26 September 2016

Water Availability in Pakistan

By Col Harjeet Singh


There appears to be a growing perception of Indian wrongdoing on water in Pakistani minds. While India–Pakistan relations are not on even keel, another canard can only add to the already strained situation. That the issue needs to be understood objectively and shorn of the hype, on both sides of the border, is self-evident.

The Case for Isolating Pakistan

Vivek Mishra

The international isolation that Pakistan currently faces is unprecedented by most measures. Its misdeeds include its: inability to control terrorist activities both inside and outside the country; the nexus of government, intelligence, terrorists and the army; terrorist spillover to neighboring countries; army and intelligence-backed infiltration bids; and most subtly, its all-weather bonhomie with China.

Consider: the United States, which has been hinting for some time now that the bilateral grants flowing from it to Pakistan under the Coalition Support Fund are contingent on its abilities and effectiveness to reign in terror emanating from its soil, has blocked $300 million in concessional military aid to Pakistan. The Pentagon is not happy with Pakistan’s approach to containing the dreaded Haqqani network, which has been carrying attacks on civilians and also targeting U.S. interests in Afghanistan. In a recent example, the United States has added the Pakistani militant outfit Jamaat-ur-Ahrar to its list of global terrorists, triggering sanctions against a group that has staged multiple attacks on civilians, religious minorities and soldiers. These steps by the United States have been read by most not just as a financial obstruction, but also as tightening of the diplomatic noose on Pakistan by the United States. This was preceded by the United States making it clear that it was not willing to sell subsidized F-16 fighter aircraft to Pakistan under the foreign military sales program. As an almost immediate follow-up, India struck a deal with the U.S. defense major Lockheed Martin to avail “most advanced” F-16 fighter jets by 2019-20. Under the deal, the company will be manufacturing the latest version of the jets – F-16 Block 70/72 – “exclusively” in India.

Pentagon Official Admits Taliban Still Control About 30% of Afghanistan After 15 Years of War


U.S.-backed forces control 70 percent of Afghanistan, U.S. military chief says

Local security forces control 70 percent of Afghanistan, a senior U.S. military official said on Thursday, suggesting that the Taliban and other militants hold almost a third of that nation after 15 years of U.S. and NATO efforts to secure it.

Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee that Afghan security forces had taken more casualties “than we’re comfortable with” and said they remained behind in what was required in key areas including air power, special operations and intelligence.

The U.S. military did not immediately provide figures for how many Afghan soldiers and police have died as they battle a still-powerful Taliban.

“On balance, I would call what is going on right now between the Afghan national defense security forces and the Taliban [as] roughly a stalemate,” Dunford, who commanded U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan from 2013-2014, told lawmakers.

Dunford also said that Afghan security forces would likely be able to secure the country if they receive continued support from the United States and its partners. Even though its combat role is officially over, the U.S. military has repeatedly expanded its mission in Afghanistan to ensure that local forces can beat back militants.

Afghan Government Signs Peace Deal With Taliban Warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar

By Ivan Watson

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN)After months of delays, Afghan government negotiators signed a peace deal Thursday with an insurgent faction led by one of the country's most notorious warlords.

The deal was signed at a ceremony attended by negotiators, the President's national security adviser, and representatives of the Hezb-i-Islami faction of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

Afghan and US officials applauded the agreement, but a prominent human rights organization strongly criticized the deal.

In a statement, the US Embassy called Thursday's accord "a step in bringing the conflict in Afghanistan to a peaceful end."

Zika And Health Security In Southeast Asia – Analysis

By Sunil Unnikrishnan and Mely Caballero-Anthony* 
SEPTEMBER 22, 2016

This is a transmission electron micrograph (TEM) of Zika virus, which is a member of the family Flaviviridae. Virus particles are 40 nm in diameter, with an outer envelope, and an inner dense core. Photo Credit: CDC/ Cynthia Goldsmith, Wikipedia Commons.

As Southeast Asia continues to see reports of new Zika outbreaks, this latest case of public health threat underscores the importance of continued vigilance to new emerging diseases, as well as deepening regional cooperation in ensuring health security for states and societies in ASEAN and beyond.

Since the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared Zika – a hitherto little-known virus – as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) in February 2016, Zika cases have spread in over 70 countries and territories. Brazil recorded the highest number of cases: 78000 confirmed infections. Southeast Asia has not been spared.

