ASPI suggests

The world

Britain is preparing to settle its ‘divorce bill’ with the European Union. Initial claims from presumptuous Brexiteers that Britain would be saving, not spending, have proved false—in the short term, at least. The potential payout could be as high as £90 billion. It’s a hugely complex and bureaucratic process, but this breakdown from the Times provides a neat summary of some of the terms and conditions.

Putting aside the ever-growing threat of North Korean nuclear war, many eyes remain fixed on China. David Ignatius gives a brief overview of China’s plan to take over the world. The China File has published a series of comments examining the Zimbabwe power transfer from a Chinese perspective. Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi is visiting China, and Obama and Trudeau are also due to visit President Xi. Lastly, The National calls for the Arab world to re-evaluate its relationship with China. Maybe Ignatius is on to something …

Check out The Conversation’s graphic comic strip explaining lone-actor terrorism with RUSI’s Raff Pantucci. It’s creative and informative, unlike the usual media coverage of terrorism, which tends to be pretty sensationalised and overblown.

Support for far-right extremism is becoming uncomfortably mainstream. This week, President Trump felt compelled to take to Twitter to share unverified anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant propaganda originating from Britain First. The organisation gained notoriety in 2016 when British Labour MP Jo Cox was fatally shot and stabbed by neo-Nazi Thomas Mair, who shouted ‘Britain first’ during the attack. Hope Not Hate—an anti-fascist advocacy group—analyses the organisation and the UK’s far-right movement in this report, and the Washington Post discusses the Polish neo-fascist movement.

An interesting report from the Center for European Policy Analysis examines how Russia has ‘weaponized information’. Maria A. Ressa explores the Philippines’ experience with propaganda techniques (part 1 of 3) and how this rhetoric can be challenged. This fascinating piece demonstrates how Nazi propagandists packaged Adolf Hitler to attract uncommitted voters by associating him with nature and sport.

Incidents of sexual harassment traverse a spectrum of professions and industries. Recently, 223 women in US national security roles signed an open letter saying that sexual harassment and discrimination are rampant in the US national security community. The Atlantic examines how Congress should deal with the current mess, in light of a sea of recent allegations and a 2016 survey highlighting deep-seated misconduct on the Hill. The Guardian picks Susan Sarandon’s brain in another worthwhile long read on sexism, power and politics from LA to DC, including her hesitancy about Hillary Clinton.

New research published by UK think tank Demos explores public attitudes to technology. Although the results confirm that most people see tech as an opportunity rather than a threat, there are concerns that the benefits won’t be shared equally. On the other hand, this piece from Hive explores the fantasy of a post–social media age and a potentially transitional obsession that could see us abandoning these platforms in the not so distant future.

Tech geek of the week

We’re focusing on air tech this week. The coolest item on our watch list is a rocket mini-drone designed to act as a decoy for combat aircraft that launch it. Called Firefly, it flies at Mach 0.8 to keep pace with the fighter. The drone is small—6.5 cm wide and 43 cm long—and is propelled by a rocket engine that keeps it flying for up to five minutes. It’s also equipped with a pop-out wing.

The OA-X program in the US is looking at turboprop-driven fixed-wing aircraft for close air support, armed reconnaissance, and support for combat search and rescue missions. The project is getting some significant opposition from those who argue that fast jets or attack helicopters are the answer. Others have a different perspective.

The US is finally getting serious about new long-range air-to-air missiles under the ‘Long-range Engagement Weapon’ program. Russia’s and China’s progress on very long-range air-to-air weapons is already allowing them to ‘outstick’ the US in the beyond-visual-range air-to-air battle. And with US stealth technology challenged by counter-stealth sensors and potentially quantum technologies, it’s important that the US quickly close any operational gap.

The future of stealth may influence Japan’s plans for its F-3 fifth-generation fighter. Decisions about the acquisition of the F-3 have been delayed, primarily because of competing needs to address urgent missile defence requirements. However, Japan would be wise to wait rather than invest in a capability whose effectiveness might be quickly eroded.


Admiral Sir Philip Jones KCB ADC, First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff, Royal Navy, spoke on the lessons of the Gallipoli campaign and its significance in the planning of future combined operations.

This animated video from WTTW is about the project to reverse the flow of the Chicago River.

Here is the footage of the North Korean defector making his daring escape across the Korean border.


Intelligence Matters: Michael Morell interviews Philip Gordon on the brewing crisis in the Middle East and the direct implications of actions on the ground for national security in the US.

Guardian Books: Richard Lea discusses the AI revolution with physicist and AI campaigner Max Tegmark and science fiction writer Ken MacLeod.

The Dead Prussian: Mick Cook interviews Sir Lawrence Freedman of Kings College London on the future of war.


Canberra, 5 December, 1530, Australian Institute of International Affairs: 2017 foreign policy white paper briefing with AIIA National President Allan Gyngell and ANU Professor John Blaxland. Tickets here.

Canberra, 7 December, 1730, ANU College of Law: The Annual Korby Lecture on International Law. Register here.

Canberra, 8 December, 1215, Australian Centre on China in the World: In conversation with Joe Hockey. Register here.