Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 80: COP 21

The post-Cold War era has been deeply characterized by multidimensional and non-military threats: from terrorism to climate change. Last week we looked at the war against ISIL, therefore this week our Top-5 is mainly focused on the UN climate change conference in Paris – COP 21.

Here you’ll find a (dramatic) list to the most polluted cities in the world. Dehli is at the top. According to The Guardian, 1.6 million Chinese are killed by breathing bad air every year.

Der Spiegel International offers an insightful comment on “the most important event of the year”. Simply in Paris “the global community will be deciding on the fate of our planet, our future and the basis of life for all of humanity”. 

If you are more interested in the negotiations, here you’ll find some useful elements that you need to know to better assess the UN conference. In summary, climate change is a “collective action problem“.

Words, rhetoric and narratives and crucial in international relations. Here you’ll find the “best metaphors” used during the Paris climate talks (Is the planet really a patient??).

Finally, the speech by President Obama helps in finding a connection between climate change to the fight against ISIL. In other words, the conference in Paris is an “act of defiance” against the terrorists who attacked the city just weeks ago. (Probably is true but we are still waiting for a better strategy against ISIL…)

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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – “Back to the Future day”

Today is October 21 2015, which is the date Marty McFly travelled 30 years into the future. So, also out Top5 is deeply affected by the “Back to the Future Day”. From an IR and security studies perspective, what about the main changes occurred in the global and strategic scenario in the last 30 years? Here below some examples for the last week.

 Justin Trudeau and his Liberal party just won the elections in Canada. A former actor became a political leader in North America. It sounds familiar.. (“Are you saying that Reagan is the President? Ah ah”)

But we have also some discontinuities with the 1980s. Look at the Afghanistan. At that time Washington supported the Islamic militias against the Soviets. Now the situation is a bit different…Here a recent report from Kunduz.

Also the Chinese global role is a huge innovative element of post-Cold War era. Here an interesting analysis of the Chinese aid in Africa. According to the article “Western pundits and policymakers continue to mischaracterize the intent and nature of Chinese development finance”.

The Middle East has been transformed in the post-bipolar content. However, the conflict between Israel and Palestine is far from being solved.  This is the question posed by Political Violence @ a glance: “Why Haven’t We Seen a Third Palestinian Intifada (Or Are We)?”

Finally, a last significant change. From a masterpiece of the pop-culture to an another: The Force Awakens trailer. In a strategic context marked by the diffusion of intra-state conflicts, transnational terrorism and growing complexity maybe we miss “clear” enemies. Such as Darth Vader

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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 71

Lots of meetings in the past few days. In sparse order, Obama and Xi, Obama and Putin, Obama and the Pope. Many things to discuss, from improving bilateral relations to devising a strategy for Syria. Although the most important outcomes are often hard to see, something visible emerged.

US-China relations these days have been often spoiled by cyber attacks in the US that allegedly came from China territory. This is why the deal between China and the US reached last week is important. Wait and see, here for the Italian readers some reasons to be sceptical in a brief published by the Italian think tank ISPI last week to which Venus in Arms contributed.

The other hot front is clearly Syria. Putin and Obama might not have looked best friends in recent years, but they might share some interests (if not the solutions) in the region.

In the meanwhile, the Middle East remains the same old powder keg. The US plays multiple roles in the region, one of those being provider of weapons.

The other guy on the table, Vladimir Putin, has been always very active in the international arena. This New Yorker’s piece discusses whether Russian President can achieve his multiple objectives by acting in Syria.

In a recent talk, former FED chief Ben Bernanke entered into controversy over the role of military service in preparing for a professional private sector career. An interesting contribution on the Atlantic discusses the theme.

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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 62

Terrorism came back in Tunisia, France and Kuwait. The Independent provides useful maps that illustrate how far and fast ISIL has spread in the last years.

The debate on China rising is still lively and controversial. The National Interest wonders “How George Kennan Would Contend with China’s Rise“.

Over the past years, India has been one of the largest arms importers. Here you’ll find a detailed analysis of India’s weapons imports and regional balance.

Sanctions have become “the defining feature of the Western response to several geopolitical challenges”. If you are interested in sanctions, we warmly recommend this article by the Council on Foreign Relations.

