17 April 2014

Affordable air power

Published: April 17, 2014
 C. Manmohan Reddy

APADVANTAGE LCA: The IAF could buy 200 Tejases instead of 126 Rafales and still save nearly $14 billion or Rs. 84,000 crore. Picture shows the aircraft taking off in Bangalore. File photo

The largely Indian designed Tejas light combat aircraft is not in the same class as the Rafale, but it is far more capable than the MiG-21s it was designed to replace

The Defence Minister is entirely justified in refusing to sign a $20 billion contract with Dassault Aviation of France for 126 Rafale fighters while life cycle costs are still disputed; these costs are typically at least three times as much as the initial acquisition price over the three to five decades that combat aircraft often operate for. As we head for a new government in Delhi, it is appropriate to consider alternatives to this hugely expensive acquisition.

India’s geostrategic environment requires the Indian Air Force (IAF) to be prepared for a simultaneous two front confrontation at multiple levels. This necessitates a combat aircraft mix of expensive high-end fighters like the Su-30 and the forthcoming fifth generation fighter aircraft along with large numbers of cheaper tactical aircraft. The latter could easily deal with low intensity conflicts where it might be risky to use high value assets like the Sukhois.

Rapid retirement of hundreds of MiG-21s, -23s and -27s that have been the tactical backbone of the IAF for decades leaves just over six upgraded MiG-21 and four ground attack MiG-27 squadrons. This means that the IAF’s inventory of combat aircraft is currently well below its sanctioned 39-and-a-half squadron strength perhaps unable to fight widely spaced conflagrations against even a single adversary. Its 2001 plan to fill the gap by significantly adding to the 49 Mirage 2000s it then had was scuppered by Defence Ministry mandarins who forced it to go in for competitive tendering. Delays in the procurement process saw the Mirage going out of production and international pressure made sure that the final tender included much heavier and expensive aircraft than the tactical ones that the service originally wanted, leave alone needed.

Cost of aircraft

A request for proposals (RfP) finally went out on July 28, 2007 for 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCAs), with an option for 63 more. Rs.42,000 crore, then worth approximately $10.25 billion, was budgeted to purchase the 126 aircraft. Recent reports indicate that the short-listed Rafales are now expected to cost over $20 billion, not least because of nearly 50 “miscellaneous” items that were left unpriced as part of the original French bid. Not only will the 126 aircraft cost about twice as much in dollar terms as originally budgeted for, depreciation of the rupee with respect to the dollar since the RfP was issued from less than 41 to over 60 will force us to effectively pay about three times as much, nearly Rs.120,000 crore, just in initial acquisition costs with over Rs.30,000 crore of that paid up front.

East vs West: Flashpoint Ukraine


The underlying problem is the West’s refusal to factor in Russian strategic interests
S Nihal Singh

Pro-Russian protesters hold a placard as they take part in a pro-Russian rally in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv on April 13, 2014. AFP

THE question many nations of the world are asking is whether the relatively brief period of the post-Cold War era is over. It would perhaps be premature to slot the Ukraine crisis as the beginning of a new version of an old division of the world. But beyond the shrill rhetoric emanating from Moscow, Washington and other world capitals, we are witnessing more than a conflict of interests. What is happening is the West’s denial of the right of the Russian Federation to safeguard its geopolitical interests.

What President Putin is trying to accomplish after annexing the Crimean peninsula following the West’s pre-emptive action in signing on Ukraine into the European Union at the cost of Russia is to ensure that a country of 45 million people in a vast area bordering on its flank is not absorbed into NATO. Moreover, half of this country consists of primary Russian-speakers and have deep cultural, religious and trade links with the Russian Federation.

Understandably, Russia is keen to prevent the complete encirclement of its motherland by a western military organisation. Following the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the weak leaders that took over the fragmented successor state, the US and West European nations trod all over Russia, breaking legions of promises, to co-opt the former constituents of the Soviet Union such as the Baltic states but also countries like Poland. The new attempt was to take in the land mass of Ukraine and Georgia, among others, to tighten the noose.

The Russian Federation sent its military into Georgia to carve out two areas of the country into independent states in 2008, a warning the West chose to ignore. In the long negotiations with former President Viktor Yenukovych, the European Union sought to co-opt Ukraine into the West through the European Union and later NATO. He balked at the prospect of putting his signature at the last minute because he was not prepared to face Russian wrath.

Is an Asian NATO Possible?

A future NATO-like organization in Asia seems more likely than a European NATO seemed at the end of WWII.
April 17, 2014

In the new concluding chapter to his classicThe Tragedy of Great Power Politics, John Mearsheimer argues: “There is already substantial evidence that countries like India, Japan, and Russia, as well as smaller powers like Singapore, South Korea, and Vietnam, are worried about China’s ascendancy and are looking for ways to contain it. In the end, they will join an American-led balancing coalition to check China’s rise, much the way Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and eventually China, joined forces with the United States during the Cold War to contain the Soviet Union.”

This is at odds with most analyses which postulate that Asia is not ripe for a NATO style containment block against China. For instance, in summing up the conventional wisdom on the subject, the Council on Foreign Relations’ Stewart Patrick opined last summer that: “Despite its strategic ‘rebalancing’ toward Asia, the United States is unlikely to sponsor a collective defense organization for the Asia-Pacific, for at least three reasons: insufficient solidarity among diverse regional partners, fear of alienating China, and the perceived advantages of bilateral and ad-hoc security arrangements.”