Singapore has already reported 383 cases, including 8 pregnant women, while cases have also been reported in Philippines and Thailand. The Zika outbreak once again highlights the need for continued disease surveillance and control in the region, while underscoring the importance of having a clear and comprehensive public health strategy in dealing with the threat of emerging diseases to health security.
Impact of Zika

Illness due to the Zika virus is relatively mild in most cases. But it is of serious concern to pregnant women: in about 1% of Zika-affected pregnancies, the infants are born with microcephaly (unusually small heads). Microcephaly is typically accompanied by neurological damage, resulting in lifelong health burden. In rare cases, the infection leads to Guillain-Barré syndrome, a severe neurological condition that can require long periods of hospitalisation. Furthermore, uncertainty about sexual transmission complicates family planning for couples, foreshadowing potential demographic problems for a country.

India’s Grand Strategy to counter Chinese aggression

By Bharat Lather


Fifty four years ago, on October 20, 1962, with the world’s terrified gaze fixed firmly on the U.S.-Soviet nuclear standoff in Cuba, China attacked India. Provoked by a territorial dispute and tensions over Tibet, the war was brief and China emerged victorious. Beijing declared a unilateral ceasefire on November 21, and the PLA withdrew to its pre-war positions.

India still sees China as a nationalist, aggressive power which seeks to dominate Asia and one that might once again strike unexpectedly, just as it did in 1962.

Chinese space station to fall out of sky. Who regulates these things anyway?

By Ben Rosen

When China launched the Tiangong-1 into orbit in 2011, the country heralded its first space station as a milestone in its bid to be a superpower in space and on Earth.

Six years later, the station will meet an unglamorous, fiery death, apparently with China not at the wheel.

Officials appear to have confirmed the fears of astrophysicists and amateur astronomers that the country has lost control of the 34-foot-long, 8.5 metric ton spacecraft. The unmanned station will likely crash into Earth in late 2017, but scientists don't know where that would be, Chinese officials said in a news conference in the Gobi desert Wednesday.

The odds of debris from the craft injuring a particular person on Earth are less than those of that person being struck by lighting. But China’s apparent admission highlights a question faced by every spacefaring nation: How do you develop end-of-mission plans to avoid posing any threat to humans or other spacecraft? It’s a question even the United States has failed to resolve in the past, ever since parts of Skylab, its first space station, famously crashed in a sparsely populated part of Australia.

Suspicion Shadows ‘Albanian Terror’ Trial In Macedonia – Analysis

By Semra Musai 
SEPTEMBER 22, 2016

The trial of 37 alleged members and accomplices of an ethnic Albanian terror group that battled Macedonian police in Kumanovo last year has been marred by allegations about false witnesses and police brutality.

The trial of the 29 alleged gunmen and their eight alleged accomplices, accused of being part of or aiding a terrorist group that fought the security forces during a deadly two-day shootout in the northern Macedonian town of Kumanovo in May last year, has been hit by defence claims that prosecution witnesses have been coached to lie in court.

The trial has been going on behind closed doors, but Artene Ademi Iseini, the lawyer for 11 of the defendants, claimed that protected witnesses who have been giving testimony have been coached by the prosecutors to echo the authorities’ version of what happened in Kumanovo.

“Prosecution witnesses are describing in a very cynical way things that probably the prosecution itself taught them what to say. Their testimony is contradictory, confusing and does not support the indictment. In some cases it is compromising for the police and the prosecution,” Iseini told BIRN.

More than a year after the Kumanovo shootout in May 2015, which left 18 people dead, Iseini said that the truth about what happened during the two-day gun battle remains unclear.

The prosecution says the group devised a plan to form a terrorist group and acquired cash, weapons, ammunition and medical supplies.

How the US Intelligence Community Confirms a Terrorist ‘Kill’


Islamic State took an unusual step in late August when it announced that its spokesman and external operations leader Abu Muhammad al-Adnani had been killed near Aleppo, Syria.

Washington had offered a $5 million reward for Adnani, who had a hand in the gruesome November 2015 Paris attacks and other assaults. Adnani likely met the business end of a Hellfire missile fired from a Reaper drone in what the Defense Department labels a “precision strike.” He is one of the highest-level targets of the 120 or so senior Islamic State leaders the coalition has killed in the last few years.

Yet the death of a targeted terrorist is often shrouded in mystery. Determining whether U.S. weapons hit their mark is a complex endeavor. Pentagon statements couch words like “killed” in euphemisms like “taken off the battlefield.” Complicating matters, militant groups might announce a leader’s death even if the target escaped harm.

So how can the American public know if Adnani – or any senior Islamic State leader, for that matter — is really dead? How does the Pentagon determine that a strike has successfully taken out its target?

