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America’s mighty defence force might not be as mighty as you think. President Donald Trump is struggling to fill key positions at the Pentagon, especially following the withdrawal of former defence secretary Jim Mattis, according to Foreign Policy. And while the Pentagon lies empty, see Task and Purpose for the details on how US forces are defeated again and again in wargaming exercises against China and Russia, a problem with a US$24 billion fix. With all that happening, Forbes and War is Boring both claim Trump’s US$750 billion 2020 defence budget could fall within Congress’s crosshairs. For the nitty gritty on that budget, see Defense News.

In the latest development in a week of turmoil in the UK, MPs voted for an extension to the 29 March Brexit deadline. The vote came after politicians rejected a ‘no deal’ exit from the EU after also rejecting Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plan earlier in the week. An extension could delay Brexit until 30 June, but only if May’s already rejected deal gets the backing of parliament next week. If that fails, which looks likely, May will have to seek a longer delay.

And so what happens next? According to one Tory MP who spoke to the Guardian’s Marina Hyde, ‘F—k knows’. If Brexit has you feeling confused or frustrated, Hyde’s column is the perfect antidote (comparisons of May’s efforts to the Fast and the Furious movies come free).

Work to manage the security and trade ramifications of Brexit is already underway in areas you might not expect. The House of Commons Library has produced analysis on a number of functions that are set to be impacted after Brexit occurs, including explaining why the Royal Navy has increased its offshore patrol capabilities to ‘bolster the UK’s ability to protect our fishing fleet’.

Some great analysis of Russia has emerged this week. Strategy Bridge kicks it off with a great piece on the near and long-term threats as Russia attempts to reshape its identity and place in the world. ‘The Kremlin Playbook 2’, released by CSIS, illustrates Russia’s malign influence across Europe, showing that it’s essentially attempting to destroy democratic systems from within as it exploits weaknesses in key markets and institutions. Russia also stands between the US–Turkey relationship, claims War on the Rocks, as Ankara’s decision to purchase the S-400 surface-to-air missile system strains its alliance with Washington.

How does spraying masses of aerosols into the earth’s atmosphere as a way of stopping climate change sound to you? Normally an unspoken theory in the scientific world, Vox has investigated it further and claims that more research into geoengineering is needed. This comes as National Geographic explains that, out of 5.2 million possible climate futures studied by scientists, only a few are acceptable and that humans must cease all carbon emissions by 2030 to remain below a catastrophic 2°C warming by 2100. Which leads us to this ASPI special report by Robert Glasser which focuses on how climate change will be Australia’s biggest security concern in the new Era of Disasters.

For the fourth time, China has blocked attempts at the UN Security Council to label the Pakistan-based head of Jaish-e-Mohammad, Masood Azhar, as a terrorist. JeM was behind the Pulwama terrorist attack, which was the catalyst for a major escalation in tensions between India and Pakistan. Writing in The National Interest, Mohammed Ayoob argues that the two countries are inching towards a war that could turn nuclear. Tanvi Madan outlines China’s considerations in the lead-up to its decision to once again support its ‘all-weather ally’.

Tech geek

For more on America’s wargaming, here’s a great article in Breaking Defense on the growing risk of US defeat in a war against Russia and China. Referring to a RAND study, it argues that continuing to acquire traditional capability is a path to strategic defeat, and highlights a shortage of missile capability and the vulnerability of US and allied systems to adversary long-range missiles.

With that in mind, The National Interest considers the US Air Force’s future—better F-22s, B-52s and hypersonic weapons. And the US Navy Institute News highlights the need for armed unmanned aircraft on carriers. Also Defence Connect did two live webcasts from the Australian International Airshow on future airpower. Register here to watch both.

Future war between major powers is also going to have a hybrid dimension, and there’s a good analysis in Atlantic Community on how Russian approaches to hybrid war could be strengthened by Brexit.

Defence Connect is reporting that a future Labor government would look to undertake a review of the future submarine project to ensure that it’s viable and managed so as to avoid a capability gap.

Finally, it’s never too soon to be thinking starships, and NASA looks at this issue in an interesting report on how to get to Alpha Centauri and beyond.  In Forbes there’s an article on the return of the space-based solar power station concept to vogue, and how it could transform global energy markets. NASA also finally seems to have a plan to get humans back on the moon by 2028.

This week in history

On the Ides of March, in 44 BC, Julius Caesar was assassinated, shaking the very pillars of Rome, ending the Republic and ultimately leading to the adoption of the Imperial system. Vox presents six common myths about Caesar’s assassination. Also, a shout out to a relatively important person. Albert Einstein was born in this week in 1879.


Al Jazeera has a must-watch series of seven documentaries on inspiring Middle Eastern women.

This interactive map by Vaccines Work illustrates the huge volume of preventable disease outbreaks across the world.

Chatham House director Dr Robin Niblett sits down to discuss Brexit and what future relations look like between the UK and the EU. [3:39]


ASPI’s Policy, Guns and Money brings you a special edition focusing on the Avalon Airshow. [1:04.01]

Hearing from a North Korean defector is a rare occurrence, but Al Jazeera interviews Jihyun Park, who offers a firsthand account of life under the Kim regime. [22:44]


Perth, 19 March, 6–8 pm: ‘Report launch: Australia’s second sea’ with the Honourable Kim Beazley AC and Dr David Brewster. Register here.

Sydney, 20 March, 1–2.30 pm, University of Sydney: ‘Uncertainty and insecurity in the fifth domain of warfare’. Tickets here.

Melbourne, 21 March, 6–7.30 pm, University of Melbourne: ‘Surveillance, trust and democracy’. Book here.