When placed in their historical perspective, these reasons seem insufficient to me. Let’s review them each in turn.

First, one of the main reasons many argue that a NATO-like organization could never work in Asia is because “the countries of the region retain diverse interests and regional priorities and (in the case of ROK-Japanese relations) insufficient levels of trust to band together.” The implication is that in the early Cold War Western Europeans had similar interests and high levels of trust, which allowed them to form the NATO alliance.

BrahMos Supersonic Cruise Missile : Cementing Deterrence

E-Mail- cedex@live.com 

With the Indian Army successfully test firing an advanced version of the 290 km-range supersonic cruise missile BrahMos in April 2014, India has displayed its continuing advancement towards strengthening deterrence in a volatile neighbourhood and precarious strategic environment. In a Press Information Bureau release, the missile was reportedly launched by a mobile autonomous launcher deployed in full configuration mode with a mobile command post at the ranges. The launch was declared to being successful hitting the designated target on its predetermined trajectory. With both the Indian Army and Navy having already inducted the missile into service, the success of the BrahMos missile continues unabated with it being uniquely configured for installation in ships, submarines, aircraft and on ground vehicles. 

As a general principle, cruise missiles do not possess defensive capabilities that permit them to withstand an attack. Therefore, the survivability of a cruise missile after it is launched is crucially dependent on stealth in navigation and minimising the interval between the time that enemy air defence systems detect its presence and the time it takes for the cruise missile to arrive at its designated target. In order to saturate defences, minimising the time available to the defender for engaging the cruise missiles is crucial. Going by an initial assumption that there is one defender and that the cruise missile has perfect lethality, the number of incoming missiles that will saturate defences would ultimately be determined by the number of times that the defender can engage the same. [1] 

BrahMos has often been described as the “… perfect strike weapon with a fine combination of speed, precision, power, kinetic energy and reaction time attributes”. Being jointly developed with Russia, the BrahMos is among the fastest supersonic cruise missiles in the world, at speeds ranging between Mach 2.5 to 2.8, being about three and a half times faster than the American subsonic Tomahawk cruise missile. An important exception, however, is the Russian Alfa cruise missile, capable of speeds in excess of Mach 4 (four times the speed of sound). Due to the onboard inertial navigation system with three gyroscopes and three accelerometers, BrahMos is a ‘fire and forget’ weapon, requiring no further guidance from the control centre once the target has been assigned and it is launched. [2] Upon completion of assembly, it has a 10-year shelf life, requiring a routine preventive maintenance check once every three years. 

Oman's Duqm Port and US Exit from Afghanistan

14 April 2014 
Vijay SakhujaDirector (Research) Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA), New Delhi 

The US is keenly following developments in Duqm, an Omani port overlooking the Indian Ocean, and a number of US defense, military and civilian personnel have visited Oman in this connection. British Royal Navy ships have called at Duqm, and in 2010, HMS Enterprise conducted a hydrographic survey of approaches to the harbour. Likewise, HMS Echo has carried out logistic assessments of the port for future visits by Royal Navy ships. In March 2014, sixteen warships from the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) member navies were sighted in the port preparing for joint naval and live firing exercises in the Arabian Sea. Although Duqm does not have any military infrastructure, the above reports suggest that it could emerge as a strategic naval outpost in the Indian Ocean. 

Till very recently, Duqm was a small fishing harbour and the township had a population of about few thousand people; most of them belonging to the Bedouin tribe. The ongoing developments at the port are part of a larger Omani plan to turn Duqm into an industrial city, create a Special Economic Zone, and complement the other Omani ports of Fujairah and Salalah which dot the 2,000 km coastline overlooking the Indian Ocean. According to the master plan, Duqm port would have a huge dry dock, receive vessels of up to 180,000 dwt and handle containers - dry, liquid and other cargo - which can also be linked to the proposed GCC rail network.

There are at least two reasons for the US interest in Duqm port. First, the port offers the US Navy the ability to operate in the Arabian Sea without the fear of being ‘bottled up’ in the Persian Gulf in the event of the closure of the Strait of Hormuz. In the past, Iran has threatened to close the Strait in case of an attack on its nuclear facility. Iran has the capability to disrupt international shipping through the Hormuz by using sea mines that can hit shipping particularly the 20-30 oil and gas tankers which exit the Persian Gulf each day. 

Justice for Nepal’s War-Era Victims?

Nepal struggles to form a mechanism that would deal with cases of wartime human rights violations. 

By Kamal Dev Bhattarai
April 15, 2014

Nepal’s success in writing a new constitution will largely depend on how it handles the issue of providing justice for war-era victims through a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and a Commission on Enforced Disappearance (CED).

The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed by the government in 2006 with the rebel Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), or CPN(M), which ended the Nepalese Civil War, envisaged the formation of transitional justice mechanisms. The thrust of these mechanisms is to investigate war-era crimes and punish the perpetrators. The Maoist insurgency claimed 13,000 lives, with 1,300 missing.

Eight years after signing the CPA, and progress in setting up the TRC has been difficult to achieve. Since 2006, successive governments have attempted to pass the legislation, either through executive ordinance or parliament, but have stumbled on internal disputes and pressure from international rights groups.

With a new Constituent Assembly beginning work to draft a new constitution, which it is hoped will finally usher in a period of stability, the transitional justice issue is once again at the center of national politics in Nepal.

