October 23, 2018


Volume VII, Issue 10, October 2018


by Matthew P. Goodman
Read Online

The eye of the Trump trade policy storm passed over CSIS earlier this month when U.S. ambassador to the World Trade Organization (WTO) Dennis Shea sat down with my colleague Bill Reinsch for an armchair conversation. It was a moment of calm clarity on what the administration hopes to achieve on the interrelated issues of WTO reform and China. Shea made a number of reassuring points but also used a turn of phrase that—particularly when viewed in light of Vice President Mike Pence’s forceful speech on China this month—was worrisome.
The reassuring bits were Ambassador Shea’s description of U.S. activities and immediate priorities at the WTO. He made clear that his team of experienced officials at the U.S. mission in Geneva is deeply engaged in the day-to-day work of the organization, attending committee meetings, tabling proposals, and trying to shape the debate on WTO reform. Shea described the United States as playing a “disruptively constructive” leadership role in this regard—not necessarily a bad thing if true.
Many of the reform priorities Shea laid out are sensible. Top of the list is strengthening the WTO’s so-called “notification” disciplines, under which member countries are meant to—but often do not—disclose information about subsidies and other domestic policies that may affect trade. The United States also wants WTO members such as Singapore, South Korea, and China to give up their self-designation as “developing” countries and commit to the full range of WTO obligations as advanced countries. And the Trump administration wants to reform a dispute-settlement mechanism that many (including the Obama administration) feel has strayed beyond its original mandate—though by blocking appointments to the Appellate Body, the current administration appears willing to “destroy the village in order to save it.”
Much of this reform agenda is echoed in a promising initiative among the trade ministers of the United States, Japan, and the European Union. Starting at the WTO ministerial meeting in Buenos Aires in December 2017, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has joined his EU and Japanese counterparts in issuing a series of four joint statements on shared concerns about the global trading system. The most recent statement, on the margins of the UN General Assembly meeting in New York last month, was the most detailed so far, listing a range of concerns in several areas: industrial subsidies and state-owned enterprises (SOEs), forced technology transfer policies, and digital trade and e-commerce. As a first joint action, the three countries are expected to table a paper in Geneva next month on transparency and notification.
Although there are reports that the United States is the least enthusiastic participant in the trilateral grouping, this is one of the more promising foreign policy endeavors the Trump administration is engaged in, for two reasons. First, it covers the right issues. The major battles in in the global economy over the next couple of decades will be fought over which rules should govern the role of the state in the marketplace (i.e., subsidies and SOEs), protection of intellectual property, and freedom of the internet and data flows.
Second, the trilateral initiative is the kind of approach the United States needs to use if it hopes to tackle today’s global economic problems—that is, working with allies and like-minded partners. Nowhere is this more true than in dealing with China’s problematic trade and industrial policies, which are the thinly disguised target of the four joint statements. No matter how intense, bilateral pressure from the United States is unlikely to cause a fundamental change in Beijing’s behavior; whereas presenting a united front with the European Union and Japan—which, together with the United States, represent over half of global economic weight—is something Beijing can’t ignore.
The trouble is that the Trump administration is doing contradictory things that undermine allied cohesion. EU and Japanese steel exports to the United States are still subject to a 25 percent tariff (on specious national security grounds), and a U.S.-EU ceasefire on trade last summer now appears at risk of breaking down. Moreover, the specter of tariffs on automobiles and auto parts hangs over negotiations with both economic partners.
The Trump administration’s escalating rhetoric on China presages a further possible rift with allies. The fiery speech by Vice President Pence on October 4 included a lengthy “bill of particulars,” outlining complaints about Chinese behavior not only in the economic arena but also in matters of security, foreign affairs, and human rights. While the speech failed to lay out a strategy for dealing with these problems, the forceful tone signaled a turning point in administration policy, in which a decision appears to have been made to oppose or counter virtually every Chinese action. Talk of “containment” has resurfaced in Washington.
It is against this backdrop that a statement by Ambassador Shea near the end of his remarks at CSIS was particularly troubling. Chastising other WTO members for adopting a “middle of the road” position on China, Shea prodded them to “pick a lane.” To be fair, he was speaking in the relatively narrow context of WTO reform, but when seen in light of the Pence speech and other recent actions by the administration, Shea’s turn of phrase suggests a broader effort to force others to choose between the United States and China.
Something like this “pick a lane” approach was evident in a much-talked-about provision of the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). Article 32.10 of the new trade agreement allows signatories to withdraw from the deal if another signatory pursues a separate free trade agreement with a “nonmarket economy”—a clear reference to China. As with threatened secondary sanctions on companies from third countries that deal with Iran, the Trump administration is clearly signaling to allies that deepening economic engagement with China may come at the cost of business with the United States.
The problem is that attempting to divide the world into two camps as the United States did during the Cold War is unlikely to work with China. To be sure, allies in Europe and Asia have similar concerns about China’s industrial policies and disruptive role in the global economic order, but they are deeply interdependent with China economically in a way that was never the case with the Soviet Union. The fact is that countries don’t want to choose between the United States and China—and if forced, they may not always choose us.  
The Trump administration is not wrong that the WTO needs reform, or that China needs brushing back on its disruptive trade and industrial policies. But forcing countries to “pick a lane” seems bound to fail and only to put global peace and prosperity at risk. The administration should focus instead on more constructive work with allies and partners to address the China challenge, as it is doing in its trilateral efforts with Japan and the European Union.

