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CIA National Intelligence Estimates on the Cross-Strait and Sino-Russian Relations

Michael Lambert

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In July 2011, the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) published a declassified National Intelligence Estimate on “Russian-Chinese Relations: Perspectives and Implications” dating back to September 2000. The 45-page report highlights growing concerns in the American intelligence community about the future of Sino-Russian defense and trade cooperation, which could undermine Washington’s Smart Power in Central Asia and the South China Sea. However, the document also underlines the relationship between Russia and China “would not deepen much beyond its current state» and could even be «subject to occasional friction“.

The People’s Republic of China is perceived by the CIA as sceptical of US influence abroad at the moment of the publication of the National Intelligence Estimate (September 2000), the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade (May 7, 1999) becoming the symbol of animosity between the two countries.

Twenty years later, geopolitical tensions remain, as underlined by American support for the protests for greater autonomy in Hong Kong (2019), and Washington’s pressure on Beijing with the accusation of the military origins of Covid-19 (2020).

In 2020, all US attempts to implement Western Soft Power in China — with the exception of Hong Kong and Macao — have had mixed success. Washington’s struggle to establish mutual trust with Beijing is similar to that of Western European countries, and the tormented past and Chinese colonisation by the West is still a contentious issue.

In Western institutions, Chinese recovery of sovereignty goes back to December 20, 1999, with the transfer of Macao from Portugal to the People’s Republic of China. To the Chinese leadership, the inference by Western power is still going on with the US support to Taiwan (sales of US arms) and the Japanese presence around the Diaoyu Dao and its affiliated islands (Japanese Senkaku Islands) backed up by Washington.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, statement by Yang Jiechi in July 2019:

“Taiwan is an inalienable part of Chinese territory. The sale of US arms to Taiwan seriously violates the One China Principle and the three joint China-U.S. communiqués, undermines China’s sovereignty and security interests, and seriously undermines peace and stability across the Strait.”

Ultimately, Beijing’s desire to overtake the United-States (eg. Chinese space program) would be motivated by the post-colonial trauma, the desire to regain control of Taiwan and attempts to gain the respect of former European colonial powers and Washington.

Sino-Russian relations may prove to be better than Sino-American relations. Nevertheless, and as the declassified CIA document of 2000 points out, bilateral cooperations between Moscow and Beijing remain difficult because of the Soviet Union’s Changing Policies on China’s Nuclear Weapons Program (Zhihua Shen and Yafeng Xia. Between Aid and Restriction: The Soviet Union’s Changing Policies on China’s Nuclear Weapons Program, 1954-1960. Asian Perspectives, 2012).

As of today, Beijing is ready to support Moscow because the two countries share the same views on multilateralism. However, Beijing has not shown any support to Russia’s diplomacy in the Black Sea (Crimea, Abkhazia and South-Ossetia) and the Middle East (Syria). To date, China does not recognize the Crimea as part of the Russian Federation, and has rejected offers to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent countries.

This research paper will focus on two reports — CIA National Intelligence Estimate (1999) “China-Taiwan: Prospects for Cross-Strait Relations” and CIA National Intelligence Estimate (2000) “Russian-Chinese Relations : Prospects and Implications” — to explain how the CIA views Beijing-Taiwan and Beijing-Moscow relations in the late 1990s, after the return of Hong Kong (United Kingdom until 1997) and Macao (Portugal until 1999) to the People’s Republic of China.

The analysis will also highlight how the Balkans and the Black Sea conflicts have a direct impact on Chinese diplomacy according to the two declassified intelligence estimates of the CIA.

The CIA National Intelligence Estimate on “China-Taiwan: Prospects for Cross-Strait Relations” (NIE 99-13 – September 1999)

After the return of Hong Kong and Macao to the People’s Republic of China, the United States is the only Western power capable of hindering Chinese territorial ambitions in the South China Sea (Taiwan). CIA reports in the 1990s, unlike those produced earlier by the CIA during the Cold War, attempted to determine whether Taiwan should remain an independent country backed up by Washington or follow the British and Portuguese examples of Hong Kong and Macao.

The CIA’s National Intelligence Estimate “China — Taiwan: Prospects for Cross-Strait Relations” published in September 1999, supposed to cover the evolution in the upcoming 3 years (2000–2003), and declassified in July 2011, answers this question and highlights the scenarii in which China could decide to regain control of Taiwan by military means.

The report has been produced at a critical moment in Sino-American relations because the return of Hong Kong and Macao under Chinese tutelage leaves the United States as the only military power capable of counterbalancing China’s regional ambitions, as Japan and South Korea do not have a nuclear strike force, unlike Great Britain.

Mention should be made of China’s rise to power, which is implied in the report. With the incorporation of Hong Kong and Macao, China has increased its GDP by attaching two bastions of capitalism, thereby weakening the British and Portuguese economy on the one hand and increasing the financial performance of Beijing on the other.

The CIA report also comes at a time when tensions between Washington and Beijing are increasing due to the NATO bombing of the People’s Republic of China embassy in Belgrade (May 7, 1999). The Balkans (Serbia) and the Caucasus (Chechnya) are recurring themes in the NIE on Taiwan, but also in the analysis on Russian-Chinese relations (CIA National Intelligence Estimate “Russian-Chinese Relations: Perspectives and Implications“).

The NIE is relying on complementary analysis conducted by several US institutions, including the following ones mentioned in the beginning:

  • NIE 98-05, “China’s Conventional Military Forces: Current Status and Future Capabilities (1998-2008)”, released in June 1998
  • China’s Strategic Priorities and Behaviour“ supposed to be published later in 1999

The number of specialized reports on Cross-Strait relations underlines the priority for the CIA to increase its expertise on the People’s Republic of China for military and diplomatic reasons in the late 1990s. These reports, which cover a period of three years, also highlight the rapid evolution of Chinese diplomacy and military power after the Cold War.

