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Open newsletter – march 12,2022 a.m.

CHINA 

  • Taiwan has said a Chinese military plane crashed into the South China Sea in early March, with Beijing appearing to hide its rescue and recovery effort under the guise of a snap military drill. This claim echoes that of Vietnamese open-source investigator Duan Dang, who said his sources told him a Shaanxi Y-8 maritime patrol aircraft of the People’s Liberation Army crashed into waters south of the Hainan Island on March 1. Mike Yeo – Defense News – Is China using snap military drills to conceal an aircraft recovery effort?

  • Late last year, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) re-invoked a phrase that first appeared five years earlier: the “Two Establishes” (两个确立, liang ge queli) to establish General Secretary Xi Jinping as the “core of the whole party” and to enshrine  “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for the New Era” as the CCP’s guiding philosophy. (Guangming Daily, December 24, 2021; China Media Project, February 6). Given his ostensible centrality in the CCP, common wisdom within the foreign China-watching community holds that Xi is firmly in command. Citing the historic resolution at the recent Sixth Party Plenum, China watcher Bill Bishop says, “CCP leaders don’t get historical resolutions passed because they are ‘weak’” (Gov.cn, November 16, 2021; Sinocism, October 18, 2021). Former Australian prime minister and China hand Kevin Rudd asserts, “Given the president’s control over much of the party’s security apparatus and personnel files, and his gifts for the dark arts of internal Chinese politics, Mr. Xi is likely to continue in power come November” (Wall Street Journal, January 22). Ben Lowsen, David Cnox – The Jamestown Foundation – An Iron Idol Turns to Clay: Xi Faces Neo-Dengist Opposition
  • On March 19, 2018, the 13th National People’s Congress (NPC) ratified the establishment of the Ministry of Veterans Affairs (MVA) (中华人民共和国退役军人事务部, Zhonghua renmiin gongheguo tuiyi junren shiwu bu) as an element of the State Council Organization Reform Plan (国务院机构改革方案, Guowuyuan jigou gaige fang’an) (PRC State Council, March 17, 2018). The MVA officially opened a month later with Sun Shaocheng (孙绍骋) appointed as its inaugural minister (Xinhua, July 31, 2018). On January 1, 2021, China’s first Veterans Support Law of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) (中华人民共和国退役军人保障法, Zhonghua renmin gongheguo tuiyi junren baozhang fa) came into effect (China Military Online, November 27, 2020).  While western observers widely believed that the MVA was created in response to a series of veteran protests prior to 2018, its broader administrative and political functions are not sufficiently understood. [1] This article serves as a primer on the MVA’s organization and mandate, provides a preliminary assessment on its performance over the past four years, and analyzes future trends of its development. Kenneth Allen, Marcus Clay – The Jamestown Foundation – All Eyes on the Ministry of Veterans Affairs

CHINA – RUSSIA

  • Almost as soon as Russian tanks began their bloody crawl toward Kyiv, debate ensued over whether Chinese leaders had advance knowledge of the Kremlin’s war plans. The broader Chinese foreign policy community was certainly dumbstruck as U.S. warnings of an imminent Russian attack on Ukraine were discounted as geopolitical ploys (Global Times, February 18; Stimson, February 28). However, given the highly personalized nature of the Sino-Russian strategic partnership— President Xi Jinping has met with his counterpart Vladimir Putin 38 times since 2013 — the top leadership was assuredly not entirely in the dark (FMPRC, December 15, 2021).  John S. Van Oudenaren – The Jamestown Foundation – China and Russia: Shackled to a Corpse?

CHINA – TIBET

  • A strange battle is waiting to unfold at the center of the Sino-Tibetan conflict: the fight over the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation. As the 86-year-old Tibetan leader, who has spent most of his life in exile, advances further in age, there is growing uncertainty about where, or whether, his reincarnation might appear. In a 2011 statement, he laid out several different succession scenarios, one of which was the possibility that he might bring the lineage to an end (Office of his Holiness the Dalai Lama, September 24, 2011). The Chinese government was incensed; it vowed to install its own 15th Dalai Lama after the demise of the incumbent—with or without his consent (Tibetan Review, December 3, 2015). Tenzin Dorjee – The Jamestown Foundation – Why Beijing Wants the Dalai Lama to Reincarnate

COLOMBIA

  • When Yoad Ernesto Pérez Becerra launched his congressional campaign in one of the most violent corners of Colombia, he did so with the promise that he would be an “architect of peace”. The candidate hoped to fight corruption and launch change in the Venezuelan border region of Catatumbo, but that pledge was not welcomed by those in control: not the Colombian government, but a toxic slate of armed groups fighting for power. Megan Janetsky – Al Jazeera – What’s at stake in Colombia’s upcoming elections

