far on Russian interests in Syria. But Russia is not eager to fight alongside Assad on the ground. Expect its direct role in the conflict to remain limited.

A large uptick in the influx of Russian weapons and equipment into Syria in recent weeks, along with 200 additional naval infantry, has fueled speculation that Moscow is preparing for an expanded role in the conflict. President Vladimir Putin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, coyly suggested on September 18th that Russia would indeed consider sending more troops if Damascus requests them, but “it is difficult to speak hypothetically.” With Vladimir Putin in New York this month to speak at the UN General Assembly, some may expect just another rant, but more likely, he is not here to simply score political points. The timing is uncanny, and by all appearances Moscow plans to force Washington into a change of course on Syria. This was seemingly unthinkable a few months ago, but Russia has a way lately of turning the unthinkable into the possible.

Those that still doubt whether Putin can use military force decisively to achieve political ends, and make strategic gains, should watch this situation unfold. Just as during August of 2013, when Moscow seized an opportunity to avoid U.S. air strikes on Syria by jointly disposing of the Assad regime’s chemical weapons, this is another flanking maneuver, leveraging military and diplomatic power. What is Russia’s game?

The Syrian mess

Yes, America's Military Supremacy Is Fading (And We Should Not Panic)

September 21, 2015

Last week, Air Force General Frank Gorenc argued that the airpower advantage the United States has enjoyed over Russia and China is shrinking.This warning comes as part of a deluge of commentary on the waning international position of the United States. The U.S. military, it would seem, is at risk of no longer being able to go where it wants, and do what it wants to whomever it wants. Diplomatically, the United States has struggled, as of late, to assemble “coalitions of the willing” interested in following Washington into the maw of every waiting crisis.

Does this mean that U.S. global power in on the wane? If so, should we blame this decline on specific policy decisions made by this administration, or the previous administration? As Dan Drezner has argued with respect to who is “winning” the Ukraine crisis, the answer depends crucially on the starting point.

Pax Americana:

The Ultimate Weapon of War: Nuclear Land Mines?

September 20, 2015

Land mines and nukes are two of the most terrifying weapons of war — for two very different reasons. Nuclear weapons can wipe out entire cities, and land mines wait buried in the earth, ready to harm anyone who wanders too close.

In the 1950s, Britain tried to combine the two into a nuclear mine … with chickens as a heating source. Yes, this was actually proposed. But we’ll get to the chickens in a moment.

The Blue Peacock would have been one of the worst kinds of Cold War weapons — a nuke the enemy doesn’t know you have. The United Kingdom sought to develop and deploy 10 nuclear mines. Once completed, it would ship the nightmare weapons to the British Army of the Rhine — the U.K.’s occupation force in Germany.

The BAOR would then plant the landmines along the East German border in the north and detonate them should the Soviets ever try to cross the Iron Curtain. The project’s primary goal wasn’t to kill Soviet soldiers — though the blasts certainly could — but to irradiate and contaminate the North German Plain so Moscow’s troops couldn’t occupy it.

Welcome to Israeli Nuclear Weapons 101

September 20, 2015

The Iranian nuclear nonproliferation agreement has been the top foreign policy issue throughout Washington for the past two months. Approving or disapproving the deal was the first order of business for the U.S. Congress until the very last day of congressional action under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (September 17). Hours of debate have been conducted on the floors of the House and Senate, both chambers have held roll call votes, and Senate Democrats bonded together to filibuster a motion of disapproval — a resolution that would have prevented President Obama from providing the Iranians sanctions relief.

The Obama administration’s main selling point for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is based on the theory that forcing Tehran to downgrade its nuclear program will make the threat of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East — the world’s most frenetic and violent region even without nuclear weapons— far less urgent. Yet we should remember that there is in fact a state in the region that already possesses nuclear weapons. That state happens to be Washington’s closest ally in the Middle East: Israel.

Nukes, Aircraft Carriers and More: France's 5 Most Lethal Weapons of War

September 19, 2015

The modern French armed forces are in many ways similar in structure to the U.S. military. More so than most European countries, the French military is structured to confront a vast continuum of conflict, ranging from guerrilla to nuclear warfare. Like the United States, France structures its forces for both expeditionary warfare and the homeland defense mission.

The French military maintains a high-end force of tanks, armored vehicles and modern jet fighters for high intensity conflict and a low-end of light infantry, special forces and light armored vehicles for the lower end of the spectrum. Heavy armored forces help France fulfill its European defense mission, while France’s commitments to its present and former colonies in Africa, South America, French Polynesia and the Middle East demand light forces capable of rapid overseas deployment.

France also has nuclear weapons, a legacy of French President CharlesDeGaulle’s desire for a country that was militarily self-reliant. France was the fourth country to attain nuclear weapons capability, and during the Cold War maintained its own triad of land, air, and sea-based nukes.

Here is a sampling of France’s five best weapons systems ranging from fourth-generation fighters to ballistic missile submarines capable of delivering armageddon across an entire continent.

RAW to shut down its covert air wing, assets will go to NTRO and IAF


The plans, backed by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, envisage that the ARC’s aircraft and electronics assets will be divided between the National Technical Research Organisation and the Indian Air Force.

Plans have been firmed up to shut down the Aviation Research Centre (ARC), India’s premier imaging-intelligence organisation, highly-placed government sources have told The Indian Express.

The plans, backed by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, envisage that the ARC’s aircraft and electronics assets will be divided between the National Technical Research Organisation and the Indian Air Force.

The organisational restructuring is primarily meant to enhance intelligence-gathering on China’s military capacities in the Tibet plateau, by integrating satellite-based data gathered by the NTRO with aircraft-based imaging conducted by the ARC.

NTRO’s imaging capacities, sources said, would be significantly enhanced by the acquisition of ARC electronic suites which are equipped with cloud-penetrating radar, something the satellites it now operates do not possess.

Interview: Malaysia’s Political Turmoil and the Role of the United States

September 21, 2015

Nurul Izzah Anwar, the daughter of recently jailed Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, is vice-president of the People’s Justice Party (PKR) – one of the country’s opposition parties – and a two-term member of parliament. During her recent visit to Washington, D.C, she spoke with The Diplomat’s associate editor Prashanth Parameswaran about Malaysian politics and U.S.-Malaysia relations. An edited version of that interview follows.

On September 16, the day marking the formation of Malaysia, a pro-government rally featuring tens of thousands of Malaysians – mostly Malays – saw protesters denouncing ethnic Chinese, raising worries about racial tensions in multiracial Malaysia. How concerned are you about this, and what it does it say about the state of the country today?

It would be easier to place meaning on a spontaneous gathering rather than one tacitly sponsored by the ruling race-based party.

What a Mess! The State of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Future (if any) of Peace Talks

September 21, 2015

Afghanistan: Fight Or Flight

The Taliban peace talks, suspended since July, are now indefinitely delayed because of a worsening split in the Afghan Taliban. The leaders of the various Taliban factions are deadlocked over who shall be their new supreme leader. While these factions have not declared war on each other yet, many have said that they will not recognize Mullah Akhtar Mansour as the new leader of the Afghan Taliban. There has been some fighting but for the moment most Taliban leaders are seeking a solution that will not tear the organization apart. All this is happening despite the fact that the family of the founder (Mullah Omar) came out in support of Mansour. This mess began in late July when the Afghan Taliban announced the selection of a new leader (Mansour) to replace founder and longtime leader Mullah Omar. Mansour has been the acting head of the Taliban since 2010 because Mullah Omar was said to have health problems. It took weeks after the revelation for the Taliban to admit that Omar had been dead since 2013. The Taliban have not revealed exactly why his death was concealed although Omar’s family confirmed the death was from natural causes. The secrecy about the death was apparently to maintain unity. This became clear after Omar’s death and Mansour’s appointment were announced and several Taliban factions went public complaining of how the selection was made. The Afghan Taliban is known to be sharply divided over the subject of peace talks with the Afghan government and strategy in general. Some of the dissidents accuse Mansour of rigging the election. Some factions also complain openly that Pakistan (in the form of the ISI) actually controls the Taliban leaders living in Baluchistan under the protection of the ISI. 

Malware Called XcodeGhost Penetrates Apple Defenses and Infects Several Apps

Alex Hern
September 21, 2015

Apple removes malicious programs after first major attack on app store 

Apple has had to remove more than 300 malware-infected apps from its app store after a tainted version of its developer tools led to a number of Chinese apps leaking users’ personal information to hackers.

