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Defence & Security

The strategic order and the nature of conflict are changing. Security competition between nations and military strategy are growing in complexity even as new transnational challenges deepen. The Lowy Institute’s experts in security and defence look at changing strategic relations, security architecture, nuclear strategy, military capabilities and defence and intelligence policy.

North Korea's emerging cyber capabilities

The cyber attack on Sony Pictures by North Korea in response to the film The Interview (which opens in Australian cinemas today; see my review) came after a series of North Korean hacks of institutions in South Korea. It appears North Korea is improving its cyber capabilities and widening its target

Should the West arm Ukraine?

Should the West arm Ukraine against Russian-backed rebels? That's a question guaranteed to generate earnest debate among armchair foreign policy pundits. But it also found its way into the just-concluded 51st Munich Security Conference. Chancellor Angela Merkel, Munich Security Conference, 8

India nuclear deal needs serious parliamentary scrutiny

The Australian parliament's Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) will soon review the proposed treaty between Australia and India on Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy, signed by Prime Ministers Abbott and Modi in New Delhi on 5 September 2014. A 1984 cartoon on Australia's

A dangerous history of multipolarity

The Sino-American relationship may be in decent shape. It's other countries we should be worried about. Last year, the centenary of World War I's outbreak, was a bonanza for history fans. The prior benchmark The Guns of August, published 50 years ago, was comfortably eclipsed by several authors

Treat terrorism like crime, not war

Earlier this week Anthony Bubalo suggested that a debate is needed about how to properly counter terrorism in liberal democracies, and more specifically how to achieve the proper balance between security and civil liberties when confronting violent extremism. This is part 1 of my response. The

Why invading North Korea is a terrible idea

Earlier this month, Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry argued for a US invasion of North Korea. Thankfully, the general response has been quite negative (here, here and here). Invading North Korea is a terrible idea, and it is worth laying out why in some detail. I do not intend this as a particular shot

The French Intifada

Nicole George's perceptive pointer to 'La Haine' on The Interpreter as a way into the fraught world of the contemporary France's banlieues is a reminder of the fact that a sizeable section of French society is alienated from the social mainstream by a combustible mix of religion, ethnic origin and

Police massacre threatens Philippines peace deal

The best chance for peace in Muslim Mindanao in the Philippines has just noticeably faded. The deadly clash in the early morning of Sunday 25 January between the Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police and the local command of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the

Australia and UN peacekeeping: Time for a reset

The UN is the go-to organisation for virtually every forgotten international crisis. While the West has struggled on in Afghanistan and Iraq, the UN and its peacekeeping missions have been deployed to just about everywhere else: Congo, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Darfur, Mali, Liberia

The Liaoning story says much about modern China

The South China Morning Post has published a terrific series on the remarkable story of a near-derelict unfinished Soviet aircraft carrier which was rebuilt by China to become its first carrier, the Liaoning. Most incredible is the revelation that the ship, which is now the centrepiece of the

Book review: The China-Pakistan Axis

In 1965, a Pakistani military delegation traipsed to Beijing in hope of replacing equipment they'd lost in the previous year's war with India. Premier Zhou Enlai, meeting the delegation, was bewildered by their request for only 14 days' ammunition. 'How can a war be fought in that short time?' Zhou

What I got wrong in 2014, and what I got right

January should be called pundit accountability month. On websites such as this, we make all sorts of predictions and forecasts, or we identify structural trends or leadership changes as critical, and so on. The temptation to choose our ideologically-preferred independent variables, or to otherwise

Australian recognised by UN's chemical weapons watchdog

A scientist and WMD expert with the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO), Dr Robert (Bob) Mathews, has been honoured by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) for his contributions to chemical weapons disarmament in a ceremony on 1 December in The Hague. Dr

Korea: The 5 most important foreign policy events of 2014

The end of the year is a nice time to reflect on big events and try to prioritise them. This is often seen as a fool's errand. There are so many events, and weighing their causal significance, in real time particularly, seems impossible. Still, assigning causal weight is what we are supposed to do

India's new Asia-Pacific strategy: 'Act East'

It has been a busy year for India in the Asia Pacific. From multilateral summits to bilateral diplomacy, the Modi Government has deliberately moved to step up engagement with its East and Southeast Asian partners. At this year's India-ASEAN Summit, Prime Minister Modi announced his intention to

The history of the new Chinese empire

An ambitious Chinese initiative to build a series of strategic maritime distribution centres, west to Africa and beyond, has been revealed. This is an extension of the Maritime Silk Road, which in turn complements a plan to revive the terrestrial Silk Road through central Asia. China's strategic

Abe's mandate: The strategic dimension

As discussed in part 1 of this post, Prime Minister Abe is likely to make the economy his first post-election priority. He wants to pull the economy out of recession and set the basis for long-term growth. But he cannot ignore national security. Abe's own deep interest, allied with that of a

The propaganda war over maritime rights

'China will work with other countries to further promote a harmonious maritime order.' Even after years of studying the maritime tensions on China's periphery, I had to check that I had not misread the 9 December Xinhua dispatch quoting Liu Jieyi, China's Ambassador to the UN. These reassuring

Jerry Singirok on PNG violence

By Jenny Hayward-Jones, Director of the Melanesia Program, and Mark Tamsitt, Research Associate at the Lowy Institute. Last weekend's clash between the PNDGF and police, which led to four soldiers being shot and sparked days of rioting and looting in Port Moresby, is a serious incident that needs

Peace on the horizon for Bangsamoro?

As part of the 'Sectarianism and Religiously Motivated Violence' Masters course which I run at ANU's National Security College, students were asked to write a post on a contemporary sectarian conflict. This piece by Sophie Wolfer was judged the best of those submitted. The end of a 40-year

A new US Secretary of Defense: How hard could it be?

Within hours of US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announcing his resignation, candidates to replace him were being named. Within a day, two out of the top three rumoured candidates removed themselves from contention. So the quest to find a new Secretary of Defense is becoming a case of 'who's left

Regional tensions on display at Fifth Xiangshan Forum

Last week's Fifth Xiangshan Forum in Beijing demonstrated just how difficult it will be to resolve disputes in the South China Sea as long as key parties believe history must arbitrate the veracity of claims to sovereignty over contested islands. Scholars, officials and military officers from all

Why economics doesn't explain China's FTA decision

Malcolm Cook and I have been debating why China has been willing to bless Tony Abbott with an FTA when Mr Abbott has so strongly opposed Beijing's political and strategic interests and aspirations in Asia. Why has President Xi met Mr Abbott's stick with such a juicy carrot, especially when

ISIS beheadings are a grotesque media strategy

ISIS is a transitory organisation whose aspiration to lead an Islamic reconquista is doomed to fail. It will eventually be degraded and splinter, some of its members joining the myriad other groups within the jihadist milieu while others fight over what is left of ISIS. One thing of enduring

Obama on Asia: Holding the Brisbane line

America's commitment to security, dignity and prosperity in Asia, facing up to global challenges, and some strong words on climate change – President Obama's just-concluded speech in Brisbane was a hybrid package. I imagine other contributors will add context to his applause-evoking remarks on

Russia is back in the Pacific

The Russian Navy is getting closer to Australia than we're used to, and beyond the bluster of 'shirtfronting' we don't seem to have a coherent policy response to a more active Russia in our 'near abroad'. Russian Navy officers and the Slava-class cruiser Varyag. As my colleague James Brown wrote

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