6 May 2021

China’s Nuclear and Missile Capabilities: An Overview

Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)

Since China first conducted a nuclear weapon test in 1964, its nuclear doctrine has remained unchanged and is underpinned by two principles: a minimum deterrent doctrine and a No First Use (NFU) policy. China’s 2019 defence white paper states, “China is always committed to a nuclear policy of NFU of nuclear weapons at any time and under any circumstances, and not using or threatening to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states or nuclear-weapon-free zones unconditionally.” 

However, a recent U.S. Department of Defence (DoD) report claims that the scope of China’s nuclear modernisation and its lack of transparency “raise concern that China is not only shifting its requirements for what constitutes a minimal deterrence but that it could shift away from its longstanding minimalist force posture.” The data available show that China is modernising and expanding virtually every element of its nuclear forces, including each aspect of its nuclear weapons and missile, sea, and air delivery systems. What is not clear are China’s current and planned holdings of nuclear weapons, China’s future plans for deploying additional delivery systems, its commitment to some form of NFU, first preemption, or launch on warning, and the extent to which it will accept what might be called a form of ‘minimum assured destruction.

How Would Data Localization Benefit India?


Data localization refers to various policy measures that restrict data flows by limiting the physical storage and processing of data within a given jurisdiction’s boundaries. Multiple countries have adopted localization policies to combat multiple concerns over the free flow of data. A vital question, then, is whether any particular variant of data localization would help the Indian government meet its multiple stated objectives for considering such a policy course.

There are four key types of localization variants. These include (a) conditional localization that entails a local storage requirement, (b) unconditional local storage requirements (for all personal data), (c) unconditional mirroring requirements (for all personal data), and (d) the unconditional free flow of data with bilateral/ multilateral agreements for data access and transfers. This paper breaks up these four variants further into a total of nine specific designs and evaluates which would best serve India’s objectives.


Data localization has become a significant policy issue in India in the last decade. This is primarily due to the perceived economic benefits of processing Indian consumer data, and difficulties accessing personal data for national security and law enforcement purposes. In 2019, the Indian government introduced a data protection bill in the Indian parliament, which is still being debated and considered. This bill proposes the country’s first economy-wide data localization framework. That said, more tailored, sector-specific data localization measures have already been implemented in many parts of the Indian economy. For example, the telecommunications sector already requires the local storage and local processing of subscriber information and prohibits the transferring of subscribers’ account information overseas. Most recently, India’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of India, has mandated that all payment data be stored in India, though it can be processed abroad.

The force is still too small, Army chief says, and Afghanistan withdrawal won’t really help

Kyle Rempfer

Ending the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan won’t be of much use to Army planners sweating the size of the force, as fiscal constraints loom large over the service in the coming years.

The Army’s end-strength growth, once expected to top 500,000 active-duty soldiers, has slowed to a crawl in recent years and currently sits at roughly 485,000 troops.

“This is the same size Army that we had on 9/11, and when I take a look at what the requirements are, when I take a look at what historically we needed, and now that we’re in a time of great power competition, I’m very, very concerned about the size of the Army,” Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville said during a Tuesday discussion at the Center for a New American Security.

Much of the strain on the Army’s size comes from the combatant commands, where soldiers make up the bulk of military personnel deployed across the world. But the impending withdrawal from Afghanistan, in U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility, won’t make much of a difference.

“The number of troops in Afghanistan is really not a significant amount,” McConville said when asked how the withdrawal would factor into end-strength woes.

Growing the Army also doesn’t appear to be happening in the current fiscal environment, unless the service cuts into readiness and modernization funding.

How Not to Win Allies and Influence Geopolitics

China, it is often said, has mastered the art of economic statecraft. Observers routinely worry that by throwing around its ever-growing economic weight, the country is managing to buy goodwill and influence. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Beijing has exploited its dominance of manufacturing supply chains to win favor by donating masks and now vaccines to foreign countries. And it has long used unfair state subsidies to tilt the playing field in favor of Chinese companies.

How China is stoking America’s racial tensions

Ian Williams

Footage of a brutal late March attack on a 65-year-old Asian American woman in Manhattan drew widespread outrage on social media. It also made for a productive afternoon for Zhao Lijian. From his Beijing office, the Chinese government spokesman retweeted 20 posts and shared the video 12 times on his official Twitter account. ‘We can’t help but wonder, who will be the next victim? When will it all end?’ he asked his almost 900,000 followers.

Zhao isn’t the only one who’s been busy. In the wake of the Atlanta spa shootings on March 16, Chinese state media used Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to stoke a narrative of American racism and hatred. One Twitter post from Global Times, a Communist party tabloid, shows the Statue of Liberty, gun in hand, towering over a tiny cardboard cutout figure marked ‘Asian’, with a target on its chest. Another cartoon, shared by CGTN, the international arm of China’s state broadcaster, shows an American COVID-19 vaccination center, and a young Asian asking the doctor, ‘By the way, is there also a vaccine for racism?’

Two years ago, China had almost no diplomatic presence on western social media. Now around 200 diplomats growl and troll their way around these platforms — the vanguard of a concerted push by party-controlled organizations, working in concert with a vast and shifting array of bogus accounts, to sow disinformation and discord.

How to Turn the Tables on China? Use Their A2/AD Military Strategy Against Them

by James Holmes

Here's What You Need to Remember: Shipping and aircraft on which China’s economic and geopolitical fortunes depend must pass under the shadow of hostile armed forces whenever they leave or return home. Strategic geography encumbers China’s ambitions to a degree unique among great powers.

The Pentagon released two appraisals of China in swift succession. The first, issued by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), goes by the title China Military Power and is patterned on the old-school Soviet Military Power tomes beloved by those of us of a vintage to have battled godless communism during the 1980s.

