4 June 2018

US extraterritorial sanctions: Begging for a waiver now is the worst possible option for India

Brahma Chellaney

By imposing extraterritorial or “secondary” sanctions, the US seeks to effectively extend its jurisdiction far beyond its borders. Armed with unmatched power from the role of the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency, America has the capacity and will to coerce allies and adversaries alike by threatening to lock them out of the US financial system. But make no mistake: Its extraterritorial sanctions violate international law, the UN Charter and WTO rules. India is directly in the crosshairs of the new US extraterritorial sanctions targeting Russia and Iran. India is already suffering the unintended consequences of President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal – a pullout that has spurred higher oil-import bills, the rupee’s weakening against the US dollar, and increased foreign exchange outflows. This is just the latest financial hit India has suffered since 2005 when New Delhi, under US persuasion, voted against Iran in the International Atomic Energy Agency’s governing board, prompting Tehran to cancel a long-term LNG deal favourable to India.

Why India Won’t Play Its ‘Tibet Card’

By: Sudha Ramachandran

On February 22, India’s Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale issued a directive calling on leaders and government officials to stay away from events planned by the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA)—the Tibetan government-in-exile—to mark the 60th anniversary of the Dalai Lama’s exile to India. In his note, Gokhale pointed out that the “proposed period” when the Tibetan events would happen was “a very sensitive time” for Sino-Indian relations (Indian Express, March 2). Either on its own volition or under instructions from the Indian government, the CTA subsequently canceled the interfaith meeting and shifted the public event to Dharamsala, the headquarters of the CTA (Phayul.com, March 16). The Indian government’s distancing from the Tibetan events is at odds with its proximity to the Dalai Lama and the CTA the past four years.

Japan’s Plans to Build a “Free and Open” Indian Ocean​

By David Brewster
While many eyes are on China’s port investments in the Indian Ocean, Japan has also been busy. The scale of its infrastructure investments in the region rivals, and sometimes exceeds, that of China. But Japan argues that its growing presence in the Indian Ocean is qualitatively different, focused on transparency, economic sustainability, and a rules-based order that should become part of regional norms. Australia must consider the role in can play in these projects. Compared with China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Japan’s investment activities in the Indian Ocean are barely promoted, and as a result its projects often fly under the radar. This obscures the fact that Japan has been very active in building infrastructure and “connectivity” across the region.

Optimizing America’s Interests in Afghanistan

Thomas P. Cavanna

President Trump’s August 2017 decision to increase U.S. military footprint in Afghanistan alleviated the prospect of an immediate meltdown of Kabul’s government and security forces. However, it risks luring Washington again into its recurrent temptation to apprehend this campaign as a mere question of capabilities and dedication, thereby perpetuating the appeal of military occupation and eluding much deeper problems. For this decision to yield strategic results, the U.S. must clearly signal it does not envision any permanent military presence in Afghanistan, initiate direct negotiations with the Taliban, and capitalize on its regional competitors’ interest in countering radical Islamism.

Turkey, Pakistan reach their largest-ever defense contract

By: Burak Ege Bekdil

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey and Pakistan have agreed on the sale of a batch of 30 Turkish-made T129 ATAK multirole combat helicopters, Turkish officials have said. A government election manifesto revealed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey and Pakistan “just recently” agreed on the contract, which is the largest-ever Turkish-Pakistani defense contract.  The two countries have been negotiating a T129 deal since 2014. This is the first export contract for the helicopter. Turkish Aerospace Industries, or TAI, maker of the T129 under license from the Italian-British AgustaWestland, has so far delivered 35 T129s to the Turkish Army and the Gendarmerie force.

U.S. Attacks Taliban’s Source of Funds in Afghanistan

by Michael M. Phillips

KABUL, Afghanistan - The U.S. has retooled its aerial bombing campaign in Afghanistan to target the Taliban’s sources of money, not just its fighters. Since the strategic bombing campaign began in November, U.S. aircraft have conducted 113 strikes aimed at cutting off revenue the Taliban allegedly receive from opium poppies and roadside taxes, a major shift in war strategy intended to drive the insurgents to the negotiating table. The strategy is to “go after the Taliban in a way that they had never been pressured before,” said U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Lance Bunch. The air campaign is modeled on the successful fight waged in recent years against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, where U.S. aircraft regularly attacked refineries, tanker trucks and other infrastructure that provided the militants millions of dollars in oil revenue. It even harks back to World War II, when Allied bombers went after German and Japanese industry.