The company confirmed on Sunday night that it was removing the apps after several cybersecurity firms reported finding a malicious program dubbed “XcodeGhost” that was embedded in hundreds of legitimate apps.

It is the first reported case of large numbers of malicious software programs making their way past Apple’s stringent app review process. Prior to this attack, a total of just five malicious apps had ever been found in the app store, according to cybersecurity firm Palo Alto Networks.

Apple said the hackers embedded the malicious code in these apps by convincing developers of legitimate software to use a tainted, counterfeit version of Apple’s software for creating iOS and Mac apps, which is known as Xcode.

Memories of a Cold War U.S. Navy SIGINTer and His Secret Missions on Ships and Subs

September 20, 2015

‘Spook’ tells tales of time as Naval cryptologist

STONINGTON, Conn. (AP) - It was the winter of 1963 and George Cassidy was in the midst of the Navy’s boot camp in Great Lakes, Michigan, when he was told to go see the psychiatrist.

“This knocked the socks off of me,” Cassidy said recently from his home in Stonington. “I didn’t think I was stupid or crazy or something … you think all sorts of things.”

The psychiatrist asked him personal questions and more broad ones about communications and whether he could keep secrets. He left the meeting with the psychiatrist still unsure of why he’d been ordered there in the first place.

Cassidy joined the Navy in October of 1962 right around the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

After the meeting with the psychiatrist, an officer approached Cassidy and told him the Navy wanted him to be a “CT.”

“And I said ‘what’s a CT?,’ and they said ‘we can’t tell you it’s classified.’ So I’m going OK why do I want to be something that nobody is going to let me know what it is,” Cassidy recalled.

Call for Applications: Program Coordinator, Fellowship Program

September 18, 2015

The Center for the National Interest seeks to hire a Program Coordinator to help launch and manage an exciting new fellowship program for young foreign policy leaders.
Key responsibilities will include:

- Creating a database of international relations programs, developing and distributing marketing materials, recruiting candidates, and managing the selection process for five resident and twenty non-resident fellows;

- Planning and organizing a seminar series on foreign policy and international affairs;

- Facilitating fellows’ research projects and coordinating the editing and publication of fellows’ studies/reports;

- Drafting grant reports and proposals, and,

- Other duties as needed.

Australia's Bizarre Politics...And Its New Prime Minister

September 21, 2015

The ghostly appearance of a former king inspired the famous line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “There is something rotten in the state of Denmark.” With five leaders in just five years, something appears decidedly rotten about the state of affairs in Australia, after the reappearance of former Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull as the nation’s new prime minister.

Yet with opinion polls published after the bloodless coup quickly turning in the ruling party’s favor, Turnbull’s elevation has sparked optimism of a change in direction for the world’s twelfth-largest economy, which has struggled to adjust to the end of a China-driven mining boom.

On the evening of September 14, sixty-year-old Turnbull overthrew his younger rival, fifty-seven-year-old Tony Abbott, securing the leadership by 54 to 44 votes in a meeting of Liberal Party lawmakers. Under Australia’s Westminster system, the leader of the ruling party can become prime minister even without a national election, a fact noted by Abbott when he said before the vote that the leadership should be “earned by a vote of the Australian people.”

Obama: Cyber Theft ‘an Act of Aggression’ but US and China Can Develop Norms

September 18, 2015

U.S. President Barack Obama told a group of business leaders Wednesday that he considers a “government or its proxies engaging directly in industrial espionage and stealing trade secrets, stealing proprietary information from companies” to be “an act of aggression that has to stop.” And he told executives the government can best assist businesses if they can go to Chinese counterparts with evidence.

In an answer that covered several cybersecurity issues, Obama also called for the United States and China to cooperatively build a “framework that is analogous to what we’ve done with nuclear power.” Obama went as far as to suggest that the two countries could lead the world in developing norms for cyberspace. “If we and the Chinese are able to coalesce around a process for negotiations, then I think we can bring a lot of other countries along.”

Obama’s dual message underlines a problem with the term “cybersecurity.” It encompasses numerous diverse issues, some of which are areas of confrontation and “aggression,” and some of which might be areas for strategic cooperation and dialogue.

