So You Want To Arm A Proxy Group?

So You Want To Arm A Proxy Group?

Say you're a government that employs a variety group of rebels, insurgents, terrorists, or freedom fighters to advance your national goals. Like any crafty strategist, you want to inflict maximal damage on your enemies while minimizing the potential blowback to yourself – while ideally avoiding excess costs and casualties among the people on your payroll.


What a time to be alive, because new technologies are vastly expanding the ability of so-called "non-state actors" (nerd term, but that's who we are) to bloody the noses of their enemies, in particular leveling the playing field between militants and nation states. What the Kalashnikov rifle did for militants of the 20th century (hat tip to Moises Naim on this), new technologies are doing for non-state actors of the 21st.

Consider, first of all, drones, which were in the news again after Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed (now disputedly) to have used them to hit Saudi Arabia's oil facilities over the weekend. Drones are many desirable things at once: They are cheap – experts estimate some early models used in Yemen's civil war cost as little as $10,000 a pop to put together from basic parts. They're lethal. And, thanks to big improvements in range in 2018, the Houthis' drones are now capable of striking targets nearly a thousand miles away.

Drones aren't your thing? Let us show you into the cyberattacks aisle, because those also fit the mold: bad actors in cyberspace today have access to more powerful malware and a wider array of targets than ever before. The biggest cyberattacks have typically been state-sponsored – think Russia's NotPetya or the WannaCry ransomware attack launched by North Korea, which caused billions of dollars of damage around the world in 2017. But non-state actors are increasingly stepping up their game: criminal gangs have already paralyzed the computer systems of entire cities, like Atlanta and Baltimore, to try to extract ransom. Russia routinely uses proxies in its disinformation campaigns and other cyber campaigns. Meanwhile, critical infrastructure may only grow more vulnerable as 5G networks wire together everything from water plants to refrigerators to self-driving cars to pacemakers.

Into more of a SciFi look, you say? If you can hire a good rogue scientist, consider that some influential voices in the US intelligence community are already warning that new precision gene-editing techniques could become widespread enough to be weaponized, creating new pathogens or pests that wreak havoc on populations and ecosystems. Examples: modifying anthrax's genetic code to make it much more potent, or perhaps even altering a virus to make it disproportionally target carriers of a certain gene.

All of these technologies are complicating the ability of nation states to defend themselves. And unlike the Kalashnikov or other low-tech methods typically favored by non-state actors, they don't usually require putting people directly in harm's way. We've only just begun to understand how that's going to change the global balance of power between individuals, groups, and nation states.

So, what was it that you wanted to buy again?

Carbon has a bad rep, but did you know it's a building block of life? As atoms evolved, carbon trapped in CO2 was freed, giving way to the creation of complex molecules that use photosynthesis to convert carbon to food. Soon after, plants, herbivores, and carnivores began populating the earth and the cycle of life began.

Learn more about how carbon created life on Earth in the second episode of Eni's Story of CO2 series.

As we enter the homestretch of the US presidential election — which is set to be the most contentious, and possibly contested, in generations — Americans are also voting on 35 seats up for grabs in a battle for the control of the Senate. The 100-member body is currently held 53-47 by the Republican Party, but many individual races are wide open, and the Democrats are confident they can flip the upper chamber of Congress.

Either way, the result will have a profound impact not only on domestic policy, but also on US foreign relations and other issues with global reach. Here are a few areas where what US senators decide reverberates well beyond American shores.

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In a special GZERO Media livestream on global response and recovery amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media president Ian Bremmer discussed the difference between Europe's unified approach to economic stimulus and the deeply divided and political nature of the current conversation in the US. While initial stimulus support was bipartisan, there is little chance of Democrats and Republicans coming together again ahead of the November 3 presidential election. "It's red state versus blue state. President Trump's saying that coronavirus isn't so bad if you take the blue states out. He's president of the blue states, you can't take the blue states out," Bremmer told moderator Susan Glasser of The New Yorker.

GZERO Media caught up with Japan's Permanent Representative to the UN Kimihiro Ishikane during the 2020 UN General Assembly. In an interview with Eurasia Group Vice Chairman Gerald Butts, Ishikane talked about pandemic response, and how it has impacted the broader picture of US-China relations. Regarding a global fissure potentially caused by the world's two biggest economies, Ishikane said: "China is not like the former Soviet Union. Our system is completely intertwined, and I don't think we can completely decouple our economy and neither is that desirable." He also discussed the legacy of Shinzo Abe, Japan's longest-serving prime minister, who stepped down recently due to health complications.

The world's two biggest economic powers threaten to create a "big rupture" in geopolitics, but "we are not there yet," UN Secretary-General António Guterres tells Ian Bremmer. In an interview for GZERO World, the leader of the world's best-known multilateral organization discusses the risks involved as the US and China grow further apart on key issues.

Watch the episode: UN Secretary-General António Guterres: Why we still need the United Nations

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