Afghan Narcotics: 2000-2018: From Control and Elimination Efforts to a Drug Economy and Bombings Labs

By Anthony H. Cordesman

If the Afghan government is going to defeat the Taliban and other insurgent and extremist elements, it must win at both the military and civil levels. At present, it at best faces a military stalemate and the situation may well be worse at the civil level. Far too many elements of the Afghan government and economy remain the equivalent of a kleptocracy. Despite repeated promises of reform, the World Bank and Transparency International rate the Afghan government as one of the most corrupt and least effective in the world. Senior officials like President Ghani do continue to pursue reform with integrity, but the Afghan power structure is still filled with corrupt politicians, officials, and senior officers. Its political leadership is too divided to function effectively, and the central government in "Kabulstan" has limited or no real control over many power brokers, warlords, and local officials even in the areas nominally under government control while the Taliban controls much of the key areas for opium growing in the south.

INDOPACOM, it is: US Pacific Command gets renamed

By: Tara Copp 

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis announced Wednesday that U.S. Pacific Command would now be called U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, in the latest move to counter Chinese economic and military pressure in the region. Mattis said he directed the name change in recognition that “all nations large and small are essential to the region, in order to sustain stability in ocean areas critical to global peace.” The withdrawn invite follows a directive by the Pentagon to remove Chinese cellphones, other devices from exchanges over espionage fears.

The U.S. Indo-Pacific Strategy Needs More Indian Ocean

by Alyssa Ayres

The Donald J. Trump administration has adopted the term Indo-Pacific to describe its larger strategic area of interest across the pan-Asian region. Fully realizing this strategy’s potential will require reconciling differences over the boundaries of the Indo-Pacific and what can and should be done across this enormous geography. As important, the Indo-Pacific framework inherently places India at the heart, rather than as an appendage to a concept of Asia focused on East Asia. Indeed, as Carnegie India’s C. Raja Mohan has written, the concept of Indian centrality revives a colonial-era framework that situated India in the middle of a larger maritime strategic space. This larger maritime area, described as the “confluence of the two seas” by Japanese Prime Minister Abe during a 2007 speech to the Indian parliament, has important implications.

Mekong River nations face the hidden costs of China's dams


STUNG TRENG, Cambodia -- Sam In, a 48-year-old rice farmer from Cambodia's northeastern province of Stung Treng, never knew that people paid for water until he was forced to move out of his home on the banks of a Mekong River tributary two years ago. Along with hundreds of other households, Sam In and his 10-member family were relocated to make way for a dam development that left his entire village, Sre Sronok, underwater. Now they live in a newly created village where government-funded houses with identical blue rooftops are neatly lined up on a spacious, dusty plot of land. Instead of a river, a national road runs alongside the village.

POLITICO INVESTIGATION How China acquires ‘the crown jewels’ of U.S. technology

By CORY BENNETT and BRYAN BENDER

The U.S. government was well aware of China’s aggressive strategy of leveraging private investors to buy up the latest American technology when, early last year, a company called Avatar Integrated Systems showed up at a bankruptcy court in Delaware hoping to buy the California chip-designer ATop Tech. ATop’s product was potentially groundbreaking — an automated designer capable of making microchips that could power anything from smartphones to high-tech weapons systems. It’s the type of product that a U.S. government report had recently cited as “critical to defense systems and U.S. military strength.” And the source of the money behind the buyer, Avatar, was an eye-opener: Its board chairman and sole officer was a Chinese steel magnate whose Hong Kong-based company was a major shareholder.

China pushing new generation of nuclear weapons: report

BY ELLEN MITCHELL 

China is reportedly stepping up its development of next-generation nuclear weapons, holding tests to simulate blasts more often than the United States is. The United States carries out less than one such test a month on average, while China’s average is five tests a month. China conducted about 200 nuclear blast simulations between September 2014 and December 2017, according to the China Academy of Engineering Physics, a major Chinese weapons research institute. The United States, in comparison, carried out only 50 such tests between 2012 and 2017, according to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, an American federal research facility in California used to aid national security.

Trump's China Deal is the Worst Ever

by Edward Alden

If nothing further is done, the U.S.-China trade deal reached this month will be remembered, to quote a phrase coined by the current president of the United States, as "the single worst trade deal" ever negotiated. Instead of tackling Chinese industrial policy practices that have distorted many sectors of the global economy, Donald Trump has enthusiastically embraced a quick fix that economist Brad Setser, of the Council for Foreign Relations, has called nothing more than "a commitment on China's part to buy more of the things that it likely would buy more of no matter what: agricultural products and energy." This deal will almost certainly not be the last between the Trump administration and China. But nearly 18 months into the Trump presidency, it highlights how little the U.S. has to show for its new approach on trade.

The Many Sides of Tentative Sino-Japanese Rapprochement

By: Willy Wo-Lap Lam

A recent, unexpected rapprochement between China and Japan has emerged more quickly than many observers thought possible. And unlike previous instances since the two countries recognized each other in 1972, the initiative this time seems to have come from the Chinese side. It must be noted, however, that links between Asia’s two richest countries are still far from the previous high point in relations reached during former president Hu Jintao’s landmark visit to Japan in 2008. Moreover, the major reasons behind the warming up of ties have to do with the deteriorating relationship between China and the US as well as dramatic developments in the Korean Peninsula.