EUROPE

  • On February 23, the European Commission released its long-awaited draft regulation on human rights and environmental due diligence, a critical component of its sustainable corporate governance initiative. The draft regulation requires large EU companies, and some non-European companies doing significant business in Europe, to assess their actual and potential human rights and environmental impacts throughout their operations and down their supply chains and to take action to prevent, mitigate, and remedy identified human rights and environmental harms. Companies that fail to conduct effective due diligence or to implement preventative or remediation measures face both administrative penalties and civil liability. Marti Flacks, Madeleine Songy – CSIS – European Union Releases Draft Mandatory Human Rights and Environmental Due Diligence Directive

GERMANY

  • German companies are jockeying for position as the government tees up massive investments meant to drastically improve the state of the armed forces. – Defense News – Sensing a feeding frenzy, German arms makers jockey for position
  • The year 2022 might be when Germany puts one of the most contentious issues in the transatlantic relationship to rest — the eternal debate on defense spending. That Germany had fallen short in that regard was admitted by the government in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Now Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) has announced a turnaround. His government wants to produce a powerful, ultra-modern, progressive Bundeswehr, and even more: the most effective armed forces in Europe.

GLOBALISATION

  • The concentration of economic power in digital giants is occurring at a time when globalisation is fracturing due to competing industrial policies and protectionism. This seemingly paradoxical development is caused by two transformative events in the global economy – the world is entering the fourth industrial revolution at a time when economic hegemony has come to an end. Glenn Diesen – Valdai Discussion Club – Digital Giants Under a De-Centralised Format for Globalisation

IRAN – SYRIA

  • Iran’s intervention in the Syrian civil war allowed it to strengthen its foothold in the country. Iran sent numerous foreign militants to Syria, recruited Syrians into Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)-aligned militias, and carved out pockets of de facto territorial control for those allied militias. In recent years, however, several Arab countries have increased their efforts to normalize relations with Syria, and it is looking more likely that Syria will eventually return to Arab regional diplomacy. The question then becomes how Iran might seek to preserve the gains it made in Syria, given that some Arab countries could use strengthened ties with Syria to undermine and side-line their own rival–Iran. Jacob Lees Weiss – The Jamestown Foundation – Iranian Influence in Post-Conflict Syria: Prospects and Rivalries with Arab Gulf States

ISLAMIC STATE WEST AFRICA PROVINCE

  • On January 18, 2022, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), which is the Islamic State (IS)’s affiliate in Nigeria and the Lake Chad basin, released a 27-minute propaganda video titled “The Empowerment Generation” on its official media platform (Ujasusi, January 23). The video provides exclusive access into what ISWAP refers to as its Khilafah [Caliphate] Cadet School.” It features young children between 8-16 years old undergoing religious indoctrination and physical training involving martial arts and arms. It even shows the trainees executing three members of the Nigerian Special Forces. This video suggests that IS has a well-developed, long-term strategy to provide a continuous supply of youth fighters to replenish and rejuvenate its ranks. Rueben Dass, Jasminder Singh – The Jamestown Foundation – Islamic State in West Africa Province Video Signals the Group’s Grand Strategy for the Future

PAKISTAN – CHINA

  • The Pakistan Air Force officially inducted its first batch of Chinese-built J-10C fighter jets on Friday, holding a ceremony in Islamabad with officials from both countries. Several of the jets flew overhead as Prime Minister Imran Khan welcomed the purchase, made for an undisclosed amount. Pakistan hasn’t said how many aircraft were bought in the deal, though authorities had earlier spoken of up to 25 jets. China is a longtime ally of Pakistan and has sold it military aircraft before. The Associated Press – Defense News – Pakistan Air Force inducts new batch of Chinese fighter jets

RUSSIA – UKRAINE (impact, reactions, consequences)

