14 May 2015

Interpreting Modispeak on China

May 14, 2015  : JABIN T. JACOB

Indications are that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will not just push an economic agenda, but will also try and craft a strong politico-cultural plan during his visit.

Mr. Narendra Modi will make his first visit to China as Prime Minister from May 14 to 16. He is unique among Indian political leaders in possessing some significant experience of China before attaining office. In fact, despite — or perhaps because of — the differences in world views and how he has gone about understanding China, he is probably the first Prime Minister after Jawaharlal Nehru capable of shaping a unique approach to China. His forthcoming visit will be one of many such opportunities to do so.

The differences between the two Prime Ministers also show how both China and the Sino-Indian relationship have changed over time. For one, until the defeat of 1962, Mr. Nehru looked at China in anti-colonial and anti-imperialist solidarity and so, promoted communist China’s membership of international organisations and participation in international affairs. This is not to say that he did not understand the geopolitical challenges posed by another large country next door that had a length of history and greatness of civilization equal to that of India, a population of similar size, and, importantly, a different political ideology. But Mr. Nehru also believed that India and China had the potential to do much together to reshape the world.

When Nehru and Mao met

 AMIT BARUAH : May 14, 2015 

The Mao-Nehru conversation of 1954 can remind present leaderships in the two countries that the founders of both nations had wished for a future where their mutual rise was a possibility

The autumn of 1954 is fascinating and a record of history for it was in this year that four-and-a-half hours of conversation, between Jawaharlal Nehru and Mao Zedong, revealed how two strong-willed leaders tried to make sense of the post-Second World War world.

The minutes of the three meetings, that were made public by the Chinese side ahead of the 60th anniversary of the Bandung conference, on April 18, present a compelling picture of two equals trying to analyse changing power equations between the great powers. In this, Mao candidly admits that China’s economic development was “lower” than that of India and it would take “ten to twenty” years for industrial development to achieve tangible results. The records are available at the Digital Archive of the Wilson Center, Washington DC, that provide unprecedented insights into the history of international relations and diplomacy.

Our Chinese complex

May 14, 2015

We can outthink China and the West, by exploring alternatives, creating diversities, inventing new margins in a way the Chinese elite and America cannot dream of

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s trip to China has raised a whole array of anticipations and anxieties. As metaphor and presence, China for the last few decades has been problematic for India and, some would add, the idea of India. The subject has been reduced to a foreign policy problem and is analysed by security experts and foreign policy analysts; rarely do ordinary citizens respond to the issue. The question is, can an ordinary citizen bring a different perspective to it?

Let us begin with the current folklore. We are two large nations, two large landmasses, two of the oldest civilisations confronting each other. Today we are seen as the two largest markets in the world and futurists claim that this century belongs to India and China.

Our elite is less confident. It feels the world respects China more because it is more decisive, more demanding and more masculine. Every time we confront eye to eye, it is India that seems to blink and then go hysterical. The last time we felt superior was when Jawaharlal Nehru pretended to be the head of the non-aligned world, and the Chinese watched him with amusement.

The Nagas of India and Myanmar

May 14, 2015
You can choose your friends, but not your neighbours” is a cliché that our decision-makers like to quote when referring to China. But if geography is destiny, it has lessons for our Myanmar policy as well. Myanmar presents what Samir Das calls a “frontier dilemma” for India’s Look East policy — now awkwardly renamed the “Act East” policy. Its goal may be to connect the Northeast to the “powerhouses” of Southeast Asia. But some of those places are far away. What lies next door to Northeast India is the poor, politically unstable and strife-torn region of Myanmar. To make matters worse, some of the ethno-territorial conflicts in western Myanmar and Northeast India are part of a single regional conflict complex.

Increasingly, the Indian approach to the Naga conflict is at odds with developments across the border. The ceasefire between the government of India and the S.S. Khaplang-led faction of the NSCN has unravelled and there have been attacks on Indian soldiers by NSCN-K militants.

A closer partnership

May 14, 2015 

The PM’s visit will build substantially on these agreements. Business deals worth another $20bn in infrastructure and manufacturing sectors are likely to be pledged.

