22 April 2014

Countering climate change with smart action

There has been an increased focus on food security in India. But, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report warns climate change will affect food security of developing countries — the availability as well as the nutritive value of crops cultivated. As the world observes Earth Day today, a lot depends upon India’s coping strategy
Usha Rai

EVEN before the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) came out with its detailed scientific evidence of climate change and its disastrous consequences, if countries are not alert and pro-active, the unpredictable weather of the last several months was ample evidence of what the scientists foresee. Unseasonal rains and freak hailstorms lashed many parts of the country leaving a trail of destruction. In Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh the loss of standing crops led to a spate of farmer suicides.

THE EASY WAY: Farmers burn remains of the wheat crop in Punjab to clear fields for sowing, causing environmental damage. Photo Malkiat Singh

A total of 309 coordinating lead authors and review editors from 70 countries were selected to produce the report titled Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. They enlisted the help of 436 contributing authors and 1,729 expert and government reviewers. In Asia the report warns of increase in flood damage to infrastructure, livelihood and settlements. There will be an increase in heat related human mortality — remember the high heat mortality observed in Orissa and across north India as temperatures soared in the summer months. Also, there is forecast for increased drought related water and food shortages.

The report concludes that responding to climate change involves making choices about risks in a changing world. The nature of the risks of climate change is increasingly clear, though climate change will also continue to produce surprises. The report identifies vulnerable people, industries, and ecosystems around the world. It finds that risk from a changing climate comes from vulnerability (lack of preparedness) and exposure (people or assets in harm’s way) overlapping with hazards (triggering climate events or trends). Each of these components can be countered with smart action to decrease risk.

While Vicente Barros, Co-chair of Working Group II that produced the report, said “We live in an era of man-made climate change….investments in better preparation can pay dividends both for the present and for the future.” Chris Field, also a Co-chair, pointed out “Climate-change adaptation is not an exotic agenda that has never been tried. Governments, firms and communities around the world are building experience with adaptation. This experience forms a starting point for bolder, more ambitious adaptations that will be important as climate and society continues to change.”

Commander of U.S. Forces in Pacific Says Chinese Hackers Will Continue Stealing Our Secrets Because They Are So Good at It

April 21, 2014
Exclusive: Top Admiral Says China Likely to Keep Stealing Military Secrets
Dan Lamothe
Foreign Policy

Chinese hackers are so good at stealing U.S. military secrets that they’re likely to ignore official American protests and continue breaking into classified networks run by both the Pentagon and its most important contractors, the top U.S. military officer in the Pacific told Foreign Policy.

The United States is carefully watching the growing cyber capabilities of China, Russia, Iran and North Korea, Adm. Samuel Locklear, the chief of U.S. Pacific Command, said in an interview. But China has been the most effective at stealing U.S. secrets. The admiral did not cite specific examples, but it is known that Chinese hackers have stolen design data for warplanes like the F/A-18 and F-35 fighter jets, helicopters like the Black Hawk, and ballistic missile systems like the Navy’s Aegis system. In remarkably candid comments, Locklear said China took advantage of holes in computer networks to steal secrets and stressed that Beijing doesn’t much care about what Washington has to say about it.

To read the rest of this article, click here.

Pakistani Taliban May Be So Fractious That It Cannot Make Peace Deal

April 21, 2014

Fractured state of Pakistani Taliban calls peace deal into question

Declan Walsh

New York Times, April 20, 2014

LONDON: When the Pakistani Taliban said they were willing to make peace, many Pakistanis were sceptical that the militants had truly abandoned their dream of transforming the country into an Islamic caliphate.

But since talks with government negotiators officially started last month, the question is not just whether the Taliban wish to deliver a deal, but whether they even can.An eruption of violent rivalries and internal disputes in the past month has strained the militants’ cohesion, cast doubt on their ability to make peace, and raised the prospect of a militant surge into Afghanistan.

Most immediately, an outbreak of infighting between rival Taliban commanders in the hills of Waziristan left at least 40 militants dead and exposed a violent factional rift in the movement’s operational heartland, according to Taliban members and locals.

A leadership crisis that began after an American drone strike killed the group’s commander in November inflamed internal arguments — including a debate over whether to prioritise the fight against Pakistan’s army, or to send more fighters into Afghanistan as American troops are leaving.

And a series of bomb attacks during a supposed six-week ceasefire has raised the possibility that the very idea of making peace has divided the Taliban, with militant cells splintering off rather than speaking with the government.

“We will know where the Taliban stand when they put their demands on the table, but I’m not hopeful,” said Asad Munir, a retired army brigadier and former head of the Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency’s Peshawar office. “There are so many complications. Ultimately, I don’t think these talks can succeed.”

Despite their ferocity, the Pakistani Taliban, formally known as Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, have never been a very united fighting force.

Since its formal emergence in 2007, it has been an umbrella organization for Islamist militants — estimates run from 15 to 30 organizations — scattered across the tribal belt along the Afghan border. The unruly coalition was held together by the steely grip of leaders from the Mehsud tribe and anchored in the jihadi havens of North and South Waziristan where a wide variety of Pakistani and international militant groups hold sway.

Is Mesh Networking the Solution to Digital Espionage?

April 21, 2014

U.S. Promotes Network to Foil Digital Spying

Carlotta Gall and James Glanz

New York Times

SAYADA, Tunisia — This Mediterranean fishing town, with its low, whitewashed buildings and sleepy port, is an unlikely spot for an experiment in rewiring the global Internet. But residents here have a surprising level of digital savvy and sharp memories of how the Internet can be misused.

