14 August 2016

*** Signs of Trouble in Ukraine Prompt Question: What’s Vladimir Putin Up To?

AUG. 11, 2016

WASHINGTON — Russia is conducting a series of military and rhetorical escalations toward Ukraine that have anxious Western analysts once again looking for clues as to President Vladimir V. Putin’s next move.

On Wednesday, Russia’s state security agency, the F.S.B., claimed that it had blocked an attack on Crimea by “sabotage-terrorist groups” sponsored by the Ukrainian government, though two Russian soldiers were killed.

Mr. Putin accused the Ukrainian government of using terrorism to incite conflict over Crimea, which has been heavily militarized since Russia annexed it from Ukraine in 2014. He warned ominously, “We obviously will not let such things slide by.”

Russia has increased its military presence in and around Crimea, adding to fears that Moscow might be planning another military intervention in Ukraine. But while Mr. Putin is nothing if not unpredictable, analysts say this may be about Russia seeking diplomatic leverage rather than prepping for war.

What is actually happening in Crimea?

** Putin’s Strategy to Maintain Power

Aug. 11, 2016

The president needs to fix the economy to ensure support from the Russian people.


Recent political reshufflings in Russia highlight Russian President Vladimir Putin’s strategy, but also his constraints in governing the country. These moves have been his response to increasing protests in the regions outside the main cities, caused by poor economic conditions. Historically, regime change in Russia has been triggered by deteriorating economic and security conditions. Putin currently enjoys high approval ratings, but only because the population trusts him to come up with solutions to their problems.


In 2017, Russia will mark the centennial of the October Revolution. In 2018, it will have a presidential election, in which President Vladimir Putin could run again. Putin is seen by most of the Western media as at least a dictator, if not as a czar, but dictatorships require absolute power. Russia’s current geopolitical and socio-economic reality has kept a true dictator from emerging, but Putin is the most important political figure and clearly a ruler. He needs to respond to the Russian people’s problems and keep the country running. Putin is using arrests, raids, resignations and political reshufflings to boost his position and appease the Russian public ahead of next month’s parliamentary elections. While Russia is facing many challenges, Putin's regime is under consolidation.

** Jordan’s Uneasy Approach in Syria

By Jacob L. Shapiro
Aug. 11, 2016

Amman appears anxious about developments in southern Syria.

On July 27, the AFP news agency reported that U.S.-backed Syrian rebel groups in southern Syria were opening up a “new front” in the war against the Islamic State. The story was not widely picked up at the time, but it has recently set off alarm bells in Jordan, which shares a large part of its northern border with Syria. The headline – “Coalition Aims to Open New Anti-IS Front in Syria: US” – is somewhat misleading, but there have been some important developments in southern Syria, which has taken a back seat as much of the world’s attention is focused on the battle for Aleppo raging in the north.

On Aug. 8 and 9, a slew of reports appeared in the Jordanian press, quoting former military officers and various commentators who all said that Jordan should absolutely not be dragged into new military operations in support of the United States in southern Syria. These reports also contained concerns that the new offensive AFP reported might cause large numbers of refugees to head for Jordanian territory, or even encourage attacks on Jordanian targets by either the Islamic State or jihadist anti-Assad rebel groups active in the area.

The first thing to note is that there is no new offensive front being opened up, currently or imminently, in southern Syria – not in the region of Daraa, nor further east where the borders of Syria, Iraq and Jordan converge. This border is roughly 81 miles south of one of IS’ most strategically important positions in the city of Deir el-Zour. The AFP report and the subsequent concern have been based on one piece of evidence: a speech made by U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter to the 18th Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg. Carter, however, said nothing about a new front. He merely said that the U.S. would continue to "aggressively pursue opportunities to build pressure on IS in Syria from the south." Neither Carter nor the U.S. has said anything else on the matter. There's a lot of daylight between wha

Kashmir: Give autonomy, save idea of India

Aug 11, 2016

It has been 34 days since mass demonstrations, most of which turned violent, erupted in the Valley following the killing of Burhan Wani, the poster boy of terrorism for the last few years. Fifty six people have been killed; approximately 3,000 have been injured and more than 100 have suffered serious eye injuries due the use of the now infamous pellet guns. Despite the fact that ‘intifada’ has been exploited by the separatists since the 1990s and the experience of benchmark demonstrations in 2008 and 2010, the spontaneity, magnitude and violence of this time’s unrest came as a complete surprise to the state and central government. This itself speaks for the lackadaisical political approach that has been notable for acceptance of status quo, absence of a strategy and focus on tactical responses to recurring crisis. More so, when the nature of demonstrations is political, with the death of Wani merely being a trigger.