India and China have entered a new phase of their bilateral relationship as new leaders have assumed charge in both countries over the last two years. As Prime MinisterNarendra Modi travels to China, a definitive agenda for mutual economic engagement is being shaped, supporting the developmental aspirations of the two largest and fastest-growing emerging economies. Indian industry identifies multiple new opportunities arising from such a shift, and is acting quickly and strategically to leverage the emerging sectors of cooperation.

President Xi Jinping’s visit to India last September, during which the two countries signed up for a “closer developmental partnership”, promised commercial agreements worth about $20 billion. This is a big leap from the Chinese investment presence in India of less than $1bn between 2000 and February 2015. China would step into railways, sustainable urbanisation and industrial parks. There is interest in India’s high-speed rail project, railway station modernisation and the smart city initiative.

Wooing China, never mind the pinpricks

Sandeep Dikshit
May 14 2015 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been unusually subdued and even accommodating towards China on strategic issues. A look at what’s on the anvil, in the runup to the PM’s visit to China, besides Mongolia and South Korea

THE high-profile Pakistan China Economic Corridor (PCEC) and a $46-billion development plan announced by Chinese President Xi Jinping last month extracted a few annoyed murmurs in contrast with earlier Indian fulmination when Beijing sought to restore a damaged trans-Himalayan connection with Islamabad via Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK). India's virtual lack of response prompted a former Foreign Secretary, counted as among the hawks in the strategic community, to urge the Government to protest more strongly on China planning a permanent link to Pakistan via the disputed PoK.

A little earlier, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar put the brakes on the previous United Progressive Alliance Government's plan to raise a special mountain corps to beef up defences against China. The raising of the China-centric 62 Mountain Strike Corps will be a decade-long process and there was no urgent requirement for Mr Parrikar to announce curtailing of such long- term plans, if only to keep alive the element of uncertainty or “strategic ambiguity”. But the signal to China about downsizing of the corps was distinctively non-adversarial.

What to expect from Modi's China visit

By Swaran Singh (chinadaily.com.cn)

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi listens to a speaker ahead of launching three new national social security schemes at a function in Kolkata May 9, 2015. [Photo/Agencies] 

The bonhomie on display between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, along with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the celebrations to mark the 70th anniversary of the victory of Allied forces over Nazi Germany in World War II provides an interesting backdrop for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to China from May 14 to 16.

For the first time, Russian soldiers marched with units of People's Liberation Army and Indian armed forces, which reflected that the Russia-China-India strategic triangle (all three countries are incidentally members of BRICS) has gained special significance in face of the Western boycott of the celebrations in Moscow.

India's foreign policy is known for continuity rather than change. Most formulations, therefore, still continue to be grounded in the Nehruvian paradigm (the policies followed by India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru) seeking peace through dialogue and steering clear of military alliances. Modi did initially seek to make a major departure from the policy, but other than his accelerated pace of foreign visits there has been no change in its content. India's power elite continues to agree that India needs to seek a fruitful engagement with China and is willing to play the role of a partner.

Xi Jinping’s brotherly love for Pakistan

13 May , 2015

As Prime Minister is preparing to pay his maiden visit to Beijing (as Prime Minister), it necessary to come back on another visit, President Xi Jinping’s trip to Pakistan and the enormity of the ‘gifts’ that Chinese President brought in his luggage as he landed in Islamabad.

“Xi arrived in Islamabad bearing real gifts: an eye-popping $46 billion worth of planned energy and infrastructure investment to boost Pakistan’s flagging economy. This would include adding some 10,400 megawatts to Pakistan’s national grid through coal, nuclear and renewable energy projects.”

This sounds like a Chinese Dream for Islamabad!

Beijing has decided to help Pakistan to develop a China-Pakistan Economic Corridor which will eventually link up its pet project, the two New Silks Roads (also known as ‘One Belt, One Road’).

In other words, the Chinese-sponsored port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea will be connected through the Karakoram Highway, to the Xinjiang province in China’s Far West and Central Asia …and later Middle East, Africa and Europe.


R.J. Hillhouse, a former professor, Fulbright fellow and novelist whose writing on intelligence and military outsourcing has appeared in theWashington Post and New York Times, made the same main assertions in 2011 about the death of Osama bin Laden as Seymour Hersh’s new story in the London Review of Books — apparently based on different sources than those used by Hersh.

