December 14, 2018

GCSC Cyberstability Update, December 14th, 2018

GCSC Cyberstability Update, December 14th, 2018

Your weekly news updates on the GCSC, its members, and relevant developments in the field of international cyber affairs. For more information about the GCSC, please


Internet Governance in November 2018

The article by Andrijana Gavrilovic was published by DiploFoundation, 11th December 2018
An abundance of new cybersecurity declarations and resolutions, calls for ethical considerations in artificial intelligence (AI) systems development, and new rulings regarding the gig economy were among the main digital policy developments in November 2018. The Global Commission on Stability of Cyberspace (GCSC) has come up withsix new proposed norms for state and non-state behaviour, the so-called ‘Singapore package’. The norms focus on tampering with products, vulnerability disclosure and responsibility, botnets, cyber-hygiene, and conduct of offensive cyber operations by non-state actors.

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Technology Disruption: Rights, Risks, and Rules

The speech by Executive Director Brett Solomon was published on the Access Now website, 10thDecember 2018
The speech was addressed to the United Nations on the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. “Technology is not only upending long-held rules which have, at least nominally, protected our rights, but it is also introducing new risks which are threatening to replicate, and even exacerbate, more traditional and longstanding risks to our human rights. Our challenge is to identify and solidify the norms, the laws, the regulations, and the innovation that can protect our human rights. We must and can deliver on the promise of emerging norms identified in the Paris Call, the Contract for the Web, and the Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace.”

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The Unhackable Election – What it takes to Defend Democracy

The article by GCSC Co-Chair Michael Chertoff and Anders Fogh Rasmussen was published in the January/February 2019 Issue of Foreign Affairs, 11th December 2018
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014 marked a sharp break with the past: the post–Cold War interlude, a time when peace and democracy spread across the globe, was over, and a new, more aggressive era, had begun. Since then, Western governments have had to relearn the forgotten art of deterring attacks and protecting their countries’ borders. They have failed to see, however, that the attacks can also be aimed at their democratic institutions. Liberal democracy may remain the world’s preferred model of governance, but it is under debilitating pressure from threats both internal and external. 

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EU Needs Election-Meddling Stress Tests

The article by Commissioner Marietje Schaakewas published in the EU Observer, 14th December 2018
In 170 days, Europeans will go to the polls, but the right to freely choose their representatives is under threat. With election after election facing hacking and manipulation, no-one should be naive about what is at stake in Europe. Stress-tests are an established EU method to spot potential systemic weaknesses in anything from nuclear power facilities to banks. The stress-tests could measure the security and resilience of election infrastructures and technologies.

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The Internet is going to Hell and its Creators want your Help Fixing it

The article by Kieren McCarthy was published inThe Register, 11th December 2018
If ever there was doubt that 2018 is the year of fear, it was confirmed by a panel discussion involving the two men that are credited with inventing the internet and the world wide web. Co-inventor of the internet protocols TCP/IP Vint Cerf and inventor of the web Sir Tim Berners-Lee have spent the past 20 years talking in pragmatic but highly optimistic tones about the global networks they helped give birth to. At the Our People-Centered Digital Future conference in San Jose, USA, the tone was very different.

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There is Continual War in Cyberspace

The article by Pukhraj Singh was published in The Tribune India, 3rd December 2018
The disinformation campaign garnered lakhs of social media impressions. It could very well be the most systematic attempt at domestic foreign interference via cyberspace, meeting the thresholds of cyber-enabled information warfare. If left undeterred, such insidious campaigns could sway a decisive chunk of the populace in the 2019 Indian General Election. Alexander Klimburgdefines this confrontation as a "slow, hardly measurable, and yet steady reinterpretation of information as a weapon." Disinformation must be dealt with impartially and apolitically else the situation may worsen even more, leading to domestic collateral damage.

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Long-Range Emerging Threats Facing the United States as Identified by Federal Agencies

The report of the U.S. Government Accountability Office was published on their website, 13thDecember 2018
Threats to U.S. national security continue to evolve with technological, economic, and social changes.
Federal agencies identified 26 long-term threats within 4 categories: 1) Adversaries' Political and Military Advancements—e.g., China's increasing ability to match the U.S. military's strength. 2) Dual-Use Technologies—e.g., self-driving cars might be developed for private use, but militaries can use them too. 3) Weapons—advances in weapons technology, e.g., cyberweapons. 4) Events and Demographic Changes—e.g., infectious disease outbreaks.

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Calculating the Cost of Switching Off

The post by the Internet Society was published on their website, December 2018
The Internet Society teamed up with NetBlocks to develop a platform to quickly and accurately estimate the cost of Internet shutdowns, mobile data, blackouts and social media restrictions. The Cost of Shutdown Tool (COST), is a data-driven online policy instrument that can quickly estimate the economic impact of Internet shutdowns and online restrictions. It is built upon established research papers published by the Brookings Institution for global coverage and a specialised model by CIPESA for sub-Saharan Africa, taking into account indirect economic factors and informal economies that play a major role in the region. Economic indicators are integrated from open data sources including the World Bank, ITU and Eurostat.

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NotPetya leads to Unprecedented Insurance Coverage Dispute

The article by Robert Stines was published on theTechLawX blog, updated 13th December 2018
On June 27, 2017, a major global cyber attack harmed several companies. The cyber weapon of choice was malware dubbed NotPetya. NotPetya was a variation of ransomware called Petya that was first discovered in 2016. Companies such as FedEx and Merck reported that NotPetya disrupted their operations and earnings. Among the companies infected was Mondelez International Inc. Zurich American Insurance Company sold an insurance policy to Mondelez that provided coverage for loss or expenses incurred by Mondelez during the period of business interruption directly resulting from the failure of Mondelez's electronic data processing equipment or media.

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Doha forum – Diplomacy, Dialogue, Diversity

The agenda for the Forum was recently uploaded to their website.
Doha Forum is a global platform for dialogue, bringing together leaders in policy to build action driven networks. The Forum will take place from 15-16 December 2018. GCSC Co-Chair Latha Reddywill participate in a panel alongside Commissioner Marietje Schaake on 15 December from 14:00-15:00. The panel is entitled Bit-by-Bit: Enforcing Norms in Cyberspace. Commissioner Samir Saran will moderate a session on 16 December, from 10:45-11:45.

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December 13, 2018

NYT: Few lessons from Indians voting pattern are clear

About yesterday Election result

New York Times news.......  ...Few lessons from Indians voting pattern are clear

✔ Indian public does not understand Fiscal deficit & are not bothered whether it is 2.4% or 3.4%. They do not understand that subsidies & Freebees mean borrowing & borrowing have to be paid one day by someone.

✔Indian public also not bothered about GDP rate it increasesed from 3.8 to 7.4 from last four years which is more then USA, UK , japan.....

✔ Indian public will always complain. If it is not about price of Onions or Thur Dal, it will be about Petrol or Diesel. They must get everything cheap but at the same time Farmers must get good price

✔ Don't ask Indian public to change old habits. It is Govt's job to change everything

✔ Indian public is not bothered about fixing long term issues. They want it today. Not even today. NOW.

✔Indian public has short memory & narrow vision. They forget & forgive pasts.

✔ They intentionally vote as per cast pattern.... Castism is major enemy for Indian politics which divides indian youth from growth... And PaK and China pramote castism in India with help of there own native peoples because both directly depends on India for open market..GDP.....

✔Indian defence system are more stronger as compared to last five years and PaK and gulf countrys are not able to ruled on India...thier for they fundings in billion to destroy Indian system and only Modi is fight against them......but Indian don't know this..

✔ If Mr. Modi continues fixing long term problems for remaining 5 months, he will loose 2019. A dead soldier can not do anything for country. He must live to comeback for next 5 years. Now he must become a politician for remaining 5 months. If Public wants cheap Petrol & Diesel give to them. If farmers want loan waiver, give it to them,

They don't know about sabka sath sabaka vikas

💠We advise to Mr. Modi  to apply for 5 month's leave from being statesman & become politician. After 2019 victory back to being statesman because India can only grow under statesman Modi & not Politician Modi.

----By New York Times author

The Return of Political Warfare, Strategic Monitor

  Strategic Monitor
Danny Pronk

The West currently faces a number of actors who employ a wide range of measures to influence, coerce, intimidate, or undermine its interests. Many of these measures are often collectively referred to as “political warfare”, a term originally coined by former U.S. State Department diplomat George F. Kennan in 1948. This report defines political warfare as the intentional use of one or more of the traditional implements of national power (diplomatic, informational, military, and economic) to affect the political composition or decision-making within another state. It then analyzes political warfare as it is practiced today by the Russian Federation, and explores its consequences for the rules-based international order, before concluding that political warfare is simply the expression of international relations in today’s competitive and polarized world.


The West currently faces a number of actors who employ a wide range of measures to influence, coerce, intimidate, or undermine its interests.[1] It is a phenomenon that former U.S. State Department diplomat George F. Kennan once referred to as “political warfare.”