An insurgency and a counter insurgency (CI) campaign are both driven by its political strategy on which terrorist strategy and military strategy of the state are contingent. We are at a critical juncture in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K ) The terrorist strategy has failed and political strategy is at centrestage to pursue their political aim and to revive terrorism. On the other hand, the military strategy of the state has been eminently successful despite the political disconnect. But sadly, rather than seizing the political initiative, the state — trapped by ideological political rhetoric, an excited jingoist media and public emotions — is suffering from inertia, and continues to focus on the military strategy. This crisis presents an opportunity to boldly pursue a political strategy to resolve the issue within the framework of our constitution.

India and the Artificial Intelligence Revolution


August 11, 2016
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Summary: Recent advances in artificial intelligence are a wake-up call to policymakers in India, with every one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s flagship programs likely to be directly affected within the next few years.

Shashi Shekhar Vempati is a digital strategist and a commentator on politics and public policy in India.

Recent advances in artificial intelligence (AI) are a wake-up call to policymakers in India, with every one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s flagship programs likely to be directly affected within the next few years. With China making rapid progress in AI-based research, it is imperative that India view AI as a critical element of national security strategy. Spurring AI-based innovation and establishing AI-ready infrastructure are thus necessary to prepare India’s jobs and skills markets for an AI-based future and to secure its strategic interests.

The Challenges Facing India’s AI Development

AI-based applications to date have been driven largely by the private sector and have been focused primarily in consumer goods. The emergent scale and implications of the technology make it imperative for policymakers in government to take notice.

Early lessons of AI success in the United States, China, South Korea, and elsewhere offer public and private funding models for AI research that India should consider.

The sequential system of education and work is outdated in today’s economic environment as the nature of jobs shifts rapidly and skills become valuable and obsolete in a matter of years.


India’s ascent: Five opportunities for growth and transformationBy Noshir Kaka and Anu Madgavkar

The country could create sustainable economic conditions in five ways, such as promoting acceptable living standards, improving the urban infrastructure, and unlocking the potential of women.

Twenty-five years ago, India embarked on a journey of economic liberalization, opening its doors to globalization and market forces. We, and the rest of the world, have watched as the investment and trade regime introduced in 1991 raised economic growth, increased consumer choice, and reduced poverty significantly.

Now, as uncertainties cloud the global economic picture, the International Monetary Fund has projected that India’s GDP will grow by 7.4 percent for 2016–17, making it the world’s fastest-growing large economy. India also compares favorably with other emerging markets in growth potential. (Exhibit 1). The country offers an attractive long-term future powered largely by a consuming class that’s expected to more than triple, to 89 million households, by 2025.
Exhibit 1

Liberalization has created new opportunities. The challenge for policy makers is to manage growth so that it creates the basis for sustainable economic performance. Although much work has been done, India’s transformation into a global economic force has yet to fully benefit all its citizens. There’s a massive unmet need for basic services, such as water and sanitation, energy, and health care, for example, while red tape makes it hard to do business. The government has begun to address many of these challenges, and the pace of change could accelerate in coming years as some initiatives gain scale.

Kashmir’s Problem Isn’t Wani Or Pellets; It’s Islamism And Refusal To Accept Democratic Verdict

R Jagannathan
August 11, 2016
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The current turmoil is intended to reverse an electoral verdict by violence and force the BJP out of power in J&K.

It will further Islamise the valley, which does not seem to bother the BJP’s “secular” national opposition.

Retrieving young Kashmiris from the path of narrow Islamism is challenging because they are being fed on a diet of blood and shahadat.

The unanimous parliamentary resolution on Jammu & Kashmir, to try and restore trust through a process of dialogue, especially with the young, is fine as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go very far. Without understanding the real reason why things went so bad so soon we won’t get anywhere.

The unrest was apparently triggered by the killing of terrorist Burhan Wani last month, but the real reason has little to do with his killing or the use of pellet guns subsequently against teenage protestors, which has blinded some of them. It is something no one wants to admit: the origins of this bout of alienation stem from the shock delivered by the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Jammu & Kashmir as a partner in power in 2014.‎ It suits the national opposition parties, which too have not reconciled themselves to the rise of the BJP, to pretend that somehow they had better answers to the Kashmir problem which the BJP doesn’t. This is what enables them to play holier-than-thou on the deteriorating situation in the valley.


AUGUST 11, 2016

From the 1950s until today, Russia’s dangerous Atlantic submarine force has represented the technological pacing threat for the U.S. Navy in the undersea domain. However, this trend is slowly changing. It will be the waters of the Pacific, not the Atlantic, where the U.S. Navy will be most sorely tested. In his 2016 posture hearing, Commander of U.S. Pacific Command Admiral Harry Harris noted that Chinese, Russian, and North Korean submarines constitute 150 of 200 submarines currently in the Pacific. Numbers only tell part of an increasingly ominous story. The trajectory of submarine investments made by these nations — and ten other Asia-Pacific countries — will create a far more dangerous undersea domain in the Asia-Pacific by 2030. Developing the policies and frameworks that will enable effective shaping of this environment must be started before the crisis hits.