A group of academics and computer enthusiasts who took part in the 2011 uprising in Tunisia that overthrew a government deeply invested in digital surveillance have helped their town become a test case for an alternative: a physically separate, local network made up of cleverly programmed antennas scattered about on rooftops.

The State Department provided $2.8 million to a team of American hackers, community activists and software geeks to develop the system, called a mesh network, as a way for dissidents abroad to communicate more freely and securely than they can on the open Internet. One target that is sure to start debate is Cuba; the United States Agency for International Development has pledged $4.3 million to create mesh networks there.

Even before the network in Sayada went live in December, pilot projects financed in part by the State Department proved that the mesh could serve residents in poor neighborhoods in Detroit and function as a digital lifeline in part of Brooklyn during Hurricane Sandy. But just like their overseas counterparts, Americans increasingly cite fears of government snooping in explaining the appeal of mesh networks.

“There’s so much invasion of privacy on the Internet,” said Michael Holbrook, of Detroit, referring to surveillance by the National Security Agency. “The N.S.A. is all over it,” he added. “Anything that can help to mitigate that policy, I’m all for it.”

Since this mesh project began three years ago, its original aim — foiling government spies — has become an awkward subject for United States government officials who backed the project and some of the technical experts carrying it out. That is because the N.S.A., as described in secret documents leaked by the former contractor Edward J. Snowden, has been shown to be a global Internet spy with few, if any, peers.

Routers Wireless routers outfitted with special software are fastened to church steeples, bolted to window ledges and perched atop rooftops.

line-of-sight view Each router must have an unobstructed view of at least one other router, so that the software can create a network linking all the hardware together using wireless signals.

Server A server can be connected to the network to provide it with secure chat applications, electronic books, maps and other information.

The NUMEC Affair Revisited: Did Israel Steal U.S. Uranium for Its Nuclear Bombs?

April 20, 2014

Did Israel steal bomb-grade uranium from the United States?
Victor Gilinsky and Roger J. Mattson
Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, April 17, 2014

Last month the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel (ISCAP), the nation’s highest classification authority, released a number of top-level government memoranda that shed additional light on the so-called NUMEC affair,"the story that won’t go away—the possibility that in the 1960s, Israel stole bomb-grade uranium from a US nuclear fuel-processing plant.”

The evidence available for our 2010 Bulletin article persuaded us that Israel did steal uranium from the Apollo, Pennsylvania, plant of the Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation (NUMEC). We urged the US government to declassify CIA and FBI documents to settle the matter. In releasing the current batch—the release being largely due to the persistent appeals of researcher Grant Smith—the government has been careful to excise from all the released documents the CIA’s reasons for fingering Israel. Despite this, the documents are significantly revealing. For one thing, the excisions themselves are a backhanded admission of the persuasiveness of the CIA’s evidence. (Why these excisions are legally justified is not apparent—after nearly 50 years, the “sources and methods” issues have long ago dissipated.)

While we still don’t know exactly what the CIA told high government officials, we do know from the released memoranda that top officials thought the CIA’s case was a strong one. Also, as described in our earlier article, one of us was present at the CIA’s February 1976 briefing of a small group at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). At that session Carl Duckett, then-CIA deputy director for science and technology, told the NRC group the CIA believed the missing highly enriched uranium ended up in Israel.

The newly released documents also expose government efforts, notably during the Carter administration, to keep the NUMEC story under wraps, an ironic twist in view of Jimmy Carter’s identification with opposition to nuclear proliferation.

The context of NUMEC. A bit of background is in order here. After a 1965 inventory, NUMEC was found to be missing about 100 kilograms of bomb-grade uranium, even after accounting for all processing losses. The close personal and commercial ties to Israel of the plant owners and operators raised suspicions that remained unresolved. The affair of the missing bomb-grade uranium was revived in 1976. The newly formed NRC was in the process of writing licensing regulations for commercial fuel firms—of which NUMEC was one—and had heard rumors of possible theft in the 1960s from NUMEC’s Apollo facility.

Which Provides Better Intelligence Information: Your Daily Newspaper or Secret Intelligence?

April 20, 2014
Read all about it, spying misses intelligence quotient
Daniel Flitton
The Age (Australia), April 18, 2014

It costs about 10 bucks to buy a weekly issue of The Economist, and about $1 billion a year to fund the secret operations of Australia’s intelligence agencies. Which source gives better value for money?

This is the fascinating but as yet largely overlooked question to emerge from Bob Carr’s diary of his time as foreign minister. ‘‘Intelligence figures larger in the job than I would have imagined,’’ Carr writes, and describes the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, tucked in its crypt inside Foreign Affairs headquarters, as ‘‘My own little CIA, my own spies’’.

The diary has made for plenty of public sport, thanks to Carr’s eccentric obsessions. But his comments on intelligence - although at times teasing, with scant detail - are substantive and deserve attention.

Remember, the typical government response to any mention of secret operations is a deathly ‘‘no comment’’. But not Carr. He details a conversation with Julia Gillard about an intelligence report on people smuggling in Sri Lanka showing crooked police being frightened straight. He tells of an Office of National Assessments warning that the Taliban are laughing as Western forces withdraw.

And he describes official briefing notes about Argentina’s ‘‘flirtatious’’ president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner - which I’ll happily bet came from the kind of intelligence profile that Peter Costello once famously dropped, revealing Australia’s private view of some Pacific leaders as drunks.

Nothing in the book appears to put any secret sources at risk, even though security types expecting strict control over information will doubtless squirm from the attention.

