26 December 2017

Seven Foreign Policy Stories to Watch in 2018

Seven Foreign Policy Stories to Watch in 2018
                                                         -- Maj Gen P K Mallick,VSM (Retd)


“It’s hard to make predictions, especially about the future.” But a fair number of significant world events are ones we know are coming—call them the “known knowns.”

Council on Foreign Relations has come out of its list of seven known stories of this year which would be followed keenly in 2018. Any one of them could turn into the dominant news event of the year—or fade completely away. We’ll know in twelve months which will sizzle and which will fizzle. Of course there will be new stories which will hog the headlines. Here is the seven stories expected to dominate in 2018.

Iran’s Bid for Regional Hegemony. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad looks to be securely in powerin Damascus. Ditto Hezbollah in Lebanon. The Islamic State lost much of its territory. The Iraqi government retook the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. Houthi rebelshave Saudi Arabia bogged down in a quagmire in Yemen. Iranian involvementfigured prominently in all of these developments, which has entrenched Iranian influence across the region. While the White House wants to turn up the heat on Tehran, the question remains how far it will be willing to go. Iran will press its advantage wherever it can.

North Korea’s Nuclear Ambitions. Trump has vowedto prevent North Korea from gaining the capability to hit the United States with nuclear-armed ballistic missiles.Washington’s options for compelling Pyongyang to back down aren’t promising. China either can’t—or won’t—use its economic leverage to make North Korea cry uncle. The cost of U.S. military action would likely be steep—possibly even “catastrophic.” The current level of tensions creates the possibility that war will begin not through calculation but miscalculation. 

Crisis in Venezuela. Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserves in the world. The country is gripped by a horrific economic and political crisis. As bad as things were in 2017 for Venezuelans, things could be even worse in 2018. The International Monetary Fund projects that inflation will exceed 2,300 percent next year.Venezuelans have taken to the streets to protest President Maduro’s dictatorial ways. More than one hundred protestors have been killed, but nothing has changed. 

Trump’s Effort to Transform Trade. President Trump has signed a presidential memorandum pulling the United States out of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). However, he didn’t impose tariffs on China or withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, or the World Trade Organization (WTO). That may soon change. The White House is moving to impose punitive actions on predatory Chinese trade practices, its demands for revamping NAFTA look to be unacceptable to Canada and Mexico, and it is waging a low-level war against the WTO. America’s trading partners are likely to retaliate. Trump’s trade initiatives won’t fix what bothers him: America’s yawning trade deficit. The United States runs a deficit because Americans consume far more than they save. Tweaking trade deals won’t change that. To make matters worse, the tax bill he has championed will likely make the trade deficit larger.


China’s Ambitions Abroad. Xi Jinping had a terrific 2017. He consolidated his hold on power and now ranks as China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong. Xi’s assertive foreign policy will likely mix soft and hard power. He will be offering substantial aid to countries throughout Asia under the banner of the One Belt One Road initiative. Most countries will find it hard to pass up these funds, even if they sometimes come with substantial strings attached. Countries in Southeast Asia will be watching closely to see whether, and how, the United States pushes back on China’s effort to make itself the regional hegemon. A world order may hang in the balance.

The Mueller Investigation. President Trump has called the investigation a “witch hunt,” and he dismisses allegations that his campaign colluded with Russia as “fake news.” Trump’s former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn has pled guilty to lying to the FBI, as has former Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos. Mueller also has indicted Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort and Manafort’s business partner and senior Trump campaign staffer, Rick Gates. Trump’s lawyers predict that the investigation will wrap up shortly; history suggests it could drag on for months. The investigation could plunge the United States into an unprecedented constitutional crisis. America’s democracy is being tested. 

