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BRICS Summit 2012: A long Journey to cover; Overview, Outcomes and Expectations

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BRICS summit logo
BRICS Summit 2012 Logo

Leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa met on Thursday, Mar 29, 2012 in Delhi for the fourth annual Summit. Earlier known as BRIC before the addition of South Africa, BRICS is the group of emerging economies around the world, who are exploring new ways of collaboration, collective economic growth and developing common ground on foreign policy.

Sao Paulo at night
Sao Paulo, Brazil
All five economies maintain a great potential to become a superpower, but most of them are dependent on western economies. Any ups and down in the western markets leave their impact on these markets.
Moscow at night
Moscow, Russia

The summit stressed on linking economies, as in trading in local currencies as well as linking stock exchanges of the member countries. The leaders also stressed on setting up of an international bank on par with Asian Development Bank, IMF and World Bank. It would fund various development projects in member countries and other emerging economies and may act as a relief provider for first time buyer mortgages in case of real financial crisis and disaster. The goal of the bank will also include lending, in the long term, if there comes a global financial crises such as the Eurozone crisis and issuing convertible debt, which could be bought by the central banks of all the member nations. Hence it will be acting as a vessel for risk-sharing.

Mumbai at night
Mumbai, India
Shanghai at night
Shanghai, China

The idea of setting up such bank was put forward by India, which received a good response from the member countries as well as from the countries who were observing the event carefully. Analyst John Mashaka called India’s move “long overdue”, and said that setting up a bank was a means of “pulling out of the western-dominated World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.” Assistant professor at the Institute of African Studies (China) Yuhua Xiao noted that setting up the bank showed signs of growing self-assertiveness and inter-dependence among developing economies. Dr. Alexandra A Arkhangelskaya noted that creating such a bank would effectively “shift the weight of economic power”, and could also be very beneficial to non-BRICS nations.

Johannesburg at night
Johannesburg, South Africa

The nations also signed an agreement to extend credit facilities in their local currencies, a step to reduce the role of dollar between them. As of now, if Russia wants to trade with India, Russia will convert Rubles to Dollars send it to India, and then India will convert Dollars to Rupees. Completely removing the intermediate step of converting to and from dollar is not so easy, but if removed, the trade between the two countries will become independent of what the value of dollar is, which is highly unstable.

Also the nations will be launching a benchmark equity index derivatives that would allow investor of one member country to bet on the performance of stock exchanges of other member countries without currency risk.

Accounted 50% of global economic growth in last decade, BRICS accounts for 26% of global landmass, 42% of the global population and 40% of global GDP.

Below is the tabulation of the countries and their economy in therms of GDP (PPP). The data is taken from CIA World Factbook GDP PPP data update of 2011. PPP is one of the scale to measure difference between two economies. Using a PPP basis is arguably more useful when comparing generalized differences in total economic output between countries because PPP takes into account the relative costs and the inflation rates of the countries, rather than using just exchange rates, which may distort the real differences in income. The table shows BRICS as a single entity is more powerful than European Union. The data for GDP at purchasing power parity (PPP) has also been re based using the new International Comparison Program (ICP) price surveys and extrapolated to 2007. Final figures are estimates in billions of international dollars.

Rank Country GDP (PPP) $Billion Year
BRICS 20,975 2011 est.
 European Union 15,390 2011 est.
1  United States 15,040 2011 est.
2  China 11,300 2011 est.
3  India 4,463 2011 est.
4  Japan 4,389 2011 est.
5  Germany 3,085 2011 est.
6  Russia 2,373 2011 est.
7  Brazil 2,284 2011 est.
8  United Kingdom 2,250 2011 est.
9  France 2,214 2011 est.
10  Italy 1,826 2011 est.

Another method of measuring economy is GDP (nominal) based on official exchange rates. The list below includes mostly 2011 estimates from the CIA World Factbook. The table shows BRICS as the third largest economy after EU and US.

