I'm in Halifax for the Halifax International Security Forum. You can follow this thread for a grab-bag of military/diplomacy/geopolitics stuff from over the weekend. #HISF2019
First panel: "Revolutions of our time." A who's who of all the protests happening worldwide.

On the panel is Ambassador Isadora Zubillaga, representing the opposition National Assembly. Some more on her: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/10/opinion/venezuela-france.html
She says the Western sanctions are "the most important tool" available to force change in Venezuela. They're not enough, she says. "U.S. and Canadian sanctions should be accompanied by the rest of the world."
Also, this. If the veto happens, though, Professor Steve Tsang points out that it will be a huge, friendly, signal from Trump to Xi. https://twitter.com/natsecHeather/status/1197971249848291329?s=20
The panel is made up of democratic activists from Egypt, Venezuela, and Hong Kong. As is pointed out, China's illiberal influence is common for not just those three, but when it comes to most authoritarian leaders worldwide.
Every authoritarian is a victory for Beijing. If the international balance tilts against democracy, that means more stability — and clients — for Xi. See: Recent duelling statements from UN member states. https://www.hongkongfp.com/2019/10/30/un-members-split-chinas-mass-detention-surveillance-ethnic-uighurs-xinjiang/
Keeping that going, next panel is on the values trade with China ("our way or the Huawei.") On the panel is Emily Lau, a former chair of the pro-democracy HK Democratic Party. "If people tell you China doesn't care about public opinion — don't believe them," she says. #hisf2019
Lau points out that the China-Hong Kong compact was supposed to exist for the long term. Beijing is taking the position of: "In the long term, we're all dead — so why don't you die now?"

"We don't want to die, my friends," Lau says. #HISF2019
Pauline Neville-Jones, former chair of the UK joint intel committee and current member of the House of Lords, skewering the West's slapdash focus on short-term trade in the face of an organized and dedicated Chinese advisory. "I think we are giving away the game."
Containment (or, random tariffs) won't work either, she says. Globalization ruined that. So:
-We need to stop exporting some advanced, military and technological goods to China
-There needs to be more thought about forbidding Chinese investment in certain areas (5G, for a start)
-The US needs to make the conscious effort to keep pressing on China, but to share the burden with its allies (both diplomatically and militarily.)

"China is the challenge of our age," Neville-Jones says.
Josh Rogin, WaPo columnist, breaking down just how wide-ranging the Huawei issue is. Yeah it's about spying, but it also shows how China is willing to fire economic torpedoes, arrest foreign nations, spend enormous amounts on lobbying and buying media, etc.
Foreign Affairs editor Gideon Rose, moderating and playing devil's advocate, offers a China perspective: They have moderated their economy, lifted millions from poverty, started fighting climate change, and joined the international community. Why are they getting punished?
Rogin lays out the answer to that: China is not a benign influence worldwide. "Their engagement with us is designed to undermine that [liberal] order." They're stealing tech, using illegal subsidies, etc etc.
Lau riffs on that: "China knows your game very well!"

Huawei is very good at hiring lobbyists. They hired an Obama cybersecurity official to do D.C. lobbying. Here in Canada, they've hired several well-placed former ministerial staff. https://lobbycanada.gc.ca/app/secure/ocl/lrs/do/clntSmmry?clientOrgCorpNumber=278764&sMdKy=1370770651439
The conversation is turning to Chinese students attending Western universities. Lau says we need to stop selling our higher-ed because they want more funds and tuition dollars from China.
More than just chatting through this, the Halifax Forum is funding a research project to propose concrete plans to push back against Chinese authoritarianism. (It'll be released at the Forum next year.)
One-on-one chat with Rep Senator Jim Risch. On the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act (which Trump initially supported, though he's now waffling):