People’s Liberation Army (PLA) specialists will find little new or eye-popping in China’s Military Power, but it does make a worthy refresher for oldtimers and primer for newcomers to the field. Read the whole thing.

If the DIA report gauges Chinese power, the second Pentagon document, awkwardly titled “Assessment on U.S. Defense Implications of China’s Expanding Global Access,” explores the purposes for which Beijing harnesses power. It evaluates Chinese “grand strategy,” in other words, even though the phrase never appears in the document.

This one’s worth your time as well. And it’s short!


David Knoll, Kevin Pollpeter and Sam Plapinger 

Since early March, up to 220 boats from China’s maritime militia have been moored near Whitsun Reef in the South China Sea. The Philippine government has asked the Chinese government to direct the ships to leave its exclusive economic zone, but Beijing has denied that the ships are part of the militia, saying they are merely “fishing boats” sheltering from sea conditions. These actions fit a recent pattern of Chinese leaders turning to irregular warfare to achieve strategic aims in the South China Sea: China sends its maritime militia to a location in the South China Sea to reinforce Chinese sovereignty claims and then ratchets up control with little involvement by conventional forces.

The actions of the maritime militia are part of a body of evidence that Beijing has embraced irregular warfare as central to its military strategy. Despite this evidence, and a first-rate Irregular Warfare Annex to the US National Defense Strategy (NDS), many in the Pentagon believe that irregular warfare is a relic of the last two decades and that future war will be conventional. Before divesting too many irregular warfare capabilities, however, national security leaders should look closely at what Chinese officials’ words and China’s military actions say about how the People’s Liberation Army might actually fight a war. In fact, leaders should examine how US plans for distributed operations might not be reducing risk, but shifting risk from conventional to irregular threats.

In a recent CNA study, we found that in a future, large-scale conflict, Chinese forces will likely employ a modern and unique irregular warfare concept, focused on information and influence, tightly integrated with conventional capabilities. A return to great power competition does not portend a shift away from irregular warfare to conventional warfare, but rather an amalgamation of the two.

Iraq: The Missing Keystone in U.S. Policy in the Gulf

One of the odd side effects of both the U.S. focus on withdrawal from Afghanistan and on the possible revival of the JCPOA agreement with Iran is that U.S. relations with Iraq seems to be getting passing attention at best. In practice, U.S. relations with Iraq, its development as a stable and secure state, and ensuring that it can become independent of Iranian influence may well be far more important than leaving Afghanistan and reviving the JCPOA.

Important as the dealings with Iran and other issues driving stability and instability in the MENA region are, retaining U.S. ties to Iraq, building it up as a stable state and counterbalance to Iran, reducing its deep internal tensions and the lasting threat of extremism may well represent America’s most important immediate strategic challenges in the region. The U.S. has many strategic objectives in the MENA region, but forging a successful strategic relationship with Iraq is now be one of America’s highest priorities.

This commentary addresses some of the key issues involved in creating both successful U.S. relations with Iraq and a successful Iraq, but both the security and civil dimensions are highly complex. Accordingly, two separate Annexes have been developed that explain the security and civil challenges involved in depth.

Annex One is entitled Creating Effective Iraqi Security Forces. It is available as an individual report on the CSIS website at https://csis-website-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/publication/210427_Burke_Iraq_Missing_Keystone_ANNEX_1.pdf.

Annex Two is entitled Dealing with the Civil Crisis in Iraq. It is available on the CSIS website at https://csis-website-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/publication/210427_Burke_Iraq_Missing_Keystone.ANNEX_2.pdf.


The Planetary Security Initiative has launched a first report and overview of climate security practices. Climate security research has evolved tremendously over the past 20 years in the direction of how to address security risks related to climate change. Action on the ground is still limited but holds a lot of potential. Therefore, interest is growing in the development, diplomacy and defence sectors to engage in this space. The climate security practices project from the Planetary Security Initiative seeks to open up a new and vital area of analysis in the climate security community: When it comes to action, what works, and what doesn’t?

Although it is still too early to answer this question, it is possible to collect climate security practices and draw lessons from their implementation. With the climate security link having become more evident in many countries and regions of the world it is imperative to scale up efforts to address the climate security nexus and to learn from these efforts. The Planetary Security Initiative aims to inspire learning on how we can combat this complex risk, or at least alleviate security risks related to climate change, and consider it a new entry point for conflict prevention and peacebuilding efforts.

The first report draws lessons from and reflects on 8 climate security practices that enhance peace and stability. Many peace-building interventions try to address a wide range of conflict drivers, which include the various manifestations of climate stress such as pressure on natural resources, livelihoods and human security. These can arise from desertification, lack of access to water and unequal natural resource distribution. Examples of these interventions include tree-planting projects, the inclusion of natural resource distribution measures in peace treaties and provision of renewables in refugee camps and military missions. The projects will cover a wide range of practices ranging from human security to hard security-focused practices implemented by actors in the development, diplomacy and defence sectors.

Download report.

Water and Warfare: The Evolution and Operation of the Water Taboo

Charlotte Grech-Madin 

Distinct from realist and rationalist explanations, the historical record of the post–World War II period reveals the rise of an international normative inhibition—a “water taboo”—on using water as a weapon. Focused process tracing exposes the legal-normative developments in the international community that have prioritized water’s protection, even where its weaponization offered strategic benefits. These findings offer new avenues for research and policy to better understand and uphold this taboo into the future.

