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Cyber Security, Digital Transition, Technology Geopolitics & Worlds In-Defense In-Security Pensiero Strategico

Open newsletter – march 22, 2022

AFGHANISTAN

AFRICA

BANGLADESH – BHUTAN – INDIA – NEPAL

  • The much-anticipated Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal Motor Vehicles Agreement (BBIN-MVA) finally took a step forward on 7-8 March 2022, as the stakeholder countries congregated to actualise one of the long-pending connectivity aspirations of South Asia. Sohini Nayak – ORF – A resurrection of the BBIN MVA

CAUCASUS

  • The territorial conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the occupied territories of the latter has impeded the rapid economic development of the two warring parties and stood in the way of the regional economic and political integration of the South Caucasus. The region lost a great deal of opportunities in the thirty years that have followed the restoration of the sovereignty of its respective countries in the early 1990s. The Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict undermined peace and stability in the region, incurred non-necessary extra costs for most regional economic initiatives, posed challenges to the transformation of the South Caucasus as a whole into a transportation hub for the wider region, and discouraged the inflow of investments. Thus, the South Caucasus has fallen short of its real potential in terms of economic development and connectivity projects over the past thirty years. Vasif Huseynov –  Valdai Discussion Club – Zangazur Corridor is the Cornerstone of the Post-War Regional Cooperation Projects in the South Caucasus
  • There’s no doubt as to the relevance of the possibility that transport and all other links in the Transcaucasus will be unblocked; it would entail the opening of the Armenian-Turkish border and establishment of direct trade and economic relations between Armenia and Turkey (which had ultimately been unsuccessful before), as well as the partial establishment of Armenian-Azerbaijani economic relations, in terms of cargo transportation, energy transit and electricity. Ara Karyan – Valdai Discussion Club – Ublocking Closed Transport Links in the Caucasus: Opening the Border of Armenia and Turkey

CHINA – SOUTH CHINA SEA

  • In the wake of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine and the strong response from the West, the world’s focus has shifted more towards China, how it behaves in the new situation. As global politics are being reset with shifting priorities by countries around the world, China seems to be taking advantage by increasing incursions into the South China Sea and threatening Taiwan. There is a fear that China might take advantage of the current volatile situation and launch into adventurism on Taiwan with its aim of integrating with the mainland. In particular China’s aggression in South China Sea has evoked strong global pushback with the US supporting Vietnam, the Philippines and other nations having claims to parts that fall within their exclusive economic zones (EEZs). Though the US has deployed aircraft carriers into the contested sea and as show of force in defence of global rules, the smaller nations too are strengthening their own military capabilities to deter the Chinese if their own sovereignty comes under threat. However, China does not feel deterred from its continuous intimidating statements and actions. Rajaram Panda – VIF – Deterring China from the South China Sea

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

  • The Democratic Republic of Congo’s military has suppressed peaceful critics in the more than 10 months since the government imposed martial law in the conflict-ridden eastern provinces of North Kivu and Ituri, Human Rights Watch said today. The military and police have curtailed freedom of expression, put down peaceful demonstrations with lethal force, and arbitrarily detained and prosecuted activists, journalists, and political opposition members. HRW – DR Congo: Martial Law Brings Crackdown in East

ECONOMIC SECURITY

HORN OF AFRICA

  • The Horn of Africa is experiencing multiple, overlapping humanitarian crises. For people living in arid and semi-arid areas of the Horn of Africa, conflict and drought create a constant competition for scarce resources. A highly politicized armed conflict in northern Ethiopia has caused global outrage and has pulled political and financial attention away from other issues facing the region, including food insecurity. Today, the humanitarian response to the worst drought in decades remains badly underfunded, with concerns about widespread death and irregular migration because of agriculture loss at a time of major volatility in global wheat markets. David Del Conte – CSIS – Drought Hits the Horn of Africa