7 Ways To Lead Like A Navy SEAL

September 17, 2015

Navy SEAL Brian “Iron Ed” Hiner offers inspiring insights on leadership in his recently published book, “First, Fast, Fearless.”

In his 20-year career as a Navy SEAL, Brian “Iron Ed” Hiner rose through the ranks to become one of the most experienced SEAL trainers in the history of the organization. This month, he released his first book, “First, Fast, Fearless: How to Lead Like a Navy SEAL,” a detailed account of the leadership lessons that he both learned and taught while serving as head of all basic and advanced SEAL training on both coasts.

A leader of leaders, Hiner talks straight and to the point about the no-shortcuts path to success that is forged on the SEAL Teams. Here are some of his book’s most surprising, unconventional, and inspiring insights.

1. Chess players, wrestlers, surfers, and rule-benders make great leaders.

FIVE NEW RULES FOR DEFENSE INNOVATION

SEPTEMBER 21, 2015

The Department of Defense should combine the best of the traditional defense industry with Silicon Valley to maintain America's military edge.

“Silicon Valley folks? Their main focus is on speed to market.” A senior executive at Raytheon recently uttered this quote in response to the innovation push launched by former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and expanded by his successor, Ash Carter. The remark illustrates a frustration shared across the traditional defense industrial base over a series of “innovation initiatives” being rolled out by the Department of Defense (DOD). These initiatives have been spurred by a growing sense that the Pentagon’s historic technological advantage is slipping as a result of numerous shortcomings: DOD’s flagging research and development (R&D) spending, an abysmal technology transition rate, and questionable returns on industry Independent Research & Development (IRAD). There is no doubt that something must be done to ensure U.S. defense-related innovation remains world-leading. Yet despite DOD’s best efforts, it is far from clear that the department has sufficiently considered how it can further leverage the already existing defense industrial base to support this endeavor. Certainly, “non-traditional” companies should be a larger player in the defense innovation marketplace. But as the previously mentioned Raytheon executive noted, “When you’re making technology in the defense market, you also have to address other aspects, including mission assurance, acquisition compliance — these things are important … there’s an overhead to that.”

SECRET PACT WITH THE NAZIS? NYET, NEVER HEARD OF IT

SEPTEMBER 18, 2015

On September 17, 1939, the Soviet military invaded Poland. In response to the Nazi German onslaught of September 1, the Polish forces had already fallen back to the southern and eastern parts of the country. The Soviet invasion eviscerated what was left of Polish defenses. By October 6, the German and Soviet forces effectively controlled the entire country. Military intervention in Eastern Europe and mendacity from Moscow were the order of the day then, as they are once again today. Thus, it may be interesting to review the battle for history over the “secret additional protocol” that sealed the fate of Poland, among other states in the region.

The carving up of Poland had been planned in August of that year. On August 23, Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov and German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop signed the Nazi–Soviet pact, a move that stunned the world and paved the way for Germany to invade Poland with impunity. While the main text of the pact was made public, a “secret additional protocol” was not publicized. This protocol said that Lithuania fell within the German sphere of influence but that the other two Baltic States and Finland were in that of the Soviets. It registered Germany’s “complete political disinterestedness” in the Romanian region of Bessarabia. Also, it declared that “in the event of a territorial and political rearrangement of the areas belonging to the Polish state,” the spheres of influence would be divided “… approximately by the line of the rivers Narew, Vistula, and San” — German to the west and Soviet to the east.

The Soviet T-34: The Lethal Tank that Won World War II?

September 20, 2015

On June 22, 1941, Nazi German launched Operation Barbarossa, a massive attack on the Soviet Union that was the largest invasion in history.

More than three million German soldiers, 150 divisions and 3,000 tanks comprised three mammoth army groups that created a front more than 1,800 miles long.

The Germans expected to face an inferior enemy. Giddy from victories in Poland and France, Hitler and many in his military high command believed it was the destiny of Germany to invade Russia. “The end of the Jewish domination in Russia will also be the end of Russia as a state,” Hitler announced in his manifesto Mein Kampf.

For months Germans won victory after resounding victory. But then the attack stalled—and the appearance of a new Soviet tank stunned the Wehrmacht.