The Rule of Law and the Role of Strategy in U.S. Nuclear Doctrine

Scott D. Sagan

When properly applied, the key principles of the law of armed conflict—distinction, proportionality, and precaution—have a profound impact on U.S. nuclear doctrine. Specifically, some, but by no means all, potential nuclear counterforce attacks against legitimate military targets are legal. Any countervalue attack against enemy civilians, however, would be illegal, even in reprisal for a strike against U.S. or allied civilians—contrary to what is implied in the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review.

The Future Costs of Methane Emissions

James Hammitt

An analysis of the costs of climate change caused by adding one tonne of methane to the atmosphere finds that high-income regions of the world should spend much more on efforts to lower such emissions than should low-income regions.

Which efforts should we collectively undertake to decrease emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases? One answer is that any action aimed at decreasing such emissions should be taken if the cost involved is smaller than the social cost — the monetary value of future damage caused by letting the gas escape to the atmosphere. Writing in Nature, Errickson et al.1 report estimates of the social cost of methane emissions (SC-CH4), to which one of the main contributors is cattle farming. Their estimates are smaller than those adopted by the US government under the administration of then-president Barack Obama, even though they incorporate new, higher estimates of the warming effect of one tonne of methane. Much of the decrease is because the authors use a more sophisticated approach to calibrate their models to historical climate-system observations....

Globalization, Geopolitics, and the U.S.–China Rivalry after Covid-19

Graeme Thompson 

The Covid-19 crisis has prompted ongoing debates over the implications of the pandemic for the future of globalization, international order, and the deepening U.S.–China strategic rivalry. Too often, however, these debates betray a disinclination to think historically about the nature of globalization. Yet globalization has deep historical roots, and its development and periodic crises throughout history have been closely linked to shifting geopolitical conditions. This article therefore argues and seeks to demonstrate that "global history," with its roots in the study of empires and transnational integration, provides a useful intellectual framework for better understanding the powerful forces currently reshaping the international system—most significantly geopolitical competition and economic decoupling between the United States and China in the age of Covid-19.

The High‐​Speed Rail Money Sink: Why the United States Should Not Spend Trillions on Obsolete Technology

By Randal O’Toole

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg’s proposal to make the United States a “world leader” in high‐​speed rail would add more than $4 trillion to the federal debt for construction of new rail lines plus tens of billions of dollars of annual deficit spending to subsidize operating costs. In exchange, such a high‐​speed rail network is likely to carry less than 2 percent of the nation’s passenger travel and no freight.

High‐​speed trains were rendered obsolete in 1958, six years before Japan opened its first bullet train, when Boeing’s 707 entered commercial service; the airliner could cruise at more than twice the top speeds of the fastest scheduled high‐​speed trains today. Air travel cost more than rail travel in 1964, but average airfares today are less than a fifth of the average fares paid by riders of the Amtrak Acela, the only high‐​speed train operating in the United States.

The main disadvantage of high‐​speed trains, other than their slow speeds compared with air travel, is that they require a huge amount of infrastructure that must be built and maintained to extremely precise standards. Since the United States is struggling to maintain the infrastructure it already has—particularly its urban rail transit systems and Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, which together have more than $200 billion in maintenance backlogs—it makes no sense to build more infrastructure that the nation won’t be able to afford to maintain.

Halving Global CO2 Emissions by 2050: Technologies and Costs

Alexandre Strapasson 

This study provides a whole-systems simulation on how to halve global CO2 emissions by 2050, compared to 2010, with an emphasis on technologies and costs, in order to avoid a dangerous increase in the global mean surface temperature by end the of this century. There still remains uncertainty as to how much a low-carbon energy system costs compared to a high-carbon system. Integrated assessment models (IAMs) show a large range of costs of mitigation towards the 2°C target, with up to an order of magnitude difference between the highest and lowest cost, depending on a number of factors including model structure, technology availability and costs, and the degree of feedback with the wider macro-economy. A simpler analysis potentially serves to highlight where costs fall and to what degree. Here we show that the additional cost of a low-carbon energy system is less than 1% of global GDP more than a system resulting from low mitigation effort. The proposed approach aligns with some previous IAMs and other projections discussed in the paper, whilst also providing a clearer and more detailed view of the world. Achieving this system by 2050, with CO2 emissions of about 15GtCO2, depends heavily on decarbonisation of the electricity sector to around 100gCO2/kWh, as well as on maximising energy efficiency potential across all sectors. This scenario would require a major mitigation effort in all the assessed world regions. However, in order to keep the global mean surface temperature increase below 1.5°C, it would be necessary to achieve net-zero emission by 2050, requiring a much further mitigation effort. – Via International Energy Journal.

A View from the CT Foxhole: Admiral (Retired) William H. McRaven, Former Commander, U.S. Special Operations Command, and Nicholas Rasmussen, Former National Counterterrorism Center Director, Reflect on the Usama bin Ladin Raid


Admiral William H. McRaven is a retired U.S. Navy Four-Star admiral and the former Chancellor and Chief Executive Officer of the University of Texas System. During his time in the military, he commanded special operations forces at every level, eventually taking charge of the U.S. Special Operations Command. His career included combat during Desert Storm and both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. He commanded the troops that captured Saddam Hussein and rescued Captain Phillips. McRaven is also credited with developing the plan and leading the Usama bin Ladin mission in 2011.

McRaven is a recognized national authority on U.S. foreign policy and has advised Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and other U.S. leaders on defense issues. He currently serves on the boards of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), the National Football Foundation, the International Crisis Group, The Mission Continues, and ConocoPhillips.

McRaven graduated from The University of Texas at Austin in 1977 with a degree in Journalism, and received his master’s degree from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey in 1991.

McRaven is the author of The Hero Code: Lessons Learned from Lives Well Lived, SPEC OPS: Case Studies in Special Operations Warfare, and two New York Times best-sellers, Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life and Maybe the World and Sea Stories: My Life in Special Operations.