INDIA

  • Urban agriculture is the practice of farming in urban and peri-urban areas. Farming connotes a wide range of food and non-food products that can be cultivated or grown, including rearing livestock, aquaculture and bee-keeping. However, in the context of Indian cities, the focus is on the cultivation of vegetables, fruits, and flowers for human consumption. It is now part of a growing trend in cities globally to look towards locally produced food. Besides city administrations, urban agriculture has started drawing the attention of many non-governmental organisations (NGOs), community groups, and citizens. At the global level, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) believes urban and peri-urban agriculture has a role in food and nutritional security. The Urban Food Agenda is an FAO flagship initiative to enhance sustainable development, food security, and nutrition in urban and peri-urban areas. It encourages partnerships with different stakeholders such as civil society, academia, international agencies, city entities, and the private sector. Ramanath Jha – ORF – The practice of urban agriculture in Indian cities
  • After the Second World War, there was widespread fear amongst the US servicemen that peace would mean job losses and that the end of wartime military spending would send the US economy back into the great depression. In response, the US administration brought the GI Bill of Rights, also known as the servicemen’s re-adjustment act in 1944 that provided education, job training, hiring privileges, unemployment benefits, low-interest loans for housing and education, medical care, and disability benefits. Later during the Cold War, the USA addressed every recession with an increase in military spending.  The motive was to restore economic growth, but it was justified by geopolitical tensions.  Consequently, peace and anti-bomb activists in the USA realised that jobs and economic prosperity must be ensured to end the arms race.  In the 1970s, peace activists reached out to the trade unions for planned conversion to a peacetime economy.  The oil, chemical, and atomic workers unions proposed that workers whose jobs were threatened by disarmament should receive support similar to the GI bill of 1944.  Lydia Powell, Akhilesh Sati, Vinod Kumar Tomar – ORF – Just Transition: Low bar for the Low Carbon Transition in India

INDIA – JAPAN 

  • In normal times, the 70th Anniversary of bilateral ties between India and Japan would have been celebrated with much fanfare; yet the occasion was marked with the 14th Annual Summit in New Delhi after the previous one had been held in Tokyo in Oct 2018. The visit by Prime Minister Abe in Dec 2019 had been postponed due to unforeseen domestic situation in both countries. With the ensuing pandemic, diplomatic summits were shifted online or held on the bylines of other major meetings in 2020 and 2021. Prime Minister Kishida’s visit to India, the first by a serving Japanese Prime Minister in nearly four and a half years, saw a reaffirmation of the close bilateral ties especially a new investment target from Japan for 5 trillion yen ($42 billion) in the next five years to India. This is significant when viewed through the 2019 launch of the India-Japan Industrial Competitiveness Partnership (IJICP) that would work toward enhancing India’s industrial competitiveness through discussion in areas such as development and utilization of industrial zones to promote foreign direct investment, lowering cost of logistics, and facilitating smooth governmental procedures. Prerna Gandhi  – VIF – India-Japan Summit: Reinforced Commitment under the Ukraine Shadow

ISRAEL – IRAN – UAE

  • When the Abraham Accords were unveiled in 2020, Iran denounced the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) decision to normalize relations with Israel as a dangerous step threatening its security as well as the Palestinians’. Just a day after the agreement was signed, on September 15, 2021, the Iranian foreign ministry condemned the pact as “strategic idiocy” and “a stab by the UAE in the back of Palestinian people.” The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) also issued a fiery statement, dubbing the normalization “historic idiocy” that would bring about a “dangerous future” for the UAE leadership. Danny Citrinowicz – Atlantic Council – Israel and Iran need to turn down the heat. The UAE could be the best choice as conduit

RUSSIA – UKRAINE (impact, reactions, consequences)