  • The failed effort to get Polish MiG-29 jets into the hands of Ukrainian pilots highlights the need for the United States to take calculated risks in the struggle to stop Russian President Vladimir Putin. With Ukraine still in desperate need of more military aid, it is now time to revive the Lend-Lease program signed into law eighty-one years ago on March 11, 1941. Thomas S. Warrick – Atlantic Council – Lend-Lease 2022: How the US can back Ukraine against Putin
  • Putin’s aggression must be stopped, but Washington is atwitter with dangerous ideas about how to do so, like establishing a no-fly zone over Ukraine, which would require shooting down Russian planes. The United States and other European countries must demonstrate a heavy cost to Putin’s invasion to deter future aggression, but without risking direct conflict. Putin has badly miscalculated and is already paying a heavy price for the invasion. The United States and NATO allies have two objectives at the moment: deterring future Russian aggression by demonstrating a heavy cost to this invasion; and avoiding direct conflict with Russia. During the Cold War, the United States resisted the Soviet Union in proxy conflicts around the globe without coming to direct blows. The same carefully calibrated response is needed to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The United States and other NATO countries should aid Ukraine through weapons, intelligence, and diplomatic support, but should stay clear of direct involvement in the war. Paul Scharre – Defense One – How to Stop Putin Without Starting WWIII
  • Ukraine banned the export of wheat and other vital food commodities on Wednesday, triggering global fears for the food security of millions of people this year. Now the Pentagon has been urged to study how the disrupted food supply driven by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will impact security around the world. Jacqueline Fedlscher – Defense One – Ukraine War Could Put Food Security on Pentagon’s Plate
  • Defense One Radio, Ep. 96: The impact of Russia’s Ukraine invasion. Defense One
  • The United States has imposed sanctions on Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, three family members of President Vladimir Putin’s spokesperson and legislators, in the latest punishment for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia has faced a slew of measures since launching its February 24 invasion, the biggest attack on a European state since World War II. Al Jazeera – New US sanctions on Russian billionaire, Putin spokesman’s family
  • Russia has announced plans to block access to Instagram and launched a criminal case against its owner, Meta Platforms Inc, after the company said it would allow posts that call for “death to the Russian invaders”. Friday’s move is the latest in Russia’s confrontation with United States-based social media platforms that has escalated since its invasion of Ukraine. Al Jazeera – Russia to block Instagram over ‘death to invaders’ posting rule
  • Ukrainian authorities have accused Russian forces of abducting the mayor of Melitopol, a city in southeastern Ukraine that has fallen under Russian control. Anton Heraschenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior ministry, said 10 soldiers entered the premises of Melitopol’s crisis centre on Thursday, put a bag over Mayor Ivan Fedorov’s head and took him to an unknown location. Al Jazeera –Ukraine accuses Russian forces of abducting Melitopol mayor 
  • In Episode 48 of the Irregular Warfare Podcast, we discuss the historical motivations and modern methods behind Russia’s use of hybrid warfare on the international stage. Our guests begin today’s conversation discussing how significant historical events and Russian cultural memory shape the Russian worldview, with particular emphasis on the role that the collapse of the Soviet Union had on the psyche of Vladimir Putin himself. They explore Russian motivations and methods since the end of the twentieth century and then pivot to potential Western responses to an increasingly aggressive Russia. Our guests conclude with implications for both the public and the practitioner.  and  – Modern War Institute – The Motivations and Methods Behind Russian Hybrid Warfare
  • Russian military performance in Ukraine shows glaring weaknesses in their training and culture, but many of their failings are fixable. Jack Watling – RUSI – Just How Tall Are Russian Soldiers?
  • The Russian invasion of Ukraine conjures dark memories for the region, but its countries are increasingly united in their response to Putin’s aggression. Sylvia Tiryaki – RUSI – Putin’s Invasion Strengthens Resolve in Central and Eastern Europe
  • Russia’s revived allegations of Ukrainian WMD activities are a product of Putin’s failure to justify his invasion. Matthew Harries – RUSI – Putin’s Historic Mistake: The Missing Russian War Narrative
  • The shockwaves of Russia’s increasingly brutal invasion of Ukraine are being felt around the world, including in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Of course, while the full scale of the war’s impact on the region will become clearer in the coming weeks and months, two weeks after Russia’s initial assault on Ukraine, there are three immediate issues that merit particular attention. Tobias Borck and Jack Senogles – RUSI – Russia’s War on Ukraine: Implications for the Middle East and North Africa

RUSSIA – USA

  • Take a good look at the propaganda machine. The total control of information and messages from the airwaves to the internet, the fawning over the infallible leader—it’s all quite impressive. I’m not talking about Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin. I’m talking about America’s far-right media, on display at two conferences in Orlando last week, and every night on cable TV.  Kevin Baron – Defense One – Putin’s Propaganda Machine Is What America’s Far-Right Wants

SOUTH ASIAN ISLAMIC STATE

  • In July 2020, a media network aligned with Islamic State in Hind Province (ISHP) published the premier issue of the English-language Voice of Hind (VoH) magazine. This print series serves a unique function in the South Asian Islamic State (IS) media ecosystem and communications network. Specifically, VoH supports IS’s media warfare campaign against the Taliban in Afghanistan. VoH aggregates and organizes scattered anti-Taliban narratives purveyed through various outlets by IS’s branches in Iraq/Syria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, as well as in Kashmir. It also incorporates discourses and sentiments from grassroots IS supporter networks on social media and messaging applications, expounds upon them, and publishes them in the world’s most-spoken language, English. It does so in a visually aesthetic magazine that is disseminated across the IS media ecosystem. Lucas Webber – The Jamestown Foundation – Islamic State’s Voice of Hind Magazine: Globalizing the Regional Anti-Taliban Narrative

USA