ASPI suggests

The world

The terror attack in Sri Lanka has proved to be an inflection point for jihadi terrorism in South Asia. As the world tries to make sense of the tragedy, here’s an informative Twitter thread that gives the background of Sri Lanka’s ethno-religious divisions and fault lines. Neil Devotta, in an article in Foreign Policy, contends that the attacks will lead to greater ethnic and religious disharmony in the island nation. Firstpost demonstrated fine investigative journalism, piecing together the identity and history of the suicide bombers in a pair of articles, here and here. A piece in the New York Times argues that the attack is a sign of the Islamic State’s growing clout, despite world leaders’ claims of its defeat.

The release of the Mueller report investigating Donald Trump’s involvement (or otherwise) with Russia’s interference in the 2016 US election has renewed calls for the president’s impeachment. Here’s a Vox article that lays out an accessible account of what the Mueller report says Trump actually did. Former presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has penned a scathing criticism of Trump in the Washington Post and called for lawmakers to treat this scandal as another Watergate. This piece from The New Yorker examines the legal aspects of the report and makes the case for impeachment as a ‘primary moral duty’, which is echoed by Robert Zaretsky in Foreign Policy.

This week Sudan continues to be in the throes of a complex transition, although it remains unclear what exactly it’s transitioning to. The army has been in control of the country since the ousting of long-term dictator Omar al-Bashir, but ongoing protests have made it clear that civilians aren’t willing to accept a military-led government, which many see as simply a continuation of the old regime with a few chairs shuffled around. Military leaders have told the BBC that the army won’t use force against the protestors, who have been staging a sit-in in front of the military headquarters in Khartoum. They have not, however, given any guarantees of when or if the ‘Transitional Military Council’ will be handing over power to a civilian-led government.

Ukraine witnessed a very different handover of power this week as comedian Volodymyr Zelensky secured the presidency in a landslide victory. The election of Zelensky, who used to play a Ukrainian president on TV, is expected to mark a shift in relations between Ukraine and Russia. While describing him as ‘dangerously pro-Russian’ is probably taking it a bit too far, his willingness to reopen direct talks with Putin on the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine, combined with his lack of political experience and absence of a clear policy platform on many important issues (shortly after being elected he launched a Facebook poll on whether there should be an early dissolution of parliament, for example) has some observers worried.

This New York Times article provides a useful explainer on what happened at the meeting between Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin in Vladivostok this week. The Wall Street Journal argues that the meeting was more symbolic than substantive.

For those of you who, like us, are keeping up with the ongoing post-mortem of India’s skirmishes with Pakistan from earlier this year, here’s an Indian Express report analysing the Indian Air Force’s review of its airstrikes in Balakot. For a broad context, refer to The Strategist’s great collection on this theme. Kunal Singh, writing in the Hindustan Times, steps away from the nitty-gritties and whodunnits to look at the bigger picture of what India achieved out of the airstrikes.

Tech geek

There’s a really interesting article in US Naval Institute News on how the US Marines are using the F-35B as a key element of their ‘island-hopping’ concept of expeditionary advance base operations that would be critical in any military conflict with China. The strategy includes operating the F-35B from forward refueling and arming points—shown in this video.

DARPA (the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) has launched project ‘Blackjack’, which seeks to develop large networks of small satellites based on commercial technology to augment existing high-end US space capabilities, and frustrate Chinese and Russian counter-space ambitions. And US Defense officials faced tough questions on the proposed US space force at a recent congressional hearing.

Things went disastrously wrong for Russian Air Force pilots when a MiG-31 Foxhound was accidently shot down during a training exercise. The Drive has the details.

There’s a very thought provoking analysis in Foreign Affairs of the ‘new’ revolution in military affairs and why Western liberal democracies, led by the US, are in danger of coming off second best as radical new technologies emerge from authoritarian states like China.

Forbes published a great article about the importance of the rapidly growing commercial space sector and how it will make the next space race radically different from the last one (to get to the moon). And rocket scientist Robert Zubrin talks about China’s emerging space ambitions, including getting to Mars.

Finally, do read Piercing the fog of peace, a new report from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments on innovative operational concepts for future warfare.


In honour of Anzac Day, here’s a Defence Connect podcast by Mat Jones looking at the contributions of veterans to the workforce. [30:46]

Al Jazeera published an interview with experts dissecting a leaked report on Yemen that suggests Western weapons were used to unleash ‘the world’s worst humanitarian crisis’. [25:10]

Ankit Panda and Prashanth Parameswaran unpack the geopolitical ramifications of the Sri Lankan terror attacks in this podcast in The Diplomat. [21:31]

Happymon Jacob and Abhijeet Singh examine the Indo-Pacific and Quad debate in light of recent events in an episode of National Security Conversations with Happymon Jacob. [40:20]


Sydney, 30 April, 6–7.30 pm, Australian Institute of International Affairs, ‘Empire of the winds: the global role of Asia’s great archipelago’. Register here.

Canberra, 30 April, 6–7 pm, Australian National University, ‘In conversation with Troy Bramston’. Register here.

Melbourne, 1 May, 6–7.30 pm, Australian Institute of International Affairs, ‘Cuban missile crisis 2.0?’ Register here.