ASPI suggests

The world

As exit polls predict a big victory for the Conservatives in the British general election, read this Washington Post piece that captures the mood of the average British voter. This BBC article explains the significance of the election in the context of Brexit and where the two major parties stand on one of the most consequential decisions in modern British history.

A trove of previously confidential documents on the US campaign in Afghanistan have been obtained by the Washington Post. The documents reveal that senior US leaders and officials lied to the public about the progress of what they knew was an unwinnable war. Foreign Policy has an article illustrating the difficulties faced by Afghan civilians in an increasingly violent conflict—not between the US and the Taliban, but between themselves. There’s some speculation that peace talks may be revived, however, with the Atlantic Council depicting the current situation and offering advice on how peace may be achieved. For a longer read on the history and prospects of progress in the Middle East, the Carnegie Endowment has a piece by former US deputy secretary of state William Burns.

The Indian parliament’s passing of a controversial citizenship amendment bill has caused quite a stir, both within the country and across the subcontinent. This New York Times article lays out the context. The legislation, if enacted, will narrow the gap between secular India and theocratic Pakistan, as Barkha Dutta argues. This piece on The India Forum delves into what the bill and the proposed creation of a register of citizens would mean for India’s national identity. Finally, listen to Shekhar Gupta dissect how the citizenship bill and national register threaten to damage New Delhi’s regional interests.

On a related note, this article in The Hindu critiques the ‘presentism’ of Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar’s most recent speech. Ramesh Thakur, writing in The Strategist, argues that Jaishankar’s defence of India’s decision to walk away from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership failed the test of realism. And Nilanthi Samaranayake’s deep dive into Sri Lankan foreign policy under the new Rajapaksa government in East Asia Forum makes for a compelling read.

Moving on to the South Pacific, this article in The Guardian provides an interesting insight into Solomon Islands’ decision to switch diplomatic allegiance from Taiwan to the People’s Republic of China. The Weekend Australian, meanwhile, took an in-depth look at Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s inner-most coterie of ministers, bureaucrats and advisers to divulge the most influential players in Canberra.

As debate surrounding the links between climate change and the bushfires burning in New South Wales and Queensland continues, this ABC article looks at the possibility that adapting to a new reality could become a security issue. The Climate Change Performance Index, which measures the climate-protection performance of 61 nations that contribute 90% of global emissions, has ranked Australia at 56th overall and, with a score of 0.0, dead last in terms of climate policy. Writing for The Strategist, Peter Layton argues that the Australian Defence Force should be more involved in addressing the domestic impacts of climate change. The New Zealand Defence Force has released its own climate change ‘implementation’ plan. And Foreign Affairs argues we must now adapt or perish as the compounding effects of climate change make the planet increasingly inhospitable.

For some extra reading, Carnegie Moscow Center examines how close the Russo-China military relationship really is following revelations that Russia will be helping China build a missile early warning system. Speaking of Russia, RAND Corporation has released a report looking into its grey-zone tactics and the West’s response to them. And finally, Al Jazeera has the full transcript of Aung San Suu Kyi’s address to the International Court of Justice regarding the genocide allegations levelled at Myanmar.

Tech geek

Yesterday, defence force chief General Angus Campbell launched ASPI’s case study on the Bushmaster protected mobility vehicle. Written by Brendan Nicholson, the book offers detailed insights into not just the development of the Bushmaster itself, but the complexities of defence acquisitions in Australia more generally.

ASPI’s Marcus Hellyer launched a report this week that calls for the ADF to increase its investment in autonomous systems. Hellyer makes several key recommendations which include keeping the Tiger armed reconnaissance helicopter in service until at least 2030 and establishing a funding line of $1 billion over the next decade to support the acquisition of unmanned autonomous systems.

Wired has published a short article which explores the US Air Force’s interest in 3D printing to maintain its ageing fleet of aircraft. As maintenance costs continue to increase, 3D printing is emerging as a possible solution to keep planes in the air. The USAF has organised a competition to see whether 3D printers can be used to make carbon fibre, circuit boards and composites.

The US military has conducted its first test of a non-nuclear-capable ballistic missile since it withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in August.

This week in history

Just before 8 am on a date that has lived on in infamy, 7 December 1941, Japan launched a surprise aerial assault on the US naval base at Pearl Harbor. More than 2,400 Americans died in the attack, although the absence of all three of the US Pacific Fleet’s aircraft carriers from the harbour and Japan’s failure to target infrastructure and supplies inland severely reduced the impact of the assault. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan the following day. See the hand-written edits FDR made to what became one of the historic addresses of the 20th century here.


Al Jazeera’s The Big Picture looks at ‘the China complex’ and shows how ancient Chinese culture can help explain the problems of modern China. [48:53]

Reuters has collated a photo series depicting the year in US politics.


Listen to the latest podcast from the International Institute for Strategic Studies for a panel discussion on the political geography of the Middle East and the challenges the region is facing. [27:33]

The Diplomat discusses what has changed in Asian geopolitics over the past 12 months. [21:20]


Melbourne, 16 December, 5.30–6.30 pm, University of Melbourne: ‘The Australian paradox—smart, resilient cities in a rich but simple economy?’ Register here.

Canberra, 17–18 December, Australian National University: ‘International conference on China and the world’. Tickets here.