The Ease of Tracking Mobile Phones of U.S. Soldiers in Hot Spots

By Byron Tau

WASHINGTON—In 2016, a U.S. defense contractor named PlanetRisk Inc. was working on a software prototype when its employees discovered they could track U.S. military operations through the data generated by the apps on the mobile phones of American soldiers.

At the time, the company was using location data drawn from apps such as weather, games and dating services to build a surveillance tool that could monitor the travel of refugees from Syria to Europe and the U.S., according to interviews with former employees. The company’s goal was to sell the tool to U.S. counterterrorism and intelligence officials.

But buried in the data was evidence of sensitive U.S. military operations by American special-operations forces in Syria. The company’s analysts could see phones that had come from military facilities in the U.S., traveled through countries like Canada or Turkey and were clustered at the abandoned Lafarge Cement Factory in northern Syria, a staging area at the time for U.S. special-operations and allied forces.

The discovery was an early look at what today has become a significant challenge for the U.S. armed forces: how to protect service members, intelligence officers and security personnel in an age where highly revealing commercial data being generated by mobile phones and other digital services is bought and sold in bulk, and available for purchase by America’s adversaries.

6G Is Not A Distant Horizon

By Michael Savvides

Over the past decade, various countries have been competing to develop the necessary technology to commercialize 5G wireless communications. In April of 2019, the world saw the first 5G networks go live in South Korea and the United States. Since then, 5g deployment has ramped up with over 160 network operators having deployed over 23.6k 5G networks worldwide, and counting. The development phase of 5G is over and now ‘deployment’ is the topic du jour. It will be several years before 5G is completely deployed and its benefits are fully realized, but the United States is already making encouraging progress on this front and has a clear path forward. Now, industry has already begun turning its attention towards 6G. Cycles of technology development follow similar arcs and the lessons learned from previous experience could provide a guide for how 6G will develop, and more importantly, who will dominate the field.

Isn’t 5G fast enough?

Today, 5G promises to create a foundation for IoT connected devices, smart cities, artificial intelligence (AI), and advancements in autonomous vehicles and health care. But looking ahead, even the improved speeds, lower latency, and expanded capacity of 5G networks will not be sufficient for many of the technologies now on the horizon. Some applications like holographic communications or multi-sensory systems will likely not be feasible until future generations of networking technologies arrive, and the intelligent management of a rapidly growing number of connected devices on our streets, in our cities, throughout our critical infrastructure will demand continued improvements to network capabilities.

GLOBAL GOLIATHS Multinational Corporations in the 21st Century Economy

C. Fritz Foley, James R. Hines Jr., and David Wessel

Multinational corporations are the global goliaths of modern times, accounting for huge portions of world production, employment, investment, trade, and R&D. Some see them as a big problem—monopolizing markets, exploiting workers, dodging taxes, and so on. Others see them as the epitome of modern capitalism, doing cutting-edge R&D, innovating production, and spreading economic benefits for many around the world.

In a new book, Global Goliaths: Multinational Corporations in the 21st Century Economy (Brookings Institution Press, 2021) more than two dozen scholars, across 13 chapters, examine the multinational firm from every angle.

Here’s a snapshot, taken from the book, that shows just how big a role multinationals play in the economy and how that has—and hasn’t—changed in the past few decades.

Multinationals are major players in the U.S. economy

Multinationals’ share of economic activity in 2017, by category

0%20%40%60%80%100%EmploymentEmployee CompensationManufacturing EmploymentManufacturing Employee CompensationCapital ExpendituresIndustrial R&DU.S. ExportsU.S. ImportsU.S. arms of foreign-headquartered firmsU.S. parents

Note: The original figure appears in Global Goliaths, Brookings Institution Press, 2021.

“Where’s Your Tab” and other Sad Lieutenant Stories

by Joo Chung

Four months into being a platoon leader, I earned my Expert Infantryman Badge (EIB). I became, in the eyes of many, a “complete” infantry lieutenant. I was Airborne-, Air Assault-, and Ranger-qualified…and an expert. Never mind that the next day I returned to the same job that my “not-as-complete” peers were probably doing better.

In Lieutenant Land, where experience is hard to come by, badges and tabs are the go-to currency of competence. Those endowed with heavy uniforms command attention to their ability to perform, to endure, and ultimately to achieve results. In theory, this makes sense; for example, Ranger School forces lieutenants to face the realities of what they’ll ask of their soldiers in combat. EIB validates their mastery of tasks they expect their soldiers to have mastered. It’s a self-policing system that’s supposed to filter out those not yet prepared to lead.

As with most things, those pesky elements of chance, circumstance, and (mis)fortune prevent this system from being perfect. Yet, we continue to promote critical rites of passage that are somewhat predicated on circumstance and chance.

“In Lieutenant Land, where experience is hard to come by, badges and tabs are the go-to currency of competence.”

One of my brother platoon leaders broke his leg during IBOLC and never got the chance to go to Ranger. During our EIB train-up, one of the graders asked him, “Where is your tab?”, then promptly gave him a no-go. I blundered through the lane and was just fine, by the way. This kind of instantaneous judgement encourages a tribal elitism that most write off as a consequence of the military meritocracy.

Switchblade: Era of the loitering drone has come


AeroVironment Inc., a global leader in unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), announced it was awarded a cost-plus-fixed-fee contract by the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) for US$26 million.

The contract includes delivery and integration of Switchblade® 600 tactical missile systems into specialized maritime platforms, scheduled to be completed by January 2023.

According to the company, the AeroVironment Switchblade 600 is an all-in-one, portable solution equipped with a high-performance EO/IR gimbaled sensor suite, precision flight control and more than 40 minutes of flight time to deliver unprecedented tactical reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition (RSTA).