The most reliable sign for those not privy to classified data: The State Department removes a target’s name and photograph from its “most wanted” list. The U.S. government runs the website, Rewards for Justice, where it offers $1 million to $25 million for information that leads to those it classifies as terrorists. Once the administration is certain a target is dead (or locked up), it deletes that name from the list.

Troubling Times for Regional Stability in Russia

By Antonia Colibasanu

The Kremlin is searching for ways to hold the country together in the face of a struggling economy.

The Russian government announced yesterday that, considering the difficult fiscal environment, it plans to increase the use of interregional budget transfers to help poorer regions. Russian regions have seen their debt increasing during the last few years and have reached out to commercial banks for loans and bond issues to get cash and service some of their debt, even though Moscow has offered them cheap loans.

Russia’s vast geography has always been a challenge for its leaders. The country’s immense landmass is disproportionally populated because of its climate. Much of the Russian population lives north of the 50th parallel, which is even further north than Canada’s main population centers. This makes agricultural production scarce. Population density and urbanization rates are higher in the western regions, which have seen greater commercial development, considering their access to river routes. These factors have resulted in dramatic differences between rural and urban Russia and between western and eastern regions. These differences are highly problematic during times of economic crisis.

STRATCOM Nominee Favors Boosting Cyber Command, Nuke Modernization

By: Joe Gould

WASHINGTON — US Cyber Command should be elevated to an independent, unified combatant command, the nominee to head US Strategic Command told lawmakers Tuesday. 

Air Force Gen. John Hyten, at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the evolution of the cyberthreat means its “simply a matter if when, not if,” US Cyber Command is elevated. During the more than 90-minute hearing, Hyten also threw strong support behind modernizing the nuclear triad.

Hyten commands Air Force Space Command in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The White House is reportedly moving toward separating US Cyber Command from the National Security Agency, a step touted by proponents as easing responses to threats, budget prioritization, strategy and policy. 

A convenient terrorism threat

Daniel L. Byman

Many governments, including several important U.S. allies, simultaneously fight and encourage the terrorist groups on their soil. This two-faced approach holds considerable appeal for some governments, but it hugely complicates U.S. counterterrorism efforts—and the United States shouldn’t just live with it. This post originally appeared on Lawfare.

Not all countries that suffer from terrorism are innocent victims doing their best to fight back. Many governments, including several important U.S. allies, simultaneously fight and encourage the terrorist groups on their soil. President George W. Bush famously asked governments world-wide after 9/11 whether they were with us or with the terrorists; these rulers answer, “Yes.”

Some governments—including at times Russia, Egypt, Turkey, and Pakistan among others—hope to have it both ways. They use the presence of terrorists to win sympathy abroad and discredit peaceful foes at home, even while fighting back vigorously enough to look plausible but not forcefully enough to solve the problem. This two-faced approach holds considerable appeal for some governments, but it hugely complicates U.S. counterterrorism efforts—and the U.S. shouldn’t just live with it.

We’re not talking about straightforward state sponsors of terrorism like Iran, which brazenly supports Hezbollah and others, or basket-case quasi-states like Somalia, whose government is too feeble to provide basic services, let alone defeat a rampaging terrorist group like al-Shabaab. Here we’re talking about governments that are at least semi-competent and notionally oppose the terrorists, yet still think it’s in their interests to give militants some rope or even tacitly aid them.

These governments come in various shades of democracy and autocracy, but they all put their international ambitions or domestic politics above sustained counterterrorism. As these leaders see it, the presence of terrorists among their foes discredits the entire opposition—including peaceful groups.

Red Atlantic: Russia Could Choke Air, Sea Lanes To Europe

By SYDNEY J. FREEDBERG JR.


NATIONAL HARBOR: Russia could hinder US reinforcements headed to Europe in the event of a major war, warned the recently retired Supreme Allied Commander, Gen. Philip Breedlove. It’s well known Russian radars, missiles, and strike planes — “Anti-Access/Area Denial” systems — threaten ships and aircraft across wide swathes of the Black Sea, Eastern Europe, and the Baltic. But Gen. Breedlove’s worries are on a wider scale: He’s anxious about the Atlantic.

CJCS Dunford Calls For Strategic Shifts; ‘At Peace Or At War Is Insufficient’

By COLIN CLARK

NATIONAL HARBOR: The increasingly “adversarial” relationships with Russia and China are forcing the Pentagon to classify its previously public National Military Strategy, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says. Classification will allow bolder and more specific discussions of how to manage those relationships and our responses to them, Gen. Joe Dunford told the annual Air Force Association conference here.

