22 January 2017

Davos Elites See an ‘Abyss’: The Populist Surge Upending the Status Quo


Many investors at the gathering in Davos, Switzerland, have struggled to make sense of recent political upheavals. CreditGian Ehrenzeller/European Pressphoto Agency

DAVOS, Switzerland — For the investors and market-movers at the annual World Economic Forum here, a threat lurks.

At cocktail parties where the Champagne flows, financiers have expressed bewilderment over the rise of populist groups that are feeding a backlash against globalization. In the halls of the Davos Congress Center, where many of the meetings this week are taking place, investors have tried to make sense of the political upheaval.

The world order has been upended. As the United States retreats from the promise of free trade, China is taking up the mantle. The stark shift leaves investors trying to assess the new risk and opportunities in the global economy.

“This is the first time there is absolutely no consensus,” said William F. Browder, a co-founder of Hermitage Capital Management who has been coming to Davos for 21 years. “Everyone is looking into the abyss.”

News, analysis and insight from Times reporters and editors. 

**** No more committees


Interests of national security demand the urgent creation of an overarching Ministry of Defence Technology & Industrial Production, and other reforms

Written by Arun Prakash | Published:January 21, 2017

In 2012, former Indian defence minister, Jaswant Singh, had reportedly told American journalist Tom Hundley, “There is no Cold Start doctrine… It was an off-the-cuff remark from a former chief of staff. I have been defence minister of the country; I should know.” India’s new army chief, by boldly shattering the wall of silence that surrounded the “Cold Start” concept for over a decade, and articulating his views regarding some other sensitive issues, may have triggered an era of “glasnost” in India’s defence discourse leading, hopefully, to a “national security renaissance” in the form of overdue reforms.
The year 2015 saw China issue a National Military Strategy, Australia putting out a Defence White Paper and the US delivering a Military Strategy as well as a Maritime Strategy. Amidst all this glasnost, India’s national security establishment has maintained a deafening silence for 70 years. This inexplicable reticence is ascribed, by some, to India’s pacifist tradition that has now mutated into “strategic restraint”, and by others, to political disinterest and bureaucratic indifference.

A facile excuse offered for this caginess is that open public discussion may compromise national security. In actual fact, it is obsessive secrecy, coupled with the accretion of power, that leads to what is known as a “security dilemma”. In this phenomenon, actions by one state, intended to heighten its own security, lead other states to respond with similar measures, resulting in heightened tensions and possibility of conflict. The perilous India-China-Pakistan triangular rivalry is rooted in many security dilemmas that have arisen from the unstated arms race — conventional as well as nuclear — currently underway. As a status-quoist power sandwiched between two revisionist neighbours, it is in India’s vital interest to initiate a bilateral or triangular security dialogue that will encourage transparency, build confidence and cool temperatures, especially in the nuclear domain.

The Cold Start issue, apart from its own salience, has implications for the long-awaited reforms in India’s national security arena that call for reflection at this juncture. The provenance of this concept goes back to the December 2001 terror assault on the Indian Parliament. In an uncharacteristic show of resolve and muscle, the government of the day ordered the mobilisation of its million-strong armed forces in the hope of coercing or compelling a recalcitrant Pakistan to behave. However, a three-week delay in positioning the Indian army’s “strike corps” at their launch pads not only revealed the ponderous nature of India’s mobilisation plans, but also permitted Pakistan to counter-mobilise, draw international attention to the South Asian “hotspot” and thwart an angry India.

Subsequently, army planners came up with an innovative concept that would forward-locate key units and enable full mobilisation within 48-72 hours from a “cold start”. At the heart of this concept was restructuring the strike corps into smaller “integrated battle groups” (IBGs) — compact, highly mobile formations with their own armour,
artillery and aviation support — that could respond swiftly to Pakistani provocations without crossing the “nuclear threshold”.

Donald Trump and the New World Order

The inauguration of Donald Trump heralds the arrival of a new world order. The West is weaker than ever before and rising American nationalism poses a threat both to Germany's economy and the European Union.
January 20, 2017 
When trying to answer the question as to who has the say in the European Union, it's easy to get confused. The European Council, the European Commission, the member states: Even those who know the EU well don't often know who has the last word in Brussels disputes. The confusion isn't new. Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger famously wondered: "Who do I call if I want to call Europe?"

Today, a new president is moving into the White House and one thing is already clear: Telephone calls between Washington and Brussels won't get any easier. "I spoke to the head of the European Union, very fine gentleman called me up," Donald Trump said this week in a joint interview with the German tabloid Bild and the Times of London. When asked if it was Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, Trump responded: "Yes, ah, to congratulate me on what happened with respect to the election."
Except, the fine gentleman Mr. Juncker wasn't the fine gentleman Mr. Juncker. It was Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, the powerful body representing the leaders of the EU member states. A former Polish prime minister, Tusk chatted with the future U.S. president for about 10 minutes, but Trump was apparently able to remember neither his name nor his arguments. The European Union, he said in the interview, is "basically a vehicle for Germany," adding that "I believe others will leave," as Britain plans to do.

For more than 60 years, the U.S. has promoted European unity. The country introduced the Marshall Plan, it supported the single European market and backed Europe's eastward expansion following the collapse of the Iron Curtain. But now, a man is entering the White House who is counting on the disintegration of the EU. He would rather negotiate with each country individually, believing that will be more beneficial for America.
A real estate magnate is now the most powerful man in the world and it looks as though he plans to run his administration as though the U.S. were a vast real estate conglomerate. He is after lucrative deals, and those who can't keep up in the competition for the most profitable contracts will be left behind.
Concepts like human rights and the protection of minorities are not part of his vocabulary. His only goal is America's profitability, particularly in global trade, which he sees as a brutal fight for survival and not, as had been normal for his Republican Party, as a peaceful exchange with benefits for both sides. The concept of "win-win" is not one his team adheres to.

*** The Importance of Taking Initiative

By Lt Gen H S Panag 

In end December 1964, at the age of 16 years, I was leaving home to join the National Defence Academy, when my father Colonel Shamsher Singh handed me a moth-eaten, four-page booklet, in archaic print, titled A Message To Garcia. He said, "I was given this booklet by my Platoon Commander in the Indian Military Academy in 1940. It contains the essence of leadership. Study it, follow it and enforce it when you are in a position to do so."

While having my breakfast in the dining car of the Frontier Mail (complete with starched, white linen and good china), I read A Message To Garcia for the first time. It took me no more than five minutes. I read it twice more to digest it. By the time I reached Khadakwasla, I had memorised it. To date, I consider it the most important lesson of leadership I have ever learnt: In the field of human endeavour the key to success is initiative and its bane is inaction.

A Message to Garcia was written by Elbert Hubbard in the March 1899 issue of the magazine Philistine. It is the most published and the most read essay in the world. Hubbard was a writer, publisher, artist, philosopher and a self-confessed philistine. He wrote this essay in one hour after a dinner-time discussion with his family about the Spanish-American War over Cuba in 1898. Hubbard was to recall later, "The thing leaped from my heart, written after a trying day. The immediate suggestion came from a little argument over tea cups, when my boy Bert [17-year-old Elbert Hubbard Junior] suggested that Rowan was the real hero of the Cuban War. Rowan had gone alone and done the thing: carried the message to Garcia. It came to me like a flash! Yes, the boy is right! The hero is the man who does his work - who carries the Message To Garcia. I got up from the table and wrote A Message to Garcia."

** A new class act Higher education in India is failing. Overhauling the system can salvage it

By Pranab Bardhan

Let me start with a blunt statement: India’s higher education is in general a decrepit, dilapidated system, it’s afflicted by a deep malaise.

The National Knowledge Commission—Report to the Nation (2006-9) put it only a bit more mildly: “There is a quiet crisis in higher education in India which runs deep”. Three widely acknowledged criteria for judging an education system: Access, Equity, and Quality. We have failed our young people by all three criteria.

On account of financial hardship, inferior schools, lack of remedial education and social compulsions for early marriage for girls, the majority of young people from poor families drop out of school at or before completing secondary education. So they have no access to higher education. In addition, for socially disadvantaged groups discrimination at workplace and occupational segregation lower the rate of return from (and hence demand for) higher education for them compared to other groups.

Even for those who complete secondary education and are willing to enter, entry into premier higher education institutions is riddled with various kinds of inequity (only marginally relieved for some people by lower-caste reservations). For example, the currently almost indispensable intensive entry examination preparation in coaching classes (or private tuition) with high fees is often out of reach for poor students. (NSS data suggest that in 2014 nearly 60% of male students in the 18-24 age group cite financial constraints or engagement in economic activities as the reason for discontinuing higher education).

** Pakistan’s misguided obsession with infrastructure

NEARLY 20 years after it opened, Pakistan’s first motorway still has a desolate feel. There is scant traffic along the 375km link between Islamabad and Lahore (pictured). Motorists can drive for miles without seeing another vehicle, save perhaps for traffic cops manning speed traps. As the two cities are already connected by the Grand Trunk Road, which is 90km shorter and toll-free, there is simply not much demand for a motorway.

Yet this $1.2bn white elephant is one of the proudest achievements of Nawaz Sharif, who was prime minister when it opened in 1997 and is once again running Pakistan. Mr Sharif, who enjoys comparisons to Sher Shah Suri, a 16th-century ruler who renovated the Grand Trunk Road, never tires of talking about it. He regained power in 2013 with a campaign which both harked back to his famous road and promised more infrastructure to come. He even pledged bullet trains that would enable pious passengers to leave Karachi after dawn prayers and arrive in Peshawar, more than 1,000km to the north, in time for evening worship.

