28 December 2016

** Russia and Cyber Operations: Challenges and Opportunities for the Next U.S. Administration


A later investigation would conclude that the data taken during this period, if printed out, would stretch as high as the towering obelisk of the Washington Monument. The investigators noticed something else: the bulk of the intruders’ activities took place at night. From this fact, and from the tangled international web of hop points through which the intruders carried out their operations, the case acquired a name—Moonlight Maze. As the investigation proceeded, the perpetrators came more clearly into view: Russian operators.On October 7, 1996, well before such things were commonplace, the Colorado School of Mines suffered a digital break-in. The intruders gained access to a computer nicknamed “Baby Doe” in the school’s Brown Building. To do this, they exploited vulnerabilities in the machine’s Sun OS4 operating system. From there, they hopscotched to NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Navy and Air Force, and a long list of other computers spread across American universities and military installations. The operation went on for years, with the intruders collecting sensitive information as they went.

A stronger deterrent

This test was also the first after India acceded to the Missile Technology Control Regime.

The successful test-firing on Monday of the indigenous nuclear-capable Agni-V intermediate range ballistic missile, which can fly 5,000 km and carry a nuclear payload of 1,000 kg, adds credibility to India’s nuclear deterrent. It also enhances the country’s strategic options.

This test was also the first after India acceded to the Missile Technology Control Regime. The event marks the international acceptance of India’s ability to mate the nuclear weapon with the delivery system with the reach of a certain range.

Given its ability, Agni-V can hit targets not just in the country’s neighbourhood but all parts of Asia. It is not Pakistan or China-specific, though it can reach all parts of China. For Pakistan, the range of Agni-I and Agni-II were sufficient.

Agni-V was first successfully tested in 2012 and then again in 2013. The latest test helps to confirm its reliability. This missile, being canister-fired as was shown in the test, will have enhanced mobility, specially since it is solid-fuel propelled. This last feature reduces its preparation time for firing.

Behind Pakistan’s CPEC offer

Days after a senior Pakistani General suggested that India should shun its “enmity” with Pakistan and join the $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project, the Chinese foreign ministry has called the offer a “goodwill gesture”, exhorting India to take it up. At face value, the suggestion is odd. India has no dialogue with Pakistan at present, and has opposed the project, bilaterally with China “at the highest level” as well as at the UN. Relations with China have deteriorated considerably since President Xi Jinping’s visit to Pakistan to announce the project in April 2015. Initially, New Delhi sought to play down its significance, as it was made just weeks before Prime Minister Narendra Modi travelled to China, and the government would have hoped to dissuade Beijing from pushing the more objectionable projects that run through disputed territory. However, not only has the corridor taken shape rapidly, China and Pakistan have been drawn into a closer embrace, with Pakistan investing considerable resources in securing Chinese officials working on CPEC, and China redrawing its plans for the One Belt One Road to Central Asia to incorporate Pakistan’s interests. China has defended Pakistan against India’s efforts to pin it down with regard to support to terror groups, and to draw an obstructionist equivalence with India’s Nuclear Suppliers Group membership application. Given all this, the General’s suggestion can only be understood to have been made rhetorically, especially as it was accompanied by allegations of India’s “anti-Pakistan activities and subversion” in Balochistan.

Understanding India's Evolving Role in Asia through an ASEAN Prism

By Sara Itagaki

In 2014, not long after taking office, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced his Act East policy, signifying an upgrading of India’s commitment to the Asia-Pacific. While India’s relationships with neighbors to its west such as Afghanistan and especially Pakistan tend to generate the lion’s share of media attention, the Modi government has quietly sought to make a name for itself in East Asia. In 2016 the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars launched a new India in Asia initiativethat examines New Delhi’s relations with the Asia to its east. In this Q&A, Michael Kugelman, the Wilson Center’s senior associate for South and Southeast Asia, discusses the key drivers and constraints of India’s foreign policy toward this region, and particularly the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Over the past ten years, India’s trade volumes with ASEAN have expanded fivefold, and we have also seen an uptick in formal India-ASEAN dialogues. What is driving this interest in deeper ties?

