ASPI suggests

The world

Following its formal withdrawal from the INF Treaty, the US has tested a nuclear-capable medium- range cruise missile. For the details on the launch, see War is Boring. Russia and China have both condemned the launch, as reported by the Financial Times and USNI News in articles outlining the renewed threats of an arms race throughout Europe and Asia. The test also comes as the United States Studies Centre launched a major report on America’s fading military primacy in the Indo-Pacific, reinforced by this War on the Rocks article exploring the myths behind the assumption that the US still holds conventional military dominance. It’s worth asking whether the recent missile test will change these perspectives.

We’re continuing to keep track of the latest developments in Kashmir after India’s revocation of its special status. This article in the Economic Times presents a good overview of the domestic and international considerations driving the thinking behind India’s decision. Ashok Malik’s article in the Hindustan Times unentangling India’s three-pronged diplomatic challenge on Kashmir is well worth your time. For balance, read Ayesha Siddiqa’s article in The Print, which argues that ‘visionary diplomacy’ is Pakistan’s only option on this issue. And while we’re at it, listen to Srinath Raghavan dissect the historical, geopolitical and ideological dimensions of the Kashmir dispute in this episode of The Seen and the Unseen podcast. [2:26:11]

On a related note, Indian defence minister Rajnath Singh’s statement hinting at ambiguity in India’s ‘no first use’ nuclear doctrine created quite a stir this week, especially in South Asia. This explainer by Vipin Narang and Christopher Clary, arguing that India’s nuclear stance has evolved, is useful. Not all India hands agree, however; Manpreet Sethi presents a useful counter in this episode of the States of Anarchy podcast. [55:33]

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced that Australia will send 200 defence force personnel, a frigate and a P-8 Poseidon surveillance aircraft to the Middle East as part of the international effort to stabilise the Strait of Hormuz. ASPI’s Malcolm Davis highlights the reasons behind the deployment and the risks associated with it, including the potential to be drawn into another long and costly conflict far from home. The Age is more scathing, drawing a comparison to Australia’s protracted involvement in Iraq and highlighting declining US power.

Heading south, Lawfare has an interesting read on the lessons learned from the UAE’s involvement in the Saudi-led coalition in the war in Yemen, as well as the dire possibilities should the UAE’s withdrawal leave a power vacuum. And Human Rights Watch has released evidence showing that the Saudi-led coalition has launched at least five attacks on Yemeni fishing vessels since last year, resulting in 47 deaths and the capture of 100 people, who were held and tortured in Saudi Arabia.

For those of you following the debate generated by Hugh White’s provocative book, How to defend Australia ,don’t miss this Strategist piece by ASPI’s Marcus Hellyer, who invokes the classics in his review. Also on The Strategist, Peter Varghese highlights Australian universities’ growing dilemma over their engagement with China, arguing that while such engagement is beneficial, it’s important for universities to adopt a ‘clear-eyed’ approach, so as not to jeopardise our national security.

Here’s one for the archaeologists among you. The mystery of how roughly 500 people died and had their remains scattered around Roopkund Lake in the Indian Himalayas has just become more of mystery with new evidence unearthed in a paper in Nature Communications. And if you’re looking to make sense of US President Donald Trump’s recent tantrum over Greenland, this article in Foreign Policy might provide some answers (we’re not making any promises).

Tech geek

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has announced the second major test of its Offensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics, or OFFSET, program. The project uses groups of autonomous air and ground robots to aid ground teams that have limited mobility and visibility. In the exercise, teams completed tasks that included ‘locating and isolating a mock city hall building, locating and securing an objective inside, and then securing the building—all while maintaining situational awareness of the surrounding area’. Footage from the exercise can be found here.

Russian company Rogozin, infamous for its ‘battle-bot’ video that went viral in April, has announced that it will be sending its latest AI-powered robot into space. The robot, called FEDOR, which stands for ‘Final Experimental Demonstration Object Research’, is finishing up its preparations for its launch to the International Space Station next week. During FEDOR’s two-week stay on the ISS, developers will observe the effects of microgravity on artificially intelligent robots. You can follow FEDOR’s journey alongside its 4,000 fans on Twitter.

Finally, from lasers to facial recognition, this Al Jazeera article explores the role that technology is playing in Hong Kong’ pro-democracy protests.

This week in history

This week in 1945, Indonesia, under the leadership of Sukarno, proclaimed independence from the Netherlands. See here for how Indonesia celebrates the day and some fast facts about the country.


Al Jazeera sits down with the leader of the Pakistani Peoples Party, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who offers his opinions on India’s decision to revoke the special status of Kashmir. [24:00]

As the situation deteriorates in the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua, see The Guardian for shocking photos of the protests there.


The Lowy Institute brings you a panel discussion which is aptly described by the podcast’s title, ‘Making sense of President Trump’s Iran policy’. [1:03.15]

And for a more general look into the latest happenings in international affairs, see Pod Save the World, which covers the collapse of Italy’s government, Chinese propaganda, Russian nuclear explosions and more. [1:08.55]


Brisbane, 27 August, 6–7.30 pm, Australian Institute of International Affairs: ‘Getting down to the business of increasing trade and investment between India and Australia.’ Tickets here ($15).

Canberra, 28 August, 5.30–6.45 pm, Australian National University: ‘Alternative visions for Australia’s future, delivered by the Hon Dr Kevin Rudd.’ Register here.