ASPI suggests

The world

Let’s dive right into world politics and get the Helsinki meeting out of the way: Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin’s long-anticipated get-together was the talk of the week. It seems they had a jolly good time despite Putin making Trump wait, as is his wont. The press conference created a stir when Trump supported Putin’s denial of Russian election meddling. Here are the Brookings experts’ feelings post-Helsinki. In a European Council on Foreign Relations article, Kadri Liik provides a European perspective on the meeting, asking whether Russia really won and Europe lost in Helsinki. For Elena Chernenko, the answer is clear: in the New York Times she argues that Putin ended up on top. And Alexander Gabuev explains in The Hill why sanctions might be more of a blessing to the Kremlin than troubles.

Meanwhile, AP reported that a collection of bots and trolls is yet again ‘testing the waters’ in the run-up to the American midterm elections later this year; they’ve already launched a website called USAReally. Maybe the US authorities (and others) should read this CSIS Brief explaining how to successfully counter electoral interference.

Oh, and one more on Russian influence: the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project shows how a former Russian parliamentarian partly financed recent riots in Macedonia against a name-change deal with Greece that opened the door to NATO membership for Macedonia.

Jumping over to the Asia–Pacific: In the Wall Street Journal, Lynn Kuok argues that China will succeed in the South China Sea if the White House doesn’t step up its efforts. Beijing and Washington’s relationship is also the centre of attention in The National Interest, where Lyle J. Goldstein draws comparisons between the Cuban missile crisis and possible scenarios on Taiwan, calling for American analysts to better understand the military balance in the Pacific. And Foreign Affairs concentrates on Japan and the East China Sea: Eric Heginbotham and Richard Samuels urge Tokyo to rethink its military strategy for practising ‘active denial’.

Speaking of strategy, a recent essay in Strategy Bridge revisits the roots of modern military education (cue: Prussia), while Robert H. Latiff, a former US Air Force major general, writes about ethical challenges for soldiers in modern warfare in the New York Times. And in the New York Times Magazine we found this insightful analysis of war graffiti and its meaning in the culture of war.

Rounding things up with two fascinating reads: The American Interest’s long essay on the connection between fear, societal insecurities and terrorism; and The Conversation highlighting the importance of indigenous people in the global conservation and sustainable development debate, as they manage around a quarter of the world’s land.

 Tech geek

There have been some big developments in the fighter aviation sector at the Farnborough International Airshow, so tech geek has an air power focus this week.

The big news was the release of a full-scale mock-up of the new Tempest fighter, which will be developed by the British with European partners. Tempest is designed to replace the Eurofighter Typhoon by 2035. It is designated a sixth-generation fighter, as it is set to be optionally manned and have the ability to support AI and directed-energy weapons.

The fighter model was displayed at the same time as the Royal Air Force released its new combat air strategy.

Germany and France are moving ahead with their own sixth-generation fighter, and Northrop Grumman has joined the competition to provide what could be a ‘5.5’ or sixth-generation fighter for Japan, challenging a Lockheed Martin proposal for an F-22/F-35 hybrid.

Meanwhile, the Russians have put large-scale production of their Su-57 (formerly ‘PAK-FA’) on ice. Moscow will continue to produce small numbers of the jet, but will rely more heavily on enhancing the very capable Su-35 Super Flanker.

Boeing is pitching an advanced F-15 to the US Air Force. The F-15X would have enhanced avionics and radars and carry more than two dozen air-to-air missiles. This follows the lead of the Block III Super Hornet, which has been bought by the US Navy.

Finally, the XQ-58A Valkyrie built by Kratos is set to be used as a test vehicle for the ‘loyal wingman’ concept. This could see manned fighters supported by unmanned vehicles, which enhance the combat capability of air forces at a reduced cost compared to additional manned fighter aircraft.


Reuters photographer Oswaldo Rivas captured the violent clashes between anti-government demonstrators and Nicaragua’s special forces last week.

Nelson Mandela would have celebrated his 100th birthday this week. A DW documentary honours his legacy with a very personal portrait. [42:25]


In its latest Audio Long Reads, the Guardian looks at the collapse and failure of the Iraq Historic Allegations Team, which was established to investigate alleged war crimes committed by British soldiers against Iraqi civilians, and how the public discourse on such investigations has changed over the last decade. [42:03; strong language]

The Defence Science and Technology podcast dissects the Next Generation Technologies Fund, especially the grand challenge program. Alison Caldwell hosts Shane Canney, who’s the inaugural project director of the first grand challenge, countering improvised threats. [6:26]

Arms Control Wonk talks about Chollima (Kangson), North Korea’s enrichment site, which the podcasters have (probably) found after a long investigation. [40:48]


Sydney, 24 July, 12–1 pm, UNSW Grand Challenges program: ‘Hysteria or hazard? Big data and what the UN thinks about your privacy’. Free registration essential.

Canberra, 25 July, 6.15–8.15 pm, Young Australians in International Affairs: ‘The South China Sea: a challenge to international law’. More info here.

Brisbane, 26 July, 1–4 pm, QUT Faculty of Law: ‘The Australia–European Union free trade agreement and Brexit’. Free registration.

Canberra, 26 July, 4.15–5.15 pm, ANU College of Law: ‘New respect for old rules: turning traditional rules of warfare into modern law in PNG’s highlands’. Info and registration here.