There are three major reasons for this increased engagement with the ASEAN region. The first two reasons are economic in nature. First, India needs more markets for its rapidly growing economy. This remains the case even as New Delhi pushes for domestic-led growth through the Make in India initiative, which encourages national and multinational companies alike to manufacture products in India. The ASEAN region has some of the fastest-growing economies in the world, with countries like Vietnam—which set a national record last year for levels of incoming FDI—and Singapore leading the way. On the whole, ASEAN offers tantalizing economic opportunities for India. According to a McKinsey assessment, the region collectively constitutes the seventh-largest economy in the world and houses more than two hundred of the world’s largest companies.

Iran, Russia See Opportunity to Encircle the US in Afghanistan

By Atta Nasib

Moscow and Tehran see an opportunity to fatal distract the United States in Afghanistan. 

Recent revelations that Iran and Russia have explored further cooperation with the Taliban caught attention in Western capitals. Tehran’s involvement with the insurgent group is old news but Moscow’s carefully orchestrated confession comes at a dangerous juncture for the United States and its war in Afghanistan, Washington’s longest ever.

Besides Pakistan, the Taliban’s traditional patron, Washington is in particular concerned about the legitimacy the Taliban are achieving in regional capitals, which will spell disaster for the U.S. presence.

Despite the nuclear deal with Tehran, many in Iran believe that Washington cannot be trusted to keep up its part of the deal. This comes on the heels of the election victory by Donald Trump and his hawkish campaign talk vis-à-vis the pact. Trump has frequently said he will scrap the deal on day one. This has raised eyebrows in Tehran and sparked a search for possible contingency plans. With American involvement in Iraq, and now Syria as well, Tehran feels encircled and certainly threatened by the incoming administration.

Beijing's Eyes and Ears Grow Sharper in Xinjiang

The troubled region of Xinjiang, in China’s northwest, has undergone a dramatic transformation over the last couple of months. Thousands of local police stations have cropped up across the region and tens of thousands of policemen have been recruited to man them around the clock.

These structures, known as convenience police stations, are part of the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s latest effort to stem the religious and ethnic violence that has long marred Xinjiang. Since the deadly Urumqi riots in 2009, in which the Uyghur minority clashed violently with ethnic Hans, Chinese authorities have ratcheted up control through a massive expansion of its security apparatuses. And yet the violence continued, with market bombings, suicide attacks, and mass stabbings that have left hundreds of Han and Uyghur civilians dead over the past decade.

Now, high-definition security cameras blanket the region, and some 200,000 cadres are being dispatched to rural villages in an effort to watch over the restive Uyghur population. According to state-owned media, the new neighborhood-based police depots offer residents a range of “convenient services,” such as phone charging stations, WiFi, umbrellas, wheelchairs, and even hot tea and free newspapers. But their main purpose is surveillance, providing a series of forward operating bases for community policing and 24-hour patrols.

Decoding China’s quantum satellite experiments


On August 16, China launched the world’s first quantum communications experiment satellite into orbit from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert.

The small satellite, named Micius after an ancient Chinese philosopher, is tasked to establish a hack-proof communication line – a quantum key distribution network, while performing a series of quantum entanglement experiments in space for the first time.

The quantum science satellite (QSS) program is the third mission of the 2011 Strategic Priority Program on Space Science that includes a series of satellite launches between 2015 and 2030 to explore black holes, dark matter, and cosmic background radiation.

Research on quantum technology is also a key priority, including in the 13th Five-Year Plan, China’s latest economic blueprint for research and development released in March 2016. The QSS is sponsored and managed by the China Academy of Sciences (CAS), and led by chief scientist Pan Jianwei. Its mission payload was developed jointly by the CAS’s Shanghai Institute of Technical Physics (SITP) and the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC).

When China Sneezes Does ASEAN Catch a Cold?

Mr. Sohrab Rafiq 

Free Full text (PDF file size is 2,055KB). 

