2 December 2022

India, US Armies Hold Exercises Close to Disputed China Border

Rishi Lekhi and Manish Swarup

Indian and U.S. troops on Tuesday participated in a high-altitude training exercise in a cold, mountainous terrain near India’s disputed border with China, at a time both countries are trying to manage rising tensions with Beijing.

During the exercise, Indian soldiers were dropped from helicopters to flush out gunmen from a house in a demonstration of unarmed combat skills. Other drills involved sniffer dogs and unmanned bomb-disposing vehicles, and trained kites were deployed to destroy small enemy drones.

“Overall, it has been a great learning experience. There has been sharing of best practices between both the armies,” said Brig. Pankaj Verma of the Indian Army.

Pakistan Taliban Ends Ceasefire With Govt, Vows New Attacks

Munir Ahmed

The Pakistani Taliban on Monday ended a months-long cease-fire with the government in Islamabad, ordering its fighters to resume attacks across the country, where scores of deadly attacks have been blamed on the insurgent group.

In a statement, the outlawed Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan said it decided to end the five month ceasefire after Pakistan’s army stepped up operations against them in former northwestern tribal areas and elsewhere in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which borders Afghanistan.

Pakistan and the TTP had agreed to an indefinite cease-fire in May after talks in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul.

Pakistani Taliban Suicide Bomber Targets Police Protecting Polio Teams

Abdul Sattar and Munir Ahmed

A suicide bomber blew himself up near a truck carrying police officers on their way to protect polio workers near Quetta Wednesday, killing a police officer and three civilians from the same family who were traveling nearby in a car. The bombing also wounded 23 others, mostly policemen, officials said.

Ghulam Azfer Mehser, a senior police officer, said the attack happened as the policemen were heading to the polio workers, part of a nationwide vaccination drive launched Monday.

The blast was so powerful that it toppled the truck carrying police officers into a ravine, he said, adding that the bombing also damaged a nearby car carrying members of a family.

He said that the anti-polio campaign will continue even after the bombing.

Why Banning Hybrid Radical Groups May be Counterproductive in South Asia

Abdul Basit

In late September, India banned an Islamist group, the Popular Front of India (PFI). A little over a month later, Pakistan retracted the proscription of the neo-Barelvi radical outfit, the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP). The two diametrically opposite policy responses bring into sharp focus that bans against hybrid threat groups in a fluid threat environment are reductive and could possibly do more harm than good.

To understand hybrid radical groups located at the intersection of violent and non-violent extremism, existing security-centric counter-extremism approaches in South Asia should be replaced with more nuanced interdisciplinary frameworks.

Terrorism is a label of convenience, which has been abused both by state and non-state actors, particularly in the South Asian context. The lack of a consensual definition has left a lot of grey space for states to exploit. Terrorism bans carry an element of social and political stigmatization. For states, it is convenient to proscribe dissenting non-state groups practicing violence under counterterrorism laws. However, it amounts to sweeping challenging policy questions under the carpet and shying away from addressing the root causes. The illegality that comes with terrorism bans pushes even genuine grievances, violent tactics notwithstanding, out of the mainstream discourse.

China’s Increased Military Activity Near Taiwan a ‘New Normal’ Says Pentagon

PATRICK TUCKER

China is aiming for “a new normal” of increased military activity around Taiwan, a senior defense official said ahead of the release of the latest edition of the Pentagon’s China Military Power report, which highlights ambitious military-modernization plans for 2027, 2035, and 2049.

“What we do see is sort of the PRC [People’s Republic of China] establishing kind of a new normal in terms of the level of military activity around Taiwan” in the wake of the August visit by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, the official told reporters at the Pentagon on Monday.

During and after Pelosi’s visit, the Chinese military fired missiles and staged large exercises near Taiwan in what many interpreted as an intimidating show of force.

“What we've seen since then is that it has not gone down to the level that we were accustomed to prior to her visit. So it is lower than the immediate period after her visit, of course, but…we have seen them sort of trying to set this new normal,” the official said.

China’s Xi Stacks Government With Science and Tech Experts Amid Rivalry With U.S.

Karen Hao

HONG KONG—Chinese leader Xi Jinping has packed the top ranks of the Communist Party with a new generation of leaders who have experience in aerospace, artificial intelligence and other strategically important areas, as Beijing seeks to become a science and technology superpower that rivals the U.S.

The roster of officials with backgrounds in science and technology on the party’s 205-member Central Committee has rebounded to roughly the length it had during former leader Jiang Zemin’s first five-year term, beginning in 1992, when he kicked off a rapid acceleration of scientific research and innovation. The increase comes as Washington takes steps both to contain China’s tech sector and boost U.S. innovation.

Chinese officials with technical expertise occupy 81 seats, nearly 40% of the total, in the new Central Committee—the elite body that decides major national policies—according to data compiled by the Washington-based Brookings Institution think tank and shared exclusively with The Wall Street Journal. That compares with less than 18% in the previous Central Committee. The new one was announced last month during a twice-a-decade conclave in Beijing.

Shanghai Protests, But Not Too Far

Bonnie Girard

The protest scenes playing out over the last few days in Shanghai are the most notable that the city has experienced since the late 1980s.

Thirty-five years ago, most Shanghai residents lived on the edge of a barely tolerable poverty, in Jing’An District as well as throughout the city. Sizable but ultimately manageable protests, mostly led by university students, took place in 1986 and 1989. Those protests focused not on overthrowing the Chinese Communist Party, but on asking it to allow press and other freedoms, within the construct of CCP rule.

That generation did not take to the streets to protest their economic or living conditions, dire as they were. Throughout central Shanghai, people lived in close, cramped, and often unsanitary quarters, often with no indoor plumbing and only dangerous and dirty coal briquettes for heating. The living space for a family of five – husband and wife, son, daughter-in-law, and child – was often no more than 25 square meters.

An Exile Returns to Find Syria Changed Forever

Nizar Kinaan

“Listen to me,” shouted the investigator as he slammed his old metal desk. “If I catch you in one lie, I am arresting you and you are staying here.” I nodded, taking a deep breath to calm the anxiety in my stomach. I was being interviewed by an intelligence unit in Syria, a place many have entered and never left.

I knew I had to lie, as I knew how much trouble I would be in if they learned the extent of my work in the media abroad. But I have always been very careful about my exposure, in anticipation of just such a moment as this.

Before entering the building, I called everyone I knew, trying to use any connection, making it clear I was happy to pay any bribe or sum they wanted to secure my freedom. Yet, despite my best efforts, I had no idea if I’d be returning to my home in America or waking up in one of President Bashar al-Assad’s notorious prisons.

A course correction in America’s China policy

Ryan Hass, Patricia M. Kim, and Jeffrey A. Bader

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The U.S.-China relationship is on a downward trajectory. Neither side agrees on the diagnosis of problems or the remedies, and domestic political trends in both countries limit the likelihood of improved relations any time soon. Even so, the relationship remains too consequential to people in both countries and the rest of the world to be guided by a fatalistic acceptance of deepening enmity. And while competition resides at the core of the relationship, it is a mistake to view the relationship solely through the lens of rivalry. Doing so limits tools available to Washington for developing a more durable, productive relationship that serves America’s interests.

This paper presents five specific recommendations of steps the United States could take to better protect and advance its interests vis-à-vis China. The common thread of these recommendations is that U.S. policy should be informed by an awareness of America’s long-term national interests and how China relates to them. For the coming decades, China will have enormous potential on the world stage to do good or ill. A more interest-driven approach will give confidence to America’s partners that its policy toward China is organized around a coherent theory of the case and is not simply reactive to Chinese initiatives or guided by the perpetual pursuit of political point-scoring at home.

Pentagon warns of China’s plans for dominance in Taiwan and beyond

Karoun Demirjian

China conducted more ballistic missile tests last year than the rest of the world combined and is on course to possess 1,500 nuclear weapons within the next decade, the Pentagon warns in a new assessment of Beijing’s rapidly expanding military posture.