Bin Laden was killed by Navy SEALs on May 2, 2011. Three months later, on August 7, Hillhouse posted a story on her blog “The Spy Who Billed Me” stating that (1) the U.S. did not learn about bin Laden’s location from tracking an al Qaeda courier, but from a member of the Pakistani intelligence service who wanted to collect the $25 million reward the U.S. had offered for bin Laden; (2) Saudi Arabia was paying Pakistan to keep bin Laden under the equivalent of house arrest; (3) Pakistan was pressured by the U.S. to stand down its military to allow the U.S. raid to proceed unhindered; and (4) the U.S. had planned to claim that bin Laden had been killed in a drone strike in the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan, but was forced to abandon this when one of the Navy SEAL helicopters crashed.

Hersh’s article makes the same key claims about the bin Laden raid, with this description of his sources:

Nepal’s Recent Quakes Don’t Mean a Bigger One Isn’t Coming

A house in Sankhu, Nepal house that was already severely damaged in the April 25th earthquake, shakes as a new 7.4-magnitude earthquake hits on May 12, 2015.

Nepal and the rest of the Himalayan region suffered another major earthquake today—a 7.3 magnitude quake that struck about halfway between Kathmandu and Mt. Everest, near the Chinese border. Early reports estimate that up to 1,000 people are injured, and at least 68 have been killed in both Nepal and India.

The region, especially urban areas like Kathmandu and Chautara, had already been reeling from the devastation wrought by the 7.8 magnitude event that hit the country on April 25 and killed over 8,000 people. Hundreds of aftershocks—some as strong as 6.7 magnitude—have continued to hamper relief efforts and keep residents in a panicked state.

This latest quake, however, is not an aftershock, but a brand new seismic event. According to the United States Geological Survey, today’s earthquake occurred 9.3 miles deep in the earth’s crust—the same depth as the April event. Cities and villages in the area have already felt six aftershocks, and the new quake created a whole new wave of landslides further north in the Himalayan mountains.

Is It Time to Meet China Halfway?

May 12, 2015 

Book Excerpt: An important new work offers important ideas on how to difuse the emerging U.S.-China rivalry. 

Editors Note: The following is the introductory chapter from frequent TNI contributor Lyle Goldstein's new book Meeting China Halfway: How to Defuse the Emerging U.S.-China Rivalry. Copyright 2015 Georgetown University Press. Reprinted with permission. www.press.georgetown.edu

Dr. Goldstein is the author of TNI's occasional essay series "Dragoneye" which seeks insight and analysis from Chinese writings on world affairs​. You can read all essays from the series here

Reversing the Escalation Spiral: More than six decades have now passed since young Lieutenant John Yancey of the Seventh Marine Infantry Regiment watched half his platoon mowed down by Chinese bullets on an obscure ridge in Northeast Asia. He turned to his surviving men and said: “Stand fast and die like Marines.” More than one thousand fellow Americans would perish in the frozen onslaught of the Chosin Reservoir campaign in late 1950. That battle was not supposed to happen. Two weeks earlier, Far East commander General Douglas MacArthur had assured President Harry Truman in a face-to-face meeting on Wake Island that the chance of Chinese military intervention in the Korean War was “very small,” despite high-level warnings from Beijing that US forces crossing the 38th Parallel represented a “menace to the security of China.”1

Through Beijing's Eyes: How China Sees the U.S.-Japan Alliance

Yet another attempt to contain China, or a sincere partnership?

For Americans, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to the United States was a proud reminder of what can be achieved through the advancement of common interests and universal values. The story has the making of a Hollywood film: once bitter adversaries, Japan and the United States have worked together to build an alliance and global partnership that has stood the test of time. On April 28, after fifty-five years of bilateral defense cooperation, the United States and Japan agreed to revise their defense guidelines to further integrate military operations and cooperation on activities ranging from peacekeeping to intelligence collection.

From China’s perspective, rather than demonstrating the power of reconciliation, the revision of the U.S.-Japan defense guidelines “is a worry for all nations with direct experience of these countries’ previous overseas military escapades.” Once seen as a valued restraint that checked Japan’s ambitions for regional hegemony, the U.S.-Japan alliance is now viewed as a threat. Chinese president Xi Jinping has gone beyond mere calls, such as were made by his predecessor, for the elimination of such alliances in the Asia-Pacific to proposethe establishment of a new regional security architecture that transcends “the outdated thinking from the age of Cold War and zero-sum game.”

