ASPI suggests
3 Mar 2017| and

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Trump administration’s 6th week saw yet another unfortunate Russia-related story bubble up. (Will it bubble over?) So we’ll take our cue from the news cycle and bypass the President’s speech to Congress—we hear he didn’t pivot—in order to move onto some choice Russia picks. First, there’s no going past this whopper in the pages of The New Yorker, which combines the supreme powers of three fine writers (including editor and Russia hand, David Remnick) to talk election meddling and where to next for US-Russia ties. (A classic New Yorker cover, too.) Jonathan Stray’s fantastic blog on persuasion, power and propaganda (examples: Russia, China, Milo Yiannopoulos, others) is well worth setting some time aside for. What might 2017 portend for Putin in Syria? This piece over at Lawfare has a crack. And here, Masha Gessen paints a disturbing picture of opposition politics in Russia, published in the lead up to the 12th anniversary of Boris Nemtsov’s murder.

Bookworms, rejoice! Admiral John Richardson, the current Chief of Naval Operations for the US Navy, this week released his reading list for 2017. There’s a few dozen titles that made the grade, so we suggest y’all get a move on if you’re going to be done in time for the 2018 release…

You might recall that Rosa Brooks’ new book, How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything: Tales from the Pentagon, got a few mentions in this spot at the tailend of last year. Brooks concludes that we increasingly occupy the middle ground between states of war and peace, and hoists in as her main example America’s use of armed drones to take it to terrorists in foreign lands. In a strong piece penned for the NYRB, Human Rights Watch chief Kenneth Roth reflects on Brooks’ contribution and judges that we must again delineate between war and peace. ‘Preventing the rules of war from infecting views of moral conduct in times of peace is essential for preserving civilisation.’

Three sobering longreads about the Third Reich have surfaced this week. The first, from Smithsonian magazine, focuses on the story of escapee prisoners in the Ponar forest and the effort that passionate historians put into discovering unmarked mass graves in current day Lithuania. The New York Review of Books takes a slightly different toneexamining the pervasive drug culture among Nazi ranks. And finally, The Paris Review has a fascinating read on the use of the Rorschach Test during the Nuremburg trials, particularly that of Hermann Göring, and ends with a dark realisation from the writings of Douglas Kelley, author of The Rorschach Technique:

‘The Nazis were, he wrote, “not spectacular types, not personalities such as appear only once in a century,” but simply “strong, dominant, aggressive, egocentric personalities” who had been given “the opportunity to seize power.” Men like Göring “are not rare. They can be found anywhere in the country—behind big desks deciding big affairs as businessmen, politicians, and racketeers.”’

In our populism pick of the week, The Atlantic looks at The Donald’s transformation from your (almost) average White House contender into self-styled Populist Plenipotentiary. The author points the finger at Chief Strategist Steve Bannon as the root of the problem.

Two new reports focus on our near neighbourhood this week. The first, from the National Bureau of Asian Research, assesses the strategic outlook for the US–Thai alliance considering the halt of military relations after the installation of a military junta in 2014, and asks whether Bangkok is slowly drifting towards Beijing as a result. The second, from Tokyo’s National Institute for Defense Studies, holds a microscope to the China–Taiwan relationship (PDF). Over at Carnegie’s Middle East Center, a new report looks to eastern Syria’s tribal communities, and how they’ll impact upon developments in the west. And finally, CSIS has asked a handful of prominent US strategists to predict the direction and expenditure of Trump’s defense budget.

And finally, voting is now open for Smithsonian magazine’s 14th annual photography competition. Entries are from all over the world, and fall into seven categories: The Natural World, Travel, Sustainable Travel, People, The American Experience, Altered Images and Mobile. Have a browse (and cast your vote) here, or have a gander at some of The Atlantic’s favourite shots here. You’re not going to see any X-Pro II filters here, folks…


If you’re after a brief refresher on the significance of President Joko Widodo’s visit to Australia last weekend and the full restoration of Indonesia–Australia military ties, be sure to check out this little five-minute listen from The Wire. Featuring David Hill and Peter Leahy, it’s a useful primer for anyone interested in the bilateral relationship and the direction of ASEAN in a Trumpian world.


Two of our esteemed ASPI colleagues, Mark Thomson and Andrew Davies, were running around D.C. this week, where they swung by the East-West Center to deliver some sobering home-truths about the strategic outlook in the Asia–Pacific, the shape of Australia’s defence policy and how Canberra is reading the Trump administration. Catch up with their remarks and Q&A (90 mins).

Continuing with the Kremlin headliner, the Council on Foreign Relations was on the ball this week with their excellent panel event, ‘Russia: Rival or Partner, or Both?’ Check out footage of the discussion (73 mins), where experts canvass US policy options ranging from cooperation in Syria to continuation of sanctions.


Canberra: Readers based in our nation’s capital shouldn’t miss the opportunity to hear from Ambassador William Swing, the Director General of the International Organization for Migration, who will be in town on Monday to deliver a public lecture on ‘Orderly Migration in a Disorderly World.’ Check out the details here.

Melbourne: After a stellar effort last week in Sydney, the Cook for Syria campaign is rolling down south to Melbourne on Monday night for another spectacular charity banquet. For a taste of Syrian cuisine straight from the hands of some of Australia’s most talented chefs—and to participate in a truly good cause—buy your seats/tables here.