20 July 2018

India is buying world's emptiest airport in its battle for territorial dominance with China


India is buying Sri Lanka's second-largest airport, despite it only handling a dozen passengers a day. China recently took control of a nearby port that opens up significant trade routes, and India is worried about China's growing role in the Indian Ocean. Experts say the $300 million investment by India is an attempt to limit China's ability to operate its port as a naval site. India plans to buy the world's emptiest airport in an effort to limit China's influence in the Indian Ocean. Designed to accommodate one million passengers per year, Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport - a vanity project by Sri Lanka's former President Mahinda Rajapaksa that opened in 2013 - is a complete dud and receives just a dozen passengers a day.Yet India is set to pay $300 million for a joint venture granting it a 40-year lease over the nearly 2,000-acre space in southern Sri Lanka that was once so empty it was used to store rice.

The Afghan War of Attrition: Peace Talks Remain an Extension of War by Other Means

By Anthony H. Cordesman

If the U.S. has any real strategy in Afghanistan, it seems to be fighting a war of attrition long enough and well enough for the threat to drop to a level that Afghan forces can handle or accept a peace settlement credible enough for the U.S. to leave. After seventeen years of combat, no one at any level is claiming that enough military progress has been made in strengthening the ANSF enough for it to win. The most favorable claims seem to be that the ANSF are not losing, may someday become able to win with U.S. support. No one is making any serious claims about success at the civil level in terms of politics, governance, and economics. Hope for the civil side seems to rely on the theory that if you attempt enough reform plans, one may eventually work. This is a literal triumph of hope over experience.

White House Orders Direct Taliban Talks to Jump-Start Afghan Negotiations

By Mujib Mashal and Eric Schmitt

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Trump administration has told its top diplomats to seek direct talks with the Taliban, a significant shift in American policy in Afghanistan, done in the hope of jump-starting negotiations to end the 17-year war. The Taliban have long said they will first discuss peace only with the Americans, who toppled their regime in Afghanistan in 2001. But the United States has mostly insisted that the Afghan government must take part. The recent strategy shift, which was confirmed by several senior American and Afghan officials, is intended to bring those two positions closer and lead to broader, formal negotiations to end the long war.

China’s Strong Economic Growth Figures Belie Signs of Weakness

By Keith Bradsher

SHANGHAI — On the surface, China’s economy is humming along smoothly. It’s the numbers behind the numbers that point to mounting challenges for the world’s other economic superpower. The Chinese government on Monday reported that the economy grew 6.7 percent in the three months that ended in June compared with a year ago. That is pretty close to the rate that China has reported quarter after quarter over the past two and a half years. The pace puts it comfortably within its target of achieving growth of around 6.5 percent for the full year. Those figures belie warning signs elsewhere. More detailed data show weakening investment in infrastructure and less exuberant spending by China’s usually ebullient consumers. Private businesses complain that government efforts to tame debt have made it hard for them to borrow money. A tiny but growing number of Chinese companies have defaulted on their loans. The currency has lost some of its value. Chinese stocks are in bear market territory.

Is China Influencing Pakistan’s Elections?

By Muhammad Akbar Notezai

As an emerging power in the region, China is closely watching the developments taking place in the South Asia region. It is in China’s best interests to have friendly governments in neighboring countries, and to a large extent, Beijing is succeeding. China has been meticulously working to attract South Asian countries, big and small alike, by all means. One of China’s friendliest neighbors is Pakistan. When al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was assassinated by U.S. forces on May 2, 2011 in Pakistan’s garrison city of Abbotabad, Pakistan put all its eggs in China’s basket. As a result of this paradigm shift, Pakistan has put the highest priority on its friendship with China. For Pakistan, whether China can replace the United States or not is a separate debate, but one thing is sure: since 2011, China has increased its presence in the country, as seen most readily in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the multibillion-dollar project announced in 2014.

U.S.-China Trade War: How We Got Here

For understanding trade law, I rely on the work of others. A trade war[1] is, among other things, a legal process—at least in the United States. Congress has delegated a lot of authority over the regulation of international commerce to the executive branch, which has given the Trump Administration a lot of latitude. But Trump and his team are still working within the framework of U.S. trade law (“232s”, “301s,” “201s,” etc.). And they are not working, rather consciously, fully within the framework of the World Trade Organization. The big cases—the 301 versus China, the (coming?) 232 versus autos—are being pursued through U.S. law, and they will be subject to a challenge in the WTO. An alternative strategy—challenging China in the WTO for violation of its WTO commitments—hasn’t been the administration’s focus.

