No, Mr. President, Castroite Cuba Is Not What Change Looks Like

Diplomacy: President Obama’s much hailed “normalization” of ties with Cuba is anything but normal. Cuba is a top violator of human rights and the rule of law. Normal relations will just entrench the regime, not change it. With a flurry of the usual cliches about going forward and not being “imprisoned by the past,” President Obama hailed his own decision to normalize relations with Castroite Cuba with his trademark “This is what change looks


Russia and China’s Moment: Exploiting America’s Weakness

Nikolas K. Gvosdev

Security, Europe

While Washington debates where to focus its energy, Beijing and Moscow are looking for new ways to capitalize on its indecisiveness.

Vladimir Putin has recently made a number of statements about Russia’s military posture—from promising to match any U.S. deployment of equipment and personnel in Central-Eastern Europe to pledging major increases in Russia’s nuclear force. Should we treat his comments as mere posturing, or be concerned that we are on the verge of returning to Cold War–era conventional and nuclear arms races? And if the latter, isn’t that a particularly risky strategy for the Russian government? The Russian economy is in no position to take on a burden of seeking military parity with the United States—an exercise that ultimately helped to bankrupt the Soviet Union, which had a much greater resource base to work from.

For those who look for additional proof that Putin has lost touch with reality, a comment that the Russian Federation, with an economy one-tenth the size of the United States, is really prepared to go toe-to-toe with Washington only confirms that impression. However, Putin’s apparent willingness to match any American deployments to Europe could also reflect his assessment of the deteriorating global strategic position of the United States.

Ever since the close of the Cold War, the United States has steadily chipped away (largely for budgetary reasons) at the strategic proviso that it must be ready to take on two simultaneous major conflicts in different parts of the world. At the same time, efforts to forge different clusters of geographically dispersed allies (Australia, Japan, and South Korea in Asia, NATO in Europe, and Israel and the Gulf monarchies in the Middle East) into an overarching global security partner for Washington have largely failed—as well as attempts to get allies to contribute more to regional security, to allow for a diminishment of the U.S. role.

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Op-Ed Contributor: South Africa’s Human Rights Hypocrisy

By letting Sudan’s president go, the government proved it wants to have its laws and break them too.


Op-Ed Contributors: Mali Must Disarm the Militias

The government in Bamako must end its dangerous divide-and-rule tactics in the country’s conflict-ridden north.


Op-Ed Contributor: The Other Terror Threat

U.S. citizens may fear homegrown jihadists, but law enforcement is more worried about right-wing extremists.


Editorial: A dangerous mission in Libya requires a firm approach

THE PENTAGON says it thinks a U.S. airstrike in Libya on Sunday may have killed one of the most dangerous terrorists in Africa, a man believed to have led a 2013 attack on an Algerian gas field that killed 38 civilians, including three Americans. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda has confirmed that its leader in Yemen was killed by a U.S. drone strike last week. It’s good those two militants have been taken off the battlefield, but their elimination will not remedy the growing crises in Libya and Yemen. In that respect, the operations are another example of the limited benefits of President Obama’s narrow approach to counterterrorism.Read full article >>


Editorial: Hillary Clinton’s first ‘hard choice’ on trade

AFTER WORLD War II, the United States and its allies labored mightily to construct a global free-trade regime. They did so for many reasons, not least to avoid the trade wars that had fueled international tension and, ultimately, global conflict. In other words, trade — and the prosperity and interdependence it engenders — was central to both U.S. economic strategy and U.S. security policy. Read full article >>


Commentary: Industrial Base 10 Years Out

Little — virtually nothing — has been said about the way the budget over the next decade will shape the defense industry.


Opinion: India and U.S. Grow Closer Against a Backdrop of An Expansionist China

President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in January. White House Photo

President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in January 2015. White House Photo

Indo-U.S. relations have been the subject of interest for many policy analysts and with the emergence of an economic and military powerhouse in India, they have major implications for the United States and rest of the world. The divorced relationship that existed since the Cold war has gone beyond mutual suspicion and emerged as trusted friends. The liberalization of the Indian economy in 1991 brought new-found opportunities for both the nations.

Today, India-U.S. bilateral cooperation is broad-based, covering trade and investment, defense and security, education, science and technology, cyber security, high-technology and civil nuclear energy. Both nations enjoy vibrant people-to-people contact and support cutting across the political spectrum, which helps stimulate the relationship even further.

The bond of democracy is the largest similarity the nations share. The mutual visits by the heads of state of both the nations have given a considerable boost to the existing bond of friendship existing between them. Since the exchange of visits of Indian Prime Minister Modi and President Obama’s India visit in 2014 and 2015, a sustained momentum to the bilateral relations between the nations has been provided.

The last visit of Modi, in September 2014, had several visible outcomes with mechanisms to enhance trade and investment, particularly in infrastructure; new modalities to implement cooperation in energy, including nuclear and renewable energy; new approaches to defense trade, security and counter-terrorism collaboration; and new areas of cooperation between India and the United States in third countries.

But of all the deals and agreements, what stuck the most was the mutual convergence in the view of both nations with respect to the Asia Pacific and South China Sea and the joint voicing for unrestricted access and freedom of sea routes to conduct their businesses. In view of the rapid movements of China’s navy in the Spratly Islands and China’s claim of the entire IOR region as its own, it seems that the joint call by both nations is directed rightly to call the Chinese bluff.

Why is India Growing Wary of China?

Indian Navy sailor B.K. Gurung holds his position on the flight deck of USS Mustin (DDG-89) during a visit, board, search and seizure drill April 7, 2007. US Navy Photo

Indian Navy sailor B.K. Gurung holds his position on the flight deck of USS Mustin (DDG-89) during a visit, board, search and seizure drill April 7, 2007. US Navy Photo

With its growing economic clout—against the backdrop of a fumbling Russia—China has found new reasons and grounds to claim its right wherever it finds an easy target. Chinese claims over the territorial waters of Vietnamese, Philippines, Malaysian, Singapore, Thailandand Indonesia have heightened tensions with the South Asian nations. Japan and Australia have also realized the need to stand up to thwart the Chinese designs. But why is India upping the ante against China—with which it shares its longest borders?

The reason for India to suddenly become more aggressive emerges from the history of an ugly spat. With a vexed border issue spiraling out of control and increasing claims over Arunachal Pradesh as its landmass, China lately has been making things difficult for India to remain at peace.

China has purposely transgressed and makes a claim over vast areas of Indian territory that it considers its own, having captured it during a brief war in 1961. It considers McMohan line (boundary existing between India and China) as illegal.

Until the arrival of the Modi government, China had been making routine transgressions into India-controlled areas to put pressure on the Indian government to back off its claims. China’s overt and covert support to the Pakistani defense buildup, aimed at Indiam through supply of submarines, JF-17 fighters and strategic inroads in Pakistan-held Kasmir (classified by India as its territory) creates more suspicion of its designs against India than anything. Lately the port transfer of Gwadar in Pakistan to China and the rising interest of China in Sri Lanka and Chittagong port, Bangladesh has unnerved India to a certain extent.

The rapid inroads in the India Ocean by Chinese naval crafts and nuclear subs as part of its “String of Pearls” strategy to encircle India, has not gone unnoticed by Indian counter-strategists too, nor the covert support provided to North East Militants to destabilize India.

More so, the deep inroads made by China in making friends in the Indian neighborhood has ruffled quite a few feathers and India is waiting to pluck some of the pearls out of its “String of Pearls.”

Catching Up to China

fly in formation with two Indian Navy Sea Harriers, bottom, and two Indian Air Force Jaguars, right

Two US F/A-18E/F Navy Super Hornets fly in formation over Indian Navy aircraft carrier INS Viraat on Sept. 7, 2007. US Navy Photo

Since the emergence of Modi government, India as part of a strategic shift, has moved toward an assertive Act East Policy from a relatively subtle Look East Policy, to boost its engagement with its South Asian neighbors.

India has started a rather frequent dispatch of warships to the South China Sea to assert its dominance. These indigenously designed ships—INS Ranvir (a guided-missile destroyer) and INS Shakti (a Finacentri designed fleet tanker—along with INS Satpura (guided-missile stealth frigate) and INS Kamorta anti-submarine corvette) are on a two-month deployments that take them to Freemantle, Australia; Kuantan, Malaysia; Sattahip, Thailand; and Sihanoukville, Cambodia. A series of naval exercises with Australia, Japan, Singapore, the United States, and other south East Asian nations gives an unmistaken signal to China that in an event of a military standoff, India will not remain friendless.

At home, India has steadily given a go-ahead to $40 billion investment in defense invigoration including construction of 6 nuclear subs, a mountain division of 60,000 trained soldiers , bases in India and outside, all of it aimed to checkmate the Chinese tactics. Its two aircraft carriers are already patrolling the Indian Ocean region, a major deterrence against any Chinese intrusion; a third was recently launched on in June giving it an edge over China.

