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

Is The Persecution Of Falun Gong In China Tantamount To Genocide?

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 9, No. 9, September 2021

By Helen Hintjens, Ph.D.
International Institute of Social Studies in The Hague

Destruction of Falun Gong books during the 1999 China crackdown. Wikimedia/ClearWisdom

“Genocide is a crime for which there has to be proof of a particular hostile state of mind in an individual or in a government body towards a group that qualifies under the Genocide Convention’s or the ICC Statute’s limited set of groups against whom genocide can be committed”.[1]

Since at least 2000, at the behest of Jiang Zemin, President of the PRC from 1993 to 2003, Falun Gong have been labelled a ‘heretical (or deviated) religion’, and its members systematically persecuted through a covert ‘6-10 Office’ group of Chinese government security officers.

In April 2019, the China Organ Harvesting Research Centre issued a report, investigating allegations dating to 2006 that Falun Gong, imprisoned in China on grounds of following an unauthorized religion, were systematically having their organs harvested for use in Chinese medical institutions.  The report concluded that: “the Chinese regime has attempted to systematically annihilate Falun Gong” through such means.[2] Already in 2004, a court case against the Chinese leadership was heard in a Dutch court. The charges were genocide of followers of Falun Gong.[3] The grisly subject-matter of organ harvesting is part and parcel of wider genocide claims, claims that are hardly news any more. The question in this opinion article is not whether Falun Gong members’ organs are being harvested in PRC; of that there is little doubt. The question is rather, is this an example of a state-committed crime of genocide. 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

Chinese Communist Party Cooperation with Gangs and Politicians in Canada: Book Review

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 9, No. 5, May 2021

By Anders Corr

The book cover of Wilful Blindness, by Sam Cooper.

Wilful Blindness How a Network of Narcos, Tycoons and CCP agents Infiltrated the West, by Sam Cooper, Optimum Publishing International, 2021, $28.95 CAD.

An investigative reporter in Canada, Sam Cooper, is at the tip of the spear, where China injects money, drugs, spies, and underage prostitutes into all of North America. Cooper provides us with a front-row seat of China’s espionage, drug supercartels, support to terrorism, money laundering, and, for a pledge of support to Beijing, campaign donations to the politicians who lurk around China’s United Front groups in Vancouver, Toronto, and Ottawa. Add to that investigations of trafficking in weapons. Heads of state, including Donald Trump and Justin Trudeau, are linked by the author to the nefarious characters from China who are doing this dirty business.

It sounds too crazy to be true.  

But Cooper’s new book, Wilful Blindness, is nonfiction, and based on five years of his investigative reporting on the topic, and confidential sources in Canadian intelligence and police agencies. It vindicates, and brings up to date, a joint Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) and Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) report that in 1997 made many of the same claims. That report, called “Sidewinder”, was suppressed by Ottawa, which at time was trying to ink new trade deals with Beijing.  Continue reading