But for all Carr’s devouring of intelligence reports, he doesn’t seem overly impressed by the shadowy world from whence they emanate. ‘‘One must not be seduced by spies and their agenda,’’ he writes after meeting the CIA chief in Washington. At an earlier meeting, fresh in the job, Carr also spoke with CIA officers on topics ranging across Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and China, and came away underwhelmed.

‘‘All this was solid but unexciting. Where were the revelations? Was there anything here one would not pick up from The Economist, let alone [diplomatic] cables? This thought stirred my instinctive scepticism about intelligence. How often do we get to relish the knockout revelation that we can whole-heartedly believe and on which we can base policy, taking our rivals altogether by surprise?’’

The Russian-Ukrainian Cyber War: The Shape of Things to Come

April 20, 2014

Doug Bernard

Voice of America, April 20, 2014

WASHINGTON — On the day Crimeans voted in a referendum in March on secession from Ukraine, hackers from a group calling itself the “Cyber Bekrut" pelted NATO websites with online nuisance attacks designed to knock the pages offline.

While not technically sophisticated, the DDoS, or “denial of service” attacks, were enough to send several websites - including a cyber-security site in Estonia - into darkness for several hours.

NATO quickly recovered: the sites came back online, the hack attack ebbed, and no serious damage was done.

But it sent a clear message - a warning shot of sorts of things to come.

As tensions have escalated between Kyiv and Moscow, so too has the frequency of online attacks targeting a variety of government, news, and financial sites located across Ukraine and several in Russia.

So far, these attacks have amounted to mere skirmishes rather than all out cyber war.

However, with the possibility of further Russian military incursions into eastern Ukraine, a full-blown cyber war may be looming on the European continent.

And that, in turn, could draw in many more nations into the Ukrainian crisis.

Destabilizing an unstable situation

"In terms of conflict between the Western-oriented parts of Ukraine and Russia, it’s a little surprising we haven’t seen more hacking already," former Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security Stewart Baker said.

"Ukraine isn’t a great power but they have some talented hackers," he said. "If there’s an area they can punch above their weight, it’s cyber crime."

Baker, now a parnter at the Steptoe and Johnson law firm, said that hacking and cyber mischief are nothing new for either nation.

Ukraine is well known for harboring a large number of talented cyber criminals working for various organized crime syndicates.

"They’ve learned how to buy protection with the government," Baker said; "and the connections are pretty tight."

For its part, Russia has not shyed from flexing its cyber muscles, notably in Estonia in 2007 and Georgia in 2008.

The Sources of US-China Strategic Mistrust

The historical use of ambiguity has been at the foundation of postwar U.S.-China ties.
By J.M. Norton
April 21, 20147 

The recent visits of U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to China and the Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy to Taiwan and the Chinese leadership’s responses to these visits indicate that U.S.-China relations continue to suffer from what many experts tend to label as “strategic mistrust.” Today the long-standing strategic mistrust issue exacerbates tensions between the U.S. and China as they have increased interactions involving vital national interests and legitimate national security concerns in the areas of the Taiwan and Malacca Straits. The increasing frequency of interactions intensify the possibilities of miscommunication, misperception and miscalculation between two powers that possess the capability to exact disastrous damage on each other. These observations lead to some salient questions: What are the sources of U.S.-China strategic mistrust? What factors exacerbate the mistrust? And what formal steps should be taken to address this long-standing problem?

Why U.S.-China Joint Communiqués Are Sources of Mistrust

The 1972, 1979 and 1982 joint communiqués serve as the cornerstone of U.S.-China relations and at the same time paradoxically undermine bilateral ties in two vital areas: Taiwan and Japan.

The importance of the Taiwan question in U.S.-China relations is obvious because it stands at the center of the three communiqués. Yet each communiqué contains language building ambiguity directly into the foundation of U.S.-China ties. The language reveals each side has different interpretations of and conflicting views about the political future of “One China.” The Communist Party of China (CPC) sees itself as the legitimate ruler of “One China” and asserted the position to compel the U.S. leadership to accept its legitimacy and to return Taiwan to China. The U.S. position recognizes the CPC but maintains an ambiguous stance, only “acknowledging one legitimate government” of “One China” without indicating which government.

PLA’s Information Warfare Capabilities on an Upward Trajectory

Brig (Retd) Vinod Anand, Senior Fellow, VIF

In end February this year, Chinese President Xi Jinping formed a new working group at the apex level on cyber security and information security. While this was seen as the political leadership’s renewed efforts in underlining the threats and challenges to the national security in this arena, the military leadership has been paying particular attention to information warfare (IW) challenges since early 1990s. According to People’s Liberation Army (PLA) concepts, the term information warfare encompasses cyber warfare, electronic warfare, deception warfare, psychological warfare, computer warfare, and transcends beyond the military realm.

The PLA has been adapting Western concepts to suit local conditions and considers it as a ‘driving force in PLA’s military combat readinesses. PLA has used the construct of People’s War and devised its own precepts of ‘Peoples War in IW domain’ where millions of Chinese, both civilians and soldiers armed with computers, could achieve the objectives of IW. That is what has been precisely happening since over the last one decade wherein a number of cyber/information attacks are known to have originated from China with India being one among many other countries being at the receiving end. In last few years, Indian government’s computers including those of National Security Council and some other important offices have been hacked with all evidence pointing towards China. PLA’s information warriors and hacker groups have been actively involved in virus warfare and hacking activities in countries of their interest.