Under pressure from national and international rights groups, opposition parties Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), or UCPN(M), and CPN(M), as well as the victims themselves, the government tabled a bill that would authorize the creation of the TRC and CED. Nonetheless, it remains uncertain when the Commission will actually be formed.

The primary reason for the delay is the need to balance the claims and interests of varied stakeholders.

Take, for instance, the question of dealing with serious violations of human rights. Some cases involving human rights violations during the war have been brought before Nepal’s regular courts. The country’s two Maoist parties UCPN(M) and CPN(M)—which both descend from the same wartime party—are united in their argument that all war-era cases and human rights violations should be dealt with by the TRC.

BIMSTEC: Can it connect two-fifths of global poor?

By Dr. Vibhanshu Shekhar 
APR 14, 2014 

The heads of government of seven countries of South and Southeast Asia – Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand – gathered in Naypyidaw, Myanmar in March 2014 for the third BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) summit. Representing one-fifth of global population, nearly two-fifths of global poor and more than half of Asia’s poor, they were deliberating over three key issues of development, connectivity, and economic integration. Though the resource-rich sub-region of BIMSTEC marks the convergence of South, Southeast, and Northeast Asia, it remains disconnected from Asia’s growth story and operates on the margin of Asia’s cooperative and integrative discourse. 

China’s Delicate Pursuit of Natural Gas

As it seeks to reduce its dependence on coal, Beijing’s return to the Silk Road raises some unfamiliar security concerns. 

By Mark Eels
April 15, 2014

Confronted with generation capacity shortages, logistical bottlenecks, and unsustainable emissions and health effects, ever-increasing coal consumption represents a pertinent, pressing concern for China’s central government.

Accounting for roughly 30 percent of the world’s total energy use, coal remains the cornerstone of global energy supply and demand. Behind this dependency, China embodies the global driver for consumption patterns – a trend that an evolving economic juggernaut finds difficult to control.

With an urban population projected to swell beyond 1 billion by 2030 and growth in coal demand mirroring that of GDP, stresses on state power grids and the effects of coal reliance are becoming increasingly salient.

Electricity demand in China grew more than twelve-fold between 1980 and 2009; however, perhaps more alarming is the assertion that between 2011 and 2025 China’s electricity sector will be required to add the equivalent to that of the entire United States at present in order to meet rising demand. A government with a mandate heavily reliant on developmental goals therefore confronts dilemmas in the domain of coal combustion: full steam ahead or factor in non-traditional externalities.

Despite boasting an abundance of coal, more than 90 percent of China’s reserves are located in its interior, primarily in the provinces of Shanxi and Inner Mongolia. According to the Ministry of Land and Resources, Inner Mongolia, Shanxi, Xinjiang, Shaanxi and Guizhou provinces alone hold roughly 1014.8 billion tons ofrecoverable deposits. Therein lies one of many domestic supply drawbacks: large disparities between centers of supply and demand. Long transportation distances to load centers remain a characteristic of China’s downstream supply chain, and a compounding cause of inefficiency, pollution and waste.

Geographic mismatch means that resource exploitation occurs to the west, whilst value-added practices occur in eastern commercial centers. Consequently, coal transportation accounts for roughly forty percent of railroad use and thirty percent of river and sea freight transportation. Natural water distribution is also incompatible, with eastern coal reserves accounting for a mere 7 percent of total supplies, whilst these areas hold approximately 72 percent of water resources.

China’s coal reliance is further highlighted by its emerging import ratio dependence. With demand outpacing self-sufficiency, bridging the deficit has required foreign coal imports, mostly from Australia and Indonesia, meaning the traditional desire for self-sufficiency becomes increasingly unrealistic.

Is China Ready to Repair Ties With Japan?

A decline in Chinese naval patrols coupled with less heated rhetoric may signal China is ready to work with Japan. 

April 15, 2014

Over at the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog, M. Taylor Fravel and Alastair Iain Johnston performed a data analysis on the frequency of Chinese coast guard patrols near the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. They found that since October 2013 there has been a remarkable drop in the frequency of Chinese patrols in the Senkaku/Diaoyu territorial waters, defined as the area within 12 nautical miles of the islands. Before October 2013, Fravel and Johnston write, “China conducted as many as four patrols per week within the islands’ territorial waters … [Since October 2013], the frequency of patrols has dropped and maintained a fairly steady average of about one patrol into the 12-mile zone every couple of weeks.”

Fravel and Johnston also noted that China’s patrols into the less-sensitive “contiguous zone” (between 12 and 24 nautical miles from the islands) “dropped significantly after October 2013.” Patrols of these areas are less fraught with meaning, as the contiguous zone is not a part of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands’s territorial waters. Accordingly, Chinese patrols in this less-provocative area are more frequent than incursions into the actual territorial waters.

Fravel and Johnston cautioned that “we are reluctant to infer too much about China’s bargaining strategies from these data alone.” Still, they raise the hypothesis that the reduction in patrol frequencies might “signal a willingness not to escalate further.”

The timing of the reduction of patrols is indeed curious, as it fits poorly with the general trend of diplomatic relations between these two countries. Japan-China relations have been strained for years, since the Japanese government nationalized several of the disputed islands in September 2012. However, relations actually took a nosedive in November and December of 2013 — after the Chinese coast guard decreased the frequency of its patrols.