Matthew P. Goodman is senior vice president and holds the Simon Chair in Political Economy at CSIS. 

Tech's role in immigration enforcement


Photo: Atilgan Ozdil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images


A new report commissioned by advocacy groups finds that multiple tech companies, including Amazon and Palantir, are of special importance to immigration authorities "due to their involvement at multiple points in the profiling, tracking and apprehension of undocumented persons."

Why it matters: Contracts between major tech companies and immigration enforcers have drawn attention from the companies’ employees, some of whom object to playing a role in the Trump administration's immigration crackdown.

The report draws on various sources, notes Axios' David McCabe, including congressional testimony, contracting records and agreements between agencies.

It was backed by Mijente, the National Immigration Project and the Immigrant Defense Project. It was produced by outside research firm Empower.

Details, per the report:

“Recent changes in policy and contracting at ICE have heightened the importance of two key tech companies: Amazon, as the primary cloud service provider for the agency, and Palantir, as a provider of case management that can be integrated with key DHS fusion centers and local and state law enforcement agencies."

It describes how the companies work with United States immigration authorities. Palantir provides “management and analysis software for local, regional and federal law enforcement, including key ICE systems” and Department of Homeland Security facilities in California.Amazon hosts “numerous state and federal data systems key to immigration enforcement, including Palantir's Integrated Case Management system at ICE,” and works with state and local law enforcement that feed into DHS systems.

Neither Amazon nor Palantir responded to requests for comment.

Go deeper: David has more here.

How repressive regimes weaponize social media

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

 Source: AXIOS.com

Saudi Arabia's use of troll farms to harass journalists is just the latest example of repressive regimes and insurgent candidates using social media technology to silence critics or exert control over vulnerable populations.

Driving the news: A Saturday report from The New York Times found that Saudi-backed troll farms were inundating journalists, like the late Jamal Khashoggi, with hateful messages and threats of violence in an effort to silence them. The regime has admitted murdering Khashoggi.

Why it matters: General lack of oversight and regulation of social media makes it easy for those in power to influence populations without being detected — or at least not being identified until after damage is done.

Other examples:

In Myanmar, a UN-backed fact-finding mission found that members of the Myanmar military used Facebook as a tool in the government’s campaign of ethnic cleansing against the country's Rohingya population.

In Brazil, businessmen allegedly linked to right-wing candidate Jair Bolsonaro have been bankrolling a campaign to spread fake news in support of the leading far-right presidential candidate by spamming users with fake news via WhatsApp, per the Washington Post.

In Mexico, several political parties used bots and fake accounts in an attempt to influence the presidential election in July. Pro-government bots have been used for years in Mexican politics to silence activists.

Between the lines: Russia and Iran are also leveraging social media to undermine stability or elections in other nations.

The big picture: New technologies have for centuries been abused to serve those in power.

"A number of cases throughout history suggest that breakthrough technology is often followed by a period of conflict over the impact in the way it is used….Disinformation is an adaptive challenge. It existed in hieroglyphics in caves and will exist in 1,000 years via whatever humans are using to communicate at that point."

— Graham Brookie, director and managing editor, Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab

What's next: Even democratic regimes are not immune to this type of abuse, argues Jennifer Grygiel, assistant professor of communications at Syracuse University.

In the U.S., Grygiel argues, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, an independent agency, was engaging in domestic propaganda through the purchase of Facebook ads for some of its European channels that were targeted to U.S. users. That's in potential violation of a law meant to prohibit domestic propaganda."My most immediate concern is here in the United States," she tells Axios. "The Facebook discovery makes me wonder what else is not being managed around our own government's potential use of communications systems for propaganda here in this country."

October 22, 2018

Predictive road maintenance

Predictive road maintenance

Roads have it rough. Keeping them in good repair starts with understanding when, where and how streets endure wear and tear.