China’s Evolving Naval Force Structure: Beyond Sino-US Rivalry

By: Christopher Yung

During a recent discussion with PLA analysts, one interlocutor observed to the author that American strategists are slaves of their own history. That is, in interpreting the facts on the ground Americans cannot help but look to their own history to interpret the nature of strategic threats. By this he meant that Americans necessarily see China’s naval force structure development through the lens of the US’s own rise to maritime supremacy, and imagine the PRC on an inexorable rise to naval power. While we could dismiss this as a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) talking point, it is an assertion that is worth examining, because it does contain an element of truth. A closer examination of the PLA Navy (PLAN) force structure over the past two decades reveals not an unstoppable march towards a fixed objective, but an evolving set of objectives designed to partially address a number of national security threats.

Chinese-Russian Defense and Security Ties: Countering US Encirclement

By: Annie Kowalewski

China recently announced plans to contribute to Russian support of the Assad regime in Syria, just one of many ways in which Chinese-Russian security ties have strengthened over the past five years (MOFA, May 14). Since the early 2010s, the two countries have been brought together by common threat perceptions and similar outlooks on the international security environment. Both claim to share a similar political ideology that centers on state sovereignty and non-interference, and each fears encirclement by the United States. These shared threat perceptions have led to an increased number of combined military exercises, more advanced military-technical cooperation, frequent high-level military-to-military contact, and unified stances on regional security issues across Asia.

The Complicated Geopolitics of U.S. Oil Sanctions on Iran

by Amy Myers Jaffe

It is often said, perhaps with some hyperbole, that Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers was the best hope for conflict resolution in the Middle East. Its architect John Kerry argues instead that the 2015 deal’s limited parameter of closing Iran’s pathway to a nuclear weapon is sufficient on the merits. The Trump administration is taking a different view, focusing on Iran’s escalating threats to U.S. allies Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Those threats, which have included missile, drone, and cyberattacks on Saudi oil facilities, are looming large over the global economy because they are squarely influencing the volatility of the price of oil. One could argue that the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Iranian deal, referred to as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), has injected an even higher degree of risk into oil markets, where traders now feel that the chances of Mideast conflict resolution are lower.

The World Wants You to Think Like a Realist

BY STEPHEN M. WALT

One of the ironies of contemporary U.S. thinking about foreign policy is the odd status of realism. On the one hand, realist theory remains a staple of college teaching on international relations (along with many other approaches), and government officials often claim that their actions are based on some sort of “realist” approach. But Washington remains for the most part a realism-free zone, with few genuine realists in positions of influence. Moreover, the realist perspective is almost entirely absent from the commanding heights of U.S. punditry. This column, and the consistently insightful writings of people such as Paul Pillar or Jacob Heilbrunn, does not make up for realism’s exclusion from the New York Times,Washington Post, or Wall Street Journal.

World Cup 2018 and Russia’s Air-Defense Bubbles

By: Roger McDermott

Russia’s air-defense capabilities received heightened international scrutiny due to the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria as well as Moscow’s efforts to form anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) bubbles in several strategically important areas. This was especially highlighted in Syria, as Moscow tried to offer greater force and infrastructure protection for its bases and military deployments in the country. Notably, numerous Russian air-defense systems were deployed to safeguard Russia’s airbase near Latakia and its naval logistics facility in Tartus as well as to offer protection during operations to assist the Syrian Arab Army. Defense experts have repeatedly questioned the capabilities offered by these systems due to their lack of engagement during multiple air strikes on Syrian regime targets conducted by the United States and its allies. Many official and expert comments in Moscow pointedly presented the message that these air-defense systems are reliable and robust and that they can protect against high-technology strikes (Voyenno Promyshlennyy Kuryer, May 15). A true evaluation of these assets’ capabilities will be important because air defenses will form part of Russia’s overall massive security arrangements for the 2018 World Cup, which it will host this summer (see EDM, April 24), including closing its airspace in key locations and deploying air-defense units (360.tv.ru, May 29).

Israel’s Nuclear Strategy: Enhancing Deterrence in the New Cold War

By Louis René Beres

By definition, as long as particular countries regard their nuclear status as an asset, every state that is a member of the so-called nuclear club is a direct beneficiary of the Cold War. This is because all core elements of any national nuclear strategy, whether actual or still-contemplated, were originally conceptualized, shaped, and even codified within the earlier bipolar struggles of post World War II international relations.[1] Nonetheless, as the world now enters into a more-or-less resurrected form of this initial struggle the strategic postures of each extant nuclear weapons state are being modified within the still-developing parameters of Cold War II.