ASPI suggests
12 Jul 2019| and

The world

The White House has announced a US$2.2 billion arms deal with Taiwan. Congress has 30 days to nix the agreement, though that’s an unlikely outcome. Vox has the latest details on the deal, which includes over 100 main battle tanks, and the reaction from China. Unsurprisingly, it wants the US to cancel the deal. The Japan Times puts forward the argument that the agreement has more symbolic than strategic value. And The Atlantic illustrates Taiwan’s absurd status as the self-proclaimed government of China, despite that claim not being recognised by its most important ally and its biggest security threat coming from territory it claims as its own.

Staying in Asia, Pacific Forum gives an overview of five scenarios for the future of the region. The predictions range from a perhaps overly optimistic view of the future Asia as the world’s economic centre as a result of China–Japan rapprochement, to what sadly seems to be a more realistic ‘angry Asia’ of simmering tensions and, ultimately, a major arms race. There are many options in between, though, so choose your poison.

Britain continues to suffer both politically and economically as yet another Brexit deadline looms. Economic growth across major manufacturing nations in Europe continues to slow and Britain is more vulnerable than others, according to the Financial Times. This isn’t helped by Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono announcing that many of the 1,000 Japanese businesses in Britain may be forced to move to Europe if a Brexit deal isn’t achieved. See Chatham House for details.

The ‘special relationship’ some in the UK hold out as hope for a post-Brexit economic revival is also under strain. The UK ambassador in Washington, Sir Kim Darroch, has resigned after the leaking of dispatches he penned that label the current White House as ‘dysfunctional’. US President Donald Trump responded in typical style, labelling Darroch a ‘very stupid guy’. The Australian outlines how the spat could affect a US–UK trade deal, while The Atlantic analyses the challenges faced by Britain over the leaked documents. And as the strategic environment around the globe continues to deteriorate, the International Institute of Strategic Studies brings you an address by Defence Minister Linda Reynolds, who discusses the future of UK–Australian relations.

Hybrid warfare takes on many forms and many names. For a brief explainer on what hybrid warfare, or the grey zone, means, check out this article in The Conversation. For how the rise of hybrid warfare impacts Australia’s special forces and their changing overall role, see Defence Connect. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has an article claiming that focusing on Russia’s hybrid warfare misses the bigger picture—that its military power, including its nuclear capabilities, underpins any grey-zone operations. And the Center for Strategic and International Studies has released a report looking at how the US can best prepare for and respond to grey-zone operations.

Tech geek

Getting straight to the heart of the matter, researchers in the US have developed a laser device that can pick up your heartbeat from 200 metres away. Your cardiac signature is unique and the new device can detect it through clothing. And who wants the technology? Well, US special forces requested it.

Another US special forces request has recently been fulfilled, with the US Air Force’s AC-130J Ghostrider gunships flying their first combat missions over Afghanistan last month. The heavily armed version of the C-130J Super Hercules can loiter over combat zones and provide support to troops on the ground with its 105-millimetre howitzer, 30-millimetre cannon and precision-guided missiles and bombs. The Ghostriders will replace AC-130U Spooky IIs, the last US platform to use the World War II–era 40-millimetre Bofors gun.

There have been some major developments underwater this week. First, a Russian naval officer said the 14 sailors who died in a fire on board a Russian nuclear submarine ‘prevented a catastrophe of a global scale’. There are now reports that the fire was caused by a retro-fitted lithium battery.

The potential use of lithium-ion batteries in Australia’s next generation of submarines has been discussed in detail in two recent Strategist pieces.

A Russian submarine that sank in 1989 is leaking radioactive caesium at a rate up to 800,000 times the normal level. It’s not clear if the leak is coming from the Soviet sub’s reactor or its two nuclear-tipped torpedoes, but apparently it poses ‘no risk to people or fish’.

Finally in this ‘sub’standard edition of tech geek, see here for gripping video of US Coast Guard personnel boarding a narco-sub in the Pacific. Produced by cartels to transport drugs from Central and South America to the US, these submersible and semi-submersible vessels have an interesting history. For a deep dive on the history and evolution of narco-subs, take a look at this piece.

This week in history

This week in 1997, NATO opened its doors to former Warsaw Pact members Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. At the time, it was the single biggest expansion of the organisation in its history. Also this week in 1940, the Battle of Britain began. See the Imperial War Museum for the eight things you need to know about the momentous battle.


This Inside Story by Al Jazeera focuses on the relationship between Georgia and Russia, and what can be done to cool rising tensions. [26:00]

The BBC has a photo series on some of the beautiful new additions to UNESCO’s World Heritage List.


Global Politico looks at how Washington consistently plays the wrong cards against Moscow. [47:13]

For the latest on Japan’s energy security and the role the Middle East plays in it, listen to the latest from CSIS. [22:22]

Check out the second ‘War in 2025’ special episode of ASPI’s Policy, Guns and Money, featuring ‘like wars’, hypersonics and Australia’s future force structure. [45:59]


Melbourne, 17 July, 12.30–1.30 pm, University of Melbourne: ‘Moral injury: applying lessons learned from a military context’. Register here.

Canberra, 18 July, 7–8.30 pm, Australian National University: ‘Space: past, present and future’. Tickets here.

Tickets are now on sale for ASPI’s not-to-be-missed State of the Region 2019 Masterclass. More information here.