Navigating Sino-Russian Defense Cooperation

War on the Rocks – In recent years, however, cooperation between China and Russia has grown. The alignment of their interests and convergence of their efforts is amplifying the challenge they pose to the United States. This is especially true for China, which has been able to leverage its relationship with Moscow to fill gaps in its capabilities and complement its efforts to undermine U.S. global leadership.

Using Geospatial Data to Improve Maritime Domain Awareness in the Sulu and Celebes Seas

CIMSEC – Sprawling archipelagos and limited government resources make comprehensive maritime domain awareness (MDA) challenging in the Sulu and Celebes Seas. To improve their information gathering capabilities, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines have invested in advanced geospatial data acquisition technologies like unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and satellites. Integrating the resulting datasets into existing databases for an aggregate analysis greatly enhances regional MDA. Incorporating geospatial information provides authorities with a deeper understanding of the Sulu and Celebes Seas’ physical environment and how maleficent actors like insurgent groups, human smugglers, and arms traffickers threaten security. These information assets assist law enforcement agencies in prioritizing the deployment of their limited maritime assets and are some of the more critical capabilities in the regional toolkit for ocean governance.

Ocean Governance and Maritime Security in the Gulf of Guinea

CIMSEC – Ocean governance is not only obligatory but also compulsory on nations that are contiguous to the oceans and other major water bodies around the world.

South China Sea dispute: Australia says Beijing’s claims have no legal basis

BBC – Australia has formally rejected China’s territorial and maritime claims in the South China Sea, aligning itself more closely with the US as tensions rise.

Stop Seabed Mining Now

CIMSEC – The deep sea is rapidly approaching an era reminiscent of the gold rush period of the American West, when pioneers could potentially strike it big solely by venturing out to where few others wanted to go. The risk is high, but the rewards are potentially massive – if one could get seabed mining to scale. The problem is that nobody should be mining the seabed anytime soon. The looming environmental cost is monumental, and the race for seabed resources could reinvigorate any number of maritime disputes. Is seabed mining really worth the trouble?

India, Australia, and Containing the China Challenge

War on the Rocks – Australia’s strategy on engaging India has long revolved around the so-called “three Cs:” cricket, curry, and the Commonwealth. In light of the changing status of bilateral relations in 2020, let’s add a couple more Cs to the list: China, and containment of.

How Significant Is the New U.S. South China Sea Policy?

CSIS – The statement marks a significant clarification of prior U.S. positions but not a radical break from past policy. It makes explicit things that had been implied by previous administrations. And in that, it sets the stage for more effective diplomatic messaging and stronger responses to China’s harassment of its neighbors.

High stakes in a Himalayan hotspot

ABC – In the language of geopolitics it’s known as salami slicing, a tactic used to covertly snatch disputed lands, sliver by territorial sliver. And on the border between China and India in the remote reaches of the Himalayas, that’s exactly what Beijing stands accused of doing — incrementally extending its footprint.

A More Holistic Framework for Military Competition: How the War Might Be Won

Strategy Bridge – In a compelling revisionist history of the Second World War, How the War Was Won, Phillip’s O’Brien argues, “There were no decisive battles in World War II.” In his broad analysis, O’Brien develops what he terms a “super battlefield.” The superbattlefield is, according to O’Brien, the distinguishing characteristic of modern warfare. Instead of an isolated battlefield, the superbattlefield extends over thousands of miles and includes all aspects of building, training, and deploying military capability. Using this construct, O’Brien argues that the individual battles of World War II had little consequence on the overall outcome of the war…The question for American planners today is twofold. Is O’Brien’s theory of victory in warfare still applicable? And, if it is, what does it mean for how America thinks about fighting wars?

Why Yemen Matters

CIMSEC – While it is not practical, nor advisable, for the United States to commit blood and treasure to unilaterally resolve Yemen’s civil war, the instability that spills over Yemen’s borders threatens American interests.

The Geopolitics of Alaska

National Interest – James Holmes writes that Alaska is much in the news during this incipient age of great-power strategic competition. Almost daily, it seems, U.S. Air Force fighter jets scramble to intercept lumbering Russian bombers approaching North American airspace to the extreme northwest. That means our thinking about Alaska needs to change.