Beijing’s approach regarding partially recognized states in Asia (Taiwan)

The bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Serbia is considered a key moment in relations between Beijing and Washington, and the CIA National Intelligence Estimate does not mention the voluntary or involuntary nature of the bombing.

CIA director George Tenet testified before a congressional committee that the bombing was the only one in the campaign organized and directed by his agency. According to George Tenet, the CIA had identified the wrong coordinates for a Yugoslav military target on the same street (Tenet George (1999). DCI Statement on the Belgrade Chinese Embassy Bombing House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Open Hearing. Central Intelligence Agency). It is therefore interesting that the NIE does not mention the nature of the bombing. However, a report mentioning the voluntary nature of such an action would probably not have been declassified.

Following the bombing, China’s position vis-à-vis the United States presence in Asia will become even more sceptical and, unlike the United-Kingdom and Portugal, the possibility of negotiating with Washington regarding Taiwan’s future tainted by the bombing in Serbia.

The CIA considers that Beijing has a comfortable position in Asia since the Europeans left Hong Kong and Macao, and believes that “China is convinced that Taiwan will not gain more influence” and that “greater economic interdependence between China and Taiwan will bring the two entities closer together.”

Unlike other de facto states such as Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Europe, which live on economic and military aid from Moscow because Georgia and the West do not want to increase their economic relations with the two territories, Beijing seems to have adopted an innovative strategy regarding Taiwan (also considered to be a de facto states according to the People’s Republic of China’s law). China is thus developing its commercial relations with the Island, hoping to see the two entities move closer together.

Beijing wishes to develop its relations with Taiwan in order to bind a prosperous territory when the time comes (like Hong-Kong and Macao) and to user Soft Power and economic ties instead of Hard Power. That is why Beijing wants to put more pressure on the United States to reduce the sale of arms to Taiwan and focus on economic cooperation.

Moreover, the NIE mentions that Beijing wants to make Hong Kong an instrument of Chinese “One country, two systems” propaganda. In this way, Chinese leadership wants to present the future of Taiwan as similar to the future of Hong Kong, with a commitment to economic prosperity and more freedom compared to Mainland China.

The Chinese approach is presented as slow and gradual. According to the report, China has no deadline for reunification and the certainty Taiwan “will not gain influence in the coming years”. In addition, the CIA claims that China will not engage in a military confrontation with Taiwan as this would be detrimental to its economy and international trade. China’s wish is therefore to impress and frighten Taiwan and the United States.

China’s Smart Power and the United Nations

In order to recover control over Taiwan, Beijing is ready to use a combination of Smart Power and international pressures in international institutions such as the United Nations (UN).

According to the NIE, Beijing suspects that Japan and Taiwan have a secret military agreement. In addition, China is trying to weaken the United States and all states — such as Panama — that have good relations with Taiwan, using all available means to ensure Taiwan will be internationally isolated.

Moreover, the CIA believes the more tension there is between China and the United States, the more Washington will be willing to support the island. In this sense, there is an interest for Taiwan to push for more confrontation between the two superpowers in order to improve the bilateral relationship between Taiwan and Washington.

According to the analysis, if the United States does not show firmness towards Beijing, the possibility of a domino effect is to be feared, and recovering control over Taiwan will then lead to increased pressures from Beijing on Japan and South Korea. In that sense, Taiwan needs to be defended by the United-States in order to contain China’s influence in the whole South-East Asia. Following this reasoning, and according to the CIA analysis, the reunion of Taiwan and China will mark the beginning of the United States’ withdrawal from the Asian continent and further changes for Japan and South-Korea.

Finally, the most singular point of the CIA report on Cross-Strait Relations is that it takes us back to the Balkans several times. Beijing is said to have put pressure on Northern Macedonia (Macedonia before 2019) because of its diplomatic relation with Taiwan. China is said to have vetoed the presence of peacekeepers in North Macedonia at the UN to show Beijing’s power on the European continent, a strong signal sent to several countries that might require UN assistance in the future.

Beijing could thus use the UN and other international institutions to influence the entire Balkans and the Black Sea by recognizing new countries or refusing to recognize them (eg. Abkhazia) and destabilize the European continent.

The CIA analysis thus lays the foundations for the Chinese strategy regarding the non-recognition of Kosovo (de jure a part of Serbia before partial recognition in 2008) to weaken the West, and at the same time the non-recognition of Abkhazia, Transnistria, South Ossetia to weaken Russian, and the non-recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh to weaken Armenia.

Beijing’s policy in Europe regarding de facto and partially recognized states will have consequences for the recognition of Taiwan and vice versa. In this sense, the CIA underlines how international institutions can be used by Beijing to achieve its objectives and how its policy in Europe is related to Taiwan.

The CIA’s Red Lines

These are the scenarii that could prompt Beijing to conduct a direct military attack on Taiwan:

  • Taiwan new referendum on Independence
  • Foreign support for pro-independence forces in Taiwan
  • Taiwan development of nuclear weapons
  • Political instability on the island

Despite this, the CIA believes that China will follow its plan to develop Soft Power in the coming decades, as relations with Russia will bring economic prosperity and military cooperation in order to counterbalance American influence in Asia.

The relationship between Moscow and Washington is not present in the NIE on “China-Taiwan: Prospects for Cross-Strait Relations” and we have to focus on the National Intelligence Estimate on “Russian-Chinese Relations: Perspectives and Implications” to understand how Sino-Russian relations are done in order to diminish the US influence in Taiwan.

A section entitled “What if we were wrong” also shows that the CIA is unsure of future developments, although it does present possible scenarii. Moreover, Washington does not seem to be ready for military intervention (no details in the report) and military support to Taiwan will probably take the form of military equipment only.

Conclusions on the National Intelligence Estimate “China-Taiwan: Prospects for Cross-Strait Relations

In May 2020, the US State Department authorized a possible sale of eighteen MK-48 Mod6 Advanced Technology Heavy Weight Torpedoes and related equipment for an estimated cost of $180 million to Taiwan.

In response to the announcement Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on May 21, 2020, that:

“China is firmly opposed to the US arms sales to Taiwan and has made solemn representations to the US. We urge the US side to strictly abide by the one-China principle and the provisions of the three Sino-US joint communiques, and stop arms sales to Taiwan and military links between the United States and Taiwan to avoid further damage to Sino-US relations and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.”

Some 20 years after the publication of the CIA National Intelligence Estimate report “China-Taiwan: Prospects for Cross-Strait Relations,” the approach between the United-States and China seems to show no significant change. Beijing opposes any US military presence and equipment sales to Taiwan, while the United States is not ready to abandon the island for fear of losing influence in South Korea and Japan.

Another element that emerges from this report is the CIA’s anticipation of China’s diplomacy regarding de facto and partially recognized states in Europe and the influence they have on contemporary Chinese diplomacy at the UN, bilateral relations with Moscow (Crimea, Transnistria, Abkhazia and South-Ossetia), Armenia (Nagorno-Karabakh), and the West (Kosovo).

The report also bears witness to the upcoming ambivalence of relations with Russia, which wants China to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia (de jure independent according to Russia and de jure part of Georgia according to the West).

On reading the CIA report, it is clear that Beijing will not vote in favour of diplomatic recognition of any de facto states in Europe in the late 2000s, forcing it to reopen the debate on the recognition of Taiwan and the application of the Montevideo Convention.

As the CIA shows, relations between China and Taiwan will lead to a debate on the recognition of Kosovo, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and possibly Transnistria and Nagorno-Karabakh. Although apparently focusing on Taiwan-China relations, the report provides multiple references that link Taiwan and Chinese diplomacy to the Balkans and the Caucasus, as evidenced by the reference to the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade and the lack of support for UN Peacekeepers in North Macedonia.

The CIA National Intelligence Estimate on “Russian-Chinese Relations: Perspectives and Implications” (NIE 2000-10C–September 2000)

Alongside reports on Beijing’s growing influence in Asia, the CIA conducted a study on relations between Russia and the Republic of China during the same period (1999-2000). The NIE on “Russian-Chinese Relations: Perspectives and Implications” is partially declassified, and a considerable part of this study remains “top secret” (pages 27-36) to this day.

The early release raises the question of whether it is worthwhile for CIA archivists to provide access to the document in question, especially in view of the classification, which usually includes results that must not be accessible to the public before several decades:

  • The elements of the report that are now accessible are no longer of strategic interest (which is the case for the majority of declassified archives).
  • The CIA report shows that relations between Russia and China are ambiguous, and could lead to a form of discord between the two superpowers.
  • Technological developments (Russian S-400; Chinese J-20) are showing the report no longer covers contemporary military threats.

It seems important to mention that at the time of disclosure (2011), Russia has not yet returned to the international arena and is in the process of losing ground in Central Asia and the Black Sea area. Russia’s comeback goes back the Crisis in Crimea (2014 — nowadays) and the launch of the Eurasian Economic Union (2015).

The CIA could therefore have downgraded a document, like those on the USSR, without envisaging that the latter might have a deeper strategic relevance a decade later in 2020 and that Russia would experience a significant resurgence of influence.

Political Coordination and the fight against American unilateralism

From the very beginning, the NIE on Russia-China relations mentions the next 5 years ‘would not develop in a manner that is threatening to the US and might even stabilize Asia.’ The report adds that the 2000s will see an increase in arms sales between the two countries, particularly of SA-10 and SA-20 (S-300PMU-1/2 (SA-20)) from Russia to China.

Sino-Russian relations, in line with the CIA’s vision, should stagnate and focus on economic cooperation without any further political and military integration. The CIA also claims that the new Russian president, Vladimir Putin, will continue to sell military equipment because the Russian economy would struggle to without China. Beijing should also agree on buying more Russian military equipment because the People’s Liberation Army wants to scare Taiwan with military technology that can compete with that of the United States. According to the report, the Russian approach would be to sell military equipment in the hope that this would lead to the sales of other non-military products to China in the future.

As the NIE shows, Sino-Russian relations should not lead to supranational cooperation:

  • The Kremlin is afraid China could become more powerful economically and militarily and thus threaten Washington’s influence in Asia and Moscow’s influence in Central Asia.
  • China is skeptical regarding Russian policy since the 1950s because of the lack of support from Moscow for the development of an independent Chinese military nuclear programme (Chinese CHIC projects).

However, both countries wish to witness the emergence of a multipolar world and the attitude of American diplomacy in the 1990s has exacerbated tensions because neither Russia nor China seems capable of opposing Washington’s military ambitions. Indeed, Washington’s military power in the 1990s is such that the United States are able to bypass international bodies such as the United Nations.

The CIA therefore openly mentions the reasons for the fears of China and Russia in the 1990s, as these two countries were not able to contain American Smart Power:

  • Russia and China are angry at the American decision to launch air strikes against Baghdad (December 1998). France, Russia and China opposed such military intervention at the UN without any results.
  • Suspicion of NATO’s revised strategic concept of April 1999, which expands the geographic scope and justifications for the use of force.
  • Outrage at the US approach to the Balkan crisis from March to June 1999 and the accidental bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in May 1999.

Contrary to the CIA’s National Intelligence Estimate (1999) “China-Taiwan: Prospects for Cross-Strait Relations,” the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade is mentioned as ‘accidental’ in the “Russian-Chinese Relations: Perspectives and Implications” NIE.

The CIA adds that cooperation between Japan and the United States could weaken both China and Russia, bringing Moscow and Beijing to adopt a shared policy in Asia. Moreover, to counterbalance American influence, Russia has decided not to support Taiwan, and China has decided to support Russian involvement in Chechnya. The CIA establishes a direct link between China’s diplomacy regarding Chechnya and Russia’s policy towards Taiwan.

The NIE does not fail to add that anti-American sentiment in both countries is also based on the fact that Moscow and Beijing are dealing with internal instability in the late 1990s.

The Balkan Crisis and the Sino-Russian Cooperation

Another part of the report which concerns the sale of arms from Moscow to Beijing requires attention. The CIA thus mentions that China will not hesitate to ‘shop around’ to find the best military equipments available on the international market. Although Beijing appreciates Russia for its quality and affordability, China seems to be interested in another supplier. The name of the country has been removed from the NIE and there is no evidence to identify it.

The National Intelligence Estimate states that the crisis in the Balkans is a key moment in Sino-Russian relations because it has brought Moscow and Beijing closer together in international institutions (UN) and in their anti-Americanism. However, the CIA believes Putin, contrary to Yeltsin, is “sceptical” when it comes to China. The NIE also mentions the new Russian president has a “mercenary” approach in his relations with Beijing (page 24).

What could undermine Sino-Russian relations?

The NIE tells a policy by Vladimir Putin aimed at redirecting arms sales to the West rather than to China could have a negative impact on bilateral relations. With regard to arms sales in the 2000s, it can therefore be said that the West, and in particular the United States, have chosen not to weaken relations between Beijing and Moscow. Indeed, the CIA could have encouraged partner countries to purchase Russian military equipment and thus counterbalance the economic weight of China in the Russian economy.

This option might have been considered at the beginning of the 2000s. However the successive crises — Kursk submarine disaster (2000), September 11 attacks (2001), Iraq War (2003), the financial crisis of 2007–08 — have made it difficult for a rapprochement between Russia and Western countries.

The report adds that Russia’s lack of support for China’s ‘One Country, Two Systems’ project could also have a negative influence on relations. In the 1990s, Russia supported a more autonomous policy in non-recognized states. The CIA speculates that Russia might consider recognizing Taiwan, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transnistria on the basis of the Montevideo Convention, which it will do for Abkhazia and South Ossetia in 2008. The possibility of Russia recognizing Taiwan to justify its own recognition of Abkhazia and South-Ossetia is therefore a hypothesis suggested by the CIA in its report.

Finally, the analysis considers that China’s refusal to allow Russia to exert influence in Xinjiang and China’s western territories, as well as tensions in the Russian Far-East, could undermine bilateral cooperation.

In 2020, the context is rather similar and Beijing’s influence in Central Asia remains an issue as much as China’s influence in the Russian Far-East. Projects such as the Eurasian Economic Union (2015) are aimed at securing Russian control over Central Asia and halting the possibility of a political partnership between China and Central Asian countries. In fine, tensions between Moscow and Beijing remain, however both countries seem to have found a compromise with the coexistence of the Eurasian Economic Union supported by Russia and the One Belt One Road project sponsored by Beijing.

Sino-Russian Cooperation in Military Intelligence and/or Energy Cooperations (Classified)

The NIE remains partially classified to this day, and a considerable part (pages 27-36) has been deliberately omitted and its content is unknown. The US Department of Energy participated in the report (mentioned page 42) and the missing part might focus on Sino-Russian economic energy cooperations and pipelines.

However, the conclusion of the CIA report and the annex are mentioning a cooperation between Russia and China in the field of military intelligence (‘Russia-China Military Exchange’). It therefore seems inconsistent to see a conclusion on cooperation in this specific field when only one mention is made of it in the report (page 18). This first element leads us to believe the remaining part classified is linked to this issue. Moreover, the CIA had already made public a report on the subject “Soviet espionage schools” dating back to 1946. It therefore seems likely that the CIA will mention Sino-Russian intelligence cooperation in the National Intelligence Estimate on “Russian-Chinese Relations: Perspectives and Implications.”

On the basis of the report “Soviet Espionage Training Schools” (1946) report, one could put forward the idea that the NIE on Sino-Russian cooperation covers the following topics:

  • Suspicion of joint training between Russia and China in Tientsin and Beijing (mentioned in the 1946 report).
  • Joint training in Harbin at the National Defence Technology University. The CIA designates Harbin as the epicentre of Russia-China military relations, and to this day the National Defense Technology University remains an essential element in the training of China’s military elites.

In the NIE, the CIA also mentions that Russia is training Chinese troops in the handling of Su-27 (page 38) and Su-30 for a period of 6 months at the Krasnodar Foreign Pilot Training Centre.

In March 2000, Chinese students at the Smolensk Army Air Defence University are studying the strategy and systems of the SA-10 and SA-20 (S-300PMU-1/2 (SA-20) known as S-300 (NATO’s report name SA-10 Grumble), a series of long-range ground-to-air missile systems, first Soviet and then Russian, produced by NPO Almaz, based on the initial version of the S-300P.

The CIA claims that Russian commanders of the Siberian and Far Eastern military districts meet regularly with their Chinese counterpart in the Shenyang military region. The Russian GRU leader Korabel’nikov would have visited the PLA’s head of intelligence, Xiong Guangkai in June 1999.

Conclusion on the National Intelligence Estimates

The publication of the two NIE a decade later shows the capabilities of the US intelligence community and is an essential part of the CIA’s Soft Power. In fact, few intelligence agencies in the world can afford to produce and release such documents on the People’s Republic of China and Russia, and to provide details about the military cooperations between the two superpowers.

The choice to publish the National Intelligence Estimates may be linked to the fact that the documents are no longer relevant to the United-States and US allies. In January 2011, China unveiled its Chengdu J-20 fighter jet, and Russia’s weight in the Chinese defense industry is not the same as in the late 1990s, making the report outdated. Consequently, the documents are providing some interesting historical elements but need to be updated, especially when it comes to Russian and Chinese diplomacy regarding de facto and partially recognized states.

In 2000, it was difficult to know whether Beijing would be ready to recognize Kosovo, Transnistria, Abkhazia, South Ossetia or even Nagorno-Karabakh. On decade later in 2011, it is clear that Chinese diplomacy will not recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia (recognized by Russia in 2008) and that Moscow will not venture to recognize Taiwan.