“Knowing how many vehicles have gone through areas and knowing the type or size of those vehicles allows city planners to do more predictive road maintenance,” Tucker explains. IoT sensors can be installed in the pavement that will detect the frequency and type of vehicles passing above. This allows cities to manage roads proactively — before potholes and cracks appear.


#Reviewing The Future of Strategy

Source: The Strategy Bridge

Von Lambert 

 October 18, 2018

The Future of Strategy. Colin S. Gray. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2015.

“It can, and probably should, be a chilling realisation that the future of strategy in the twenty-first century will rest very much in people’s hands, minds, and emotions as much as it did in the 1910s and 1930s.”
—Colin Gray[1]

The central statement that strategy is a pervasive and enduring aspect of human history describes the theory, practice, and predictions surrounding the study of strategy posited by Colin Gray in his 2015 book, The Future of Strategy. This book is a useful start point for any student of strategy, strategic history, and for those who seek to understand its foundation, formulation, and fallibility. Gray ultimately offers that the future of strategy is contiguous, susceptible to the human condition, and a generally difficult enterprise in which to succeed. Nevertheless, he explains its definition, origins, and utility for the contemporary strategist.

In the first instance, Gray offers the foundation of strategy from the perspectives of both Carl von Clausewitz and Lawrence Freedman. He cites his difficulty with Freedman’s approach and ultimately sides with the Prussian foundational view. Gray suggests strategy and politics are inextricably linked and ties this to human motives through the enduring Thucydidean triptych of fear, honour, and interest; moreover, he offers that in the context of geography, there are some useful predictions of behaviour in understanding the culture of an adversary. Strategy’s evolution in the nuclear age, declares Gray, is a useful vehicle for viewing its future—a terrifying thought given the propensity for human error in strategy. The Future of Strategy is more than just a description of the subject’s transition into the next epoch, it posits a useful definition, a description of geography’s immutable influence, and the centrality of politics in the design and execution of strategy.

Establishing a useful definition for strategy is a strength in Gray’s work and sets the scene for deeper engagement with the subject—particularly in understanding the influences of geography and its inseparability from politics. In this sense, Gray describes that strategy is not politics but is always about it. He states, “We devise and have strategy because of our human needs, most especially for security, and strategy has to be made and to a degree executed, in a process that is always political in nature.”[2] This makes sense because political participation provides the mechanism for a polity to act, to enact or formulate a strategy—including the accompanying contention and negotiation resident in any modern political system.


The definition for strategy is threefold as described by Gray. First, he offers that of Freedman, though he largely disagrees with it: “Strategy is the central political art. It is about getting more out of a situation than the starting balance of power would suggest; it is the art of creating power.”[3] That strategy is an art is an important aspect of the definition and the resultant idea of power creation can be seen in the same vein as Posen-Cohen’s strategy as a theory of victory.[4] Gray employs Clausewitz’s approach echoed by Liddell Hart, that “strategy is the use of the engagement for the purpose of the war.”[5] Due to his preponderance of work on the subject, Gray comfortably highlights the military aspect of strategy whilst at the same time acknowledging the central importance of politics in his definition. Gray offers commentary on Germany’s disconnect between the military and political institutions, also described by Michael Geyer in his contribution to The Makers of Modern Strategy. Specifically, in neither the first nor the second World War did Germany have a strategy-making institution capable of guiding war in accord with political sense.[6] What can be discerned as a result of Gray’s initial exploration in the opening few chapters is that strategy is a system that enables functional cooperation (military included) among categorically distinctive behaviours (fear, honour, or interest) for advancing a common purpose relative to the interests of the stakeholders in a given polity. Gray’s caveat is that strategy is only valuable when it serves as the bridge between purpose and action with military force a primary actor.

The definition of strategy offered by Gray in this work then is this: “Military strategy is the direction and use of force for the purposes of policy as decided by politics.”[7] Edward Luttwak has previously criticised any narrow military angle in defining strategy, but Gray counters that every challenge in strategic history has required an application of then contemporary military capability.[8] Gray’s definition is useful, particularly when he later describes the formulation of strategy as adversarial; the military nuances of the definition are self-evident. Helpfully, Gray illustrates what strategy is at a basic level: “Strategy should be thought of as the glue that holds together the purposeful activities of the state.”[9] Lastly, to link politics and military mechanisms within his definition, Gray offers the metaphor of strategy as the bridge between political purpose and military power.[10] With an effective definition and a useful metaphor, Gray offers a historical narrative on strategy regarding the enduring motivations of polities relative to human behaviour. He does this through reinforcement of Thucydides’ timeless truism.