The recent unanimous award by the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea and China’s vocal and activerejection of the legitimacy of the decision bolsters the need for many countries in the region to have a credible submarine deterrent force. Not surprisingly, countries throughout the region have been working for some time to bolster their submarine forces and others are considering establishing such capabilities. Both trends are captured in figure one below, tracing current and 2030 expected total diesel (SSK) and nuclear (SSN) submarine fleet numbers. Countries in Asia are seeking credible deterrence forces as their confidence wanes regarding the peacefulness of China’s rise and the reliability of U.S. commitment to preserve stability.Figure 1: Current and Expected Future Attack Submarine Forces of Asia-Pacific Countries

Submarine Missions


AUGUST 10, 2016

Editor’s Note: Welcome to the second installment in our new series, “Course Correction,” which features adapted articles from the Cato Institute’s recently released book, Our Foreign Policy Choices: Rethinking America’s Global Role. The articles in this series challenge the existing bipartisan foreign policy consensus and offer a different path.

America’s greatest strategic challenges in the coming years will be in Asia. China’s growing military power and diplomatic influence make it a more assertive actor and North Korea’s frequent missile tests have heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula. America’s network of alliances — the foundation of American military dominance in the region since the end of World War II — faces serious strain as a result.

The Obama administration’s response to these challenges has been the “pivot” or rebalance to Asia. This is an attempt to shift security and diplomatic resources from a Middle East-centric policy toward Asia with the aim of preserving Washington’s traditional regional dominance. However, placing more military assets in the region and increasing American participation in regional institutions served to increase Chinese perceptions that the United States was seeking to contain China’s growing power. Beijing has pushed back against this perceived containment effort by increasing its own military power, which encourages Washington to demonstrate its resolve in turn, creating a dangerous spiral of tension. Instead of continuing the “pivot” or “rebalance” and bolstering American primacy, U.S. policymakers should focus on deterring armed conflict with China, encourage burden shifting and greater initiative by U.S. allies, and reform those alliances to keep pace with the changing security environment.

Is China Getting Ready to Wage a 'People's War' in the South China Sea?

August 11, 2016

Last week China’s defense minister, General Chang Wanquan, implored the nation to ready itself for a “people’s war at sea.” The purpose of such a campaign? To “safeguard sovereignty” after an adverse ruling from theInternational Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. The tribunal upheld the plain meaning of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), ruling that Beijing’s claims to “indisputable sovereignty” spanning some 80-90 percent of the South China Sea are bunk.

A strong coastal state, in other words, cannot simply wrest away the high seasor waters allocated to weaker neighbors and make them its own.

Or, at any rate, it can’t do so lawfully. It could conceivably do so through conquest, enforced afterward by a constant military presence. Defenders of freedom of the sea, consequently, must heed General Chang’s entreaty. Southeast Asians and their external allies must take such statements seriously—devoting ample forethought to the prospect of marine combat in the South China Sea.

That’s the first point about a people’s war at sea. A clash of arms is possible. Statesmen and commanders in places like Manila, Hanoi, and Washington must not discount Chang’s words as mere bluster.

Indeed, it’s doubtful China could comply with the UNCLOS tribunal’s ruling at this stage, even if the Chinese Communist Party leadership wished to. Think about the image compliance would project at home. For two decades now, Beijing has invested lavishly in a great navy, and backed that navy up with shore-based firepower in the form of combat aircraft, anti-ship missile batteries, and short-range warships such as fast patrol craft and diesel submarines.

How China is Setting the Stage for War with Japan in the East China Sea

August 10, 2016

The arbitration panel’s ruling against China on July 12 was a stinging blow to China’s international prestige. China advanced a narrative that it had historic rights to nearly all of the South China Sea (SCS) and that it could prevent states like the Philippines and Vietnam from fishing in their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) and drilling for oil near their coasts. China also maintained the right to engage in island building and fishing practices which caused severe damage to the marine environment. Since these activities occurred inside of its nine dash line claim. China felt justified in these “internal matters” and told its neighbors in almost evangelical terms that the SCS is their patrimony and that no country or international body has a right to mess with their domestic affairs. On all these counts, the tribunal disagreed and issued a strong rebuke of China’s activities and has been lashing out against a variety of countries including the United States, Australia—and most importantly—Japan.

