I have participated in National Security Council meetings in the past three administrations on issues ranging from efforts to counter ISIL and prevent homeland attacks to the response to Russia’s military interventions in Ukraine and Syria. Across the years, I’ve participated and watched as senior policymakers from across the political spectrum have struggled to formulate policy responses in the face of a familiar set of challenges, including incomplete information, perceived and real time constraints, resource limitations, competing priorities, bureaucratic impediments, and intense public and legislative scrutiny.
Image courtesy of TheDigitalArtist/pixabay
China recently announced the launch of its Jinan Project, a quantum information effort billed as “the world’s first unhackable computer network.” Building on its launch last year of the world’s first quantum-enabled satellite, China has made significant strides in quantum technology, a field with rapidly increasing relevance to national security. Its satellite has been hailed as a major step toward “unbreakable” encrypted communications.
Counter-terrorism fails when it alienates the very communities it is meant to help.
Counter-terrorism strategies aim to disrupt activities of violent extremist groups and limit the spread of violent ideologies. Recent ISS research, supported by several other studies, suggests that some state responses to terrorism – far from alleviating security concerns – instead exacerbate the problem.
States often take a blanket approach to counter-terrorism, identifying a whole group or community as a ‘risk community’ based on a shared identity with violent extremist groups. In such cases, a clear conflict is created between upholding democratic principles of pluralism, the respect for the rule of law and human rights, and states’ views on how to achieve national security objectives.
Russian media played a key role in stoking the conflict in Ukraine, sparking fear in the Baltic states that they could become the next target. In the wake of the Euromaidan protests in Ukraine, Russian state-owned media shaped a nationalistic narrative regarding the annexation of Crimea that spread fear of the new Ukrainian regime and promoted reunification with Russia. Russian media also encouraged the separatist movement in eastern Ukraine and spread multiple false news stories intended to portray Ukraine in the most negative light possible.
In the current media environment, it is not possible to eliminate questionable or false sources of information. In the Baltic states, attempts to do so could backfire by reinforcing allegations that the Russian minorities lack full civil rights. However, encouraging independent media and thoughtful integration of Russian-language programming into mainstream sources will provide more credible alternatives for Baltic Russian speakers. In the longer term, an important tool for all countries facing propaganda and “fake news” is to increase education in media literacy, critical reading, and technical training to thwart hacks and other attempts to hijack information. A population trained to identify bias is the best defense against harmful propaganda.
The low global oil prices being experienced since mid-2014 have had a serious impact on oil-dependent states across the world, many of which have a limited capacity to adjust to the current economic climate. Algeria is considered particularly vulnerable in North Africa, with fears of a return to the instability of the late 1980s and a diminished ability to respond to the region’s fragile security environment.
The steep decline in oil prices has caused budget deficits even in the wealthiest Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia. Yet these states generally have very large foreign currency reserves and sizable sovereign wealth funds that should help them weather the current slump comparatively well. Though not as poorly placed as some sub-Saharan oil-producers such as Nigeria, Algeria lacks such a significant cushion.