Democracy Under Stress. Democracy is under siege. Global freedom has been declining for over a decade. The problem isn’t just that emerging democracies like Thailand and Turkey have slid back into authoritarian rule. Many Western democracies are struggling. Warsaw has adopted anti-democratic laws, while Spain faces a secessionist movement in Catalonia. Centrist political parties across Europe have been losing vote shares to parties on the two extremes. Traditional center-left parties have had the most trouble, having suffered humiliating defeats in the Netherlands, France, and Austria among other places. But center-right parties are struggling as well, as recent elections in Britain and Germany attest. The United States still has a robust two-party system, but its democracy also seems far from its glory days. Some now see the United States as a “flawed democracy.” Authoritarian governments like China and Russia are both working, in different ways, to undermine free and fair elections across the globe. Is democracy doomed? No. It remains popular worldwide, even if it has become less so among young people in democratic countries. There will be important elections in 2018 that could reverse the negative trends, though they might also give us more “illiberal democracies.” Here’s the thing about democracy: it empowers the people. It’s up to them to use that power wisely.

Take Small Steps to Advance the US-India Relationship

BY SAMEER LALWANI 

India got more mentions in the new National Security Strategy than Japan or South Korea. Here’s what should come next.

A region normally peripheral to U.S. foreign-policy debates received considerable attention in the new National Security Strategy, which contains eight mentions of U.S. objectives in the “Indo-Pacific” and seven of India itself — more than allies Japan and South Korea. The NSS signals a desire to continue efforts begun by the George W. Bush administration to deepen the U.S.-India strategic partnership, and builds off several key moments in 2017, including a successful meeting between President Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the rollout of the administration’s South Asia strategy, and Secretary Tillerson’s glowing “love letter” to India.

China Allegedly Tunnels Under Troubled Water in India

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It is unlikely that India and China will wage an all out war over water sources in disputed territory, but verbal sparring between the two will intensify in 2018. 

For now, the dispute will be more a reflection of broader geopolitical dynamics than a battle for resources. 

China will keep pushing for water-related infrastructure projects, one of its technical strengths, as it tries to develop the western reaches of the country. 

China has India surrounded in their new Great Game

YUJI KURONUMA

NEW DELHI -- Think of South Asia as a giant Othello board. The squares are countries and slices of coveted territory. The players trying to cover the board with their black or white pieces are China and India. 

In the current round, China is winning.

The latest square to come under Beijing's sway is Nepal, where a new pro-China government will be sworn in at the beginning of 2018. This marks a major change for the country, nestled in the Himalayas between the two ascendant regional powers. The incumbent Nepalese government has maintained a pro-India stance.

Pakistan refused to 'do more' during Mattis visit: sources

By Amir Khan

KARACHI: While telling Defence Secretary James Mattis that enough is enough, Pakistan had told the visiting dignitary that its hands were tied up in the fight against terrorism and would no more accept the oft-repeated mantra of ‘do more’ against alleged safe havens in the country, Roznama Express has learnt.

Sources in the federal government said Mattis was told that Pakistan would not conduct any joint operation inside its territory, reiterating that any evidence about the presence of terrorist networks on its soil should be shared with the civil and military leadership.

US Vice President Pence Makes Surprise Trip to Afghanistan

By Catherine Putz

In a surprise visit to Afghanistan Thursday, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence met briefly with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah at the Presidential Palace in Kabul before addressing troops gathered at Bagram Airfield. In both instances, Pence reiterated President Donald Trump’s commitment to seeing the war in Afghanistan through, highlighting the strategy unveiled by Trump in August after several months of review.

Pence told Ghani and Abdullah he hoped his presence was “ tangible evidence that the leadership of President Trump, our administration and the armed forces that we are here to see this through.”

What Peace in Colombia Teaches Us About War in Afghanistan

By Jamie Shenk and Michael Kugelman

A successful reconciliation process after three decades of excruciating false starts offers some not-so-encouraging lessons for Afghanistan.

Last month, Colombia marked the first anniversary of the peace deal that ended a 52-year-war with the Armed Revolutionary Forces in Colombia, or FARC.

The long but ultimately successful negotiations that ended the war offer some useful lessons for another seemingly endless conflict — the Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan, in its 17th year and the longest foreign war in American history.