The positive signs that China was moving past the ruling have been overtaken by a number of very disturbing trends which, regardless which path China ultimately takes, puts it on a collision course with Japan, the United States or perhaps a much broader group of states. Unless something dramatic emerges as a result of the secret conclave in Beidaihe, China seems intent on settling scores with those states responsible for its legal embarrassment and loss of face in ASEAN. Japan now seems to be the likely candidate even though it is an East China Sea (ECS) power. Japan warned China’s ambassador twice in the past week that relations between the two countries were “deterioratingmarkedly.”

China’s Negative Reactions

The Reason Why America's F-35 Would Crush China's J-20 Stealth Fighter in Battle

August 10, 2016

The United States Air Force would maintain an “asymmetric” advantage over potential adversaries in the Western Pacific even after the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force inducts the Chengdu J-20 stealth fighter into operational service. That’s the contention of the service’s top uniformed officer—who was asked about the potential geopolitical implications of the introduction of the new Chinese warplane.

“When we apply fifth-generation technology, it’s no longer about a platform, it’s about a family of systems,” Air Force chief of staff Gen. David Goldfein told reporters at the Pentagon on Aug. 10. “It’s about a network and that’s what gives us an asymmetrical advantage, so that why when I hear about an F-35 versus a J-20, it’s almost an irrelevant question.”

Indeed, as Goldfein noted, the Air Force will likely to continue its focus on a family of systems approach where networking and the sharing of data are key instead of fixating on the performance of individual platforms. A direct comparison of the Lockheed Martin F-35 and the J-20—in Goldfein’s view—would harken back to the his days of flying the Lockheed Martin F-117A Nighthawk stealth fighter—which was almost entirely cut off from outside contact when buttoned down to penetrate enemy airspace. “You’ll see us focusing far more on the family of systems and how we connect them together and far less on individual platforms,” Goldfein said.

Chinese Foreign Minister’s Delhi visit is an occasion to start a conversation with Beijing

Written by C. Raja Mohan

August 12, 2016
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India might think of itself as equal to China, but the realists point to the power shift that has begun to express itself in Beijing’s ties with Delhi.

As China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, arrives in Delhi this week to renew high-level political engagement, the two sides should try and limit the negative fall out from Beijing’s decision to block India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in June.

Realists, who focus on power politics, insist the NSG episode merely reflects a new moment in India-China relations. India might think of itself as equal to China, but the realists point to the power shift that has begun to express itself in Beijing’s ties with Delhi. China’s GDP is nearly five times bigger than that of India and its defence spending is four times larger. This power differential, according to the realists, means Beijing has no reason to be sensitive to India’s vital interests. The realist counsel to Delhi is quite simple: Get used to it. As the Greek sage Thucydides put it long ago, the “strong do what they can; the weak suffer what they must”.

The proposition that big powers get their way, however, has an important corollary to it. While the weak endure what they must in deep resentment, they don’t necessarily accept their condition as irredeemable. The weak look for alliances against the strong. They also develop asymmetric security strategies to counter the hostility of the powerful. We don’t have to look far to understand that rider to the realist theorem. Just look at Pakistan’s India strategy.

Is Selling Tanks to Saudi Arabia Such a Good Idea?

August 11, 2016

Washington has made another major arms sale to Saudi Arabia to replace tanks destroyed in the war in Yemen. The sale underscores the Obama administration's deep role in backing the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthi rebels as the war is escalating.

The State Department this week notified Congress of an impending sale of 153 M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks and twenty heavy tank recovery vehicles plus assorted ammunition, weapons and other kit to the Saudi army. Buried in the fine print of the notification is the statement that twenty of the Abrams tanks are intended to replace tanks destroyed in combat. The only place Saudi tanks are in combat are along the Saudi–Yemeni border in the Kingdom's southwest where the Houthi rebels have been surprisingly effective in striking targets inside Saudi Arabia since the start of the war sixteen months ago. It's probably a good bet that more than just twenty Saudi tanks have been damaged. The Kingdom has an inventory of 400 Abrams.

Since the start of the war, the Zaydi Shia Houthis have released videos of their troops destroying Saudi tanks and other targets with missiles. They have also shelled towns inside the Kingdom, some of which have been evacuated. Yemeni troops loyal to the Houthis ally former President Ali Abdullah Saleh have launched Scud missiles at Saudi airbases and other targets. The Saudis have used Patriot missiles to intercept at least a dozen Scuds, and this week reported two more ballistic missiles were intercepted by Saudi defense measures.

The Spectre of ISIS: Trinidad’s Unfolding Jihadi Nightmare

August 08, 2016

"You now have a golden opportunity to do something that many of us here wish we could do right now. You have the ability to terrify the disbelievers in their own homes and make their streets run with their blood.

"...terrorize the disbelievers and make them feel fear everywhere, even in their own bedrooms. Due to their mere disbelief, their blood by default is lawful to spill."

