ASPI suggests

The world

The world lost another one of its greats this week. Kofi Annan passed away after a short illness. Ramesh Thakur looks back at the former UN secretary-general and Nobel Peace Prize laureate’s achievements, but also at the dark chapters of his tenure. This BBC clip recaps his global career.

On a more positive note, selected Korean families who’d been separated in the war were allowed to briefly reunite. The footage of a 92-year-old woman’s reunion with her 72-year-old son after 68 years apart especially warmed our hearts. The Washington Post has some background on the practice. Which leads us to the question, how powerful is soft power? Graeme Dobell opens the gates with his take on the matter and Foreign Policy’s longer read offers insights into why and how hard power is becoming more influential, again.

Moving on to China, Defense One analyses China’s growing influence throughout Africa. The Economist explains how economic and policy experimentation were quietly accepted after Deng Xiaoping but almost halted under Xi Jinping, and The National Interest looks at how China retains control over its civilian population. War is Boring examines China’s strategy for attaining global superpower status. But that could be easier said than done as its economy continues to slump in the trade war, argues Reuters. Foreign Brief headed into the mountains to get an update on what’s happening with the Doklam standoff between China and India, and John Garnaut explains what Australia is doing to counter China’s ‘campaign of influence’.

With everything happening on our home turf, the ABC’s analysis shows the parallels of hyper-partisanship in Australia and in the US. And in America, all eyes have been on high-level trials: Donald Trump’s ex-campaign manager Paul Manafort was found guilty on eight accounts of fraud; Mimi Rocah and Elie Honig list his options in The Daily Beast. And this Wall Street Journal article explains why Michael Cohen opted for the guilty plea.

Defense One has analysed the impact the US is having on the conflict in Yemen, which suffers from a lack of international attention. Vox outlines the failures of the Pentagon and their ramifications. This spring edition of Insight Turkey discusses whether Saudi Arabia’s brutality is part of a bigger strategy to become a regional power in the Middle East amid its rivalry with Iran.

Meanwhile, the situation in Venezuela keeps deteriorating. These DW pictures and accompanying article show how the currency crisis contributes to the ongoing economic collapse, and why government measures aren’t likely to help. For War on the Rocks, Michael Dempsey runs us through the dysfunctional politics and its repercussions beyond Venezuela’s borders. And drone expert Ulrike Franke revisits the alleged drone attack on President Nicolás Maduro, arguing that we’ll see more drone attacks off the battlefield, particularly by non-state actors, and more terror attacks involving drones.

Finally, New Mandala reviews Women who stay, a new book that discusses the phenomenon of seafaring Filipino men and what happens to the wives they leave behind; Simon Theobald takes an in-depth look at women’s education in Iran; and Briana Flin tells the story of Andy Magdaleno, the only undocumented child in a mixed-legal-status family in the US.

Tech geek

For aficionados of air combat, the Trends in air-to-air combat report published by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments a few years back is worth a read. It argues that over the past hundred years ‘the fundamental goal of air combat has remained constant: leverage superior situational awareness to sneak into firing position, destroy the opposition aircraft, and depart before other enemy aircraft can react’. Or, put another way, the vast majority of kills were against unsuspecting targets. The classic dogfight was always the exception. And the study’s statistical research shows that’s even more the case in contemporary air combat.

The importance of stealth—and defeating it—makes Turkey’s decision to acquire Russia’s advanced S-400 air-defence system very worrying—should the US still allow it to acquire the joint strike fighter. There’s nothing quite like spending billions on the world’s most advanced aircraft only to learn that its key technologies will be revealed to the systems it was designed to defeat! See APSI’s analysis here.

What would Australia do if it managed to get its hands on an S-400? We’d probably take it along with a JSF to the Woomera test range, whose radars and other equipment are currently undergoing a fundamental upgrade to try to map their radar and other electromagnetic profiles as accurately as possible. We’d also use capabilities like those being delivered by Project JP500 Phase 2A to develop and test a range of potential tactics and countermeasures to defeat the S-400. Is there any reason to think Russia won’t be doing that in reverse if it can fly a Turkish JSF off against its S-400?


Fifty years after the Prague Spring, The Atlantic and The Guardian offer photo series capturing the moments when Warsaw Pact states invaded Czechoslovakia to halt liberal reforms.

These aerial pictures show the scale of the Hadj, the annual pilgrimage of observant Muslims to Mecca, which finishes today.

Still trying to wrap your head around Brexit’s impacts on Ireland? Vox has got you covered, including some historical background. [7:17]

And in case you haven’t come across it yet: German broadcaster ZDF has made its six-part Terra X series The story of Europe, hosted by Australian Christopher Clark, available in English. [ca. 50 min each]


Monocle’s The Foreign Desk talks about Miguel Díaz-Canel, Cuba’s new president, how he can advance the country despite the continuing Castro influence in Havana, and the Castro legacy itself. [28:59]

Episode 2 of ASPI’s Policy, Guns and Money jumps into Australia–China relations, our future submarines, Indonesia and more. [34:09]

The Brookings Cafeteria looks at American foreign assistance, China’s influence and ambitions, and ways to support development on the ground. [44:58]


Adelaide, 26 August, 6 pm, European External Action Service: ‘Public lecture: Towards a new relationship with Europe by EU Ambassador Dr Michael Pulch’. More info here.

Canberra, 28 August, 6–8 pm, Australian National University: ‘Technological entanglement and information security’. Register here.

Canberra, 30 August, 11 am – 12.30 pm, UNSW Canberra Research Group on Cyber War and Peace: ‘Data as a military objective’. Information and registration here.

Melbourne, 3 September, 6.45–7.45 pm, University of Melbourne: ‘Why and how the Soviet Union won the Second World War in Europe’. Register here.