Political warfare is the logical application of Clausewitz’s doctrine in time of peace. In broadest definition, political warfare is the employment of all the means at a nation’s command, short of war, to achieve its national objectives. Such operations are both overt and covert. They range from such overt actions as political alliances, economic measures, and “white” propaganda to such covert operations as clandestine support of “friendly” foreign elements, “black” psychological warfare and even encouragement of underground resistance in hostile states.[2]

The term political warfare refers to the employment of military, intelligence, diplomatic, financial, and other means — short of conventional war — to achieve national objectives. It can include overt operations like public broadcasting and covert operations like psychological warfare and support to underground resistance groups. Political warfare is but one term among many that describes this arena of conflict short of actual warfare.[3] Chinese analysts have employed the term “unrestricted warfare”, Russian officials have used “new generation warfare”, and a variety of terms are in use by Western analysts and officials, including “gray zone warfare”[4]and “hybrid conflict”.[5] This report defines “political warfare” as consisting of the intentional use of one or more of the implements of national power (diplomatic, information, military, and economic) to affect the political composition or decision-making within another state. It is often - but not necessarily - carried out covertly, but it must be carried out outside the context of traditional war.[6] The key characteristics are the following:

Employs all the elements of national power

Relies heavily on unattributed forces and means

Stays below the legal threshold of an open armed conflict

Extends traditional conflict and can achieve effects at lower costs

Exploits shared ethnic or religious bonds or other internal seams

Detecting it requires a heavy investment of intelligence resources[7]

Political warfare and its various synonyms became a much discussed concept in the West after the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014. While the phenomenon itself is nothing new, in fact dating back to the strategic writings of Sun Tzu and Thucydides, the re-emergence of significant great-power frictions combined with new technologies, such as those that enable the cyber or digital domain, have triggered fresh evaluations of the phenomenon and its impact on (inter)national security.[8]

The rationale to focus this report on political warfare on the actor Russia in particular was that it is believed (by analysts and officials) to engage in various forms of such conflict in Europe.[9] Moreover, Russia has a political system that is based on values that contrast strongly with those on which the Dutch political system is founded, and some of the presumed targets or counterparts of Russia’s efforts at political warfare are either allies or allies-of-allies of the Netherlands. Therefore, at least from a Dutch security perspective, these activities potentially also affect the Netherlands. And notwithstanding the fact that the ways in which Russia engages in political warfare could directly affect Dutch national security, this phenomenon should also be seen in a broader perspective of conflicting interests (such as political values and membership of security alliances, like NATO).[10]

Moreover, in Europe, it is the Russian case that has generated most attention, for instance because of the role of so-called “little green men” during the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, Russia’s involvement in the military conflict in Eastern Ukraine, and its alleged meddling in American and European elections over the past few years.[11] While Russia’s immediate neighbors are faced with a much wider range of influencing tools, including military means, in Western Europe the most notable aspect of the way in which Russia engages in political warfare relates to the shaping of public opinion via the instrument of ‘Information Confrontation’.[12] Plus, over the past decade, the Russian approach appears to have shifted from being mainly defensive against Western political influence in Russia itself, to a much more offensive stance, actively influencing developments in Western Europe.[13]

In this report, we first analyze the threat of political warfare as it is practiced today by the Russian Federation and next explore some of its consequences for the rules-based international order.

Assessing the Threat: Active Measures 2.0

The Cold War offers a useful historical lens. Between 1949-1989 the United States and Soviet Union engaged in intense security competition at the unconventional level across Latin America, Africa, Asia, and Europe. Both countries backed sub-state groups and states to expand their power and influence in the world. Under the Reagan Doctrine, for example, the United States provided both overt and covert assistance to anticommunist governments and resistance movements to roll back communist support. The Soviets did the same and supported states and sub-state actors across the globe. In addition, the Soviet Union adopted an aggressive, unconventional approach best captured in the contemporary phrase ‘active measures’, or aktivnyye meropriatia.[14] As used by the KGB and its military counterpart GRU, active measures included a wide range of activities designed to influence populations across the globe.[15] Both the KGB and the GRU established political front groups, covertly broadcast radio and other media programs, orchestrated disinformation campaigns, and conducted targeted assassinations.[16] The Soviet Union used these ‘active measures’ as an offensive instrument of Soviet foreign policy to extend Moscow’s influence and power throughout the world, including in Western Europe. Today we are once again faced with Russian ‘active measures’.[17]Moscow utilizes a range of means to pursue its political interests, such as technologically sophisticated offensive cyber programs, covert (in)direct action, and psychological operations.[18]Moscow has conducted overt influencing operations, like the use of RT and Sputnik media, as well as semitransparent and covert efforts, like targeted cyber-attacks on critical (election) infrastructure and even the use of chemical weapons on European soil. It has also become increasingly active in supporting state and sub-state actors in countries like Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan, and Libya to expand its influence in the Middle East, Asia, Europe, and North Africa. Finally, Russia is attempting to exploit current European and transatlantic fissures and support populist movements to undermine European Union and NATO cohesion, thwart economic sanctions, justify or obscure Russian actions, and weaken the attraction of Western institutions for countries on Russia’s periphery. These actions are intended to undermine the foundation of Europe, erode confidence in the media, silence the Kremlin’s critics, and interfere in the democratic processes of European countries. Although other states possess similar hybrid capabilities, no state actor currently comes close to rivalling Russia’s very ambitious political warfare campaign against Europe.[19]

Russia’s Main Hybrid Weapon Against Europe is Information Confrontation

Russia utilizes Information Confrontation as the predominant form of hybrid activity against Europe, as it seeks to dominate the information sphere.[20] Russia’s widespread disinformation and propaganda campaigns rely heavily on traditional media platforms (i.e. radio, television), amplified with internet-based media, including websites, blogs, and social media.[21] These campaigns target both domestic and foreign audiences.[22]Information Confrontation activities are assessed to be sustained by the Saint Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency (IRA) and similar organizations. Pro-Russian narratives are frequently amplified online by a network of trolls and automated language bots, particularly on Twitter and Facebook. These tactics are used to foment political, social, ethnic, or racial divisions in the targeted population.[23] The challenge posed by Russian Information Confrontation is growing. Over the past year, Russian state-sponsored media outlets have expanded their presence throughout Europe and beyond. RT now broadcasts in Russian, English, Arabic, Spanish, and French, and has announced plans to create a German-language outlet in the future. A similar trend is evident in the Western Hemisphere, with Information Confrontation efforts focused against the U.S. in particular. Russia has also been promoting its Spanish-language media outlets to the Latin American audience.

Russia’s Cyber Capabilities Greatly Enhance its Information Confrontation Efforts

Russia relies on cyber activities to enable Information Confrontation efforts, particularly by accessing sensitive or damaging information on opponents. Once such information is obtained, various media tools and botnets are employed to reach a wide audience. In recent years, Russian actors have also used cyber tools to infiltrate networks controlling critical infrastructure, such as electrical power grids.[24] Russian-linked Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) networks were highly active over the last year. Numerous APTs, including the Russian military intelligence (GRU)-linked APT 28[25]were deeply involved in conducting cyber intrusions and attacks against EU member states, civil service, military (especially defense industry) and academic institutions, and critical infrastructure.[26] Russian state and state-sponsored cyber actors likely attempt to conduct cyber intrusions on a daily basis in order to gain the advantage on the Information Confrontation battlefield. Cyber capabilities will remain an essential aspect of Russia’s hybrid campaign, especially as cyber activities are difficult to attribute and have the capability to effectively erode European cohesion.[27]

Russian Intelligence and Security Services Play an Integral Role in Hybrid Operations

Operatives of the Russian Intelligence and Security Services, in particular GRU military intelligence, play a key role in a variety of direct and indirect actions against Europe. Whenever Russia’s interests are at stake, or if the Kremlin believes specific actions are essential to achieve certain goals, it is highly likely that the Intelligence and Security Services will be involved, often to provide oversight and initiate so-called ‘active measures’ to ensure that Moscow’s interests are protected and its goals are attained.[28] The Intelligence and Security Services embed operatives in civil society engagement organizations, and seek to infiltrate foreign national institutions, law enforcement, political parties, and NGOs, to gather information and influence decision-making processes. Within a hybrid context, the Intelligence and Security Services play an important role in identifying fissures in target countries, and then developing plans and employing resources to more effectively exploit these fissures. Due to the discretion employed, individuals and organizations can play unwitting roles in such operations, and identification and attribution of Russian involvement in certain actions remains difficult. In a recent article, David Gioe coined the term “hybrid intelligence” to describe the Russian admixture of classic intelligence tradecraft with cutting edge cyber tactics, including hacking, spear-phishing, and social engineering, and information warfare by weaponizing purloined information. The terminology is reminiscent of the Cold War-era Soviet ‘active measures’, but updated for the twenty-first century, and with its synthesis yielding greater effects than the sum of its parts, making it truly hybrid.[29]

Russian Military Posturing Plays a Key Role in Russian Information Confrontation

Although Russian military exercises, such as VOSTOK 2018 (the most recent iteration of a major strategic military exercise that occurs yearly), serve primarily to develop Russian military capability, they also play a key role in demonstrating Russia’s great power status and readiness to the world.[30] Military exercises and other displays of military prowess, such as Russia’s current military operations in Syria, support the strategic messaging for Russia’s Information Confrontation efforts.[31] Over the past year, Russia has also demonstrated a willingness to develop and sponsor paramilitary organizations that further Russian interests. This trend has increased since the 2014 Ukraine crisis, where Russia used numerous paramilitary organizations to fight in the Donbass. Russia has also used Private Military Companies (PMCs), especially the Wagner Group, in Syria, Central Africa and the Western Balkans. The facilitation and sponsorship of Russian PMCs and other paramilitary groups has enabled Moscow to utilize a cadre of skilled paramilitary operatives in a variety of non-attributable hybrid actions wherever and whenever required by the Kremlin.

Russia Focuses its Hybrid Activities on its So-Called ‘Near Abroad’

Russia devotes a significant level of its hybrid activities towards its so-called ‘near abroad’[32], with an aim to prevent states within these regions from abandoning the Russian sphere of influence in favor of the Euro-Atlantic institutions.[33] This is particularly true in states that have exhibited an inclination of joining NATO and/or the EU, like Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia, and the Western Balkan states of Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and, more recently, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.[34] Moscow is using pro-Russian movements, personal and business connections, as well as corruption and organized crime to pursue its interests in these regions.[35] As it moves closer to NATO and the EU, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is very likely to face intense Russian hybrid activity. In March 2018, Russia’s ambassador to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia ominously warned Skopje that it would become a “legitimate target” if it continued down the path of accession.

Russian Civil Society Engagement Continues to Build Support Outside of Russia

Moscow has strengthened its civil society engagement programs, utilizing a range of government-organized NGOs (GONGOs), proxy NGOs, and other state-sponsored organizations to shape public opinion and advance its interests. This engagement includes establishing cultural centers in key cities and regions that focus in particular on building connections with potentially sympathetic Russian compatriots. Moscow also employs think-tanks to create pro-Russian domestic and international narratives, often providing the false impression of an objective, academic voice, and it identifies and supports opinion leaders who can advance Russian narratives, leverage organized crime networks, and manipulate Orthodox-Slavic Christianity and identity through the influential Russian Orthodox Church. Moreover, Russia’s engagement includes sponsorship of multiple ultranationalist groups that seek to advance Russian interests throughout Europe. One of the most prevalent examples is the Night Wolves motorcycle club, an ultranationalist movement that has chapters throughout Eastern Europe.

Russian Employs Economic/Energy Leverage in its Neighborhood and Against Europe

Although Russia’s overall economic power is currently limited, it has the ability to employ energy leverage in its direct neighborhood and against EU member states.[36] Russia uses its dominance in the energy field as an instrument of economic, political, and diplomatic influence and coercion, as well as a tool of corruption.[37] Moscow will likely seek to expand its presence in the European energy market in order to generate revenue and access strategic infrastructure and assets in EU member states.[38] This includes the construction of new gas pipelines to Europe (i.e. Nord Stream 2 and Turk Stream). In addition to generating revenue for Russian exporters, the construction of new export gas pipelines will considerably erode the importance of current export routes through Belarus and Poland, as well as through Ukraine, Slovakia and Czech Republic. Diverting export to new routes likely will increase economic pressures on those countries, as Russia could use tactics such as the disruption of gas deliveries and price manipulation to achieve its geopolitical goals. Several European countries remain highly vulnerable to energy leverage and pressure. In order to retain and secure this, Russia will likely further utilize its hybrid tools, including Information Confrontation, hostile lobbying, informal business channels, and covert intelligence activities.

Multifactor Threat Assessment (10-year timespan)

Fifty Shades of Gray in the International Order

The classic proposition that espionage is acceptable state behavior, even as attack is unacceptable, is now in question. Western countries have raised objections to certain types of espionage activity. In effect, they have been edging towards advocating a new class of norms for espionage – countries may carry it out, but not use the results for other than traditional intelligence purposes, that is for informing national security decision-making. Other forms of espionage have come to be viewed as unacceptable, notably the uses of (cyber) espionage to enable attacks on critical infrastructure.[39] Establishing a norm that holds some forms of espionage to be acceptable and others not raises issues, however. First, can the West define such norms in ways that render unacceptable (many of) those practices it finds objectionable, but do not prevent its own practices from being deemed unacceptable? In particular, can there be norms expressed in ways that allow all targets and methods to be used, but restrict only what can be done with the information collected? Second, can legal regimes be developed to distinguish acceptable from unacceptable espionage and attribute such actions – not only correctly, but in ways that are accepted widely enough to dissuade further such activity?

“Spy vs. Spy” Maneuvering in Cyberspace

For hundreds of years, physical attacks by countries have been treated as unacceptable, and hence as reasonable pretext for a forceful response. Conversely, espionage by countries has been treated as acceptable state behavior, hence not a reasonable pretext. This understanding has even been carried over into cyberspace. For instance, responsible nations may carry out cyber espionage (by violating a system’s confidentiality), but they may not carry out cyber-attacks (operations that violate a system’s integrity or availability). In recent years, the United States, together with like-minded countries such as the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, has indicated that it does not feel that all cyber espionage is acceptable state behavior. The tussle over norms in cyberspace reflects not only the newness of that medium, but recent geostrategic realities in which the United States and like-minded allies contend with a rising great power (China) that seeks to maximize its advantage within a broader international community, a declining great power (Russia) whose leaders are increasingly defining their legitimacy by opposition to the West, and several outliers (Iran and North Korea). The Russian hack of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) coupled with the delivery of such files to WikiLeaks for public posting embroiled the 2016 U.S. presidential election and its aftermath.[40] Many voices have argued in the subsequent months that the initial failure to respond has only encouraged the Russians to continue, referring to several key European elections in 2017 subject to similar influencing tactics. The bottom line is that while spying on each other’s political institutions is fair game, making data public – in true or altered form – to influence an election is a new level of malicious activity, and far different from traditional “spy vs. spy” maneuvers.

Towards a No-Political-Doxing Norm

But what norm, exactly, has been violated by the 2016 DNC hack and the subsequent doxing? Was it that countries should abjure from influencing elections in other countries? Perhaps the relevant norm is to not tamper with political processes in general.[41]But if one would write a norm that makes the Russian DNC hack unacceptable, it cannot easily rest on a general prohibition against political interference, but against the yoking of a currently accepted practice (espionage) to a problematic practice (unwarranted influence in another country’s political processes). In other words, to be on safe ground, such a norm could be about the misuse of espionage. Perhaps the norm could be generalized: it is unacceptable for states to acquire materials by espionage and release them to the public for doxing. Getting the assent of Russia, whose recent behavior is what has spurred such consideration, will however be a major hurdle, unless the Kremlin leadership signs up in the blithe belief that it can still do what it wants as long as it can deny having done so. Russia has a long history of using kompromat to discredit (political) enemies. In any case, the eventual Western reaction to the DNC hack introduces a third norm: espionage is acceptable unless the results are used publicly for political influence operations. Put all three norms together, and the world is edging towards a norms regime that allows countries to carry out espionage as long as the results are used in a “professional” manner: that is, to foster national security by influencing the decisions that the governments which collected the information make and facilitating their ability to carry them out. The results have to be kept in-house (or shared with their allies to keep in-house), as intelligence agencies tend to do. They cannot be provided to commercial enterprises, criminals, or to the wider public. But would the effort to sanction certain uses of espionage be limited to those three categories? Perhaps not. Norm-setting is a deliberative process, but not necessarily multilateral. The West could declare a set of red lines, call them norms if it pleases, and then warn others against violating them lest they face punishment. Working from red lines and unilaterally calling them norms means that the West recognizes the norms it wants and only those norms; and no concessions are needed.

Multiyear Regime Analysis (10-year timespan)

Conclusion: Implications for the Netherlands

Some observations emerge from studying the relevance for Dutch national security policy of Russia’s activities in the sphere of political warfare and influencing.[42] First, political warfare and influencing play a role in international relations that is neither new nor confined to situations that verge on a major conflict. It is a permanent feature of the foreign policy of Russia[43], but also of the United States and many other countries in the world.[44] Second, the Netherlands is not the prime target for political warfare operations by Russia. In the case of Russia the Netherlands is a target, but only one target among many, and thus far it seems that Russia pays more attention to its immediate neighbors and to larger Western countries like Germany, France and the United Kingdom. Third, the cyber domain in particular has strongly increased the vulnerability of the Netherlands for political warfare and associated targeted influencing because of its open, free and very digitalized society.[45]

Russia currently remains unrivalled in its intentions and capabilities to use political warfare tools against Western Europe.[46] Moreover, Moscow likely judges that its efforts have yielded effective results. Consequently, the frequency and sophistication of these challenges is expected to increase, even when attribution is reliably pinned to Russia. Russia will continue seeking fissures within and among EU member states, and will try to exploit any opportunities to erode Euro-Atlantic cohesion. Russian efforts will also likely increase in the so-called ‘near abroad’ and in the Western Balkans, especially in states that approach accession within Euro-Atlantic institutions, as preventing NATO and EU expansion in these regions remains the strategic goal for Moscow. Russia will likely employ both direct and indirect actions, and closely synchronize these activities across the spectrum of national institutions, while concurrently keeping its activities non-attributable, thereby complicating effective policy responses. As the Kremlin faces increasing internal pressure, it might even conduct more aggressive political warfare, to include deliberate cyber targeting of critical (election) infrastructure, more provocative activity by the Intelligence and Security Services SVR, FSB and GRU, aggressive civil society engagement aimed at exacerbating the fissures and existing tensions within EU and NATO member states, and an increased penetration of media environments to advance Russian narratives.

With regards to the rules-based international order, the premise that espionage is acceptable state activity has become increasingly untenable. Since 2016, the West has pushed back against the use of espionage for political doxing purposes, suggesting that countries now look seriously at what sorts of espionage should and should not be deemed acceptable.[47] However, recognizing that states routinely conduct political warfare, in 1948 George F. Kennan encouraged American policymakers to disabuse themselves of the “handicap” of the “concept of a basic difference between peace and war” and to wake up to “the realities of international relations - the perpetual rhythm of struggle, in and out of war.”[48] Kennan’s advice may be even more relevant today in our competitive and polarized world in which political warfare has become the expression of international relations.

Economic diplomacy: Mahathir, BRI and Payne

Economic diplomacy: Mahathir, BRI and Payne

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne. (Flickr/CTBTO)


 Greg Earl

7 December 2018 09:00

It says something about how the international relations agenda has changed that Foreign Minister Marise Payne was 90% of the way through her 4000-word Lowy Institute speech last week before she even announced the only news: the government’s rebadged “economic and commercial diplomacy” policy.

In 2014 Julie Bishop and Andrew Robb were each papering the town with speeches that long about their shiny new economic diplomacy strategyalone.

Bishop had a memorable regular line: “If the goal of traditional diplomacy is peace, then the goal of economic diplomacy is prosperity. Economic diplomacy is today at the heart of the Government's foreign policy.” Payne has hardly improved on that with: “Using our full suite of diplomatic resources, we will continue to advocate for an open global economy, to support Australian businesses seeking commercial opportunities in major emerging markets, and to strengthen our international competitiveness.” See Alex Oliver’s take here.

But the times have changed since the high falutin rhetoric of 2014 about solving world prosperity and scooping up trade deals in North Asia. Business is demanding more nitty gritty commercial diplomacy assistance and DFAT is paying more attention to its reputation at home.

The old economic diplomacy was a bit like the old banking system, with four simple pillars: trade, growth, investment, and business. But under the new economic and commercial diplomacy now we have five carefully sculpted pillars: promoting investment; addressing non-tariff barriers; supporting and facilitating business; advocating for the global rules-based trade system; and increasing science, technology and innovation links.

Peter Varghese’s India Economic Strategy has contributed to this redefinition exercise by essentially proselytising a resource-intensive, non-traditional "Australia Inc" approach to what will be the world’s second-largest economy.

And while we haven’t actually seen the real source of the cash, the Morrison government has promised more money (in the Pacific infrastructure facility and the new Export Finance Insurance Corporation funding) for the new pillars than the old pillars ever got.


Here’s a fascinating bit of opinion polling that might help place the Chinese Big Red Infrastructure (otherwise known as the Belt and Road Initiative or BRI) challenge in a different light.

HSBC’s annual Global Navigator survey of 8600 businesses in 34 countries suggests they regard the BRI as having about the same amount of positive, negative or neutral impact as Southeast Asia’s 2025 economic integration program (known as the ASEAN Economic Community or AEC).

Given the BRI generates so much heat in Australia and the ASEAN 2025 process gets so little attention, this would seem to suggest that a bit more attention to what’s going on in ASEANmight be a useful way to help deal with the BRI worries.*

The survey suggests, not surprisingly, that better free trade agreements and industry standards are the most useful policy initiatives for globally oriented businesses while rising tariffs, the US political situation and the US-China row are the most negative.

But perhaps the most striking finding from an economic diplomacy perspective is how many companies seem to be turning to intra-regional trade rather inter-regional (or global) opportunities in a changing global environment.

The proportion of European and North American companies citing Asia as their top growth market has fallen respectively from 26% to 13% and 33% to 15% this year. Meanwhile Asian companies seeing North America as the top growth market fell from 29 to 21%, while the proportion favouring China rose from 12% to 16%.

There are potentially many factors at work here but while the surveyed businesses are generally quite positive about the overall outlook, geo-political uncertainties may be driving a more regionalised global economy.

Mixed messages

Given Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s new Malaysia has become the widely celebratedposter nation of the Asian democratic backlashagainst the BRI (by postponing major Chinese-funded projects), it is interesting to see more nuanced messages emerging closer to home.

Here are the conclusions of a recent conference on the Chinese infrastructure program held by the prominent CIMB ASEAN Research Institute:

The BRI is important for ASEAN especially given the significant infrastructure needs in the region...(It) can leverage the existing close China-ASEAN economic relationship as a foundation for greater future collaboration in that China has been ASEAN’s largest trading partner for close to 10 years. However, there is a greater need for both China and ASEAN to address governance issues to ensure BRI is not just a win for one country but a success for all.

And while bluntly rejecting Chinese economic neo-colonialism, Mahathir makes a remarkable comparison in a very reflective return-to-power interview in the latest Mekong Review (pay-walled). He suggests China has so far been historically less threatening to Malaysia than the Portuguese in the 1500s. He goes on to say the main issue in the South China Sea is not competing claims but whether ships can freely navigate.

“China wants to make sure the sea is free for its own trade to carry on. I don’t think they want to stop other ships from passing through, and I think Malaysia can live with that.”

Asia’s most interesting old/new leader is not going to be easily pigeon-holed into retirement.

* Greg Earl is an Australia-ASEAN Council board member

When promises become due - an analysis of the Modi government’s term in the world’s largest democracy

 © Shutterstock / Madhuram Paliwal

We promise according to our hopes, and perform according to our fears,” wrote the noted 17th-century French author, François VI de la Rochefoucauld.

When the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), which promised inclusive growth, came to power through a landslide election victory in 2014, few believed that the government would transform India and make its “Good Days for Everyone” campaign slogan a reality within its five-year term. India is too big and complex a country and changes happen in decades rather than in election cycles. Indians are used to seeing initiatives remain slogans and become repackaged for the next election. Hence, announcements by the new government of initiatives like Skill India, Startup India and Swacch Bharath (Clean India) did not raise unreasonable expectations, at least among seasoned India watchers.



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Murali Nair

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Economic reforms and political developments in the world’s largest democracy have geopolitical and economic implications in an increasingly multipolar world. India is one of the few non-EU countries, which has a strategic partnership with Germany with regular intergovernmental consultations. Moreover, she is increasingly seen as a hedge against China from a strategic and economic perspective.

What experts did expect was efficient and business-friendly policy-making without the pressures of keeping coalition partners happy, along with corruption-free government and extensive job creation through high economic growth rates. In short, they expected what Modi delivered in Gujarat where he was the chief minister for more than a decade.

Fast forward to 2018: in August, Ranil Salgado, India head at the IMF, described the Indian economy as an elephant starting to run. He projected growth rates of 7.3% in 2019 and 7.5% the year after, accounting for almost 15% of global GDP growth. In the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business ranking, India jumped from 130 to 100 by endorsing a business-friendly government. With less than a year until the general election in 2019, the Modi government has kick started its campaign – “48 Months of Transforming India” – by highlighting achievements in economic areas and social development. Like any other incumbent government, it has selectively focused on numbers that are rosy and avoided uncomfortable facts. The economic growth over the last five years for various sectors is depicted in Table 1.

Table 1: Growth rate of GVA at basis price in constant (2011-12) prices (in %)

But 2018 also witnessed massive protests calling for quotas in government jobs for Marathas, a politically influential community constituting around 30% of the population of Maharashtra. The last four years have seen many such protests (in 2016 by Jats in Haryana and the Kapu community in Andhra Pradesh; in 2015 by Gujjars in Rajasthan and Patidars in Gujarat), which have brought cities like Mumbai and Delhi to a standstill before turning violent and resulting in the death of innocent bystanders and the destruction of public property. Farmers across 130 cities went on a 10-day strike in June 2018 demanding a higher Minimum Support Price and loan waivers as their very existence was being threatened by a crash in commodity prices and low productivity. On top of this, the Rupee is at a historic low and the Bombay Stock Exchange has lost most of the gains it made in 2018. 

Table 2: Mood of the Nation Survey 2018 showing the major concerns of the population (in %)

In Mood of the Nation, one of the most exhaustive all-India surveys, too few jobs and poverty were identified as India’s biggest problems, with the numbers doubling from where they stood five years ago.

So where are the promised “good days for everyone”? The conundrum of high GDP growth rate and lack of jobs is not a phenomenon unique to India. Yet it is worth taking a detailed look at the Modi government’s approach to economic and social development and the major initiatives – both positive and not so positive – which have had a perceptible impact on the country. Under the headings Economy, Social Development and International Relations, the major achievements and let-downs can be grouped into three categories: Very Good, Good (could be better) and Poor.  


Very good: The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016

Possibly the most successful of the reforms enacted by the Modi government, this law allows defaulting companies to be auctioned off quickly and transparently. Many of the large Indian conglomerates with political nexus get credit from state-owned banks without undergoing the necessary due diligence. As the economy slowed, weak fundamentals and leaky governance pushed many of these companies into non-performing loans. The volume of bad loans has nearly doubled in the past four years and amounts to about $210 billion or 11.2% of all advances. India's bad debt ratio is the second highest among G20 countries after Italy. The new law has pushed about $52 billion of non-performing assets into bankruptcy processing. This has boosted the mergers and acquisitions market, which hit a record of $104.5 billion by September 2018. Releasing precious capital into the market and strengthening the corporate governance structure, this is one reform that has structurally altered the Indian business landscape.