Three Recommended Papers

The Coming American-Russian Alliance Against China


Both nations have a reason to fear a coming change in the international order that will impact them both. And as history shows us time and again, a rising power that seeks to overturn the international system can make the most dedicated enemies join forces—and fast. I can only be talking about one thing: a growing and more powerful China. No one should be shocked by such an assertion. The simple fact is that we could very well be at the start of a colossal shift in how America and Russia view each other as they gear up to take on a much bigger foe. And we should be clear: if projections hold, the Chinese economy will someday surpass America’s and Russia’s—combined. As economic power translates into clear military strength, the writing could be on the wall for what may come. 

No One Wins from America's Latest Round of Chinese Tariffs—Here's Why

by Samuel Rines 

This is not a trade war. For the moment, the main participants, China and the United States, have primarily stuck to slapping tariffs on each other’s goods. To a degree, this shows a bit of restraint from the participants. But this is going to change. This is an economic war. Yes, it has been labeled a trade war, but that belies the underlying motivations, concerns, and consequences. In the globalized modern economic framework, tariffs are a blunt, somewhat ineffective weapon to coerce friends and foes to trade fairly. However, as we have seen recently, there are ways for multinational corporations to avoid much of the blows. Harley-Davidson stated it would shift production of its iconic American motorcycle outside of the United States to avoid the European Union's retaliatory tariffs. BMW also reported its manufacturing plant in South Carolina would suffer as it shifted production for similar reasons.

Meet the HN-1, China's New AI-Powered Underwater Drone

by Lyle J. Goldstein

As “great power competition” ramps up, signs of arms races in America’s strategic relationships with both Russia and China are everywhere apparent. In this respect, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s March 1 speech made a big splash in the press, but readers may not be aware of the late tests in May when the Russian Navy simultaneously test launched four new Bulava submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). These missiles were designed no doubt for nuclear strikes on the American heartland. Likewise, China recently announced the tenth test of its new road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), called the DF-41. Furthermore, this test was to be of a missile-defense evading hypersonic warhead with the same general purpose in mind. If you grew up in the early 1980s, as I did, this script sounds all too familiar.

Whither Wahhabism


Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Salman could well dash expectations that he is gunning for a break with Sunni Muslim ultra-conservatism rather than a shaving off of the rough edges of Wahhabi ideology that has been woven into the kingdom’s fabric since its founding more than eighty years ago. Prince Mohammed has fueled expectations by fostering Islamic scholars who advocate a revision of Wahhabism as well as by lifting a ban on women’s driving and creating space for entertainment, including music, theatre, film, and, for conservatives, controversial sports events like wrestling. The expectations were reinforced by the fact that King Salman and Prince Mohammed have called into question the degree to which the rule of the Al Sauds remains dependent on religious legitimization following the crown prince’s power grab that moved the kingdom from consensual family to two-man rule in which the monarch and his son’s legitimacy are anchored in their image as reformers.



As the White House trained its attention on the spectacle surrounding the meeting of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, the Trump administration was largely ignoring a more potent danger back home. The Trump-Putin summit, after all, is mostly a media event—an opportunity for Trump to size up his adversary and, in the court of public opinion, try to convert him to a friend. Back in Washington, however, the bureaucrats, analysts, and officials responsible for resisting Russia’s clandestine actions are facing another threat: neglect. For the past 18 months, the Trump administration has been at war with itself over Russia—or, perhaps more accurately, at war with its Russophile president.

Putin’s Attack on the U.S. Is Our Pearl Harbor

O n December 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy launched a surprise conventional attack against the U.S. Pacific Fleet moored at Pearl Harbor. The Japanese operation was part of a larger strategy: cripple the United States — in capability, naval manpower and mentality — so that we would be prevented from interfering as Japan continued military operations throughout Southeast Asia. Almost 3,500 Americans were killed or wounded; eight U.S. battleships were damaged and four were sunk; and more than 300 aircraft were damaged or destroyed. To this day, the wreckage of the USS Arizona is a monument to loss of life and totality of destruction. The attack happened without a declaration of war and without explicit warning, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt responded the next day.

Russia proved it is the greatest threat to our democracy


Special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of a dozen Russians is a staggering account of how Russian spies used modern cyber-crime techniques in a full-scale attack on American democracy. It should be required reading for every American. But what the indictment reveals about modern-day cyber espionage and the vulnerabilities of our electoral system is not the only reason it should be on all of our reading lists. Above all, Mueller’s indictment is a clear and compelling statement of the fundamentally dire cybersecurity threat we face as a nation. The very security of our country is at stake. This is the truth at the heart of Mueller’s indictment: It is in the interest of every American — regardless of party affiliation — to take this warning to heart.

Muslim Immigration and France's Jewish Community


Why are leftwing and rightwing radicals getting so powerful in contemporary France? Essentially, they tackle an issue that the classic political class prefers to ignore: the demographic upheaval known as “Great Replacement,” an expression coined some years ago by a talented if controversial writer, Renaud Camus. Immigration from non-European and non-Judeo-Christian countries, and especially from Muslim countries, has reached such proportions that the gradual replacement of the native populace and culture by a new population and a new culture seems entirely plausible. Leftwing radicals tend to welcome it as a change for the better. Rightwing radicals see it as a cosmic disaster – except for some of them who are ready to strike an alliance with radical Islam in order to topple “plutocratic” and “Jewish” Western democracy.