Sending shudders through the population of Trinidad & Tobago, these words were uttered by Abu Sa’d at-Trinidadi in the latest issue of Dabiq, the glossy online propaganda magazine of ISIS.1 In an issue dedicated to targeting Christians, at-Trinidadi’s words as part of a vitriol-laced interview were undoubtedly aimed at spreading fear among the island nation’s overwhelmingly non-Muslim population and marks the first time that ISIS has used one of its Trinidadian fighters to exhort his co-religionists in Trinidad to violence against non-Muslims. Suspected of being one Shane Dominic Crawford, and also known as Asadullah, at-Trinidadi’s chilling message came shortly after it was revealed that nine Trinidadian nationals were detained in Turkey trying to infiltrate into Syria to fight alongside ISIS, continuing to demonstrate the significant lure that ISIS has for elements of the Trinidadian Muslim population.2

Trinidad’s Muslim community has not remained immune to the globalisation of the jihadist movement, being susceptible to the lure of the radical doctrines espoused elsewhere. There is no doubt that the internet is one of the most potent recruiting tools for jihadist propaganda and to spread the message of ISIS. But it is difficult to ascertain how many Trinidadians may have been radicalised through the internet, though it is beyond doubt that ISIS has used the internet as one of its primary recruiting tools to attract foreign fighters.3That some recruits from the Caribbean may have been recruited through the internet was hinted at in comments by General John Kelly, head of America’s Southern Command and whose area of responsibility includes the Caribbean.4 In Trinidad, the internet campaign has the additional support of local groups such as the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen, and its loose affiliates such as the Jamaat al Islami al Karibi, the Waajihatul Islaamiyyah and the Jamaat al Murabiteen. Al-Muslimeen has openly associated itself with Al-Qaeda and has proclaimed its intention of establishing an Islamic state in Trinidad5


AUGUST 12, 2016

From America’s first major overseas military intervention in 1801 against the Barbary States to today’s on-going military presence in the region, the United States has often relied on a tiny piece of the United Kingdom located in the Mediterranean Sea.

Gibraltar, commonly referred to simply as “the Rock,” is a rocky headland covering just over 2.7 square miles on the southern coast of the Iberian Peninsula. It is strategically located at the western entrance to the Mediterranean Sea, where the strait between Europe and Africa spans a mere 7.7 nautical miles at its narrowest point.

After being captured from the Moors in 1462, Gibraltar was part of Spain until it was captured in 1704 by a joint Anglo-Dutch-Catalan force during the War of the Spanish Succession. The Rock was formally ceded to the United Kingdom in 1713 as part of the Treaty of Utrecht “…forever, without any exception or impediment whatsoever.”

Since losing Gibraltar in 1704, the Spanish have sought to take it back. Examples abound through the last three centuries. They unsuccessfully laid siege to Gibraltar on three separate occasions in the 18th century and have since used a combination of military, diplomatic, economic, and plain harassing tactics in an attempt to get the Rock back. More recently, after the Gibraltarians approved a new constitution in 1969, Spain’s fascist dictator Francesco Franco closed the land border and blocked telecommunications between Spain and Gibraltar until the border was reopened in 1985.

Are Turkey and Russia on the Road to Rapprochement?

August 11, 2016

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s visit to Russia has sparked all sorts of speculation. To some, it marks a supposed transformation of Turkish–Russian relations, a pivot by President Erdoğan toward Vladimir Putin that somehow signals a turn away from the West that the Turkish leader found uninterested in, if not perhaps supportive of, the attempt to overthrow him and his government in July. Turkish public disappointment with a tepid Western media and public reaction to the assault on their elected government is a fact, but nothing about Ankara’s rapprochement with Moscow is unwelcome or obviously threatening to U.S. interests.

Erdoğan’s visit to Moscow was a final step in fixing the problem of relations with Russia created by military’s shooting down of a Russian fighter jet in November 2015. That event ruptured ties between the two countries that were very important in economic and commercial terms and politically gave both Ankara and Moscow options in handling regional issues and their respective relations with the West. The economic losses in Turkey were quite significant, especially for the tourism industry, construction, investment and agricultural exports. These losses particularly affected constituencies important to Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party.

In the wake of Ahmet Davutoğlu’sdismissal as prime minister in May 2016 and replacement by Binali Yıldırım, the Turkish government moved to step away from some of the recent confrontations that had complicated and limited Turkey’s ability to pursue its interests in foreign affairs. This was partly Erdoğan cutting his losses, but it also reflected Yıldırım’s personal pragmatism and the opportunity his taking over the government to turn a new leaf. Yıldırım’s government similarly took halting steps toward restoring relations with Egypt that were broken after Abdel Fattah el-Sissi overthrew the government of Mohamed Morsi 2013. It moved to complete the restoration of ties with Israel. There was talk of a new approach on Syria and perhaps even a new push to take up the normalization of relations with Armenia that was abandoned in 2010.