Good: Goods and Services Tax

In discussion since 2006, the national Goods and Services Tax (GST) was meant to replace at least 15 different tax codes at the central and state level and was blocked by the BJP when in opposition. The GST was a much-awaited step as the World Bank rated India 172 out of 190 countries in ease of paying taxes. Simplifying the byzantine tax system in a federally regulated country like India is a nightmarish exercise. The GST council is chaired by the union finance minister and has state ministers of finance and taxes as members; it also sets the tax slabs for various goods and services. It is one of the rare federal, consultative formats that seem to be working beyond political boundaries.

After a decade, the time frame, which allowed six weeks to implement such a complex law without a pilot, was neither fair nor expedient. In a country where 75% of enterprises have less than 10 employees and where 85% of small firms operate in the unorganized sector with no compliance capacity, the cold start without any transition period was a blow to many, who could not cope with it. There are still five tax slabs from 5% to 28% and the allotment of slabs to goods is a political and arbitrary issue. For example, air-conditioned restaurants had a tax rate of 18% and non-air-conditioned ones 12%, which the GST council reduced to 5%. But if the restaurant is within a hotel that charges more than 7,500 rupees a night on its rooms, then the tax is 18%! When one also considers the unstable IT backbone, filing correct tax returns and waiting for tax refunds becomes unmanageable for small players.

The registered tax base has increased from 6.4 million to 11.2 million companies. The tax compliance rate has increased from 57% in 2017 to 65% in 2018. The monthly tax collection of 940 billion rupees is more than the 2017 average of 890 billion, but below the 1,040 billion targeted by the government. All in all, this much-needed reform is headed in the right direction. However, the haste and the arbitrariness make it less of the potential game changer it could have been.  

Poor: Demonetization

Haste and arbitrariness were also the hallmarks of the hare-brained idea which made 84% of the currency in circulation invalid in November 2016. The reasons given for the move were fighting “black money” (non-taxed wealth), corruption and illegal political contributions. Against the predicted estimate of about 12 trillion rupees, 15.28 trillion of the 15.44 trillion (99.3%) of the country’s cash was returned to the banks; the wealthy either managed to launder their cash into banks or held it in non-cash or non-rupee currencies. Demonetization shaved off an estimated 1.5% of GDP growth (2.25 trillion rupees), cost the Reserve Bank of India 130 billion for printing new currency and led to 1.5 million lost jobs (according to the Centre for Monitoring of the Indian Economy). Moreover, 105 people lost their lives in the rush for cash. Promoting digital payments was an add-on argument to demonetization. However, despite the continuing growth in digital transactions, the data on ATM cash withdrawals post demonetization and cash in circulation suggest the cash transactions level has returned to where it was. As to fighting corruption, economic offenders like Vijay Mallaya and Nirav Modi, who cheated the state-owned banks of billions of dollars, managed to leave the country and now live freely in the UK.

Politically, however, it has paid dividends to the BJP as Modi was seen to be fighting ill-begotten wealth. Consequently, the 200-million-strong electorate in Uttar Pradesh rewarded the party with a handsome victory in the regional elections following demonetization. 

Social Development

Very good: Digital Services

The NDA government in general and Modi in particular have been digitally savvy. The Digital India initiative, for example, is increasing public accountability by mandating electronic delivery of government services. Common Service Centres function as access points to deliver digital services, such as e-learning, e-banking, insurance and healthcare. 119,000 of 620,000 villages are now connected by optic fiber. In the UN’s E-participation Index, which measures citizens’ access to information and public services as a way of promoting participation in public decision-making, India is ranked 15th, ahead of industrialized countries like Germany and Canada. Moving ahead from merely providing services to transforming into a digital economy is of course the bigger challenge. The Aadhar project, which gave a digital biometric identity card to 1.21 billion Indians, is a major step toward building an accountable and transparent welfare system, provided data-privacy issues can be sorted out.

Good: Healthcare

Healthcare in India is an underperforming sector with a dysfunctional public healthcare system for the poor and high-end hospitals catering to the rich and to medical tourists. The country has improved its ranking marginally on a global healthcare access and quality (HAQ) index from 153 in 1990 to 145 in 2016, performing below its economically weaker neighbors like Bangladesh. The government spends a dismal 1.1% of GDP on healthcare. The cost of healthcare services affects families and the economy as a whole. Out-of-pocket health expenses (68% of total expense as compared to 18.5% globally) drove 55 million Indians into poverty in 2017. After neglecting this socioeconomic disaster for years, the government started a new initiative called Ayushman Bharat, which aims to cover more than 500 million poor and vulnerable families for secondary and tertiary care. In addition, 150,000 primary healthcare centers are in the process of being established across the country. The challenge will be to provide quality healthcare and not to begin competing with programs in states like Rajasthan which have their own healthcare schemes.

Poor: Social inclusion 

When Modi was elected in 2014, India’s liberals hoped he would keep tight control over the extremists in his Hindu nationalistic party and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), its ideological parent. This has not been the case as more than 23 Muslims have been lynched by mobs, predominantly in the BJP-ruled states, supposedly for storing or consuming beef. Jayanth Sinha, the union minister for civil aviation and a Harvard graduate, even publicly honored eight men convicted of beating a Muslim to death. Belated statements by Modi condemning such acts do not instill public confidence in India becoming an inclusive state.

The BJP has tried to create a unified Hindu identity by targeting Muslims as the enemy. Despite nominating a Dalit (the lowest in the caste hierarchy) for the post of president, it has been a party driven by upper-caste interests, which prefer a strict caste hierarchy to an equal society. Experts point to increasing prosperity and education among the Dalits, prompting the upper castes to show them their place. The simultaneous pre-dawn arrest of five human rights activists and people working for the marginalized – ostensibly for inciting violence among Dalits – shows the low threshold of tolerance of dissent.

The government also proposed a bill to amend the Citizenship Act of 1955 which would make illegal migrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan eligible for citizenship by relaxing the mandatory waiting period to six years from 11.  Excluding Muslims not only violates the Indian constitution, it also goes against the ethos of a nation that has offered refuge to Jews, Zoroastrians and other persecuted minorities for millennia. However, the government has shelved this bill due to protests against it in the state of Assam.

International Relations

Very good: Indo-US relationship

A major realignment was set in motion between India and the US with the civil nuclear agreement in 2005. The relationship between the world’s largest democracies has reached a “defining moment,” according to James Mattis, the US defense secretary, commenting after the first 2+2 meeting involving and defense and external affairs ministers of the two countries last week in New Delhi. The two countries signed the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) after the US assigned Tier 1 Strategic Trade Authorization (STA) status to India. The US is currently the second biggest supplier of arms to India, behind Russia. The US sees India as a major defense partner in the region and its military command was renamed the “Indo-Pacific Command” to highlight India’s centrality to regional security. For India, the close relationship with the US is a counterweight to the rise of an aggressive China. Though Russia has played this role for India for decades, it is developing closer ties to China both economically (due to western sanctions) and militarily. Russia’s joint military exercise with China in eastern Siberia in September was its largest since the end of the Cold War. This makes the case for a closer Indo-US partnership.

The Modi government has been rightly pursuing closer economic and military cooperation with the US. The annual Malabar naval exercise involving India, the US and Japan has been going on for 22 years despite protests from China, and the first Indo-US tri-services exercise is planned for 2018. India is one of the US’s few partners that have not been significantly affected by the unpredictable Trump administration. Engaging in close security cooperation while maintaining a trade surplus with the US is something not many countries have managed and India has been making good headway in this regard.

The EU could have played a more strategic role for India, but due to its internal differences and India’s preference for bilateral ties, India sees France as a security partner and Germany as a trading partner. The promising EU-India Free Trade Agreement has been dormant in recent years and serves as an indicator of the untapped potential between the two key players, who could have come together to weather an ever more dominant China and a saber-rattling Trump.

Good: India and ASEAN

In a historic ceremony, the leaders of all ASEAN countries were in attendance for India’s Republic Day on January 26. With a diaspora of more than six million in the region, India shares deep cultural and historical ties with ASEAN countries, although trade ties are less than impressive.

Table 3: ASEAN trade with India and China (in million USD)

India’s focused engagement with the ASEAN region started in 1992 with the launch of the Look East policy. After more than 20 years of dormant activity, this policy was reframed as the Act East policy in 2014, with the aim to deepen economic engagement and build a more strategic partnership. The cornerstone of Act East is infrastructure connectivity. The planned India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway, which will run from Moreh in Manipur to Mae Sot in Thailand via Myanmar, would connect the northeastern part of India with ASEAN. The plan also involves extending the highway in a later phase to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, giving India a significant role in the region’s proposed transportation architecture. The project has faced several delays and the first phase is now expected to be completed by 2020. India is finally on the right path to tap into these historical ties, but it needs to strengthen the implementation pace to win credibility in the region, which it views as a counterbalance to an assertive China and a disinterested US.

Poor: Immediate neighbors

Setting a new precedent, Prime Minister Modi invited the heads of state of the SAARC governments to be the chief guests at his swearing-in ceremony. All of them, including Pakistan’s then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, attended. Prospects of peace were never so promising since the historical Agra summit in 2001. Modi dropped by Pakistan spontaneously to have tea with Sharif, betting that a personal relationship could restart the peace process. Terror attacks in Kashmir followed by the first publicly announced military strike in Pakistani territory by the Indian army, coupled with a muscular “no hostage” security policy by India in Kashmir, have led to many ceasefire violations and destabilized the region.

In the case of Nepal, India’s demand in 2015 that it make changes to its newly approved constitution, followed by an unofficial blockade of fuel supplies to the land-locked nation, was inhumane and drove the country closer towards China.

Maldives, a traditional ally of India has also made overtures to China.  Its autocratic president, Abdulla Yameen, signed a free-trade agreement with China last year and even leased an island to it for military use. Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port is also a part of the Belt and Road Initiative and gives China a base a few nautical miles from India. The military standoff between India and China in Bhutanese territory did not end in an armed conflict, but is probably a sign of things to come with a highly militarized and assertive neighbor. India’s “big brother” approach does not work when countries have the option of working with an economically stronger partner. In short, if a strategic and concentrated neighborhood policy is not acted upon, India will lose its sphere of influence to China.


This government, like most of those before it, has delivered on some of its promises and reneged on many others. The promised radical transformation has not seen the light of day, at least not in the everyday lives of the country’s citizens. The new slogan for 2019 – “Saaf Niyat, Sahi Vikas” (Clean Intent, Right Development) – smacks of an admission by the government that it has not met the targets it set itself and that it at least intends to do the right thing. After the recent loss in regional elections in the Hindi heartland, it remains to be seen which way the development discourse goes.

Prime Minister Modi still remains India’s most popular political leader. Demonetization and GST woes reduced his approval ratings to 34% and Rahul Gandhi of the Congress party is a close second at 24%. According to the Centre for Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), whose Mood of the Nation survey is the largest pan-India survey with 16,000 respondents, 44% of the voters feel that the country is headed in the wrong direction and only 39% of Indians want to give the Modi government another chance. Modi’s polarizing style of politics has cemented the support of hardcore Hindutva advocates but has probably diluted it among non-ideological supporters, who are more concerned about their daily bread. However, the lack of a unified opposition and a charismatic leader who can mobilize the masses across India could still hand the Modi government another term in the coming elections.

The sheen of transformational leadership has worn off and the political discourse has shifted from development to identity politics, reflecting a global trend towards polarizing, authoritarian and populist politics. If economic growth does not translate into concrete improvement in everyday life, the effort to win votes devolves into polarizing tactics and playing on identities. Free and fair elections and an impartial Supreme Court have kept India largely free of demagogues and authoritarian rule in a neighborhood which has not exactly been democracy friendly. With its diverse ideological, linguistic, religious and caste identities, the Indian electorate has forced rulers to be non-hegemonic and inclusive in return for democratic power. The elections in 2019 will be a litmus test of this theory.

December 12, 2018

Corrs High Vis: Episode 31 - China’s Belt and Road Initiative

Corrs Chambers Westgarth

AustraliaChina December 12 2018

In our latest Corrs High Vis podcast, we take a closer look at China’s significant investment in infrastructure, including the unprecedented Belt and Road initiative. Senior Associate Celeste Koravos sits down with Xiaoyan (Mindy) Jin, Partner at Jiangsu Baijin Law, to discuss Chinese investment more broadly and how Australian companies can improve their chances of doing business successfully in China.

The podcast series, brought to you by Corrs, offers analysis and insights to help you make smarter decisions.

To listen to the podcast click here.

EVENTS @ USC U.S.-China Institute

Upcoming Events

Eileen Chang's Sea Burial And Special Collection At USC East Asian Library

Date: Thursday, January 17, 2019
Time: 4-5:30pm
Location: USC Doheny Library, Room 241
Cost: Free, please rsvp.

One of the most influential modern Chinese writers and the author of Lust, Caution, Eileen Chang passed away in Los Angeles in 1995. Her works, considered to be among the best Chinese literature of the 1940s, examined the themes of marriage, family, love, and relationships in the social context of 1930s and 1940s Shanghai. After her death, Dominic Cheung, Professor Emeritus at USC, took care of her sea burial in San Pedro and set up the Eileen Chang Special Collection in the East Asian Library at USC in 1997. Cheung will discuss these experiences as a part of the lecture series titled Los Angeles and Shanghai: The USC Nexus.

Leta Hong Fincher: Betraying Big Brother

Date: Thursday, January 24, 2019

Time: 4-5:30pm

Location: USC, Room TBA

Cost: Free, please rsvp.

Please join the USC U.S.-China Institute for a book talk with journalist and author Leta Hong Fincher. Betraying Big Brother is a story of how the feminist movement in China against patriarchy could reconfigure the country and the rest of the world.

Through interviews with the Feminist Five and other leading Chinese activists, Hong Fincher illuminates both the difficulties they face and their "joy of betraying Big Brother," as one of the Feminist Five wrote of the defiance she felt during her detention. Tracing the rise of a new feminist consciousness now finding expression through the #MeToo movement, and describing how the Chinese government has suppressed the history of its own feminist struggles, Betraying Big Brother is a story of how the movement against patriarchy could reconfigure China and the world.

Proportionality in the Conduct of Hostilities: The Incidental Harm Side of the Assessment

Proportionality in the Conduct of Hostilities: The Incidental Harm Side of the Assessment

10 December 2018


Clarification of international humanitarian law is important in ensuring compliance with the rule of proportionality, but a culture of compliance within armed forces and groups is also crucial.

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Emanuela-Chiara Gillard 

Associate Fellow, International Law Programme

Members of civil right defence conduct a search and rescue operation on destroyed buildings after an airstrike was carried out over the city of Jisr al-Shughur in Idlib province in Syria, on 6 May 2018. Photo: Hadi Harrat/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images.





Military operations are taking place with increasing frequency in densely populated areas. Such operations result in loss of life and harm to civilians, as well as damage to civilian objects, (including infrastructure providing essential services). In order to protect civilians, it is imperative that armed forces and groups comply with the rules of international humanitarian law on the conduct of hostilities, including the rule of proportionality.The rule of proportionality prohibits attacks which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated. This research paper analyses the key steps that belligerents must take to give effect to the rule, with a particular focus on one side of proportionality assessments – the expected incidental harm.Those undertaking proportionality assessments before or during an attack must consider whether the expected harm will be caused by the attack, and whether that harm could be expected (that is, was it reasonably foreseeable).For the purpose of proportionality assessments, injury to civilians includes disease, and there is no reason in principle to exclude mental harm, even though it is currently challenging to identify and quantify it. Damage to civilian objects includes damage to elements of the natural environment.Once the incidental harm to be considered has been identified, a value or weight must be assigned to it. This is then balanced against the value or weight of the military advantage anticipated from the attack to determine whether the harm would be excessive.In the determination of whether the expected incidental harm would be excessive compared to the anticipated military advantage, ‘excessive’ is a wide but not indeterminate standard.Belligerents should develop methodologies so that those planning and deciding attacks are provided with all necessary information on expected incidental harm, and to assist them in assigning weight to the incidental harm to be considered.If it becomes apparent that the rule of proportionality will be contravened, the attack in question must be cancelled or suspended.Clarification of the law is important in ensuring compliance with the rule of proportionality, but a culture of compliance within armed forces and groups, inculcated by their leaders, is also crucial.

US minimum wage increases 2012 to 2018

Data: National Employment Law Project; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

Intelligence Support for EU Security Policy


Options for Enhancing the Flow of Information and Political Oversight

SWP Comment 2018/C 51, December 2018, 8 Pages

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Since 2015, security cooperation between European Union (EU) member states has progressed at an accelerated pace. For the Union’s foreign, security, and defence policy, there is the prospect that increased cooperation and enhanced arms cooperation will create more international capacity to act. As far as internal security is con­cerned, the continuing threat of terrorism is spurring the establishment of a “Euro­pean Security Union” based on an intensive exchange of information between security authorities. In the shadow of these developments is the question of the extent to which European intelligence cooperation should also be promoted. In this particularly sensitive area, no steps towards integration that would attract public attention are to be expected. However, existing approaches to intelligence support for EU security policy should be deepened and better monitored.

According to the Lisbon Treaty, national security is solely the responsibility of the member states (Art. 4 (2) TEU [Treaty on European Union]). For this reason alone, the idea of a common European secret service, which has been repeatedly floated since the mid-2000s, remains out of the question. It is also clear that the EU cannot play a direct role in particularly sensitive areas of intel­ligence work, such as large-scale technical reconnaissance, the management of human sources, or the execution of covert opera­tions. However, EU security policy allows for indirect access to intelligence. Particularly in the fight against terrorism, the in­tersections between European Police Office (Europol) or EU data systems and informa­tion from domestic intelligence services are growing. Meanwhile, the EU can draw on strategic risk and situation analyses for its foreign policy action – analyses that are synthesised in the Euro­pean External Action Service (EEAS) from reports by vari­ous national services. These procedures should be made more transparent and dis­cussed more openly to support a gradual and proportionate development of intel­ligence capabilities for the internal and external security of the EU in the coming years.

Confidential analyses for European foreign and security policy

In 2002, the exchange of national intelligence information began in the so-called Joint Situation Centre (SITCEN) of the EU Council Secretariat. Its primary purpose was to support EU missions abroad and to contribute to a common assessment of terrorist threats. The methods established informally at the time are still valid today: Member states voluntarily transmit finished intelligence reports to the EU. A common situation analysis and options for European action are then derived from the range of national contributions. Openly accessible information, reports from European dele­gations, and findings from the EU Satellite Centre complement this work of analysts seconded to the EU by their national intel­ligence services.

In addition, the EU Military Staff, which emerged from the Western European Union, was able to maintain its access to military intelligence. Its internal Intelligence Direc­torate prepares confidential military situa­tion analyses, which are especially needed to plan and conduct EU missions in high-risk theatres of operation, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia. For the purposes of an integrated European foreign policy, cooperation between the Intel­ligence Directorate and the civilian SITCEN was formalised in 2007 and has since been run as the EU’s Single Intelligence Analysis Capacity (SIAC). In 2011, the Joint Situation Centre SITCEN was renamed the EU Intelligence Centre (INTCEN) and integrated into the then newly established EEAS. INTCEN now has around 100 em­ployees, approximately 60 of whom are involved in intelligence analysis. Together with the Military Intelligence Directorate, the EU-SIAC has around 80–90 intelligence liaison officers and analysts.

The EU-SIAC evaluations are made avail­able to both EU bodies and decision-makers in national capitals. They provide a more comprehensive security picture than most EU member states could develop on their own. However, it can be assumed that mem­ber states often keep operationally relevant or particularly valuable intelligence to themselves. Therefore, the value of the EU-SIAC lies, above all, in its strategic and longer-term analysis. In the best case, however, a joint confidential assessment can also be drawn up in acute crises. Exam­ples would be the occupation of the Crimea or the nerve gas attack in Salisbury, UK. Such common European intelligence analy­ses can have a direct impact on the foreign and security policy responses of the EU and its member states.

Coalitions of the willing to enhance the intelligence supply

The standards that have hitherto applied to intelligence work tend to stand in the way of a deepening of this voluntary cooperation. Already at the national level, sensitive intelligence is mostly passed on when this is absolutely necessary (need to know), not when it is available (need to share). How­ever, the larger changes in Europe’s wider security situation mean that the structural need for more intelligence exchanges must be reassessed. Brexit will exert additional pressure for reform, since the expertise of British staff in the EU-SIAC will be lost.

In concrete terms, a coalition of EU mem­ber states could embark on the path of closer cooperation in the field of Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) under Article 329 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). Since the EU-SIAC is already regarded as a component of the CFSP and the EEAS, a deepening of these structures would not have to come into conflict with national prerogatives in the area of national security (Art. 4 (2) TEU). The participating member states could com­mit to a division of labour and direct their respective national intelligence services to work on jointly agreed thematic and region­al priorities. Furthermore, they would also com­mit to feeding related intelligence as­sess­ments reliably into the EU-SIAC. This enhanced cooperation could lead to a Euro­pean circle of intelligence analysis: The planning and prioritisation of intelligence resources (first phase) would be more inten­sively coordinated at the European level. The collection of raw intelligence (second phase) and its first processing (third phase) would remain at the national level. The final secondary evaluations in the EU-SIAC and the dissemination of finished intelligence reports to decision-makers (fourth phase) could, therefore, be of higher qual­ity – and, in turn, shape future intelligence priorities in a new iteration of the cycle.

In parallel, political forums could be strengthened in order to improve the use of intelligence for policy-makers. At the working level, this would mean expanding the role of the Political and Security Com­mittee. The idea of a high-level European Security Council, as repeatedly proposed by Chancellor Angela Merkel, is also under discussion. Such a Security Council would offer particular advantages when it comes to intelligence issues. The services of the member states, which are generally assign­ed to different line ministries, could be broughttogether at the level of the Heads of State and Government. At the same time, such a Security Council could operate with a high degree of confidentiality and enhance stra­tegic decision-making.

However, at the level of Heads of State and Government, as with most CFSP issues – including authorisation for enhanced cooperation – the principle of unanimity applies. If this were to result in political blockades with regard to the proposed in­crease in intelligence cooperation, mem­ber states would be free to embark on inter­govern­mental cooperation independent of the EU. This approach would also be in line with the provisions of Article 73 TFEU on cooperation in the field of national secu­rity. However, such an approach risks a further fragmentation of the European se­cu­rity architecture. There is already tension between Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), in which 25 member states want to participate, and the more recent French European Intervention Ini­tiative (EI2), which is currently comprised of 10 Euro­pean states, including the United Kingdom. The EI2 is meant to increase the operational capabilities of European military forces in the neighbourhood. If this ambition ma­terial­ises, it will lead to a common interest of the EI2 states in high-quality intelligence information on potential or actual areas of operation. The more exclusive membership of the EI2 supports the necessary confidentiality for increased intelligence exchanges, while the United Kingdom can throw in its leading capacities for technical reconnaissance and security relationship with the United States. In order to prevent the EI2 from splitting PESCO and to keep from losing sight of the importance of the civil­ian CFSP, the EU-SIAC should therefore be supported by the broadest possible coalition of member states within the framework of enhanced cooperation under EU law. From the perspective of PESCO, joint projects for technical reconnaissance and intelligence analysis could also be envisaged in the medium term.

Personal data for the purposes of combating terrorism and enhancing internal security

As far as internal security is concerned, the terrorist attacks of 13 November 2015 in Paris boosted the level of intelligence exchanges in Europe. France sent sensitive intelligence leads to Europol, especially to obtain cross-checks by using the US Terror­ist Finance Tracking Program, for which Europol has served as the central European interface since 2010. Other EU member states that had previously been reluctant to cooperate with Europol subsequently shared their data on so-called foreign fight­ers. As part of this dynamic, the European Counter Terrorism Centre (ECTC) was set up within Europol at the beginning of 2016; together with a new version of Europol’s legal mandate, this opened up new oppor­tunities for cooperation. Article 2 of this reformed regulation keeps it open as to which national “competent authorities” responsible for combating and preventing serious crimes can be involved in Europol working processes. At least some member states have taken steps to further involve their national security authorities that exer­cise both police and intelligence functions.

Looking at the operational dimension, the number of entries on Islamist terrorism and foreign combatants in the Europol In­formation System (EIS) increased significant­ly. In parallel, a closed user group for national anti-terrorist authorities was cre­ated inside the SIENA (Secure Information Exchange Network Application) data net­work between Europol member states. This closed group should allow for more con­fidential communication and can also con­trib­ute to an increased exchange of more sensitive intelligence. At the initiative of Germany, an additional steering group of national anti-terrorist authorities was set up within the ECTC to improve cross-border investigations and information processing.

Meanwhile, Europol is seeking access to particularly useful biometric information that American services and armed forces collect on suspected terrorist fighters around the world. Such data can be cross-checked in the context of external border controls as well as in the so-called EU hot­spots for registering irregular immigrants and asylum-seekers. In the summer of 2018, the EU also agreed that all member states have to upload alerts for suspected terror­ists into the common Schengen Informa­tion System (SIS). The SIS has served as a central information network for police and border control authorities since the mid-1990s and has long been supplemented informally with inputs from intelligence services. In the future, Europol should participate in the analysis of Passenger Name Records (PNR) data and support the management of a pan-European warning list. This list is to prevent third-country nationals who do not require a visa, but who are suspected of committing serious crimes, from entering the Schengen zone. The “no-fly list” and related border control practices of the United States, which serve as a model for the EU, are based on a com­mon data platform between police and intel­ligence authorities. Finally, Europol is in the process of negotiating agreements on the exchange of personal data with the Maghreb states of Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco, as well as with Jordan and Israel. All these countries maintain close links between intelligence services and police structures in the fight against terror­ism.

On the part of the European domestic intelligence services, cooperation in the context of the so-called Counter Terrorism Group (CTG) was significantly deepened. The CTG comprises all EU member states as well as Norway and Switzerland, and was established in 2001 as a working group of the Bern Club, which has served as an infor­mal platform for combating international terrorism and countering espionage since the 1970s. Despite these long-standing intel­ligence relations, the CTG initially worked on a case-by-case basis and engaged in rath­er sporadic consultations with the EU. In 2016, however, the CTG opened permanent headquarters in The Hague. There, liaison officers of the participating intelligence ser­vices can access their respective national information systems as well as edit a com­mon database. This should provide for a much more comprehensive picture of ter­ror­ist networks in Europe. In addition, the permanent liaison officers in the CTG should help to carry out cross-border inves­ti­gations and surveillance measures as seam­lessly as possible.

Strengthening the links between police authorities and intelligence services

In view of the parallel growth of Europol and the CTG, one can pose the question whether there is potential for structural mutual cooperation. Since 2001, many Western states have established procedures for the exchange of intelligence between police and intelligence services. In Ger­many, the Joint Counter-Terrorism Centre (GTAZ) is an example of this development. In the summer of 2018, the governing German Christian Democratic Party (CDU) proposed a European data platform com­parable to the GTAZ for combating terror­ism, organised crime, and illegal migration.