The Life of Chinese Soldiers in the Spratlys

An article by China’s state news service highlights the soldiers on guard in the South China Sea. 
A China News Service piece republished by several Chinese media outlets gives a rare glimpse into the “bittersweet” lives of Chinese soldiers stationed on various outposts in the Spratlys. The piece includes photographs of Chinese soldiers on patrol on Fiery Cross Reef and participating in drills on Johnson South Reef.

According to the article, soldiers rise at 6 a.m. and spend their days doing firearms training and island defense drills. At night, they take shifts standing guard. Their task is made harder by “unidentified vessels” that sometimes come close to “harass” the reefs. During such times, soldiers might go several days without adequate rest.

The article highlights the bravery of China’s Spratlys soldiers in the face of harsh conditions — heat (sometimes in excess of 60 degrees centigrade), humidity, and even frequent typhoons. Plus, the soldiers face immense “psychological pressure,” particularly the loneliness that comes from being stationed in the middle of the ocean, hundreds of miles away from their families. During Spring Festival, when other Chinese are heading home, the soldiers stage plays and performances in the Spratlys to celebrate the lunar new year.

And yet despite the hardship, the piece claims, soldiers request this garrison duty, even when they have a chance to transfer away from the South China Sea. One solider even said that he will come back to guard the Spratlys if he is reincarnated as a soldier in the next life.

Can China and the EU Cooperate on International Security?

There is ample room for Brussels to deepen the conversation with Beijing on security goals of mutual interest. 

EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, was in China last week discussing possible joint actions in international security. Past cooperation in piracy operations off the Somalian coast and in various international peace initiatives provides a solid basis, as does cooperation in combating climate change. There has even been a reasonable degree of contact on countering terrorism and cyber crime.

The day after Mogherini left China, the country’s National People’s Congress released the second draft of a new law that is China’s first attempt to provide a legal basis for an overall approach to internal security. The law, which upholds the ruling position of the Communist Party as well as laying out division of administrative responsibilities in maintaining that political and social order, should give the EU some pause for thought on just how far any joint actions might go. The authoritarian elements of the draft law are a useful reminder of why the EU maintains an arms sales ban on China first imposed in 1989 in response to the Tian An Men Square repressions.

1 Year Later: Reflections on China's Oil Rig 'Sovereignty-Making' in the South China Sea

May 12, 2015

What is the long-term significance of China’s decision to move an oil rig into Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone in May 2014? 

One year ago, China’s state-owned China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC) moved an exploratory oil rig, Haiyang Shiyou 981 (HD-981), worth an estimated $1 billion, into waters within Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone. The incident sparked a major bilateral crisis between the two countries—both of whom claim the disputed Paracel Islands. In hindsight, the event marked the start of China’s attempts to change the status quo in the South China Sea by committing its civilian and non-military assets to disputed areas.

The timeline of the HD-981 stand-off was recently featured in the U.S. Department of Defense’s 2015 report on China’s military. On May 3, 2014, Hainan province’s Maritime Safety Administration declared that the oil rig would begin drilling operations off the disputed Paracel Islands, ending in August that year. The next day, Vietnam’s government protested the Chinese announcement. China declared a 3 nautical mile security radius around the oil rig, far exceeding the 500 meter safety zone state parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea are entitled to under that treaty.

Q and A on New Pentagon Report on the Chinese Military

Michael Forsythe
May 11, 2015

Q. and A.: Andrew S. Erickson on China’s Military Goals and Capabilities 

Every year, the United States Department of Defense must submit a report to Congress — a classified version and an unclassified one — on “military and security developments involving the People’s Republic of China.” This year’s 89-page unclassified report, released last week, analyzes China’s evolving military goals and strategies and new developments in its naval, air and ground capabilities.

The report regularly draws an official rebuke from China, and this year was no exception. A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hua Chunying, saidon Sunday that the United States should “abandon its Cold War mind-set, take off its colored glasses and have an objective and rational understanding of China’s military development.”

