ASPI Suggests

It’s women all the way in this week’s Suggests. First we bring you the matriarch of 24-hour news Christiane Amanpour speaking to former CIA analyst Jung Pak, who explains why recent announcements by Kim Jong-un about engaging in talks with South Korea and the US should be treated with care. The Economist similarly sounds a note of caution.

European politics remain troubling. After a tense six months, Angela Merkel breathed a sigh of relief after securing her fourth term as Chancellor. In Italy, after championing a stellar digital campaign, Beppe Grillo’s populist Five Star Movement topped the voting in last week’s election. Carnegie explains how German and Italian politics affect broader European strategic issues, and The Atlantic offers a tight analysis of Italy’s polarised political environment. An interesting piece from the New York Review of Books discusses collective memory and identity in Poland in light of the controversial law that was passed, which criminalises accusations of Polish complicity in the Holocaust.

Moving on to some excellent pieces about global migration challenges. Politico examines the contentious court case against a Syrian man convicted and jailed for terrorism in Hungary, emblematic of Viktor Orbán’s well-known anti-migrant agenda. A long feature in Der Spiegel illustrates the struggles and hopes of child refugees in Germany over the past two years. To accompany that, a special feature from Reuters visually tells the tales of hardship of travellers fleeing Venezuela towards Chile.

The New York Times discusses Gary Cohn’s resignation as President Trump’s economic advisor. His exit was provoked by Trump’s announcements on steel and trade tariffs, which two Vox articles look at from different perspectives—here and here. The BBC explains the EU’s reaction, featuring a short clip with Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Trade, while Foreign Affairs explains how a trade war and collapse of the WTO would impact developing countries.

It’s been a thorny week for spooks. The New Yorker has a long, in-depth exposé on former British spy Christopher Steele, the man behind the Russia-Trump dossier that triggered the Muller investigation. If that challenges your attention span, watch this short CNN interview with the author. Meanwhile, (unverified) claims have surfaced that Steele allegedly had links to the Russian double agent, Sergei Skripal who was poisoned with an undisclosed nerve agent in the UK last weekend. Watch this space.

Although #Metoo may not be making headlines anymore, the movement remains relevant and important to women across the world. Russia’s independent media outlet Meduza has analysed the legal recourse available to women who have made sexual harassment claims, while Vanity Fair discusses why the movement has gained far less traction in the finance industry than within the arts or politics.

For those interested in terrorism and violent extremism, ETH Zurich’s Center for Security Studies has just released a new research paper concentrating on the returning foreign fighter threat across North Africa. Additionally, The UN’s Counter Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate has also released its first research digest (featuring both men and women) of top reads on related foreign fighter challenges.

The New York Time’s obituaries have been ‘dominated by white men’. To partially address the imbalance, this week it published obituaries for 15 remarkable women. And here’s a piece by the World Economic Forum on five women who have made history in their own way.

Tech Geek

In celebration of International Women’s Day, we’re highlighting the valuable work that women do in what traditionally in the past has been a male dominated arena of defence technology.

Probably one of the most innovative projects is occurring right here in Australia. Fleet Space, led by CEO Flavia Tata Nardini, is building a space-based information ‘backplane based around hundreds of nanosatellites to connect billions of terrestrial devices in the ‘internet of things’. It’s essentially a digital nervous system for the planet—in space.

The influential CEO of Lockheed Martin, Marillyn Hewson, is playing a key role in shaping America’s future role in space as it relates to national security and maintaining US commercial lead in orbit.

Going back a few years, the first woman to become a US Navy Admiral, ADM Grace Murray Hopper, was also a leader in computing. Here are some lessons from the Navy’s ‘queen of code’ that resonate today for women following in her footsteps.

Female fighter pilots are now commonplace, but it didn’t use to be that way. Lt Col. Christine Mau (USAF) was the first female pilot to fly the F-35. Here’s an interesting article on her experiences. China has female fighter pilots in its air force, and Australia is gradually catching up as well.

Not quite ‘defence’ (we hope), but here’s a list of the key women involved in the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence (SETI) in 2016. Jill Tarter in particular is notable for her achievements, as well as being the inspiration for Elle Arroway in Carl Sagan’s novel 1985 novel Contact.


Conectifai’ – Cuban director Zoe Garcia captures how people have learnt to use technology in a public hotspot in Havana for The Guardian. [10:36] 

Should trans women be allowed to use women-only services? The BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire discusses trans-rights in the UK [15:19]


In this CSIS Smart Women, Smart Power podcast episode, Afghanistan’s deputy foreign minister for economic cooperation, Adela Raz, and deputy minister for policy in the ministry of finance, Naheed Sarabi, talk about security challenges, opportunities and reform efforts, and the role of women in their country, including their own experiences and career paths. [28:58]

The latest episode of Bombshell (from the folks over at War on the Rocks) discusses military strategy, the Syrian civil war, Russian nukes and more. If you want to skip the social and pop culture references, start listening at 04:42. [30:00]


 Canberra, 13 March, 6-7 pm, ANU National Security College: ‘Japan’s evolving security role in the Indo-Pacific’. Info here.

Canberra, 14 March, 1-5 pm, Department of the Prime Minister & Cabinet: ‘Open Government Australia national action plan consultation’. More info and also other locations here.

Canberra, 14 March 2018, 5:30-7:30: How big is the problem of violence against women? Professor Sally Engle Merry from NYU speaks at the ANU’s College of Asia and the Pacific. Details here.