It is an article of faith for Mr Sharif and his party, the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N), that investment in infrastructure is a foolproof way of boosting the economy. His government is racing to finish umpteen projects before the next election, due by mid-2018, including a metro line in Lahore and a new airport for Islamabad. The likelihood is that the new airport (which has been plagued with problems, including runways that have been built too close together) will be as underused as most of the country’s other airports, many of which are modern and spacious.

* Invading China, One Trade Dispute at a Time

By Matthew Bey

The divide between domestic politics and geopolitics can be a hard one to bridge. Partisan politics and pageantry can get in the way of a country's underlying geopolitical imperatives, driving policies that undermine or contradict them outright. The tension between national and international politics is on full display as the United States prepares to inaugurate Donald Trump as its 45th president. Throughout Trump's campaign and subsequent transition, voters, commentators and observers in the United States and beyond have scrambled to square his proposed policies with the geopolitical constraints they will encounter. Many of Trump's campaign pledges centered on retooling the United States' trade partnerships, for instance by renegotiating NAFTA or scrapping the Trans-Pacific Partnership pact. The United States' trade ties with China have been the object of Trump's most vehement criticisms; the president-elect has even proposed a 45 percent tariff on all Chinese goods to correct the apparent disparity in the bilateral relationship.

Although Trump is unlikely to follow through with such a drastic measure, he is nonetheless poised to take a much harder line on trade with China. The next four years will almost certainly bring more investigations into China's export and domestic policies and more aggressive interpretations of World Trade Organization (WTO) regulations and U.S. law over Beijing's practices. But China and the United States are on diverging paths. While the United States is turning its focus inward, Beijing is trying to exert its influence as a global leader. In fact, on Jan. 17, President Xi Jinping became the first Chinese leader to address the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. To achieve its desired results with China, the Trump administration will have to pry into and challenge Beijing's own economic policies.

The selective memory of nations

Why does Bhagat Singh seem to get so much more popular attention than Rajguru, Sukhdev or even Batukeshwar Dutt? Photo: Hindustan Times

Bias in history is usually seen as a supply-side process. As something that seeps into historical truth as history is committed to paper, e-book screen, documentary footage or whatever other format it is published in. This is, of course, true. All historians make choices as they put together a work of academic or popular scholarship. They have to choose from an abundance of sources, perspectives, and even conclusions. The sheer number of permutations and combinations involved in such choices is one reason why we are still able to see so many wonderful books each year on topics that have been researched exhaustively for decades.

Then there are the analytical and other biases that historians themselves infuse into their work. You could give three brilliant historians exactly the same set of papers on, say, Jawaharlal Nehru at the UN, and all three could arrive at strikingly different conclusions.

Indeed, even the choice of cover design can be a form of “bias”. If you’ve written a history of the state of Gujarat, do you go with a picture of Gandhi, the Godhra riots or just a map of the state on the cover? Or some combination of those three?

Which countries have benefited the most from globalization?

Manas Chakravarty

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ringing endorsement of globalization at Davos has been widely praised, but it’s hardly surprising, given that China has been its chief beneficiary.

Chart 1 shows that China’s share of world gross domestic product (GDP), measured in purchasing power parity terms, has moved up from 4.1% in 1990 to an astonishing 17.86% by 2016. A big reason for the rising share has been the growth of globalization and trade and China’s emergence as the world’s workshop.

India too has benefited a lot, with its slice of global GDP moving up from 3.6% in 1990 to an estimated 7.3% by 2016. It’s not in China’s league, but it too has done rather well by opening up its economy.

BEML Disinvestment: What about the other DPSUs and OFs?

Laxman K Behera

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has taken a major decision to privatise some government-owned companies. One of the companies listed for privatisation is BEML (formerly named Bharat Earth Mover Ltd., which functions as one of the nine Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs) under the administrative control of the Department of Defence Production of the Ministry of Defence (MoD). As per the CCEA’s in-principle approval, 26 per cent of BEML’s equity shares would be sold to a strategic buyer, bringing down the government’s share in the company from 54.03 per cent currently to 28.03 per cent. The offloading of the government’s equity shares in BEML, which would simultaneously involve the transfer of management control from the government to the ultimate buyer, is likely to bring in an estimated Rs. 1,000 crore to the central exchequer. In the light of this unfolding development, two questions arise: What is the significance of BEML’s disinvestment? Is it a one-off affair or should the government disinvest in other production entities functioning under the MoD?

The significance of the BEML’s strategic disinvestment lies in the fact that it would be the first time that the MoD will lose management control over one of its own companies. This is pertinent given that some perceive DPSUs to be too strategically important to be owned by the private sector. It may appear that the singling out of BEML for disinvestment could be due to the company’s dwindling exposure to the defence market post the controversy over the purchase of Tatra trucks. In 2015-16, the defence business (consisting primarily of sale of high-mobility vehicles) contributed a mere 11 per cent (as opposed to nearly 30 per cent a decade before) of BEML’s total gross revenue of Rs. 3426.02 crore. With such a low exposure to defence, the company’s rightful claim to be a defence company had come under question. The decision to privatise the company through the route of strategic sale instead of shifting it to another ministry, (as was done in case of loss-making Hindustan Shipyard Ltd., which was acquired by the MoD from another ministry), conveys the strong message that the government believes that it has no business in business.