PLA has intensified its efforts in IW field since it officially pronounced its military doctrine of ‘Local War under the conditions of informationalisation’ in its 2004 White Paper on Defence. The objective laid down was to build an informationalised force and to win an information war and push forward the revolution in military affairs with Chinese characteristics with ‘informationalisation’ at its core. Since the articulation of its current military doctrine, PLA has laid solid foundations for fighting information and cyber wars. According to PLA’s precepts, before any physical operations take place it would be the information and cyber domains that would be used to cripple the adversary’s capabilities.

PLA’s expanding capabilities in the use of space for military purposes provides it with the means to enhance its command and control, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, information and cyber warfare capabilities. Space is considered as a commanding height for enabling the battlefield information operations. PLA’s strategists have also stressed on the imperatives and necessity of ‘destroying, damaging and interfering’ with an enemy’s reconnaissance and communications satellite systems. No country other than China has plans of launching almost 100 satellites till 2015. Compared to China, India’s plans for launching satellites are very modest; in fact in the last 37 years, India has launched 100 missions. Such endeavours when fully realized would add to China’s counter-space and IW capabilities.


Robert Killebrew, April 21, 2014 ·

As this is written, what appears to be a second invasion of Ukraine is underway, a slow-motion infiltration of Russian surrogates and, perhaps, the now-familiar Russian special operations and paratroops in unmarked uniforms. Whether they will be sufficient for the job at hand, or whether less well-trained conscripts will be committed – or whether any troops will be sent in at all – only time will tell.

It is sinking in to U.S. and European decision makers that a new strategic era has begun. The last one, in which Europe was secure and the United States assumed that Russia would be a strategic partner in most things – aside from the occasional tiff over peripheral issues like Syria – is over. In fact, it is now evident that, in Vladimir Putin’s mind, the past several decades tell a different story, and that the West, led by the United States, had consistently overridden Russian interests and not accorded her the respect due a great power. Putin’s speeches betray a sense of aggrieved xenophobia. George F. Kennan of “The Long Telegram” would have instantly recognized it.

We will know in a decade or two whether Putin’s worldview will survive him. “Putinism” plays heavily on a sense of Russian nationalism and grievance that may not endure. But he has ample time – and has had ample time – to put subordinates in place to perpetuate his ideological worldview. The odds are even that in ten or twenty years the West will be facing a reborn Soviet Union still as fundamentally corrupt and illegitimate as before, but without the corrupt ideology that made it so hollow to its subjects. A reborn and aggressive Russian nationalism, though, may be more potent and have more staying power.

What is to be done? The future of Ukraine, in whatever form it ultimately takes, is worth every measure short of war that NATO and a revived Western community can devise. The opinion columns and blogosphere are full of suggestions, many of them good, and the immediate things that can be done will be done. But what of the long term?

President Obama’s Trip to Asia


By Victor Cha, Michael J. Green,Christopher K. Johnson, Matthew P. Goodman, Murray Hiebert
APR 21, 2014
President Barack Obama will visit Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, and the Philippines April 23–29 in what is essentially a “do-over” after a previously scheduled visit to two regional summits was canceled last fall because of the budget impasse in Washington. The central aim is to reaffirm a commitment made in 2011 to “pivot” or rebalance U.S. foreign policy toward the Asia-Pacific region.

Q1: What does the president need to accomplish?

A1: The good news is that public opinion polls show the American people generally recognize that Asia is the most important region to the United States. The president is also quite popular in Asia, and most countries in the region welcome U.S. diplomatic engagement, forward military presence, as evidenced by plans to reallocate air and naval assets to the region, and U.S. leadership on regional trade in efforts such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations. But there also is a narrative in the region questioning American staying power and the credibility of American commitments, stemming from the failure to enforce the “red line” in Syria, a relatively muted response to developments in Crimea, U.S. budget cuts, stalled TPP negotiations, and uncertainty about who at senior levels is driving Asia policy in the Obama administration’s second term. And there is confusion regarding the administration’s own narrative about the region. President Xi Jinping of China has put forth the idea of a “new model of great power relations” between China and the United States, which several senior administration officials have embraced. The problem is that particularly in Japan, but also in other parts of Asia, that sounds like a U.S.-China condominium. The president has to find a way to articulate U.S. regional priorities and strengthen cooperation with allies while not inviting tension with Beijing. This is a tricky balancing act, and the president’s narrative on Asia will be the focal point of a trip largely devoid of concrete “deliverables” that generally anchor presidential diplomacy.

Q2: Japan?

A2: This will be a state visit including audiences with Emperor Akihito and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The president hosted Abe in Washington back in February 2013, and the two leaders have had short meetings on the margins of various multilateral gatherings since then. But this is the first time they will have a chance to really get to know each other and talk through issues, and that is important. President Obama should express support for economic and defense reform initiatives under way in Japan that strengthen its leadership role in the region. Bilateral trade negotiations, launched when Japan officially joined TPP a year ago, have become bogged down over tariff reductions, and the bet is against the two sides reaching an agreement prior to the president’s arrival in Japan; however, some progress might be announced to demonstrate momentum. The two governments are reviewing bilateral guidelines for defense cooperation this year, another important theme, and the leaders could address this and other developments in a joint statement reaffirming the importance of the U.S.-Japan alliance to regional stability. South Korea–Japan relations remain tenuous, but the president organized a trilateral meeting with Abe and Park Geun-hye during the recent Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague and could reiterate the importance of cooperation between America’s two closest allies in the region.