Russia's Big Gamble for the Black Sea

August 11, 2016

It has been a busy week for Russia's president Vladimir Putin—and the course of events in the Black Sea basin over the past several days suggest that the things that are happening are no coincidence.

On Monday, in Baku, Putin met with Iranian president Hassan Rouhani andAzeri president Ilham Aliyev for a Russia-Iran-Azerbaijan trilateral meeting. The three leaders inked documents to move ahead with new infrastructure projects designed to make the so-called north-south corridor that will link Europe and South Asia via Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran much more of a reality. Iran, having already experienced the troubles caused by international sanctions and Russia, currently dealing with Western sanctions, is anxious to develop and sustain a major keystone of the international economic system that will not be subject to U.S. or European pressure, while, for Azerbaijan, having two major trading lines—the north-south and one batch of the east-west running New Silk Road (and the southern energy corridor to Europe)—intersect in Baku heightens Azerbaijan's geoeconomic importance. Beyond these matters, however, the three presidents also found common ground in another matter: internal political security. All three believe that the United States is quite interested in fomenting "color revolutions" against the current rulers in the Kremlin, the Saadabad Palace, and the presidential building onBaku's Istiglaliyyat Street. Despite their political and policy differences—the three countries do not always see eye to eye on every issue (including on how the maritime zones of the Caspian Sea ought to be divided up among the littoral states), they have agreed on the principle that maintaining the status quo in one country benefits the surrounding states—and that they ought to cooperate to prevent any sort of revolutionary changes from occurring.

Trump and Obama: On Foreign Policy, Two Peas in a Pod

August 10, 2016

There are two lines of effort in the current campaign against Republican nominee Donald Trump. First, his Democratic opponents stigmatize him as Russian president Vladimir Putin’s lackey, as someone who would be ready to appease the aggressor in the Kremlin. Second, they contrast him with Barack Obama, a supposed Russia skeptic, and let’s-get-tough-with-Putin Hillary Clinton. These attacks should make sense only to someone who has been under coma in the last eight years. In fact, Trump’s differences on foreign policy with Obama are as much style as substance.

“I’m not confident that we can trust the Russians or Vladimir Putin,” President Barack Obama said during a press conference in the Pentagon last Thursday. Discussing a proposed plan to share intelligence and coordinate airstrikes against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria, Obama said that whenever the U.S. was trying to broker that kind of deal with a leader like Putin or with a country like Russia, “you have got to go in there with some skepticism.”

The Democratic president's comments were made on the same day that former CIA Director Michael Morell, in an op-ed piece he authored for The New York Times, called Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, “an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.” During the Cold War, he would have probably referred to him as the Soviet Union’s “useful idiot.”

Morrell’s allegation echoed similar criticism of Trump’s views of U.S. relationship with Moscow, including his repeated praise for Putin’s leadership, his call for American-Russian cooperation in a campaign to defeat ISIS, and remarks that seemed to suggest that he supported U.S. recognition of Russia’s annexation of the Crimea and encouraged Russians to hack into Clinton’s email server.

The Most Paranoid Country in Europe

August 10, 2016

THE REPUBLIC of Macedonia may be the most perplexing country in Europe. Crossing the border, you are informed via text message that you have entered the “cradle of civilization.” Billboards lining major highways are defiant: “This is Macedonia!” It is the only part of Yugoslavia that did not experience significant bloodshed. It is also the only country in Europe, apart from Romania, where every ethnic minority is guaranteed parliamentary representation. And yet Macedonia is not a success story, but one of how a country the size of Vermont has navigated its way back from the shoals of one disaster after another. In 1992, its economy was devastated by an embargo from Greece in the south and a UN-led blockade on Serbia in the north. Three years later, President Kiro Gligorov was nearly assassinated by suspects who remain at large. Then, in 1999, 360,000 refugees—a fifth of the Macedonian population—descended on the country from Kosovo. By 2001, ethnic Albanians of the National Liberation Army were beating the drums of insurgency, and in 2004 President Boris Trajkovski died in a plane crash on the day the country’s EU application was presented in Dublin.

What Does It Mean to Be Conservative in Russia?

August 10, 2016

When I had just started working as a journalist for the independent Russian news agency Rosbalt in 2006 in Moscow, I went to cover a conference called “Conservative values and social reforms.” The conference brought together two political parties: the German political alliance of the Christian Democratic Union and the Christian Social Union on one side and Russia’s “United Russia” on the other. There were many things that I could say about United Russia in 2006, but I never thought of it as a conservative party. We all lived in a brand new country; the party, too, was brand new and shiny—what could be conservative about it?

