• Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith spoke yesterday at the Lowy Institute. While he may have left a lot unsaid about how Canberra can reconcile defence budget cuts with unchanged core strategic assessments and capability needs, at least he recognised the Indo-Pacific nature of Australia's strategic environment, something I will blog further about shortly.
  • Mr Smith also publicly promised to read Hugh White's stark and provocative new book The China Choice, which is making a big splash this week. My own detailed critique is here in The Diplomat. Hugh is right to sound the alarm on complacency over Asian stability. But could a Chinese sphere of influence really be negotiated as a viable part of the solution?
  • Certainly there's a need for US-China arms control, though it is worth remembering how far we still are from the Cold War arms race. Yesterday I met former Soviet rocket commander Valery Yarynich, an extraordinary man whose life has gone from sitting in a bunker with his finger on the nuclear button during the Cuban missile crisis to his tireless advocacy today of nuclear arms control, de-alerting and ultimately disarmament. Read about his terrifying work on the real-world Doomsday Machine in the 1980s.
  • Like a satellite, but cheaper: the US Army's football-field-sized surveillance airship makes its first flight. More details here.
  • Just a reminder to Australia's promising strategic thinkers: applications close today for the Thawley scholarship at Lowy and CSIS.
  • A recently unveiled 'stealth chopper' is almost certainly just a prop for a new film about the Osama bin Laden raid. Here's the first teaser for the movie, Zero Dark Thirty: