China’s envoy to Russia has praised the increasingly powerful relationship between the two countries as both the strongest and most important ties between two major states. Beijing’s man in Moscow also took the opportunity to offer a veiled slight at Washington.

Chinese Ambassador to Russia Li Hui spoke Wednesday at a government news conference organized in response to the results of the 19th Chinese Communist Party Congress in October. Russia and China, the two leading diplomatic and military rivals of the U.S., have pursued closer relations in past years while embarking on initiatives to modernize their forces and assume a more assertive role in international politics.

Related: U.S. and Western Europe could lose badly in a war against Russia without China’s help

“The Chinese-Russian relations of comprehensive strategic cooperation and partnership are the most important bilateral relations in the world and, moreover, the best relations between big countries,” Li told the state-run Tass Russian news agency, which hosted the gathering.

“One can say that they are a classic example of the healthiest and most mature interstate relations and an important force to protect peace and stability throughout the world,” Li added.

RTX3MLVU Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Zhang Youxia, China’s Central Military Commission vice chairman, at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, on December 7. China has described its relationship with Russia as the strongest and most important in the world, leaving out the U.S. altogether.SERGEI KARPUKHIN/REUTERS

One of the key reasons the diplomat cited as being responsible for Russia and China’s success was that they “abandon the thinking of the Cold War” and a “zero-sum game” policy. Both countries have frequently criticized the U.S. for viewing the world in black-and-white, portraying Russia and China as enemies rather than partners in global affairs.

Moscow’s post-Soviet relationship with Washington has been tumultuous but was thought to have been salvaged with the election of President Donald Trump, who promised a reset after the administration of his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, witnessed heightened tensions and historic military mobilizationsbetween U.S.-led Western military alliance NATO and Russia across Europe. Ongoing investigations into Trump’s alleged conspiracy to win the election with the help of the Kremlin and differing views between the Republican leader and Russian President Vladimir Putin, however, have damaged the chance of a future U.S.-Russia alliance.

Russia has denied any interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential race and has portrayed efforts of U.S. authorities to produce evidence of such a plot as being reminiscent of the anti-Communist wave of the 1940s and 1950s.

Unlike Russia, China was an early and frequent target of Trump’s and his allies’ both before and after the billionaire real estate tycoon took office earlier this year. The Trump campaign accused China of currency manipulation and stealing U.S. jobs. As he prepared to assume the role of secretary of state, Rex Tillerson suggested the U.S. should potentially use military force to deny Beijing its vast territorial claims in the disputed seas of the Western Pacific.

As Chinese President Xi Jinping expanded his nation’s sphere of influence, his country has accused the U.S. of portraying this rise as a malicious one. Trump has tried to boost cooperation between the two, but mostly in regard to the nuclear crisis between the U.S. and North Korea, during which China has appeared most eager to work with Russia to reach a political framework.

RTX3LKDSChinese armed police and Russian national guards take part in a joint counterterrorism drill in Yinchuan, the capital of China’s Ningxia Hui autonomous region, on December 5. Both countries have criticized the U.S. for pursuing policies they view as destabilizing in the Middle East and contributing to a rise in extremist movements.STRINGER/REUTERS

China and Russia’s joint simulated anti-missile drills, geared at deflecting potential U.S. or North Korean missiles, on Monday were also the latest evidence of the burgeoning military cooperation between the two powers. The countries have been deeply suspicious of the U.S. presence in the Asia-Pacific, and although both Beijing and Moscow share Washington’s opposition to a nuclear North Korea, they have urged Trump to pursue direct talks and avoid provocative shows of force in the tense region.

China and Russia also have joined forces against the West in other parts of the world, including in Syria, where they both backed the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against jihadist and rebels who received international support. Over the summer, Russia and China also launched their first joint drills in the Baltic Sea, near one of the tensest flash points between NATO and Russian forces in Europe.

As China and Russia empower their partnership as well as their respective militaries, the Rand Corporation noted in a report earlier this week that despite superior technology and defense spending, “U.S. forces could, under plausible assumptions, lose the next war they are called upon to fight.”





Sharks have been making headlines recently after a 2016 report of a Greenland shark that was around 512 years old resurfaced this week. In November, a dinosaur-era frilled shark was on our minds. The ocean’s deadliest sharp-toothed predators are both loved and feared. They are also an incredibly diverse and successful group, appearing in the fossil records millions of years before dinosaurs and even insects.

Here are just a few of the most terrifying examples of sharks from across time.

MegalodonOnly the jaws of megalodon fossilized, but put to the scale of a great white shark, this prehistoric creature must have grown to 60 feet long.ETHAN MILLER/GETTY IMAGES

Carcharocles megalodon is the star of such B thrillers as Shark Attack 3: Megalodon, Megashark vs. Mechashark, and Attack of the Jurassic Shark. Before its movie days, real megalodons lived all over the world in the Miocene and Pliocene epochs.