Rank Country GDP nominal $Billion Year
 European Union 17,720,000 2011 est.
1  United States 17,720,000 2011 est.
BRICS 13,766,000 2011 est.
2  China 6,988,000 2011 est.
3  Japan 5,866,000 2011 est.
4  Germany  3,739,000 2011 est.
5   France 2,919,000 2011 est.
6  Brazil  2,407,000 2011 est.
7  United Kingdom 2,370,000 2011 est.
8  Italy 2,135,000 2011 est.
9  Russia 1,995,000 2011 est.
10  India 1,954,000 2011 est.

The performance of the BRICS nations on the international platform has been brilliant, despite the fact all these countries come from different continents, having different government, political and economical structure. How far this concept of BRICS will sustain no body knows, but if it works then it will bring a great change in the current world, a change for good.

The countries have been working together to find some common ground and fortunately their thoughts match on the issues of West Asia, North Africa and Afghanistan. All five countries called for the international community to continue development projects in Afghanistan for 10 years after America led international forces will withdraw from the nation by the end of 2014.

BRICS nations together have strongly condemned the Western world’s politics on Iran to make other countries stick to the restrictions imposed by them on trade ties.  China’s Trade Minister Chen Deming said that the “rise [in the price] of crude oil has impacted all countries. The Iran issue has become an issue for all. We need to continue with normal relations with Iran, but, at the same time, we respect UN resolution. We hope that unilateral movement by one country will not affect other countries.”  The group warned against any military intervention in Syria by the West or by Israel in Iran. They added that a war with Iran would have “disastrous consequences.”

BRICS VS EU map
Landmass of BRICS vs EU, Click to Enlarge

Out of five BRICS nations, three of them have remained or are super power. India before 14th century, Russia in the 20th century and China almost in 21st century. No matter these countries possess power and wealth, but they may not share good relations with each other. Brazil and South Africa being geographically isolated from these nations share good relations with all. The best example is China and India,  both of them have faced each other in the war in 1965 and China is still occupying a large part of North India and claims some part of Indian territory in North East India. China was also about to open the front in Indo Pakistani war in 1971 but didn’t do so, fearing Pro Indian Soviet Union might take action against them. Russia and China have also shared cold relations following the illegal migration of Chinese in Russia’s far east and border dispute which was recently resolved.

Russia and India have been sharing good relations from the Soviet times. India also shares good relations with South Africa, one of the major reason being Mahatma Gandhi, whose work in South Africa promoted equality between blacks and whites. In South Africa, Mahatma Gandhi is equally respected as in India. Brazil has also been close to all the countries.

Leaving aside all these solid claims about BRICS, there are critics as well who discuss why BRICS might fail with some genuine facts. One of the reason is all these countries come from different continents, different social, economical and political systems and some of these countries do not share good relations as well as common ground.

One of the best example of this claim is that after the declaration of setting up of an International bank, these countries fear that China will be the most benefited country out of all and will enjoy the most.

However, just after the summit was over, India and China declared that they will keep their border issue aside for now and will take more steps to increase trade between the two neighbors. Indian government also expressed their interest in inviting Chinese investment in India’s manufacturing sector. Both the countries have together declared this year as Indo Chinese year of friendship and cooperation.

After the summit, Brazil and India also took the opportunity of exploring their way of cooperation. The two countries signed six pacts in areas ranging from closer cooperation in science and biotechnology to cultural exchanges. Under a signature, Brazilian initiative Science Without Borders, the two sides inked a pact that envisages placement of Brazilian students and young researchers in India. It will be funded by Brazil.

US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said, “We reviewed the leaders’ Delhi declaration and believe that their efforts to engage in global multilateral institutions productively can only strengthen the international system. United States welcomed the efforts by the so-called BRICS — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — to support the recovery of the global economy as well as “

Russian by roots, global citizen by choice. In love with India and Indian culture, love to report everything from politics to military news. Against the controlled media.

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Opinion

The History Question: Is It Better to Remember or to Forget?

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Years ago, a philosopher by the name of George Santayana said a phrase that fuels many debates to this day. His original saying is “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”, although, many sources now present it as variations of “those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it”. The latter definitely has more substance to it in the light of the ongoing debate about how much history we should be learning and how.

Is It Better to Remember or Forget About the Past?

On one hand, Santayana was right. Learning about the past is essential in order for people to progress. One also shouldn’t overlook the importance of remembrance and paying respects to the dead, both those who pushed the progress forward and those who have fallen victims to major tragedies that could and should have been averted.

The main argument in favor of learning about the past is that its knowledge is necessary for preventing the same thing happening in the future. Having it one can see the signs and stop the tragedy before it gains momentum.

That’s sound in theory, but the reality is always different. For example, today people are surely forgetting, and the much-critiqued education system is only partially at fault here. Even the greatest of tragedies weren’t spared this fate. It’s a proven fact that about two-thirds of millennials today don’t know about the Holocaust, and this number is surely greater for generations that follow them. In the school history course, the subject of one of the greatest disasters in history is barely touched, if touched at all. And outside of a history classroom, one can only see small, but terrifying, glimpses of it at the Holocaust Museum and other museums that rarely attract many visitors. And now we are witnessing a rise of antisemitic crime.

Are these two facts related? Does the lack of awareness about the horrors done in the name of Aryan supremacy contribute to the fact that right-winged extremists seem to be gaining popularity again?

It does, but by how much? That is the question that no one can truly answer.

And what about other genocides? The Holocaust had the highest death toll, but it was far from the only genocide in history. And quite a few of those happened after World War 2 and before the memory of the atrocities against the Jews began to fade. This means that while forgetting history is a factor, it’s not the deciding factor in its repeats.

But what is that thing responsible for the reenactment of past mistakes and tragedies?

Learning. This is the important thing that is most often overlooked when citing Santayana’s famous saying. It’s not enough to learn about the past and know the facts of things that happened. It’s important to learn from those facts and put in place protections that will prevent them from happening again. And this is something that humanity, as a whole, has yet to succeed in doing.

Dwelling in the Past Can Be Just As Bad

One also shouldn’t forget that there is such a thing as “too much history”. The Bosnian War and genocide that happened there in the 1990s is a vivid example of how the past can be exploited by political powers. Used as a part of propaganda, which fueled the war, history can become a weapon in the hands of those who want to use it for their own goals.

And this is what humans have been doing since the dawn of time. There is always someone who will use any means necessary to achieve whatever it is they wish. This results in wars and genocides, and hundreds of smaller but no less devastating tragedies.

Therefore, the problem isn’t whether people should be learning history but human nature itself. Perhaps, teaching this can help fix this fundamental flaw and truly stop the worst of the past from repeating.

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Is there such thing as cyberwar?

Alexandra Goman

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Two decades have passed after Arquilla and Ronfeldt in 1993 warned the public about an upcoming. They were also the first to introduce a concept of cyberwar and give an elaborated opinion. They referred to a conduct and preparation of military operations using information-related principles and also invoked a link between intelligence (the collection of information for political or military purpose) and cyber operations. Now, the scale of intelligence has significantly expanded.

Interestingly, before cyber appeared, there was a radio which was used for intelligence purposes and was weaponized later in the World War II. From that time on, electronic warfare became standard characteristics of a modern conflict. Despite this, there is a key difference between electronic warfare and a cyber one. Traditional electronic warfare aimed to guide, target, or protect weapons systems (Ibid., p. 24). In contrast, cyber makes today’s weapons and military systems smarter but also more vulnerable for an attack.

At the moment everyone still wonders what the whole idea of cyberwar means. There is no accepted interpretation or definition. Furthermore, many experts even say that such war does not even exist (or cannot be referred to the notion of “war”). Perhaps, it is due to the fact that a war in cyberspace has not yet happened. To make it clear, cyber capability has not actually killed anyone and a code has not been used as the use of force.