At the conference I asked Andrey Isaev (then a Member of Parliament and now deputy chairman of State Duma) about the difference between traditional and conservative values in the Russian context and he told me, “Social conservatism is a policy that defends traditions." As I wrote in my article in 2006: “Probably MP Isaev never thought about the difference between the two, not then and neither now.” I closed my article saying that United Russia of course knows that the wild 1990s took away any positive meaning from the words “liberal” and “reform” in Russia, so why not substitute “liberal” for “conservative” and “reforms” for “modernization” in a rebranding attempt?

I did not know that I actually asked Isaev one of the most difficult questions about conservatism (I was young and bold) and I was not trying to hide my scepticism back then—which was by the way shared by many participants at the President Hotel. Looking back from 2016 I understand that I was wrong. The conservative wave was coming and Putin knew it all the way.

Russian army can outgun British, leaked report warns

10 August 2016

Assessment by British army’s warfare branch says Russian weapons are more powerful than UK equivalents

Gen Sir Richard Shirreff, Britain’s former top officer at Nato, said British capability is being ‘dramatically hollowed out’. Photograph: Evening Standard/Rex/Shutterstock/Evening Standar/REX/Shutterstock

The Russian army can outgun British troops on the battlefield after military advances by the Kremlin, a leaked report suggests.

The assessment by the British army’s warfare branch, seen by the Times, warned that Russian weapons, including rocket launchers and air defence systems, were more powerful than their British equivalents. The report added that UK and its Nato allies were “scrambling to catch up” with Russia’s ability to use electronic means to hijack enemy drones and disrupt other military transmissions.

The publication was produced in March under the direction of Gen Sir Nick Carter, the head of the army, the newspaper said. It is understood the report is based on one training exercise carried out in Ukraine.

Inside the mind of a venture capitalist

Draper Fisher Jurvetson partner Steve Jurvetson reveals what he looks for in entrepreneurs and explains how large companies can respond to disruption.

What do venture-capital firms look for when they back entrepreneurs? With billions of dollars flowing into start-ups around the world, that question has never been more important, nor the answer more consequential. Silicon Valley venture-capital powerhouse Draper Fisher Jurvetson has backed almost two dozen unicorns—start-ups valued at more than $1 billion—including Box, Skype, Tumblr, and Twitter. In this interview, one of the VC firm’s founding partners, Steve Jurvetson, tells McKinsey’s Michael Chui what he looks for when he makes investment decisions, what he considers hot sectors, and what could be the biggest start-up of all: space. An edited transcript of their conversation follows.
What venture capitalists want

I like to invest in entrepreneurs who have this infectious enthusiasm. This starts with people—people like Elon Musk—who can convince you that whatever they’re working on is going to work. Usually, this has to be in some sector of the economy that we feel is going to experience rapid growth, that’s in a period of massive disruptive change.

In the ’90s, that meant software and semiconductors and biotech. Then it morphed. Today, it’s a wide range of industries, from synthetic biology to rockets to electric cars to a variety of sectors that weren’t ripe for venture investment in prior decades but now are becoming software businesses. As they do, we find that they’re going through profound change. And whenever there’s profound change, that’s great for start-ups.

Why America's Military Needs a New Nuclear-Armed Cruise Missile

August 10, 2016

The safety and survival of American civilians along with countless US military assets hinges, to some extent, upon the existence of a nuclear-armed, air-launched long-range stealthy cruise missile able to elude sophisticated enemy air defenses and threaten or strike targets deeply lodged in enemy territory, senior Air Force officials said.

At first glance, this concept could resonate as somewhat extreme or exaggerated -- given the existing US “Triad” of nuclear weapons to include ICBMs, air-dropped bombs and submarine launched nuclear firepower.

However, in an exclusive interview with Scout Warrior, Lt. Gen. Jack Weinstein, Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration, said that the emerging Long-Range Stand-Off weapon, or LRSO, is intended to function as a critical element of the US military nuclear arsenal.

Along these lines, senior Air Force leaders continue to argue that engineering a new, modern Long-Range Standoff Missile with nuclear capability may be one of a very few assets, weapons or platforms able to penetrate emerging high-tech air defenses. Such an ability is, as a result, deemed crucial to nuclear deterrence and the commensurate need to prevent major-power warfare. 

Therefore, in the event of major nuclear attack on the US, a stand-off air-launched nuclear cruise missile may be among the few weapons able to retaliate and, as a result, function as an essential deterrent against a first-strike nuclear attack. 

Are Russia and NATO inching towards a conflict?