"We're not going to stand by and watch [what's going on in Hong Kong.] I expect that the bill will become law." #HISF2019
"If you're hooked up to Huawei, [Beijing] has access to everything. Stay away from Huawei," Risch says. (He's on the Senate intel committee.)
Risch ends on a note saying that Washington's sanctions on Tehran and Moscow proves the American strategy is well effective. Which is.....optimistic, at best.
At #HISF2019 this morning, Cindy McCain is here to award a prize named for her late husband. The award is going, collectively, to the people of Hong Kong. To accept the award: Emily Lau, and Figo Chan.
Chan, who has been in the streets of Hong Kong protesting Chinese oppression, accepts the award: "we are fighting for democracy, freedom, and social justice." He's wearing a t-shirt that reading "1/2,000,001" (recognizing the 2m+ protesters) and "I'm free, therefore I am."
"The people in Hong Kong are watching," Lau says. "But there are other people who are definitely watching — the Chinese."
"We hoped that Britain, the former colonial power, would help. We hoped their allies would help," Lau says. There's an obvious disappointment, there, that they havent done more. #HISF2019
"We hope our friends here will ensure that there are no rivers of blood in Hong Kong," Lau says.
Phil Davidson, U.S. commander of the Indo-Pacific Command, downplaying Beijing military build-up in the South China Sea. Suggests that militarization largely ended in 2017, due in part to U.S. deployments there.
Senator Barrasso, on what would happen if President Trump vetos the Hong Kong bill: "I would imagine there would be an override."
Senator Risch warns Ottawa on Huawei: "Is it worth it to save a little bit of money to buy a cheaper system? My conclusion is a resounding no. And I would hope that the Canadian government would come to the same conclusion...Canadian intelligence are fully briefed on this issue."
I asked Senator King and Representative Banks (part of the Congressional delegation at #HISF2019) about the new Turkish incursions, and how much appetite there would be for congressional sanctions. They suggested the support would be there. https://twitter.com/RojavaIC/status/1198220522762461184?s=19
Up now is going to be arguably the most interesting of the weekend. It's Robert O'Brien, National Security Advisor for President Trump.
Is the U.S. doing enough to equip Ukraine to fight Russia?
"Is Europe doing enough for Ukraine? Is the rest of the world doing enough for Ukraine?" O'Brien asks.
O'Brien declines to talk about withholding aid to Kyiv. Moderator Nick Schifrin pushes on the testimony at the impeachment hearings.
"What I know is what I saw on TV," O'Brien says.
O'Brien making an incredibly odd pivot, suggesting that a dollar spent in Ukraine is a dollar taken away from a single mother in need.

I see one former U.S. intel/military official with his fingers pressed to his temple, eyes closed.
"I don't have insight into Ukraine meddling," O'Brien says.
Moderator keeps poking on this. "Can you tell us why it is that the President repeats Russian disinformation?"
O'Brien: "The President is not repeating Russian disinformation." #HISF2019
Ok, onto China and the NYT reports of the internment, torture, and killing of Uyghur Muslim Chinese.
"Those camps should be closed, dismantled. But it's not just the camps, it's the surveillance infrastructure," O'Brien says. AI, facial recognition: "It's a beta," he says.
O'Brien argues that the surveillance state created in Xinjiang is going to be rolled out across China. And that'll be proof of concept to use elsewhere in the world. "And Huawei is the backbone of that."
Any country that lets Huawei into its telecommunications infrastructure is at risk."It's very difficult to compartmentalize your internet or your 5G infrastructure."

"Once you bring your Trojan horse into the city...it's going to be very difficult to avoid the consequences."
No answer from O'Brien as to whether the President will sign the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.

He's now walking through all the human rights and economic issues with China, balancing them with American desire for a trade deal.
"That bill is going to become law," O'Brien says. Sort of a wink that the president can veto the bill and it may not matter.
We head off to Syria. "What we don't want to see is for the caliphate come back," he says. The main way the U.S is continuing that fight is by seizing the oil. He adds the context to the President's rhetoric, says the oil is pumped by the Kurds, and the money stays with them.
He concedes that some of the oil is sold to the Assad regime.
I've been to a fair number of these conferences. Don't think I've ever seen the room 100% full.
O'Brien just compared Trump delegating work to Rudy Giuliani to FDR relying on foreign policy advisor Harry Hopkins during World War II. Which is one hell of a swing at a comparison.
And we're back to the impeachment. What of the Trump/GOP attacks on the national security bureaucracy?
"It's rhetoric from both sides," O'Brien says. Equivocates Trump attacking his own ambassadors and former staff to Democrats trying to impeach the president.
Question from the audience: You called America the most compassionate country in the world. Not on refugees!
O'Brien: "The problem with refugees is the despicable conditions -- and some of the despots who create those conditions -- that these refugees live in."
O'Brien suggests the American military is helping reverse those conditions, and say American funding for refugees is still high.