In November 2013, China unexpectedly announced the establishment of an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over the East China Sea, including the disputed islands. This resulted in angry reactions from Japan and the United States (and continued to be raised as an issue even during Secretary Hagel’s visit to East Asia last week). China responded angrily, accusing the U.S. and Japan of having double standards (both countries have their own ADIZs, with Japan’s ending just 81 miles off of China’s coast at the closest point) and of seeking to play up the “China threat.”

Asia-Pacific Has Seven of the World’s Top 20 Global Cities

East Asia has a high number of global cities, according to a biannual ranking, while ASEAN and South Asia lag behind. 

April 15, 2014

According to A.T. Kearney’s 2014 Global Cities Index, the Asia-Pacific region has a number of the world’s most global cities. The highest rated Asia-Pacific city was Tokyo, ranked fourth, followed by Hong Kong at fifth and Beijing and Singapore at eighth and ninth respectively. Seoul (12), Sydney (14), Shanghai (18) were also highly rated, giving the Asia-Pacific region seven of the spots in the top 20. By comparison, North America had five cities in the top 20 but four in the top ten: New York (1), Los Angeles (6), Chicago (7), and Washington D.C. (10). Of the remaining top 20 cities, seven were in Europe (including Moscow), and Buenos Aires was South America’s sole representative.

The Global Cities Index (GCI) rates cities for global engagement in five different areas: business activity, human capital, information exchange, cultural exchange, and political engagement. For the top Asia-Pacific cities, many were especially strong on business activity but scored relatively lower on human capital (with Hong Kong and Sydney being notable exceptions). GCI explained that human capital rankings are based in part by the size of the foreign-born population, meaning that cities with large immigrant populations would tend to score better on this particular metric.

Within the top 20 cities, Beijing’s jump from 14th to 8th was by far the biggest change from last year. Beijing’s progress was attributed to larger numbers of Fortune 500 companies, an increase in international schools, and rises in broadband subscribers and museums. In other words, Beijing improved its ranking based on better marks for each of the GCI’s categories except for political engagement, which Beijing already scored fairly high in due to its status as China’s capital. Meanwhile, China Daily, in an article on the GCI, pointed out that Beijing remained ranked below Hong Kong due to the latter’s “more international and educated group of citizens and [Hong Kong’s] better ability to facilitate quick and free information exchange.”

India-China Relations- Next Steps

Paper No. 5685 Dated 14-Apr-2014
By Bhaskar Roy

Sometime during the fall this year Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to visit India as part of the agreed high level bilateral exchange.

Xi, who also leads the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the country’s military as chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), would be more powerful than his two predecessors Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin. Xi Jinping has recently unveiled his “thoughts on national defence” which include “not an inch of Chinese territory” will be given up, and if China fights a war it will be determined to win it.

An Indian delegation is soon to visit Beijing for the India-China strategic talks. Although nothing much is expected from the talks as India will have a new government in a few weeks’ time, at the same time it is good to have the established bilateral framework moving smoothly. The two countries with a billion plus population each have interests where they will continue to run into each other frequently.

The Chinese are watching the Indian elections keenly. The punters are putting their money on a BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) victory with Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as the next Indian prime minister. China has some experience with Modi when he visited the country as Gujarat’s chief minister. But neither the Chinese nor does anybody else have a clear idea of Narendra Modi’s China policy or foreign policy.

One thing is certain, however. The Americans would have to do some repair work with relations if Narendra Modi was to become prime minister. India-US relations are very important for Beijing to conduct relations with India.

Another issue the Chinese might probe with the Indian delegation off the table is the BJP’s manifesto which seeks a review of India’s “no first use” of nuclear weapons and “no use” of nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear country.


April 15, 2014 · by Fortuna's Corner · 
A good overview and discussion of Unrestricted Warfare.


Today we see a global series of “unrestricted” wars, orchestrated by at least three governments, (Russia, Iran, and North Korea) all of which are clearly aimed at the US, its partners, and allies on a global level.


2014-04-11 By Stephen Blank

http://www.sldinfo.com/the- chinese-concept-of- unrestricted-warfare-global- competitors-up-the-ante/

In 1999 two Chinese officers published a study called “Unrestricted Warfare,” arguing that war itself had changed and that it had “morphed” into a phenomenon where the principles of war were no longer Clausewitzian, i.e. the use of armed force to compel the enemy to submit to one’s will.

Instead those principles now were “using all means, including armed force or non-armed force, military and non-military, and lethal and non-lethal means to compel the enemy to accept one’s interests.”[i]

Although Clausewitz may well have successfully weathered this one of many attempts to debunk him, for it is hardly clear that they debunked his definition of war as an attempt to compel the enemy to do our will, today there can be little doubt that the forms of war we see on a global basis also correspond in many particulars to these concepts or, pace Hugo Chavez, Bolivarian war.[ii]

Today we see a global series of “unrestricted” wars, orchestrated by at least three governments, (Russia, Iran, and North Korea) all of which are clearly aimed at the US, its partners, and allies on a global level.

These wars are global and bring together states, terrorists, insurgents, bankers, high and low-ranking government, judiciary, customs, police, and security officials in many countries in loose overlapping networks that target US interests, allies, partners, or the US itself on multiple simultaneous and dynamic fronts not all of which actually involve the direct use of violence.

These forms of subversion and of unrestricted war could involve drug running, money laundering, bribery and corruption of high-placed officials, shady business deals, use of banks to evade US sanctions, e.g. on Iran, various forms of gun running, also but not necessarily in conjunction with the evasion of sanctions, e.g. North Korea, and outright support for revolution, insurgency, terrorism, civil war, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction using any and all of these means.

Beyond these aspects, these networks are always interpenetrated by states which in many cases are the moving spirits, i.e. the principals, behind them. In all these conflicts terrorists, organized crime, intelligence activity, criminalized business, revolutionaries, and governments all wear many hats simultaneously, making it extremely difficult to trace who is doing what, where, when, how, and why, to whom.

Furthermore the waging of unrestricted warfare comprises a Janus-faced operation in which supposedly or even actually illicit relationships and publicly listed activities between states like arms sales and business relationships possess a second, shadow side that facilitate programs of action like weapons and drug smuggling, support for insurgencies etc.

Practicing the Art of Unrestricted Warfare

On any given day transnational threats involving two or more states or would-be states collaborating against a third party force themselves to our attention. Many, though by no means all, of these cases of transnational threats clearly represent threats against either U.S. interests or those of our allies and partners.

How Technology Revolutionized Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement

Facebook and Google, the favored tools of dissidents, are now shaping Taiwan’s relationship with China. 

By Vincent Y. Chao
April 15, 2014 comments

Underneath the piercing gaze of Sun Yat-sen, the founder of the Republic of China, a group of students sat, unshaved, unkempt and basking in the glow of their laptops. Amongst stacks of coffee cups, crudely drawn artwork, and piles of unevenly stacked office chairs, they were hard at work, plotting the next phase of their revolt against the government in Taiwan.

Three weeks earlier, the group had broken past police barriers and forcefully occupied the main Legislative assembly hall, defeating multiple attempts to evict them by the police. They sit engrossed: sending out press releases, updating the group’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, and sparking discussion on PTT (an online bulletin board favored by many of the country’s youth). Others are dozing off, or hold a blank stare in their eyes, a product of weeks of tension, uncertainty and sleep deprivation.

Initially there were only a hundred of them – students from Taiwan’s top universities energized by a series of controversial land seizures and, in this case, upset at the government’s attempt to ram through a wide-ranging services trade deal with China. Their numbers subsequently swelled, buoyed by 24 hour news coverage, Facebook shares, and, of course, volunteers from the hundreds of thousands of enthusiastic supporters that have flooded the capital Taipei’s streets in recent weeks.

Oliver Chen, 26, is a student from Taiwan’s prestigious National Taiwan University Law School. His hallmark, he says, is the colorful dress shirts he changes into every day. “Nothing else is changed. Shirts are all that I brought.” During the protests, he was responsible for the bank of computers to the left of Sun’s portrait. His team of English speakers worked with the foreign press to arrange interviews with the two protest leaders, Chen Wei-ting, 23, and Lin Fei-fan, 25.

Oliver and the rest of the students were organized. Very organized. Even the opposition, rumored to have ties to some of the student organizers, admits to such. “They could probably run a better campaign than the DPP,” said opposition leader Tsai Ing-wen during a media interview. The students have a medical center, distribution tables for snacks and goods, and even rooms for yoga or singing.

Oliver and three others, Chen Wei-ting, spokesperson Lin Yu-hsuan, and Sean Su, a blogger hailing from New York, worked hard. Revolution is serious business. Especially when it comes to answering questions posted on the social media site reddit’s Ask Me Anything forum, which connects internet users from all over the world with the group here in Taipei.

“You guys are so brave,” said one user, SuperRedneck from Florida. “I’m a student and I couldn’t even imagine overtaking a Taco Bell.” After taking a bite out of his takeout box of stir-fried noodles, Oliver paused for a second. He then responded: “Ask most of us here a couple of months ago, and we would have probably said the same.”

Can Moscow Step Back From Ukraine?

Interviewee: Steven Pifer, , Brookings Institution, Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Initiative
Interviewer: Bernard Gwertzman, Consulting Editor
April 14, 2014

Steven Pifer, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, says "this weekend's actions do not augur well" for scheduled talks in Geneva this Thursday, where diplomats from the United States, EU, Russia, and Ukraine will attempt to negotiate an end to the Ukraine crisis. While Pifer believes that granting more local autonomy to the eastern regions would make for more "effective, efficient, and accountable governance," he stresses that pro-Russian separatists are "talking about a lot more than local power." As for Russia's designs on Ukraine, Pifer says that they encompass more than Crimea. "The fact that Putin has Crimea now doesn't mean that his larger goal, which is to prevent Ukrainians from getting too close to the EU, isn't still very much in play," he says. 

Pro-Russian armed men stand guard as pro-Russian supporters gather outside the mayor's office in Slaviansk April 14, 2014. (Photo: Gleb Garanich/Courtesy Reuters) 

Pro-Russian forces continued to seize buildings and police headquarters in eastern Ukraine over the weekend. What is the impact of these events on the morale of the pro-Ukrainian supporters? 

There is little doubt that the recent armed seizures of buildings in eastern Ukraine were instigated by Moscow. I see this as part of Russia's effort to destabilize Ukraine. Those actions put the acting Ukrainian government in an increasingly sharp dilemma: Does Kiev take back the buildings, which would run a risk of bloodshed and might provide a pretext for Russian military action? Or does Kiev sit back as the number of seizures increases? The acting government may conclude that it has to do something. 

Ukraine's interim president, Oleksandr Turchynov, signaled on Monday morning that he would not be opposed to a referendum on granting regions greater autonomy. Will this concession quell protests? 