Apart from the lack of EU legal competence, there are numerous practical ob­stacles to such a proposal for permanent intelligence fusion. Europol has not yet been able to guarantee the full intelligence standard of secrecy in its information sys­tems, while it is also subject to a strict data protection regime. This collides with the classic approach to intelligence cooperation, in which the transmitting state retains control over shared information (Third-Par­ty Rule). Data entries can indeed be mark­ed in Europol’s databases in order to restrict their further use. However, this tech­nical system of handling codes does not replace the higher level of confidentiality and interdependence in bilateral intelligence relations.

Moreover, among the 30 member states of the CTG, there are differing views on its role and status. For example, the German government was initially extremely reluc­tant to respond to parliamentary questions about the group with reference to the core national security interests of the state. The Dutch supervisory authorities, in contrast, dealt with the CTG’s working methods in publicly accessible reports. In other Euro­pean countries, international intelligence cooperation is often conducted without an explicit legal basis. Meanwhile, the partici­pating intelligence services argue that mutual trust is still being built up and that the principle of voluntary and flexible cooperation must be maintained. In this respect, despite growing support for the CTG, it is not yet possible to speak of a consolidated institution that could be for­mally integrated into a European platform for intelligence fusion.

Nevertheless, sporadic contacts with the EU level could be intensified, for example by placing CTG liaison officers at Europol’s ECTC. Members of national security author­ities with both police and intelligence tasks, for example from Sweden or Austria, could act as a bridge. In this way, information from the CTG platform could be regularly fed into the EIS and contribute, for exam­ple, to the screening of irregular immigrants in EU hotspots. On the other hand, the same liaison officers could ensure that relevant entries from EU databases for police cooperation or migration control are relayed back to the CTG.

If such a regular exchange of informa­tion proves its worth through the increased reporting of hits at EU external borders or through other measures for the prevention of terrorism, a stepwise expansion of mutu­al cooperation can be considered along the lines of the German GTAZ. This model im­plies that police and intelligence services can jointly discuss and assess individual suspects and cases. Despite intermittent and unavoidable intelligence failures in the fight against terrorism, such direct consul­tations are widely considered to be indis­pen­sable at the national level. Transposed to the European level, this would mean that Europol and the CTG would hold joint dis­cus­sions and recommend concrete meas­ures on persons of interest to national secu­rity authorities. A refusal to act on such recommendations would require an explicit justification by national security authorities. Thus, even without a direct EU-com­petence to coordinate operations in the field of national security, such a platform and cooperation model would in all likeli­hood boost cross-border cooperation.

For other forms of serious crime, the foundations for similar data platforms are already in place. Since 2016, Europol has been operating the European Migrant Smuggling Centre (EMSC), which contributes to confidential risk assessments and law enforcement measures. The European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) at Europol works with both a police and an intelligence agen­cy from the United States as well as with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Secret Service in the context of the so-called Joint Cybercrime Action Taskforce (J-CAT).

Rule of law and democratic supervision

The National Security Agency (NSA) scandal made it clear that the international activ­ities of the intelligence services are often beyond the control of national supervisory authorities. Since then, controversial politi­cal debates and the actions of European courts have led to the first reforms. In Ger­many, for example, the legal foundations and supervisory bodies of the Federal Intel­ligence Service have been reorganised. The European Court of Justice urged Sweden and the United Kingdom to apply more restrictive rules to the retention of mass com­munication data for the purposes of threat prevention and law enforcement. Similarly, in September 2018, the European Court of Human Rights called for a more precise definition of the powers of British intelligence services to collect and analyse mass communications data. In principle, all European states face major challenges in ensuring effective control over their in­tel­ligence services under the conditions of technical progress and globalisation. The debate on the rule of law within some EU member states underlines the importance of preserving fundamental rights in core areas of national security.

The EU does not play a direct role in mass surveillance, nor is personal data pro­cessed in the EU-SIAC. Nevertheless, one needs to ask critical questions about the super­vision and democratic legitimacy of this aspect of the EU’s foreign and external security policy. Mistaken or wrongful policy decisions, which may be made on the basis of common intelligence assessments, can erode the EU’s legitimacy. Just as at the national level, it must remain possible to attribute political responsibility in this con­text. This means, for example, that repre­sentatives of other democratic institutions, such as Members of the European Parliament, must be given the power to review confidential documents in the Council (or a future European Security Council).

In the field of internal security, further questions arise about the legality of intel­ligence cooperation. Any answers must take into account the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, recent EU data protection laws, as well as national constitutional traditions, such as the German requirement for sepa­rations between police and intelligence services. These legal challenges cannot be avoided by flexible forms of cooperation with intelligence services. Rather, the greatest possible transparency is required when using low-level or informal procedures, such as the use of liaison officers. Only in this way can problematic developments be addressed at an early stage instead of having them emerge through scandals afterwards, as in the case of the NSA leaks.

According to Article 43 (4) of Europol Regu­lation (EU) 2016/794, the European Data Protection Supervisor has, in principle, access to all data, including classified information. This is a cornerstone of the constitutional supervision of Europol. Intel­ligence services should accept this external control and, more generally, adopt less restric­tive interpretations of the so-called Third-Party Rule in the context of exchanges with European oversight bodies. In addi­tion, a Joint Parliamentary Scrutiny Group (JSG) on Europol was established in 2017. The practical experience with this new body of national and European parliamentarians, which meets every six months, is still too limited to draw meaningful conclusions. Due to the mixed nature of the supervisory body, however, one possible priority area could be to monitor the intelligence inter­faces at Europol. National parliamentarians can assert information rights in the area of national security, rights to which European representatives are not entitled because of the EU’s competence restrictions under Article 4 (2) TEU. The JSG on Europol could therefore act as a building block for a more comprehensive or networked supervision of the EU’s indirect interactions with intel­ligence services.

The Dutch supervisory authority published a first report on the reformed CTG in February 2018. The report stressed the need to strictly examine the proportionality of data processing and underlined that the par­ticipating services hold collective re­spon­sibility. However, a follow-up project on networking the supervisory authorities of five European countries (Belgium, Nor­way, Denmark, the Netherlands, Switzerland) showed that national legislation makes it largely impossible to discuss mat­ters of common interest, which are mostly highly classified. National supervisory author­ities have, in any case, hitherto rather divergent powers to access intelligence databases, or to acquire information about the working methods, techniques, and international cooperation of their respec­tive national intelligence services.

Even though the EU will not be given the competence for legal harmonisation in this area in the foreseeable future, Euro­pean member states should gradually reduce these obstacles and cross-national divergences. As a first step, the national legal bases for international cooperation between intelligence services should be clarified and subjected to regular super­vision. At the same time, the objective should be to guarantee a higher level of legal protection if it is not a question of general reconnaissance abroad but of intelligence surveillance of EU citizens. In the case of persons suspected of serious crimes or terrorism, there are numerous other instruments available within the EU for police cooperation, information gather­ing, and the preservation of evidence that are linked to criminal proceedings under the rule of law. Therefore, consideration should not only be given to the continued expansion of intelligence-led policing when it comes to cooperation between domestic intelligence services and police authorities. Instead, the other direction should also be considered, that is, a return as far as pos­sible to the more narrowly defined area of law enforcement and prosecution.

Conclusions and outlook

The role of intelligence services in the fur­ther development of EU security policy must be given greater consideration. This particularly sensitive aspect of national sovereignty will not be able to be directly integrated into the EU institutional struc­ture in the foreseeable future. Beyond the EU, there are numerous multilateral forums and traditional relationships between intel­ligence services. Examples are the European partners (SIGINT Seniors Europe) of the trans­atlantic Five Eyes Alliance, NATO’s military intelligence, and the Police Work­ing Group on Terrorism, also decades old, for the European fight against terrorism. These overlapping as well as functionally differentiated networks of European intel­ligence services, which branch out further on a bilateral level, will largely have to be preserved due to the equally complex trans­national threats and risks they are intended to counter.

However, the EU member states should not only follow old path-dependencies, but also develop their own ideas about what kind of intelligence support is needed for an effective EU security policy. The im­pending Brexit and increasingly volatile trans­atlantic relations are increasing the pressure for reform. Rather than holding fruitless and symbolic debates about a com­mon intelligence service, member states should make the collection of intelligence and its transmission to the EU much more reliable, while also maintaining the coher­ence of the EU’s foreign and security policy. In the context of voluntary coalitions and PESCO, enhanced cooperation in the me­dium term may also include joint research and procurement projects for signals intel­ligence.

European intelligence cooperation in the fight against terrorism is comparably more advanced already. Nevertheless, it remains necessary to strengthen the established chan­nels in a stepwise manner. Once a sys­tematic and controlled rule-of-law deployment of liaison officers between Europol and the CTG has proved its worth, one could conceive of a more advanced plat­form for police and intelligence services at the EU level.

In any event, member states should promote both the powers and cross-border networking of their national supervisory authorities. At the very least, the reformed CTG and Europol’s evolving interfaces must be monitored as closely as possible by ad­ministrative supervisory or data protection authorities as well as parliamentary bodies. Traditional standards for intelligence work, such as the Third-Party Rule or strict clas­sification rules, must be reviewed. In the long term, a European convergence of super­visory regimes should be pursued in order to create a resilient basis for all forms of Euro­pean and international intelligence coopera­tion.

Dr Raphael Bossong is an Associate in the EU / Europe Division at SWP.

© Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, 2018

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This Comment reflects the author’s views.

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