“This year’s National Military Strategy will be classified so we can focus on these four-plus-one challenges and the five domains we are dealing with,” Dunford told the audience at the annual Air Force Association conference.

(“Four plus one” refers to four nation-states — Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea — plus the enduring but ever-mutating problem of Islamic extremism, once exemplified by al-Qaeda but now embodied by the so-called Islamic State, aka Daesh. The five domains are the land, sea, air, space, and cyberspace).

Russia (our top threat), China, and Iran use “economic coercion, political influence, unconventional warfare information ops, cyber ops to advance their interests and they do it in a way that they know we don’t have an effective response,” Dunford said. “They, unlike us, are able to integrate the full range of capabilities their states possess to advance their interests.”

Small Wars: An Innovative Approach to War Gaming


War games are considered invaluable in certain parts of Washington—not just for those who make war, but also for those who must deal with other complex and path-dependent contingencies, everything from combat to disaster response to public health emergencies. But not everyone buys into them, nor do senior leaders necessarily have the time it typically takes to participate. As a result, this approach, proven and time-tested in military circles, may not gain the wider following that it deserves, especially among senior policymakers.

So, some champions of war gaming at Brookings, Booz Allen Hamilton and a few government and nongovernmental organizations conducted an experiment earlier this summer, to streamline the process without losing any of the intellectual rigor and insight that come with it. Dubbed Brookings’s first-ever National Security Challenge, it was really more like National Security Improv, and all who played it agreed that it was a success.

Obama’s UN speech revealed a paradox at the heart of global politics

Zack Beauchamp 

Near the beginning of President Barack Obama’s final speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday morning, he pointed out something really important about the world today: We are living through the best time in human history, but it feels to a lot of us likeanything but.

“This is the paradox that defines our world today: A quarter century after the end of the Cold War, the world is by many measures less violent and more prosperous than ever before. And yet our societies are filled with uncertainty and unease and strife,” Obama said.

This isn’t just a one-off observation on his part. It actually speaks to something very fundamental, and underappreciated, about the nature of the world we live in. We have set up a series of institutions that order the world — ranging from NATO to the global free trade regime to the UN itself — and have helped make the world better for most people.

But not everyone. Some people have suffered tremendously from the way the world is ordered — and it’s helped create a broader sense of social and global crisis.

The Evolution of Modern Grand Strategic Thought

By Spencer Bakich

For at least one of its practitioners, grand strategy is a fiction. Confiding to his long-time associate and former Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, President Bill Clinton insisted that the link between grand strategy and policy was tenuous at best. Rather, Clinton argued, grand strategy’s role was one of political communication, a means of signaling to allies and adversaries alike what the U.S. was doing in the world. Policy itself was not driven by any particular grand strategic formulation, the president concluded, because “strategic coherence ‘was largely imposed after the fact,’ and that successful leaders like [Harry S.] Truman and [Franklin D.] Roosevelt had ‘just made it up as they went along.’”[1]

President Clinton would likely find Lukas Milevski sympathetic to his argument on the role of grand strategy in statecraft. In an impressive new book, Milevski argues that grand strategy is a conceptual nomad, an idea whose course has been driven solely by immediate historical contingency, with little theoretical grounding or guidance. Over the course of nearly two hundred years, writers on grand strategy have demonstrated a curious case of presentism in their approach to studying and refining the idea. Spurred by the necessity of solving immediate problems, grand strategy has been pushed in one direction after another, whipsawed by the emergence of new contingencies. Along the way, the concept of grand strategy hasn’t so much evolved as it has changed. Today’s grand strategy cannot really be understood by tracing its historical and theoretical development. Rather, the conceptual content of any particular grand strategy is explicable only by reference to its own narrow geopolitical context. Without a firm grounding in any sort of accepted theory, grand strategy is inchoate because every scholar or practitioner is incentivized to interpret the term as he or she sees fit. Many ships are passing in the night.

Half a billion Yahoo accounts were compromised in a 2014 hack

Ananya Bhattacharya

Yahoo disclosed it was the target of a massive cybersecurity breach that exposed details of over 500 million users.

In a press release today (Sept. 22), Yahoo confirmed that it was the victim of a hack in late 2014. The company believes the hack—compromising names, email addresses, phone numbers, birth dates, hashed passwords, and, in some cases, encrypted or unencrypted security questions and answers—was carried out by a “state sponsored actor,” the release said. (Yahoo did not immediately respond to a request from Quartz for further information.) The internal investigation found that “unprotected passwords, payment card data, or bank account information” were not stolen.

The data breach first came to light in August this year, when hacker“Peace” alleged that almost 200 million Yahoo accounts were for sale on the dark web. Prior to the Yahoo attack, Peace was infamous for offloading hacked data from MySpace and LinkedIn. He had speculated that the hack took place in “2012 most likely.” At the time, Yahoo said it was reviewing the allegations.

Artificial Intelligence For Air Force: Cyber & Electronic Warfare

By SYDNEY J. FREEDBERG JR.


AFA: The Air Force wants artificial intelligence to track and react to cyber and electronic threats, to update countermeasures against enemy hackers, radars, and missiles faster than human minds can manage. But first you have to fix the basics.

Today, the Department Of Defense Information Network (DODIN) is really not a single network, but a quasi-feudal patchwork of often incompatible local networks. It’s the Holy Roman Empire of cyberspace. There are so many dark corners and hidden vulnerabilities that no amount of intelligence — human or artificial — can monitor them all, let alone defend them.

Air Force Leading Way To 3rd Offset: Bob Work

By SYDNEY J. FREEDBERG JR.

NATIONAL HARBOR: The Pentagon’s biggest advocate of artificial intelligence just spoke to the Air Force Association for over an hour — and he didn’t mention drones. When Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work talks about autonomy, he’s much less interested in killer robots than in command and control.

The Air Force led the way on C2 by developing the world’s first “offensive battle network” in time to eviscerate the Iraqi military in 1991, Work said. Today, he said, with experiments like the new JICSPOC command center for space operations and “multi-domain command and control,” it’s leading the way again as part of the Pentagon’s high-tech Third Offset Strategy.

“Offset strategies are not about technology per se, so it drives me crazy when people say, ‘oh, the Third Offset is AI and autonomy,’” Work thundered. “Wrong!” Offset is about “operational and organizational constructs,” he said, which are “enabled” by new technology but not simply a matter of tech.

Fiction for the Strategist


Army Strategist Lieutenant Colonel Aaron Bazin recently posted an article on what successful strategists should read. His inclusion of fiction pieces sparked some debate. In a rebuttal, T. Greer argued that, “[s]trategic theory is in essence a theory of decision making…A strategic actor oriented around incorrect narratives or ideas (or a strategic actor which cannot update these ideas to match changing conditions) faces a severe disadvantage in competitive environments like international relations or war. My concern is that too many of the models and ideas we use to orient ourselves are complete fictions.”

I disagree. Vehemently.

I haven’t read all the fiction pieces on Colonel Bazin’s list. I’d offer a slightly modified list, but his inclusion of War and Peace, Killer Angels and Once an Eagle, Catch-22, and 1984 earn my sincere applause. My list would also include The Godfather and The Game of Thrones (whose film adaptations have been enormously successful).

STRATEGY IS NOT JUST DECISION-MAKING; ITS THE ART OF OUT MANEUVERING OTHER HUMANS.

Strategy is not just decision-making; its the art of out maneuvering other humans. And, in order to out maneuver humans, you must know them very well. So, what is the point of a story? Stories are one of the most important parts of the human experience. Humans have been telling stories since the beginning of time. Human culture is inundated with people telling stories. When you watch a show in television — its a story. When you read the newspaper — you read a story. Read a book — its a story. Go to church — hear a story. Listen to music — its a story. While works of fantasy and fiction are notreal, they are conceptualized by humans. The greatest fictions of this world are the pinnacle of human thought and imagination.

Great fiction can do many things. For strategists, I think there are three very important areas where fiction plays a role. First, great fiction can give you a feeling. It is not likely any of us will ever be in the position that many of our great war heroes were in. However, we can learn from understanding how they felt. Second, great fiction can be looked as a social experiment. Its difficult (if not impossible) to conduct social experiments on humans, its unethical and unrealistic. But fiction gives us an alternative to this predicament — and the best fiction has elements that ring so true it seems as though the experiment was actually carried out. Finally, the very best fiction can illustrate the complexities of decision-making in a chaotic and uncertain world. Fiction gives readers a chance to understand decision-making from many points of view.

The F-103 Could Have Been America's Mach 3 Ramjet Fighter

September 22, 2016

Before the advent of ICBMs in the 1950s, the horsemen of the nuclear apocalypse would have trampled Washington and Moscow in the form of high-altitude bombers.