Its anti-armor warhead enables engagement and prosecution of hardened static and moving light armored vehicles from multiple angles – without external ISR or fires assets – for precise, localized effects and minimal collateral damage.

All that is military talk, for a kick-ass loitering munition — which every military service wants and needs.

But wait, there’s more.

5 May 2021

I Commanded a NATO Brigade in Afghanistan. Now Is Not the Time to Leave.

by James L. Creighton

On the surface, the recently announced withdrawal of American and coalition forces from Afghanistan this September looks appealing both from a political and public opinion perspective. Close to 3,000 American and coalition lives, and tens of thousands of Afghan lives have been lost in this twenty-year war. Over a trillion dollars have been spent combating the Taliban and trying to help the Government of Afghanistan build a stable society.

Critics argue it is difficult to justify continued support of an effort that has not achieved its intended goals, at the cost of lives and significant financial investment. Moreover, the Taliban continues to exert influence throughout the country, while the Afghan government struggles to establish a rule of law free from corruption. However politically expedient and seemingly justifiable, leaving Afghanistan to its own devices at a still critical juncture, may yield a far worse situation and pose a greater threat to Western security.

Afghanistan has a sad and troubled recent history, evidenced by a ten-year conflict (1979-1989) with the Soviet Union that saw over one million Afghans killed. Following Soviet withdrawal, a power vacuum resulted in a brutal civil war (1992-1996) that saw the emergence of the Pashtun “Taliban.” The Taliban began a reign of terror with their brand of sharia law, influenced by Wahhabi doctrines, which created an oppressive society that sacrificed social services, education, healthcare, and other state functions, punctuated by the administration of brutal punishments and public beatings to enforce standards. By the end of their rule in October 2001 over 1.5 million refugees had fled to Iran and two million to Pakistan. Tens of thousands of Afghan citizens had been either murdered or lived in extreme poverty, the economy lay in ruins and education levels were almost non-existent in many rural areas. The physical and emotional scars of the people who had suffered the Soviet invasion, a violent civil war, and a terrifying Taliban rule remain evident in every aspect of society.

The end of this frightful chapter came about through a timely multi-country intervention.

How China Has Toughened Up the Pakistani Military

by Charlie Gao

Here's What You Need to Know: While the Pakistani military has long relied on the Pakistan Air Force for air defense, the Pakistan Army has acquired the Chinese HQ-16 medium-range surface to air missile (SAM) for the defense of its formations on the ground.

As Pakistan’s relationship has soured with the United States in the past two decades, Pakistan’s armed forces have largely looked towards Chinese suppliers for equipment. While China has long supplied Pakistan’s armed forces, the relationship has deepened in recent years, with Pakistan making major purchases of top-of-the-line Chinese export equipment.

Here are some of the most powerful weapons China has sold or licensed to Pakistan.

1. Nuclear Weapons Program

The acquisition of nuclear weapons in the 1990s is considered to be one of the largest failings of the nuclear nonproliferation regime. But, it is widely said that China provided significant assistance to the Pakistani nuclear weapons program (in addition to the A.Q. Khan’s espionage). China is alleged to have provided missile components, warhead designs, and even highly-enriched uranium. The political motive behind this is clear, Pakistan acts as an effective foil against growing Indian regional ambitions. But it is clear that nuclear assistance is the most deadly example of Chinese/Pakistani defense cooperation.

2. JF-17 Fighter

Leaving Afghanistan Will Be More Expensive Than Anyone Expects

By Mackenzie Eaglen

U.S. President Joe Biden has announced the full withdrawal of U.S. and coalition forces from Afghanistan by Sept. 11 this year. This policy has some in Washington banking on a windfall of freed-up money for other defense priorities.

Don’t count on it.

Leaving costs more than staying. The Department of Defense is seeking some new and plenty of ongoing investments in counterterrorism infrastructure in the region as a result of the pullout. Salaries and other expenses for roughly 300,000 members of the Afghan National Security Forces will endure.

Departing a country where U.S. forces, contractors, and government employees have been operating for 20 years is expensive. That’s to say nothing of the 8,000 other allied military troops in Afghanistan alongside the Americans. Not only is there a lot of property, buildings, and equipment, but there’s also a network of private entities that have been doing a large portion of the work there.

Breaking contracts struck with those players costs money. During the Iraq drawdown, the Army found that in some cases, it was cheaper to pay an existing contract to fulfillment rather than change or shorten it. Depending on how the contracts in Afghanistan are written, they could entail large penalties for amending or breaking them.

The Manic Mountain

By Nick Paumgarten

Ueli Steck’s closest brush with death, or at least the time he thought it likeliest that he was about to die, came not when he plummeted seven hundred feet down the south face of Annapurna, or spidered up the Eiger’s fearsome North Face alone and without ropes in under three hours, or slipped on wet granite while free-climbing the Golden Gate route of El Capitan with his wife, on their honeymoon, but, rather, while he was hugging his knees in a tent on Mt. Everest, hiding from a crowd of Sherpas who were angry that his climbing partner had called one of them a “motherfucker,” in Nepali. They were threatening to kill him. He had no escape. He had planned everything so scrupulously. The intended route up the mountain was sublime, the conditions perfect. He had spent years honing his body and his mind while tending to his projects and the opportunities that arose out of them. As a climber, he knew that the mountains can foil the best-laid plans, that in an instant a routine ascent can turn into a catalogue of horrors. But it would be ridiculous to die like this. The expedition had hardly begun.