Finally, the report could shed light on the tensions between Russia and China in the 1990s, and its disclosure would therefore be aimed at creating tensions between the two countries.

It is also possible that the report’s analyses are irrelevant or even incorrect, and that its disclosure is intended to suggest that the CIA has shortcomings in Russian-Chinese relations, whereas the CIA would keep the best reports on the subject without disclosing them.

Both documents are based on previous CIA analysis on China and Russia. It can thus be seen that between 1946 and 2000, the CIA monitored relations between China and Russia and had at its disposal strategically knowledge such as the location of the joint training centre for Russian and Chinese officers in Harbin.

The most original aspect of these two NIEs remains the relationship between Europe (Balkans and the Black Sea area) and Chinese policy regarding Taiwan. The bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade is perceived to be a key element in Sino-Russian relations, bringing the two countries closer together in their anti-Americanism. Moreover, the reports are establishing a connection between events in Europe and Asia, underlining both Moscow and Beijing have a global strategy regarding de facto states (Taiwan, Kosovo, Abkhazia, South-Ossetia, and Nagorno-Karabakh).

The CIA report therefore takes on an additional dimension. Whereas organisations such as the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) bring together de facto states in Europe to do a comparative analysis, the CIA has a worldwide approach and also includes Asian de facto states (Taiwan). Russia and China seem to have adopted the same approach and the Chinese policy in Chechnya is interconnected with the Russian diplomacy in Taiwan.

It can therefore be said that the US, Chinese and Russian strategies towards Taiwan, as well as towards partially and unrecognized states in Europe, are global and interconnected, raising questions about Washington’s interest in recognizing Kosovo in February 2008. The CIA was aware the diplomatic recognition of Kosovo would have an impact not only on the stability in the Balkans, but also on Russian and Chinese diplomacy in the Black Sea area (eg. recognition of Abkhazia and South-Ossetia by Moscow) and the South China Sea (more tensions between China and Taiwan).

From our partner RIAC

Ph.D. in History of Europe & International Relations, Sorbonne University - INSEAD Business School, (Geo)political scientist working on Sino-European/Russian relations and soft power in the 21st century

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Covid-19: Impacts on Pakistan’s Cybersecurity

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The Covid-19 pandemic still remains the most dominant factor affecting global scenario. Neither the superpowers nor the developing countries are spared of its curse. Whole world is in a crisis like situation whether it’s a super power or state like Pakistan, which has already been facing external threat and internal instabilities. Like every other state in the world to continue the routine activities, Pakistan has shifted its workload to online databases. The shift to online forum has increased dependence on internet making the country equally concerned about safeguarding its cyber security  – as safeguards and security systems of our cyber infrastructure are not so protective keeping in view the dynamic nature of cyber security. The government has recently launched its Digital Pakistan Policy which has acquired renewed significance in the current pandemic. Although it is a good initiative to facilitate the public but there are some loopholes that need to be addressed as Covid crisis seems to have prolonged indefinitely. There is a need to adopt effective measures so the weakness in the system can be effectively resolved on priority bases.

The current crisis situation has adversely impacted the educational hubs and other academic institutes which almost stopped functioning for a while. The government encourages the online classes and examination system. This not only helped schools and universities, but the research thinks thanks and other organizations were also able to resume their functions by utilizing online forum. Here the challenge for a country like Pakistan is the provision of fast and smooth internet connections in all the districts of country.  But now days, students of KPK, Balochistan, Gilgit Baltistan and even in some districts of Punjab are facing connectivity issues. Students have raised their voices through social media forum and student Unions. Other than smooth provision of internet facility, state need to have a robust independent network security systems during Covid-19 because of more dependence on computer and internet networks and keep up with the rapidly changing cyber technologies. Dependence on foreign developed applications like ‘Zoom’ can be harmful in the longer term for privacy. Recently, an intrusion occurred during the webinar of Institute of  Strategic Studies (ISSI) due to non-encrypted internet connection. In encrypted connection the risk factor still exists as the de-encrypted data is retained with the developers who can use it for their self-interest to harm the security of any state especially the states like Pakistan which is still in the nascent stage of acquiring and developing advanced cyber technology related tools. Another such incident occurred wherein the official website of Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission was attacked by scammers but later on it was clarified by HEC that it was just that someone just took the screenshot and make changes in its HTML coding and uploads it , which seems to be , that website is hacked . Although this scam   carried out in anger by internal rudiments was not so harmful and serious, but still it’s an alarm to be prepared for the rising threats and technological challenges that could be hazardous. It is, thus a big question mark on the Pakistan’s preparedness to face such challenges in future that could be serious in their nature. 

Covid-19 has quarantined the people inside their homes; activities are limited to internet and computers. This has provided the cyber-criminals with the opportunity to breach the privacy and use it for their own interests. During this quarantine, people to kill boredom are downloading different kind of applications in their mobile phones and PCs and agreeing to give that application access to mobile data. This can be harmful and data of people can be used to cause damage to personal as well as national security, because this is an era of information warfare and any entity or state can take advantage of the data provided to them unknowingly. Cyber criminals and hackers whether they are from within the state or outside; sponsored by rival states can easily exploit the loophole of the existing cyber infrastructure as previously before Covid-19 crises, Pakistani infrastructure has been attacked several times which includes the banking sector as well as armed forces infrastructure. For instance cyber-attacks carried out by Indian organization   Rattle snake on Navy’s Public relations Branch tried to manipulate the statements released by Public relations Branch. Above mentioned attacks carried out by India before Covid-19 were very alarming and threatening to national security. One can gauge the level of threat during Covid-19 when the whole country is working online. There have been efforts to digitize all the sectors of Pakistan with which whole data will be shifted to data clouds. This may lead to losing control over the data because once data is placed online, it will be available to everyone who can then penetrate easily and will be hazardous for national security.