It was the T-34. The new armored vehicle had an excellent 76-millimeter gun and thick sloped armor and cruised at more than 35 miles per hour. It possessed many advanced design features for the time—and it could blow German Panzers to Hell.

Why Opacity Is Asia's Biggest Military Threat

September 19, 2015

Asia has an opacity problem that increases the risk of conflict virtually everywhere. Whatever U.S. military and diplomatic solutions are brought to bear in the region as part of the ongoing policy of rebalancing to Asia, they should be guided by a simple heuristic: reduce, or at least don’t exacerbate, the opacity of a dimly lit environment.

It’s well understood that trust among Asian states is historically absent, while outstanding disputes among them are ever present. At the same time, military modernization is a recurring theme in even the poorest Asian governments, and in many cases military spending is on the rise.

For Asian states, the structure of the regional security environment stunts cooperation, exacerbates political misunderstandings, tempts military accidents, and incidentally creates cover for surreptitious forms of coercion by opportunistic or expansionist states. Central to all of these problems is opacity, whether last month’s mini-crisis between North and South Korea, Japanese fighter jets scrambling to protect Senkaku island airspace, or China’s many gray zone challenges to the status quo in the South China Sea.

In every instance of potential conflict, there exist at least two types of opacity.

21 September 2015

How a small-town media war transformed one Gumnami Baba into Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose


Long after the Mukherjee Commission discredited the idea that a sadhu from Faizabad was actually the freedom fighter living under an assumed identity, the myth persists.


Three decades ago, a sensational story emerged out of Faizabad in Uttar Pradesh. A sadhu, Gumnami Baba alias Bhagwanji, who had died on September 16, 1985, was said to have actually been freedom fighter Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. It would take more than two decades before this claim was categorically dismissed by the Justice Mukherjee Commission of Inquiry in 2006 .

The Prisoner of Yakutsk

By Yatish Yadav
20th December 2014


Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose 

When he was alive, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was an enigma. His death in an alleged plane crash on August 18, 1945, in Taiwan remains a mystery wrapped in enigma. Sixty-nine years later, declassified files on the inquiries into Bose’s death indicate that he died alone in a Soviet prison in Siberia where over 516,841 perished under Joseph Stalin’s rule. The evidence, presented by a whistle-blower and now deceased Congress MP and diplomat Dr Satyanarayan Sinha in 1952, throws up too many uncomfortable questions, which could upset the established notion that Bose died in that crash and it is his ashes that rest in Renkoji Temple in Japan. Two inquiry reports by Shah Nawaz Committee and one-man GD Khosla Commission, set up in 1956 and 1970 by the Congress governments led by Jawaharlal Nehru and his daughter Indira Gandhi respectively, concluded that Bose died in a plane crash at Taihoku airport.

India's New Source Of Clean Water: Desalination

Sep 18, 2015 

In this series, Sramana Mitra shares chapters from her book Vision India 2020, that outlines 45 interesting ideas for start-up companies with the potential to become billion-dollar enterprises. These articles are written as business fiction, as if we’re in 2020, reflecting back on building these businesses over the previous decade. We hope to spark ideas for building successful start-ups of your own. 

In 2008, I wrote in my Forbes column: “Alchemy refers to a medieval science that turns metals into gold. As our planet depletes natural resources at a frantic pace, one brand of alchemy that will become critical to humanity’s survival is technology that turns seawater into drinking water.”

The column profiled a small San Leandro, California, company, Energy Recovery Inc. (ERI) that was at the heart of our hydro-alchemy venture, Gangotri. Dominique had joined their board right before the IPO in July 2008. As a result, through numerous meals with H. P. Michelet, the Norwegian entrepreneur behind this fascinating venture, I got to learn an enormous amount about the water industry.

Politicising the Military

September 19, 2015 


Political missteps and administrative mismanagement have opened a Pandora's box.

The recent political battles over the one-rank-one-pension (OROP) demand of retired military personnel have been commented upon widely in the press, largely around issues of giving retired members of the armed forces their due and the fiscal cost of doing so. One significant aspect should have received more attention: the politicisation of the military.