Existing U.S. fighters such as the F-86 Sabre were seen as too slow to meet this threat. So in 1949, the U.S. Air Force put out a request for a high-altitude supersonic interceptor that could intercept and destroy high-flying Soviet nuclear bombers before they dropped their loads.

Designated the 1954 Interceptor project to mark the year it was to enter service, the Air Force received nine proposals, of which three were chosen for preliminary development: Convair with a design that later became the F-102 Delta Dagger, Lockheed with a plane that later became the F-104 Starfighter, and Republic Aircraft with the AP-57, later renamed the XF-103.

Of the three designs, the XF-103 was the most advanced. Republic proposed an aircraft that could fly 2,600 miles per hour—faster than three times the speed of sound—to an altitude of 80,000 feet. For the early 1950s, when subsonic F-86s and MiG-15s were dogfighting over Korea at speeds of a torpid few hundred miles per hour, the XF-103 would have seemed more rocket than airplane.

Scales On War: A Q&A With MG Bob Scales, USA (Ret.)

LTG H. R. McMaster


Recently, we asked LTG H. R. McMaster, USA, to host a Q&A with Fox News commentator MG Bob Scales, USA (Ret.), author of Scales on War: The Future of America’s Military at Risk. Part I of their exchange follows.

McMaster: Your call for a historical-behavioral approach to military strategy and defense policy is consistent with Graham Allison’s and Niall Ferguson’s recent essay in the Atlantic in which they call for a board of historical advisors to advise the president to improve the wisdom of foreign policy. What is the value to contemporary affairs and why do you think it is underappreciated?

Scales: Not only do I think Presidents need historians to provide advice I believe the military does as well. War is the only profession that’s episodic. Soldiers don’t practice war (thankfully) as much as they study it. Thus the intellectual backbone of our profession should be the study of past wars. Sadly, it is not. Reluctance to study war among our senior leaders is, in a way, understandable. A newly appointed general has spent half his or her life (or more) actively engaged in fighting or preparing to fight a war. It’s reasonable for a serving officer to question the merits of study when he’s fully engaged in practicing the profession. As we witnessed with the British Army in the late nineteenth century these habits are hard to break. Imperial officers published under a pseudonym for fear of being labeled an intellectual. Conversation in the officer’s mess was about sport, not tactics. And the British paid a painful price when they were unable to adapt intellectually once they shifted from a native to an industrial age European enemy. The lesson is clear. We must artificially induce our young officers to shift from the visceral to the vicarious, an unnatural act for a contemporary Army on active service.

25 September 2016

** Troubling Times for Regional Stability in Russia

By Antonia Colibasanu

The Kremlin is searching for ways to hold the country together in the face of a struggling economy.

The Russian government announced yesterday that, considering the difficult fiscal environment, it plans to increase the use of interregional budget transfers to help poorer regions. Russian regions have seen their debt increasing during the last few years and have reached out to commercial banks for loans and bond issues to get cash and service some of their debt, even though Moscow has offered them cheap loans.

Russia’s vast geography has always been a challenge for its leaders. The country’s immense landmass is disproportionally populated because of its climate. Much of the Russian population lives north of the 50th parallel, which is even further north than Canada’s main population centers. This makes agricultural production scarce. Population density and urbanization rates are higher in the western regions, which have seen greater commercial development, considering their access to river routes. These factors have resulted in dramatic differences between rural and urban Russia and between western and eastern regions. These differences are highly problematic during times of economic crisis.

** The Decline of Austerity Politics

By Lili Bayer

More pressing issues have taken the place of belt-tightening.

In September 2011, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble wrote a piece in the Financial Times entitled “Why austerity is only cure for the eurozone.” But in reality, Schäuble’s stance was that austerity in southern Europe was the only cure acceptable for Germany – Europe’s largest economy and a major creditor, whose economy depends on the stability of the eurozone. However, there are now growing indications that Germany is being forced to shift its commitment to austerity. Several key factors are contributing to this evolution. Germany’s export crisis, lower interest rates, the refugee crisis and political changes across the Continent have led to a change in Germany’s constraints and priorities.

Over the past few years, the debate over austerity had serious implications for European politics. One of Germany’s top preoccupations was debt levels in some European economies. Berlin pushed some European governments, especially in southern Europe, to adopt harsh austerity measures. Southern European leaders have long fought against Berlin’s insistence on austerity.

** China, Germany and Sliding US Demand

By Lili Bayer

Declining U.S. demand for major exporters’ goods could spell disaster.