Tracing Guccifer 2.0’s Many Tentacles in the 2016 Election

By David E. Sanger, Jim Rutenberg and Eric Lipton

The message from WikiLeaks in July 2016 to a group of Russian intelligence officers who prosecutors say were posing as a Romanian hacker named Guccifer 2.0 urged swift action before the opening of the Democratic National Convention that month. “If you have anything hillary related we want it in the next tweo days prefable because the DNC is approaching,” the error-ridden message read. “and she will solidify bernie supporters behind her after.” WikiLeaks had begun seeking stolen files from Guccifer 2.0 weeks earlier, after revelations that the Democratic National Committee’s server had been hacked, according to private messages cited in an indictment filed Friday by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. The organization had told Guccifer that publishing the stolen material on the WikiLeaks site will “have a much higher impact than what you are doing.”

EuropeTrump Administration Europe in the New Era of Great Power Competition

By Alina Polyakova and Benjamin Haddad

In the run-up to last week’s NATO summit and the meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, European leaders could hardly hide their anxiety. In recent weeks, Trump has gone on a rhetorical warpath against the United States’ greatest allies. In a rally in June, he claimed that the EU “was set up to take advantage of the United States.” Earlier that month, Trump attacked German Chancellor Angela Merkel as she was facing a rebellion in her own coalition over immigration. “The people of Germany are turning against their leadership,” he tweeted. Trump also reportedly asked French President Emmanuel Macron to leave the EU in order to get a better bilateral trade deal with the United States. These latest attacks came on the heels of Trump’s refusal to join the G-7 joint statement, his imposition of new U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum from U.S. allies, and his proposal to readmit Russia to the G-7. On the eve of the meeting with Putin, the U.S. president called the European Union a “foe.” The message seems clear: “America first” means Europe alone. 

How Israel, in Dark of Night, Torched Its Way to Iran’s Nuclear Secrets

By David E. Sanger and Ronen Bergman

TEL AVIV — The Mossad agents moving in on a warehouse in a drab commercial district of Tehran knew exactly how much time they had to disable the alarms, break through two doors, cut through dozens of giant safes and get out of the city with a half-ton of secret materials: six hours and 29 minutes. The morning shift of Iranian guards would arrive around 7 a.m., a year of surveillance of the warehouse by the Israeli spy agency had revealed, and the agents were under orders to leave before 5 a.m. to have enough time to escape. Once the Iranian custodians arrived, it would be instantly clear that someone had stolen much of the country’s clandestine nuclear archive, documenting years of work on atomic weapons, warhead designs and production plans.

At Helsinki summit, Trump defers to Putin at expense of U.S. security

At his Helsinki summit with President Trump, Vladimir Putin argued for letting bygones be bygones and opening a new era in U.S.–Russia relations, something Trump was happy to embrace. Trump went on to indulge in some unfortunate moral equivalence by stating that both countries bore the blame for the poor state of their relationship. Why it matters: As was the case in Singapore, Trump exaggerated what had been accomplished at the summit. Indeed, little appeared settled in the way of policy other than perhaps a revival of arms control talks. Simply by taking place, the summit further normalized Russia’s ties to the outside world, which have atrophied since its annexation of Crimea in 2014. Putin’s call for greater humanitarian help for Syria won the day’s chutzpah award given all that Russia has done to create that humanitarian crisis in the first place.

The Surprising Promise of the Trump-Putin Summit

By Michael Kimmage

Historic U.S.-Russian meetings tend to occur outside of Washington and Moscow. Franklin Delano Roosevelt first encountered Joseph Stalin in Tehran. At the end of World War II, they met again at Yalta, a name that would thereafter signify Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. Harry Truman’s one and only meeting with Stalin was in Potsdam, a suburb of Berlin. John F. Kennedy had a shaky meeting with Nikita Khrushchev in Geneva, while Ronald Reagan had a memorable collision with Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavik.

The public tools Russia allegedly used to hack America’s election

By: Justin Lynch and Jessie Bur  

The most significant robbery of American political secrets since Watergate allegedly began March 19, 2016, across the street from a Moscow pet store. In a cream-colored building with roman arches near the meandering Moscow River, 12 Russian intelligence officials launched their effort to hack into the 2016 presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, according to an indictment released July 13. From that building in the heart of Moscow, the Russians stole tens of thousands of documents and spread them across the internet. On July 13, a special counsel led by Robert Mueller indicted the Russian officials for engaging “in a sustained effort to hack into the computer networks,” of the Democratic party and the Clinton campaign. “The internet allows foreign adversaries to attack America in new and unexpected ways,” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said in a statement.