One of the achievements of the Indian republic has been that its military has not been allowed to dabble in politics. The only reason why this can be counted as an achievement is because so many postcolonial states have slipped on this point, and not just in our neighbourhood. This has remained so despite the executive often involving the military in domestic political matters, particularly when politics turns violent and the writ of the state seems to fray—in the face of communal violence or insurgencies. It would be more appropriate to say that the military has remained outside domestic politics and the nation state too has had a political consensus on such a role and position of the armed forces.

The Vohra Committee Report on the Mafia that runs India parallel Governments:

VOHRA COMMITTEE REPORT

MINISTRY OF HOME AFFAIRS

l. l Government had (through its Order No.S/7937/SS(ISP)/93 dated 9th July '93) established a Committee, comprised as below, to take stock of all available information about the activities of crime Syndicates/Mafia organisations which had developed links with and were being protected by Government functionaries and political personalities. Based on the recommendations of the Committee, Government shall determine the need, if any, to establish a special organisation/agency to regularly collect information and pursue cases against such elements:

(i) Home Secretary Chairman

(ii) Secretary (R) Member

(iii) DIB Member

(iv) Director CBI Member

(v) JS (PP) MHA Member Secy.

1.2 The Committee was authorised to invite senior officers of various concerned Departments to gather the required information.

Taliban Expanding Areas of Operations Inside Afghanistan

September 19, 2015

Militant Attack and Support Zones in Afghanistan: April - September 2015

Taliban elements and other militant groups are conducting operations across Afghanistan, including spectacular attacks against major population centers and U.S. bases. The Haqqa¬ni Network, a Taliban aligned-group, continues to pressure the ANSF and NATO forces with spectacular attacks in Kabul and Khost. Taliban elements are also conducting numerous ground assaults to seize district centers, especially in northern and southern Afghanistan. These campaigns comprised the 2015 warm weather from April 2015- September 2015. There have been several notable developments following the announcement of the death of Mullah Omar onJuly 29. First, Taliban militants have claimed control of two district cen¬ters in Helmand on August II and August 26. Second, ISIS’s Wilayat Khorasan have claimed control of seven district centers in Nangarhar over the course of July and September. Third, Taliban infighting has escalated as different factions compete and express varying positions on who should lead the Taliban movement.

Taliban factions are clashing in Zabul province, a historic safe haven for multiple groups including the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and al-Qaeda. ISIS is reportedly rein¬forcing one faction under the leadership of Mullah Mohammed Dadullah, in a likely attempt to encourage the faction to defect. ISIS has already received pledges of allegiance from the (IMU), which is likely also active in the area. Drone strikes against al-Qaeda in neighboring Paktika province in September indicate that al-Qaeda may also be reinforcing the opposing Mullah Akhtar Mansour faction of the Taliban, which increases the stakes of Taliban infighting as well as the overall threat level in Afghanistan. 

Pakistan’s tenuous relationship with violent non-state actors in Afghanistan

by Pranay Kotasthane 
September 4, 2015

Understanding this dynamic is critical to a path to peace in Afghanistan.

Following the news confirming Mullah Omar’s death, analysts have evaluated that internal rifts in the Taliban would derail the on-going peace negotiations. However, little has been said about Pakistan’s relationship with the Taliban factions or with militias outside the Taliban fold in Afghanistan. Also missing is an understanding of the direction each of the Taliban factions is likely to take in the changed environment.

Can China stabilise AfPak?


To be successful, the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) needs a stable Afghanistan and normalisation of India-Pakistan links to achieve its potential. 

The eruption of a war of words between Afghanistan and Pakistan is seen as a setback to the peace process between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban. Though it was Afghanistan which took the lead on this with president Ashraf Ghani accusing Pakistan of sending out “messages of war”, the Afghans can hardly be blamed for the breakdown. This year has been the worst year for civilian causalities in Afghanistan since the United Nations started tracking them. Afghan security forces have also suffered huge casualties with over 4300 dead and 8000 injured since January. But what really upset president Ghani was a string of attacks in Kabul, three on Friday August 7th that led to over 50 deaths and one on August 10th at the entrance of Kabul airport that killed five persons. This spike in violence in fact immediately followed the first publicly acknowledged talks between the two sides at Murree. With public sentiments across Afghanistan running high against Pakistan’s perceived duplicity, Ashraf Ghani had no option left but to blame Pakistan.