Steck had made his first trip to Everest in May, 2011, at the age of thirty-four. He’d built a reputation as one of the world’s premier alpinists—“the Swiss Machine,” some called him, to his dismay—by ascending, in record time, alone and without ropes, Europe’s notorious north faces and then by taking on bold Himalayan routes, with style and speed. Everest hardly fit the pattern. In recent years, accomplished mountaineers in search of elegant, difficult, and original climbs had tended to steer clear of its crowds, expense, and relative drudgery. Still, Everest is Everest. Steck felt the pull.

How to Win A War Without Fighting? The U.S. Has Done it Once Before.

by James Holmes

Here's What You Need to Remember: The United States ushered Victorian Britain out of the Western Hemisphere, more or less, by the turn of the twentieth century. It did so by making itself the strongest contender in the New World, harnessing its burgeoning industrial might to build a navy able to command the waters Washington cared about most.

Westerners make much of China’s obsession with “winning without fighting.” As though any sane statesman, Eastern or Western, relishes losing or longs to take up arms with all the dangers, hardships and perverse turnabouts of fortune that come with combat. Winning without fighting is what we call “diplomacy,” and it is a mode of interaction that spans all countries, civilizations and times.

Now, Chinese Communist diplomacy does display distinctive characteristics. For one, it’s a 24/7/365 enterprise. Beijing wages “three warfares” in peacetime, shaping opinion constantly through legal media, and psychological means. For another, there’s a warlike edge to Chinese diplomacy seldom encountered among the pinstriped set. It is about winning, and it aims to deliver gains normally achieved on the battlefield without so many hazards.

This single-mindedness doubtless stems from Chinese strategic traditions—in part. After all, it was China’s own iconic general Sun Tzu who taught that the commander or sovereign who wins without fighting has reached the zenith of strategic artistry. Master Sun’s maxim is engraved on China’s way of diplomacy.

Japan’s Diplomatic Blue Book 2021 expresses stronger concerns about China

The Yomiuri ShimbunThe Foreign Ministry published on Tuesday the 2021 version of its Diplomatic Blue Book, which outlines deeper concerns about China’s military advancement than earlier versions.

The blue book clearly states that China’s military advancement “has been a source of strong concerns over the security of the region, including Japan and the international community.

The terminology was toned up from the 2020 version that stated “common concerns in the region and the international community,” indicating the Japanese government’s sense of urgency.

Regarding China’s military power, the blue book notes that the country’s defense budget has risen about 44-fold in the past 30 years. It also introduces an analytical view from the U.S. Defense Department that “China has already achieved parity with — or even exceeded — the United States in several military modernization areas, including land-based conventional ballistic and cruise missiles.”

The blue book says that while the economies of many countries worldwide have experienced negative growth due to the impact of the coronavirus, China has realized positive growth and proactively utilized vaccine diplomacy.

It also clearly says China has “shown remarkable advancements in various fields.”

Could China’s HQ-9 Unseat Russia’s S-300 Missile Defense?

by Charlie Gao

Here's What You Need to Remember: What’s surprising is that Russia continues exporting the near latest missiles such as S-400 to China, when it’s likely that China will pump out an updated version of the HQ-9 for export with the same features within a few years, potentially cutting into Russia’s market share.

The HQ-9 is China’s primary long-range domestic surface-to-air missile. Outwardly, it seems similar to the S-300, using large flat face radars and a large missile that vertically launches out of a canister. But since the Sino-Soviet split in the 1950s, China didn’t receive that much assistance in surface-to-air missile development from the Soviet Union. Is the HQ-9 just a parallel evolution that reached a similar end state?

At the time of the Sino-Soviet split, China’s only true long-range SAM was the S-75 (SA-2). Work proceeded on various medium and short-range SAMs such as the HQ-61 and HQ-6. However, as China began modernizing its military fully in the 1990s there was a lack of a true mobile long-range SAM such as the Patriot or S-300, both of which entered service in the United States and Russia in the 1980s.

The Chinese research and development complex took two approaches to this. Domestic prototypes of the HQ-9 began development in the 1980s, and continued slowly through the 1990s. During the 1990s, China probably saw the opportunity to buy the then-advanced S-300PMU-1 from the Russian Federation and took the offer, acquiring some sets in 1993.

We Don’t Need a Better Nuclear Arsenal to Take on China


This week, top military officers launched their big push on Capitol Hill for a total overhaul of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, at an estimated cost of $1.3 trillion over the next 30 years, and their top rationale—the go-to rationale for just about every large federal program these days—was the threat from China.

Their case was less than compelling.

Yes, China is displaying some bellicose behavior these days, economically, politically, and militarily. But a new generation of U.S. intercontinental ballistic missiles, bombers, cruise missiles, and submarines would do nothing to deal with the problem.

Adm. Charles Richard, the head of U.S. Strategic Command, which runs plans and operations for the nuclear arsenal, laid out his case in hearings before House and subcommittees on strategic forces. He noted that China is expanding its nuclear arsenal at an “unprecedented” pace, on course to double in size by the end of the decade. It’s building more solid-fuel missiles, which can be launched right away (older liquid-fuel missiles require hours to load). It’s also building better early-warning radar, putting some of its ICBMs on trucks and moving them around. It might have adopted a launch-on-warning policy.

How Warren Buffett Got So Rich

by Rainer Zitelmann

Berkshire Hathaway will hold its annual shareholders’ meeting on May 1, 2021. In response to the coronavirus crisis, this year’s meeting will be a virtual event, as the company explained: “We hope that the 2021 meeting will be the last time that shareholders are unable to attend in person. We look forward to 2022 when we expect to again host shareholders in Omaha at our usual large gala aka ‘Woodstock for Capitalists.’” For us, the upcoming meeting presents the perfect opportunity to take a closer look at Warren Buffett and his life.