A Modern Deterrence Theory Case Study: America’s Failure to Deter Japan

The Strategy Bridge – Everything old is new again. The world is gripped by a pandemic, people believe the Earth is flat, and the United States is trying to suppress the appetite of an expansionist Asian superpower. While China’s rise is undoubtedly less savage than Japan’s conquest of Southeast Asia, the feeling that America has been here before seems unshakeable. Analyzing the U.S. failure to deter Japan from conquering Southeast Asia using a modern deterrence theory framework reveals opportunities to improve contemporary deterrence strategies.

Guarding the Gates: Is International Control of the Bab Al Mandeb Feasible?

CIMSEC – The security situation in the BAM does not look like it will be resolved any time soon; indeed, with the multiplying effects of pandemic, economic collapse and plunging oil prices, it is likely to get worse. International naval control of the BAM is possible, but only in coordination with regional states, with diplomatic and economic investment, and respect for international maritime law.

Chiseled in Space: Temporary, Non-Geographic Chokepoints in the Battle of the Atlantic

CIMSEC – Foreign Policy’s list of the “five top global choke points” includes the well-known maritime chokepoints of the Strait of Hormuz, the Strait of Malacca, and the Suez Canal, in addition to two-land based resource bottlenecks: the Abqaiq Oil Processing Facility and the Druzhba Pipeline. These chokepoints “potentially could play an outsized role in strategic competition.” Ultimately, the intent of identifying a chokepoint is to find an efficient shortcut to victory. As such, at times it can function as a kind of intellectual “silver bullet.”

The Strategic Littoral Geography of Southeast Asia

CIMSEC – Military decision-makers instinctively think in geographic terms. Southeast Asia’s complex economic, military, political, legal, and environmental layers are best portrayed visually. By spatially portraying information, troops can work their way through geography to comprehend the interaction of these complex layers.

An Emerging Strategic Geometry – Thawing Chokepoints and Littorals in the Arctic

CIMSEC – The ongoing transformation of the Arctic from an inaccessible frozen wasteland to an accessible and untapped reserve creates not only a new contested space, but will create new strategic chokepoints and littoral operating environments. The United States, in concert with its allies, will need to invest in the ability to access and secure this environment in order to maintain sovereignty and security in this new world.

There Are No Strategic Chokepoints

CIMSEC – Naval theorist Milan Vego opens a chapter on chokepoint control with a quote from British Admiral Sir John Fisher, who stated that there are “five keys to the world. The Strait of Dover, the Straits of Gibraltar, the Suez Canal, the Straits of Malacca, and the Cape of Good Hope. And every one one of these keys we hold.”1 Fisher spoke from an Anglo-centric view, but his point is evident that control of key chokepoints equated to control of national strategic interests. But a century later, with the technological advances in weapons and sensors, and the interconnectedness of the global economy, can such a claim be made today?

Let Me Get This Strait: The Turkish Straits Question Revisited

CIMSEC – Since 1936, the Montreux Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits, hereinafter referred to as the Montreux Convention, has allowed for the peaceful flow of commerce through the Turkish Straits. However, recent calls from Turkish and Russian policy circles for revisions to the Montreux Convention should be cause for concern, as these proposals threaten to either spur a naval arms race in the Black Sea region or look to exploit the Straits as a geostrategic chokepoint.

Is U.S. Grand Strategy Dead Thanks to Donald Trump?

National Interest – James Holmes writes that “Far from shaping up as an age that has left grand strategy behind, the age of Trump represents the arena where a contest between a U.S. grand strategy of long-standing and emerging grand strategies pursued by China, Russia, and other contenders will unfold.”

Blurred Lines: Gray-Zone Conflict and Hybrid War—Two Failures of American Strategic Thinking

US Naval War College Review – The terms in question and the concepts arising from them cause more harm than good, contributing to a dangerous distortion of the concepts of war, peace, and geopolitical competition, with a negative impact on U.S. and allied security strategy.

Why Warlike One-Upmanship Works to Russia’s Benefit

National Interest – James Holmes writes that Russia is less an enigma than a product of its unique history combined with basic human passions that endure from age to age. These forces shape politics and strategy in Moscow.