Megalodon would have put the shark in Jaws to shame, with teeth as big as your hand and a body as long as a bowling lane. Sixty feet of shark is nothing to mess with, and it probably ate whales.

HelicoprionHelicoprion was an ancient ratfish, not a shark, but was just as scary, with a whorl of teeth like a buzz saw.WILLIAM WEST/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Though not technically a shark, this shark-like ratfish had an unforgettable maw. Scientists first found this animal’s teeth in a bizarre spiral, and for years, they could only speculate as to how the teeth actually fit in its mouth.

Luckily for swimmers, it lived and died 270 million years ago.

A Thresher shark hunts fish by whipping its long tail at a school.PLOS MEDIA

Whip-Tailed Shark
Also known as a common-thresher, Zorro thresher shark, swiveltail, and slasher, this modern shark makes the list for its odd hunting style. This shark swims toward schools of fish, then at the last minute, whips its bizarrely long tail at its prey to stun or kill them.
Whale_sharkThis picture taken on August 1, 2014, shows a dead whale shark being carried on a tractor in a seafood wholesale market in Xiangzhi township in Quanzhou, east China’s Fujian province. Local fishermen caught the whale shark which they thought was a “sea monster” and reported to local police after returning from the sea, local media reported.STR/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Whale Shark
You would think that the largest living shark would be the most terrifying. This monster can weigh 20 tons and grow 18-32 feet long. But these wide-mouthed creatures, with spots on their backs resembling constellations in the night sky, have very small teeth and eat only plankton. Greenland Shark
In 2016, scientists documented the world’s oldest living vertebrate: a Greenland shark that had been alive for 512 years, give or take. While other long-lived animalshave been discovered, a shark that has lived for half of a millennium takes the cake for incredible survival skills.

11_10_Frilled_shark_head2This living fossil has remained unchanged for 80 million years.BY OPENCAGE (HTTP://OPENCAGE.INFO/PICS.E/LARGE_13408.ASP) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (HTTPS://CREATIVECOMMONS.ORG/LICENSES/BY-SA/2.5)], VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Frilled Shark
The frilled shark is even older than megalodon, having evolved 80 million years ago. But the especially concerning thing about the frilled shark is that they still exist.

Fortunately frilled sharks live deep in the ocean and aren’t known to attack humans. If they did, their rows of extremely-sharp teeth would be sure to leave a mark.





World-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking has warned that artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to destroy civilization and could be the worst thing that has ever happened to humanity.

Speaking at a technology conference in Lisbon, Portugal, Hawking told attendees that mankind had to find a way to control computers, CNBC reports.

“Computers can, in theory, emulate human intelligence, and exceed it,” he said. “Success in creating effective AI, could be the biggest event in the history of our civilization. Or the worst. We just don’t know. So we cannot know if we will be infinitely helped by AI, or ignored by it and side-lined, or conceivably destroyed by it.”

stephen hawking Earth extinction colonizeStephen Hawking sits onstage during an announcement of the Breakthrough Starshot initiative with investor Yuri Milner in New York City, on April 12, 2016. Hawking, the English physicist, warns humanity needs to become a multiplanetary species to ensure its survival.REUTERS/LUCAS JACKSON

Hawking said that while AI has the potential to transform society—it could be used to eradicate poverty and disease, for example—it also comes with huge risks.

Society, he said, must be prepared for that eventuality. “AI could be the worst event in the history of our civilization. It brings dangers, like powerful autonomous weapons, or new ways for the few to oppress the many. It could bring great disruption to our economy,” he said.

This is not the first time Hawking has warned about the dangers of AI. In a recent interview with Wired, the University of Cambridge Professor said AI could one day reach a level where it outperforms humans and becomes a “new form of life.”

artificial intelligence Artificial intelligence GLAS-8/FLICKR

“I fear that AI may replace humans altogether,” he told the magazine. “If people design computer viruses, someone will design AI that improves and replicates itself. This will be a new form of life that outperforms humans.”

Even if AI does not take over the world, either by destroying or enslaving mankind, Hawking still believes human beings are doomed. Over recent years, he has become increasingly vocal about the need to leave Earth in search of a new planet.

In May, he said humans have around 100 years to leave Earth in order to survive as a species. “I strongly believe we should start seeking alternative planets for possible habitation,” he said during a speech at the Royal Society in London, U.K. “We are running out of space on Earth and we need to break through the technological limitations preventing us from living elsewhere in the universe.”

The following month at the Starmus Festival in Norway, which celebrates science and art, Hawking told his audience that the current threats to Earth are “too big and too numerous” for him to be positive about the future.

“Our physical resources are being drained at an alarming rate. We have given our planet the disastrous gift of climate change. Rising temperatures, reduction of the polar ice caps, deforestation and decimation of animal species. We can be an ignorant, unthinking lot.

“We are running out of space and the only places to go to are other worlds. It is time to explore other solar systems. Spreading out may be the only thing that saves us from ourselves. I am convinced that humans need to leave Earth.”

