Current focus: Our Perspectives

Civilian Drones: Fixing an Image Problem?

Image:flickr/XRay40000

Drones were among the most popular Christmas gifts in 2014 — so popular, in fact, that British authorities warned recreational drone users to make sure to use their toys lawfully, or to expect hefty fines. Similarly, the US FAA released a video just before the holidays, teaching aspiring drone users how to “stay off the naughty list”.  More and more people are becoming familiar with drones as the number of ‘hobby droners’ (yes, this is a term) grows.  Businesses are discovering drones as well: drones carry mistletoe in restaurants (with questionable results), or are used to give real-estate buyers a better view of their property. Beyond this, hundreds if not thousands of commercial drone users are waiting in the wings for a few last technical details to be figured out (especially sense-and-avoid technology) and for the implementation of legal regulations allowing drones to share airspace with manned aircraft. » More

The Future of NATO Missile Defense

Ballistic missile firing from US military vessel, courtesy of NATO

NATO’s missile defense program remains mired in controversy because of its disputed costs, feasibility and strategic necessity, and because of how it has negatively impacted the Alliance’s relations with Russia. To discuss these and related issues, ETH Zurich’s Center for Security Studies (CSS) recently hosted an Evening Talk on the future of NATO missile defense. The guest speakers were Roberto Zadra, who heads the Ballistic Missile Defense Section in NATO’s Defense Investment Division, and Bruno Rösli, who is the Deputy Director of Security Policy for the Swiss Federal Department of Defense,  Civil Protection and Sport. » More

Prior focus: Partner Insights

Floating Liabilities? Maritime Armouries, Risks and Solutions

USS Mitscher, US Fifth Fleet/flickr

This article was originally published by Sustainable Security on 2 January, 2015.

The use of security forces to protect merchant vessels from piracy has led to a rise in ‘floating armouries’: vessels that are used for weapons storage, often moored in international waters. This growing trend raises a number of concerns over security, oversight and transparency.

From 2005 onwards, cargo ships traversing the seas off the coast of Somalia into the Gulf of Aden have become targets of maritime piracy. One of the responses has been to station armed guards on the ships, or on support vessels travelling with the ships to protect them. On commercial ships these guards have generally been provided by Private Maritime Security Companies (PMSCs) with weapons owned by the PMSCs themselves or leased from governments or other PMSCs in the region.

PMSCs need to have storage for the weapons when not in use. One option is to store them in land-based armouries, the other is to store them in ‘floating armouries’. A new report  by the Omega Research Foundation commissioned by the Remote Control project examines the issue of floating armouries and offers recommendations for how they could be regulated. » More

Prior focus: Academic Perspectives

Deciphering Sun Tzu: How to Read “The Art of War”

Sun Tzu. Frank Williams /Wikimedia Commons

This article was originally published by LSE Review of Books on 10 January 2015.

“As yin and yang are at once interconnected, interpenetrating, and interdependent in an uninterrupted manner, the polarity of the situation essentially rests in them (or the yin-yang continuum).” (p. 16)

Whenever an individual undergoes a new experience there is a point that is known as the light bulb moment. This occurs when the individual moves from participating in an experience to understanding the experience. In other words, a richer and deeper involvement is gained post-light bulb moment. It is likely that reading Deciphering Sun Tzu: How to Read the Art of War by Derek Yuen is very much a light bulb moment for commentators on Western strategic thought, as the quote at the start of this review highlights the secret of the Chinese dialectical system and why it is predisposed to strategic thinking. » More

Why Are European Leaders So Afraid of Greece’s Syriza Party?

Alexis Tzirpas. Thierry Ehrmann/flickr

This article was originally published by The Conversation on 9 January, 2015.

The calling of a snap election in Greece for January 25 has been met with great concern in political circles, prompted direct interventions by top European officials and alarmed markets and credit rating agencies.

This is all because Syriza, the Greek Coalition of the Radical Left, is being tipped to win the election. It is currently the largest opposition party in the Greek parliament and consistently leads the polls as the vote approaches.

According to the latest polls Syriza’s vote share could stretch anywhere between 36% to 40%, with the centre-right New Democracy trailing by at least three percentage points. Anything above 36% gives Syriza not only an electoral victory but an outright governing majority in the Greek parliament because the winning party is automatically handed a 50-seat bonus in the 300-seat parliament.

Opponents claim that Syriza would renege on Greece’s international obligations if it came to power and that efforts to reform the country would be halted. Political instability would ensue and the eurozone would again be plunged into crisis. Talk of Greece leaving the euro has been particularly prominent of late. » More

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