Are Russia and the West about to revisit the ritualized competition of the Cold War? Not according to Mark Galeotti. A more useful analogy is the Great Game, that freewheeling 19th century struggle between Great Britain and Russia over Central Asia.

By Mark Galeotti

Suddenly the talk is of a new Cold War between Russia and the West, as Crimea is quietly written off as “lost” for the foreseeable future and the diplomatic focus moves to preventing a further—and potentially devastating— move into eastern Ukraine. While an understandable metaphor, though, this is a dangerous one. The Cold War, for all its brinkmanship and proxy conflicts, was a relatively stable and even rules-bound process. Instead, in this new “hot peace,” perhaps a better, if less comfortable, analogy would be the Great Game, that (since mythologized) nineteenth-century era of imperial rivalry over Central Asia between Britain and Russia.

“Hot Peace”

The Cold War was underpinned by two basic axioms. The first was that the Western and Soviet blocs were engaged in a fundamental and existential struggle; for all the talk of peaceful coexistence, each saw the other’s ideology as antithetical. This is what made it a “war,” however much it was sublimated into other forms and theaters of competition, everything from proxy conflicts to hockey matches. They were ultimately competing for the same thing, nothing less than the shape and future of the world. However, in an age of nuclear weapons and devastating industrial warfare, both Moscow and Washington appreciated the mutual risks in open conflict and so kept it “cold”.

This new era is different. The West would like Russia to be a liberal capitalist democracy instead of the current hybrid pluralist-oligarchic model, but there is little real appetite for regime or system change. Rather, it deplores certain tendencies in Moscow’s dealings with the rest of the world. Likewise, although Vladimir Putin genuinely appears to despise certain aspects of Western culture and politics, he has no interest in exporting the Russian model worldwide. Instead, he is seeking to assert that Russia gets the “respect”—influence—he feels it deserves in the councils of the world, as well as hegemony over what he sees as its rightful sphere of influence in Eurasia. These are ambitions which collide when, for example, Ukraine is in play, but they are much less fundamentally incompatible than the Manichean worldviews of the 1950s-1980s.

Blended Operations

Nonetheless, such collisions in interest and worldview will occur and seem to do so with growing regularity. In part this reflects Putin’s efforts to forestall potential domestic opposition with some cheap narrative of foreign pressure and Russian triumphs—circuses to distract from a future lack of bread—but also the inevitable overlaps of national interests in an age of globalized political and economic connections. The West has interests in Russia’s neighborhood, as well as dealings with traditional Russian allies and rivals alike, from Syria to Japan. Besides, since his return to the presidency in 2012, he has become increasingly nationalist and assertive in his views.

Could Russia Defeat a Ukrainian Insurgency?

The 40,000 Russian troops along the Ukrainian border are not enough for an extended campaign 
Robert Beckhusen in War is Boring

There’s no doubt the Russian military has the means to invade mainland Ukraine. But whether it can hold conquered territory is another question—especially if Kiev puts up a fight.

That’s the conclusion of the Swedish Defense Research Agency, Stockholm’s government-funded military think tank.

The agency—known as FOI—doesn’t doubt that Russia can invade. But itdoes question whether Moscow has the ability to secure territory in mainland Ukraine, given the potential size of the area Russia would need to secure—and absent the natural defensive barriers of Crimea, which Moscow annexed in March.

Unlike Crimea, eastern Ukraine would be hard for an occupying force to defend. Russian troops could find it difficult to prevent insurgents from infiltrating their lines.

This should be reassuring to the new government in Kiev, which came to power following violent protests in February—the same protests that Moscow cited as justification for its invasion of Crimea, an historically Russian region.

In recent weeks, pro-Russian armed groups have seized government buildings in several Ukrainian cities and have killed at least one Ukrainian security officer. Now Kiev is organizing a force to retake these cities.

What happens next is hard to say. There are real worries the Kremlin isinstigating the violence as justification for another invasion. But a further attack on Ukraine could prove to be a strategic mistake for Russia, given the probability of a drawn-out fight.


April 15, 2014 

Does American vacillation over Crimea bode poorly for Japan? Some observers think so.

Recent media coverage has revealed that some officials in Japan see the U.S. response in Crimea as a litmus test for its willingness to intervene in a Senkaku contingency. According to this narrative, Washington’s failure to uphold the 1994 Budapest Memorandum portends U.S. complacency if Japan faces an attack in the East China Sea. It is tempting to attribute this to an acute case of “resolve anxiety,” but it is also important to parse why the failure of one international agreement does not imply the frailty of them all. If the United States is to remain powerful and engaged in the world at a time of great resource constraints, it will need to choose its battles wisely. This, in turn, requires that we acknowledge that not all international commitments are created equal.

The 1994 Budapest Memorandum guaranteed Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity after it inherited and then relinquished the world’s third-largest nuclear arsenal. The document, signed by Ukraine, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Russian Federation, was a multilateral, negative security assurance—the signatories agreed amongst themselves not to infringe upon Kiev’s sovereignty. The Budapest Memorandum, like many negative assurances, had no real mechanism for enforcement. It promised only “consultation” among the signatories in case “a situation arises that raises a question concerning these commitments.” Because negative assurances proscribe unwanted actions, but do not usually explain how violators will be punished, they may embody important principles, but are difficult to enforce.