August 08, 2016

The Joint Communique issued by the recent NATO summit, held on July 8-9 in Warsaw, appears to have sown the seeds of a renewed confrontation with Russia. It identifies Russia as a key threat to European security, emphasises upon ‘deterrence’ and ‘defence’ through a NATO military build-up along Europe’s eastern arc to counter the Russian threat, and indicates NATO’s intent to strengthen its outreach in the post-Soviet space of Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The other vital roadmaps identified by the Joint Communique include Montenegro’s accession as a NATO member, the operationalisation of missile defence systems in Romania and Poland, and the cultivation of a defence partnership with, hitherto neutral, Sweden and Finland.

While these initiatives may reassure Eastern European members about NATO’s commitment to counter the Russian threat, they are also likely to reinforce Russia’s hostile perceptions of this ‘Western’ alliance. It can even be argued that NATO’s blueprint amounts to breaching the Kremlin’s red-lines, which is particularly significant given the adversarial relationship between Russia and the ‘West’ post the 2014 Ukrainian crisis.
Russian and NATO Threat Perceptions

The roots of the ongoing Russia-‘West’ rivalry lies in the inability of the latter to accommodate the former as an equal partner on the global stage. Their historical mutual distrust and fundamental differences over the global strategic balance finally culminated in the Ukrainian standoff. The West’s imposition of economic sanctions and attempts to isolate Russia in the global arena have reinforced Russia’s suspicions about the US-led ‘Western’ strategy to contain it in its own neighbourhood. Against this backdrop, NATO is seen by Russia as a key instrument for pushing this ‘Western’ agenda, which is particularly reflected in the alliance’s expanding footprints eastwards, despite an assurance to the contrary.
Russia’s Historical Anxiety

Army spearheading cyber persistent training environment

Mark Pomerleau
August 11, 2016
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As the military continues to build its cyber forces and institutionalize a professional cyber corps, top officials are calling for a cyber persistent training environment. While Cyber Command conducts large-scale exercises every year such as Cyber Guard and Cyber Flag, more is needed.

The Army was recently tasked by DoD as the lead for the joint services to develop the persistent training environment, Ron Pontius, deputy to the commanding general of Army Cyber Command, said at TechNet Augusta, held in Georgia Aug. 2-4.

“The cyber PTE will provide scenarios event management and access for high quality, individual and collective training and mission reversal capabilities for our cyber mission forces at the time and place of need for all four services and for U.S. Cyber Command,” Pontius said.

“This past year the deputy secretary of defense designated the Army as the executive agent for cyber training ranges and then in this last year’s program budget review the Army was specifically given some resources…to do persistent training environment, to lead the development for the whole DoD capability,” Pontius told C4ISRNET in a recent interview at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Funding is slated to begin in fiscal 2017, and in the meantime, the Army is “working through the governance and management and the requirements and the acquisition approach for when resources start flowing in FY17,” he added.

Should CYBERCOM be a combatant command?

Kevin Coleman
July 26, 2016
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In 2010 U.S. Strategic Command members — from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard — combined to form U.S. Cyber Command, a subordinate operational unit.

Think about what was happening back in 2010 and 2011. In 2010 multiple articles were published about a massive cyberattack that struck tech icon Google and other U.S. companies. Many associated the attack with a suspected Chinese government operation that used human intelligence techniques and high technology to steal corporate secrets. That was one of many cyber incidents that year.

Then in 2011, cyber espionage and sabotage were at the top of our list of cyber concerns. Those concerns were intensified as a wave of Advanced Persistent Threats (APT) struck companies, international agencies and governments all over the world.

With all that has happened since 2010, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry, R- Texas, has raised an important question: “Isn’t it time for CYBERCOM to stand on its own as a combatant command?” As a combatant command, CYBERCOM will be the Unified Command Plan that establishes the missions and geographic responsibilities among the combatant commanders.

Few important decisions are ever clear cut. There a many pros and cons to strategic decisions such as this. One thing is for sure: The right decision is the one that allows CYBERCOM the greatest flexibility and minimizes the time to make decisions and respond. Their mission and criticality will only continue to increase.

DARPA awards contract to restore power grid after cyberattack

August 9, 2016

SRI International has been awarded a $7.3 million DARPA contract to restore the U.S. power grid after a cyberattack.

SRI will support the Threat Intelligence for Grid Recovery project, which is part of DARPA's Rapid Attack Detection, Isolation and Characterization Systems (RADICS) program, according to the Department of Defense contract announcement.

The power grid is one of 16 sectors defined as critical infrastructure. 

Under the four-year contract, RADICS is intended to restore electrical service within seven days after the grid has been brought down by a cyberattack.

"RADICS will develop innovative automated systems to detect indications and warning of an impending attack, provide situational awareness, and accelerate recovery actions by enabling first responders to isolate affected systems from the Internet, establish a secure communications network and characterize the nature of the threat," the DoD said.