Similarly, the dangers of a nuclear bomb were recognized only after its use, the same goes to the notion of “nuclear war”. Although there have been many cyberattacks, none of them have been raised to the level of war because none of them, in fact, caused the level of damage which could be adhered to the level of a large-scale conflict.

Cyber warfare has derived from different aspects of conventional warfare and traditional definitions of war. It usually involves organized units within nation-state in offensive or defensive operations which are part of a war or a conflict.

In general, since cyber study is relatively new, there are many competing terms and definitions to explain cyber phenomenon. The following concepts – the revolution in military affairs, electronic warfare, information warfare, and cyber war – have been all offered to describe the new emerging area of conflict. Experts do not agree on any particular term, more often using different notions when talking about cyber issues. Nonetheless, it is vital to understand the facts of the 21st century similarly to the need that rose along with the invention of atomic reaction. A major concern now is no longer weapons of mass destruction, but weapons of mass disruption. (2009, p. 47).

One of the central elements to define a cyberwar, is that it has to meet the same criteria, applied to any other type of war. Vandalism or spying is an act of crime, but they do not start wars. So, assumingly, there has to be physical destruction and casualties in order to declare a war.

Therefore, a cyberwar should have real world damage similar to a conventional war. For this matter, it should probably take place in a digital world. What is not clear, however, is whether it should be fought exclusively in cyberspace or it can accompany a conventional attack too. This aspect is quite interesting, because cyberattacks can easily be used in combination with a kinetic attack and can multiply the force and power of the attacker.

In this case, it does not make sense to create a new term “cyberwar” as it falls down under the same definition of war. It is the same example when aerial bombings supported the attacks on the ground during the World War I, but in the end we called it a war, not a particular type of war. Consequently, cyber introduction resembles more a revolution in military affairs, rather that a new emerging type of warfare.

What is clear, though, is that the difference in definitions complicates the matters of regulating cyberspace and prevents achieving a common ground on cyber issues and/or developing new treaties and agreements between the states. So far there is no international agreement on the cyber principles, despite some attempts of the states to engage into negotiations (Budapest Conference on Cyberspace, the World Conference on International Telecommunications). There is, however, the Convention on Cybercrime, the first international agreement that addresses compute crime, adopted by the Council of Europe. Interestingly enough, Russia (as a part of the Council) neither signed nor ratified the agreement, whereas US (not part of the Council) recognized it and ratified it.

Apart from these difficulties in defining cyberwar, there has been a hyperbolic use of the word itself, mostly by media and tabloids (e.g. The Washington Post, “We are at cyberwar and we are our own enemy”; The New York Times, “How to prevent Cyberwar”; Zdnet, “Cyberwar: a guide to the frightening future of online conflict”; Komsomolskaya Pravda, “Are we expecting the First World Cyberwar?” etc.). They do not usually give any concrete information but are eager to use this term and apply it randomly to different cases just because it sounds good.  All in all, uninformed public use of the word has enormously contributed into the heat surrounding cyber implications.

Futher, cyberattacks are too often discussed equivalently, regardless of its impact. In this sense, minor cases like ransomware or phishing might be raised to the level of an armed attack (especially if they affect multiple computers worldwide). Yet, these cases are good examples of cybercrime, and crime is not a war. When individuals engage into this type of activity, they do not engage in a war.  The same goes for espionage in cyberspace. Catching a spy on one’s territory will certainly put pressure on bilateral relations, but it would not start a war.

This exaggeration of cyberattacks can be explained through securitization theory. The notion offered by the Copenhagen Security School describes how a certain concept can be politicized and securitized to the extent that it becomes a threat to national security (See Buzan, 2006).

