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July 14, 2011

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Mineral Security

CHRISTINE PARTHEMORE of the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) explores a range of potential vulnerabilities that stem from the dependence of the U.S. defence supply chains on minerals such as lithium, gallium, rhenium, tantalum, niobium and rare earths such as neodymium, samarium and dysprosium on the back of China’s supply blockade of rare-earth minerals to Japan in 2010.

In a CNAS report, “Elements of Security: Mitigating the Risks of U.S. Dependence on Critical Minerals“, she states that minerals could affect U.S. interests through four factors: 1) an evolving energy paradigm, 2) increasing space exploration, 3) accelerating seabed exploration, and 4) a changing defence industrial base, while policymakers were currently hampered by a lack of access to appropriate information and hype could drive policy debates.

She states that vulnerability to mineral supply disruptions could cause high cost overruns for weapons, lags in delivery of equipment, provide leverage to supplier countries and also inhibit development of clean energy technologies. She concludes that the U.S. should conduct new assessments of its defence supply chains, enhance its data collection capabilities on critical minerals and promote information-sharing with the private sector. It should also integrate mineral supply vulnerabilities into its war-gaming scenarios and the Senate should ratify the U.N convention on the law of the sea (UNCLOS).

Global scientific collaboration

Fellows of the Royal Society headed by CHRIS LLEWELYN SMITH survey the changing landscape for science and innovation in the 21st century, its networks of collaboration and implications for global decision-makers in science, business, NGOs and governments for addressing ‘global challenges’ such as climate change, food security, and infectious diseases.

In their study in cooperation with Elsevier, “Knowledge, networks and nations: global scientific collaboration in the 21st century“, they state that international collaboration comprised of up to 35 percent of all publications in international journals and was driven by scientists themselves in their quest to work with the best people, institutions and equipment with the R&D budget estimated at $1.2 trillion, spanning 7 million researchers across the world.

They recommend strengthened support for international science and collaboration, development of national and international science strategies, international capacity building to ensure sharing of the benefits of scientific research and development of better indices to evaluate global science.

Black to White money

ZELJKO BJELAJAC of the University of Novi Sad states that the combination of over 100 tax havens worldwide, correspondent accounts that nullify the ‘Know Your Customer (KYC)’ principle and proliferation of new electronic payment systems have significantly enhanced the scale of money laundering operations by transnational organised crime syndicates.

In an analysis of contemporary money-laundering for the Research Institute for European and American Studies (RIEAS), “Contemporary Tendencies in Money Laundering Methods“, he draws attention to the inherent risks of electronic payment systems such as lack of transparency, inadequate recording and alerting on suspicious transactions and hindered access to judicial authorities, that have been identified by the expert Financial Agenda Task Force (FATF).

He highlights global co-operation including universal standards for prevention of money-laundering and funding of terrorism, implementation across all jurisdictions, establishment of supervisory and internal controls, specialised education and staff training methodologies, detection and prosecution to reduce the risks arising out of money-laundering.

A new approach to Nuclear spent fuel management

CHARLES FERGUSON, CLIFFORD SINGER, JACK SPENCER and SHARON SQUASSONI state that the centralised planning approach to U.S. spent nuclear fuel management had been a glaring exception to the trend toward a market-driven energy sector and each of the three past approaches – breeding fuel, prompt burial and deep burn had failed.

In a report of the Proliferation Prevention Program of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, “U.S. Spent Nuclear Fuel: A market based solution“, they envisage a market-driven approach that would fundamentally alter the notion of spent nuclear fuel from a liability, as it currently is, to an asset ,along with provisions of adequate financial incentives to states and communities hosting long-term spent fuel management facilities.

The key components of their proposal include payments into escrow funds for spent fuel management rather than to the government, reassessment of radio-isotope containment criteria, licenses for away-from-reactor storage facilities along with removal of restrictions on volumes and site duration, removal of the requirement for prompt burial, equal treatment of all states, allowing private sector multiple options on fuel storage and importing foreign spent fuel.

Analysis of Russian Arctic Policy

ELANA WILSON ROWE of the Norwegian Institute for International Affairs, MARLENE LARUELLE at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University and DMITRY GORENBURG, editor of Russian Politics and Law analyze aspects of Russia’s Arctic policy such as politics in the Russian North, demographics and the role of the Russian military in the Arctic, in a study, “Russian Policy Options in the Arctic” for the Russian analytical digest.

Elana Wilson Rowe provides an introduction to the politics of the Russian North, and outlines the dichotomy of an ‘open’ North with wider international co-operation and a ‘closed’ North with an emphasis on defending its national interests and authority and calls for greater attention on the overlaps and tensions between these two modes.

Marlene Laruelle reviews the Moscow’s demographic challenges in the Russian Arctic and states that as it embarked on greater resource extraction in the region, Moscow would have to address challenges to key aspects of its Russian identity in the wake of an influx of migrants from Central Asia and China.

Dmitry Gorenburg states that Russia’s military and security strategy in the Arctic has shifted from unilateral military posturing to peaceful dispute resolution due to a perception of a co-operative approach as being more conducive to exploration and investment in Arctic natural resources.

Unleashing India

JESSICA SEDDON of the Council on Foreign Relations states that Indian economy and the polity had built up substantial momentum albeit on a creaky infrastructure and poor services, undercutting its demographic dividend.

In an article for the Harvard International Review, “Indias Catastrophic Landscape: Fixing a flawed foundation“, she advocates a paradigm shift from a focus on particular policy changes such as labor market reform or financial sector reform to that of political reform where focus was on revamping the state’s ability as an organization to deliver on the infrastructure and services for its citizens.

She calls for three elements: clarification of roles and responsibilities and untangling of three layers of government, improvement of management information systems and setting up of systems to recruit the right people as part of a broader management overhaul of the state in response to growing disenchantment.


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