With Southeast Asian nations such as Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia and Japan repeatedly objecting to Chinese transgressions, sentiment is rapidly drifting against China and in India‘s favor. Recent incursions in Malaysian waters have not helped China either, with Malaysia raising its voice for the first time. The incident was reported by the Borneo Times in June of a Chinese navy ship intruding into the Malaysian waters and laying anchor 84 nautical miles from the coast of Sarawak (much inside its exclusive economic zone), Malaysia immediately lodged a strong protests and vowed of diplomatic action if the intrusions did not stop.


With India beefing up its Straits of Malacca presence, overseeing the path through which China’s trade ships pass, it has given a clear signal that it has the capabilities to choke China’s trade whenever it wishes to. And this time, unlike in 1961, it will have many friends to support the act. Surely, India’s engagement with the South Asian nations is bound to go up.

With the United States planning to continue to patrol the South China Sea, the zone of action is heating up rapidly. The fact that Australia, along with Japanese defense establishments is presently mapping a plan with New Delhi toward a joint naval engagement should ruffle China sooner then later. Japan and Australia along with India had desisted till now to annoy China through any joint exercise.

America’s Role in an Emerging India

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter shakes hands with a member of the honor guard that received him to lay a wreath at India Gate in New Delhi, India, June 3, 2015. Department of Defense Photo

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter shakes hands with a member of the honor guard that received him to lay a wreath at India Gate in New Delhi, India, June 3, 2015. Department of Defense Photo

The United States in the past 15 years has taken unprecedented measures to close the gap with India. U.S. ties with India — after a brief lull during the nuclear tests of 1998 and an ensuing sanction — have become more matured.

The United States and India both see it as a realignment of the new world order where both nations are destined to gain immensely because of their shared democratic heritage, a large wealthy and powerful Indian-American population and an emerging market. For India, the United States is the land of immense opportunity and business, knowledge and energy. India’s strategic needs are increasingly being fulfilled not by a “bygone Russia” but an “understanding America.” Within the past 12 years the United States has sold more than $12 billion worth of military equipment to India overtaking Russia as the largest defense supplier. And it seems that India needs more of it for sure. American business interests, followed by investments, have grown yet there is a tremendous scope for growth as it is nowhere close to the Sino-India trade.

The current visit of U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to India was important as it laid the groundwork for a strong India–U.S. strategic partnership. Carter’s visit to Vishakhapatnam, the strategic port housing the naval fleet to counter Chinese intrusions and home base of the upcoming aircraft carrier Vikrant is testimony to the growing bonhomie between both nations.

India and the United States are likely to ink a $3 billion defense deal for 22 Boeing Apache and 15 Chinook helicopters.

India's P-8I Neptune. Boeing Photo

India’s P-8I Neptune. Boeing Photo

India is likely to order three additional Boeing C -17 Globemasters to add to its existing transport fleet of 10 C17s and 12 Lockheed Martin C-130 Js and 12 Boeing P-8I Poseidons along with scope for buying GE 414 Jet engines & commencement of talks for fitting of General Atomics’ EMALS for its proposed nuclear carrier Vishal.

The United States and India have also signed a 10-year agreement for strategic cooperation keeping the rapidly changing geostrategic scenarios.

To summarize, the close engagement between these nations is a good sign of the maturing relationship, but those signs will not go well for observers in China.


Why China Can’t Be Trusted

Jeffrey Ordaniel

Politics, Asia

China’s pledges of a peaceful rise are contradicted by its actions.

In an article published by state-owned newspaper China Daily on May 27, Director-General Ouyang Yujing of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Department of Boundary and Ocean Affairs reported that controversial new installations under construction on islands in the South China Sea are “primarily for civilian purposes,” including “runway, pier, telecommunication, meteorological, navigation safety, and environmental observation facilities.”

Just one day after Ouyang’s statement, the Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. surveillance spotted two motorized artillery pieces on one of the reclaimed islands. U.S. officials were quoted as saying that the weapons China planted on an unfinished reclamation could reach neighboring islands, many of which have long been under Vietnamese and Philippine control.

The presence of offensive weapons contradicted Beijing’s public statements that the reclaimed islands are mainly for civilian purposes. Van Jackson at the Center for a New American Security calls the apparent disconnect between China’s words and actions, “strategic double speak.” But the worsening strategic environment of the South China Sea requires a more thorough reassessment of China’s diplomacy and security overtures. One key question must be answered: is this something new or do China’s words and actions frequently diverge? A brief review of how Beijing engaged its neighbors in the past two decades reveals the latter to be the case.

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