  • After the February 4 summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Beijing on the side-lines of the Beijing Winter Olympics, where Putin briefed Xi Jinping — or certainly gave him at least a fair insight into his plans for Ukraine — China has been unwavering in its support to Russia. This despite the fact that the US repeatedly urging China including as recently as March 5 to join the US and West in their sanctions against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Chinese official media, which doesn’t use terms like ‘invasion’ to describe Russian action in Ukraine, and has strongly supported Russia, however, appears to have modulated its reporting on developments concerning Ukraine to some extent since around February 27-28. This will be to avoid attracting adverse notice of the West and potentially sanctions against Chinese companies and entities trading, or doing business, with Russia. Jayadeva Ranade – VIF – Chinese Assessments of the US and Western Sanctions on Russia
  • The West’s collective reflection of the events in Ukraine draws a conditional line under the 30-year era of Russia and Belarus’ search for their place in the western-centric world. Yuri M Yarmolinsky – ORF – Russia’s Pivot to Asia policy in the wake of western sanctions
  • On March 16, a Russian airstrike hit the Mariupol Drama Theater, where hundreds of civilians had taken shelter amid the ongoing siege of the city. It is unclear how many people were killed or injured in the attack. Satellite imagery captured by Maxar on March 19 reveals that the theater was largely destroyed. Prior to the attack, the word “children” (in Russian) was written in large white letters on the ground in front of and behind the theater.  Jacob Kurtzer, Marti Flacks – CSIS – Spotlight on Civilian Harm in the Mariupol Theater Airstrike
  • As Yogi Berra said, it’s hard to make predictions, particularly about the future. I’m going to try anyway, but rather than focus on the immediate—the war in Ukraine—I will look at longer-term implications, although the war, along with the pandemic and the challenge of China, underlies all of them and suggests the future will be a different world in a number of ways. William Reinsch – CSIS – Predicting the Future
  • As Russia’s military operation in Ukraine continues, the West’s imposition of crippling economic sanctions have left little doubt as to its potential long-term consequences for Moscow’s policies regarding trade with other regions of the world. If the war drags on and sanctions against Russia continue, economic isolation and default loom large. Even if the country does manage to avoid a collapse, it will nevertheless bring into sharp focus the weaknesses in its eastern pivot, with long-term consequences for its global power projection. Nivedita Kapoor – Valdai Discussion Club – Russia’s Pivot to Asia – A 10-Year Policy Review
  • The EU should think today about addressing Russia’s future energy sources, notably liquefied natural gas (LNG) and hydrogen, due to their role in the energy transition and their ability to create new dependencies. Failure to do so could lock in future revenues for Moscow as Europe greens its economy while creating further geopolitical divisions between Western allies, in the same way as the infamous Nord Stream 2 pipeline.  Leslie Palti-Guzman – Atlantic Council – Beware: Russia’s new energy sources down but not out
  • On March 21, Meta was officially designated an “extremist organization” in Russia. This designation came at the request of the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office and was granted in a hearing of the Tverskoy Court of Moscow. The speed of the designation comes as a surprise to some experts, who assumed that the decision would be delayed by appeals and ultimately determined by Russia’s Supreme Court. This marks the conclusion of a process that began on March 11, when the Russian government took aggressive action against Meta following a Reuters story that the company was permitting calls to violence against Russian soldiers by Ukrainian users on Facebook and Instagram.  Atlantic Council – Russian War Report: Meta officially declared “extremist organization” in Russia
  • By now, it’s no secret: The Russian military is experiencing logistical difficulties in Ukraine—from the now-infamous stalled convoy outside Kyiv to reports of Russian soldiers looting grocery stores for food. Experts have debated whether the problem is due to corruption, poor planning, or both. Ann Marie Dailey – Atlantic Council – What’s behind Russia’s logistical mess in Ukraine? A US Army engineer looks at the tactical level
  • After seeing the situation on the ground this weekend, as Ukrainian refugees flood across the Polish border to escape violence, 10 senators have a message for the White House: Go faster. Jacqueline Feldscher – Defense One – White House Bureaucracy Is Costing Ukrainian Lives, Senators Say
  • Instead of waiting for this all-too-plausible scenario to unfold, the United States and its NATO allies and EU partners should act more forcefully now. Here’s one initiative that could make a difference: a U.S.-led coalition of willing NATO allies and EU partners should establish a protected air corridor and airlift humanitarian supplies to Lviv in western Ukraine.  Philip Breedlove, Barry Pavel – Defense One – It’s Time for a Protected Humanitarian Airlift into Lviv
  • Russia launched more than 300 fighter jet and bomber sorties over the last 24 hours in an escalation of its air war, the Pentagon said Monday, as Russian leader Vladimir Putin continues an indiscriminate aerial bombardment of Ukrainian cities and infrastructure.  Tara Copp – Defense One – Russia Speeds Up Air War Over Ukraine, As Some Munitions Run Low or Malfunction
  • President Joe Biden and national security officials warned that Russia may be ramping toward cyberattacks on U.S. critical infrastructure as the war in Ukraine continues. Colin Demarest – Defense News – Biden: Russia mulling cyberattacks on US
  • The Biden administration flagged a shift in Russia’s cyber posture Monday, stressing the private sector’s responsibility for defending U.S. critical infrastructure against a cyberattack in the wake of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Mariam Baksh – Nextgov – White House Warns of Potential Russian Cyberattack Based on New Intel
  • Commenting on Beijing’s official stance on Russia’s war on Ukraine, Li Keqiang, the premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, stated on March 11 that “China has always conducted an independent and peace-loving foreign policy developing its bilateral relations [with Russia and Ukraine] without hurting anyone’s interests.” He went on to say that “China will always develop relationships with other partners based on mutual respect, mutual profit, and mutually beneficial results” (RIA Novosti, March 11). Sergey Sukhankin – The Jamestown Foundation – Russia’s War on Ukraine and China’s ‘(Un)Friendly Neutrality’