Known as the “Oracle of Omaha,” Warren Buffett is one of the most successful investors of all time. With a fortune of $100 billion, he is one of the richest men in the world and, for many years, he was the richest. He runs Berkshire Hathaway, which owns more than sixty companies, including the insurer Geico, the battery maker Duracell, and the restaurant chain Dairy Queen.

Warren Buffett was born on August 30, 1930, and grew up as the son of a conservative politician who was determined to teach his children that they should be guided by their own inner values rather than the shifting opinions of society as a whole. “The big question about how people behave is whether they’ve got an Inner Scorecard or an Outer Scorecard. It helps if you can be satisfied with an Inner Scorecard. I always pose it this way: I say: ‘Look. Would you rather be the world’s greatest lover, but have everyone think you’re the world’s worst lover? Or would you rather be the world’s worst lover but have everyone think you’re the world’s greatest lover?’”

Russia Wants to Take the S-400 Global

by Mark Episkopos

Russia’s defense industry seeks to build on its prior successes with a new round of ambitious export contracts for the S-400 missile system.

Earlier this week, Russian specialists took some eighty military envoys from fifty-two countries to the Ashuluk proving ground in the Astrakhan region of southwestern Russia. There, participants were given a live demonstration of Russia’s S-400 “Triumf” missile defense system and the Pantsir-S short-range surface-to-air missile system (SAM). “The officers of foreign states were shown the combat capabilities of S-400 ‘Triumf’ long-range surface-to-air missile systems and also Pantsir-S anti-aircraft missile/gun launchers for detecting and eliminating practice aerial targets," read a press statement from Russia’s Defense Ministry accompanying the event. A list of attendees was not provided, though the Kremlin noted that the event drew envoys from the former Soviet sphere, Asia, Africa, Europe, and Latin America.

The S-400 is Russia’s flagship missile defense system, leveraging its diverse suite of compatible missiles and advanced tracking features to offer effective performance in a wide range of combat situations. The system can operate from short to very long ranges and can target manned aircraft, some types of drones, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles at a range of up to four hundred kilometers. Pantsir is a family of short-range SAMs, with the baseline Pantsir S-1 unit capable of striking targets at a range of twenty kilometers and an altitude of fifteen kilometers.

Spread Out and Networked: How the Navy Plans to Fight and Win Future Wars

Kris Osborn

Key point: America is keenly aware of the large challenges that come with competing with China. Here is how the Navy hopes to be able to handle long-range, numerous threats such as anti-ship missiles.

The Navy’s now multi-year use of the word “Distributed” to explain its fast-evolving maritime warfare strategy is expanding and, in an interesting and significant way, building upon years of recent weapons development placing a not-so-surprising premium upon a need to massively expand its range and speed of attack weapons.

“Ubiquitous and persistent sensors, advanced battle networks, and weapons of increasing range and speed have driven us to a more dispersed type of fight,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday writes in his new CNO NAVPLAN strategy paper.

This first appeared earlier and is being reposted due to reader interest.

Arming the overall fleet with longer range weapons has indeed been a major focus for the Navy for many years now. As long ago as 2015 and earlier, the Navy began announcing and moving on a Distributed Lethality strategy intended, simply put, to massively arm the surface fleet with newer, far more capable and much longer-range weapons. Arming the LCS with deck-launched Hellfire missile to extend ship-based air-defense ranges and giving the ship the new “over-the-horizon” NSM missile, strategy also employed on the Navy’s new Frigate, emerged years ago as part of the Distributed Lethality concept.

Russia Is Rapidly Growing Missile Defense Network

by Mark Episkopos

Russia’s Aerospaces Forces have tested a new interceptor missile, one of Moscow’s latest investments into its rapidly growing missile defense network.

“The combat team of the Aerospace Force’s air and anti-ballistic missile defense troops conducted another successful test-launch of a new missile of the Russian anti-ballistic missile defense system at the Sary-Shagan proving ground (the Republic of Kazakhstan),” read a statement issued by Russia’s Defense Ministry.

The statement was accompanied by a video from the launch, published on the Defense Ministry’s Youtube channel. The clip showed the missile being transported, loaded into a silo, and launched. “The ABM system’s new interceptor missile reliably proved its inherent characteristics while the combat teams successfully accomplished the task, striking a mock target with the required accuracy,” Aerospace Force Anti-Ballistic Missile Defense Formation Major Gen. Sergei Grabchuk told reporters. The Defense Ministry’s statement indicates that this was not the missile’s first test, though concrete production and delivery timelines remain elusive. Following an earlier test of what appears to be the same missile, Deputy Commander of the Air and Missile Defense of the Aerospace Forces Andrey Prikhodko told Russian media that the missile “considerably surpasses those of weapons operational today” in such categories as range, accuracy, and service life. Russian defense sources believe that the new interceptor missile can handily outperform the anti-missile capabilities of the S-400 missile defense system—in particular, Russian experts maintain that it can reliably intercept hypersonic ballistic missiles.

Is Joe Biden Transforming Forever Wars Into Culture Wars?

By Eric Bordenkircher

The Biden administration recently announced a new condition for the successful withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. A peace agreement between the Afghan government and the Taliban must ensure the maintenance of women’s rights. Witness the words of U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, in her address to the UN Security Council on March 23rd:

…. we must do more to support the women and girls of Afghanistan. Any agreement must preserve their gains if Afghanistan wants to ensure the international community’s continued political and financial support. We will not give an inch on this point.

The ambassador’s comments are unprecedented and raise serious questions about what is fueling U.S. foreign policy and the future of U.S. involvement in the Middle East. Are progressive values hindering resolutions? Exacerbating conflict? Damaging U.S. interests? Is the Biden administration transforming forever wars into culture wars?

