ASPI suggests

The world

Bashar al-Assad’s forces downed a Russian military plane over Syria on Monday night, killing all 15 Russians on board. Consult the New York Times for the resulting blame-game from the Kremlin, which initially targeted Israel. On the same day, Russia and Turkey agreed on a demilitarised zone around Idlib; DW shines a light on the way forward. Meanwhile, the National Interest claims that the aim of the new US mission in Syria isn’t to counter Islamic State but to oppose Iran. The Atlantic Council investigates growing protests in Iraq over the lack of government action on infrastructure. Looking more broadly at the Middle East, Thomas L. Friedman analyses the breakdown of peace in the region over the past 40 years and Carnegie’s Diplopod talks about the chances of a two-state solution in Israel and Palestine [18:58].

Russia’s largest military exercise since the Cold War, Vostok 2018, came to a close in Eastern Siberia earlier this week. China participated for the first time, and Chatham House, Carnegie and Politico have analysed what that says about the Russia–China relationship. For the China watchers out there, the Center for Strategic and International Studies has released a report analysing China’s military developments and its impact on US strategic thinking. Meanwhile, this lengthy Vox analysis argues that Donald Trump’s China policy is failing. In The Sydney Morning Herald, Jessica Irvine presents the case for free trade, explaining the potential fallout of the US–China trade war for Australians. In The Conversation, Giovanni Di Lieto says Australia will eventually need to pick a side.

On the South China Sea, the New York Times looks at the impact of a Japanese submarine sailing through the contested waters. The East Asia Forum examines Sino-Japanese relations more broadly. And the Financial Review finishes off closer to home with China’s (contradictory?) reactions to freedom-of-navigation operations.

During their third meeting, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in vowed to denuclearise the Korean peninsula. 38 North has all the details of what the two leaders agreed on and this Council of Foreign Relations analysis takes a closer look at the surprising concessions Moon gained.

The United States Studies Centre has labelled 2018 the ‘Year of the Woman’ in US politics, noting that more women are running for US Congress and statewide office in the 2018 midterm elections than in any previous election. Candidates include the first black woman from Massachusetts to run for Congress, the first Native American women to win a major party nomination for governor and the first openly transgender candidate for governor.

With an increasing debate on repatriating looted African art from former European colonial powers, Aditya Iyer describes London’s ‘Uncomfortable Art Tours’. During the tours artefacts are put into historical context, which often forces attendees to reflect on Britain’s colonial past. The Economist has an insightful piece on how an indigenous community in rural New South Wales employs its own successful strategy to fight crime. And Hua Hsu asks in The New Yorker whether we should try to keep politics out of sport.

To get you ready for ‘Tech geek’, here are some interesting reads on the F-35: Brendan Nicholson separates fact from fiction surrounding the plane’s capability and safety issues; retired US Air Force pilot Pete Gavares looks into what it offers in today’s tumultuous environment, and War is Boring dives into the many perceived flaws of the jet, including the cutting of corners to reach its initial operational capability targets.

Tech geek

The US Air Force plans to expand its air combat capability with an additional 74 squadrons, including five extra B-21 Raider bomber squadrons and seven more fighter squadrons. The expansion begins a much-needed response to the growing military capability of Russia and China. The cost will be about US$13 billion according to CSIS’s Todd Harrison.

The proposed US Space Force would also cost about US$13 billion (over five years from fiscal year 2021). Although debate continues on whether and how to establish such a force, US Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Defense Secretary James Mattis are now firmly behind the idea. There is a clear pathway to establish the space force as a separate military department with about 13,000 personnel, most of whom would be satellite operators. No ‘space marines’ though …

Getting back down to earth, as we noted earlier in The Strategist’s latest ‘Five domains update’, the US Army is looking to develop a cannon with a range of 1,800 kilometres (1,000 nautical miles). But the idea is drawing fire from the arms control community, which argues the cannon would contravene the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty—something the army disputes. Yet with Russia already violating the INF Treaty, the agreement looks increasingly wobbly.

War is Boring is promoting a comic called The ’Stan about America’s war in Afghanistan. It’s focused on the human element of the war and is based on true stories. Tech geek highly recommends Accessory to War, by Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Avis Lang, which looks at the link between astrophysics and war.

This week in history

Billie Jean King defeated Bobby Riggs in the ‘Battle of the Sexes’ on 20 September 1973, helping to legitimise women’s professional tennis and further women’s rights. Makers has a great profile on King. [3:57]


The same but different: North and South Korea are shown side by side in this photo series by National Geographic.

The Atlantic captures the aftermath of Super Typhoon Mangkhut in the Philippines, Hong Kong and southeast China.

BBC Newsnight highlights the dangers of the anti-vaccination movement. [12:45]


The ABC’s Russia, if you’re listening looks at Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort, who agreed to cooperate with the Mueller investigation. [21:42]

Ever wondered what the life of a combat medic is like? Global Recon hosts a former Navy SEAL sharing his experiences in Iraq and Myanmar. While this podcast is incredibly captivating, please note it contains strong themes. [1:20.50]

CSIS brings you ‘Preventing extremism 17 years after 9/11’, which presents a new initiative to tackle terrorism. [16:03]


Canberra, 24 September, 4–5.30 pm, ANU College of Asia and the Pacific: ‘Parliamentary democracy in the new Malaysia’. More info here.

Canberra, 27 September, 5.30–7.30 pm, ANU Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs: ‘Why Australia needs a radically new defence policy’. Register here.

Perth, 28 September, 5–7 pm, Curtin University: ‘2018 annual human rights lecture’, delivered by the Hon. Michael Kirby AC CMG. Free registration.