In continually reinforcing the centrality of the influence of politics on strategy throughout his work, Gray emphasizes the human dimension. Underpinning the role of politics, he offers, is that of human motive. Nowhere is there a more enduring example of this than in the fatalistic story of Athens and Sparta. Gray states: “The terse judgement in Thucydides—fear, honour, and interest—has yet to be bettered.”[11] In deciphering the Thucydidean triptych, it is enough for the strategist to observe that every political community is motivated by its own fears, a sense of honour, and a relative view of its own interests. Plainly, a polity will act on one or a combination of these things to further its own interests. Both Robert B. Strassler’s and Donald Kagan’s work on Athenian strategy in the greater context of the Peloponnesian War support Gray’s view on the dominant role of politics in strategy: “The Athenian experience suggests that during times of war, when open debate must precede decision making and when the persuasion of relatively uninformed majorities is often required, democracies may find it harder to adjust to the necessities of war than less open societies.”[12] Kagan observed that open and unfettered discourse was one aspect of Athenian strategy heralding their defeat. Strassler captures the powerful dialogue of Athens’ Mytilenian Debate as one illustrative example supporting Kagan’s observation. With a definition established and the enduring nature of human motive founded in timeless Thucydidean logic, Gray offers another useful way to derive understanding of strategy.

Gray’s approach to illustrating strategy as inextricably linked to politics is reinforced through his enhancement of Arthur F. Lykke’s model of strategy comprising ends, ways, and means.[13] Gray offers that the addition of assumptions underpinning strategy will increase the fidelity of Lykke’s triptych and provide a better understanding.[14] Gray’s model, which builds upon that of Lykke, therefore becomes: ends, ways, means, and assumptions.[15] As a brief example, the 1942 execution of Operation Barbarossa in the Second World War could be seen as one in which the limitless policy ends required by Hitler and the available military means of the Wehrmacht led to the failure of German strategy against the Soviet Union. The addition of accurate assumptions related to the resolve of the Soviets in a city like Stalingrad or at Kursk may have assured the Nazis of a different outcome. The illustration of the “Gray Model” is the second most useful aspect of this book behind the definition of strategy itself.

Sir Halford John Mackinder (Wikimedia)

There are two other aspects of strategy Gray seeks to characterize for the reader, a definition of grand strategy and the timelessness of geography in its influence over strategy. In describing grand strategy, Gray states, “This ambitious concept aspires to provide guidance and control over all the assets of a polity for the purpose of achieving a collective effort of a large-scale strategic effect.”[16] This definition is essentially the macro version of the previously offered military-centric version. It offers more depth to the formulation of strategy in theory, provided the polity can marshal other means and more expansive ways on a greater scale in the pursuit of the purpose. Linked to grand strategy is Gray’s emphasis on geography: “Geography, both objective and subjective, explains more about a polity’s national security issues than any other factor.”[17] He identifies interesting commonality between theorists Mackinder and Spykman, though he is more a disciple of Mackinder, and posits that both theorists identified problems (in challenges to strategic world orders) and located political and strategic solutions that are highly relevant today.[18] Based on the two theorists, Gray offers the relevance for geography as a significant influence in formulating strategy, and to a greater extent, grand strategy.

Gray’s work on the foundations and future of strategy is extremely useful to those seeking both a definition and the common influences such as motive and politics on its formulation. The Future of Strategy provides this in spades. The first five chapters of this book provide the reader with a recap of his earlier work and a useful foundation for the reader without introducing much else new. This is not to say that there is nothing more to say; rather, Gray simply covers old ground in fewer pages. His assertion that the core of strategy is about consequences rather than an innate quality or quantity is germane to any conversation on strategy. This work is also an excellent on-ramp to his 2005 book, Another Bloody Century, illustrating strategy in the context of the next century framed in both geography and great power conflict—the narrative on the Sino-Soviet bloc is especially disconcerting in this work. If the conflict-rife future isn’t enticing enough or a lack of  inclination to chew through Gray’s style of prose begins to engulf the reader, Gray’s persistent connections to Thucydides and theorists such as Mackinder and Liddell Hart provide the foundation for the more curious to explore the topic of strategy in an historically enduring and much deeper sense.

Peering into the future in the closing chapter of The Future of Strategy, Gray posits there are two aspects of the contemporary world that will seek to influence strategy. First, the last seventy (or so) years of the nuclear age proposes a model for the future in the persistent need to offer deterrence, but Gray is a skeptic with respect to the calculus of deterrence in that it couldn’t possibly offer a steadfast guarantee of security. Gray also notes that the sheer destructiveness would simply overwhelm models of strategy as it is unlikely a polity should seek the outright destruction of the Earth as a self-professed end. Second, the cyber domain offers potential in the formulation of strategy, but the means and ways at this point appear murky.