The world’s exporters are in turmoil. Over the past days, we learned that Chinese exports fell 2.8 percent in August compared to the same time last year, while Japanese exports declined 4.8 percent. German exports plummeted 10 percent year-over-year in July, while the European Union’s overall exports fell 2 percent between January and July compared to a year earlier. But this data does not come as a surprise: the world’s exporters are undergoing a major crisis, as economies that revolve around selling products abroad struggle to find buyers. But there is now reason to believe that the global economy is entering a new phase of export woes. U.S. demand for imports from some major economies is declining, thus threatening to further undermine the stability of already struggling exporters.

We have written extensively about the exporters’ crisis. In January, we ranked the top 10 victims of the crisis. Large exporters like China and major oil producers like Saudi Arabia and Russia topped the list.

The U.S. is not only the world’s largest economy, but also its biggest importer. The U.S. accounted for 14 percent of global imports in 2015. Demand in the U.S. for foreign goods is thus a key engine of economic growth elsewhere. In fact, troubles in the U.S. economy in large part sparked the exporters’ crisis. The crisis started in 2008, as economic problems in the U.S. and Europe led to reduced demand for goods. This slowdown in demand affected countries like China, which in turn bought fewer commodities. China’s slowdown has continued, and exporters of commodities like oil still grapple with low prices and sluggish demand.

* US-Israel Military Agreement holds little Promise for Middle East Peace

By Md. Muddassir Quamar
23 Sep , 2016

On September 14, 2016, the US and Israel signed a defence aid agreement worth USD 38 billion for ten year between 2019 and 2028. This is a USD 8 billion increase from the previous deal that that was signed in 2007 and ends in 2018; an increase of over 25 percent. It is a continuation of US military aid to Israel that has been the backbone of the bilateral relations since the establishment of Israel in 1948. In fact, Israel has been one of the biggest recipients of the US military aid since the World War II and the proportion further increased since the 1980s. As per the current agreement, Israel will receive an annual USD 3.8 billion in military supplies. 

The US and Israel entered into negotiations for the agreement in November 2015 and the talks were marred in tensions due to Israel’s opposition to the Iranian nuclear deal. Further President Barack Obama has been critical of Israel due to continued settlement constructions in the West Bank, which he termed as a serious impediment towards peace. Reports suggest that the Israeli side was looking for a bigger package to the tune of USD 45 billion but it could not materialize. The package includes USD 5 billion for the Israeli defense program and it also restricts Israel’s ability to lobby the Congress for additional aid above the agreed upon sum. In fact, in the previous years, Israel had received USD 500 million annually above the approved sum of USD 3 billion. Hence, analysts point that the actual increase in the amount is limited to USD 300 million annually.

The deal has significant implications for both US-Israel bilateral relations, Israel’s standing in the region and for the peace process and hence, for the peace process. It signifies that despite tensions and disagreement among the leadership on several issues the bilateral relations are steady and strong and continue to have a strong military component. The US will continue to ensure Israel’s security and will continue to fund Israel’s military and defense industry. What will change with this agreement is that gradually Israel will have to use the entire amount to buy military equipment from the US defense industry. Earlier it had the provision to use 26 percent of the funds for procuring military equipments from Israeli defense industry. Now that Israel has a robust defense industry, the US decided to stop indirect support for Israel’s defense industry. However, this will not seriously affect the industry that has now emerged as one of the major supplier of various military equipments to a number of countries including India.

For all of India's bluster, Pakistan still has every incentive to send militants across the border


The party that continues to pay the highest price for this grim pattern is, of course, the Kashmiri
If it sounds like we have been here before, it is because we have. Indeed, one of the more disquieting aspects of the latest episode of militant violence in Kashmir, and the ensuing tensions and war scares between India and Pakistan, is its Groundhog Day nature. The military and political patterns of Indo-Pak relations have observed a remarkable consistency since the turn of the century. To understand these patterns, we can begin from Uri’s aftermath, and work backwards.

After a high-level security meeting the morning after Sunday’s attack, the Indian government adopted a seemingly sober tone, cautioning against “knee-jerk” and “hasty action,” arguing instead that “action has to be taken without getting influenced by emotions, anger. It has to be taken coolly and with proper planning.” While the impulse towards prudence is to be applauded, it is also curious. Were members of the same ruling party, just 24 hours earlier, not claiming that “Pakistan is a terrorist state” and that “for one tooth, the complete jaw”?
Limited options

The drastic rhetorical climb-down was a result of cold reality setting in. After all the bluster, it is evident that India has no serious military options that can satisfy its political objectives – both with respect to Pakistan as well as a baying public – while also keeping the risk of nuclear war acceptably low. Cross-border raids, air strikes, and covert operations promise insufficient benefits given the attendant challenges and costs. The most likely of the various options being considered is the use of heavy artillery fire across the Line of Control aimed at Pakistani posts. However, such firing will not be a dramatic departure from the status-quo at the Line of Control, where skirmishes have taken place regularly since 2013.