China Is Gaining Control of the South China Sea (Thanks to North Korea)

Zachary Keck

With the United States laser-focused on the North Korean nuclear problem, China is cementing its control over the South China Sea.

Earlier this month, CSIS’s Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI)—which closely tracks China’s island-building campaign using satellite imagery—reported that 2017 has been a productive year for Beijing. After completing most of its dredging work to create the artificial islands in previous years, China has turned its attention to transforming these into operational military outposts. As AMTI observed, “Beijing remains committed to advancing the next phase of its build-up—construction of the infrastructure necessary for fully-functioning air and naval bases on the larger outposts.” To this end, China used 2017 to build everything “from underground storage areas and administrative buildings to large radar and sensor arrays.”

BEHIND THE FALL AND RISE OF CHINA'S XIAOMI


A YEAR AGO, Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi (sha-oh-me) had fallen from the world’s most valuable unicorn to a “unicorpse.” Sales plunged in 2016, pushing the company from first to fifth place among China’s smartphone makers. No firm had ever come back from a wound that severe in the trench warfare of the global smartphone business.

Today, Xiaomi is being called a “Chinese phoenix.” The company has grown so fast in the past year that research firm Strategy Analytics says Xiaomi could overtake Oppo, Huawei, and Apple in the next year to become the world’s second-largest smartphone vendor, behind Samsung. Executives are reportedly considering an IPO in 2018, which could be among the highest-valued ever.

What Happens When ISIS Goes Underground?

Daniel Byman

Defeating the Islamic State could be the marquee foreign-policy accomplishment of the Trump administration. Doing so, however, will require more than just forcing the caliphate underground.

THE ISLAMIC State is on the ropes, yet the group may make a comeback. The U.S.-led coalition has driven it from much of its territory in Iraq and Syria, while most of its so-called “provinces” elsewhere in the Muslim world also have lost territory or stagnated. In July, U.S.-backed local forces took Mosul, the Islamic State’s largest stronghold in Iraq, and then in October took the Syrian city of Raqqa, the Islamic State’s capital. The caliphate may soon exist only as an idea. Once the most powerful jihadist group in modern history, the Islamic State is “now pathetic and a lost cause,” claimed Brett McGurk, the U.S. envoy for the anti–Islamic State coalition.

Russia Pretending to Be a Superpower While Trying to Hide Its Huge Economic Problems


Russia ends 2017 still trying to hide the damage done by over three years of low oil prices and sanctions. There are certain indicators that cannot be completely concealed. One is the number of rubles it takes to buy a dollar (the benchmark for buying foreign goods or services.) After the Soviet Union dissolved most of the 1990s were spent with the new Russian economy getting used to the real world. By the late 1990s the Russian currency had reached a realistic value versus the dollar (about 30 rubles per). It is currently 60 rubles per dollar. In 2016 it hit 80 rubles to buy a dollar. All because of low oil prices and sanctions. More sanctions are coming in 2018 as the U.S. unilaterally sanctions about a hundred Russian business and government officials for their role in various illegal activities. While the travel and banking sanctions applied to these people is a minor inconvenience, being named and having your misdeeds explained is embarrassing and could cause long-term problems.

Russia's Military Exercises Were Dress Rehearsal for Baltic Invasion

Dave Majumdar

A new report in the German newspaper Bild, citing anonymous Western intelligence sources, claims that Russia’s Zapad-2017 exercise in September was a dress rehearsal for a massive invasion of NATO territory.

According to the story, two “Western intelligence sources” posit that the underlying scenario was to capture of the Baltic states in a short sharp campaign lasting just a few days. That alleged Russian blitzkrieg would be accompanied by a "shock campaign" against a host of NATO states, including Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Norway and the neutral states of Sweden and Finland. Essentially, the nameless Western intelligence analysts suggested that Russian forces would seize a forty-kilometer-long land bridge in between Poland and Lithuania while Moscow bombers and naval forces would launch missile strike against other Western allies.