The findings are detailed in a report for Congress released publicly in unclassified format Tuesday. It outlines China’s broad desires to pursue global dominance but comes as the Chinese Communist Party faces perhaps the most serious internal challenge to its authority in decades, with audacious demonstrations against President Xi Jinping’s harsh covid lockdowns having included, in some cities, demands for his ouster.

Pentagon officials, in detailing the report, were careful not to draw any links between the protests — which overnight brought a crackdown from police — and China’s military planning. But at the very least, the uprising represents a complication for Xi as he attempts to exert authority over other unwilling subjects in the region, including in Taiwan, where U.S. officials remain doubtful he can achieve his goal of uncontested dominance.

US China Policy Is About More Than China

Robert Sutter

2022 showed impressive momentum in efforts by the so-called Washington Consensus to target adverse Chinese practices. Featuring bipartisan majorities in Congress working closely with Trump and Biden administration officials, the consensus over the past five years has created an ever stronger a “whole of government” effort to counter Beijing’s very serious security, economic, and governance challenges.

Two challenges have been seen as representing particularly dangerous, existential threats to U.S. national security and well-being. The first is the Chinese effort to undermine U.S. power and influence in Asia and dominate the region. The second is the Chinese effort to seek dominance in the high technology industries of the future. Such dominance would make the United States subservient to Chinese economic power, and because such technology is essential to modern national security, subservient to Chinese military power.

Only Victory Can Save Ukraine

Lincoln P. Bloomfield Jr.

The past two to three weeks have seen a spate of new signals in Washington about the conflict in Ukraine, now entering its tenth month. With winter approaching, General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, posed the possibility that a pause in the fighting might afford a new opportunity for diplomacy to stabilize the situation and halt the unending destruction of the country, with damage estimated by the World Bank at $350 billion. After gaining a majority in the midterm elections, some House Republicans have warned that they will try to curtail U.S. funding for Ukraine once the new Congress is seated in January. Other reporting has noted high-level U.S. efforts to prevent escalation that could lead to direct U.S.-Russia hostilities.

Kyiv’s adverse reaction to suggestions of freezing the conflict now may have persuaded some that President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, while courageous and indomitable, is staking out an unrealistic, untenable position by vowing to expel Russian occupation forces from all of Ukraine, including Crimea. Washington’s national security community, schooled in the lessons of the Cold War, reflexively seeks to contain conflicts and resolve differences through diplomacy, all the more urgently as great power involvement risks escalation to the threshold of nuclear war. As Russian president Vladimir Putin and his lieutenants have issued repeated nuclear threats, the caution underpinning Washington’s support for Ukraine’s defense should surprise no one.

Price Cap on Russian Oil: Running to Stand Still

Ben Cahill

Negotiations are still underway as a critical deadline approaches on December 5, but the G7 is inching toward a price cap that will do little to cut Russia’s oil revenue. The G7 price cap would defuse a package of EU sanctions that could drive Russian oil exports off the market and create a price spike. But the $65 per barrel range under consideration poses no threat to Russia’s revenue stream, and authorizing trade below the price cap could increase demand for its oil. Russia has threatened to ban oil sales to companies and countries that join the price cap.

Q1: Where does the price cap stand?

A1: On November 22, the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) updated its guidance on the proposed price cap on Russian oil exports, but included no details on the exact price threshold. As of November 28, EU diplomats are considering a price cap in the range of $65 per barrel. EU officials are also discussing how frequently the price cap should be reviewed and adjusted. Setting the cap in this proposed range would prevent a big drop in Russian exports but would do very little to dent its oil income.

Preliminary Lessons in Conventional Warfighting from Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine: February–July 2022

Mykhaylo Zabrodskyi, Dr Jack Watling , Oleksandr V Danylyuk and Nick Reynolds

Executive Summary

The full-scale invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022 has provided an invaluable opportunity to assess the capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (AFRF) and the implications of a range of capabilities for modern warfare. Many publicly made judgements on these issues have lacked supporting data or insight into Ukrainian operational planning and decision-making. To ensure that those drawing lessons from the conflict do so from a solid foundation, this report seeks to outline key lessons, based on the operational data accumulated by the Ukrainian General Staff, from the fighting between February and July 2022. As the underlying source material for much of this report cannot yet be made public, this should be understood as testimony rather than as an academic study. Given the requirements for operational security, it is necessarily incomplete.

What The Ukraine War Teaches About Modern Ground Wars

Robert Farley

Three Challenger 2 main battle tanks firing their 120mm guns during a night firing exercise by the Royal Mercian and Lancastrian Yeomanry at Lulworth, Dorset.

The Ukraine War on the Ground: It is difficult to learn the right lessons from the wars of the past. It is harder still to operationalize those takeaways in any kind of useful way. It is certainly risky, then, to look for lessons about war from a conflict that is still ongoing, but we are going to try.

In this three-part series, we will endeavor to distill some lessons from the conduct of the Russia-Ukraine War to this point.

In this first part of a three-part series (you can read part II here), we will discuss the ground war in Ukraine.

How Ukraine is innovating Soviet-era weapons for a 21st century battleground

Mick Krever, Matthew Chance, Kosta Gak and Luis Graham-Yooll

Bakhmut, UkraineCNN — In a basement in eastern Ukraine, young men sit at a long table strewn with laptops, their eyes glued to a television screen an arm’s length away.

They watch black figures on a bleak winter hilltop, which appear to panic, then run across the frame. It’s a live video feed from a small Ukrainian drone several miles away – a spotter for artillery teams trying to kill Russian soldiers in their trenches.

Plumes of smoke rise from the near misses of Ukrainian salvos.

All along the eastern frontlines, in basement command centers hidden behind unmarked metal doors, bookish Ukrainian soldiers direct artillery fire in a desperate attempt to hold off a Russian advance.

This is a real-life testing ground for shoestring, innovative 21st century warfare. The men use cheap, commercially available drones and consumer chat programs to identify and communicate targeting for weaponry that in many cases is multiple decades old.

Ukraine needs tanks, and the west should supply them. They could finish off Putin and Russia

Frank Ledwidge

In a 1941 speech on a Royal Navy ship, Winston Churchill directed his final comments to the US: “Give us the tools, and we will finish the job.” After a significant victory in Kherson, and standing at the gates of Crimea facing a Russian army desperately trying to shore up its ramshackle defences, Ukraine has the troops and morale to defend what it has. However, despite some western assistance, the Ukrainians lack the tools – tanks, missiles and aircraft – to retake their land and impose strategic defeat on the Russians. If the west, and especially the US, is serious about helping to protect Ukraine, decisions on stepping up military assistance need to be made now. If Ukraine is to be able to secure its future after victory – assuming that is what the west truly wants – its forces need to begin to transition to Nato-standard equipment.

The US has not yet declared a political or military objective. However, in April the US secretary of defence, Lloyd Austin, said he wanted “to see Russia weakened to the point where it can’t do things like invade Ukraine”. Is it the intention of the United States genuinely to support military efforts to return Ukraine’s internationally recognised borders? Or does it instead suit US and western decision-makers to support a long war with Ukrainian forces used as proxies to bleed out Russia’s armed forces? Obviously, these are not at all the same thing. Decisions need to be made very soon about increasing military support, and those decisions will tell us which objective is being pursued.

What will it take for Russia to understand it’s losing the war?

Lawrence Freedman

One of the perplexing features of the US election process is the time it takes in many states to identify the victors. The fortunes of the competing candidates go up and down as individual counties “drop” the results from the latest batch of votes. Eventually a bold enough pundit decides that even though many votes have yet to be counted they have sufficient knowledge of the trends, the precedents, and the local demographics to declare the victor. Of course the putative losers rarely concede until all paths to victory have been definitively closed and even the likely victors may be cautious, fearful of tempting fate. This business of calling elections is a good example of both prediction with incomplete information and also the natural lag between what is apparent to an informed observer and what will be acknowledged by those directly involved.