By Ajey Lele

Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) is expected to become operational in less than a year from now. On 4th April 2014, Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has successfully launched the second satellite of this system, the IRNSS-1B, by using one of its most time-tested launch vehicle, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C24). This was PSLV’s 25th successive successful flight. The IRNSS will constitute of seven satellites. However, to make the system operational, four satellites are enough. The first IRNSS-1A was launched in July 2013. With two more satellites proposed to be launched during the later part of this year, the system can be expected to be operational by the end of this year or early next year.

IRNSS-1B has been presently launched into a sub-Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (sub-GTO) and, in the coming few days, it would be finally placed in circular geosynchronous orbit at 55 degree East location with the initial inclination of 31 degree with respect to the equator.

IRNSS is expected to provide two types of services, namely, Standard Positioning Service (SPS) to be provided to all the users and Restricted Service (RS), which is an encrypted service provided only to specific users. This system is designed for a lifetime of approximately ten years. It is expected to offer accurate position information facility to users within the country and up to 1,500 km from the country’s political boundary line. This system would provide a position accuracy of better than 20 meters in the primary service area. The performance of the IRNSS-1A which was lunched almost ten months back has been confirmed satisfactory and now shortly ISRO would be starting the orbit test and evaluation process for IRNSS-1B.

With the advent of mobile telephones offering multifunction facilities, using of handheld navigational systems has started taking root in India in the recent past. In coming few years satellite based navigational tools are expected to be in a greater demand within the country. IRNSS offers range of applications from vehicle tracking and fleet management to terrestrial, aerial and marine navigation to integration with mobile phones to providing assistance in disaster management.

Globally, the most commonly known navigation system is the United State’s Global Positioning System (GPS). This system has a long history and is in use since 1978 however, it has been made globally available only since 1994 and is presently the world’s most utilized system. In fact, all these years satellite navigation has become synonymous with the GPS. Such system offers real-time position, navigation and timing (PNT) services globally. Although GPS transmits radio signals to users free of cost it needs to be remembered that this system is under the control of the US Air Force. The system essentially came into being for the purposes of military and has significant strategic utility for the United State’s security architecture. It has 31 operational satellites flying in Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) at an altitude of approximately 20,200 km. Each of these satellite circles the earth twice a day.

Why a Regional Security Force Will Not Work in Afghanistan

Why a Regional Security Force Will Not Work in Afghanistan
Talk of a new regional force is unrealistic. There is only one way to keep the peace after 2014.
By Arwin Rahi
April 20, 2014
As NATO-led coalition forces prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan, we are increasingly hearing the ideathat a multinational regional security force (MN-RSF) would be a viable option for Afghanistan. The reality on the ground, however, suggests otherwise.

In short, the deployment of an MN-RSF is simply not feasible. To begin with, China is unlikely to change its policy of non-intervention anytime soon. Nor does it want to get involved in a war of attrition at a time when it is seeking to modernize its security forces for a larger possible showdown in the Pacific.

Next, the deployment of troops to Afghanistan by Pakistan and Iran would be highly sensitive, even if it were made within the framework of an MN-RSC. Both countries and the international community acknowledge this, which is why at the Bonn Conference in 2001, Iran and Pakistan’s names were kept off the table when the idea of a U.N.-led multinational security force was discussed.

Not only does that perception of Iran and Pakistan persist, but with the growing Pakistan and Iran interference in Afghanistan’s affairs, Afghans are becoming ever more sensitive towards these countries. In fact, the logic behind the endorsement of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) by Afghanistan’s Loya Jirga was curbing Iranian and Pakistani influence in Afghanistan—let alone allowing them to deploy troops. Afghanistan’s Pashtuns are already accusing Iran of stirring linguistic and cultural tensions, which makes it more than difficult for Iran to put boots on the ground.

India, meanwhile, is not interested in getting involved on the battlefields of Afghanistan. Any Indian involvement would provoke Pakistan, which in turn would further destabilize the entire region. Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has already bombed the Indian Embassy in Kabul in response to India’s growing presence in Afghanistan. New Delhi itself acknowledges the ramifications of provoking Pakistan, and has to daterebuffed President Hamid Karzai’s requests that India sell heavy weapons to Afghanistan.

An MN-RSF involving the five Central Asian countries (CAR) seems very unlikely for several reasons. First, the CAR themselves have faced threats of extremism since the fall of the Soviet Union. They are in no position to get involved in Afghanistan, which might further provoke extremists into striking at their countries directly. Second, a significant element of the military in today’s CAR fought in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Neither commanders nor politicians in these countries want to repeat the experience.

China's Water Is Worse Than Its Air

18 APR 20, 2014
By The Editors

In recent months, Chinese leaders have pledged drastic steps to clear their nation’s smog-choked air. The bigger question, though, may be how far they're willing to go to clean up its water.

Say one thing for the lung-burning pollution that regularly blankets Beijing and other cities: At least everyone can see the problem. In contrast, a recent benzene spill that poisoned the water supply of Lanzhou -- a city of more than 2 million people -- was terrifyingly odorless and colorless. If anything, polluted water poses a more insidious threat to Chinese people than dirty air does. Seventy percent of the groundwater in the heavily populated north China plain has become unfit for human touch, let alone drinking or irrigation. Because the area encompasses several of the country’s largest farming provinces, crops and livestock are exposed to dangerous contaminants as well. The 9 in 10 Chinese who say they’re “highly concerned” about the safety of their food and water have reason to be alarmed.

Authorities have shown they can restore blue skies, at least temporarily, as they did during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Cleaning up China’s water will be more difficult, time-consuming and expensive. Industries that pollute water are not concentrated in a few places, as coal-fired power plants are, but spread out across thousands of localities. And dirty water is harder to assess than gritty air; discharges have to be measured near the source. In any case, industry accounts for only half of water pollution. The rest comes from millions of small farmers and livestock producers, whose fertilizers, pesticides and waste runoff leach undetected into the water table.