In an interview, Andrew S. Erickson, an associate professor at the United States Naval War College and a scholar affiliated with Harvard University’s John King Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, discussed the report, Beijing’s ambitions and the chances that China will close the military power gap with the United States:

China’s (Not So Scary) Drone Army

May 11, 2015 

WASHINGTON: How many drones is Beijing building? Relying on unidentified “estimates,” the Pentagon’s latest Chinese Military Power report says “China plans to produce upwards of 41,800 land- and sea-based unmanned systems, worth about $10.5 billion, between 2014 and 2023,” including armed and stealthy unmanned aircraft. (More on the report here). That sentence gave rise to at least one story about China’s robotic “army.” But all drones are not created equal, experts from the tech-savvy Center for a New American Security reminded me this afternoon.

“It’s not like the sky is falling, but it would suggest a future where China will have better situational awareness over its surrounding regions,” said Paul Scharre, director of the future-looking 20YY Warfare Initiative at CNAS.

Pentagon Reports On China’s Satellite Killers

May 11, 2015 

Chinese space launch facility
WASHINGON: From space weapons to armed drones, Chinese technology is accelerating into worrying new arenas, warns the Pentagon’s annual report on Chinese military power. But that doesn’t mean China is overtaking the US, a leading space expert cautioned, and a panicked over-reaction could drive bad policy.

“Perhaps the most worrying part of the report from a US perspective is the section talking about Chinese counterspace capabilities,” said Brian Weeden, the Secure World Foundation‘s technical advisor. “The tough question is what to do, [and] some of thepotential options could make the situation worse instead of better.”

The report discusses three apparent tests of Chinese anti-satellite systems (ASAT), not just the well-known two. Everyone knows about China’s 2007 test when it destroyed its own defunct satellite, scattering debris that continues to orbit the planet and threaten space assets of every country. A fair number of people know that in 2014, China conducted what the Pentagon called a “successful” test of the same system, albeit without actually destroying a target, to everyone’s relief.

Seven Reasons China Will Start a War By 2017

April 30, 2015

Very few people in China believe in communism anymore, including almost all of the 80 million members of the Chinese Communist Party. The party itself is now a club for mutual enrichment. The legitimacy of the party ruling China is derived from the notions that democracy does not suit China and that the party is the organisation best placed to run the country. The latter is based on an ongoing improvement in conditions for the bulk of the population. In the absence of economic improvement, some other reason must be found for the population to rally around the party’s leadership. This may explain the sudden base-building that started in the Spratly Islands in October 2014. 

China’s public debt grew from US$7 trillion in 2007 to US$28 trillion in 2014. This is on an economy of US$10 trillion per annum. A high proportion of the economic growth of the last seven years is simply construction funded by debt. The real economy is much smaller.

The Chinese government is likely to see the contracting economy and realise that issuing more debt won’t have an effect on sustaining economic activity. Thus the base-building was accelerated to allow the option of starting their war. This is a life and death matter for the elite running the party. They are betting the farm on this. If this gamble does not work out then there is likely to be a messy regime change. 
Chosen Trauma 

Japan treated the Chinese as sub-humans during World War 2. Before that, Japan starting mistreating China by attacking it in 1895, not long after they started industrializing themselves. That was followed by Japan’s 21 demands on the Chinese state in 1915. The Nationalist government in China started observing National Humiliation Day in the 1920s. Then followed the Mukden Incident of 1931 and China’s start to World War 2 in 1937.


May 12, 2015 

For the third time in the last six months, reports are emerging from Iraq that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed caliph and leader of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has narrowly survived a U.S. airstrike. The Guardian recently reportedal-Baghdadi was severely wounded in a March airstrike in the al-Baaj district of Nineveh province near the Syria-Iraq border. While details are sparse — Martin Chulov has subsequently reported that al-Baghdadi suffered spinal damage — al-Baghdadi’s condition was allegedly critical enough to prompt frantic meetings by senior ISIL officials who appointed a stand-in leader while al-Baghdadi is incapacitated.

There is cause to be skeptical of this development. In addition to the previous inaccurate accounts of al-Baghdadi being injured in November and December, Iraqi officials reported his predecessors — Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayub al-Masri — as having been killed numerous times prior to their actual demise in April 2010. Even more implausibly, the Iranian news agency FARS has reported that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi died while receiving treatment in an Israeli hospital. Meanwhile, defense officials toldThe Daily Beast that the March 18 air strike was not aimed at a high-value target and that they “have no reason to believe it was Baghdadi.”

Zakaria: How ISIS shook the world

May 8, 2015

Documents show how ISIS functions as a government 7 photos

A schedule for final exams at the Mosul College of Medicine shows areas to be tested included students' knowledge of obstetrics, parasites, X-rays and ethics.