Finally, the crisis in the Eurozone. There are a lot of  analyses regarding Grexit, referendum, Germany, debt, and euro. We only wish a positive solution for the current situation. In this way

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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 61

ISIS, again. Kobane was a great success in the reconquista that followed ISIS’ earlier pushes in Northern Syria. It seems that it has been just taken back by the armies of the Caliphate.

ISIS is also elsewhere, and it seems that it suffered a defeat in Libya in the last weeks. Foreign Policy reports on the battle in Derna, where ISIS was expelled by a (very) heterogeneous coalition including DMSC (Mujahideen Shura Council, linked to al-Qaeda) and the Libyan National Army.

In the meanwhile, in Europe, tensions are building up on the Eastern border. The US has been strengthening its NATO allies with increasing military support, by support meaning weapons. The last shipment involved about 250 tanks under a new plan devised by the Pentagon (or for) with allies.

Tensions in the real world, tensions in the virtual one. China is allegedly behind hacking the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) in the US, with a wealth of data on government employees. But attribution, when it comes to China, becomes a delicate diplomatic issue and no final culprit is yet revealed.

Finally, we keep suggesting military vehicles that you might be desire to get to solve traffic problems, loading requirements, and so on. This comes directly from Star Wars.


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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 45

While fighting continues in Libya, Syria, and Iraq (and elsewhere), much attention has been devoted to leaders and leadership this week.

Russia possibly tops the list. Putin’s assertiveness abroad and at home is the hot topic, also following the murder of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. Possibly, you already read everything about it in the past few days. So we suggest you also watch the 3rd season of TV series House of Cards and look if you agree with how Russia is portrayed there.

President Obama is building is legacy. Still a lot of clouds linger over his presidency with reference to foreign policy, possibly not to break up until he’s long away from office. One message is trying to send, anyway, is “Be Not Afraid” (from March issue of The Atlantic).

Third, Benjamin Netanyahu went to Congress for a highly controversial speech. Debate rages on pretty much everything concerning the Israeli leader. This is his speech, no comments attached.

Power politics has been long back in Asia. So military analysts have been starting to look at military planning, with Japan and China being the most scrutinized subjects. Navies, in particular, enjoyed a great deal of attention (Venus featured a piece on the theme a while ago), and this how Japan might be facing China’s growing military prowess.

Last, a very different piece on music, culture and Malcolm X. Addressed issue, among else: is the African American leader shot in 1965 a hero for Muslim radicals in Europe?

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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 34

Just another massive financial crisis in Russia? According to The Economist: “The Russian currency crisis many feared is now a reality and the mood in Moscow close to panic. Russians are right to worry: they are heading for a lethal combination of deep recession and runaway inflation”. Yesterday in Moscow shops people converted roubles into goods. Here you can see how the Ruble Crisis looked like in the 90s.

Moving to Iraq, The New York Times provides a detailed report on the “Desert War on ISIS”. While in the initial weeks of the air campaign three out of every four missions still return with their bombs for lack of approved targets, in recent days the Iraqis “have been advancing, forcing ISIS to fight more in the open”.

Unredacted focuses on the Kennedy and Johnson Administration’s consideration of preventive military action to prevent or to delay China from acquiring a nuclear capability. Recently the National Security Archive published an Electronic Briefing Book of documents on the United States and the Chinese nuclear weapons program during the early 1960s.

The SIPRI just published the Top 100 arms-producing and military services companies fact sheet. Despite three consecutive years of decreasing sales for the Top 100, total revenues remain 45.5 per cent higher in real terms than for the Top 100 in 2002.

Finally, Venus in Arms honors again Nick Hornby and his idol, Thierry Henry, who has just announced his retirement from football. He has been really a fantastic player (we also appreciate the fact that his Italian experience was a failure because…ehm, at that time we did not support you Thierry…)


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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 28

Washington: Republicans won midterm elections, taking control of the Senate. According to Lynn Vavreck: “The economy elects presidents. Presidents elect Congress”. Here you’ll find additional analyses on the “fundamentals” of the US midterm elections.