This is some pretty bold spin. America will accept 18,000 refugees this year.
A question from a Uyghur representative: Why haven't we heard a statement on the literal concentration camps?
O'Brien: "Whether we have a phase 1 trade deal or not is not going to affect how we handle human rights with China."
Rapid fire:
Afghan peace deal: Needs to be a ceasefire or a serious reduction of violence first
Ukraine joining NATO: "I don't think that's on the agenda right now...it wouldn't be appetizing to NATO as a whole."
Is Ukraine being thrown under the bus right now? "Corruption has been a major issue in Ukraine, that's a fact of life." Says things are getting better.

Petro Poroshenko, former President of Ukraine, is sitting in the front row. He did a significant amount to fight corruption.
The next panel is all about tech. (featuring the somewhat inscrutable tagline "responsibility to pro-tech." ) It features CSE Chief Shelly Bruce and Andrew Zagorodniuk, Ukraine's defence minister.
Bruce makes the perpetual CSE pitch of saying that cyber security should be a defensive issue. But she makes an interesting point: Most attacks are conducted using known vulnerabilities. Obviously, that shouldn't happen.
"We are stopping about a billion actions a day against the Canadian government," Bruce says. Between security software, and signals intel pointing to foreign threats, she says. That billion might be scanning, or more serious actions. Some state, some non-state.
"Investing in a VPN is a wise choice," CSE Chief Bruce says. Which is interesting in an assortment of ways.
Gen. Tammy Harris, former Deputy Commander of the Canadian Air Force is asked the question: Is Canada a leader in the Arctic?

My take: Not only is this an opportunity cost for future Arctic shipping, it also means we're drastically undeserving residents of our Arctic (particular Innu/Inuit communities); and furthermore we're leaving the door open for Chinese infrastructure build-up.
We just came out with a new Arctic policy, but it makes scant mention of new military installations or deep-water ports. A lack of access to opportunity, accented by Ottawa's indifference, going to encourage communities to look to Beijing for investments.
Final day of #HISF2019. We start with a pretty big interview, with Petro Poroshenko, former President of Ukraine.
"So long as there a Vladimir Putin in Russia, you're never get Crimea back, are you?"
Poroshenko: "Definitely yes. The sooner, the earlier, the better."
Poroshenko making a point to compliment Canada — Harper, Trudeau, and specifically Chrystia Freeland.

He offers a piece of advice (having not mentioned Trump by name yet) "please, don't trust Putin."
Poroshenko is being coy, but suggests that Trump's obsession with Ukraine is a victory for Putin's disinformation campaign:
"Using the elements of hybrid war, Putin tries to move attention from this."
"The struggle between Democrats and Republicans, that's for the Americans. The Ukrainians have nothing to do with that."
Onto Rudy Giuliani: "I only met him twice." Suggests the only time they talked while he was in office was a productive, normal meeting, focused a lot on building Ukraine's cyber defences. No scoops here!
He never raised the Bidens?
"Definitely not."
Why are the Javelins so important? (The anti-tank missiles at the heart of the quid pro quo)
1. "They're symbolic."
2. "All the Russian tanks stopped appearing on the front. The soldiers refused to sit in the tanks because Ukraine has the Javelins. It saved lives."
You didn't receive military aid from Obama
"Stop doing this!" Poroshenko says (to no one in particular.) Obama provided significant loan guarantees.
"We had -- this is not a joke -- $4,000 in our Treasury...the country was absolutely bankrupt."
"It is very important to keep the NATO door open to Ukraine," Poroshenko says.
Now the panel everyone's been talking about: "Security Solutions, Women’s Contributions."

Originally it had been all-male. (That, I was told, was actually by design. There was supposed to be some message behind it. But obviously that didn't go over well.) Now it's gender equal.
(Halifax has always been relatively good about gender parity on its panels. There's an occasional all-male panel. But there's also an occasional all-female panel.)

Peter Van Prague speaking before the panel, says "women are often an after thought at security conferences."
This will be the last time there's going to be a panel specifically about womens' contribution to security and defence as though it's unique or separate.
"As long as you think culture is a soft, female word, you're going to have a miserable time," Air Commodore Elanor Boekholt-O’Sullivan recalls telling the pilots at the air base she commanded. (She now runs the Dutch cyber command!)
You can follow @Justin_Ling.
Tip: mention @twtextapp on a Twitter thread with the keyword “unroll” to get a link to it.

Latest Threads Unrolled: