25 January 2015

US President Obama arrives in India

January 25

US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama on Sunday reached New Delhi for their three-day visit of India.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was at the Air Force Station at Palam to greet the visiting dignitaries. The three shared pleasantries before President Obama sat in his presidential vehicle ‘The Beast' and left for his hotel ITC Maurya.

The others who were present to greet President Obama at the airport included Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Power, Coal and Renewable Energy Piyush Goyal and Indian Ambassador to the US, S Jaishankar, among others.

President Obama has been accompanied by a sizable delegation of top leaders on his trip to India, including Minority Leader of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, among others.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had earlier in the day termed President Obama's visit as a ‘historic visit', stating that it was reflective of change in ties for both New Delhi and Washington DC.

Meanwhile, security has also been stepped up along the International Border between India and Pakistan and in the national capital in anticipation of President Obama's visit.

President Obama, who is the chief guest of this year's Republic Day parade, will be the first U.S. president to attend the Republic Day celebrations.

Obama, who visited India in 2010, will also be the first US president to visit the country twice while in office.

Obama begins India trip amid hopes of stronger ties

KV Prasad
Jan 25 2015 

US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama board Air Force One at Maryland Air Force station for their trip to India. 

A new page in India-US relations will be added on Sunday as President Barack Obama arrives in the Capital on a three-day sojourn to take forward the strategic partnership with Delhi. Obama will be the first US President to be the chief guest at the Republic Day parade.

Air Force One carrying President Obama, First Lady Michelle and his delegation will touch down at Palam Air Force Station at 10 am, triggering a spate of events till January 27.

Hours before he emplaned for India, the White House announced plans to cut short the visit by slicing off a trip to Agra on Tuesday. Instead, the President will fly to Riyadh (Saudi Arabia) to pay respects to new King Salman bin Abdul Aziz and the family of the late King Abdullah. The White House said President Obama “regrets” for not being able to visit the Taj Mahal.

Soon after a ceremonial welcome at Rashtrapati Bhavan, President Obama will pay his respects to Mahatma Gandhi at Rajghat and also plant a sapling before moving to Hyderabad House for bilateral talks.

What’s Next for US-India Defense Ties with Obama’s Trip?

January 23, 2015

As U.S. President Barack Obama prepares for his visit to New Delhi next week to meet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, defense officials from both sides have been rushing to finalize the components of what could amount to a much-needed boost in this dimension of the U.S.-India relationship.

As is often the case, much of the attention ahead of the visit has been focused on potential defense deals that make for good headlines. While there has been no shortage of such billion-dollar arrangements – including ones for Chinook and Apache helicopters – they may or may not be announced as part of Obama’s trip.

Irrespective of the outcome, that should not detract from the significant progress that both sides have made on this score over the last few years. By some estimates, India has ordered around $10 billion worth of U.S. weapons in the past decade, with at least about $7 billion more reportedly in the pipeline. With this recent surge in weapons sales, the United States emerged as India’s biggest arms supplier in 2013, displacing Russia which has traditionally been New Delhi’s preferred choice.

Other issues loom larger beyond headline-making deals. In particular, the clock is ticking for both sides to renew their ten-year defense framework, which expires this year. The original New Framework Defense Agreement, inked in 2005 under George W. Bush, established the general architecture of the relationship: laying out four mutual interests, thirteen areas of cooperation and several potential bodies to guide defense ties going forward. The hope is that a new framework will be more in the weeds, with mechanisms to measure progress or at least fresh initiatives to deepen cooperation in some of these areas.

Publish and Perish in Afghanistan

JANUARY 23, 2015 

KABUL — There are no walk-ins at the Kabul office of the Afghan Journalists Safety Committee. Visitors to the media advocacy group are screened through a slit in a heavy iron door, submit their belongings to careful inspection, and undergo a pat-down body-search for concealed weapons or suicide vests under the steely gaze of an assault rifle-wielding guard. The new security measures are a response to a warning issued by the Taliban in December that it would specifically target journalists and nongovernmental organizations as part of its ongoing insurgency against the Afghan government.

That’s no empty threat. Insurgent attacks, including suicide bombings, killed a total of eight journalists, including two foreign correspondents, in 2014, an increase from three such killings in 2013. And the body count continues to rise. On January 16, radio journalist Mohammad Aqil Wiqar became the first journalist to be killed in 2015 when two unidentified men with AK-47 assault rifles shot him at close range at a wedding celebration in eastern Nangarhar province. Police have not arrested any suspects and there have been no claims of responsibility for Wiqar’s killing.

The Taliban A CFR InfoGuide Presentation

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The Taliban
A CFR InfoGuide Presentation

The Taliban has outlasted the world’s most potent military forces and its two main factions now challenge the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan. As U.S. troops draw down, the next phase of conflict will have consequences that extend far beyond the region.

The Taliban was toppled in Afghanistan in 2001 for harboring al-Qaeda, but it has not been defeated. With an estimated core of up to sixty thousand fighters, the Taliban remains the most vigorous insurgent group in Afghanistan and holds sway over civilians near its strongholds in the country’s south and east. It has also metastasized in neighboring Pakistan, where thousands of fighters in the country’s western tribal areas wage war against the government. Now, as the international combat mission in Afghanistan closes, the Taliban threatens to destabilize the region, harbor terrorist groups with global ambitions, and set back human rights and economic development in the areas where it prevails.

Pakistan’s Ongoing Existential Crisis

By Dr Subhash Kapila
Paper No. 5862 Dated 23-Jan-2015

Pakistan’s existential crises generated by Pakistan Army’s repetitive onslaughts on Pakistan’s democratic fabric are widely recognised. Constitutional abdication once again stands forced by the Pakistan Army on PM Nawaz.

In wake of TTP suicide attack on Peshawar Army Public School, the Pakistan Army instead of shouldering responsibility for its institutional inadequacies deflected Pakistani public reaction and outcry by demanding a Constitutional Amendment for setting-up Special Military Courts for trial of terrorists.

Pakistan Army’s not so subtle manoeuvre in this direction is nothing but a “Back-Door Coup” in which Constitutional organs of the Pakistan nation-state like the Prime Minister, the Government and the Pakistan Supreme Court stand short-circuited and by-passed. Implicitly and effectively, the Pakistan Army Chief and his generals have taken over the administration of Pakistan.

Regular readers would recall that at the height of Imran Khan and Qadri’s protest movement besieging the government of incumbent PM Nawaz Sharif I had pointed out that this prolonged besieging of Pakistan Parliament and government offices in Islamabad was a Pakistan Army facilitation as a prelude to a possible coup or a soft coup. What has occurred in the wake of Peshawar suicide bombings was a subtle operation by the Pakistan Army without sending soldiers on the streets forcing PM Nawaz Sharif to virtually hand over effective reins of government to Pakistan Army Chief.


By Dr. S. Chandrasekharan

As expected the dead line of Jan 22, 2015 for the promulgation of a new constitution is being missed. The political parties refused to compromise and made little headway in drafting a new constitution. One whole year was wasted.

Too late in the day and very close to the deadline the eight ruling two parties with two independents on January 20 tried to pass a resolution for a panel with a questionnaire on the issues that remain to be solved and get it voted through the assembly. Opposition groups mainly led by the Maoists of UCPN (M) of Dahal with the support of the two Madhesi Groups of Gachhaadhar and Upendra Yadav physically prevented the resolution from being passed.

Tuesday the 20th of January could be called the black day in the parliamentary history of Nepal and the display of hooliganism seen on that day in the Parliament was unprecedented. Chairs were thrown at the podium. Microphones were thrown at K.P.Oli chairman of the UML as well as on respectable UML parliamentarians like Bidya Bhandari and Rishikesh Pokharel. Even Prime minister Sushil Koirala was manhandled. 12 security Marshals were injured in the melee.

Responsibility for the violence perpetrated must be placed squarely on the Maoist leader Dahal who called for “physical obstruction” of the house to prevent the bill being passed. He now claims that his call was for “peaceful obstruction” and the media in Nepal is giving a spin to the whole issue that Dahal has since apologised! Violence was pre planned and Dahal as the senior leader of the opposition is responsible.

More Isolation? Russia, China To Build $240 Billion High-Speed Rail Link


The ongoing 'isolation' of Russia took another turn for the un-isolated-er today when, as Bloomberg reports, China will build a 7,000-kilometer (4,350-mile) high-speed rail link from Beijing to Moscow, at a cost of 1.5 trillion yuan ($242 billion), Beijing’s city government said. The rail-link - which will bring travel time between Beijing and Moscow down from 5 days to 30 hours - signals a 10-year partnership between the two nations and follows the dropping of the French company, Alstom, from the project.

China will build a 7,000-kilometer (4,350-mile) high-speed rail link from Beijing to Moscow, at a cost of 1.5 trillion yuan ($242 billion), Beijing’s city government said on the social networking site Weibo.

The rail line seeks to facilitate travel across Europe and Asia, Beijing’s municipal government said Jan. 21 in a post on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter. The journey from Beijing to Moscow would take “two days” on a route passing through Kazakhstan, the post said.

Is China Bidding for the Heartland?

By Francis P. Sempa
January 21, 2015

In his 1919 masterpiece, Democratic Ideals and Reality, the great British geographer Halford Mackinder identified the northern-central core of the Eurasian landmass as the “Heartland” – a geopolitical region from which a sufficiently populated, armed and organized great power could bid for a world empire. Mackinder’s Heartland stretched from central Europe east of the Black and Baltic Seas to eastern Siberia, Mongolia, a small part of northeastern China, and included all of Central Asia. A Heartland-based power could expand in all directions and was inaccessible to sea power. Mackinder warned that a land empire that controlled the Heartland could use its vast natural resources and central geographical position to dominate Eurasia and build a powerful navy to threaten the insular powers of England, Japan, and the United States.

Most of China occupied a portion of what Mackinder called the “inner crescent,” a semicircular territory bordering the Heartland, but which had access to the sea. Mackinder advised the strategists of his day to “no longer think of Europe apart from Asia and Africa.” “The Old World,” he wrote, “has become insular, or in other words a unit, incomparably the largest geographical unit on our globe.” He called that geographical unit the “World-Island” and “Great Continent,” and warned the insular powers that they must “reckon with the possibility that a large part of the Great Continent might some day be united under a single sway, and that an invincible sea-power might be based upon it.” When 31 years later the Soviet Union in control of Eastern Europe allied itself to China (the Sino-Soviet bloc), it was no wonder that the great French writer Raymond Aron in The Century of Total War worried that “Russia has in fact nearly achieved the ‘world island’ which Mackinder considered the necessary and almost sufficient condition for universal empire.”

Burying China's 'String of Pearls'

By Christopher D. Yung
January 22, 2015

In a November 8 column, U.S. Naval War College Professor James R. Holmes (aka the Naval Diplomat) criticized a new National Defense University (NDU) report on Chinese overseas basing that I and a team of analysts published in October 2014. Holmes mischaracterizes the report’s findings as concluding “there’s little reason to expect China to seek bases in the Indian Ocean” and criticizes it for “linear thinking” and “straight-line analysis.” In fact, the report argues that China’s expanding global interests will generate increased demands for out-of-area naval operations and predicts that China is likely to establish at least one “dual-use” civilian/military base to provide logistics support for increased People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) operations. The report also concludes that the so-called “string of pearls” model of covert access to commercial ports built with Chinese investment is unable to support a robust, combat-oriented Chinese naval presence in the India Ocean. The report argues that it would not make strategic sense for the Chinese to pursue such a course.

The NDU report is titled “Not An Idea We Have to Shun: Chinese Overseas Basing Requirements for the Twenty First Century” and was written by Ross Rustici and me with research assistance from Scott Devary and Jenny Lin. We examined China’s growing foreign economic and security interests abroad; posited which interests needed to be protected and would generate PLA missions; surveyed press reports and statements by government officials about overseas bases; looked at writings by Chinese civilian and military analysts; and conducted interviews with logistics experts. We concluded that China’s current method of protecting its interests abroad by relying solely on commercial port access was unsatisfactory from a Chinese perspective, which suggests change is likely. A number of Chinese commentators agree with this conclusion.

Is China Building a Base Near the Senkakus?

Satellite imagery analysis by IHS Jane’s released on January 22 confirms Japanese media reports last month that China is building a military base on islands near the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands.

The analysis, which compared images captured from October 2013 to October 2014, shows a heliport with 10 landing pads being built in the center of the main Nanji Island, part of a group of islands that are part of Zhejiang province and are located about 300 kilometers (190 miles) away from the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands.

However, in contrast to earlier media reports, the analysis shows no signs of an airstrip under construction, only existing radar and communication sites. Jane’s also notes that without an airfield currently in place, the closest one would be at a base in Luqiao 380 km away from the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, which is home to the PLA Navy Air Force’s East Sea Fleet 4th Division, 12th Regiment, which operates Chengdu J-10A fighter aircraft.

On December 22, a widely-cited report from Kyodo News had suggested that Beijing was building a large military base on the Nanji islands to improve China’s readiness to respond to a potential military crisis and strengthen its surveillance over the air defense identification zone it declared in the East China Sea in November 2013.

China Reacts to Obama's State of the Union: America is in Decline

January 23, 2015 

In his State of the Union address on Wednesday, President Obama mentioned China a total of three times.

One was to praise China's commitment to cut carbon emissions. The second was to encourage American manufacturing executives to bring back jobs from China. The third was a call-to-arms to prevent China from writing the trade rules in the Asia Pacific.

China watchers inhaled sharply at this third point, given the sensitivity in China about who should be calling the shots in Asia. However, the media coverage in China of Obama's remarks has been surprisingly restrained, suggesting that the leadership does not want to encourage anti-American nationalist fervour at the moment.

The language and tone also reiterates China's view of the US role in the world, its own place in the world order, and how both might change in the future.

The People's Daily ran subdued coverage of Obama's speech, and today, except for a factual article in Xinhua's Chinese language paper, Chinese media made no mention of it at all. The English version ran a piece which focused on Obama's vow to rebuild the economy to help the middle class, but it did not mention anything about who should be writing the rules in the region, or the Sino-US relationship. A Chinese language version of the same article appeared in Thursday's China Daily's business section.

Is China slowing down? Not much

22 January 2015

China's economic growth slowed to 7.4% in 2014, downshifting to a level not seen in a quarter century and firmly marking the end of a high-growth heyday that buoyed global demand for everything from iron ore to designer handbags. The slipping momentum in China, which reported economic growth of 7.7% in 2013, has reverberated around the world, sending prices for commodities tumbling and weakening an already soft global economy.

Predictions of China economic slow-down have been routine headline stories over the past few years. Judging from this Wall Street Journal reporting, it seems to have returned with a vengeance. But it is seriously misleading.

China's 'high-growth heyday' ended in 2007, when two decades of double-digit growth were punctured by the global financial crisis. An enormous fiscal and financial stimulus in 2009 temporarily took growth over 10% again, but this was unsustainable. For the pasts three years, China's growth rate has started with a '7'.

Anyone putting much weight on the decimal figure misses the point. At the current pace, China is doubling its GDP in less than a decade, is growing at over twice the US pace and 10 times as fast as Europe.

Are We Living in a 'Chinese Century'?

By Jin Kai
January 23, 2015

Reports released by the IMF and the World Bank’s International Comparison Program show that, when measured by purchasing power parity (PPP), China overtook the U.S. to become the world’s largest economy before the end of 2014. A recent article by Nobel Prize winner Joseph E. Stiglitz claims that the “Chinese century” has begun and that Americans should take China’s new status as the number one economy as a wake-up call. Before crowning China as the new world leader, however, we should consider three questions. First, is China really the world’s largest economy – and if so, why is China so uneasy about the reports that make that claim? Second, has the “Chinese century” really come? To use international relations (IR) jargon, have we seen the beginning of a true power transition between the U.S. and China? Third, does China mean to challenge the U.S. through its recent diplomatic and military moves? A related, though broader, question is simply what kind of international role does China truly seek?

Let’s first look at why China generally dislikes the reports that claim China is now the world’s largest economy when measured by PPP. The general belief is that China is trying to avoid the costs that come with accepting a new role as number one. As Stiglitz points out, these potential costs include “paying more to support international bodies” and increased pressure “to take an enlightened leadership role on issues such as climate change.” In addition, China may be wary of the U.S. reaction to the change.

In China, a Move Away From Conviction Quotas

January 23, 2015

China is moving to get rid of targets for arrests and convictions, which were previously used to assess the performances of Chinese officials in law enforcement and the judiciary, Reuters reports, citing Chinese state media. Tackling “unreasonable items for assessment” is part of China’s push to showcase the “rule of law” (or “rule by law”), as unveiled at the Fourth Plenum last fall.

The “rule of law” was under the microscope on Tuesday, when the Political and Legal Committee met in Beijing to take the first concrete steps toward reform. As with China’s more general economic reforms, one of the major levers the government has for changing behavior is to change the way the Party assesses local performance. Setting targets for arrest and conviction rates can encourage local police, lawyers, and judges to seek a rapid conclusion to a case – regardless of whether or not justice is served.

This is true in civil as well as criminal cases. As Susan Finder points out on her blog, The Supreme People’s Court Monitor, judicial performance targets used to include having a low number of unresolved cases – which, in practice, led to judges simply refusing to accept cases as the calendar year drew to a close. The Party Committee of the Supreme People’s Court decided late last year to cancel the performance ranking system, with a special emphasis on combating the practice of rejecting cases filed late in the year. As Finder notes, though, it’s not clear what performance indicators will be used to replace the old system.

Xi Jinping and Kim Jong-un Might Meet – in Russia

January 23, 2015

It’s becoming increasingly likely that North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un will choose Russia as the destination for his first trip abroad since assuming power. Kim has been invited to travel to Russia in May to attend celebrations marking the 70th anniversary of the end of the European portion of World War II. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently said in a statement that the invitation received a “positive” response from Pyongyang, the latest indication that Kim will indeed make the trip.

Lavrov also told the press that Chinese President Xi Jinping has “confirmed [his] participation in the festivities.” That raises an interesting scenario – Xi and Kim might have their first-ever face-to-face meeting on Russian soil.

Writing for 38 North, Georgy Toloraya, Director of Korean Programs at the Institute of Economy at the Russian Academy of Science, notes that Kim’s visit to Moscow provides ample opportunities for Russia to broker third-party meetings – potentially even paving the way for a restart of the Six Party Talks. If this gamble pays off, it would help “bring Russia to the forefront of Korean affairs,” Toloraya writes.

Beijing's Xinjiang Policy: Striking Too Hard?

By Gabe Collins
January 23, 2015

China’s long-running Uighur insurgency has flared up dramatically of late, with more than 900 recorded deaths in the past seven years. This puts the conflict’s cumulative death toll in a range similar to that of The Troubles in Ireland or the ETA/Basque separatist violence in Spain. Russia’s longstanding conflicts in the Caucasus share elements with China’s Xinjiang troubles, and also show how harsh repression actually intensifies conflicts and encourages metastasis into other previously peaceful parts of the country.

Kinetic repression, restrictions on worship and religious attire, and a police state response alone will not placate the Uighurs in Xinjiang. The precise set of methods necessary to achieve peace is not yet clear. However, the consequences of failing to identify and employ a more holistic, less inflammatory set of policies to pacify Xinjiang are quite clear: continued violence in the province, as well as periodic substantial terror attacks elsewhere in China, such as the bloody Kunming train station attack of 1 March 2014.

Why ISIS Keeps Expanding

January 21, 2015 

More than four months after the start of an international airstrikes campaign against the Islamic State, the organization continues to expand—going beyond the geographical areas of Syria and Iraq.

Perhaps no self-designation by an armed group has been more apt in the current context of the Syrian conflict than the Islamic State’s slogan, “lasting and expanding”. More than four months after the start of an international airstrikes campaign against the organization, ISIS continues to greatly enlarge the area under its control. It is reported that since September 2014, when the international coalition airstrikes against ISIS began, its Syrian territories have doubled in size. There are several reasons for this enlargement, which is going beyond the geographical areas of Syria and Iraq to become a global expansion.
A basic reason is that, in limiting itself to airstrikes, the anti-ISIS international coalition is not implementing a military strategy with diversified components such as ground engagement. The importance of the latter has become clear following the losses incurred by the Islamic State in areas in which its fighters have faced resistance from the peshmerga. The Kobani battles show that ISIS struggles when confronted with boots on the ground. Those boots need not be Western; they can be Middle Eastern. However, the West has been slow in providing adequate military support to the Syrian opposition, which would have allowed it to stand up to the ISIS expansion more effectively. Only recently has the United States announced that it is deploying 400 troops to train the Free Syrian Army. This is a positive step but comes a little too late in the game.

Ukrainian Army in Full Retreat Around City of Donetsk

Andrew E. Kramer
January 23, 2015

DONETSK, Ukraine — A main leader of the Russian-backed rebels in easternUkraine said on Friday that his soldiers were “on the offensive” in several sectors, building on their success in capturing a long-contested airport the day before.

“We will attack” until the Ukrainian Army is driven from the borders of the Donetsk region, Aleksandr Zakharchenko, the leader of the Donetsk People’s Republic rebel group, said in comments carried by Russian news agencies. Referring to the Ukrainian government, he said, “Kiev doesn’t understand now that we can attack in three directions simultaneously.”

Tanks rumbled down the snowy roads of rebel-held areas of eastern Ukraine on Friday, with soldiers in green and unmarked uniforms sitting on their turrets, waving at bystanders.

Mr. Zakharchenko did not detail the rebels’ intentions, but any major offensive would clearly be a repudiation of the cease-fire signed on Sept. 5 and endorsed by the group’s main sponsor, Russia. That agreement had set the de facto borders of the rebel republic to encompass about one-third of the Donetsk region of Ukraine.

Pentagon Developing a System Where Drones Will Hunt in Packs

Dan Lamothe
January 23, 2015

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency released this artist’s rendering to help explain what its Collaborative Operations in Denied Environment (CODE) program could do. (DARPA image)

The U.S. military is preparing for a series of meetings that could shake up how the Pentagon flies its fleet of drone aircraft and move them toward hunting together in packs.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency will host the gatherings in March for its Collaborative Operations in Denied Environment (CODE) program, it said this week. The major emphasis: Figuring out a way to move free of having a pilot operate only one drone with assistance from a sensor operator and a team of intelligence analysts through satellite links.

“Just as wolves hunt in coordinated packs with minimal communication, multiple CODE-enabled unmanned aircraft would collaborate to find, track, identify and engage targets, all under the command of a single human mission supervisor,” said Jean-Charles Ledé, the program’s manager, in a statement.

US and India: Unity in difference once more

Ashley J. Tellis 

For the foreseeable future, Washington must be reconciled to the fact that the success of the bilateral relationship will require asymmetrical American contributions both because of the power-political advantages enjoyed by the US vis-à-vis India and because all American investments made in enhancing Indian power ultimately represent contributions toward cementing American primacy in international politics for a while longer.

Conscious US movement toward such a pattern of engagement is obviously difficult for a country accustomed to dealing mainly with either allies or adversaries. India can certainly help the process, and its own cause as well, by articulating—publicly to the extent possible—a geopolitical vision that preserves a special priority for the US. Looking for creative ways in which to demonstrate solidarity with Washington while also remaining true to its own founding ethos would be immensely helpful. All of this would reward US policymakers for their benefaction merely as a way to continually elicit American support for accelerating India’s economic development and its rise to power.

Even if these new terms of association—the “unity in difference” that characterizes this strategic solution—can be successfully forged to engender productive bilateral cooperation in the future, each partner is likely to emphasize different aspects of the quest. For the US, the ultimate value of the US-Indian relationship is that it helps preserve American primacy. It achieves this by cementing an affiliation that aids in the preservation of the balance of power in Asia, enhances American competitiveness and enlarges its markets through deepened linkages with a growing Indian economy, and strengthens the American vision of a concert of democratic states by incorporating a major non-Western exemplar of success such as India. For India, the ultimate value of the US-Indian relationship is that it helps New Delhi to expand its national power more easily than it might have done otherwise. It also limits the dangers that might be posed by unrestrained Chinese power. And, finally, it helps to legitimize India’s entrance on the world stage if such occurs with American acquiescence, not to mention support.

What to do about the Disappearing Royal Navy…

It is an often quaffed line, ‘British Defence Spending is the 5th largest in the world’ – inferring therefore that everything must be fine. The trouble is this the amount spent is not the issue; as % of GDP Britain ranks joint 7th with Turkey, and this is all before the current strength of the pound in relation to over currencies is factored in, or the costs of wages in Britain compared to those of other nations. Nor does it account for the success or failure of projects, for projects cancelled or reduced after billions of £s have been spent because a new government or minister changes their mind. In reality though none of this matters, as the reason for defence spending is not position on lists, but for a nation to be able to protect itself and its interests as best it can when necessary. In recent years, the service most visible in carrying out these task has been the British Army, but even its visibility hasn’t be a sure security.

In 1994 the British Army had 42 line battalions, by 2014 it had 25 regular and 14 reserve battalions – after five reviews decided that more could be done with less; Front Line First (1994), the 1998 Strategic Defence Review, Delivering Security in a Changing World (2003), and the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review. During this time the British Army was not sitting idle, it was deployed on many operations by various governments – including fighting two Gulf wars, the second of which, like the war in Afghanistan fought at nearly the same time, resulting in long-term commitments in those theatres, as well as these of course there was a eighteen year commitment to the Balkans. Yet still those four reviews have seen a cut to the regular army by 40% over ten years. The army though has at least been granted a reserve, which is being emphasised, the RN doesn’t even have that, and its escort strength has shrunk by 51%.

State of Mind: A Future Russia

Walter Laqueur

Author’s note: This article deals with the purely political aspects of the present strategic debate in Russia. The economic crisis caused by the sanctions, the sharp decline of the value of the ruble, and above all the fall of the price of oil and gas have only added to the acuteness of the feeling of crisis. But these aspects have been analyzed and commented upon at great length elsewhere.

How do Russians envisage their country’s place in the world fifteen or twenty years from now? In the afterglow of the seizure of Crimea and the intimidation of Ukraine, there has been of late a significant change in the mood of the country. According to public opinion polls, most Russians are in a triumphalist mood and now think of their country as a superpower and the West as isolated and in retreat. The rules of the game, formerly dictated by the EU and Washington, have changed. The expansion of NATO and the EU to the Russian periphery has been halted. Mainstream moderate Russian commentators such as Sergei Karaganov, Alexander Lukin, and others have helped popularize a narrative which holds that until recently Russian dignity and interests were trampled and the country was subjected to systematic deceit, hypocrisy, and broken promises on the international scene. But Russia has now been liberated from false illusions, having given up attempts to become part of the West.

The West tried to take advantage of, rather than partner with, Russia after the end of the Cold War. It tried to expand its spheres of influence. Russia’s interests and objections were ignored. In a Russian version of this “stab in the back” narrative, Vladimir Putin and the other Kremlin spokesmen have repeatedly declared that the West promised Russia that NATO would not move eastward, a promise that was hypocritically broken. And it was, moreover, an effort to camouflage the crisis of the European “project” itself, a crisis that has revealed the EU to be a paper tiger.

Russia's Plans for Arctic Supremacy


Although the crisis in Ukraine continues to focus attention on Russia's western border, Moscow is seeking to exploit a more lucrative prize along its vast northern frontage: the Arctic Circle. Melting ice has opened up new transit routes and revealed previously inaccessible oil and mineral deposits. Facing a year of harsh economic constraints, securing exploitable energy reserves remains a top priority for Moscow. The planned militarization of the Arctic is already underway, and funding is secured through 2015 (the Ministry of Defense was the only Kremlin ministry not to be curtailed in the most recent budget.) With Russia aiming to consolidate its strength by the end of the year, surrounding countries are already reassessing their positions in the face of an overwhelming regional force.

Russia's traditional view of the outside world is colored by a deep sense of insecurity and paranoia. This is best exemplified by the events in Ukraine, where the Kremlin acted to preserve its traditional geographic bulwark against the West. This pattern of protectionism is also apparent in Moscow's current understanding and approach to the situation in the Arctic. Of the eight countries of the Arctic Council, five are members of NATO, fueling Russia's suspicion that opposing forces are massing against it. Although friction with Kiev and the West has overshadowed Russia's military build-up in the Arctic, Moscow's long-term ambitions for the region are making other Arctic countries nervous, Norway in particular.

5 Iranian Weapons of War America Should Fear

January 23, 2015

With the possible exception of North Korea, no country in the post–Cold War era has sought to challenge the United States as much as Iran. From the Middle East to Central Asia to Latin America, Tehran has never missed an opportunity to antagonize the U.S. and limit its influence.

This is an inherently risky strategy. Not only has the U.S. encircled Iran with military bases on all sides, but America’s military spending in recent years has been twice the size of Iran’s entire GDP. In any conventional military conflict, Iran wouldn’t stand a chance against the U.S. armed forces.

To compensate, Iran pursues a deterrent-based military doctrine premised on three types of capabilities: an expansive ballistic missile arsenal, asymmetric naval warfare (particularly the threat of closing down the Strait of Hormuz), and ties to non-state militant groups. Although many weapon systems go into implementing this doctrine, five capabilities are particularly crucial:



On a national level, the main reason cited for movements in gasoline prices is often changing crude oil prices. Crude oil acquisition is the main cost in producing gasoline, and changes in crude oil prices, along with changes in gasoline market conditions, drive changes in spot and retail gasoline prices. EIA estimates that at current prices, about 55% of the retail price of gasoline is attributable to the cost of crude oil. However, at the regional level, several factors other than falling crude prices are influencing regional wholesale gasoline spot prices and retail gasoline prices.

Recent EIA analysis has shown that Brent crude oil prices have more influence on U.S. spot gasoline prices than do changes in West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil prices. The price of Brent crude oil has fallen by 57.8%, near its lowest price level in six years, since reaching $115 per barrel on June 19, 2014. U.S. gasoline prices have declined as well, with spot gasoline prices in New York Harbor falling 54.7% (Figure 1).

Other factors being equal, a $1-per-barrel change in the price of crude oil is completely passed through to the spot price of gasoline as a 2.4-cent-per-gallon change. EIA research and analysis has also shown that changes in spot gasoline prices have a consistent and predictable effect on changes in retail gasoline prices. However, factors other than crude oil prices also have an effect on spot gasoline prices and thus retail gasoline prices.

Where to look for global growth

byRichard Dobbs, Jaana Remes, and Jonathan Woetzel
January 2015 | 

For the last 50 years, the world economy has benefited from a demographic boom that has contributed 1.8 percent to average annual global GDP increases, helping to generate an unprecedented level of growth.1 This demographic headwind is coming to an end. With populations aging and fertility rates dropping around the world, the growth rates of the past 50 years may prove to be the exception, not the rule. The latest research of the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) suggests that unless increases in labor productivity compensate for an aging workforce, the next 50 years will see a nearly 40 percent drop in GDP growth rates and a roughly 20 percent drop in the growth rate of per capita income around the world.

The potential for diminished growth varies considerably among countries. In the developed world, Canada and Germany are poised for the biggest drops in GDP growth rates. Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Russia, and Brazil are most at risk in developing countries (Exhibit 1). Societies that fail to raise their game for the productivity needed to sustain growth will find it harder to achieve a host of desirable goals, such as reducing poverty in developing economies and meeting current social commitments in developed ones.

Exhibit 1

The demographic drag on growth will vary considerably across countries over the next 50 years. 

The Real U.S.-Iran Dilemma: What Happens After a Nuclear Deal?

Ilan Goldenberg, Jacob Stokes, Nicholas A. Heras
January 23, 2015 

There is a fierce debate in both the United States and Iran about the possible implications of a nuclear agreement for broader relations between the two states after thirty-five years of conflict. Optimists argue that a breakthrough could lead to extensive coordination on regional issues—most notably in working together to combat the common threat posed by ISIS. Pessimistscounter that opposing interests will continue to lead to, and could even deepen, competition and conflict between Iran and the United States after an agreement.

The reality likely lies somewhere in the middle. If Iran and the P5+1 can successfully negotiate a nuclear agreement, there will indeed be a historic opportunity to improve communications and cooperate on areas of common interest such as maritime security and Afghanistan. However, cooperation in fighting ISIS beyond basic de-confliction of military operations is unlikely to yield positive results and could actually hurt U.S. efforts by alienating key Arab partners.

Iraq and Syria: The Wrong Venues for Partnership

The State Of Cyber In The State Of The Union

Last night, President Obama gave his annual State of the Union address in which Internet and cyber issues got their own paragraphs. On the Internet, the president said:

I intend to protect a free and open Internet, extend its reach to every classroom, and every community, and help folks build the fastest networks, so that the next generation of digital innovators and entrepreneurs have the platform to keep reshaping our world. On cybersecurity, he said:

No foreign nation, no hacker, should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets, or invade the privacy of American families, especially our kids. We are making sure our government integrates intelligence to combat cyber threats, just as we have done to combat terrorism. And tonight, I urge this Congress to finally pass the legislation we need to better meet the evolving threat of cyberattacks, combat identity theft, and protect our children’s information. If we don’t act, we’ll leave our nation and our economy vulnerable. If we do, we can continue to protect the technologies that have unleashed untold opportunities for people around the globe. President Obama’s remarks referred to policy proposals he announced last week, in which he proposed a plan to incentivize the delivery of high speed Internet and called on Congress to pass legislation to facilitate cybersecurity information sharing, protect consumer data, and increase the penalties in the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA).

What the Cyber Language in the State of the Union Means to You

January 21, 2015

On Tuesday night, President Barack Obama appeared before the American people and again acknowledged digital data theft and data destruction as one of the most important issues facing the nation. “No foreign nation, no hacker, should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets, or invade the privacy of American families, especially our kids. We are making sure our government integrates intelligence to combat cyber threats, just as we have done to combat terrorism. And tonight, I urge this Congress to finally pass the legislation we need to better meet the evolving threat of cyber-attacks, combat identity theft, and protect our children’s information.”

Patrick Tucker is technology editor for Defense One. He’s also the author of The Naked Future: What Happens in a World That Anticipates Your Every Move? (Current, 2014). Previously, Tucker was deputy editor for The Futurist, where he served for nine years. Tucker's writing on emerging technology ... Full Bio

It was a rallying cry for greater “cyber security.” But according to many security experts, “security” and the specific cyber-security proposal the president unveiled last week could be a pretext for expanded, unchecked surveillance that may not actually make the nation safer. The ideas in the proposal face no strong political resistance especially since the information collection organism would not be the government itself but rather private companies reporting user information to the government.
The Post-Snowden Era


January 22, 2015

David Richards and Stanley McChrystal, who both commanded the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, are among the most celebrated living army generals of their respective countries, Britain and America. They also led parallel lives. Both were born in the early 1950s. The sons of Army colonels, they joined up in the early 1970s and served in elite forces: Richards with the Commandos, McChrystal with the Rangers. They retired in 2013 and 2010 respectively, although McChrystal left the Army under controversial circumstances.

Their memoirs provide some useful insights into the post-1970s evolution of the British and American armed forces during and after the Cold War, the professional life of an officer, and the 9/11 campaigns. Their main interest, however, lies in what they say about command; these twin works can be read together as a treatise on military command in the 21stcentury. Military command has become an emotive subject in the last decade, as British and American generals seem to have failed in their duty to advise their political masters and to plan and execute coherent campaigns. Tom Ricks has been a prominent critic here, exposing the failures of modern U.S. commanders in contrast to the putative ideal of the Second World War. In the United Kingdom, the crisis of command has engendered ferocious debate. It is widely accepted that British strategic and operational command failed in the last decade in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Censorship at the highest ranks of the U.S. military and the growing divide between the military and civilians

Thomas E. Ricks
January 22, 2015

Much has been made of the widening gap between the military and civilians over the past few years as the military has moved to an all-volunteer force. Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mullen, during a 2011 speech, warned of the dangerous disconnect between the military and the American people. Former Secretary of Defense Gates expressed similar sentiments during his tenure. In a 2010 speech at Duke University, Secretary Gates warned of the growing disconnect between military leaders and the civilian population they are sworn to protect. 

In 2011, President Obama asked former Senator Gary Hart to form a bipartisan task force to make recommendations for reforming the military. One of the recommendations resulting from this task force was to restore civil-military relations. “Greater attention must be paid to the implications of a widening chasm between civilian and military sectors of society…. This may be achieved via educational programs that can give all Americans a deeper appreciation for military and security affairs.” 

There is a supreme irony to the warnings by Secretary Gates. In 2008 and 2010 Secretary Gates was responsible for issuing directives that severely limited the ability of military members, specifically members of the Joint Staff, to interact with the public by restricting the information that could be shared with the media.