The Rise of Poland’s Far Right How Extremism Is Going Mainstream

By Volha Charnysh

On November 11, some 60,000 people marched through Warsaw to mark Poland’s Independence Day. The theme was religious: the official slogan of the march was “We want God,” and a church service preceded the event. But this was no simple family outing. Next to parents and children, ultranationalists and fascists carried banners that read “Death to the enemies of the homeland,” “Clean blood,” and “White Europe.” Foreign guests included Roberto Fiore, a self-identified fascist who leads Italy’s New Force party, the Slovak neo-Nazi MP Milan Mazurek, best known for his Holocaust denial, and several members of Hungary’s xenophobic Jobbik party.

Useful Principles The 1967 Harmel Report is as relevant as ever for NATO's strategic thinking.


HANS-DIETER LUCAS

The Harmel Report, released at the height of the Cold War, laid out a blueprint for NATO’s role in Europe and its relationship with Russia. The approach is useful today.

The stakes were high in the late 60s. The Soviet Union posed a threat to the entire transatlantic community, and maintained a tight grip on the countries of the Warsaw Pact. France, under President Charles de Gaulle, had withdrawn from NATO’s integrated military structure in 1966. German reunification seemed unattainable for the foreseeable future, and Bonn was concerned that the Western powers might opt for a détente with the Warsaw Pact countries on the basis of the German status quo. Henry Kissinger famously described the transatlantic Alliance as a “troubled partnership” whose relevance was in doubt.

Why America Hasn’t Learned to Win Wars


AMERICA’S FOREIGN-POLICY difficulties are multiplying, from Asia to the Middle East. Faced with the prospect of losing in Afghanistan, the president on the recommendation of his military advisers (and reversing a previous stand) has announced a new, notably vague and apparently open-ended “strategy” that includes sending additional U.S. troops. And he promises to “win,” without really explaining how we will know if we have won.

The Echoes of Reagan in Trump's National Security Strategy

By Rodger Baker

"For tradition tends to invest accepted policy with the attribute of permanency, which only exceptionally can be predicated of the circumstances of this changing world."-- A.T. Mahan, 1900

"The world moves, and ideas that were good once are not always good."-- Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1956

DHS Test Reveals Flaws in Emergency Responder Apps


Government and industry testers found software vulnerabilities or privacy issues in 32 out of 33 mobile apps used by emergency responders in a pilot test, the Homeland Security Department revealed Monday.

More than half of those issues were “critical flaws,” such as basic failures to secure user information, according to Homeland Security’s science and technology division.

3 cybersecurity trends agencies need to watch in 2018

By: Andy Hammond and Red Curry

All organizations struggle to prioritize their cybersecurity efforts, but federal agencies do so with the twin burdens of added regulation and a smaller budget than most private organizations. As the world prepares for monumental data legislation to take effect, and as traditional, static security methods prove ineffective, it is becoming clear than privileged access management can no longer be ignored. These three forces will be explored below, along with how to strengthen network security against both immediate and future concerns.

Pentagon Moves on New Electronic Warfare Strategy & Weapons


The Pentagon is moving aggressively implementing major provisions of its recently completed Electronic Warfare strategy, by working closely with the military services to accelerate development of a wide range of EW weapons and technologies designed to meet fast emerging near-peer threats in the electromagnetic spectrum.

Emphasizing both offensive and defensive applications of EW, Pentagon officials familiar with the new strategy point to the Air Force's Electronic Warfare and Electromagnetic Spectrum Superiority effort, the Army's growing investments in Multi-Function EW and various Navy plans to advance the Next-Generation Jammer, among other things.

Terrorist Networks Eye Bitcoin as Cryptocurrency’s Price Rises

YAYA FANUSIE

Signs are increasing that jihadist groups are looking to capitalize on the rising value of bitcoin, as massive price increases for the cryptocurrency in recent months garner growing public attention. Cold, hard, untraceable cash remains their preferred medium for transmitting funds, but new online activity shows that some jihadist groups are soliciting bitcoins, which can be acquired and spent without any government or banking intermediary.