For Gray, the future of strategy has to be seen and understood as nesting in a great (and hopefully) unending stream of time which may be too esoteric for the casual reader. His practical assertion that action in pursuit of policy always requires assistance in the form of behaviour guided by strategy is likely to be more appealing. Through Gray’s definition of strategy, the timeless application of Thucydidean motives, and an understanding of the immutable influences of geography and politics, any prospective student of strategy is well equipped to enter any debate on the future direction of the national interest.

Von Lambert is an Australian Army officer attending the U.S. Marine Corps School of Advanced Warfighting. The views offered here are his own and do not reflect any official positions.

October 21, 2018

India must evolve better relations with democratic states

India must evolve better relations with democratic states

Dr Sandeep Gopalan

Dr Sandeep Gopalan is the pro vice-chancellor for academic innovation and a law professor at Deakin University, Melbourne

Published : Oct 21, 2018, 3:55 am IST

Updated : Oct 21, 2018, 3:56 am IST

China has been rapidly expanding its maritime capability beyond its immediate neighbourhood to project power into the Indian Ocean.

 The Indian Ocean is gaining recognition as the key to peace in the Asian Century.

The Indian Ocean’s vital role for commercial relations, peace, and prosperity for our region has assumed a renewed importance in recent years with the escalation in competition between two dyads of states: India-China and China-US.

For too long the Indian Ocean has been an afterthought in geopolitics as other theatres presented more clear danger to the strategic interests of the great powers. Over the last two decades, the Indian Ocean is gaining recognition as the key to peace in the Asian Century — over 60 per cent of the world’s oil trade follows through the Indian Ocean and it hosts some of the most populous countries on the planet. To be sure, there has been more talk than action — the vastness of the region, the fragmented nature of state interests, and limitations of capability are all inhibiting factors for drastic change.

Recent actions by the US and China may be altering that status quo. China has been rapidly expanding its maritime capability beyond its immediate neighbourhood to project power into the Indian Ocean. It has opened or is planning to open bases in Djibouti, Gwadar (Pakistan), Hambantota (Sri Lanka), Chittagong (Bangladesh), and Tanzania.

Clearly, China’s plans must incorporate military power beyond the building of naval bases in the guise of “logistics” or “commercial” facilities — any naval force has to be supported by substantial air force assets. In addition, China’s undersea capabilities are vastly inferior to that of the US currently — these would need to be enhanced substantially before engaging in a conflict in the Indian Ocean. China’s increasing militarisation of the Indian Ocean is no accident; its trade interests and energy security needs are dependent on sea lines being open.

In turn, India has sought to bolster its position in the Indian Ocean securing footholds in Duqm (Oman), Seychelles, Singapore, Chabahar (Iran), Madagascar, Mald-ives, and Myanmar.

And the dominant superpower, the US, has bases in Diego Garcia and Bahrain, in addition to significant military assets in the Middle East more broadly. In recent years, the US has grown wary of China’s escalation in the Indian Ocean. For instance, the 2017 National Security Strategy notes, “China is using economic inducements and penalties, influence operations, and implied military threats to persuade other states to heed its political and security agenda.” Despite the talk, US involvement in the Indian Ocean does not live up to its billing — it appears content to ally with India rather than investing in building infrastructure of its own to rival China.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Pakistan, and Iran are also engaged in militarising the Indian Ocean — escalating the threat of conflict and increasing the vulnerability of smaller countries. These international rivalries are also complicating domestic politics in some countries as political actors are used as pawns to advance geopolitical interests. Maldives is a recent example. Amidst these developments, it must be recognised that the interests of the US and China in the Indian Ocean are not intrinsic — it is largely instrumental. Both see the Indian Ocean as a vital line of communication necessary to advance economic and strategic interests.

However, Indian Ocean states do not have to be limited to the prism of instrumentality. They share links that go back over two thousand years. Archaeological evidence, for instance, shows commercial links between Sri Lanka and India — discoveries show trade between kingdoms on the Coromandel coast and Anuradhapura. There is evidence of trade connecting India with the Arabs and the Romans.

It is noteworthy that ancient traders could connect Palmyra, Muziris, and other distant locales divided by language, culture, and religion by overcoming crippling communications and transport challenges. Their ingenuity has not been transferred down the centuries — for instance, India’s modern trade with Indian Ocean states is trivial relative to the opportunity.

Recall that these ancient traders did not have the rule of law. They had to rely on customs, overcome problems of translation, and more fundamentally trust their counterparts. They must have evolved shared norms for cooperation. Unlike the western lex mercatoria, we know little about these norms that connected Indian Ocean peoples.