The sheer scale of the problem demands root-and-branch reforms -- the kind that Chinese academics and activists have long promoted but the government has been reluctant to make. A newenvironmental law, for instance, may include tougher penalties: Violators who ordinarily pay cheap fines and then continue to pollute would be subject to daily, unlimited penalties and possible criminal charges. But this law is in its fourth draft and still undergoing revisions, and there’s no guarantee the stronger penalties will survive to the final version.

Even if they do, they will be of little use unless China's Ministry of Environmental Protection is given greater power. As things stand, so many agencies have a say in environmental oversight, it's almost impossible to take strong, swift action. Groundwater monitoring alone is overseen by three different ministries, as China Water Risk, a nonprofit watchdog based in Hong Kong, points out, and this makes enforcement slow and ineffective. Talk of merging ministries or responsibilities into the MEP has so far gone nowhere.

*** US unsettled by China's 'three warfares' strategy: Pentagon report

April 11, 2014 
Read later 
Asia Pacific editor for Fairfax Media

Tony Abbott greets Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at the Boao business forum. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

The US and its military partners are reaching for new tools to counter an unconventional ''three warfares'' strategy that China is using to advance aggressive territorial claims, according to a Pentagon report.

It says the People's Liberation Army is using what it calls ''legal warfare'', ''media warfare'' and ''psychological warfare'' to augment its arsenal of military hardware to weaken the resolve of the US and its regional partners to defend islands and oceans in the East and South China seas.

''They have introduced a military technology which has not previously been considered as such in the West,'' says the report, China: The Three Warfares, which was commissioned by the Pentagon's most senior strategist, Andrew Marshall, and circulated to the US Pacific Fleet. This technology has ''sidestepped the coda of American military science,'' it says.

The report's warnings of China's use of ''coercive economic inducements'' and other non-traditional methods underscores Prime Minister Tony Abbott's challenge in balancing economic and security interests, as he prepares to meet China's President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People on Friday night. This week Mr Abbott signed a landmark agreement to develop military technology with China's arch-rival, Japan, while Australian business leaders joined a forum at Bo'ao that was initiated by representatives of a PLA ''influence'' platform, as revealed last year by Fairfax Media.

The ''three warfares'' stratagem is rooted in ancient Chinese strategies of ''perception warfare'' as well as the Communist Party's origins as an underground and guerilla organisation.

It was modernised and codified a decade ago but appeared to escape serious Western military attention until China began to adopt a far more muscular stance over its contested borders from 2009.

Some well-placed Western defence strategists question the efficacy of Chinese ''three warfares'' and broader ''political warfare'' strategies, saying efforts to intimidate have been counterproductive and that military contests will continue to be determined by traditional capabilities.

But the lead author of the report, Stefan Halper, told Fairfax Media that Western military strategists had been slow to respond because they were unduly fixated with the PLA's traditional military hardware.

Could the Ukraine Crisis Reboot NATO?

April 20, 2014

Even since the Russian invasion of Crimea began a few weeks ago, a certain degree of triumphalism has been felt throughout NATO security circles. A surprising number of Western leaders and analysts have been quick to declare that, thanks to Vladimir Putin, the United States will now pivot back to Europe again, Europeans will begin to take defense seriously, and NATO will get a renewed strategic purpose.

While all these outcomes are certainly possible, it's still too early to declare such a victory. The crisis in Ukraine is still an ongoing affair. The current crisis could spur a reinvigorated transatlantic alliance in the short term, but there are no guarantees that the effects will be lasting. In fact, if they are not careful, the Ukraine crisis could even undermine the NATO alliance going forward. The allies must therefore take steps to ensure that the opportunity stemming from the current crisis is effectively seized.

Will the United States Pivot to Europe?

For far too long, Washington has chosen to take a backseat role when it comes to European security. Not anymore—the Ukraine crisis will force the United States to boost its military presence on the continent in order to reassure its allies. As a result, NATO is already undertaking plans to reinforce its military presence in Eastern Europe.

Despite these latest troop movements, the United States is not pivoting back to Europe anytime soon. As the new Quadrennial Defense Review makes abundantly clear, the long-term U.S. objective is to downsize its military footprint on the European continent. Ukraine may alter the degree to which this occurs, but it will not fundamentally change the overall strategy. Clearly, the long-term challenge for the United States is not a declining Russia but a rising China. It is no surprise, therefore, that the United States will continue to focus on "rebalancing" to the Asia-Pacific region, despite what is currently going on in Ukraine.

The Ukrainian Army Is Crumbling Before Putin


A deadly Ukrainian operation to protect a base in the Black Sea port of Mariupol is a rare example of some backbone shown by a disorganized military that doesn’t want to fight. 

KIEV, UKRAINE— An overnight attack by pro-Russian separatists on a National Guard base in the southern port of Mariupol has raised a frightening specter in Ukraine. The struggling government now fears that militants instructed by Moscow will increase progressively the level of violence in the country’s restive eastern region testing the loyalty and resolve of Ukraine’s military and security agencies to breaking point. 

The assault by 300 militants, who repeatedly attacked the military base, prompted guardsmen to open fire, killing three attackers and wounding 13 others, according to Arsen Avakov, the interior minister. “Given the aggressive nature of the attack on the base, an interior ministry group has been strengthened by Omega special forces. Helicopters have been sent in,” he said. 

