ASPI suggests

The world

India’s surprise decision to revoke Article 370 from its constitution this week ended the special status enjoyed by the now erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. For a detailed explainer contextualising the recent developments against Kashmir’s history, see the Observer Research Foundation. The Print published two great articles, one arguing that India’s decision was motivated by concerns surrounding US President Donald Trump’s perceived ‘meddling’ in the dispute; the second showing how the dream of conquering Kashmir is entrenched in the Pakistani psyche. Ramesh Thakur argues in The Strategist that New Delhi has bitten off more than it can chew. Foreign Policy is of the view that India is using economic ‘excuses’ to cover for its nationalist project to convert the country into a ‘Hindu nation’. For a quick and objective fact-check, read Christine Fair’s Twitter thread.

For those following the talks between the US and Afghanistan on the so-called peace process, this article in Time lays out exactly what’s happening and the likely future trajectory. This Foreign Policy article shows how the Central Intelligence Agency intends to maintain a presence in Afghanistan after US troops withdraw. Listen to this War on the Rocks podcast for, among other things, a deep assessment of the US war in Afghanistan [46:19].

Across to northern Russia, where a spike in radiation levels has got some worried. The Drive analyses what caused the spike; Russian news is blaming the event on the explosion of liquid propellant that may have been used in a rocket. So, is Russia testing new nuclear weapons? The National Interest seems to think that could be the case, stating that there’s ‘little uncertainty about increasing Russian nuclear capabilities’. And as protests grip Moscow, the Financial Times looks into the impact President Vladimir Putin’s regime is having on the Russian economy.

Following the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, there’s renewed debate (intensified by this viral tweet) on whether a gun buyback scheme would work in the US. The US has more firearms per capita than anywhere else in the world at 120 guns per 100 citizens. The Conversation offers an insightful piece on whether a buyback would work, analysing past attempts to introduce buyback programs in some American cities. See Vox for more on America’s gun problem. Former vice president and contender for the Democratic nomination for the 2020 election, Joe Biden, meanwhile, has called for a federal gun buyback scheme and for assault weapons to be made illegal (about time).

If there’s one thing you read on the Hong Kong protests this week, make sure it’s Michael Shoebridge’s Strategist piece, in which he posits that the crisis is much larger than it appears, and that it opens wider questions on the Chinese Communist Party’s future as an authoritarian government ruling over a ‘multi-ethnic empire’. We also recommend this piece in The Economist, which makes a strong case against any armed intervention in Hong Kong by Beijing.

Across the world, humans are having an increasingly adverse impact on the environment. Al Jazeera investigates the growing illegal transnational timber industry in Cambodia that is destroying wildlife sanctuaries to fuel growing luxury timber demand from China and Vietnam. Brahma Chellaney dives into the environmental impact Chinese-built dams are having on the Mekong basin. In some good news, The Conversation has compiled research that suggests water reserves in Africa are 20 times larger than originally believed and will be much more resilient to climate change than first thought. Closer to home, see The Interpreter for how climate change will increasingly destabilise our region, making Australia’s commitments that much more difficult to maintain. See this ABC interview for a discussion of how nuclear power may be a way for Australia to address climate issues.

Tech geek

The Sierra Nevada Corporation (a contractor for the US military) has developed what it claims is the most powerful aerial surveillance platform ever created. Dubbed ‘Gorgon Stare’, it consists of a series of surveillance balloons that can travel at altitudes of up to 65,000 feet. Gorgon Stare is in its initial testing phase and is being rolled out in South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Missouri and Illinois.

Seemingly out of a science-fiction novel, a group of Romanian engineers have created a fully functioning ‘flying saucer’. The ‘All-Directional Flying Object’ is a proof of concept that has been developed through decades of research. You can watch it in in flight here. Operating much like a quadcopter, four ducted fans and a pair of rear jet engines provide thrust and allow easy manoeuvrability. A pair of lateral thrust nozzles is located on either side of the body to allow for rapid rotation mid-flight. The designers believe the disk will eventually be capable of ‘sudden lateral transitions and sudden yaw’ and ‘smooth transitions during subsonic to supersonic flight’.

Astronomers from the University of Tokyo have discovered 39 formerly ‘invisible’ galaxies. According to the study published in Nature, the discovery challenges our current understanding of early galaxy formation. The finding was made with the help of the Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimeter Array (ALMA), a collection of 66 radio antennas in the Chilean desert.

This week in history

This week in 1945 was the only time nuclear weapons have been used in war. On 6 and 9 August, ‘Little Boy’ and ‘Fat Man’ were dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively. Japan surrendered on 14 August, ending World War II. See Al Jazeera for an explainer on the events as well as a short documentary that examines whether the use of atomic weapons was necessary to win the war.


Reuters has compiled a photo series on North Korea’s missiles, showing launches, stockpiles and, of course, Chairman Kim Jong-un.

For the latest on Brexit, including what’s going on behind the scenes in Brussels, see BBC Newsnight. [10:25]


The National Security Law Podcast discusses right-wing terrorism in America and the need for domestic terrorism to form its own legal category [1:05.58].

Matters of State illustrates the advantages and limitations of the methodology used to forecast and prevent genocide [33:02].


It’s your last chance to purchase tickets for ASPI’s State of the Region Masterclass. It’s being held on 14 August and is an opportunity not to be missed. Tickets sold here.

Canberra, 14 August, 6–7.30 pm, Australian National University: ‘The changing landscape of terror: from 9/11 to right-wing extremism’. Register here.