Today, we don’t have to rely on customs or on the goodwill of hosts to build better commercial relationships. We have a rules-based order — but it still needs work. In Shakespeare’s Pericles, Prince of Tyre, Act 2, Scene 1, three fishermen are having a discussion, and Fisherman 3 says, “Master, I marvel how the fishes live in the sea.” The First Fisherman replies, “Why, as men do a-land; the great ones eat up the little ones: I can compare our rich misers to nothing so fitly as to a whale; a’ plays and tumbles, driving the poor fry before him, and at last devours the-m all at a mouthful: such whales have I heard on o’ the land, who never leave gaping till they’ve swallowed the whole parish, church, steeple, bells, and all.”

These words could apply equally to modern Indian Ocean affairs. Rules are necessary to ensure that the “great ones” don’t ju-st “eat up the little ones.” The rules are necessary to ensure freedom of navigation because without it there is no trade or energy security. Sri Lanka PM Ranil Wickremesinghe must be commended for his initiative in seeking to develop a code of conduct for the Indian Ocean.

Second, Indian Ocean states must build trust. Indian Ocean issues transcend the individual capabilities of any country. Climate change, pollution, exploitative resource extraction hurt all states. Maritime terrorism, human trafficking, money laundering, and corruption transcend borders and threaten peace everywhere. These issues can only be tackled by states working together — beyond instrumentalism, invoking historical ties that can be modernised.

Third, Indian Ocean cooperation must go beyo-nd states into sub-government institutions, creating constituencies for cooperation. For instance, educational links between universities in the Indian Ocean are poor. Governments could harmonise credit recognition systems and fund scholarships for Indian Ocean students to pursue short-term study opportunities across the region. Australia’s New Colombo Plan offers a model.

To conclude, if present trends continue, the militarisation of the Indian Ocean will only increase. China’s escalation will prompt responses from the US and India. And China’s significant deficits relative to the US will mean that it will have to continue to invest substantially both to protect its new investments and to attain parity. Given its significant asymmetry relative to both China and the US, India’s posture can only be to put China’s assets at risk in the event of conflict rather than attaining dominance. Its most pragmatic strategy would be to dump anachronistic colonial hangover policies and embrace democratic states such as the US and Australia as closer security partners. Coevally, India’s foreign policy doctrine must evolve to better relationships with democratic states by shedding baggage and mimicking China’s commercial approach. India can help build democratic institutions, and enhance educational, cultural, and sporting capabilities. These ties are more efficient and endure longer than belts and roads.

Sandeep Gopalan is the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Acade-mic Inno-vation) at De-akin University, Melbourne, Australia.


India’s Balancing Act Between the US and Russia

India’s Balancing Act Between the US and Russia

Vinay Kaura
Commentary, 19 October 2018

India proposes to purchase the S-400 Russian missile defence system. The plan unnecessarily infuriates the United States, and is unlikely to enhance India’s long-term security objectives.

Nikolay Kudashev, Russia’s ambassador to India, is excited about the just-concluded $5.4 billion S-400 missile defence system deal between India and Russia. So is his boss, Russian President Vladimir Putin. And so is everyone who still ruminates about the good old days of India–Russia friendship. Kudashev also believes that broader US sanctions on Russia will not pose hindrance to more defence contracts between New Delhi and Moscow in the near future. But US President Donald Trump is nowhere near as sanguine; in his first reaction to the Indo-Russian deal and in his inimitable style, the US leader ominously proclaimed that ‘India is going to find out’ Washington’s response ‘sooner than you think’.

Russia must be feeling extremely content with India’s defiance of America’s wishes. And Moscow would undoubtedly be even happier should the US respond negatively to this missile weapons deal, especially since the American president proclaimed it as his mission to reduce countries’ dependence on Russian weapons and has resisted calls from his own officials to provide India with a US legal waiver which would allow New Delhi to continue purchasing Russian military platforms on a case-by-case basis.

Trump’s dislike of the S-400 system can be gauged from America’s strong pressure on Turkey not to acquire such platforms, and also from the recent sanctioning of the Chinese military for buying Russian equipment. Officials in Washington frequently state that, in the case of Turkey, the purchase of the S-400 by Ankara would constitute a ‘red line’. And a day before Putin’s arrival in New Delhi for the annual summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in early October, the US issued a thinly-veiled warning that the S-400 deal was a ‘focus area’ of secondary American sanctions against countries that made ‘significant’ purchases from designated entities in Russia’s defence sectors.

So, although US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense James Mattis have argued the case for a presidential waiver to India, and this broader acquiescence if not support from the State Department and the Pentagon may have prompted New Delhi to go ahead with the controversial Russian deal, chances remain high that President Trump could refuse to grant a waiver to India.

Yet whatever Trump’s final response is, it becomes imperative for India not to make an ostentatious public display of asserting its ‘independence’ in foreign policy. One can only be amazed at New Delhi’s fascination for repeatedly asserting that it conducts an ‘autonomous’ foreign policy, which is another way of saying that the government is not afraid of asserting itself in the face of American aggression. Yet time and context have changed dramatically for such posturing. When India adopted its non-aligned status and posture, this was not a gesture born out of pure idealism, but one based on a realistic assessment of India’s geopolitical scenario and options: Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru wanted to give Indian diplomats room to manoeuvre to conduct the country’s foreign and security policies without allowing India to be trapped in the Cold War entanglements. Although this approach offered India multiple advantages, the non-alignment posture soon gave way to an inward-looking foreign policy vision that only prioritised threats coming from Pakistan, rather than dealing effectively with the broader challenge emanating from China. One therefore expected the Modi-led government not to repeat the past mistake of maintaining so-called ‘strategic autonomy’; its euphemism ‘non-alignment’ has been thought to be long dead, and it is certainly not in India’s interest to resurrect the ‘non-aligned’ ghost.

Now, India stands to benefit from being more assertive as exemplified by its pursuit of constructive engagement with the US. Mutual respect for democratic values and the rule of law, India’s growing economic strength and rising strategic confidence coupled with China’s unusually assertive behaviour have contributed to growing rapport between the world’s strongest and largest democracies. Resultantly, New Delhi has acquired a crucial position in the US’s evolving security calculus in the Indo-Pacific region.   

One can question the rationale of buying the S-400 system. Can India, even equipped with the S-400 system, hope to defend itself against potential Chinese aggression on its own? And can India hope that the S-400 deal will nudge Russia to distance itself from China and Pakistan? In their visceral opposition to the US, the Russians now see the strategic advantage of viewing Pakistan as a partner in fighting terrorism. This thinking is flawed considering that Islamabad consistently defends Mumbai terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed and has adopted a highly selective approach on counterterrorism. So, despite ritualistic rhetoric suggesting continued Indo-Russian bonhomie, the fact remains that Moscow has moved far away from New Delhi’s long-held strategic positions.

So, why did India make the S-400 deal such a litmus test? Part of the reason is because many Indian strategists still tend to view contemporary geopolitical scenarios through the distorting lens of the Cold War. Such Indian strategists do not appear to have noted that RTI Systems, Russia’s defence manufacturing conglomerate, has signed an important deal in the last week of August to supply radar systems to Pakistan. The system is primarily aimed at protecting a nuclear power plant in Karachi against any attack, and no prizes for guessing whose attack that Russian-supplied radar system is seeking to deter. So, ironically, Russia is now in the position of supplying both protagonists with weapons intended to deter each other. Some seasoned Moscow watchers have convincingly argued that Moscow intended the radar deal with Pakistan to indirectly convey to New Delhi that if security frameworks in South Asia are disrupted by American pressure on Islamabad to ‘do more’ on the counter-terrorism front in Afghanistan, Russia would not mind stepping in to help Pakistan neutralise India’s military advantages. Already, the Pakistan–Russia security partnership has strengthened since 2014, when the two countries signed their landmark defence agreement.

Moscow’s apologists in India argue that those opposed to the S-400 deal are, essentially, supporters of a pro-US tilt, but this issue is not a binary choice about being either pro-Russian or pro-American; it is about defending India’s long-term strategic interests. And, in the present regional geopolitical environment, it is more prudent for India to secure its interests through alliance-building in the Indo-Pacific region rather than by returning to the notions of strategic autonomy.

The US considers India an important ally in the Indo-Pacific region in order to counter China’s growing assertiveness. Japan and Australia have been moving closer to India, in part at the behest of the US. It is thus risky to turn away from alliance-building and seek solace in the old framework of non-alignment. The success of the Indo-Pacific project requires an engaged America. But Russia has been opposed to India’s policy in the Indo-Pacific. And, by engaging in a massive defence deal with Russia against insistent American objections, India may not be promoting its own broader interests.

Vinay Kaura is Assistant Professor at Sardar Patel University of Police, Security and Criminal Justice in Jaipur, Rajasthan.


E-Commerce, Delivery Services and the Illicit Tobacco Trade

Occasional Papers


E-Commerce, Delivery Services and the Illicit Tobacco Trade

Alexander Babuta, Cathy Haenlein and Alexandria Reid
Occasional Papers, 17 October 2018

This Occasional Paper explores the exploitation of the internet and delivery services in relation to illicit tobacco and tobacco products.

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This Occasional Paper examines the exploitation of the internet and delivery services in relation to illicit trade in tobacco products in Europe. The findings are based on primary research in the form of semi-structured interviews with subject matter experts from law enforcement agencies, government, the private sector, NGOs and international organisations conducted in the UK, France and Germany between May and July 2018. 