“Calling” a war is much more difficult than calling an election. Election predictions are about revealing an outcome that was decided as soon as all the votes were cast; calling a war is about anticipating events yet to happen and choices that have yet to be made. Even those with a good knowledge of the competing forces and the terrain over which they are fighting can be caught out by chance developments such as a change in the weather or an effective tactical innovation. During a war’s course, expectations shift.

Realism And The Ukraine War

Rod Dreher

When I was in Warsaw recently, I got into a couple of intense discussions with Poles about the Ukraine war. I really love and respect the Polish people, and cherish how the Polish and Hungarian governments have stood side by side against the dictatorship of wokeness in Brussels. And I grieve over how the Ukraine war has caused a deep division between them. The Poles are extremely aggressive in their defense of Ukraine, and in their support for the war against Russia. They hate the Russians, for entirely understandable historical reasons. The Hungarians are also no fans of the Russians, for similar historical reasons, but have been pushing from the beginning for some kind of peace agreement, before the war destroys Europe economically, or worse. The Poles see this as weakness in the face of Putin's aggression.

I told a Polish friend with whom I was arguing about this that the kind of rhetoric I was hearing from him and his side reminded me of the way I and people like me thought and talked after 9/11. We dismissed anything that was not full-throated support for the Iraq War as weakness, as cowardice, as a foolish refusal to understand the reality of the threat from Islamic terrorism. We would not hear people who cautioned against war, because our fear and loathing of the Enemy was so great. And we allowed ourselves to lead our country, and Iraq, to disaster.

The Hard Truth About Long Wars

Christopher Blattman

When Russia invaded Ukraine in February, few observers imagined that the war would still be raging today. Russian planners did not account for the stern resistance of Ukrainian forces, the enthusiastic support Ukraine would receive from Europe and North America, or the various shortcomings of their own military. Both sides are now dug in, and the fighting could carry on for months, if not years.

Why is this war dragging on? Most conflicts are brief. Over the last two centuries, most wars have lasted an average of three to four months. That brevity owes much to the fact that war is the worst way to settle political differences. As the costs of fighting become apparent, adversaries usually look for a settlement.

Many wars, of course, do last longer. Compromise fails to materialize for three main strategic reasons: when leaders think defeat threatens their very survival, when leaders do not have a clear sense of their strength and that of their enemy, and when leaders fear that their adversary will grow stronger in the future. In Ukraine, all these dynamics keep the war raging.

Why Putin May Endure

John Mueller

Regardless of how it ends, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine is likely to be judged by history as a debacle. Moscow’s goals have included keeping Ukraine from embracing NATO and the West; establishing a compliant regime in Kyiv; preventing Ukrainian nationalists—Putin calls them “neo-Nazis”—from flourishing; reducing hatred of Russia in Ukraine; blocking Ukraine from arming further; reconstituting the Soviet Union—or the Russian Empire—in some form under the Kremlin’s overlordship; dividing the West; increasing Russian prestige and influence in the area and around the world; destroying or at least undermining democracy; boosting the use of the Russian language in Ukraine while making Ukrainians identify more closely with Russia and Russianness; and demonstrating the prowess and majesty of the Russian military.

Instead, having expended enormous blood and treasure, Russia has emerged weaker, more isolated, and more reviled than ever, while Ukraine, armed with increasingly sophisticated weapons and buttressed by a newly strengthened national identity, moves ever closer to the West. To that degree, Putin’s venture has already proved to be a massively counterproductive failure, and he may well go down in history as Vladimir the Fool, or, to update an infamous fifteenth moniker, as Vlad the Self-Impaler.

Tech Regulation Can Harm National Security

James Andrew Lewis

A nineteenth-century British song about war with Russia contains a line that is worth bearing in mind as Congress contemplates regulating big tech: “We don't want to fight but by Jingo if we do, we've got the ships, we've got the men, we've got the money too.”

That final phrase deserves attention. Not having "the money" makes it hard to provide for defense. European countries, after decades of slow growth, are discovering this as they confront Russian aggression. Thanks to its economic growth, the United States has the resources it needs for national security but proposed antitrust legislation could change that.