To address the threats to data and preserve its national security, Pakistan needs a workable solution to protect its servers to store such huge bulks of national data. It also needs to maintain backup of the data to be on safer side. It needs to develop its own strong firewall security software against online viruses and Trojan horses to protect the data rather than being dependent on borrowed technologies and software because dependency in such domains in the longer runs can be harmful. So keeping in view the upcoming technological era and Covid-19 has to some added acceleration in the process of doing so. At this very moment, Pakistan needs to have a formalized national cyber security policy as an important pillar of national security.

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The theory of hybrid warfare as developed by Generals Gerasimov and Primakov

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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The first complete development of the “hybrid warfare” theory by Russia – which, anyway, invented it – can be found in an article by General Gerasimov, the Russian Armed Forces’ Chief of Staff of the time, in an essay published in the weekly magazine Corriere Military-Industrial Courier in February 2013.

  The high-ranking officer of the Russian Command started from a simple consideration, i.e. especially in the post-Cold War period, but even earlier, any regional or continental military action increasingly came closer to the line in which peaceful operations and military operations in the proper sense of the term tended to get confused.

 The article was entitled- in a rather anodyne way – “The Value of Science is in the Foresight”. A cryptic reference, but indeed very clear later on, as we will see.

The post-Cold War experiences marked General Gerasimov’s central idea: at the beginning of the strategic theory of the Russian General, however, there was the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA), i.e. the U.S. doctrine of the 2000s that placed the relationship between new technologies and the overall reorganization of the North American Armed Forces at the core of the debate.

 Both Russia and China placed the RMA – which they saw operating well in Iraq – as the terminus a quo of their necessary transformation of technologies, goals, but above all, military organizations.

 The defeat of Caporetto was organized by a very young German lieutenant, Erwin Rommel, who – without considering ranks and hierarchies too much – made up a unit that broke the contacts between the Second and the Third Italian Army with its assault squads consisting of only 11 soldiers and three machine guns, having a counterattack function.

 The paradox, however, is that it was instead a great Russian and Soviet General, Ogarkov, who invented the same RMA, which he called the Military Technological Revolution.

In General Ogarkov’s mind, new technologies such as robotics and direct energy weapons, would design the whole new space of operations and even the political function of war, thus marginalizing the vast masses of infantry that were once necessary to win.

Just think here, by contrast, of the USSR victory against the Third Reich, which has always been a model for the modern thinking of the Soviet Union and later of Russia.

In essence, “hybrid warfare” is a way to add the necessary masses on the ground, but exactly as a function of the RMA and the new applications of psychological warfare.

Hence without unnecessarily regimentalizing them in an old nineteenth-century-style army.

General Gerasimov also rightly maintained that the basic rules of war had changed: the role of the non-military structures useful to achieve goals that were previously reached exclusively by war increased out of proportion. Here Russia had in mind the operations of Soft Power and economic and cultural influence by the United States and NATO, but also, in many cases – and this is the point that gave rise to the concept of “hybrid warfare” – the non-traditional means that achieved and sometimes outperformed the effects of conventional weapons. Financial warfare? War of information manipulation? War for raw materials? It depends on where you are.

Hence conventional warfare is related to armies and their size defines their ability to “last”, but only up to the enemy’s breaking point.

 Lasting, a philosophical and even strategic concept that Henri Bergson, the great French philosopher – who walked around, with the yellow Jewish star, in front of the Nazi SS units in occupied France – described in his La Force qui s’use et la Force qui ne s’use pas.

In his hybrid warfare, General Gerasimov thought about the great peacekeeping forces, which currently consists of as many as 11,000 U.N. “policemen” – often with Rules of Engagement which apply above all to children playing football in parks – but will rise to 16,900 in three years’ time.

We shall solve the cases of Darfur, Chad and the Central African Republic, which the U.N. and its peacekeepers shall convince to reach the umpteenth peace agreement between the Justice and Equality Movement and the Janjawid.

 The NGOs, an excellent instrument of influence – as also General Gerasimov admitted – serve to cure the effects of war operations on the population, nothing more.

Hence, again in General Gerasimov’s mind, the final victory came above all from the covert and symmetrical work of many organizations: local volunteers; allied military; the more or less “spontaneous” people’s organizations; companies’ safety nets; criminal organizations (which everybody used anyway) and large mass demonstrations, as well as the traditional psyops operations.

 This was the initial Russian response to the U.S. and NATO operations in the former Yugoslavia, where Russia was particularly interested in Serbia, as the axis of its national interest in the Balkans, which obviously exists.

The United States, however, responded by choosing, above all, the jihad, in spite of Russia’s quick entry – as a surprise operation – into Kosovo in 1999, when the Russian troops based in Bosnia entered Pristina – breaking an old agreement with NATO -by bringing Russian troops to close the border between Kosovo and Serbia.

 That was the moment in which the United States radicalized – due to an anti-Russian bias – in the protection of Balkan countries that were almost completely jihadist at the time.

There was also the subsequent and stable U.S. presence in the Bosnian jihad, with Alja Izetbegovic, when Sarajevo was often visited by Osama bin Laden.

General Gerasimov, however, was a good prophet: the irregular forces in the Crimea, the other ones in Chechnya, many other “little green men” in Georgia and then in many peripheral areas of the new Russian empire did an excellent job and will still do so.

 Because certainly technological superiority counts – indeed it is essential – but what really matters is the full and absolute political power on a territory or on a specific technology, operation, influence or Denial Area action.

 China’s doctrine of hybrid warfare is very different from the Russian one. For Russia a stable relationship between its West and the Eurasian peninsula is always and in any case necessary – otherwise the Russian Federation would only be mostly Asia, Islam and the Siberian Far East.

 For China the hybrid warfare doctrine is always direct heir to Sun Tzu and is currently defined as the technique of “winning without fighting”.

 Meanwhile, China wants to securitize the peripheral territories in which it is interested, but without firing a shot.