It is worthwhile to note that BEML’s privatisation is not related to its performance. Unlike some other DPSUs, BEML is a highly competitive company, with 88 per cent of its sales in 2015-16 coming through the open tendering process. Besides, the company has a good track record of generating profits; it has registered a profit in 15 of the last 16 years. Poor performance of commercial entities, which had been the main driver of disinvestment decisions in the past, is not the main criterion for the government’s decision to disinvest in BEML.

Should the government now follow the BEML decision and move towards disinvesting in other defence production entities? The unambiguous answer is yes. DPSUs and Ordnance Factories (OFs) are the part of the larger set of Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs) and other departmentally run production entities. These have outlived the utility of the Nehruvian model of industrialisation, under which the Government of India assumed the role of the largest industrialist in the country. But the running of businesses by the government has been accompanied by bureaucratic, administrative and decision-making inefficiency, manifested in the poor performance of these companies, including DPSUs and OFs. In fact, as suggested by the 1991 Statement on Industrial Policy, the CPSEs, given their inefficiency, have become a drag on the Indian economy.

Measured in terms of innovation, productivity, exports and customer satisfaction, the performance of DPSUs and OFs has been anything but encouraging. Some statistics testify to this sorry state of affairs. The combined R&D expenditure of the DPSUs, an indicator of their innovation performance, is a mere five per cent of their turnover. In the case of OFs, it is less than one per cent. Compared to this, some global companies spend up to 20 per cent of their turnover on R&D. Given such a poor focus on R&D, it is not surprising that they have designed and developed very few products. The average labour productivity of DPSUs is less than one-fifth of that of major global defence companies. Exports, a measure of international competitiveness, accounts for a meagre five per cent of their sales, whereas many international companies generate over 70 per cent of their revenues from international customers. The 40-odd OFs, which employ more than 95,000 workers, do not meet even 50 per cent of the product target set for the Indian Army, leaving a big hole in the latter’s preparedness.

More importantly, DPSUs and OFs have not succeeded in their primary mission of making the country self-reliant in defence procurement. Instead, they have become a conduit for large arms imports, albeit indirectly. This indirect arms import is made in the form of purchase of parts, components and raw materials from the international market and for which a large amount of foreign exchange is incurred. In just five years ending 2014-15, the nine DPSUs spent a whopping Rs. 78,740 crore on indirect imports, which amounts to nearly three-fifths of their total sales.

The only way that these entities can be made to function better is by putting them under an efficient management. And that can be achieved only through privatisation. The BEML model of disinvestment needs to be applied to the rest of the DPSUs. For the privatisation of OFs, the first thing that needs to be taken is to convert them from their present avatar of being a departmentally run organisation to a corporate entity. Disinvestment in these entities will not only make them function efficiently and contribute to the country’s self-reliance efforts but also enable the government to generate resources for meeting the fiscal deficit target as well as fund the critical modernisation requirements of the armed forces.

Sri Lanka: The Rajapaksas Rise Again

By SinhaRaja Tammita-Delgoda

“We’re not the same guys who used to tell you various things and then forget about it three days later… We want the world to know that we’re different—that we’re going to do what we say we’re doing.”

–Harsha de Silva, Sri Lanka’s deputy minister of foreign affairs, to National Geographic (November 2016)

Politics is shaped by leaders’ ability to deliver. It is all about doing and achieving, “doing what you say what you say you are going to do,” to paraphrase Dr. Harsha de Silva, Sri Lanka’s current deputy minister of foreign affairs. It is not about good intentions; it is about getting results. It is not about pleasing outsiders; ultimately it is about keeping your own people happy, satisfying their aspirations, reassuring them, protecting them, and advancing their interests. This is the fundamental truth that is beginning to dawn on Sri Lanka’s body politic.

Led by President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, and former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, the ruling UNP-SLFP coalition government has now been in power for two years. This government was welcomed, even celebrated abroad, earning glowing praise from the United States, the European Union, India, and the Western media for its good intentions and heartfelt commitments to human rights, minority concerns, democracy, and transparency. At home, however, these plaudits have failed to resonate and the administration’s achievements are the subject of fierce debate. There is now a deep groundswell of dissatisfaction, discontent, and disillusionment with the present, combined with deep unease about the future.

“Two years ago everyone I met said they had voted for a change, for Yahapalanaya [the catchphrase of the Sirisena campaign], for this ‘good governance’ government. Now I can hardly find anyone who says that they did. People are asking, what kind of change have we got? “

So said Sisira, who has been a bus driver for the last 15 years. Although he is from the deep south, from “Rajapaksa country,” he had voted against the previous president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, in the last two elections.

