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Spillover from the Conflict in Syria: An Assessment of the Factors that Aid and Impede the Spread of Violence

September 25, 2014 Comments off

Spillover from the Conflict in Syria: An Assessment of the Factors that Aid and Impede the Spread of Violence
Source: RAND Corporation

All roads lead to Damascus and then back out again, but in different directions. The financial and military aid flowing into Syria from patrons and neighbors is intended to determine the outcome of the conflict between a loose confederation of rebel factions and the regime in Damascus. Instead, this outside support has the potential to perpetuate the existing civil war and to ignite larger regional hostilities between Sunni and Shia areas that could reshape the political geography of the Middle East. This report examines the main factors that are likely to contribute to or impede the spread of violence from civil war and insurgency in Syria, and then examines how they apply to Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, and Jordan.

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Russia’s Compliance with the INF Treaty, CRS Insights (September 18, 2014)

September 24, 2014 Comments off

Russia’s Compliance with the INF Treaty, CRS Insights (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The Obama Administration, in its recently released 2014 report on arms control compliance, has stated that Russia has violated the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Specifically, the Administration claims that Russia has tested a land-based cruise missile with a range greater than 500 kilometers. The United States has raised its concerns with Russia several times over the past year, including in a meeting that occurred in Moscow on September 11, 2014. While the State Department reports that the two sides had a “useful exchange of views,” Russia’s response did not “assuage” U.S. concerns. Russia, for its part, claimed that the United States did not offer any details to back up its accusation and failed to address Russian concerns about U.S. compliance with the treaty.

Ramifications of DARPA’s Programming Computation on Encrypted Data Program

September 16, 2014 Comments off

Ramifications of DARPA’s Programming Computation on Encrypted Data Program
Source: RAND Corporation

Programming Computation on Encrypted Data (PROCEED) is a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency program whose primary purpose is to improve the efficiency of algorithms that allow people to carry out computations on encrypted data — without having to decrypt the data itself. RAND was asked to evaluate whether PROCEED — which expands the knowledge base of the global cryptographic community — is likely to provide more benefits to the United States than it does to its global rivals. The research team’s assessment focused on the degree to which PROCEED technologies may be adopted, under what circumstances, and for what purpose. The team then used the analytic framework generated to understand technological uptake decisions as a way of ascertaining how such factors would work in Russia and China vis-à-vis the United States (and, by extension, countries similar to the United States).

Analysis of online searches for information about data encryption, information security, and data protection in Russia and China concluded that, given government approval of PROCEED technologies, their diffusion will be more rapid in China than in Russia. Whether PROCEED technologies will be adopted in the face of the processing penalties that will be associated with using them is difficult to determine at this time. If PROCEED is adopted, it is likely to be adopted more rapidly in the United States (and similar developed countries) than it is in Russia and China, in large part because PROCEED is compatible with the U.S. political culture, and in smaller part because it better accords to the U.S. business environment.

Soldiers, Spies and the Moon: Secret U.S. and Soviet Plans from the 1950s and 1960s: Declassified Documents Reflect the Covert Side of Lunar Programs

September 9, 2014 Comments off

Soldiers, Spies and the Moon: Secret U.S. and Soviet Plans from the 1950s and 1960s: Declassified Documents Reflect the Covert Side of Lunar Programs
Source: National Security Archive

Forty-five years ago, astronaut Neil Armstrong took his “one small step” for mankind, becoming the first person to set foot on the moon. The program that resulted in that historic event — managed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) — had been a very public one ever since its announcement by President John F. Kennedy in 1961. Even the Soviet government had publicized aspects of its own effort.

But there were also highly secret elements to the U.S. and Soviet schemes, which are the subject of today’s National Security Archive posting of previously classified records. The documents focus on three topics — early U.S. military plans, including the possibility of conducting nuclear tests in space, the use of the moon to reflect signals for military or intelligence purposes, and U.S. intelligence analyses and estimates of Soviet missions and their intentions to land a man on the lunar surface.

The posting includes:

  • Army and Air Force studies from 1959 – 1961 on the creation of a military lunar base, with possible uses as a surveillance platform (for targets on earth and space) and the Lunar Based Earth Bombardment System (Document 1a, Document 1b, Document 3, Document 4).
  • A study on the detonation of a nuclear device on or in the vicinity of the moon (Document 2).
  • The use of the lunar surface to relay signals from Washington to Hawaii and from U.S. spy ships (Document 15).
  • Collection of Soviet radar signals after they bounced off the moon — a technique known as Moon Bounce ELINT (Document 11, Document 14).
  • The U.S. theft and return of a Soviet space capsule during an exhibition tour (Document 13).
  • A 1965 estimate of Soviet intentions with regard to a manned moon landing (Document 5).
  • Several analyses of Soviet Luna missions, including Luna 9 — the first mission to result in a soft landing on the moon (Document 6, Document 7, Document 8, Document 10, Document 16).

Spillover from the Conflict in Syria: An Assessment of the Factors that Aid and Impede the Spread of Violence

August 29, 2014 Comments off

Spillover from the Conflict in Syria: An Assessment of the Factors that Aid and Impede the Spread of Violence
Source: RAND Corporation

All roads lead to Damascus and then back out again, but in different directions. The financial and military aid flowing into Syria from patrons and neighbors is intended to determine the outcome of the conflict between a loose confederation of rebel factions and the regime in Damascus. Instead, this outside support has the potential to perpetuate the existing civil war and to ignite larger regional hostilities between Sunni and Shia areas that could reshape the political geography of the Middle East. This report examines the main factors that are likely to contribute to or impede the spread of violence from civil war and insurgency in Syria, and then examines how they apply to Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, and Jordan.

Social media freedom in Turkey

August 27, 2014 Comments off

Social media freedom in Turkey
Source: European Parliamentary Research Service

After a two-month ban, the Turkish government restored access to the video-sharing website YouTube in June 2014. This move was necessary to comply with a Constitutional Court (CC) ruling, which judged blocking the site as a breach of freedom of expression. In April Turkey’s highest court had ruled in a similar case, overturning the controversial ban on the micro-blogging site Twitter. While Turkish Prime Minister (PM) Erdogan criticized the judgment fiercely, Stefan Füle, EU Commissioner for Enlargement, commended the CC for “safeguard[ing] rule of law and respect for fundamental rights and freedoms”.

The two social media court cases illustrate the widening gap between an increasingly authoritarian government and the judiciary in Turkey.

CRS — NATO: Response to the Crisis in Ukraine and Security Concerns in Central and Eastern Europe (July 31, 2014)

August 14, 2014 Comments off

NATO: Response to the Crisis in Ukraine and Security Concerns in Central and Eastern Europe (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. Department of State Foreign Press Center)

Russia’s actions in Ukraine and its alleged role in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 have caused observers and policy makers on both sides of the Atlantic, including Members of Congress, to reassess the role of the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in upholding European security. The security concerns of NATO’s Central and Eastern European member states and non-NATO member states such as Moldova and Ukraine are of particular concern.

NATO has strongly condemned Russian actions in Ukraine and has taken steps aimed both at reassuring allies and partners in Central and Eastern Europe and at deterring further Russian aggression. These include demonstrations of support for Ukraine and its territorial integrity; actions to demonstrate NATO’s commitment to defending Central and Eastern European allies; and measures aimed at rebuking Russia. NATO members have said they will continue to conduct previously planned military exercises in Ukraine and elsewhere in the region.

The United States has been a key driver of the NATO response and has taken additional military measures intended to reassure its allies and partners in Central and Eastern Europe. These include the deployment of U.S. fighter jets and 600 paratroopers to Poland and the Baltic states, and U.S. naval vessels to the Black and Baltic Seas. In June, the Obama Administration requested congressional approval for $925 million in the Department of Defense’s FY2015 Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) budget to fund a proposed European Reassurance Initiative (ERI). Among other things, the ERI would enable augmented U.S. troop rotations and military infrastructure in Central and Eastern Europe. The United States has supplied the Ukrainian government with some nonlethal military assistance, but has thus far ruled out providing lethal military aid.

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