 The area of South China Sea, of the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands, of Guam, of the Vietnamese Sea, as well as the Guam air base (with the “Andersen” and “Apra” locations), which is fundamental for the United States to reach the Philippines and obviously Taiwan.

Nevertheless, whether you want to understand it or not, also the jihad has learnt the hybrid warfare lesson with great intelligence.

It has merged it – even neglecting some secondary Koranic rules – with the new conception of war that China interprets as “unrestricted warfare”.

 The United States and Westerners interpret all this new hybrid warfare only as “terrorism”, thus attributing it to some “madmen”, according to the outmoded script of the reductio ad hitlerum. But it is indeed avery new form of war, a new war “from weak to strong”, like the French nuclear weapon against the Soviet Union (and not only it) and as it is currently thought by Russia, albeit by equalizing the nuclear potential.

The hybrid warfare gathers all the walks and parts of civil society, manipulates them, puts them together and turns them towards a Stay Behind-Gladio-style guerrilla warfare, but adapted to modern and future times.

 Here it is not a matter of putting up resistance, as in the old Gladio structures, until “people rise up”, or to slow down the almost certain conquest, by the Warsaw Pact, of the Po Valley, because the new invaders and their friends will be well careful not to hurt the feelings or clash with the habits and needs of the non-belligerent local population. And they will not take their territory, but their resources.

Quite the reverse: again with its hybrid warfare, Russia will mainly carry out operations “from weak to strong” blocking its enemy’s information actions, backing their population and mixing with them, thus becoming unrecognizable and, above all, carrying out fully unconventional operations.

 Either you take the radio and TV stations, as Nasser did at the beginning of his revolution with his “Free Officers”, or currently you control social media remotely, either through fake news – which are true instruments of “unorthodox” warfare, as it was called by NATO when a Marine officer, who led it, found himself lured and tricked by a pretty girl from the GDR Intelligence Services –  or possibly even with the techniques of support, local manipulation and protection of the local population.

Hence currently Russia mainly plays the game of non-State actors, even imitating them, but there is the whole panoply of the current unorthodox war. It is evangelically waged on a small-scale with the small countries and on a large-scale with the big ones.

 The important thing is always to eliminate the buffer areas around the enemy which, for Russia, is always the West and the United States.

 The manipulation of illegal immigration, for example, or the organization of coups or separatist operations – shaping the aforementioned mechanism as the United States did with OTPOR, “Resistance”, the old brand that nowadays no one uses or understands any longer, which organized the fight against Milosevic from the basements of the U.S. Embassy in Hungary – or even the targeted assassination, or also the use, as strategic weapons, of energy assets.

Westerners’ tunnel vision towards “Islamic terrorism” did the rest – and forced them into the tunnel.

 While it expected an enemy operating with very different criteria from the usual ones. This is the reason why, until now, the West has failed with the jihad. Another enemy arrived, mimicking the jihad but from State to State, and was much more dangerous.

 In the 1990s Russia drafted four strategic documents.

 In the NATO evaluations of the same period, especially in the field of hybrid warfare, there was little or nothing of politics and little of operational matters.

  It seems that the von Clausewitz’s rule that “victory is the imposition of one’s own will on the enemy” has been forgotten and precisely by Westerners.

 A sort of “damage reduction” theory, as with youth drugs, or a memory of the time when we were good, during the Cold War, at launching leaflets on the enemy’s population.

 Too little. Much more was done by the carpet/saturation bombing, developed by the British Sir Arthur Tedder, after many Nazi examples.

 All these Gerasimov-Primakov’s notes, however, are contained in the various military doctrines signed by Putin.

 In January 2000, the Russian President signed the first modern Gerasimov-style National Security Concept, which listed the destabilization factors that are also those that Russia sees in the operations currently existing in the East: ethnic, nationalist and religious factionalism, a theme that is much far from Western doctrine, which exalts precisely factionalism, as happened in the template of the hybrid warfare of the time, the Second Yugoslav War.

 There is also the weakening of the current mechanisms of international crisis control, which we see currently operating within the United Nations and its peripheral organizations, in which, indeed, the United States no longer wants to participate. There is also the “illegal implementation of military power and strength  under the pretext of humanitarian operations” – and this is precisely dedicated to the West.

 The response of this Russian document was directly targeted to the 1999 NATO Strategic Concept, in which the Russian side stated that only the U.N. Security Council could establish legal rules for regional interventions.

Certainly to be later present together in the West and control it.

  The Russian national interests, reaffirmed in the 2000 document, were still the same: military cooperation in the CIS, on which Russia does not want foreign eyes; the creation of a unified military area (which is the basis for hybrid warfare), as well as stable unity with Belarus, where Western agents are now actively operating.

For Russia the criterion is always that of “broad security”.

What about NATO? Since 2015 – and severely late, indeed – the Atlantic Alliance has reached its own “doctrine” for hybrid warfare.

 Again for NATO, which has probably not understood the size and the types of threat (and, in fact, it lost in the Crimea), hybrid warfare is “propaganda, strategic deception, sabotage”.

 Probably it was so in the past, but nowadays hybrid warfare is much more, as we have quickly noticed.

 Moreover, the responsibility of countering hybrid operations, which are not well defined in the NATO documents, falls within the allied nation.

With regard to Russia, the 360°approachadopted by the Alliance in July 2018 established that NATO planned to implement an advanced deployment of conventional deterrence forces in the Baltic States.

Furthermore, NATO is creating a centre for cyber operations to strengthen also “resilience” – now a magic and fashionable word -in the countries concerned.

 All right, but there is never an attack strategy. Certainly the Alliance is only defensive, but it would be good to have a clear idea that, from Thucydides to the present day, defence and attack have always been closely interwoven.

There is also the support for the countries of the Southern Flank, with a very generic strengthening of the “fight against terrorism”, as already noted above.