Disclaimer: This Working Paper should not be reported as representing the views of the IMF. The views expressed in this Working Paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent those of the IMF or IMF policy. Working Papers describe research in progress by the author(s) and are published to elicit comments and to further debate 

Summary: This paper looks at the effects of a China slowdown on Emerging Market Economies (Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand) and Frontier Developing Economies (Cambodia, Lao P.D.R., and Vietnam) in ASEAN. The main finding is that the impact of China growth shocks on ASEAN has risen since the global financial crisis. A one percent decline in China’s growth implies a 0.3 percent reduction in growth for ASEAN EMEs and 0.2 for FDEs. An important component of inflation is also shared between ASEAN and China. These magnitudes are double what they were two decades ago due to stronger trade and financial linkages. Finally, a slowdown in China, while having real effects, also has a financial impact via slower credit growth and lower equity prices. This is in line with the existence of both portfolio balance and signaling channels, in which ASEAN market participants absorb news on China economic activity as an indicator over domestic growth prospects. 

China wages cyber war via dharamsala

Rakesh K Singh

NEW DELHI: With a view to malign the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), China is remotely accessing the computer servers in Dharamsala, planting spywares and malwares and disguising the IP address to target computer systems across the globe, said Prime Minister of Central Tibetan Administration Dr Lobsang Sangay. 

“China is also seeking to drive a wedge between CTA and foreign governments by infecting our computer systems. Efforts are on to secure the servers in Dharamsala which is used by the Chinese as a transit point to launch cyber attacks globally,” Sangay told The Sunday Standard. 

He said a major study on malware attacks against Tibetans conducted by Munk School of Global Affairs at the Toronto University reported that the attacks on the servers and computer system of CTA are “highly targeted and have low anti-virus detection”. 

Towards a new world order in Eurasia? The role of Russia and China

James Dorsey

A new Russian-led, China-backed Eurasia-centred world order may be in the making against the backdrop of alleged Russian cyberwarfare against the United States and Europe. Analysts see a pattern in Russian moves that could serve China’s interests should US president-elect Donald Trump adopt a more confrontational approach towards Beijing. Suggestions that Russian president Vladimir Putin … 

A new Russian-led, China-backed Eurasia-centred world order may be in the making against the backdrop of alleged Russian cyberwarfare against the United States and Europe. Analysts see a pattern in Russian moves that could serve China’s interests should US president-elect Donald Trump adopt a more confrontational approach towards Beijing.

Suggestions that Russian president Vladimir Putin is bent on creating a new Russia-led and China-backed Eurasia-centred world order by undermining western democratic institutions may be a crackpot conspiracy theory. Yet, this may not be so far-fetched against the backdrop of US allegations of Russia’s waging cyberwarfare against the US, German intelligence sounding the alarm bell, East European leaders having their fears confirmed, and Moscow and Beijing reaching out to western supporters of the idea.

U.S. Marines Changed World War II in This Complex Strategy Game


This story originally appeared on April 15, 2015.

Video games are more than just a good time. America’s military has long been a pioneer at using them to teach, educate and recruit.

Marines once played a modified version of the popular shooter Doom II in the classroom. America’s Army and its sequels continue to be an important recruiting tool for the Army.

China’s First Cyber Security Law

By Abhishek Pratap Singh

The passage of China’s first Cyber security law on November 7, 2016 marks another step in the direction of increased oversight over the use of the internet in China. The regulatory framework for the use of Internet and related services in China will now be subject to the provisions of new Cyber security law that will go into effect from June 2017.

The promulgation of the new Cyber security law is very much in line with President Xi Jinping’s concept of an “overall national security outlook”, which he enunciated in his address at the inaugural meeting of the National Security Commission in April 2014.1

China has justified the passage of the new law as an ‘objective need’ for national security considering China’s large cyber infrastructure and its vulnerabilities.

Background and Rationale

Cyber law is a recent phenomenon at the level of governance, both in China, and globally. The need for cyber laws to provide a regulatory legal framework has been felt in the last decade with the onset of the Internet revolution, and its deep penetration into all aspects of the economy, society and governance of China.

Exploiting Disorder: al-Qaeda and the Islamic State

The Islamic State (IS), al-Qaeda-linked groups, Boko Haram and other extremist movements are protagonists in today’s deadliest crises, complicating efforts to end them. They have exploited wars, state collapse and geopolitical upheaval in the Middle East, gained new footholds in Africa and pose an evolving threat elsewhere. Reversing their gains requires avoiding the mistakes that enabled their rise. This means distinguishing between groups with different goals; using force more judiciously; ousting militants only with a viable plan for what comes next; and looking to open lines of communication, even with hardliners. Vital, too, is to de-escalate the crises they feed off and prevent others erupting, by nudging leaders toward dialogue, inclusion and reform and reacting sensibly to terrorist attacks. Most important is that action against “violent extremism” not distract from or deepen graver threats, notably escalating major- and regional-power rivalries.

The reach of “jihadists” (a term Crisis Group uses reluctantly but that groups this report covers self-identify with; a fuller explanation for its use is on page 2) has expanded dramatically over the past few years. Some movements are now powerful insurgent forces, controlling territory, supplanting the state and ruling with a calibrated mix of coercion and co-option. Little suggests they can be defeated by military means alone. Yet, they espouse, to varying degrees, goals incompatible with the nation-state system, rejected by most people in areas affected and hard to accommodate in negotiated settlements. Most appear resilient, able to adapt to shifting dynamics. The geography of crisis today means similar groups will blight many of tomorrow’s wars.

Mosul, Aleppo, Ankara... Future is bleak

Talmiz Ahmad

Russia and Iran now seem like the dominant regional powers, but will this survive the presidential transition in Washington?

Three pictures taken in December epitomise the West Asia scenario: the crumbling edifices of Aleppo, the Iraqi armed forces poised outside Mosul, and the Russian ambassador shot dead at an art gallery in Ankara by an off-duty Turkish security official, who shouted “Aleppo”, “vengeance” and “God is great”, as he pumped bullet after bullet into the Russian diplomat.

On December 13, Aleppo, Syria’s commercial centre and home to two million people, fell to Syrian government forces, backed by massive Russian air support, after enduring a relentless siege and vicious assaults over five years. As the winter rain fell upon the besieged denizens, a resident wrote: “The sky is crying for Aleppo with soft tears”.

In Iraq, the military operation to take Mosul began in October. It is spearheaded by the elite US-trained counter-terrorism forces, and supported by the Iraqi Army, the Kurdish peshmerga, assorted Sunni militia, a few thousand US and Nato special forces and the formidable largely Shia Popular Mobilisation Units (PMU), trained by Iran. The operation began with about 30,000 troops, but the attacking coalition soon swelled to a hundred thousand, the largest force mobilised in Iraq since the US invasion in 2003. There are about 5-8000 ISIS militants in Mosul.

Russian DNC Hackers Tied to Ukrainian Artillery App Hack

The same family of malware that was used to hack into U.S. Democratic National Committee systems has also been found infecting an Android app used by artillery units defending eastern Ukraine after Russia invaded Crimea in 2014, according to the cybersecurity firm Crowdstrike.

The malware, called X-Agent, is a variant of a type used not only against the DNC but also the World Anti-Doping Agency in support of suspected Russian government disinformation campaigns. Crowdstrike claims to have attributed the attacks to the Russian hacking group known as Fancy Bear.

The DNC intrusion has been attributed by all U.S. intelligence agencies to senior Russian officials (see Obama Suggests Putin Behind Hacks to Influence Vote). President-elect Donald Trump has disputed Russia's involvement, suggesting that another country - or individual - may have perpetrated the hacks.

The Russian government has denied any involvement in the DNC attack.

But Crowdstrike says in a report released Dec. 22 that Fancy Bear - also known as APT28, Pawn Storm, Sednit and Sofacy - has been the "exclusive operator" of the malware. In the case of the DNC hack, however, it says a related Russian group, dubbed Cozy Bear - aka CozyDuke or APT 29 - also participated in the attacks.

A Strategic Response to the Russian Hacking Affair

Rolf Mowatt-Larssen
The correct starting point in responding to the alleged Russian cyber intrusion now dominating American headlines is not to call it "a cyber 9/11.” Such hyperbole will only incite confrontation between Russia and the U.S. at a time cooler heads should prevail. This is not to say the Russian cyber activity, if it took place the way intelligence officials believe, is not significant. Russian hacking constitutes a serious meddling in our internal affairs, but equating it with existential threats does not help matters. The World War II generation must be shaking their heads: They saved the world from a true existential threat, one that required U.S.-Russian cooperation to achieve victory. Current cyber challenges call for a well-crafted, multi-pronged, long-term response, not a hasty, emotionally charged escalation that will provoke a U.S.-Russian tit-for-tat that benefits neither side. Paradoxically, the whole affair may have a silver lining if it provides an opening to devise some rules of the game that have been painfully missing from the cyber realm—an outcome possible only if we keep a realistic view of Russia’s perspective.

Despite rising U.S.-Russian tensions, there is breathing room for de-escalation that both sides should pursue. The Russians have consistently expressed interest in addressing the void in international protocols and agreements governing the use of offensive cyber operations, if for no other reason than they recognize that they are also very vulnerable to such attacks. They express this interest, as they have historically, through their actions and in their comments to U.S. officials. The latest hacking affair has been a stark reminder of the lack of “rules of the game” that govern other forms of espionage—unwritten rules that have been set by precedents over decades of intelligence confrontation between U.S. and Russian spy agencies.

The Soviet Union’s Collapse and Russia’s Colonial Legacy

By Catherine Putz
Source Link

The USSR’s collapse; don’t say ‘colony’; hope for an Uzbek glasnost; and more. Recommended reads. 

A Collapse, or Something Like It: Twenty-five years ago — December 26, 1991 to be specific — the Soviet Union ceased to be. The union’s collapse, conventional wisdom says, was a surprise to the West and marked the end of the Cold War. In 2016, conventional wisdom seemed largely meaningless across the board. Now, more than ever, it seems prudent to thoroughly revisit the collapse of the Soviet Union and the aftermath. Foreign Policy has pieces from six experts which aim to start that conversation, two in particular focus on Central Asia: Nargis Kassenova, an associate professor and director of the Central Asian Studies Center at the Kazakhstan Institute of Management, Economics and Strategic Research and Alexander Cooley, Director of Columbia University’s Harriman Institute.

Kassenova charts how Central Asia remains a region tethered to Moscow in many ways. Kassenova suggests, “it’s time for Central Asians to abandon the type of self-victimization typical of colonized people and truly embrace their countries’ independence.” Cooley debunks the claim that the region is reclusive and fingers the West for turning a blind eye to the networks, particularly offshore financing networks, which enabled regional autocrats to enrich themselves.

Turkish Soldiers Are Dying in Operation Euphrates Shield


Dec. 21 was the costliest single day for the Turkish army’s Euphrates Shield incursion into Syria. At least 16 Turkish soldiers, supporting an assault force of 1,500–3,000 Free Syrian Army militia fighters, died in clashes with the Islamic State in its stronghold of Al-Bab.

The Turkish military claimed to have killed 160 militants in response.

The ramshackle, Turkish-backed offensive has come with deceptive victories and major problems for Ankara since it launched on Aug. 24. The Turkish government claimed Euphrates Shield began well. However, the Islamic State did not mount as heavy a defense as it could have. The group even evacuated its militants from the border town of Jarabulus on the first day.

Since then, Turkey has presented Jarabulus as a model for a Turkish-administrated safe zone in northwest Syria. But Turkey’s decision to attack both the Islamic State and the Syrian-Kurdish People’s Protection Units — or YPG — has created problems.

Turkish tanks and armored vehicles proved highly vulnerable to anti-tank weapons used by these groups. U.S.-made M-60 Patton tanks burst into flames after being hit in ambushes. As many as a dozen of these tanks may have been lost to such attacks.

The Time for 'Strategic Patience' Is Over. Donald Trump Must Confront North Korea.

Geoff Dyer

Pyongyang is on the verge of being an actual, rather than potential, threat to the United States.

EACH OF the last three presidents has arrived in the White House to find a terrifying file on his desk entitled “North Korea,” full of grim warnings about an isolated hermit kingdom bent on developing nuclear weapons that could reach the continental United States. Each was urged to do everything in his power to prevent this nightmare. Yet each ultimately chose to look the other way and relegate North Korea to the category of future problems that someone else will have to deal with. They all tried some mixture of negotiations and sanctions to persuade the North Korean regime to back off. And when that failed, they simply played for time, hoping Pyongyang would eventually return to the table for serious talks. The Obama administration even devised a name for waiting it out—“strategic patience.”

Imagine: Russia Unleashes a Major Incursion into Ukraine. How Does Trump Respond?

Dov S. Zakheim

Virtually every new administration is tested soon after it takes office.

VIRTUALLY EVERY new administration is tested soon after it takes office. The April 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion tested John F. Kennedy. Exactly four decades later, the collision of a U.S. Navy EP-3 aircraft with a Chinese J-8 fighter and its emergency landing on Hainan Island tested George W. Bush. It is therefore likely that someone, somewhere, will test Donald Trump’s mettle within months of his moving into the White House. Of all the possible events that could force the new president into choosing between unpalatable alternatives, a major new Russian thrust into Ukraine may well be the most demanding. A Russian incursion, with regular forces openly assisting rebels seeking to expand their control over the entire eastern portion of that country, might result from some actual or perceived anti-Russian provocation by right-wing elements in Kiev. America’s NATO allies would be shaken to the core and demand that Washington take the lead in response to what they will consider to be nothing less than outright Russian aggression.

The U.S. Army's Big 'Guns' Are Getting a New 'Bullet'

Kris Osborn

A new "alternative warhead" will destroy enemy targets without leaving dangerous unexploded cluster munition "bomblets" behind, in keeping with an existing international treaty.

The Army plans to fire an upgraded, all-weather, precision-guided, ground-fired rocket which will pinpoint enemy targets at distances up to 70 or more kilometers – while removing the prospect of leaving dangerous unexploded ordnance behind, service and industry officials said.

The weapon, called Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System, is being modified to adhere to the parameters of a 2008 international agreement banning the production and use of so-called “cluster munitions” which disperse a number of small explosive “bomblets” over a target area.

As a result, Lockheed and the Army are now producing a new “Alternative Warhead” for the GMLRS which complies with this international cluster munition agreement.

The first GMLRS Alternative Warhead rocket has rolled off the production line at Lockheed Martin’s Camden, Arkansas, manufacturing facility, a Lockheed statement said. 

How to Fight Terrorism in the Donald Trump Era

Daniel Byman

The new administration must treat terrorism as more than just a political football.

ADDRESSING THE threat of terrorism, both real and perceived, will be a top priority for the Trump administration. Despite the dearth of Islamic State–directed attacks on U.S. soil, polls from earlier in 2016 showed that 73 percent of Americans saw the Islamic State as a “very serious” threat to the United States, and another 17 percent saw it as “moderately serious”—a rare priority that crosses political lines. Almost 80 percent believed the Islamic State has assets in the United States and the capacity to “launch a major terrorist attack against the U.S. at any time.”

Not surprisingly, terrorism is a political football. During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump regularly warned about “a major threat from radical Islamic terrorism,” and tweeted, “We better get very smart, and very tough, FAST, before it is too late!” Obama, he claimed, has boxed U.S. generals in with a “strategy that is destined to fail.”

Fighting terrorism has been at the top of the U.S. national-security agenda since 9/11, but the terrorism threat, and thus the appropriate means of counterterrorism, is often grossly misunderstood. The danger has evolved, and counterterrorism must change to keep pace. Today, the greatest challenges abroad require the United States to reorient its counterterrorism focus. Simply arresting and killing bad guys is at best treading water; instead, the United States must become more involved in working to stop or at least contain the civil wars that fuel radical movements. Ultimately, the most effective counterterrorism effort could be fostering better governance in troubled parts of the Middle East. At home, the challenges are even more complex: the election exposed failures of societal resilience and led to the public demonization of Muslims, both of which only further empower terrorist groups.


By Tuan N. Pham

Space is big enough for everyone and it is in everyone’s best interest to keep it free for exploration and use by all. This is part 1 of a two-part series that outlines a conceptual framework characterizing the dynamics that contribute to instability and stability in the space domain. Part 2 will examine the ways and means the United States can lessen the former and strengthen the latter while maintaining space preeminence into the 21st century. Both parts are follow-on articles to a previously published piece on policy considerations for a deeper and more balanced U.S. space posture. 

Many Americans view space through the prisms of history, entertainment, and exploration. Our parents grew up during the space race between the United States and the former Soviet Union, culminating in Neil Armstrong’s historic landing on the moon. We spent our youth watching popular movies and shows like Star Wars and Star Trek, while witnessing the realization of science fiction into science fact in the forms of the Space Shuttle, International Space Station, and unmanned interplanetary space travel. Our children may be the first space tourists, traveling to the heavens in commercial space vehicles. Our

'Little Blue Sailors': Maritime Hybrid Warfare Is Coming (In the South China Sea and Beyond)

Michael Peck

It’s 2019, and an innocent-looking coastal steamer approaches a group of Vietnamese fishing boats in the South China Sea. Suddenly the steamer launches speedboats, which devastate the fishing boats with rockets and machine guns before slipping away. In its wake, it leaves crude mines that damage Vietnamese warships rushing to the aid of the fishermen.

Vietnam accuses China of being the culprit. China denies this, but hastens to add that Vietnam can’t protect fishermen and oil platforms in the South China Sea—yet by coincidence, Beijing can.

Welcome to hybrid warfare on the high seas.

This is the grim scenario laid out by former U.S. Navy admiral James Stavridis. In an article in the U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings magazine, Stavridis warns that what he calls “maritime hybrid warfare” is coming, with dire implications for vulnerable targets such as commercial ships, oil platforms and mining rigs.

The SIPRI Top 100 Arms-Producing and Military Services Companies, 2015

By Aude Fleurant

This SIPRI Fact Sheet lists the top 100 arms-producing and military services companies in 2015 and describes the international arms sales trends that unfolded during the year. Although there was a slight decrease in arms sales revenues when compared to the previous year, profits in 2015 were still 37 per cent higher than in 2002, when SIPRI began recording such data.


The arms sales of the SIPRI Top 100 arms-producing and military services companies (excluding China) were $370.7 billion in 2015. This represents a decrease of 0.6 per cent compared with 2014 and is the fifth consecutive year of decline.
US-based companies’ arms sales for 2015 fell by 2.9 per cent to $209.7 billion, due to ongoing limitations on government spending, including military spending. However, with a 56.6 per cent share of the Top 100 arms sales in 2015, US companies’ arms revenues remain way ahead of those of other countries. 


It’s Christmas Eve, I apologize. I hope to write something uplifting and aspirational in the next few days. I wish there was better news on the terrorism front; but, the greatest migration and diaspora since WWII is unfolding across Europe, and is also reaching America’s shores, as militant jihadism seeks to find new adherents among these displaced refugees. Now comes word that Germany has 7,000 terrorist suspects at-large, and is finding it ‘almost impossible’ to monitor them, according ti the head of British Intelligence.

Richard Barrett, the former head of Counter-Terrorism at Britain’s Foreign Intelligence Directorate, MI6, told London’s the DailyMailOnline, that “German authorities were finding the number of ‘live’ cases — unmanageable.” “This grim assessment came, as German Security Services faces difficult questions following the Berlin Christmas Market massacre/ bombing,” James Tapfield wrote in the December 22, 2016 edition of the DailyMailOnline. Information obtained since the bombing show that the perpetrator, Tunisian Anis Armi, a life-long criminal, arrived in Germany in 2015, but should have been deported,” long before he carried out the Berlin Christmas market bombing/attack. It turns out that Armi had been arrested three times this year (2016); and, had his asylum application papers were rejected; but, deportation papers were never served, and Armis dropped off the radar screen and disappeared — no doubt into the refugee community in Germany. He was known as an Islamic State follower/sympathizer, and had received weapons training according to German authorities.

AI, self-driving cars and cyberwar – the tech trends to watch for in 2017

Alex Hern

From a rise in AI and improvements to self-driving cars, to televised eSports and all-out cyberwar, the coming year has it all 

In some ways, tech in 2017 will be a steady progression from what came before it. Time marches on, and so too does the advance of technology. In other ways, though, it will be just as upended as the rest of the world by the unprecedented disruption that 2016 has left in its wake.

Here are the trends to watch out for in the coming year: More AI, less data

The artificial intelligence revolution is well and truly upon us, but so far, the biggest players are venerable Silicon Valley titans such as Google, Amazon and Apple. That’s partially because they have the money to hire teams full of PhDs at seven-figure salaries, but it’s also because they have the data.

That could change. One of the key areas of research for 2017 is data efficiency: the problem of trying to teach machine-learning systems how to do more, with less. Think about how many times your average three-year-old needs to see a particular animal before they can correctly identify it, compared with the thousands of images a neural network needs to ingest to perform the same basic task.