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.

How Donald Trump Should Make China Pay for Coronavirus

National Interest – James Holmes writes that suppose, for the sake of argument, that Chinese researchers did release the coronavirus into the populace, spawning effects we have all come to know personally and intimately. And let’s assume it was an inadvertent release. That is a safe assumption. What should Trump do about it?

Cooperative Maritime Law Enforcement and Overfishing in the South China Sea

CIMSEC – Fish are the primary source of animal protein for populations bordering the South China Sea and overfishing in the region has emerged as a major threat to food security. Over the past 30 years fish stocks have declined by one-third and are expected to decrease an additional 59 percent by 2045 if current practices persist.

Does COVID-19 provide an opportunity for further geo-strategic disruption?

Defence Connect – The advent of COVID-19 has presented a major challenge to the established global economic, political and strategic order, revealing the fragility of many nations and their traditional metrics of national power. For former US Marine officer and US diplomat Grant Newsham, this presents some serious challenges for the liberal-democratic world order.

Beware of Pandemic America

National Interest – James Holmes writes: Note to China and Russia: despite appearances, the time of coronavirus may not be an opportune time for you to chisel away at America’s global standing.

Nonalignment Nuances: America Is Laying the Groundwork for a Stronger Relationship With India

National Interest – Nonalignment remains a powerful strain in Indian foreign policy. Still, India and the United States have fashioned placeholders in case things take a drastic turn for the worse in South Asia—one that might prompt New Delhi to tilt toward Washington.

Is the U.S.-Philippines Alliance Dying?

National Interest – Terminating the U.S.-Philippine Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) could ripple throughout Southeast Asia to the detriment of not just the Philippines’ defense but U.S. maritime strategy toward China.

Donald Trump must split up Putin and Xi, the new odd couple

Niall Ferguson – Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of Henry Kissinger’s secret flight to Beijing, which set in motion the opening of relations between America and China. It was the pivotal moment of the Cold War, exploiting the Sino-Soviet split by effectively aligning Washington and Beijing against Moscow.

The ultimate goal of American strategy in the 2020s must be to achieve a mirror image of that manoeuvre, driving Putin and Xi apart and drawing Russia into that western configuration which alone can save declining Russia from being swallowed up by rising China.

Indo-Pacific Strategy: Shaping a Hybrid Regional Order

War on the Rocks – What does Japan want in the Indo-Pacific? It can be tough to tell, because at the moment, Tokyo seems to be pursuing incompatible aims. Japan is trying to check China geopolitically while deepening economic engagement. At the same time, it wants to deepen its strategic coordination with its closest security partners — the United States, Australia, and India — through the Quad, and it also wants to ensure the participation of a maximum number of countries in its Free and Open Indo-Pacific initiative.

Adm. Davidson, Indo-Pacific commander: ‘We’re not asking people to choose between us and China’

Defense News – Adm. Philip Davidson, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, spoke to Defense News earlier this month in an exclusive interview during the Reagan National Defense Forum about China’s tactics and the role of the United States in supporting regional allies.

A Bump in the Belt and Road: Tanzania Pushes Back Against Chinese Port Project

CIMSEC – China’s Maritime Silk Road ambitions suffered a setback after Tanzanian officials refused to budge over stalled negotiations to build what would be the largest deep-water port in Africa.

The Icebreaker Gap Doesn’t Mean America is Losing in the Arctic

War on the Rocks – Using relative icebreaker fleet sizes as a key metric for the state of strategic competition in the Arctic is flawed. While they are an important platform, icebreakers do little to create or address the most commonly identified defense challenges in the region. Instead, analysts should focus on the nature of the military risks in the Arctic, the role of allies and partners, and economic interests in a broader geopolitical context rather than comparing specific capabilities.