 Certainly, the 360°approachclaims it has “bogged down” Putin in the Crimea, but it already accepts the basic defeat in the Southern Flank where, however, there would be an enhanced “fight against terrorism”, regardless of what this expression means.

Hence “all-out war” – not palliatives – even in times of peace and this is the real final goal of “hybrid warfare”, while the world war is today kept as a remote option by the U.S. residual power of conventional or not conventional first and second strike – which will certainly not last forever.

 The only ones who are thinking about the new scenarios – leaving aside Italian pettifoggers in the Intelligence Services and in other organizations – are the French.

 General Thierry Burkhard, a man of the Foreign Legion, is thinking of a new concept: after the defeat or, however, the marginalization of the jihad, the real future clash will be the return of the old into the new, the struggle between States and States.

 The conflicts of the future will be symmetrical again, State against State. He also maintains that Europe has become structurally weak; it does not “think” about the conflict, so it will lose it.

Hence General Burkhard thinks that France shall military strengthen its Armée de Terre and then focus on credible deterrence, also at nuclear level, as well as on the new concentration of its future operations both in the cyberspace and on the ground.

 A hybrid counter warfare. In Italy, as usual, we have mere accountants in power, not even particularly brilliant, and the rest goes accordingly.

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Intelligence

Anonymous Activism Through Cyberspace- 2020 Ventures

Ramla Khan

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In between the hullabaloo of Corona pandemic, the distinct issues in cyberspace are anticipated to rise when the people all across the world have least to do forby operating their smart instruments and devices. The internet perceived to be the only soul on which world seems to survive during the ongoing lockdown and curfews quite certainly may face breakdown due to the extensive usage. One more agent that is focused upon taking away and astonishingly granting web control is the popular hibernated hacktivist force ‘Anonymous’. As per the record, it had bolted from the screen since 2017 which in the contemporary year has unexpectedly reappeared dominantly during the Black Lives protest movements and virus pandemic. The group intends to unveil the unjust actions of the political entities, operational governmental and non- governmental organizations. It is clued that this cyberpunk league has made a comeback with more prowess and mastery in year 2020 as it is alleged to hack the websites of major international organizations in February that is United Nations and World Health Organization. It is a real perplex to even presume the leading head of Anonymous as it has almost attacked every influential statecraft either it be United States, Russia or China. Since years the hacktivist force has been working without any identified human face relying on the symbolic white colored sneaky smug eyed mask viewed in the year 2005 movie ‘V for Vendetta’. Under the movie the Anonymous is interpreted as an anarchist fighting for Individualism.

Anonymous 2020 ingress

The team-Anonymous is credited to create a new flux recently in USA during the fresh flare of protests across the globe for George Floyd killing by a white police officer in Minneapolis. Aftermath the incident this hacker force had warned Minneapolis Police Department to expose its stern crimes to the world. Along with this threatening missive a DDOs attack was too launched against MPD.

In all this while when the protests were at full rage, the situation required a responsible retort, however the Atlanta police had got involved in another black killing of Rayshard Brooks on June12, 2020in the parking lot of the Wendy’s restaurant on University Avenue. This called out another cyber assault from the Anonymous and the APD website was made unresponsive the next day for a span of almost two hours.

It is intriguing to note that the hacktivist force mainly comes up during instable conditions and protests within a country or region. The ongoing worldwide protests for George Floyd somehow reminiscence of the Arab Spring strikes in 2011. The hacker force  had also caught the eyes in the later Middle East strikes and now.  In Arab Spring the Anonymous had slashed the governmental websites of several countries and their officials. The passwords and emails were made public. Their campaign was based against the free flow of information.

Anonymous: Bliss and Threat

On one hand a miscellaneous group of people deem the entity as a threat to national security and state autonomy whereas some consider it a bliss as it adheres to provide justice to the weak and minors. The league’s most recent virtuous embark during the pandemic was on May 28.2020. The twitter account of PLDT,  a prominent telephone and internet company in Philippine was hacked as a consequence that they delivered terrible internet connection to their customers. The name of account was changed to ‘PLDT Doesn’t Care’. Henceforth the agent is responsible not only for taking away internet from some entities instead is also serving as a provider. A tweet that was retweeted several times on the hacked account in a single hour jotted:

“As the pandemic arises, Filipinos need fast internet to communicate with their loved ones. Do your job. The corrupt fear us, the honest support us, the heroic join us. We are Anonymous. We are Legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us,”.

Anonymous remains Anonymous

With all such ventures of Anonymous the idea is quite evident that the brand believes in non-violent means to impel the opponent to its will. Despite of its large ability to bring a ‘street action’ in words of Josh Corman Co-author to ‘Building a better Anonymous Series’ the group avoid collateral damage to minimum. It is apparently causing no hefty swindle to the innocents and states. It was predicted in the series part 0, year 2011 that the group will grow bigger and stronger however today we are closely seeing the implication. Today Anonymous is facing hefty critique from state authorities for illegal intrusion and civil disobedience. Today it faces disinformation as no one could ever grasp a confident understanding of this brand. In the latter week false information deliberately or in-deliberately was being communicated widely on social media referring to a DDos Attack from Anonymous fracturing the entire USA which after scrutiny was revealed to be a connection problem in T-mobiles phone sets. However, the idea that every cyber force do not oblige with morality cannot be neglected. Internet is a growing unsafe place where stored data is no more in one’s personal casket. The point to ponder and analyze for the affected statecrafts is not only about the league-Anonymous but the fact that the IT infrastructures of these significant organizations if are now approachable to this union, can be reached and maltreated by severalothers entities too.As guided by Gene Staffordfrom Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security (CERIAS):

“First, if a largely uncoordinated group could penetrate the systems and expose all this information, then so could a much more focused, well-financed, and malevolent group – and it would not likely result in postings picked up by the media. Attacks by narcotics cartels, organized crime, terrorists and intelligence agencies are obvious threats; we can only assume that some have already succeeded but not been recognized or publicized.” — Gene Spafford

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