The CSS Blog Network

China, Russia and the Shifting Landscape of Arms Sales

Image courtesy of ermaleksandr/Flickr.

This article was originally published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) on 5 July 2017.

Following the end of the cold war and the break-up of the Soviet Union, there were rapid decreases in Russian military budgets. Soviet military expenditure had stood at almost USD $350 billion in 1988. However, by 1992 it had fallen to USD $60 billion and in 1998 was only USD $19 billion. The more flexible parts of the budget suffered the most, such as those for procurement and operations. At the same time, the Russian arms industry saw several major clients for its weapons disappear, chief among them the former Warsaw Pact members and Iraq. By 1992, the arms industry Russia had inherited from the Soviet Union was in serious trouble. Most of its internal market and part of its export market was gone.

In parallel with this development, China was embarking on a serious military modernization. Boosted by its rapidly growing economy, it began to implement a long-planned reorganization of its armed forces and the acquisition of advanced weaponry. (This modernization had been planned since the 1970s and was given extra impetus by the poor performance of China’s armed forces against Viet Nam in 1979.) Chinese military spending has increased almost every year since 1989, the first year of Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) data for China, from USD $21 billion in 1988 to USD $215 billion in 2015. With this surge, China overtook Russia’s spending in 1998 and within five years had become the second largest spender globally behind the United States.

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Marketing to Extremists: Waging War in Cyberspace

This article was originally published by the Small Wars Journal on 9 July 2017.

Online, the Islamic State is a technologically savvy, sophisticated, and nimble organization that learns from its mistakes and from the actions of the Western intelligence services and NGOs that have sought to counter it. It is no secret that past and current efforts to reach potential terrorists before they can become radicalized and committed to a path of jihad and terrorism have proved inadequate. To use the language of online marketers, countering ISIS’s online activities will require quality content disseminated on a massive scale, with careful product placement. Placing counter-messaging products into platforms and forums that extremists frequent will increase the chances of potential terrorist recruits coming into contact with narratives outside of ISIS’ control.

ISIS’s cyber efforts have paid off; the FBI told Congress in July 2016 that “the message of radicalization spreads faster than we imagined just a few years ago.”[i] The number of foreigners who have been inspired by the Islamic State’s online propaganda to travel to Syria and Iraq (or elsewhere) and participate in the fighting is unclear, but most estimates place the tally at more than 20,000. Others have been set on the path of radicalization by ISIS’s online propaganda and have become “lone wolf” attackers in the United States or in Europe.[ii] Demographically speaking, the people who ISIS is most interested in targeting for recruitment came of age in the twenty-first century as “digital natives”; they have lived their entire lives surrounded by ubiquitous online communications and have embraced it in technologically sophisticated ways.[iii] ISIS knows how to appeal to these potential jihadis. Reaching them with counter-messages will require a sophisticated and multi-faceted approach.

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Rwanda’s Election Signals Risk to Recovery from Genocide

Image courtesy of Dean Terry/Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

This article was originally published by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) on 6 July 2017.

President Kagame, Facing Weak Opposition, Should Renew Peacebuilding Efforts

Rwanda has been hailed by observers as a model of post-conflict recovery following the atrocities in the early 1990s that left hundreds of thousands of Rwandans dead and many more displaced. In many respects, the praise is well-deserved. But, when held up against key benchmarks for reducing state fragility and the risk of conflict, signs are growing that peacebuilding efforts may be falling short. Fortunately, this election isn’t expected to stoke violence, but to sustain Rwanda’s remarkable progress, particularly its development gains, it will be critical to heed these warning signs early, before tensions build or another deadly wave of violence emerges.

Consensus is growing among experts in foreign policy, development and defense concerning the definition of state fragility; it’s now widely understood as a lack of institutional capacity or legitimacy that weakens the social contract between citizens and their government, increasing the risk of conflict. In fragile conditions, particularly following a violent conflict like the one that tore apart Rwanda’s social fabric and destroyed its economy in 1994, peacebuilding efforts there and anywhere else should focus on five objectives that are critical to sustaining progress.

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