Fear China Most, ‘Flip’ Russia, Beware Iran: CSBA


Notional trends in relative power of American adversaries (CSBA graphic)

WASHINGTON: Wealth, population and thin-skinned nationalism make China the number one threat to the US-led world order, not Russia or Islamic terrorism, writes leading military strategist Andrew Krepinevich. That means the US must build up forward-deployed forces in the Western Pacific, he writes, if necessary at the expense of defending Europe. Russia’s oil-dependent economy and withering demographics relegate it to the second-place threat in the near term, he argues, and in the long term — say, by the 2030s — Russia may become less dangerous than Iran, which Krepinevich’s forthcoming study from the Center for Strategic & Budgetary Assessments ranks currently at No. 3.

Andrew Krepinevich

That analysis puts Krepinevich starkly at odds with defense officials like Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Joseph Dunford, Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley, and Defense Secretary-designate James Mattis, who all put Russia first. (Mattis is also a hardliner on Iran). By contrast, Krepinevich argues that, if Russia really understood its own strategic interests, it would make common cause with the US against Islamic extremists — who have fought Moscow in the Caucasus for decades — and a rising China — whose emigres and industries are starting to take over mineral-rich but underpopulated Siberia. Don’t ask Krepinevich to endorse Donald Trump‘s outreach to the “very smart” Vladimir Putin, however. “We might be able to flip Russia to our side, because we’re not the problem they have,” Krepinevich told reporters, but not until the reflexively anti-American ex-KGB agent is out of power.

Brahma Chellaney: India should rein in China's dangerous antics in Tibet

New Delhi's accomodative stance has encouraged dangerous Chinese adventurism

The impact has been exacerbated by Indian blunders that have compounded the country's "China problem" and undercut its leverage. New Delhi was one of the first capitals to embrace the Mao Zedong-led regime in Beijing after the Chinese Communist Party seized power in 1949. But just months later, Mao began annexing the historical buffer of Tibet, eliminating India's outer line of defense by 1951.

Led by Jawaharlal Nehru, a romantic who viewed China sympathetically as a fellow post-colonial state, India went on to surrender extraterritorial rights in Tibet inherited from the U.K., its former colonial master. It also acknowledged the "Tibet region of China," without getting Beijing to recognize the existing Indo-Tibetan border. Ironically, the pact that recognized China's rights in Tibet was named after the Tibetan Buddhist doctrine of Panchsheela, the five principles of peaceful coexistence.

Almost half a century later, India went further still, using the legal term "recognize" in a document signed by the heads of government of the two countries in 2003 that formally accepted Tibet as "part of the territory of the People's Republic of China."

A Scar on the Chinese Soul


BEIJING — When Zhang Xiaomo worked on a farm in Manchuria in the early 1970s, she shuddered at the screeching noise of trucks pulling over on the icy roads. Her mind would dart back to the summer of 1966, when gangs of men would arrive most nights in large trucks, banging on the door and ransacking the courtyard house she lived in by herself. It was the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, and her mother, hunted for her contact with the Japanese during World War II, had gone into hiding.

“They kept coming day after day,” she recalled in her Beijing apartment recently. “They were a bunch of grown-up men, and I was 13 years old, all by myself. I felt like I couldn’t take it anymore.” The experience still haunts her.

Half a century has passed since Mao Zedong plunged China into the “10 years of chaos,” as the Cultural Revolution is often called here, wrecking the Communist Party apparatus and upending the lives of ordinary people like Ms. Zhang. Mao’s obsession with ridding the country of enemies brought public humiliation, political exile and starvation upon countless individuals. Perhaps more than a million lost their lives.

But the party, whose legitimacy and image remain inextricably tied to Mao, has refused to fully reckon with his historical sins. And with public discussion of the Cultural Revolution’s legacy still largely forbidden, it remains difficult to gauge one of the most serious consequences of the tumultuous period: its impact on the Chinese soul.

Scent of an Oman The Sultanate Moves Toward the Saudis

By Dina Esfandiary and Ariane M. Tabatabai

Recent reports that Oman had joined the Saudi-led collation to fight terrorist groups, including the Islamic State (ISIS), took many by surprise. In an increasingly polarized Gulf region, relations between Oman and Saudi Arabia had been tense over the Sultanate’s continued ties to Iran and its recent refusal to join several key Gulf security arrangements and efforts. Muscat’s decision to sign on to Riyadh’s Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT) was thus read as a sign that Oman was ready to shift politically, military, and economically toward its neighbor to the west and that Saudi Arabia was gaining the upper hand in the region. In reality, however, the move does not represent a swing in Omani policy. It is actually a continuation of the country’s decades-long strategy of balancing between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Saudi Arabia spearheaded the creation of IMAFT in December 2015. The alliance is made up of 40 Muslim countries, but it excludes two Shia-majority countries in the region, Iran and Iraq, as a check on what Riyadh views as Iran’s meddling in Arab affairs. When the alliance was first announced, Oman declined to join so that it could maintain its traditionally independent foreign policy and not upset the status quo with Iran.

The Latest News on the Slow-Moving Iraqi Offensive to Recapture Mosul

By Emily Anagnostos 

The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) is rapidly consolidating control over eastern Mosul following a major push from January 10 to 18. The ISF has extended its control along the Tigris River and recaptured the University of Mosul, once ISIS’s major logistical hub in the city.

The ISF is nearing the end of operations in eastern Mosul after a major push from January 10 to 18 to recapture several remaining neighborhoods and the University of Mosul. The Counter Terrorism Service (CTS), the ISF’s elite urban warfare units, advanced two efforts to clear the University of Mosul and to extend the ISF’s control of the Tigris River. The CTS officially announced control over the university on January 15, after storming it two days prior, and continued to advance north along the river bank, seizing two additional bridges and key government buildings on January 13.

Ukrainian president calls for global response to Russian threat

By Stephen Adler and Sujata Rao

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko makes an address in Kiev, Ukraine, December 19, 2016. Mykhailo Markiv/Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS More

DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called for a worldwide effort to counter the threat of Russian cyber warfare and urged the United States to "be great again" by demonstrating leadership on issues such as global security.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's pledge to improve ties with the Kremlin and open admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin has put Ukraine, whose Crimea region was annexed by Russia in 2014, under the spotlight.

Poroshenko played down speculation that Washington could backtrack on its support for Kiev, noting that Trump had said publicly he would stick to U.S. obligations and there had been "promising" statements by nominees to his cabinet.

"That gives us a lot more optimism for the future," Poroshenko told Reuters on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos on Wednesday, adding he already had a visit planned to meet the new U.S. president "in a few months".

Russian Threat to the United States, Rules-Based Order

By Ashish Kumar Sen

The United States’ Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, on January 17 described Russia as a “major threat” facing the United States and the rules-based liberal world order, and cautioned Americans against allowing Moscow to divide them in the face of this threat.

“Our values, our security, our prosperity, and our very way of life are tied to this [rules-based] order and we… the United States and our closest partners, must come together to prevent Russia from succeeding in weakening that order,” Power said at the Atlantic Council in her final public remarks as ambassador.

Power called for a renewed commitment to the rules and institutions that have underpinned the liberal world order for the past seven decades, and the development of new tools to counter Russia’s attempts at undermining it. Russia’s attacks have “exposed” and “exacerbated” vulnerabilities within Western democracies, she said, adding, “we cannot let Russia divide us.” 

Europe Bracing Against Risk Of Russian 'Influence Operations'

Ron Synovitz 

Accusations that Russia sought to undermine the U.S. political system have served as a warning signal to the European Union as it prepares for a big election year.

The message being sent is that the bloc best be prepared to ward off Russian influence ahead of a presidential vote in France, and general elections in Germany and the Netherlands in 2017.

Richard Youngs, an expert on democracy and EU foreign policy at Carnegie Europe, says that combating Kremlin manipulation of open societies and political systems requires more than just new controls against fake news, or improved technology against computer hacking.

"Today there is a big battle of ideas out there -- illiberal ideas against liberal ideas," Youngs said. "We need to see it much more in that context -- as a structural political problem -- and respond with a much more broad-ranging and analytic strategy to defend core liberal values in Europe that are clearly under threat through these tactics and other tactics used against Europe from outside."

As the hacking scandal continues to play out in the United States, Russian officials have rejected allegations of a state program to skew the U.S. presidential vote in favor of the surprise victor, Republic candidate Donald Trump, and have dismissed Western warnings about Kremlin disinformation campaigns.

Alina Polyakova, an Atlantic Council expert on disinformation and the EU, says Western democracies have long ignored, overlooked, or denied the existence of Kremlin "influence operations" -- a core part of Russian military doctrine that she says are aimed at achieving Moscow's geopolitical goals, without military intervention, "through the manipulation of media, society, and politics."

Addressing the real source of the U.S.-Russia rivalry

Michael E. O’Hanlon

Donald Trump has indicated a clear interest in improving the U.S. relationship with Russia, as has his designate for secretary of state. Despite President Vladimir Putin’s misadventures and provocations from Georgia to Syria to Ukraine to the U.S. elections, this is not an unworthy ambition, if pursued with open eyes.

Director of Research - Foreign Policy

The Sydney Stein, Jr. Chair

However, beyond a healthy dose of skepticism about Putin and his intentions, Trump and his team will need one more ingredient if their relationship with the Russian strongman is not to deteriorate the same way it did for George W. Bush and Barack Obama—both of whom also began their presidencies with high hopes for improving ties with the Kremlin. It is time that Western nations conceptualize, and seek to negotiate, a new security architecture for those countries in central Europe that are not now part of NATO that would guarantee their safety without bringing them into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Today we have what is, in effect, the worst of all worlds. The countries that Putin most wants to influence are not in NATO and not covered by any formal U.S. security guarantees—yet Putin worries that they may be someday. Hence the incentive is high to make mischief now.

This is the most dangerous time for our planet

Stephen Hawking

As a theoretical physicist based in Cambridge, I have lived my life in an extraordinarily privileged bubble. Cambridge is an unusual town, centred around one of the world’s great universities. Within that town, the scientific community that I became part of in my 20s is even more rarefied.

And within that scientific community, the small group of international theoretical physicists with whom I have spent my working life might sometimes be tempted to regard themselves as the pinnacle. In addition to this, with the celebrity that has come with my books, and the isolation imposed by my illness, I feel as though my ivory tower is getting taller.

So the recent apparent rejection of the elites in both America and Britain is surely aimed at me, as much as anyone. Whatever we might think about the decision by the British electorate to reject membership of the European Union and by the American public to embrace Donald Trump as their next president, there is no doubt in the minds of commentators that this was a cry of anger by people who felt they had been abandoned by their leaders.

It was, everyone seems to agree, the moment when the forgotten spoke, finding their voices to reject the advice and guidance of experts and the elite everywhere.

What matters now, far more than the victories by Brexit and Trump, is how the elites react 

John Mauldin: There’s Probably No Solution For Europe’s Problems

Source Link-problems 

Our fifty states are essentially what the European Union’s founders wanted: a giant free-trade zone with a currency union and fiscal union. It’s working for us in part because our states, while unique, don’t have the centuries of cultural and linguistic diversity that Europe’s do.

The separate languages, cultures, and histories of its nations don’t mean Europe can’t develop better ways cooperate economically; but the EU structure—specifically the European Monetary Union and the euro—clearly isn’t the answer.

There is no mechanism for resolving Eurozone problems

Italy’s banks are holding something like €350–400 billion in nonperforming loans, depending whose numbers you believe. The vast majority of that amount is not just temporarily NPL; it’s dead money, up in smoke. The banks are pretending otherwise, and the government is letting them. So is the ECB. This is a fact Europe must face.

We forget sometimes that banks are themselves borrowers. If a bank can’t collect on the loans it made, it can’t repay the money it has borrowed, and the whole edifice collapses. Bank collapse is ugly, and minimizing the ugliness is one reason we have central banks.



In the November 1956 Army magazine Lt. Col Robert Rigg portrayed a soldier of the “Futurarmy” of the 1970s. This soldier would swarm with his comrades to the battlefield in atomic aircraft, see the enemy clearly at night and in all weather conditions, wear light plastic bulletproof armor (with special pockets to store cigarettes), be informed by thousands of deployed sensors, and have supplies transported by a fleet of robots. He was obviously way off the mark for the time frame he targeted, but much of what he envisioned can still be found in predictions of future soldier capabilities.

I recently had the opportunity to attend another event in the Army’s Unified Quest series — the Army’s wargaming and experimentation program. This one focused on the human performance requirements for the soldier of the future. Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley instructed the attendees to look at a high-intensity conflict against a peer adversary in an urban environment in the period from 2035-2050. The assembled group of experts included military officers, civilian academics, medical experts, ethicists, researchers, and even an itinerant historian. I was very impressed with their wide range of expertise and the dedication they exhibited trying to determine the required attributes for future warfare.

The organizers of the gathering, the Army Capabilities Integration Center’s (ARCIC) Human Dimension Division, allowed me to muse about the implications of past experience in what is characterized as a new “multi-domain battlefield.” Peer opponents will be able to periodically deny access to the various domains — land, sea, air, cyber, space — and we will have to synchronize efforts to exploit windows of opportunity in each one. As revealed in charts published by the Dupuy Institute, as warfare has become more lethal, soldiers have become more and more dispersed. Whereas about 5,000 occupied a square kilometer during the Napoleonic Wars, only 25 did during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. With increased lethality comes more danger and fear, while dispersion lessens a force’s ability to manage that stress. As I thought about these challenges, two classic books immediately came to my mind with much to reveal about the continuities of combat even on a future battlefield.

Cold Start: India to Deploy Massive Tank Army Along Border With Pakistan

By Franz-Stefan Gady

The Indian Army is set to deploy over 460 new T-90SM main battle tanks (MBTs) along India’s border with Pakistan, senior Indian defense officials told IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly on January 19.

The new T-90SM MBT (other designations T-90AM or T-90MS) is the latest and most modern version of the T-90 (which in turn is a modernized variant of the T-72 MBT), and has specifically been designed for export by Russia.

According to IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly, the newly ordered MBTs will supplement 850-900 license-built T-90S Bhishma tanks, divided into 18 regiments, and currently deployed in the Indian states of Rajasthan and Punjab. It is unclear how many T-90S and T-90SM in total are currently in service with the Indian Army. (Estimates vary from 800 to 1,200 MBTs in various stages of operational readiness.)

