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DEEP Dive is a platform for podcasts and webinars that provides commentary on a variety of subjects covering international security and defence, counter-terrorism, and geopolitical current events. The primary purpose of this series is to inform and enhance understanding of the prevailing global challenges.

DEEP Dive seeks to engage and draw on the experiences of academics, journalists, and policy practitioners. The goal is also to learn more about those being interviewed in order to provide a unique perspective on what has shaped their careers as well as to discuss their current and future research.

Disclaimer: The views, information, or opinions expressed in the DEEP Dive series are solely those of the individuals involved and do not necessarily represent those of NATO or DEEP.

Host

Dr Sajjan Gohel


Production and Research Team

Victoria Jones

Marcus Andreopoulos

Key Reflections:

* Russia’s interests in counter-terrorism, geopolitics, the Arab Spring, and espionage all converged as part of a ‘disinformation fusion centre’ to malign as well as spread propaganda and disinformation.

* The Kremlin’s synergy is unique as there is connectivity between their intelligence services and cyber community, creating an ecosystem using oligarchs, expats, and influential foreigners as extensions of power.

* Russia’s current campaign against Ukraine is deliberately less noisy in the information space compared to before, but troop mobilisation on the border suggests a much more direct and hostile intent.

* Russia dominates the disinformation output, whereas China is more advanced in the use of artificial intelligence and synthetic media. Globally, Russia seeks to degrade, China opts to usurp.

* The battlespace is divided up based on language and platform, and China wants to expand its influence internationally. China will likely overtake Russia in a few years.

* China is operating at four levels: technology infrastructure, social media applications, global content, and control of the internet and media environment. 

Key Reflections:

* The blurring of borders and change of geopolitical structures has created gateways to human trafficking, drug smuggling, corruption, espionage, and terrorism.

* Hezbollah with Iran’s guidance, funding, and support has been able to exploit the Lebanese diaspora around the world including in South America.

* There is a convergence in Europe between crime and extremism with regular interchange between criminal gangs and ideological radicals. 

* The Mumbai Siege Attacks represented one of the most important cases in terrorism as it demonstrates the interplay between Pakistani military intelligence, the Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist group and al-Qaeda, all of which have had ramifications globally.

* Investigations into the September 11 attacks have demonstrated angles involving Saudi nationals that require further analysis and introspection.

* The rise of China has resulted in the West shifting its geopolitical priorities to address the activities of the Chinese state, involving commerce, defence, espionage and intelligence. Australia has been the frontline for the West in its strategy to counter China’s expansion. 

Key Reflections:

* Human intelligence (HUMINT) needs to be enhanced amidst the potential regrowth of trans-national terrorism and the importance of great power competition. 

* The Haqqani Network played a decisive role in facilitating the Taliban’s military victory in Afghanistan and retains very close ties with al-Qaeda.

* All the Taliban factions, including the Haqqanis, maintain strong ties with the Pakistani military establishment, thereby undermining the West’s mission to develop a stable Afghanistan. 

* Ideological sympathy for terrorist groups within the Pakistani military has threatened the stability and control over its nuclear weapons. 

* Counter-terrorism options in Afghanistan are fewer and more logistically challenging. Equally concerning is the ability to conduct counter-intelligence and run a HUMINT network securely.

* The West needs to get smarter about Russia, who are buoyed by the West’s departure from Afghanistan and want to be a central player on every stage.

* China is trying to find a balance with the Taliban whilst attempting to promote their Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and increasing its leverage over Pakistan.

Key Reflections:

* With an unfolding terrorist attack, it is essential to have well-drilled, experienced teams with the right skill-sets whilst making split second decisions in high conflict and highly charged situations.

* The pandemic and resulting global lockdowns have created a situation in which people are gestating over propaganda and imagery in their homes and becoming radicalised. The full consequences of the pandemic for terrorism are still to manifest and will unfold over time. 

* The rapid withdrawal from Afghanistan will have consequences that could eventually impact on the UK directly, with the potential resurgence of al-Qaeda and other groups. British nationals may then be encouraged to travel to Afghanistan and Pakistan. ISIS have also not been eradicated.

* The more the West withdraws from the CT sphere, the easier it gets for terrorist groups to become resurgent, especially considering that the terrorist ideology has not gone away. 

* Threats posed by state actors are dealt with in a similar manner to those posed by terrorist groups. In both cases, there is a need for information sharing and cooperation among governments, intelligence agencies, and law enforcement.

Key Reflections:

* The current period is ‘The Dangerous Decade’ of which the most consequential developments will stem from the Indo-Pacific region.

* The seas and shipping lanes are the arteries to history, geography and geopolitics and are so intrinsic to our lives.

* The Quad is growing in importance and will likely become a multilateral institution.

* China wants to build its military to the capacity of being able to take Taiwan before defence agreements and alliances grow between Western and Indo-Pacific nations.

* Afghanistan will serve as a platform for terrorism. The Taliban have not changed and will support terrorist groups and suppress the rights of women.

* China’s relationship with Pakistan and Afghanistan is part of its geo-strategic outlook.