Putin’s Russia Is Crumbling From The Inside


This article first appeared on the Atlantic Council site.

At first glance, Russian actions since the 2014 annexation of Crimea appear to signal a resurgence of power in the international system. Increases in military spending, forays into the Middle East and a foreign policy punching above its weight have all served to remind the world that Russia maintains influence on the global stage.

However, behind the Cold War-levels of military activity and violations of international laws are fundamental issues which will plague Russia going forward.

Demographic struggles have stricken the state since World War II, commodity price fluctuations and sanctions have crippled economic output and the current defense spending trends are unsustainable. Against the backdrop of harsh economic reality, the illusion of Russian resurgence can only be maintained for so long, and NATO policymakers should take note.

An increased NATO presence in the Baltics and more robust defense measures are all necessary and proportional steps towards creating a formidable deterrent to protect the United States’s more vulnerable allies in Russia’s neighborhood.

Russia, however, is not the existential threat to Europe that the Soviet Union once was, and it shouldn’t be treated as such. Time is not on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s side, and he can only ignore fundamental flaws in the socioeconomic landscape of Russian society for so long.

Building submarines and nuclear weapons will not reinvigorate the Russian economy and could eventually degrade what progress has been made to re-establish Russian prominence on the world stage.

Related: Nolan Peterson: The Syria strike deals Putin a double blow

The inertial nature of demographic pressure makes it an exceedingly difficult problem to address but also allows nations to forecast more easily. By nearly all calculations, Russia’s projected population growth appears stagnant at best. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the population of Russia (despite upward of 9 million immigrants) declined each year until 2013.

04_14_Putin_Vulnerable_01Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin in Moscow on April 11. Jacob Sharpe writes that the war in Ukraine, once popular among Russians, is now hurting morale and draw attention to the economic malaise at home.SERGEI CHIRIKOV/REUTERS

The combination of a decreased standard of living, a decline in the number of women aged 20 to 30 and an increased mortality rate have all damaged the prospects for growth in Russia. Rosstat, the Russian state statistical agency, estimated that the population will decline 20 percent in the next 35 years if current trends continue. This decline has been halted and even reversed to a minor extent in recent years, but reversing long-term trends will be difficult.

The economic outlook for Russia offers similarly bleak prospects, yet there are some signs of a slight turnaround. When compared to a negative 3 percent growth over the past two years, even the small 1.2 percent growth projected by the Russian finance minister (as well as the World Bank) is something to celebrate. Moscow has made some spending adjustments to reflect current oil prices, and Standard & Poor’s has upgraded its credit rating to stable.

The Russian people, however, are still in dire straits. In 2016, one-quarter of Russian companies cut salaries. Overall, the average Russian wage dropped 8 percent last year and 9.5 percent the year before. International sanctions imposed on Russia continue to cause problems, and energy prices have not recovered to previous highs.

Even as some Russians celebrated the election of U.S. President Donald J. Trump, who has expressed a desire for better relations with Russia and suggested that sanctions may be at least partially lifted, the potential for the removal of sanctions could lead to a speculative capital rush, creating more uncertainty in an already fractured economy.

Worsening the economic downturn is the Kremlin’s spending to modernize and expand its military capabilities amidst declining revenue and depleted reserves.

In a recent defense industry meeting, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev stated that “funding has already been set aside for the coming years and that amount won’t be changed.” That statement doesn’t appear to be entirely correct, as defense spending is set to decrease by 7 percent, but it is telling when other federal departments were dealt 10 percent reductions.

For the time being, it seems this plan has won Putin praise at home and power abroad, but in the long-term it could place him on unsteady ground.  As early as 2015, Russia had begun tapping into its “rainy day fund ” (generally regarded as an emergency measure to address economic slowdowns), and the minor economic recovery is not enough to make up for these shortfalls.

Related: Putin’s Flirtation with Le Pen is likely to backfire

A continuation of this spending behavior combined with budgetary constraints could force Putin to make politically risky fiscal adjustments. He may have convinced his admirers that a bit of budgetary belt-tightening is necessary to ensure Russian security and stature, but economic backpedaling is only digestible for so long.

Even the Ukrainian conflict, once a source of popularity among the Russian people, has begun to hurt morale and highlights the economic malaise at home.

However, Vladimir Putin is not a man to be underestimated, and Russia will remain a threat. It still possesses one of the most powerful militaries in the world, a massive stockpile of nuclear weapons and a reinvigorated willingness to use its political muscle to influence the international system.

Yet while a cursory examination of approval ratings may show an unassailably popular leader, Putin’s power structure is more fragile than it first appears. Financial strain will continue to pressure state-dependent segments of the Russian populace, which have historically been the bedrock of Putin’s support.

It seems Putin’s Russia won’t perish in a Manichean clash in the Fulda Gap, but like the Soviet Union before it, today’s Russia will crumble under the weight of its own mismanagement and economic failure. Perhaps history does repeat itself.

Jacob Sharpe is an intern with the Transatlantic Security Initiative in the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council.

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