Burkina Faso is on fire. The International Crisis Group collects the most recent articles that allow to understand  the complex political situation in Ouagadougou.  On Burkina, protests and dictators in Africa see also this analysis by Andrew G. Reiter.

Waiting for the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, we suggest these amazing interactive pictures provided by The Guardian. Sean Gallup has photographed locations around Berlin today to match with archive images of when the city was divided

In the meanwhile the war in Afghanistan is not over. As stated by Stars and Stripes, the top US commander in Afghanistan, General John Campbell, is: “assessing whether more coalition troops should stay in the country to train Afghan troops for longer than would be allowed under the Obama administration’s current plans for a complete withdrawal in 2016”.

Finally, a poll on China with surprising findings. The Pew Research has asked internationally the following question: “Do you have a favorable or unfavorable view of China?”. The percentage (responding unfavorable) are extremely high (as expected) in Japan or Vietnam. Oddly enough, Italy ranks as third in this chart. Mmm, still thinking about possible explanations…

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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 23

As news of the first case of Ebola outbreak on American soil (in Dallas) spread, some experts are evaluating if Ebola can be weaponized and used as a WMD. It seems that the recent discovery of files related to biological weapons development in an Islamic State’s recovered laptop brought attention back to WMD as a tool that can fall into the hands of “terror”.

Re-emerging threats might lead to further expansion of surveillance by security agencies. Activist and software geek Brad Templeton talks on a BigThink video interview about the NSA’s attempt to access to so-called quantum computer technology, which might expand the agency’s ability to break cryptography and manage big data.

Focus on the Middle East sometimes distracts from events happening elsewhere. “Close encounters” between Chinese and US aircrafts in the South China Sea are small but important hints that international politics is on the move in the Pacific.

Defense industry is always on the move, even with budget cuts affecting the several armed forces and leading to downsizing of programs (Italy to begin with). Still, the US military at least is always tuned to exploit new technologies, such as 3D printing, to improve the effectiveness and/or efficiency of some of its processes and programs.

Western prisoners in the hands of IS, not to forget other cases where kidnapping is a consolidated strategy for armed groups, are everyday news. Jumping back in history, it is insightful to read about the experience of the longest held American prisoner of war, John Downey, recluded in a Chinese prison for two decades after the Korean War.





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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 15

Violence rages in Middle East, the Ukraine crisis is far from settled. Instead of looking at how events unfold, let’s take a step back and wonder what these crises might have in common. Benjamin Miller on Foreign Affairs argues that the disconnection between state and nation is at the roots of these crises, and there is little ground for optimism or, at least, for what one might consider optimal “solutions”.

From intra-state wars to inter-state competition, US-China sea rivalry is going to be a hot topic for a long time (here, Venus in Arms featured an essay on the topic). A major topic is “deterrence”, with the re-emergence of good Cold War lexicon on conventional and nuclear balances. War on the Rocks provides an assessment of the balance and on how China might exploit asymmetric advantages. It is drafted by a US Navy officer, and thus contains a clear viewpoint, but that’s exactly what we need to incorporate into the analysis, as this will be more and more shaped by “hawks and doves” interaction.

Now, three articles on “critical defense”. Glenn Greenwald’s new project The Intercept keeps scrutinizing the NSA: all those who watched Enemy of the State think that they know or imagine most of the scary details, but the article is very informative and also contains an interesting map of undersea fiber optic cables.

Social media, and Facebook to begin with, have been in the news because of “experiments” that caused new debates on privacy of users. Sentiment analysis, just to add to the debate, is becoming central for military organizations as well, as it might reveal patterns of behavior useful to predict crises and so on. Again, technology matters as it provides incentives, but to get the full pictures of how this going to affect individuals we should keep looking at regulation too.

Last, The Atlantic’s Peter Beinart casts more than a doubt on the “social functions” of war, an argument with a lot of supporters (and not just among Prussian warmongers. On the centennial of World War I, Beinart argues that war limits liberties at home and creates opportunities for governmental repression of dissent. Often, also it is the poorer people that pay the highest price for increasing social control. The aftermath of war can be oppressive too. We read a lot about Italy and Europe: May Day is a wonderful short story written Francis Scott Fitzgerald about coming home from the Great War in the US.



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