The research demonstrates that the growth of e-commerce and proliferation of postal and small parcel delivery services have had a significant impact on the trade in illicit tobacco products in many of the locations under consideration. Illicit tobacco products are now readily available to purchase with little effort and minimal risk – through online marketplaces, purpose-built hosted websites and social media platforms. In the past few years, as the number of social media users has increased dramatically, platforms such as Facebook appear to have become the primary medium through which illicit tobacco products are sold online, although online marketplace websites continue to be exploited. As illicit tobacco products are so readily available to purchase on these platforms, there does not appear to be a market for such products on the darknet. 

Evidence suggests that there are two distinct types of offender selling illicit tobacco products online: opportunist individual sellers with no links to organised crime; and organised criminals with international contacts, access to a steady supply of illicit products, and sophisticated distribution networks. It appears that a small number of highly prolific sellers are responsible for a large proportion of all illicit sales. This has significant implications for investigation and enforcement, as it is likely that measures aimed at disrupting and apprehending the most prolific offenders will be more effective than measures targeting social media pages, groups and websites, which can reopen almost immediately following enforcement action.

A related but often distinct problem is the exploitation of postal and delivery services to transport illicit tobacco products into and within Europe. In recent years, the rapid growth of postal and parcel services has benefited criminal actors just as it has legitimate ones, although different postal and delivery operators face different levels of vulnerability. Given the sheer volume of small parcels now unloaded at customs facilities on a daily basis, customs officials are unable to inspect each consignment, instead relying on risk-led profiling strategies. Capitalising on this vulnerability, organised criminals have increasingly adopted a low-volume, high-frequency approach to smuggling all manner of illicit commodities (albeit alongside the ongoing use of high-volume transportation methods). In addition to reducing the risk of interception, low-volume, high-frequency methods also minimise the financial loss incurred in the event of a seizure, as a single consignment represents only a small proportion of illicit goods being transported by a given group. 

Some criminal groups involved in illicit tobacco trade through postal and parcel systems are highly sophisticated and capable of coordinating long-running operations using multiple addresses, breaking up consignments across service providers. This agility makes it particularly difficult for customs and border agencies to enforce against this form of organised criminality. 

The exploitation of the internet and delivery services to sell and transport illicit tobacco products in Europe are trends that are set to persist in the coming years. However, existing responses to the illicit tobacco trade are arguably not well suited to combat these new smuggling methods and could be strengthened in a number of ways. 

First, internet companies, and particularly social media platform providers, could take measures to disrupt the sale of illicit tobacco products on their platforms. For instance, algorithmic content filters – in combination with human reviewers – are widely used to prevent the sharing of content that violates the platforms’ policies, such as pornography, hate speech and terrorist-related content. Such methods should also be used to prevent the sharing of material that violates the platforms’ commerce policies, including those related to tobacco products. Collaboration between platform providers and law enforcement agencies should be strengthened, to ensure the lawful provision of data to enable successful prosecution cases to be brought against the most prolific online offenders. 

Second, in relation to abuse of postal and delivery services, it is crucial to strengthen two-way information-sharing mechanisms between postal and parcel operators and customs agencies. While cooperation has improved in recent years, there remains significant variation between countries and between delivery service providers, and further action is needed to ensure collaborative working practices between law enforcement agencies and delivery service providers as a group. Furthermore, existing risk assessment and profiling methods used by customs agencies are often not well suited to identifying the low-volume, high-frequency smuggling methods now favoured by some organised criminals. As such, there is a need to develop more sophisticated and intelligence-led approaches to risk assessment, for instance by using big data analytics to identify suspicious consignments and routing patterns. 

More broadly, there is a need to strengthen information-sharing mechanisms between law enforcement agencies and other parts of the private sector. While cooperation has improved considerably in recent years, the private sector collects a large amount of useable information related to illicit trade, yet in many cases law enforcement agencies do not use this information. Improving information sharing with the private sector – including the tobacco industry – would provide law enforcement agencies across Europe with a richer intelligence picture of the individuals and groups involved in illicit trade activity. 

At the same time, the decentralised business structure and low-volume, high-frequency methods favoured by many groups involved in the illicit tobacco trade render seizure-focused enforcement action increasingly ineffective. Law enforcement agencies can only intercept a small fraction of all goods being transported. Moreover, the consignments that are intercepted are often too low in value to have a meaningful deterrent impact on the smuggling group. For this reason, a greater focus on prevention is needed. It is important to devote more resources to consumer-focused demand-reduction campaigns, particularly through social media.

The trends examined in this paper suggest that a new generation of organised criminality is developing across Europe, one that will require new and innovative responses. Collaboration is crucial, between European governments, between law enforcement agencies, and between the public and private sectors.