But the resistance at Mariupol is proving to be the exception when it comes to the Ukrainian military. Pro-Russian separatists seized a column of armored vehicles from Ukrainian soldiers in the city of Kramatorsk on Wednesday. Reports of Ukrainian paratroopers defecting and handing over half-a-dozen carriers without firing a shot have triggered alarm in Kiev, with government officials rejecting eye-witness accounts of the surrender. Ukrainian defense officials say the column was captured with the help of “Russian agents”. 

Kiev officials admit they need to move fast to extinguish the growing pro-Russian insurrection in the country’s east but initial offers of reform, including greater decentralization of powers, are having no effect. The decision to dispatch the army is backfiring badly with soldiers expressing their unhappiness with being deployed against civilians, whether or not they are being egged on by Moscow, and supervised and trained by Russian advisors. 

Disarray is mounting in the government’s efforts to rollback the Kremlin-backed insurgency, which has seen pro-Russian militants seizing government buildings and police headquarters in a dozen cities in Ukraine’s most populous region, Donetsk Oblast, which is the industrial powerhouse of the country. Disputes in Kiev have erupted over what strategy to pursue amid complaints that the military should not have been deployed in the first place. 

Some officials are arguing that the so-called anti-terrorist operation was ill-conceived and implemented without giving serious thought to the morale of Ukrainian soldiers, or the quality and even trustworthiness of their leadership. The precise rules of engagement remain unclear. 

*** The General Says What Politicians Won't About Ukraine

April 19, 2014
General Philip M. Breedlove, Commander, U.S. European Command

It is beyond ironic that as we approach the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One, the world is contemplating the very real possibility of a third such conflagration. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the artificial division of the continent imposed by Moscow, the dream – no the imperative – has been the creation of a Europe whole, secure and free.

To that end, the United States, NATO, the European Union, indeed the Western democracies as a whole, were willing to seek significant accommodations with Russia on such issues as the presence of nuclear weapons in successor states, limits on missile defenses, the permanent stationing of NATO forces in Eastern Europe and the entry of Russia into the G-8.

The Obama Administration came into office determined to reset U.S.-Russian relations. The President famously was caught on an open microphone informing then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that after the 2012 elections he could be more forthcoming in negotiations with Moscow.

The actions by Russian President Vladimir Putin, first in annexing Crimea and, second by seeking to destabilize and even envelop the eastern provinces of Ukraine, are not about some local territory dispute whose origins are lost in the mists of ancient history, but one in which Americans should take an interest. The Kremlin’s onslaught strikes at the very heart of the post-WWII stability of the European continent as well as post-Cold War agreement on the inviolability of national borders. By seizing Crimea and claiming that his government has a special right to protect the security and interests of Russians (both ethnic and linguistic) Putin puts in danger the peace that has lasted for some 70 years. Moreover, Putin has already ensured that most of the former Soviet empire is under Moscow’s control. If he is successful in gaining control over Ukraine, Russia will once again be in a position to pose a hegemonic threat to the entire continent.

Focusing America’s Attention on Asia


SYDNEY, Australia — Raise the subject of President Obama’s Asia policy here and an American can expect to be bombarded with questions.

With the slowdown in Pentagon spending, and dysfunction in Congress, will the United States really put 60 percent of its defense assets in the Asia-Pacific region by 2020, as promised? Can Mr. Obama afford to invest more time in Asia when he is bogged down with crises in Ukraine and Syria? Can the United States be counted on to defend its allies if China becomes a real threat? What does Mr. Obama’s idea to “rebalance” America’s Asia policy, announced in 2011, really mean?

It’s important that Mr. Obama’s trip to Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Malaysia this week clarify his plans for greater engagement with Asia. The policy was initially oversold by the White House and, as a result, is often misunderstood in the region as a zero-sum shift rather than a more nuanced calibration. The United States, a longstanding power in the Asia-Pacific region, cannot plausibly abandon its interests in the Middle East, even after withdrawing troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. And America could never disengage from Europe even if Mr. Obama is sometimes accused of being neglectful of allies there.

Still, focusing more attention on Asia has long made sense, given the region’s growing economic importance and the rise of a more assertive China, which has propelled many Asian nations to seek closer cooperation with America.

Mr. Obama’s approach has been criticized by many experts, in Asia and at home, who see the rebalance as over-militarized. Examples include the promised shift of more American defense assets to the region; a new base-sharing agreement with the Philippines; rotating deployments of United States marines in Darwin, Australia; a reassertion of America’s alliance with Japan in the context of Japan’s maritime dispute with China; and expanding arms purchases by the United States’ regional allies and partners.

The Guns of April?


Andrew J. Stravers |
April 21, 2014

Secret mobilizations. Attacks with plausible deniability. Unclear alliance commitments. Vague statements of resolve. A battle for neutral parties. Highly provocative military movements. We have seen these events take place in the last few weeks in the crisis in Ukraine. We also saw these same dynamics at play almost exactly one hundred years ago on the eve of World War I.

The major powers of Continental Europe were maneuvering, and the wheels of war creaked into motion. In the coming battle, swift mobilization would be key, but even more important was the commitment of a powerful third party. Britain closely aligned with France, but British policy prioritized a free hand in Continental affairs and did not want to jeopardize the sizable British trade with Germany. No one could be sure where the greatest sea power on Earth would stand.

The key determinant would be who acted as the aggressor in the coming war. The Entente and the German alliance maneuvered to paint the other side as provocateur in order to win the support of British public opinion. Austria issued disingenuous ultimatums to Serbia to look moderate, Russia mobilized in secret to avoid looking like an instigator, and every side sent contradictory signals of both resolve and moderation.

