ASPI suggests
8 Jun 2018| and

The world

First up this week, an unusual coalition of far-right and anti-establishment parties has been sworn into office in Italy. For a comprehensive understanding of how social media propelled the populists to the political fore in Italy, check out this research paper from UK think tank Demos, as well as this solid read from Brookings on the rising wave of European populism, which explains why the centre-left has struggled at the hands of the radicals.

Casting an eye across the channel, the rose-tinted world of renewed British sovereignty may be clouding slightly as a new poll measuring attitudes towards Brexit and trade negotiations suggests that economic strength is now considered more important than independence. Carnegie notes that a majority of working-age people in Great Britain would prefer that Britain become a ‘vassal state’ rather than see its prosperity diminished.

From gloomy political prospects to the tenebrous lives of transgender people in Turkey: The New York Review of Books discusses the legislative, political and practical perils faced by the transgender community in Turkey.

What strategies do political leaders implement to ensure they successfully play the long-game? As we approach the most anticipated meeting of 2018—for international relations wonks, as well as NBA fans perhaps?—the BBC shines a spotlight on Kim Jong‑un’s savvy diplomatic strategy that unexpectedly catapulted the leader out of isolation. Switching to a completely different approach to international diplomacy, Der Spiegel explores the world through Angela Merkel’s jaded eyes.

After enduring a year of Saudi Arabia’s blockade, Qatar’s foreign minister declared that the tiny kingdom is stronger than ever. Foreign Policy substantiates that claim, arguing that despite intentions to ostracise the kingdom, ‘Qatar has more influence over the West than ever’. In the Maghreb, it appears as though al‑Qaeda’s regional branch may have lost its Berber stronghold in Algeria. Carnegie analyses how the jihadists alienated the local population, which greatly assisted the Algerian army’s counterterrorism campaign.

The Soufan Group’s latest research paper outlines a foreseeable global security crisis resulting from the worsening catastrophe in Yemen. The report analyses the humanitarian crisis, strategic geopolitics and the regional proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Another fine piece and an accompanying policy brief from the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security critically assesses the challenges of deradicalising and rehabilitating women extremists.

China’s encroaching digital police state appears to be even more alarming than an Orwellian paradigm. The Economist’s latest piece emphasises the importance of citizen vigilance and police transparency. A couple of older pieces discussing China’s ‘social credit system’—implemented to rate the trustworthiness of its citizens—read more like an episode of Black Mirror than reality. The first offers a personal account of the author’s experience with various monitoring systems from different tech companies. The second provides more of an overview of the system’s capabilities, the implications for individuals and the role played by the CCP’s penchant for authoritarianism.

Tech geek

The first images of China’s ‘Dark Sword’ unmanned combat air system (UCAS) have emerged. The Dark Sword looks like a large, stealthy Mach 2 strike and air defence platform designed to undertake counter-air, strike and reconnaissance missions. The US, by contrast, seems reticent to invest in UCAS technology like the now-cancelled X-47B UCAS demonstrator. That’s possibly due to cultural resistance within its fighter pilot community, as well as ongoing debate over the ethics of using lethal autonomous weapons—a debate that’s not occurring in China.

Want to know what a military conflict with China in the South China Sea might be like? An article by Kyle Mizokami in The National Interest uses the commercially available simulation software Command: Modern Air and Naval Operations to illustrate strengths and vulnerabilities of real-world naval and air capabilities in a realistic scenario involving US and Chinese forces.

The US Congress passed its National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which on balance looks to be a step forward in revitalising a struggling US military. For an overview, check out this article from the Heritage Foundation.

President Donald Trump recently signed a new space policy directive designed to streamline government engagement with the rapidly growing commercial space sector. And as Australia’s new space agency stands up 1 July, US billionaire Jeff Bezos (Amazon) invited Australia to support the efforts of Blue Origin—which Bezos owns—to put humans on the moon on a permanent basis.


The 10 best podcasts of 2018 so far: check out Esquire’s list, which has something for everyone.

A fascinating episode of The podcast talks to Jamie Bartlett and James Rodgers about Russian information warfare: how Crimean military operations provided the proof-of-concept for post-truth digital communications, the economics of a ‘troll farm’ and how to spot a Russian agent online [48:04]


The Atlantic’s collection of photos from the deadly and devastating eruption of Guatemala’s Fuego volcano capture the human and environmental impact of the tragedy.

The New Yorker has a short interview with Sim Chi Yin, the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize photographer whose video installation explores our relationship with nuclear weapons. Her photos were taken at the border between China and North Korea. [3:30]

Al Jazeera examines the effects of the Gulf Cooperation Council crisis and questions the future of inter-Gulf relations [26:30]

BBC Newsnight’s Evan Davis interviews Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the Iran nuclear deal and the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.


Melbourne, 14 June, 1–2 pm, University of Melbourne, ‘Visions of territory: negotiating the future of the Middle East 1915–1923’, presented by Dr Karin Loevy. Free registration here.

Canberra, 15 June, 8.45 am–4.30 pm, The Australian National University presents a full day symposium, ‘Korea–Australia relations during a time of transition’, featuring the Ambassador of the Republic of Korea, HE Baek‑Soon Lee. Free registration and the full event program here.

Canberra, 25 June 2018, 6–9.30 pm, Dendy Canberra Centre, 148 Bunda Street, Canberra: ASPI and the British High Commission present a special screening of The Death of Stalin. Pre-screening drinks and canapes and post-screening discussion with HE Menna Rawlings, British High Commissioner to Australia, Stephen Loosley, Senior Fellow ASPI, and Peter Jennings, Executive Director ASPI. Buy tickets here.