Conversations on National Security: Major General Michael J. Lutton

By Michaela Dodge

Conversations on National Security is a series of interviews with key national security experts. This interview was conducted by National Institute Research Scholar Dr. Michaela Dodge.

An Interview with Major General Michael J. Lutton, Commander, Twentieth Air Force, Air Force Global Strike Command.

Q. Why is it necessary to modernize the ICBM leg of the Triad?

A. Minuteman III nuclear forces have been a bedrock of U.S. national security for more than five decades. As one looks ahead to the next five decades, the question of investing in U.S. nuclear force modernization is as relevant today as ever. Our nation and allies face an uncertain future full of many challenges. In an era of Great Power Competition, we are playing an infinite game with adversaries playing, not to win once and for all, but to survive and keep playing.

Specifically, Russia, China, and North Korea, share five themes in foreign nuclear development and proliferation:
Increasing numbers or capabilities of weapons in existing programs;
Enduring security threats to weapons and material;
Developing delivery systems with increased capabilities;
Developing nuclear weapons with smaller yields, improved precision, and increased range for military or coercive use on the battlefield;
Developing new nuclear weapons without conducting large-scale nuclear tests.

Climate change: World's glaciers melting at a faster pace

Jonathan Amos

The world's glaciers are melting at an accelerating rate, according to a comprehensive new study.

A French-led team assessed the behaviour of nearly all documented ice streams on the planet.

The researchers found them to have lost almost 270 billion tonnes of ice a year over the opening two decades of the 21st Century.

The meltwater produced now accounts for about a fifth of global sea-level rise, the scientists tell Nature journal.

The numbers involved are quite hard to imagine, so team member Robert McNabb, from the universities of Ulster and Oslo, uses an analogy.

"Over the last 20 years, we've seen that glaciers have lost about 267 gigatonnes (Gt) per year. So, if we take that amount of water and we divide it up across the island of Ireland, that's enough to cover all of Ireland in 3m of water each year," he says on this week's edition of Science In Action on the BBC World Service.

Keeping Norms Normal: Ancient Perspectives on Norms in Civil-Military Relations

The norms that uphold democratic values are a vital part of a healthy system of civil-military relations, but they are not well understood in the United States today. Ancient political philosophers, however, developed rich analyses of what norms are and how they work. We argue Plato, Aristotle, and Polybius established useful ways of thinking about civilian control focused on the apportionment of public honor and shame. We apply their insights to an ancient case: the civil-military breakdown in the Roman republic during the time of Marius. We argue that ancient modes of civilian control — based on education, honor, shame, unwritten norms, and social pressure — have enduring value. An orientation toward non-material incentives can help us better understand why civil-military norms have been weakening in the United States over recent decades. Ancient modes of civilian control may also help us prevent the type of civil-military problems that hastened the fall of the Roman republic.

During his first overseas troop visit in late December 2018, President Donald Trump signed campaign memorabilia — including “Make America Great Again” hats and campaign flags — for soldiers and airmen stationed in Iraq and Germany. When members of the media released pictures of the event, controversy ensued.1 Some critics claimed it was a clear violation of the military’s tradition of non-partisanship, with uniformed servicemembers showing partisan favoritism that extended beyond normal respect and deference for the commander-in-chief. No servicemembers were formally sanctioned for their actions because they had broken no laws. The items Trump signed were personal items and they had not been distributed by the White House.2 Nevertheless, several experts agreed that this behavior, while legal, had crossed the line and violated a norm prohibiting partisan behavior by those in uniform.3

The Future of Sino-U.S. Proxy War

Strategic thought in both the United States and China has focused on the potential for a Sino-U.S. interstate war and downplayed the odds of a clash in a foreign internal conflict. However, great-power military competition is likely to take the form of proxy war in which Washington and Beijing aid rival actors in an intrastate conflict. The battlefield of Sino-U.S. military competition is more likely to be Venezuela or Myanmar than the South China Sea. Proxy war could escalate in unexpected and costly ways as Washington and Beijing try to manipulate civil wars in far-flung lands they do not understand, ratchet up their commitment to avoid the defeat of a favored actor, and respond to local surrogates that pursue their own agendas.

In the 2017 movie Wolf Warrior II — the highest-grossing Chinese film of all time — the hero, a veteran of Chinese special operations forces, rescues civilians in Africa who are being held by rebels fighting in a civil war. The nefarious puppet masters, however, are the U.S. mercenaries who control the rebels. The movie ends with the hero defeating his American nemesis and the Chinese Navy obliterating the rebel forces. The scenario may be outlandish, but the idea that foreign civil wars will become an arena for Sino-American competition is highly plausible.

Strategic doctrine in both the United States and China has downplayed the possibility of a clash in a foreign internal conflict and in the U.S. case in particular, focused on the potential for a conventional interstate war. However, the odds that the United States and China will engage in an interstate war are extremely low due to a number of factors, including nuclear deterrence, regime type, trade relations between the two countries, and international institutions. Military competition is much more likely to take the form of a proxy war in which Washington and Beijing aid different actors in an intrastate conflict because of a systemwide shift away from interstate war and toward civil war, continued American hyper-interventionism, and growing Chinese interventionism. In the coming years, internal conflicts in countries like Venezuela, Pakistan, Myanmar, or North Korea could become battlegrounds for great-power rivalry. Such U.S.-Chinese proxy wars will likely be much subtler than the heavy-handed proxy conflicts of the Cold War and involve diplomatic initiatives, economic aid, cyber war, propaganda, and competition within international institutions. Indeed, Washington and Beijing may compartmentalize a particular proxy campaign — sparring in one civil war while steering clear of each other or even cooperating in another internal conflict.