Putin’s Folly

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 10, No. 2, February 2022

By Dr. Richard Shortt

Protestors against 2022 Russia invasion of Ukraine, at the Hachiko square in Shibuya, Japan. Wikimedia.

The work of unravelling Putin’s folly in the Ukraine began February 24 with the firing of the first missiles and artillery shells that signalled his invasion. It will be slow, time-consuming work, assuming no national uprisings in either the Ukraine or Russia by ordinary folks demanding an end to the killing and destruction, or more significant interventions by Western powers – both of which I consider unlikely. It will, in all probability, take longer than the time Putin has left sitting on the Russian imperial throne. But it will happen.

We are currently in what I term the Chaos Phase of the work. This is where invasion leads to death, destruction, despair and defiance. It is the defiance that will ultimately lead us to the next phase, meanwhile, troops and civilians will die, infrastructure will be destroyed and damaged and people on all sides of the issue will watch in stunned horror at what modern warfare and forced occupation means in a modern-day European country.

The Russian forces will emerge victorious. There is very little doubt about that, but not before the Ukrainian efforts deliver martyrs who will fuel the next phase – Resistance. Continue reading

The Risks of AI: An Interview with Georgetown’s Helen Toner

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 10, No. 1, January 2o22

The JPR interview with Helen Toner, the Director of Strategy at the Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET) at Georgetown University, was conducted via email between 4 January 2022 and 13 January 2022.

Corr: What are the national security risks and benefits of AI?

Helen Toner, Director of Strategy at the Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET) at Georgetown University.

Toner: This is a huge question! AI is a general-purpose technology, meaning that—like electricity or the computer—its impacts will be felt across practically all industries and areas of society. Accordingly, it presents a huge range of potential risks and benefits from a national security perspective. One way of trying to summarize the possibilities might be as follows: the benefits will largely be in line with the kinds of benefits we have seen from increasingly sophisticated computing technology more generally: greater efficiency and accuracy, as well as the ability to perform tasks at scales impossible for humans (think: how Google search trawls the web). In terms of risks, one breakdown proposed by Zwetsloot and Dafoe is to think in terms of risks from accidents (i.e. unintended outcomes from using AI), misuse (i.e. the deliberate use of AI to cause harm), and structural changes (i.e. how progress in AI shapes surrounding systems and dynamics). I realize this is fairly abstract, but it’s impossible to enumerate specific risks without narrowing the scope to particular application areas, time frames, and actors.

Continue reading

Mineral Revenue-Sharing as Peace Dividend: Incentivizing Stakeholders to Support Peace and Stability in Afghanistan

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 9, No. 6, June 2021

By Priscilla A. Tacujan

Mineral Map of Afghanistan. Source: USGS

Various players have raised the prospect over the years of Afghanistan developing its mineral wealth as a means to stabilize the country, but nobody believes that it could achieve enough security to prevent attacks on infrastructure and mining operations.  However, it is possible that Afghanistan might be able to broker peace and reconciliation through a mineral revenue-sharing scheme[1] that directly distributes mining dividends and profits to the general population as well as extract concessions from the Taliban — an approach that has helped mitigate conflict in some other war-torn areas where revenue-sharing has been part of their peace accords.[2]  A trickle-down incentive structure could incentivize the Afghan people and militant groups to pursue peace and reconciliation if they become vested stakeholders and direct beneficiaries of their country’s natural resources.  While security conditions in Afghanistan’s extractive industries remain a challenge, a review of successful revenue-sharing practices in other countries suggests that a similar practice in Afghanistan may yield long-term gains.