To conclude, it should be mentioned that there is no guidance for the conduct of “cyberwar”.  There are no internationally agreed definitions and, to that extent, the whole idea of cyberwar so far seems unrealistic. At this moment technology is not sophisticated enough to ensure a military conduct entirely in cyberspace. Besides, any cyberattack of such scale would presumably result in a physical destruction, which consequently might provoke a conventional retaliation attack. This, in result, would cause a war we know for years, so there is no need to introduce a particular type of war. On another note, using cyber operations to support a conventional war and/or conflict is the way to go, but in this case it is just a revolution and modernization in military affairs.

I would be interested to hear your opinion about that in the comments below.

For further information see:

1)    A movie “War Games” (1983)

2)    Arquilla, J. and Ronfeldt, D. (1993). The Cyberwar is Coming! RAND Corporation, [online] Available at: https://www.rand.org/pubs/reprints/RP223.html

3)    Cetron, M. J. and Davies, O. (2009). Ten critical trends for cyber security. The Futurist, 43(5), pp. 40–49.

4)    Stiennon, R. (2015). There Will Be Cyberwar: How The Move To Network-Centric War Fighting Has Set The Stage For Cyberwar. Michigan: IT-Harvest Press.

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On the issue of cyber security of critical infrastructures

Alexandra Goman

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There is a lot of talk in regards to cyberattacks nowadays. A regular user worries about its data and tries to secure by all means necessary. Yet, no one really thinks whether the power plants or nuclear facilities are well secured. Everyone assumes that they should be secured.

The reality, however, differs. According to many reports of cyber security companies, there is an increased risk of cyberattacks, targeting SCADA and ICS. Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) is used for the systems that control physical equipment – power plants, oil and gas pipelines, they can also control or monitor processes such as heating or energy consumption. Along with Industrial Control Systems (ICS) they control critical elements of industrial automation processes. Exploiting vulnerabilities of critical infrastructures can lead to the consequences of unimaginable scale. (These types of attacks are actually used in a cyberwar scenarios and hypothetical military settings).

Source: Fortinet, 2015

There are many reasons why these systems are vulnerable for attacks. First of all, the main problem is that these systems have an old design; they were built before they were connected to any networks. They were later configured to connect via Ethernet, and that’s when they became a part of a larger infrastructure. The more advanced SCADA system is becoming, the more vulnerabilities are these to exploit. The updates should be regular and on time. Secondly, there is a lack of monitoring. New devices that are connected allow remote monitoring, but not all devices have the same reporting capabilities. There are also authentication issues (weak passwords, authentication process), however, this is supposed to restrict unauthorized access (See Common SCADA Threats and Vulnerabilities at Patriot Technologies, Inc. Online).

In these scenarios, there is no certainty to know what is going to backfire because of the complexity of communications and power networks. This is also called a cascading effect of attacks. Not knowing who is connected to who may cause major disruptions. The example of the US East Coast power blackout in 2003 proves this point (a failure in one element of the grid spreads across other electrical networks). However, given this, it is also complicated for an attacker to predict consequences, if an attack executed. This kind of attack can easily escalate into more serious conflict, so it might not be the best option for states to employ such methods.

Moreover, there is a risk to damage a critical infrastructure unintentionally. That is if a virus or worm did not intend to target SCADA but happen to spread there as well. The uncontrollability of the code may seriously impair the desire to use it, especially when it comes to nation-states. For instance, in 2003 a worm penetrated a private network of the US Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station and disabled a safety monitoring system for 5 hours. In 2009, French fighter jets could not take off because they were infected with a virus.

Indeed, a scenario where an attacker gains access to a SCADA system and manipulates with the system, causing disruptions on a large-scale, might be hypothetical but it does not make it less possible in the future. However, the only known case so far, which affected an industrial control centre, is Stuxnet. It did not result in many deaths, yet it drew attention of the experts on the plausibility of future more sophisticated attacks. These potential upcoming attacks might cause the level of destruction, comparable to that of a conventional attack, therefore resulting in war.

Further reading:

Bradbury, D. (2012). SCADA: a Critical Vulnerability. Computer Fraud & Security, 4, p. 11-14.

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