Contrast this to the 1960 U.S.–Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security. Originally signed in 1951, this bilateral defense commitment has a similar Article V commitment to all of the United States’ other defense treaties, including NATO, the U.S.–ROK alliance, and ANZUS. It is a positive security commitment and promises that an attack on Japan will be treated as a threat to the security of the United States. It also includes standard Article IV and Article VI provisions, which provide for peacetime defense consultation and the forward deployment of U.S. troops on Japanese soil. It therefore includes both a positive defense commitment and the mechanisms that make the agreement credible, and gives Washington every incentive to act if Tokyo does become the victim of an attack.


APRIL 14, 2014

More than three years after the Arab Spring began, the political situation in the Middle East is depressing. In Syria, a brutal civil war continues, with the forces of Bashar al-Assad gaining the upper hand. In Egypt, General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who has overseen a drastic crackdown on political opponents, looks likely to be elected as President. A democratic Iraq has descended into sectarianism. In Yemen, the U.S.-backed regime continues to battle militants linked to Al Qaeda. Libya appears to be on the brink of chaos. The Israel-Palestine peace process remains stalled. And the oil-rich Gulf monarchies sail on, stifling internal dissent with a combination of harsh laws and generous welfare policies. 

Is it time to give up hope? Not according to Mustapha Nabli, a former governor of the Central Bank of Tunisia, and Bessma Momani, a Jordanian political scientist at the University of Waterloo, who participated in a session that I moderated this past weekend, at a conference in Toronto organized by the Institute for New Economic Thinking. Nabli and Momani both acknowledged that the past three years have been disappointing, with high hopes giving way to counterrevolution, intergroup competition, economic problems, and religious polarization. But they also insisted that the long-term outlook was encouraging. Here are some of the reasons they cited:

1. Thanks to the mass protests that took place in many countries, there is now a credible threat of future uprisings against corrupt and incompetent governments, Nabli said. A former World Bank official who ran Tunisia’s central bank after the uprising that ousted the country’s longtime ruler, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Nabli insists that ruling élites in the Arab World can no longer afford to ignore public demands for democratic reforms and improved material conditions.

2. Despite the recent crackdowns on political expression, the pressure for reform remains strong. The old (and possibly racist) idea that democracy couldn’t take hold in the Middle East has been successfully challenged. “Arab exceptionalism is gone,” Nabli said. Momani, who haswritten frequently about the Arab Spring and its aftermath, agreed. “The democratic spirit is alive,” she said.

3. In many Arab countries, a long-overdue debate between secularists and Islamists is taking place. This discussion started in the nineteenth century, Nabli said, but, for a variety of reasons—colonial rule, nationalism, and dictatorship—it was quashed. Its reëmergence suggests that the modernization process is ongoing, he added.

4. In places like Egypt, the Islamist ideology has been tested and found wanting, Nabli said. Going forward, Islamist parties will be forced to rethink how they engage with the public at large, and to focus on improving the day-to-day lives of the citizens whom they wish to govern. If the Islamists want to retain power, they will have to learn that adherence to religious precepts isn’t enough.

US, Ukraine and the End of Unipolarity

Chintamani MahapatraProfessor, School of International Studies, JNU 

When Ukraine became a sovereign independent republic following the Soviet disintegration, a unipolar world order was born. Now with Crimea’s secession from Ukraine and the annexation to Russia, the death of the unipolar world seems certain.

US unilateralism during the era of a unipolar world order remained unchallenged.

There was no one to question then US President Bill Clinton’s decision to rain missiles on Afghanistan as a response to the bombing of two US embassies in Africa; no one could challenge then US President George Bush’s decision to unilaterally abrogate the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, withdraw from Kyoto Protocol, invade Iraq, and overthrow Saddam Hussein from power.

Incumbent US President Barack Obama promised to promote a liberal world order; employ more diplomacy and less force; end occupation of Iraq; talk Iran out of a suspected nuclear weapon programme; bring North Korea back to the Non-Proliferation Treaty; positively engage the Islamic world; strive for establishment of a nuclear weapon free world; reach out to the largest democracy of the world; make China a responsible stakeholder; make Russia a partner for peace; and many more. 

However, project Obama, although partially successful, it has largely failed. President Obama can be given credit for Iran’s decision to accept the détente with the US, Syria’s willingness to destroy its chemical weapons, US Navy Seal’s spectacular assassination of Osama bin Laden, and his successful approach to stemming the country’s downward economic spiral.

Nevertheless, his foreign policy flops appear more stunning. The Arab world is clearly on fire with dangerous political upheavals and unrelenting violence. The White House will have to accept a fair share of the blame for the Libyan chaos, Egyptian instability, the interminable civil war in Syria, and the North Korean nuclear tenacity.


2014-04-14 by Robbin Laird

The Russians are sorting out their way forward into the 21st century.

The collapse of the Soviet Union, the reunification of Germany, and the inclusion of much of the former Warsaw Pact into the European Union and NATO defined the end of the 20th century.

Re-setting the role of Russia in the next decade of the 21st century is a work in progress. 

Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu and president Vladimir Putin at the Tsugol military testing site. Credit: Novosti.

This re-set is clearly based on leveraging the core role which Russian energy plays globally, and an effort to expand Arctic presence and exploitation to enhance that role even more. To date, the ability to leverage the commodity capabilities of Russia into a modern economy have been marked by less than success.

But leveraging those capabilities to expand global presence clearly is part of the plan going forward.

And the rebuilding of the Russian military is part of the effort as well. 

The reform of the military has been designed to ensure local military superiority, which has been demonstrated in the Crimea. And ensuring a viable tactical and strategic nuclear arsenal underwriting the protection of the homeland is also part of the effort. And shaping a way ahead to enhance relevant power projection is crucial as well.There are three key trajectories to shaping future power projection capabilities.