  • Following the massive Russian re-invasion of Ukraine on February 24, several governors of the North Caucasian republics delivered bellicose statements. Chechnya’s ruler, Ramzan Kadyrov, stated that his 12,000 fighters were prepared to be deployed in Ukraine and carry out President Vladimir Putin’s orders (Vk.com/ramzan, February 25). The governor of North Ossetia, Sergei Menyailo, warned the West “not to wake up the Russian bear” (Osnova.ru, February 24). Dagestan’s Governor Sergei Melikov stated that Russia had all the necessary arms and manpower “to protect our common home” (President.e-dag.ru, February 24). Valery Dzutsati – The Jamestown Foundation – North Caucasians Feel the Pain of Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine
  • One striking feature of Russia’s fast-evolving war against Ukraine is the highly uneven dynamics of escalation in its different domains. The economic pressure on Russia has reached the level of extra-high intensity and keeps growing daily, for instance, as Halliburton and Schlumberger, two major oilfields servicing companies, announced the closure of their business activities over the weekend (Kommersant, March 19). In contrast, the cyber-domain, where disruptive attacks and counter-attacks were expected, has remained remarkably quiet. Cultural ties have been severed and Russia is expelled from most international sports, but a diplomatic compromise has been reached in the Vienna talks on reconfiguring the nuclear deal with Iran, which can be finalized this week (Rosbalt, March 16). Perhaps the most apparent discord has emerged between the deadlock in key military battlefields and the sequence of defeats for Russia’s policy, of which this war is supposed to be a continuation. Pavel K. Baev – The Jamestown Foundation – Stalled Military Offensive and Unfolding Political Defeat for Russia in Ukraine
  • As Russian forces continue to surround Kyiv and conduct urban operations throughout Ukraine, Ukrainian forces have turned to drones to supplement their combat power. Whether being used in a reconnaissance role or to deliver lethal munitions, drones such as the TB2 Bayraktar are strengthening the Ukrainian military’s ability to fight the numerically superior Russian army in close proximity to the civilian population. While using small drones is not a new concept, the ability of larger, more capable platforms to influence the urban battle is worth examining in further detail. – Modern War Institute – MQ-9s Over Sirte: Unmanned Airpower for Urban Combat
  • Russian forces did not make any major advances on March 21. Russian forces northwest and northeast of Kyiv continued to shell the city and strengthen defensive positions but did not conduct major offensive operations. Russian forces did not conduct any offensive operations toward the northeastern Ukrainian cities of Chernihiv, Sumy, or Kharkiv in the last 24 hours. Russian forces continued to reduce the Mariupol pocket and conducted several unsuccessful assaults in Luhansk and Donetsk Oblasts but did not launch any offensive operations around Kherson. ISW – Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, March 21
  • The repercussions of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine continue to be felt in the region and around the globe. On March 8, experts from the Brookings Foreign Policy program held a Twitter Spaces conversation on implications for Asia and how key Asian countries are reacting. Ryan HassPatricia M. KimTanvi MadanMireya Solís, and Andrew Yeo – Brookings – How Asian countries are reacting to the Russian invasion of Ukraine
  • During major international championships, Germany — as a popular saying has it — is home to 82 million football trainers. (This columnist prefers basketball.) In the pandemic, it was a nation of impassioned virologists. Since the beginning of the Kremlin’s war against Ukraine in late February, it seems that every German has become an expert on irregular warfare against Russian tanks. Constanze Stelzenmüller – Brookings – Western leaders must be honest about what it takes to stand up to Putin
  • On February 24, Russia invaded Ukraine, instigating the biggest ground war in Europe since World War II. In the age of technology, social media itself has also become grounds of war. Russia, armed with its sophisticated disinformation infrastructure, has sought to rewrite key events in war while flooding platforms with inauthentic activity. Social media companies, meanwhile, have been struggling with complicated, time-sensitive policy decisions where lives are at stake. Samantha Lai – Brookings – TechTank Podcast Episode 40: A conversation with Jessica Brandt and Emerson Brooking on the information wars in the Russian invasion of Ukraine
  • Indermit Gill, vice president for equitable growth, finance, and institutions at the World Bank and a Brookings nonresident senior fellow, talks with host David Dollar about how economic growth in developing countries has been affected by COVID and now the war in Ukraine. Gill explains that pre-existing vulnerabilities in developing countries and potential disruptions in energy, food, and commodities from the war may affect poorer countries much more than rich ones. Brookings – The Ukraine war’s impact on developing countries

TUNISIA

TURKEY – QATAR

UGANDA

  • For many years, police, military, and internal security officials in Uganda have swept people up at gunpoint from their homes or workplaces, or on the streets, and held them, oftentimes in secret locations, where they are tortured and denied access to their loved ones and lawyers. On social media, on the streets, and in the media, more Ugandans are speaking out about what are commonly referred to as abductions, but no one has been held responsible for these crimes. Audrey Kawire Wabwire spoke with Uganda Researcher Oryem Nyeko about his new report, “I Only Need Justice,” and why Ugandans are increasingly calling for justice for torture, enforced disappearances, and unlawful detention. HRW –Interview: Snatched Away by Security Forces in Uganda 
  • The Ugandan government has failed to hold to account security officials, who have unlawfully detained and tortured hundreds of government critics, opposition supporters, peaceful protesters, and others, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. HRW – Uganda: Hundreds ‘Disappeared,’ Tortured

USA

VIETNAM