Unfortunately, these developments look strikingly similar to what we see in the Ukrainian Crisis today. The linchpin in this situation is clearly Germany, which is caught in an almighty conundrum. Its continued economic stability relies on free flows of energy from Russia, but its diplomatic and military credibility rests on its commitments to NATO. In the absence of any overly provocative action, Germany sees its only option as steering a neutral course, and so the fight has become one over public perception in Germany.

Could the Ukraine Crisis Reboot NATO?


Erik Brattberg |
April 20, 2014
Even since the Russian invasion of Crimea began a few weeks ago, a certain degree of triumphalism has been felt throughout NATO security circles. A surprising number of Western leaders and analysts have been quick to declare that, thanks to Vladimir Putin, the United States will now pivot back to Europe again, Europeans will begin to take defense seriously, and NATO will get a renewed strategic purpose.

While all these outcomes are certainly possible, it's still too early to declare such a victory. The crisis in Ukraine is still an ongoing affair. The current crisis could spur a reinvigorated transatlantic alliance in the short term, but there are no guarantees that the effects will be lasting. In fact, if they are not careful, the Ukraine crisis could even undermine the NATO alliance going forward. The allies must therefore take steps to ensure that the opportunity stemming from the current crisis is effectively seized.

Will the United States Pivot to Europe?

For far too long, Washington has chosen to take a backseat role when it comes to European security. Not anymore—the Ukraine crisis will force the United States to boost its military presence on the continent in order to reassure its allies. As a result, NATO is already undertaking plans to reinforce its military presence in Eastern Europe.

Despite these latest troop movements, the United States is not pivoting back to Europe anytime soon. As the new Quadrennial Defense Review makes abundantly clear, the long-term U.S. objective is to downsize its military footprint on the European continent. Ukraine may alter the degree to which this occurs, but it will not fundamentally change the overall strategy. Clearly, the long-term challenge for the United States is not a declining Russia but a rising China. It is no surprise, therefore, that the United States will continue to focus on "rebalancing" to the Asia-Pacific region, despite what is currently going on in Ukraine.

Moreover, the Ukraine crisis could even hurt the U.S. role in Europe. Most European NATO allies still expect the United States to carry the heavy burden while they take a backbench role, if any role at all. NATO's response to Ukraine has mostly been a "U.S. response" thus far, something that may bolster those critics at home who argue that the United States is already doing too much around the world, and that "going to war over Estonia" is not worth it. Western European allies must send a clear message to Washington that they too have some skin in the game by offering to deploy some of their own military assets to Central European neighbors.

Obama is on the right course with his reorientation toward Asia

By Tom Donilon, Monday, April 21,

Tom Donilon is a distinguished fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a senior fellow at Harvard’s Belfer Center. He was national security adviser from 2010 to 2013.

Questions have arisen in recent months about the sustainability of the United States’ rebalance toward Asia. The costly cancellation of President Obama’s trip to the regionduring the U.S. government shutdown last fall fueled that skepticism, which has only grown as urgent foreign policy challenges have required U.S. leadership in the Middle East and Europe.

Yet the rebalancing of U.S. priorities and resources toward Asia remains the right strategy. This reorientation does not imply a turn away from allies in other regions or an abandonment of our commitments elsewhere. It represents a shift away from the war efforts in the Middle East and South Asia that have dominated U.S. national security policy and resources for the past decade and a shift toward the region that presents the most significant opportunity for the United States.

Every U.S. administration must ensure that the inevitable cascade of crises does not crowd out the development of long-term strategies. So at the outset of his first term, Obama directed his national security team to assess the projection and focus of U.S. power around the world.

The administration concluded that the United States had become substantially underinvested in the Asia-Pacific region — diplomatically, militarily, commercially and in terms of policymaker attention. We began implementing the rebalance from the very start: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s first trip in office was to Asia,something no secretary of state had done since 1961.


The Russian Federation is currently the biggest supplier of natural gas to the European countries and a large part of the natural gas exported by Russia reaches Europe via pipelines that cross the territory of Ukraine. However, the ongoing tensions between Russia and Ukraine have cast serious doubts over the future outlook of gas supply to Europe.

Although the European countries are willing to adopt a strong position on Russia over the crisis in Ukraine, those countries, however, are heavily dependent on the Russian gas. As a result, they are facing serious restrictions in their interaction with Russia.

For many years, the European countries have had serious concern about supply of their natural gas and have made efforts at various junctures to change the current situation. Such efforts have become more complicated recently and have come to loggerheads with the political interests of certain countries which are transit routes for natural gas pipelines. These pipelines carry the natural gas that is produced in the Middle East and the Caspian Sea region to European gas markets and, therefore, are considered to be of transregional importance.

Of course, the ongoing crisis between Russia and Ukraine can serve as a wakeup call and prompt all involved parties to find a political solution to this crisis after which the way would be paved for the implementation of new energy projects aimed at diversification of natural gas suppliers for Europe. Under these conditions, the Islamic Republic of Iran has been offered with a good opportunity to emerge as a new supplier of natural gas to Europe. As a result, Iran must be quite ready to take the best advantage of the historical opportunities that will be naturally created by the current political crisis between Russia and Ukraine.

In the meantime, Turkey and the Republic of Azerbaijan are playing a very important role as the main countries that sway control over Trans-Anatolian gas pipeline (TANAP). In fact, in order to become a major supplier of natural gas to the Western Europe in the near future, we must engage in close cooperation with Turkey and the Republic of Azerbaijan.