The Defense of the Russian Far East

The first is the defense of the Russian Far East against Chinese encroachments. 

To do so, the Russians have exercised their ability to move forces from West to East, but this is a huge challenge, given the immensity of the Russian land mass.

In July 2013, major exercises were held in the Russian Far East. According to an AP story published on July 16, 2013:

President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday watched Russia’s biggest military maneuvers since Soviet times, involving 160,000 troops and about 5,000 tanks across Siberia and the far eastern region in a massive show of the nation’s resurgent military might.

Despite close economic ties and military cooperation, many in Russia have felt increasingly uneasy about the growing might of its giant eastern neighbor.

Some fear that Russia’s continuing population decline and a relative weakness of its conventional forces compared to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army could one day tempt China to grab some territory.

Russia and China had territorial disputes for centuries. Relations between Communist China and the Soviet Union ruptured in the 1960s, and the two giants fought a brief border conflict in 1969.

Defending Japan and the Philippines Is Not Entrapment

April 15, 2014

In August 2013, US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel declared while in Manila that the US-Philippines alliance is “an anchor for peace and stability” in the region. In October of the same year, US Secretary of State John Kerry emphasized in Tokyo that the “US-Japan alliance is the cornerstone of peace and prosperity in Asia Pacific.” Notwithstanding these bold pronouncements from high-ranking US officials, some in America have expressed concerns over the possibility ofentrapment in case the two US allies’ separate disputes with China turn violent. Some are concerned that Washington could get dragged into a war with China over tiny islands that the US has no national interest in. Others argue that Washington’s long-standing policy of strategic ambiguity should be applied on the East and South China Seas in order to deter the Chinese from changing the relevant status quos, and the Japanese and the Filipinos from getting too emboldened. These beg two important questions. First, will militarily defending Japan and the Philippines over their disputes with China really mean entrapment of the US? Second, will ambiguity in American security commitments to Tokyo and Manila result in an outcome in favor of peace and stability?

Regarding the first question, it is important to dissect what the East and South China Sea disputes involve.

On the East China Sea dispute, it must be noted that it was only in 2008 when China started to send civilian law-enforcement vessels to the territorial waters of the islands in contention. In retrospect, this was the start of Beijing’s attempt to revise the status quo of the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. Over the years, the frequency of incursions increased dramatically. Recently, such attempt to alter the status quo was extended to the relevant airspace with China sending paramilitary aircraft and declaring an air-defense identification zone. In 2010, Beijing used economic coercion to prevent Tokyo from sentencing a Chinese fishing trawler captain who deliberately rammed his ship into Japanese Coast Guard vessels. Furthermore, the Senkaku/Diaoyu dispute involves maritime boundary questions. This is significant because the East China Sea is an important sea lane, where energy and trade for South Korea and Japan pass through. It is also a strategic common that is the gateway to mainland East Asia and an immediate connection to the South China Sea, a very important choke point.

Kashmir Valley : The Hearts And Minds Campaign

E-Mail- renudhillon17@gmail.com 

The Kashmir Valley is witnessing a slow but certain return to normalcy. Security force operations have largely contributed to the return of a peaceful environment by eroding the ability of the terrorists, infiltrated from across the border to cause havoc and create fear in the Valley. However, to some extent, the emphasis placed by the Army in “winning hearts and minds” (WHAM), has also contributed to the normalisation process. Such activities are not designed to take away from the role of the state in the development and administrative process, but merely to supplement such efforts where the civil administration, due to constraints of militancy, sometimes finds it hard to reach. In any case, the limited budget for such activities is but a drop in in the ocean, though the message of empathy it sends to the local people is an important catalyst to drive change. 

Take the case of Miyan-Ulfat, the infant daughter of a poor labourer from the remote village of Lachhipura. Born with a congenital life threatening deformity, her family lacked the means to put the child through a series of surgical operations needed to enable her to lead a normal life. The Army stepped in, assisting the child and the family in undergoing three major surgeries from 2005 to 2013 at Saura Government Hospital. By taking care of not just the child, but the parents too in their hour of need, Miyan-Ulfat is now well on the road to recovery. One simple act can leave a lasting impression on a populace, which has suffered decades of violence. Khursheeda Begum was in her sixth month of pregnancy when she developed serious life threatening complications. The army airlifted her from Dabar, a remote village in Gurez to Bandipura, saving her life and that of her child. 

Many such cases dot the Kashmir landscape as the Army, as in its areas of deployment, the Army has always shown empathy to the local populace. This face of the Army requires greater visibility. Greater focus naturally goes to army operationsagainst terrorists and insurgents, which is perhaps the reason why the human side of army operations takes a backstage. WHAM has however remained at the core of the Army’s operating philosophy, for decades, which has enabled conflict zones to return to an environment where the political process can lead to conflict resolution and enablement of the civil administration to carry out its functions.In the Kashmir Valley, a focussed campaign through “Operation Sadbhavana” was set in motion in 1998 and this has been very successful. One of the prime initiatives of ‘Sadbhavana’ has been in the field of providing health care to remote and inaccessible areas. The modus operandi adopted includes conducting Medical Camps, running Forward Medical Centres (FMCs), Remote Area Support Posts (RASPs), Mobile Medical Teams (MMTs) and door-to-doorcover in remote regions across the Valley.