National security depends on more than an ability to field advanced weapons or large forces. It is based on economic strength. Economic strength creates international influence and power. Economic strength now requires a strong technology sector that includes strong tech companies. This conclusion may be uncomfortable for some, but the alternative, a weak tech sector, and weak companies, is indefensible on its face (despite appeals to pro-competition rhetoric).

It’s Finally Here: Pentagon Releases Plan To Keep Hackers Out Of Its Networks

LAUREN C. WILLIAMS

Defense agencies have until 2027 to convert their networks to architectures that continually check to make sure no one’s accessing data they shouldn’t.

This shift to zero trust principles is at the core of the Pentagon’s new five-year plan to harden its information systems against cyberattacks. The strategy and roadmap were released on Tuesday.

To get there, agencies can improve their existing environments, adopt a commercial cloud that already meets DOD’s zero trust specifications, or copy a prototype of a private cloud, David McKeown, the Pentagon’s acting principal deputy chief information officer, told reporters. And to help enforce it, the DOD chief information office will track their spending.

“We will hold them accountable by asking them to build a plan,” McKewon said. “And as a part of that capability planning guidance…they have to come back to us and show us in their budgets how much they're spending on zero trust and what they're getting for that.”

The Appliances Are Listening

Aynne Kokas

Americans’ addiction to low-cost consumer products, particularly connected (or “smart”) devices, has led to a world where data security takes a back seat to affordability. Consumer products have razor-thin profit margins, making everything from smart watches to baby monitors a potential source of data exploitation. Since firms with significant operations in China face intensive pressure to share consumer data with China’s government, affordability directly works against the safety and security of consumer data. Such pressure enables what I term “data trafficking,” or the extraction of consumer data without explicit consent to achieve an international political advantage. But this is the last thing anyone wants to think about when they are hungry.

Most people are not in the habit of monitoring whether they are consenting to data gathering when they eat, but some connected home devices even know when you open your refrigerator door. Beyond posing a conundrum for avid snackers, this kind of monitoring can also provide such data points as how many people might be at home at a given time, when mealtimes are, and which foods people eat. This issue of consumer data gathering on devices has particularly interesting data trafficking implications when companies change hands.

Is Moore’s Law Really Dead?


OHM’S LAW (V = IR) states that the voltage across a conductor is proportional to the current flowing through it. Hooke’s law (Fs = -kx) states that the force needed to extend or compress a spring by some distance is proportional to that distance. Moore’s law states—

Well, that one doesn’t state. It wagers. It hazards a guess. It contains no constants, no special functions, no variables, no equations at all. Movie directors will find in Moore’s law nothing like the kind of pretty runes that John Nash or Ben Affleck might scrawl on a window with a wax pencil. In fact, Moore’s law is less a law than a flier, a bit of Johnson-era bookmaking. Every year (or two) for a decade—or so the “law” goes—engineers would maybe, probably, double the number of transistors they could stuff onto a silicon chip.

Such was the bet of Gordon Moore, then the research director at the illustrious Fairchild Semiconductor, an outfit based in Sunnyvale, California, that in those days was known mostly as a division of the Fairchild Camera and Instrument Corporation. Electronics, a throwaway circular for the radio industry, picked up one of Moore’s reports for Fairchild and published it as “Cramming More Components Onto Integrated Circuits” on April 19, 1965.

1 December 2022

China’s Covid protests could go anywhere from here

DAVID S G GOODMAN

Public protests in China related to the government’s Covid-19 restrictions have hit the news worldwide over the weekend, following a fatal apartment fire in Urumqi, Xinjiang last week which killed ten people.

Many internet users claimed some residents could not escape because the apartment building was partially locked down, though authorities denied this.

There have been reports some demonstrators have called for President Xi Jinping, the newly re-elected General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, to stand down. Others have criticized the rule of the party itself.

China’s Covid measures are among the strictest in the world, as it continues to pursue lockdowns to suppress the virus – what it calls a “dynamic zero Covid” policy.