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The new MBTs will be equipped with new thermal imagining sights and will be divided up into ten new regiments.

India has been mulling the purchase of 464 T-90SM MBTs for the past year. According to an Indian media report from November 2016, the contract “will include a Make-in-India element for integration at the Heavy Vehicles Factory in Avadi near Chennai.” However, the purchase has not yet been cleared by the Defense Acquisition Council, headed by Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar.

Is Trump, Information Warrior, Key To Defeating Daesh (ISIL)


President-elect Trump has promised to destroy Daesh. If Trump wants to avoid being the third Administration in succession to sink into the morass of the Middle East, it is essential to first ask what declaring victory would look like.

Part of the West’s challenge is rooted in that Daesh is a brand inside a religion and not just a terroristic military movement. It is a brand defining radical Islamic rejection of Western values and of the Western way of life.

It is very difficult to defeat a brand, but it is possible. How do you marginalize Daesh? How do you reduce its shelf life? You define victory as marginalization. How do you get there?

Donald Trump & Mike Pence

First, you must marginalize Daesh in the world of ideas. They are a brutal force which asserts that only they have the right to rule in the Middle East and beyond. We can call them extremists, but that is not enough. We need to engage in the battle of ideas as well. For Daesh Western secularism and tolerance are the enemy, not Jews or Christians, Shiites or Sunni; it is about power dominance via exploiting ideological purity and mobilization of the “faithfz

In many ways, President-elect Trump is America’s first Information Warrior president. Turning those skills into a crucial tool shaping IW against Daesh and exposing them for what they are is a crucial challenge, which requires focused attention and funding. Part of the reason for the defeat of the Soviet Union was Radio Free Europe and its key role in fighting against the imperial Communist regime.

May: Lost in cyberspace

By Clifford D. May

Russia’s hacking of the Democratic National Committee was mischievous. Did it change the outcome of the 2016 elections? No evidence suggests that and the intelligence community isn’t claiming that. 

So those who are may be presumed to have an agenda: to establish the narrative that Donald Trump was not legitimately elected president. From that, it would follow that no one — not mayors, not governors, not members of Congress — is obliged to cooperate with him. They would be justified to “resist” his presidency instead. 

Ironically, or perhaps hypocritically, those who take this line are helping the Russians achieve their goal which, according to the declassified intelligence report released Friday, was to “undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process.” 

Yes, the report also concludes that the Russians wanted to “denigrate” Hillary Clinton and “harm her electability and potential presidency.” But they had no expectation that the emails they lifted from DNC computers and released to the public would deliver a knockout blow. “When it appeared to Moscow that Secretary Clinton was likely to win the election,” the report notes, “the Russian influence campaign began to focus more on undermining her future presidency.” 

Evaluating the US-China Cybersecurity Agreement, Part 2: China’s Take on Cyberspace and Cybersecurity

By Gary Brown and Christopher D. Yung

Part one of this three-part series showed how differing approaches to their respective national interests drove China and the United States to contrasting views on the implementation of cyber policies and explored the U.S. position as well as the 2015 agreement between the two states. This article, part two, details China’s approach to cyberspace and cybersecurity. Part three will conclude by reviewing reactions to the agreement, and assessing its success to date and its longer-term prospects.

China’s Approach to Cyberspace

China takes a different tack than the United States when it comes to cyberspace. Privacy and communication rights have not played a dominant role in the development of China’s cyber policy. Rather, Beijing emphasizes the importance of cyber sovereignty. At the World Internet Conference in December 2015, President Xi Jinping called for states to be allowed to set their own rules for cyberspace in their own countries. In other words, Xi appeared to be advocating for China’s continued ability to limit its citizens’ access to the Internet, and for a greatly reduced U.S. role in Internet operations and rule setting. Xi has always promoted China’s notion of “internet sovereignty.” He also called for transforming the current global internet governance system to make it more “multilateral, democratic, and transparent,” surely a criticism of the dominant position of U.S. in Internet governance.

The Chinese have also advanced the argument that the United States is attempting to “militarize” cyberspace. Professors Wen Bohua and Xu Weidi, writing in a report titled The International Strategic Situation and China’s National Security (2012-3), published by the Military Science Publishing House, are illustrative of this perspective. That is, while everyone agrees that cybersecurity is important to national security, the Chinese emphasize the threats coming from non-state actors and the difficulty in attribution – tying events with some level of certainty to particular hackers. The United States, on the other hand, “believes that the main threat of cybersecurity comes from cyber powers, particularly China and Russia, and thus sets them as its targets of cyber militarization.” Thus, the Chinese argue that while the U.S. preaches cybersecurity cooperation, at the same time “it develops various cyber proxy technologies to infiltrate into China and Russia and spread false information, with an aim at sabotaging the political stability in China and Russia.” Hence China’s emphasis on “cyber sovereignty.”