Documents show how ISIS functions as a government 7 photos

This notice criticizes the greed of some fishermen and lays out new rules, including no fishing during spawning season and no use of electrical current to catch fish, as it harms other creatures, too.

Documents show how ISIS functions as a government 7 photos

The Confused Person's Guide to Yemen

MAY 11, 2015

It’s simply a Saudi-Iranian-American-Yemeni-al-Qaeda civil/proxy war.

“What the hell is happening in Yemen?” is now one of the most urgent geopolitical questions in the Middle East. Sadly, few people are qualified or knowledgeable enough to answer this pressing question. Most experts agree that most experts can’t give you a straight answer. The reality is Yemen is a complex place that is very hard to understand for outsiders, and even more so for insiders. Indeed, most of the people asking what is happening in Yemen are Yemenis themselves.

Now I am not an expert on Yemen. But being Lebanese, I am an expert on not knowing what is happening in my country, which gives me valuable insight into the situation in Yemen. I have therefore compiled this essential primer for understanding the current conflict in Yemen and what will happen there next. (Experts also agree that anything is possible there next, which narrows things down.)

Syria's Mercenaries: The Afghans Fighting Assad's War

By Christoph Reuter

Syrian dictator Bashar Assad is running out of soldiers and is forced to rely on mercenaries in his ongoing battle against rebels. Many of his foreign fighters come from Afghanistan -- men like Murad, who is now being held in Aleppo as a prisoner-of-war.

His war only lasted from one dawn to the next. When the sun rose for the second time over the Syrian city of Aleppo, Murad, a farmer from Afghanistan, was still cowering on the second floor of the house he was supposed to defend to the death. That, at least, is what his Iranian officer had ordered him to do.

How, though, did he get to this war-torn city far away from his village in the mountains of Afghanistan? All he had wanted was an Iranian residence permit, he says. But at the end of his trip, he found himself fighting as a mercenary in the Syrian civil war on the side of the Bashar Assad regime.On that morning in Aleppo, Murad didn't know how many from his unit were still alive, nor did he know where he was or who he was fighting against. His four magazines had been empty for hours. When a violent explosion caused the house he was in to collapse, he found himself thinking about his daughters, he says. "I screamed and thought I was suffocating. And then, everything around me was quiet."

How IS uses water as weapon of war

Author Walaa Hussein
May 11, 2015

Peshmerga fighters stand guard at the Mosul Dam in northern Iraq, Aug. 21, 2014.

CAIRO — The Middle East is facing a water crisis. As the region experiences conflicts over water and faces the continuous risk of war breaking out, experts on water predict that the Islamic State (IS) aims to exacerbate this water crisis, as evidenced by its efforts to seize rivers and dams in Syria and Iraq, starting in 2013.

Summary⎙ Print The Islamic State's expanding control over the water resources of the Middle East will only compound the region's water crisis.

The Arab League has worked since 2008 to establish a new Arab convention on water usage, which would establish parameters on how to deal with the water crisis. However, the final draft is still under review because of the reservations of some member states.

It’s Time to Stop Holding Saudi Arabia’s Hand

MAY 12, 2015

This week's Camp David summit is an opportunity for Washington to send the Gulf a tough message: We're friends with benefits, not long-term lovers.

The picture of President George W. Bush leading an aged Saudi King Abdullah by the hand through the gardens of his Texas ranch in 2005 has become both iconic and symbolic of the U.S.-Saudi relationship. For over 40 years, the United States has walked hand-in-hand with Saudi Arabia through the thicket of Middle Eastern crises.

On May 14, at Camp David, another bucolic presidential setting, President Barack Obama is convening a special summit with Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) partners to begin a new phase in their relationship. But, for the first time, it appears there will be less hand-holding and more tough talk. The United States will use the summit to hear the GCC’s concerns about Iran, but will likely explain frankly to the Arab monarchies that there will be no new U.S.-GCC defense pact or blanket security assurances from the United States. If the president delivers the right messages to whomever shows up at the summit, the U.S.-GCC relationship has the potential to become more productive than ever before.

Russia's Armata T-14 Tank: A Super Weapon?

There has been significant coverage on the newest addition to the Russian family tree of armored vehicles, the T-14 Armata. Purported by the media to be a super tank, the credibility of the T-14 is now being seriously questioned due to the Armata that broke down during the a recent rehearsal for Russia’s VE Day Celebrations. The West should not be distracted by the Armata's recent public relations disaster. Instead, it is important to examine how this new tank reveals key changes in Russian military doctrine. The Armata represents Russia's dedication to developing a professional army capable of fighting in large scale and low-intensity regional conflicts.

The Armata is a direct product of an effort by the Russian Federation to professionalize its armed forces. This shift in doctrine developed after Russia's wars in Chechnya revealed dramatic deficiencies in its military's ability to fight low-intensity wars. The Russian army was pushed back by a stateless enemy, weak in numbers, weapons, and supplies. From December 1994 to August 1996, the Russian army took just over 60,000 casualties: 5,500 killed, 52,000 wounded, and 3,000 missing. Russia's ill-trained conscript army, conventional Cold War tactics, and poor equipment produced catastrophes: in the battle of Grozny 1994, nearly 70% of the 200 Russian tanks involved were destroyed. After their poor showing, Russia has sought to revamp its armed forces with a new doctrine emphasizing professionalism and incorporating modern equipment.

Israel's 5 Most Deadly Weapons of War

May 12, 2015 

Israel boasts one of the most technologically advanced military stockpiles in the world.

Since 1948, the state of Israel has fielded a frighteningly effective military machine. Built on a foundation of pre-independence militias, supplied with cast-off World War II weapons, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have enjoyed remarkable success in the field. In the 1960s and 1970s, both because of its unique needs and because of international boycotts, Israel began developing its own military technologies, as well as augmenting the best foreign tech. Today, Israel boasts one of the most technologically advanced military stockpiles in the world, and one of the world’s most effective workforces.

Here are five of the most deadly systems that the Israeli Defense Forces currently employ.


The Merkava tank joined the IDF in 1979, replacing the modified foreign tanks (most recently of British and American vintage) that the Israelis had used since 1948. Domestic design and construction avoided problems of unsteady foreign supply, while also allowing the Israelis to focus on designs optimized for their environment, rather than for Central Europe. Around 1,600 Merkavas of various types have entered service, with several hundred more still on the way.

Nemtsov Report on Russia’s Covert Support for Ukrainian Rebels Released

May 12, 2015 

Scores of Russian soldiers killed in east Ukraine - opposition report 

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Moscow spent more than 53 billion roubles ($1.04 billion) supplying a separatist rebellion in east Ukraine and at least 220 Russian soldiers have been killed there, a report by Russian opposition activists said on Tuesday. 

The report was the last project of murdered Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov, who used open source information and interviews with families to paint a picture which contradicts Moscow’s argument that no serving Russian troops are fighting in Ukraine. 

Nemtsov was shot dead in central Moscow in February and members of his party, the liberal RPR-Parnas, and several opposition journalists helped finish the 65-page report. 

The Kremlin was not immediately available for comment. 

The West accuses Russia of providing arms and troops to the separatists fighting government troops, as well as giving them training and intelligence. It stepped up sanctions on Moscow over the conflict, which has killed more than 6,100 people. 

The West first imposed sanctions on Russian businessmen and officials after Moscow annexed the Crimean peninsula in March 2014, before unrest spilled over to the east of the country. 

My Ukraine A personal reflection on a nation's dream of independence and the nightmare Vladimir Putin has visited upon it.

Chrystia Freeland
May 12, 2015

On March 24 last year, I was in my Toronto kitchen preparing school lunches for my kids when I learned from my Twitter feed that I had been put on the Kremlin's list of Westerners who were banned from Russia. This was part of Russia's retaliation for the sanctions the United States and its allies had slapped on Vladimir Putin's associates after his military intervention in Ukraine.

For the rest of my grandparents' lives, they saw themselves as political exiles with a responsibility to keep alive the idea of an independent Ukraine.

Four days earlier, nine people from the U.S. had been similarly blacklisted, including John Boehner, the speaker of the House of Representatives, Harry Reid, then the majority leader of the Senate, and three other senators: John McCain, a long-time critic of Putin, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, and Dan Coats of Indiana, a former U.S. ambassador to Germany. “While I'm disappointed that I won't be able to go on vacation with my family in Siberia this summer,” Coats wisecracked, “I am honored to be on this list.”