At the heart of China’s protests against zero-Covid, young people cry for freedom

Nectar Gan and Selina Wang

CNN —For the first time in decades, thousands of people have defied Chinese authorities to protest at universities and on the streets of major cities, demanding to be freed not only from incessant Covid tests and lockdowns, but strict censorship and the Communist Party’s tightening grip over all aspects of life.

Across the country, “want freedom” has become a rallying cry for a groundswell of protests mainly led by the younger generation, some too young to have taken part in previous acts of open dissent against the government.

“Give me liberty or give me death!” crowds by the hundreds shouted in several cities, according to videos circulating online, as vigils to mark the deaths of at least 10 people in a fire in Xinjiang spiraled into political rallies.

Videos circulating online seem to suggest China’s strict zero-Covid policy initially prevented emergency workers from accessing the scene, angering residents across the country who have endured three years of varying Covid controls.

U.S. and NATO Scramble to Arm Ukraine and Refill Their Own Arsenals

Steven Erlanger and Lara Jakes

BRUSSELS — When the Soviet Union collapsed, European nations grabbed the “peace dividend,” drastically shrinking their defense budgets, their armies and their arsenals.

With the rise of Al Qaeda nearly a decade later, terrorism became the target, requiring different military investments and lighter, more expeditionary forces. Even NATO’s long engagement in Afghanistan bore little resemblance to a land war in Europe, heavy on artillery and tanks, that nearly all defense ministries thought would never recur.

But it has.

In Ukraine, the kind of European war thought inconceivable is chewing up the modest stockpiles of artillery, ammunition and air defenses of what some in NATO call Europe’s “bonsai armies,” after the tiny Japanese trees. Even the mighty United States has only limited stocks of the weapons the Ukrainians want and need, and Washington is unwilling to divert key weapons from delicate regions like Taiwan and Korea, where China and North Korea are constantly testing the limits.

The Perpetually Irrational Ukraine Debate

Stephen M. Walt

Because war is uncertain and reliable information is sparse, no one knows how the war in Ukraine will play out. Nor can any of us be completely certain what the optimal course of action is. We all have our own theories, hunches, beliefs, and hopes, but nobody’s crystal ball is 100 percent reliable in the middle of a war.

You might think that this situation would encourage observers to approach the whole issue with a certain humility and give alternative perspectives a fair hearing even when they disagree with one’s own. Instead, debates about responsibility for the war and the proper course of action to follow have been unusually nasty and intolerant, even by modern standards of social media vituperation. I’ve been trying to figure out why this is the case.

Is China heading toward another Tiananmen Square moment?

Lili Pike and Tom Nagorski

In October, a man unfurled banners from a Beijing bridge calling for people to rise up against China’s restrictive covid policies and the Communist Party itself. He was alone that day and quickly arrested; the nationwide protests he hoped for did not materialize. But now they have. And they started because of a fire in an apartment building.

When word spread of the fire, the 10 fatalities and reports that rescue efforts may have been slowed by a covid lockdown, the apartment building tragedy turned into a national rallying cry.

It happened this past Thursday in Urumqi, in western China’s Xinjiang region. By the weekend, protests had spread from Urumqi to Shanghai, Nanjing and many other large cities — including Wuhan, where the world’s first major outbreak of covid-19 struck three years ago. The anger was expressed on Chinese social media platforms as well. At first, the protests appeared to take direct aim at the government’s “zero-covid” approach, under which even small outbreaks are met with severe measures — often including the confining of millions of people to their homes. “Lift the lockdown” was among the rallying cries. But in some instances, demonstrators went further — calling for broader freedoms and even an end to Communist Party rule.

Three scenarios for how war in Ukraine could play out

Shashank Joshi
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ANY SEASONED intelligence analyst might have scoffed had they been told in March 2022 that Ukraine would still be an independent state eight months later; that Ukraine’s army would have killed or wounded 80,000 Russians; that the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet would be at the bottom of that sea; and that Ukraine’s air force would still be flying. Ukraine has defied expectations. It is winning the war. But winter is coming and Russia is mobilising. Consider three scenarios for the year ahead.