Background: Afghan Minerals and Stakeholders

The Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (TFBSO), commissioned by the Department of Defense (DoD) to study Afghanistan’s extractive industry, has estimated that Afghanistan’s mineral and hydrocarbon deposits could be worth more than $1 trillion, with $908 billion in mineral resources and more than $200 billion in hydrocarbon deposits,[3] while the Afghan government has a more optimistic estimate, at $3 trillion.[4]  The U.S. Geological Survey has also indicated that Afghanistan may hold 60 million tons of copper, 2.2 billion tons of iron ore, 1.4 million tons of rare earth minerals such as lanthanum, cerium, and neodymium, and lodes of aluminum, gold, silver, zinc, mercury, and lithium deposits as large as those found in Bolivia, known for owning the world’s largest lithium reserves[5],[6]  Several assessments conducted by U.S. agencies and international organizations have concluded that these resources have the potential to contribute significantly to Afghanistan’s economy. Continue reading

Yemen: Carnage or Strategy? What is the War Really About?

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 9, No. 3, March 2021

By William R. Hawkins

Map of Yemen’s insurgency, according to published reports. Pink: Controlled by Hadi-led government. Green: Controlled by Revolutionary Committee. Tan: Controlled by Southern Transitional Council. White: Controlled by Ansar al-Sharia/AQAP forces. Grey: Controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Blue: Controlled by local, non-aligned forces like the Hadhramaut Tribal Alliance. Salmon: Controlled by forces loyal to Ali Abdullah Saleh. Source: Ali Zifan.

Every new President is challenged by foreign adversaries early in their term to test how U.S. policy may change with a new administration. Iran did not wait long to send its proxies into combat against American forces and allies. In Iraq, Shiite militia groups launched rockets attacks which wounded several Americans. On February 26, President Joe Biden sent air strikes against several related militia targets in Syria in retaliation. This seemed a continuation of President Donald Trump’s policy of muscular deterrence inaugurated by the drone strike that killed Maj. Gen. Qassem Suleimani, commander of Iran’s Quds Force, while he was meeting with Iraqi militia leaders on January 3, 2020. President Biden sent a further message of deterrence to Tehran with a show of force by two B-52 strategic bombers escorted by Israeli fighters. The connection was important because an Israeli ship docked in Dubai was bombed by terrorists suspected of working for Iran on February 25.  

In Yemen, Iran’s proxy Houthi rebels have stepped up attacks by drones and ballistic missiles against Saudi Arabia, targeting both population centers and oil industry targets. Every few days, another barrage is launched. On March 7, Houthi Brigadier Yahya Sareea claimed the group had fired 14 drones and eight missiles at Ras Tanura, one of the world’s biggest oil ports, and other targets near their border. In retaliation, the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthi renewed their air campaign in Yemen with strikes at the rebel-held capital of Sana’a and other key targets. The coalition had pulled back on their air strikes due to pressure from the U.S., but restraint by Riyad and Washington has only encouraged the rebels. Continue reading

NATO and Beyond: President Trump Revitalized Our Alliances

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 9, No. 1, January 2021

By William R. Hawkins

US President Donald Trump, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi attend a meeting during the G20 Osaka Summit in Osaka on June 28, 2019. (Photo by Carl Court / POOL / AFP via Getty Images)

The new NATO 2030: United for a New Era report shows how President Donald Trump has reinvigorated the West’s central international security alliance. It proclaims, “the main characteristic of the current security environment is the re-emergence of geopolitical competition – that is, the profusion and escalation of state-based rivalries and disputes over territory, resources, and values.” This reflects the 2018 National Defense Strategy issued by the U.S. Department of Defense which saw America “emerging from a period of strategic atrophy” into a world of “increased global disorder” where Great Power competition with Russia and China is the major challenge facing the country. By looking at the world as it is, President Trump sent a gale of fresh air into a becalmed foreign policy establishment on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond.

The first three “main findings” of the NATO document deal with the “changes to the geostrategic environment (including both Russia and China)” which have occurred since its 2010 Strategic Concept. Though the report paid lip service to “the dual-track approach of deterrence and dialogue with Russia” to placate those member states (like Germany) who shy away from confrontation, the report’s message is strong. “The Alliance must respond to Russian threats and hostile actions in a politically united, determined, and coherent way, without a return to ‘business as usual’” says its second findings, advising “NATO should evolve the content of its dual-track strategy to ensure its continued effectiveness by raising the costs for Russian aggression.” Continue reading