Implications for Discussions on Transition and Sustainability

By Todd Summers, Katherine Peck 
MAY 12, 2015 

India is the second-largest recipient of grant assistance from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, with a three-year allocation under its new funding mechanism of US$850 million. This reflects the magnitude of India’s contributions to the global burden of disease—India has the highest number of tuberculosis cases (2.6 million) and the third-highest number of HIV cases (2.1 million) in the world, as well as 77 percent of malaria cases in Southeast Asia (estimated at 24 million). 

What Will 2050 Look Like?

MAY 12, 2015

From China’s population to NATO’s irrelevance, we actually know more about the future of the world’s power dynamics than we might think.

Former baseball player (and eminent public intellectual) Yogi Berra famously warned, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” Yet trying to anticipate the future is a big part of foreign policymaking: leaders (and pundits) must try to interpret trends and anticipate events, so that they can devise policies that will avert disaster and maybe even make things better.

But Berra is still right: predicting the future ain’t easy. In a recent class at the Kennedy School, I reminded my first year students about some key features of the world of 1978, which was my first year in grad school. In 1978, the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact were still intact and formidable. The white apartheid government ruled South Africa and the Shah of Iran still sat on the Peacock Throne. People could smoke on airplanes, in restaurants, and in most public places. There was no Euro, no worldwide web, no email, no cellphones, no digital streaming services, and even the compact disc was still unknown. Japan’s economy was going like gangbusters, and China’s per capita income was a mere $165 per annum. How many of us could have foreseen that each of these conditions — and many others — would be dramatically transformed over the next few decades?

World War II and the Origins of American Unease

MAY 12, 2015

We are at the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe. That victory did not usher in an era of universal peace. Rather, it introduced a new constellation of powers and a complex balance among them. Europe's great powers and empires declined, and the United States and the Soviet Union replaced them, performing an old dance to new musical instruments. Technology, geopolitics' companion, evolved dramatically as nuclear weapons, satellites and the microchip — among myriad wonders and horrors — changed not only the rules of war but also the circumstances under which war was possible. But one thing remained constant: Geopolitics, technology and war remained inseparable comrades.

It is easy to say what World War II did not change, but what it did change is also important. The first thing that leaps to mind is the manner in which World War II began for the three great powers: the United States, the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom. For all three, the war started with a shock that redefined their view of the world. For the United States, it was the shock of Pearl Harbor. For the Soviet Union, it was the shock of the German invasion in June 1941. For the United Kingdom — and this was not really at the beginning of the war — it was shock at the speed with which France collapsed.
Pearl Harbor Jolts the American Mindset

Russia invites Greece to join BRICS bank

May 12, 2015 
July 15, 2014. BRICS leaders -- President Vladimir Putin, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Chinese President Xi Jinping and South African President Jacob Zuma (from left to right) -- pose for a group photo in the Congress Center in Fortaleza. (RIA Novosti/Michael Klimentyev)
Greece has been invited by Russia to become the sixth member of the BRICS New Development Bank (NDB). The $100 billion NDB is expected to compete with Western dominance and become one of the key lending institutions.

The invitation was made by Russian Deputy Finance Minister Sergey Storchak on Monday during a phone conversation with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, according to astatement on Greece's Syriza party website. Tsipras thanked Storchak, who’s currently a representative of the BRICS Bank for the invitation, and said Greece was interested in the offer.

Report Card on International Cooperation 2014-2015

Global think tank leaders grade the world's performance and prospects for 2015. Scroll down to explore the report. 

Explore the Ten Global Challenges 

Manpack radios to slim down

Adam Stone
May 12, 2015

Editor's Note: A version of this article was published in the April 2015 issue of C4ISR & Networks. Information regarding the weight of the radios as specified has been updated in this version.

The Army is moving forward with a fresh round of acquisitions for its multichannel portable Manpack radio which will call for lighter weight and greater battery life.

The Army already has purchased 5,326 handheld, small form fit Manpack radios and fielded them to two 101st Airborne Division Brigade Combat Teams. The radio serves as a network bridge, allowing lower-echelon devices to connect to the Mobile User Objective Satellite network and to the Army's network backbone through the Soldier Radio Waveform and Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System waveforms.

Under the present authorization the Army would begin fielding 60,296 Manpack radios in fiscal year 2017.