ASPI suggests

The world

Bushfires continued to devastate the east coast of Australia this week; four deaths have been recorded so far and more than 250 homes have been lost in New South Wales. The extent to which climate change helped generate the unprecedented conflagrations sparked a strong debate between government spokespeople and Green politicians.

Writing for the New York Times, Brad Plumer looks at the five biggest trends shaping our response to climate change, including the fact that renewables will soon overtake coal as the leading source of energy. With the US’s formal withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, what hope does it now have of succeeding? See The Conversation for the answers. Vox has a disturbing piece explaining that climate change will affect ‘every single stage’ of a child’s life due to the increased spread of disease, air pollution and more.

Universities have become the front line for clashes between police and protestors in Hong Kong this week. Barricades have been erected on campuses across the city to prevent police from entering, and volleys of tear gas and gasoline bombs have been exchanged during confrontations. The New York Times released a photo series providing a powerful insight into how the Hong Kong protests have developed. Looking at the ongoing Hong Kong crisis more broadly, we recommend checking out Keith B. Richburg’s piece which unpacks why Beijing has hesitated to intervene strongly in Hong Kong so far.

A ceasefire between Israel and Islamic Jihad—an Iranian-backed militant group operating in Gaza—has been agreed after the group’s leader, Baha Abu al-Ata, was killed in an Israeli airstrike. It came after Islamic militants in Gaza launched more than 400 rockets in a 48-hour period in retaliation for al-Ata’s death. CNN shows how this latest escalation could benefit Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts to consolidate power after uncertain and inconclusive Israeli general elections this year.

Over in Latin America, the political crisis in Bolivia continues. Evo Morales—who had been in power since 2006—stepped down as president and fled to Mexico after weeks-long protests about his alleged manipulation of the presidential election in October. The Council of Foreign Relations has an excellent explainer on this recent crisis that will quickly get you up to speed. We also recommend reading this piece from Foreign Policy, which looks at the crisis’s impact on the broader Latin American political landscape. Since Morales quit, opposition leader Jeanine Anez has declared herself interim president, despite her failure to secure the parliamentary quorum required for her elevation to take effect.

New research has revealed that up to 4.8 million unauthorised immigrants were living in Europe in 2017. That may sound like a lot, but it’s actually just over 0.6% of the continent’s total population. With this number in mind, the Pew Research Center compares unauthorised immigration in Europe to the situation in the US, including numbers and demographics. While illegal immigration is a contentious issue around the globe, Foreign Affairs has put forward the argument that the problem isn’t that there are ‘too many, but too few’ given the expected population decline in many developed countries.

For some extra reads, the ABC has the latest on the impeachment case against President Donald Trump and what to expect next. On the topic of Trump, here’s a great explainer on the current situation between Turkey and the US by the International Institute of Strategic Studies. The Texas National Security Review has a great piece on ‘thinking in space’ and the role of geography in national-security decision-making. Finally, Rebecca Hersman and Suzanne Claeys, writing for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, offer some advice on how to stop the spread and use of chemical weapons.

Tech geek

Hypersonic aircraft are a bit closer thanks to progress being made by the UK’s Reaction Engines in its development of SABRE (short for ‘Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine’). Last week it tested a ‘precooler’ at airflow temperatures representing Mach 5. The component brings the temperature of the air entering an engine down to a level that makes it easier to get to Mach 5 and above.

There’s an interesting report out from the Aerospace Corporation on ‘Defending spacecraft in the cyber domain’ highlighting the threat of cyberattack on satellites as a new and potentially challenging element of space support. And Popular Mechanics looks at how the X-37B space plane could one day become the ‘orbital wingman’ to future fighter pilots.

A new show on Apple TV+, For all mankind, looks at an alternative history of the US Apollo program if the Soviets had beaten the US to the moon. Tech geek recommends it as well as this interesting article on a proposed US military base on the moon.

The Pentagon may be about to test a new intermediate-range ballistic missile in coming weeks, and, at the other extreme, the US Air Force is testing a wooden glider to autonomously resupply troops on the ground.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies released a brief on the new ‘Digital Century Series’ that represents a radical departure from the approach used in the F-35 fighter aircraft, emphasising rapid development and innovation over very short timelines, and with a willingness to accept failure.

This week in history

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, Remembrance Day commemorates the time when the guns fell silent on the Western Front in 1918. More than 60,000 Australians, or 1.2% of Australia’s total population, died in World War I. Also, 30 years ago this week in 1989, the citizens of Berlin took to the streets with hammers and chisels to begin tearing down the Berlin Wall. See Time for more information, including two famous speeches made in Berlin by presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan.


See this photo series in the Sydney Morning Herald from Tuesday of the devastating bushfires in New South Wales.

The Macedonians, the Romans, the Mongols and now America? Will the US be the next great empire to fall? See The Atlantic for the answers. [4:31]


The Lowy Institute this week discusses what happened throughout October in Syria, including the US withdrawal and the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. [33:04]

For the latest on geopolitics in the Indo-Pacific and how ‘dark money’ is affecting the economy and democracy in the region, jump onto the Chatham House podcast. [49:33]


Last chance to purchase tickets to ASPI’s Space Policy Masterclass being held on 3 December in Canberra. More information here.

Sydney, 21–22 November, 9 am – 5 pm, University of Sydney: ‘Environmental disasters symposium’. Register here.