This sense of being strait-jacketed into a non-response to Pakistan-based terror should be depressingly familiar to Indian decision-makers. After all, India finds itself in much the same situation as it did after Pathankot, Mumbai in 2008, and the 2001-’02 crisis following the attack on the Indian Parliament: anger at Pakistan, but little recourse beyond “isolating Pakistan”. The flexible array of coercive options that were supposed to accrue to India after it embarked on “Cold Start” doctrinal changes a decade-and-a-half ago have failed to materialise, mainly because of factors internal to Indian politics and bureaucracy as well as significant changes in Pakistan’s doctrines and defences in the last decade.
Opportunities for Pakistan army

Jihad In India: Time To Review, Re-Interpret And Understand – Analysis

By R. Upadhyay
SEPTEMBER 22, 2016

Some news reports in May last from Washington indicated that the terror group ISIS had launched a new propaganda video that showed off the Jihadists allegedly from India fighting against the Syrian forces in the Homs province.

This report has not been challenged and it is presumed that the Jihadi ideology of the terrrist organisation – the ISIS has also inspired a section of Indian Muslim youths to follow the short-cut route for a seat in Paradise.
Violent Jihad does not operate in a vacuum

Although, the number of such Jihadist Indians may not be much to cause any alarm, it certainly poses a question to the community in India as to t how and why some of their youths are motivated for joining the ISIS? This may not have been possible without any direct or indirect support within the community as well as without subtle infrastructure propagating the idea of Jihadi Islamism for restoration of the institution of Caliphate. Since violent ideology does not operate in vacuum and a fire requires oxygen to grow, the Jihadi-ideology too has perhaps a support base within the community. It is therefore the responsibility of the community to identify the source of oxygen so that the Jihadi fire does not swallow the community in the long run.

The Government of India must have certainly taken due cognizance of this propaganda piece of the ISIS, but in view of the increasing Islamic terror violence capturing the world landscape in general and India in particular, the Indian Ilamic community needs to do a thorough introspection on this vital issue. There has to be an intellectual exercise which unfortunately is lacking. There is an urgent need for the community to redefine the word Jihad and examine its true meaning in every sense of the word.

Germany charges man with spying for Indian intelligence

September 20, 2016

Germany charges man with spying for Indian intelligence

BERLIN (AP) — German authorities say they are charging a 58-year-old German citizen with espionage for allegedly passing confidential information to an Indian intelligence agency.

Federal prosecutors say the man, identified only by the initials T.S.P. in line with German privacy laws, worked at a local government office dealing with immigrants in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Prosecutors said in a statement Tuesday that the man used his access to government files to obtain and transmit information about “extremist Sikhs” and Indian opposition figures in Germany to the unidentified Indian agency.

The man has been detained since his arrest on Feb. 17.

Russian troops arrive in Pakistan for joint military exercise 'Friendship 2016'


The two-week drill, which begins tomorrow, indicates that both sides want to 'broaden defense and military-technical cooperation', a Pakistani envoy said.

Russian soldiers arrived in Pakistan on Friday for the first-ever joint military exercise between the two countries. Lieutenant General Asim Saleem Bajwa, the director general of the Inter-Services Public Relations – the media wing of the Pakistan Armed Forces – confirmed the news on Twitter.

Pakistan's Ambassador to Russia Qazi Khalilullah had told a Russian news agency last week that the drill is an "obvious indication" that both sides want to "broaden defense and military-technical cooperation", according to IANS. Khalilullah confirmed to Pakistani daily The Express Tribune on Friday that the joint Pakistan-Russia military exercise – Friendship 2016 – will take place as scheduled from September 24 to October 7.

Not much is known about the drill, except that it will be conducted in "mountainous areas".

News of this military exercise comes days after it was reported that Russia had called off the drill in the wake of the attack on the Indian Army base in Kashmir's Uri sector, in which 18 soldiers were killed. India blames the terror strike on the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed group.

A contingent of Russian ground forces arrived Pak for 1st ever Pak- Russian joint exercise (2 weeks) from 24 Sep to 10 Oct 2016 pic.twitter.com/eWzQMlENL6— Gen Asim Bajwa (@AsimBajwaISPR) September 23, 2016

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