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Emerging Threats and Opportunities

27 October 2020
Emerging Threats and Opportunities

Deterrence

The Texas National Security Review have published a primer on Coercion Theory, including deterrence theory, and how it applies to contemporary geopolitics. This article has also been released in podcast format by Horns of a Dilemma.

Major Power Competition

Modern War Institute have released a podcast interview with Dr Jack Watling of RUSI, exploring the lessons being drawn from the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The interview focussed upon the surprisingly high level of attrition attained by Azerbaijan against Armenian main battle tanks (MBTs) over a relatively short period of conflict. Reportedly over 80 MBTs have been destroyed, primarily through anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs). Reportedly, engagements writ large have occurred at ranges extending to several hundred kilometres. This observation is amplified by operational analysis from Syria, reportedly seeing over two thousand armoured vehicles having been lost during that conflict, including transferred Russian T-90s. Bellingcat analysis reinforces such findings, importantly noting that the simplicity in design of ATGMs provides a very good rate of successful engagement, even with non-state actors (Bellingcat quote that TOW missile employment in Syria recorded an approximate 76% hit rate). Dr Watling, writing for RUSI, links the high attrition rate with the proliferation of sensors in the battlespace. The implication suggested by this analysis is the requirement for invigoration in camouflage and deception, augmented by long-range fires capabilities that collectively empower distributed manoeuvre concepts. This is based on the logic that any massing of forces will be detected and targeted on today’s battlespace.

Regional View

The Diplomat reports on whether the Islamic State – Khorasan Province (ISKP) could be the next chapter of global terrorism with the Taliban possibly exiting the Afghanistan war theatre. The ISKP emerged in late 2014 in southern and eastern Afghanistan and has shown continued resilience against Afghan and coalition forces, despite concerted targeting efforts over the period 2015-2018. There has been continued official peace progress in Afghanistan, with the February US-Taliban agreement and recent peace talks between the Afghan Government and the Taliban in Qatar.

Information Warfare and Cyber

Graphika have released a report examining 300 online pages established by the Russian GRU, taken down by Facebook on September 24. The report continues to illuminate the methods employed by capable state sponsors of hostile social manipulation. This report was followed closely on another Graphika piece, this time examining an online network linked to the Myanmar military ahead of scheduled elections on November 8. The implications of these reports are to highlight the rapid acceleration of change that has seemingly normalised election interference activities online since 2016.

Irregular Warfare and Terrorism

The Soufan Centre have released an analysis of the Atomwaffen Division (AWD), a white supremacist organisation with a presence in the United States, Germany, United Kingdom, Australia, the Baltics, Russia and the Ukraine. The AWD is deploying volunteers to leverage the ‘Battlefield Laboratory’ of the ongoing conflict in the Ukraine. This evolution to the ‘foreign fighter’ phenomenon is providing the group combat experience and, as argued by the Soufan Centre, should be met by designation as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation by the United States. The report also reinforces analysis in ETOs from September, discussing the rise of extreme right wing (XRW). ASIO has revealed that XRW violent extremism now accounts for between 30%-40% of its current counter-terrorism workload, compared to 10%-15% in 2016.  As a result, ASIO are now looking very closely at listing XRW groups on Australia’s terror register. This comes after a significant jump in global anti-government sentiment (notably in Greece and Germany) fuelled by Syrian and Libyan refugees, the pandemic and recent lockdowns.

From the Irregular Warfare Podcast, comes an analysis of Counterinsurgency in the Philippines, a discussion between Dr Joe Felter (retired U.S. Special Forces Colonel and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Oceania) and Col. Eclarin (retired Filipino Scout Ranger Regiment officer).

Innovation

The United States Government has recently established the National Quantum Initiative, described as the ‘gateway to quantum R&D across the U.S. Government.’ Similar ‘gateways’ have been established by CSIRO (which quotes the potential for Australia’s quantum technology industry to ‘generate over $4B in revenue and 16K new jobs’) and the UK National Quantum Technologies Program (which quotes a £1B future industry). The importance of quantum technology to defence applications was recently discussed in this AARC seminar.

Also, the US Army’s Modern War Institute is promoting a Stanford University course, Technology, Innovation and Modern War as a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) with open courseware, recommended readings, and the publishing of recorded presentations. ETOs will continue tracking the progress of this course as a learning resource for those interested in this topic. Currently published material includes Class One and Two, presented by Ash Carter (the twenty-fifth secretary of defense) and Max Boot (author of War Made New, amongst other titles); and Class Three and Four, presented by Anja Manuel (former State Department official) and Bridge Colby (former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for Strategy).

Events

  • ANU’s NSC recently hosted Secretary of Home Affairs, Michael Pezzullo in a seminar titled ‘On Security.’ Secretary Pezzullo shared his views and experience pertaining to the multitude of security threats recently faced by Australia, arguing that they have been, and should continue to be, approached in a deliberate manner that doesn’t compromise the values Australia holds dear. The recording of this seminar can be viewed here.
  • The U.S. Studies Centre hosted a conversation with former Under Secretary of Defence for Policy Michele Flournoy, titled ‘The Future of US Defence Strategy in the Indo-Pacific.’ The recording of this seminar is available here.
  • 23 October: Defence Innovation Network’s: Virtual Industry Forum: High-speed Sensors, Effectors and Directed Energy. This is an online event. Details are available here.
  • 27-29 October: Defence iQ will be holding ‘Future Artillery Online’. An online event focusing on future long-range precision firepower modernisation efforts. Details are available here.
  • 29 October: CDA Institute is hosting a webinar with an impressive panel of speakers addressing the topic of ‘Fighting Back Foreign Electoral Interference.’ Details are available here.
  • 1 November: DSTG is hosting their Emerging Disruptive Technology Assessment Symposium Agile Command and Control (AC2). Details are available here.
  • 4 November: Special Online Event: General Sir Peter Cosgrove ‘in conversation’. This is a Zoom event. Details are available here.

The views expressed in this article and subsequent comments are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.

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Discussion

Matthew Struthers on 29 October 2020 - 6:43am

Editor's note: This Land Power Forum post is now open for discussion.