ASPI suggests

The world

Three of Australia’s major political parties and the parliament have been hacked by a ‘sophisticated state actor’. For the details see the New York Times. Writing in The Strategist, Peter Jennings outlines why Beijing is the prime suspect and Danielle Cave and Tom Uren investigate why someone would want to hack the political parties in the first place. The ABC, with ASPI’s Elise Thomas, delves into the cybersecurity dangers of politicians and their staffers taking work home to unsecure networks.

China has completed a month of military drills in the South China Sea, and in the last week the US has conducted freedom-of-navigation patrols and joint military drills in the area. Defense One takes a look at what might happen next in the contested waters and China–US competition in part 2 of a podcast series [45:28]. In The Diplomat Kerry Brown writes that sending the UK’s biggest warship, HMS Queen Elizabeth, to the South China Sea will be seen as ‘empty posturing’ by China, James R. Holmes disagrees, arguing that the return of the Royal Navy to Asia can guarantee the freedom of the seas.

The background and legality (or otherwise) of US President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency in a last-ditch effort to salvage his border wall is covered well in this Vox article. An opinion piece in Bloomberg sets the record straight on some of the myths surrounding Trump’s announcement, and Politico published the results of a poll on the proposed wall, which shows that fewer than 4 in 10 people support its construction.

Over in Europe, the German Marshall Fund has analysed Chancellor Angela Merkel’s speech from last week’s Munich Security Conference, discussing the impact the US is having on the liberal international order and the need for Germany to stand up to protect it. Carnegie Europe provides a great read on the biggest threats facing Eastern Europe, which—despite what you might expect—aren’t necessarily Russian aggression. And Zeit Online has an unsettling account of the death of a 51-year-old man during the Euromaidan revolution in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv five years ago.

If you’ve been following the debate surrounding Briton Shamima Begum, who joined the Islamic State group in Syria four years ago when she was 15, you’ll find this New York Times piece on women fighters in IS compelling. The BBC published an article (with a link to an interview with Begum) on how the UK manages the ‘deradicalisation’ of such individuals. Isaac Kfir’s Strategist piece highlighting the relevance of the controversy to Australia’s foreign fighters is a must-read.

The terrorist attack on Indian law-enforcement personnel in Kashmir by a Pakistan-based terror outfit generated a wave of commentary looking at what New Delhi should do next. For a comprehensive account of the factors underlying the tragedy and response options for India, Pakistan and other parties, read this brilliant piece from War on the Rocks. Kanchan Gupta wrote a scathing commentary on India’s lack of a coherent Pakistan policy and an Indian Express article highlights the economic repercussions of the Pulwama attack for Pakistan.

In other news, Australia finally has a US ambassador. Trump’s nominee, Arthur B. Culvahouse Jr, was sworn in this week.

Tech geek

A key development this week in relation to the proposed US Space Force was Trump’s signing of Space Policy Directive 4, which formally creates a new military service for space. It will reside within the US Air Force, in the same way the US Marine Corps sits within the US Navy, and as such is an interim step towards the president’s preferred approach of a fully independent space force. CSIS has a great analysis on what it all means. One of the key drivers for the space force concept is the growing threat posed by Chinese and Russian anti-satellite weapons.

China is looking to deploy a sixth-generation fighter as early as 2035, even though it’s just beginning to deploy its fifth-generation J-20, and is yet to deploy the FC-31. A report in the Global Times—a noted mouthpiece of the Chinese government—makes the case for entering the ‘global race’ for a sixth-generation fighter.

If China is having some difficulties with its F-35 lookalike (the FC-31), the same can’t be said for the F-35 itself, which was the star of the recent Red Flag exercises in the US. Warrior Maven has a description of how the F-35A saved the day for fourth-generation aircraft.

And Lockheed Martin has proposed an advanced ‘F-21’ version of the F-16 for the Indian Air Force, as a ‘4.5’ generation platform.

Finally, Michael E. O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution has issued a thought-provoking report on the so-called revolution in military affairs of 2000–2020, suggesting that it wasn’t quite so revolutionary.

This week in history

On 19 February 1942, the Australian mainland came under attack for the first time in World War II.  Darwin was struck by 242 Japanese fighters and bombers in two raids that killed 235 people and injured up to 400 others. The attack came just 10 weeks after the same carrier group struck Pearl Harbor. For more information and access to original records, see the National Archives.


See Al Jazeera’s photo series on the ruined city of Mosul, Iraq. For a comparison, look back at these satellite images showing it before and after the war.

Inside Story looks into the extensive surveillance systems China uses to monitor its citizens and asks if it’s gone too far. [24:15]


Episode 13 of ASPI’s Policy, Guns and Money discusses the cyberattacks on Australia’s parliament and political parties, the progress of the WPS agenda (with NATO Special Representative for Women, Peace and Security, Clare Hutchinson) and what to expect from the upcoming talks between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. [31:04]

Listen to Holocaust survivor John Dobai’s personal story of survival and the plight of Hungarian Jews during World War II from Britain’s National Archives. [1:11.40]

The Council on Foreign Affairs focuses on how gender parity and correcting the gender pay gap is necessary for growing economies. [58:35]


Canberra, 25 February, 5–6.30 pm, Australian National University: ‘Brexit: implications for the EU and the UK’. Register here.

Melbourne, 28 February, 1–2 pm, University of Melbourne: ‘Laying down the law: Americans as lawmakers in occupied Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan’. Register here.