In the first, Russia snatches victory from the jaws of defeat. Russia’s army stabilises the front lines over the winter months, while building new battalions with freshly mobilised recruits. Meanwhile, Republicans in America block new arms packages for Ukraine, as supplies from Europe run out. Russia’s defence industry is starved of semiconductors and specialised equipment, but churns out enough basic armour and artillery to equip the new forces.

By the spring, the new Russian units go on the attack, forcing back a Ukrainian force that is weary from months of offensive action. Russian drones continue to hammer Ukraine’s energy and water infrastructure. As summer arrives, Ukraine is on the back foot. Russia captures Kryvyi Rih, a key industrial town north of Kherson, and Slovyansk and Kramatorsk in Donetsk. Western countries urge Ukraine to accept a Russian offer of a ceasefire. Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, has little choice but to accept. In the months, perhaps years, that follow, Russia assiduously rearms for another attempt on Kyiv.

No ‘bright-line rule’ shines on targeting commercial satellites

ZHANNA L. MALEKOS SMITH

Cyber counterspace weapons can target both space satellites and ground-based systems by intercepting and monitoring data, corrupting data with malware, or even wresting control of the space system from the space operator. During the United Nations General Assembly’s First Committee session in October, Russian foreign ministry official Konstantin Vorontsov announced that “quasi-civil infrastructure may be a legitimate target for a retaliation strike.”

In some ways, Vorontsov’s comments could be interpreted as a harbinger of increased disruption and denial methods against commercial space satellites in Ukraine, especially considering Russia’s cyberattack against Viasat Inc’s KA-SAT commercial satellites and interference with the approximately 25,000 Starlink internet terminals serving Ukraine.

Why The Next Chairman Of The Joint Chiefs Should Be From The Air Force

Loren Thompson

General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will retire next year. The nation’s top military officer by law can only serve a single, non-renewable term of four years, and thus a successor will need to be nominated by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.

Secretary Austin should nominate an Air Force officer, current Chief of Staff General Charles Brown, to lead the Joint Chiefs. If he does, media coverage will undoubtedly focus on the fact that Brown is the first African American to lead a branch of the armed forces.

However, that is not the reason why Brown should be the next Joint Chiefs Chairman. The logic of his appointment resides in other institutional, strategic and operational considerations. The fact that he is temperamentally and experientially suited to the job is icing on the cake.

Xi’s Costly Obsession With Security How a Quest for Control Threatens China’s Economic Growth

Stephen Roach

China’s growth problem just got worse. That is the unmistakable conclusion that can be drawn from the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

For President Xi Jinping, the congress was a stunning success: he secured an unprecedented third term as CCP leader and eliminated any semblance of political competition. But that does not bode well for Chinese prosperity. Increasing autocracy is colliding with a dynamic economy, and something has to give.

That something is likely to be economic growth, which is now at risk. Between 1980 and 2020, the Chinese economy enjoyed an annual average growth rate of nine percent in real GDP. In 2022–23, however, the International Monetary Fund expects the Chinese economy to grow less than four percent. Although China’s growth should remain positive, the magnitude of such a sharp slowdown from the earlier hypergrowth trajectory is the Chinese equivalent of a recession.

Tech Regulation Can Harm National Security

James Andrew Lewis

A nineteenth-century British song about war with Russia contains a line that is worth bearing in mind as Congress contemplates regulating big tech: “We don't want to fight but by Jingo if we do, we've got the ships, we've got the men, we've got the money too.”

That final phrase deserves attention. Not having "the money" makes it hard to provide for defense. European countries, after decades of slow growth, are discovering this as they confront Russian aggression. Thanks to its economic growth, the United States has the resources it needs for national security but proposed antitrust legislation could change that.

National security depends on more than an ability to field advanced weapons or large forces. It is based on economic strength. Economic strength creates international influence and power. Economic strength now requires a strong technology sector that includes strong tech companies. This conclusion may be uncomfortable for some, but the alternative, a weak tech sector, and weak companies, is indefensible on its face (despite appeals to pro-competition rhetoric).