28 February 2024

Houthis order ‘ban’ on Israel, US and UK-linked ships in the Red Sea


Yemen’s Houthis have announced they have “banned” vessels linked to Israel, the United States and United Kingdom from sailing in surrounding seas, as the rebels seek to reinforce their military campaign, which they say is in support of Palestinians in Gaza.

The Houthi’s Humanitarian Operations Coordination Center sent formal notices of the ban to shipping insurers and firms operating in the region on Thursday, the Reuters news agency quoted a statement as saying.

The Houthis’ communication, the first to the shipping industry outlining a formalised ban in the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea, came in the form of two notices, Reuters said.

It affects vessels wholly or partially owned by Israeli, American and British individuals or entities, as well as those sailing under their flags.

The warning came amid continuing Houthi attacks that have disrupted international trade on the shortest shipping route between Europe and Asia, and counterattacks by US and British forces hoping to deter the rebels.

The Iran-aligned Houthis have launched repeated attacks on ships in the region since November.

They said the attacks were a response to Israel’s military operations in Gaza, which have killed almost 30,000 people in four months. They have promised to continue their campaign in solidarity with Palestinians until Israel stops the war.

On Thursday, Houthi leader Abdulmalik al-Houthi also said the group had introduced “submarine weapons” in their attacks.

How to avoid nuclear escalation as a confident Iran and insecure Israel square off

Assaf Zoran

Last November, a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) provided insights into the sustained and unprecedented progress of Iran’s nuclear program, including the alarming update about a speed-up in its uranium enrichment. While the ongoing conflict in the Middle East continues to capture both regional and global attention, the IAEA report serves as a striking reminder that the Iranian nuclear challenge persists, and with it a substantial risk of regional escalation.

Two opposing dynamics are at play in the region: a growing Iranian confidence in its long-term strategy, and the erosion of Israeli confidence in maintaining its national security. These create fertile and perilous ground for a potential direct confrontation, in which the nuclear issue would be central.

It is time to change course, find alternatives to the ineffective current policies, and avoid a strategic mistake that will enable Iran to get closer to a nuclear weapon.

The United States and its allies should present Iran with a final proposal to return to an agreement framework for Tehran’s nuclear program; if declined, talks must be halted. This approach must be accompanied by alternative measures to diminish Iran’s confidence in the efficacy of its current aggressive strategy. Such measures should include clearly communicating a red line to Iran regarding progression toward weaponization of its nuclear program—and also communicating, through private back channels, that the United States has developed contingency plans to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities and other targets important to the Iranian regime should the red line be crossed. It is equally crucial, however, to avoid cornering Iran in a manner that further incentivizes nuclear advancement, recognizing its need to maintain counter-leverage.

At the same time, any plan regarding the Iranian nuclear program must address Israeli concerns to help mitigate the risk of unilateral actions originating from Jerusalem. A provisional solution that sustains rivalry but establishes well-defined rules could prove advantageous for all parties involved and may pave the way for future substantial de-escalation.

WHAT ISRAEL CAN LEARN FROM THE U.S. GLOBAL WAR ON TERRORISM

LTC Jay Figurski

IN BRIEF
  • There are notable similarities between Israel’s response to the Hamas attacks of 7 October 2023 and the U.S. response to 9/11. In both scenarios, leadership immediately came under intense public pressure to respond with overwhelming military force to exact retribution—which led to combat power being deployed before clear military objectives had been articulated. Consequently, objectives have been required to change to fit the situation on the ground.
  • Israel, a small country with limited resources, does not have the manpower or the financial capacity to occupy and rebuild Gaza by itself. It should look to the lessons the United States learned during the Global War on Terrorism—determine the end game; consider the war for hearts and minds and the cost of “going it alone”; avoid a multi-front war; and beware unintended consequences.
  • It is imperative to U.S. interests and regional stability that Israel sets attainable objectives and meets them as soon as possible. If it doesn’t, the progress made in normalizing Israel’s diplomatic relationships with its Arab neighbors over the last few years will be increasingly difficult to restore.
INTRODUCTION

As the initial fog of war began to clear in southern Israel on 7 October 2023, and the scope of Hamas’ attack became clear, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went live on national TV around 11:00 a.m. In front of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Headquarters in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu proclaimed, “Citizens of Israel, we are at war. . . . I am initiating an extensive mobilization of the reserves to fight back on a scale and intensity that the enemy has so far not experienced. The enemy will pay an unprecedented price. . . . We are at war and will win.”1 As head of state, Netanyahu’s desire to convey the gravity of the moment and to show the world that his government was prepared to use the overwhelming force of the IDF is certainly understandable. That day—7 October—has become Israel’s 9/11, and Netanyahu’s speech harkened back to President George W. Bush’s address to the nation on that fateful day. The president captured the mood of the country by declaring, “Today, our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts. . . . Our military is powerful, and it’s prepared.”2

US should wade carefully into the Indian Ocean

DAVID SANTORO

The strategic significance of the Indian Ocean region is considerable and growing.

Consisting of vast and diverse maritime geography of several subregions, including the Indian subcontinent, parts of Australia and Southeast Asia, West Asia, and Eastern and Southern Africa; it is home to 2.7 billion people — over a third of the global population — with an average age of 30 years old; it is resource-rich; and it is comprised of some of the fastest growing countries.

The region also connects peoples and economies worldwide via sealines and telecommunication fiber optic submarine cables; significantly, 80% of global maritime oil shipments traverse Indian Ocean waters.

The region, of course, faces major challenges, including actions by nefarious non-state actors such as pirates, smugglers, and terrorists. The ongoing attacks by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in the Red and Arabian Seas that are wreaking havoc on global maritime trade exemplify this problem.

Other challenges include the impact of climate change, which affects the region disproportionately, and growing naval competition, notably as China is increasingly flexing its muscles in the region.

How should the United States approach the Indian Ocean region?

Ambitions and realities

The United States recognizes the importance of maintaining a peaceful, secure and prosperous Indian Ocean region.

Indian Army draws lessons from Ukraine war, revises artillery requirements

DINAKAR PERI

Drawing lessons from the Ukraine war, the Indian Army has revised the profile of its Artillery regiment, with focus on a mix of mobility and augmented long-range firepower.

The Army expects to achieve its target of converting the entire artillery to medium 155 mm gun systems by 2042, a defence source in the know said.

“The Regiment of Artillery has done a detailed study along with the Operations Branch. In the revised Artillery profile, Army is going for more self-propelled and mounted gun systems,” the source said. “Firepower is a major battle-winning factor. Manoeuvrability is alone not enough unless supplemented or complemented by firepower.”

The Army has embarked on a plan to make 155 mm the standard calibre of all artillery guns, and the source said that the plan for “mediumisation with indigenous guns is likely to be completed by the year 2042.”

The source said that the first lesson learnt was that of firepower being a “battle-winning factor” and the need for a judicious mix of guns and missiles. Another important aspect is that the time, from acquiring the target to shooting, had gone down from five to 10 minutes to a mere minute or two.

The war also brought out the matter of increased survivability, the source said, referring to reports which suggested that Russia had lost 5,000 guns and rocket systems so far.

There is a need for methods for force preservation as well as to adopt shoot-and-scoot techniques. “The Russia-Ukraine conflict also shows that we need to be prepared for such a prolonged war,” the source said, pointing to the strong defence industrial ecosystem that Russia has. “We need our own indigenous industry based on our capabilities and more importantly have the capability for surge.“

India Develops Its Own ‘Rocket Force’ Akin To China’s PLARF; Aims To Counter Beijing’s Asymmetric Edge

Ritu Sharma

Underwater warfare is going to get more competitive in the Indian Ocean Region. Days after Pakistan laid a keel for an AIP (Air Independent Propulsion) submarine, India has announced to test a 500 km range submarine-launched cruise missile in the coming days.

India’s SLCM program is driven by strategic factors like China’s growing naval presence in the Indian Ocean and Pakistan’s advancements in missile technology.

SLCMs would add a survivable sea-based element to bolster India’s land-based rocket force, which the country has envisaged. First articulated by former Chief of Defense Staff General Bipin Rawat, the establishment of the Indian Rocket Force hinges on getting the theatre commands running.

These missiles will be deployed on the submarines to be constructed under Project 75I, for which German ThyssenKrupp AG and Spanish Navantia are competing. India is planning to eventually increase the range of its SLCM to 800 kilometers, which will cover a vast swathe of China within its range, including cities like Shanghai, Hangzhou, Wenzhou, Fuzhou, and Xiamen.

The SLCMs are part of India’s strategic defense capabilities that eventually want to build a rocket force. A trial of the SLCM was conducted in February 2023, during which the SLCM achieved its objectives within a range of 402 kilometers.

There are two variants – Land Attack Cruise Missile (LACM) and Anti-Ship Cruise Missile (ASCM) intended for targeting naval vessels.

India has been working towards non-contact warfighting capability with its homegrown SLCMs and short and medium-range ballistic missiles, just like PLA’s Rocket Force (PLARF), which controls Beijing’s arsenal of land-based ballistic missiles-both nuclear and conventional. The PLARF has 40 brigades.

China To Field 500+ Stealth Fighters, Pakistan Upto 100, Is India Left Behind In 5th Gen Aircraft Race?

Ashish Dangwal

The Indian Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) project that aims to build the nation’s much-wanted Stealth Fighter remains behind schedule. There are only a couple of options for India if it wants to be capable enough to counter belligerent neighbors, China and Pakistan.

The Turkish aerospace industry has recently soared to new heights with the historic first flight of its homegrown stealth fighter jet, KAAN.

This momentous achievement has sent ripples of admiration across the globe as Turkey solidifies its position as a force to be reckoned with in cutting-edge military technology.

Amid the worldwide acclaim, a buzz of intrigue has emerged from India. With eyes fixed on Turkey’s triumph, several Indian internet users have begun to ponder the progress of the nation’s ambitious endeavor: the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) project.

Designed to craft India’s stealth fighter, the AMCA program now faces heightened scrutiny from Indian netizens. The scrutiny and questioning directed towards the AMCA project are warranted.

This stems from the fact that though the project commenced over a decade ago, its sluggish progress is significantly impeding the overall development timeline.

The design phase of the aircraft has already been finalized, and in April 2023, the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) approached the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to secure funds.

The initial projected cost for development stands at approximately Rs 15,000 crore. However, the delay in securing the necessary funds is emerging as a major hindrance, slowing down the overall pace of the project.

INDIA'S MOMENT: NARRATIVE VS. REALITY?

Amaia Sánchez-Cacicedo

There is a mood of anticipation and expectation ahead of this year’s Raisina Dialogue, India’s sui generis ‘Global Conclave’ – a blend of the World Economic Forum and the Shangri-La Dialogue. The real showdown will come during India’s general elections scheduled to take place between April and May 2024. Exaggerated rhetoric and fanfare extolling ‘India’s Moment’, or rather ‘Bharat’s Moment’, is to be expected. Since its inception in 2016, the Raisina Dialogue has evolved to showcase India’s growing international status and outstanding achievements to the world. But now is perhaps a good moment to pause and consider India’s strengths and weaknesses on the global stage. How much of the triumphalist narrative will translate into tangible reality?

During his years in power Narendra Modi has made clear his vision of India’s global role and foreign policy ambitions at the high table of international politics: henceforth India will be a purveyor of solutions to global challenges and a norm-maker as opposed to a norm-taker. Calls for anachronistic and inefficient multilateral institutions – that fail to provide India with a permanent seat at the UN Security Council – to be reformed, and New Delhi’s quest to have a leading role as the Voice of the Global South, are gaining momentum. The successful outcome of India’s recent G20 presidency illustrates this. However, it will take much more for India to become a pole in international politics and a competitive and developed economy in the next 25 years.

New Delhi has become a necessary counterbalance to a rising and increasingly threatening China.This is dictated by both geographical and tactical imperatives, considering India’s 4,056 km-long international border with China and its ambition to become a net security provider in the Indian Ocean. India’s inclusion in numerous strategic partnerships across the Indo-Pacific such as the QUAD, the Australia-India-Japan Supply Chain Resilience Initiative or creative trilaterals in tandem with France and the UAE demonstrate its strategic advantage. While this does not render New Delhi indispensable, it is certainly a much sought-after partner. It is also projected to be the fastest growing G-20 economy in 2024 and 2025 despite global challenges. India has furthermore launched and implemented its vast Unified Payments Interface (UPI) as part of an India Stack masterplan exportable to the Global South.

China Is Running Out of Lines to Cross in the Taiwan Strait

Ben Lewis

In 2020 the balance of military power in the Taiwan Strait began a gradual but profound shift in China’s favor.

That August, Alex Azar, then the health and human services secretary, became the highest-ranking U.S. cabinet official to visit Taiwan in more than four decades. Though he was there to talk about the pandemic, China’s People’s Liberation Army (P.L.A.) responded by carrying out large-scale military exercises around the self-governing island, sending aircraft over the median line of the Taiwan Strait, the halfway point between China and Taiwan, for only the third time in more than 20 years. Since then, China has responded to such visits and other perceived provocations by flying more than 4,800 sorties, with growing numbers of aircraft flying in locations previously seen as off-limits and conducting dozens of increasingly complex air and naval military exercises around Taiwan.

The P.L.A.’s now-normalized presence around Taiwan raises the risk of an accidental confrontation. But over the longer term, it has also gradually created a dangerous sense of complacency in Taipei and Washington while giving China the crucial operational practice it might one day need to seize the island.

As a military analyst specializing in China and Taiwan who has spent the past two years managing an open-source database tracking Chinese military activity, I am deeply concerned about the dangers that this activity poses. Alarms should be ringing, but neither Taiwan nor the United States has taken meaningful action to deter China, and Taiwan’s response has been inconsistent and lacks transparency, which may further embolden Beijing. A more robust approach is needed to deter China from escalating the situation.

In 2020, shortly after China began raising the pressure, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense started releasing daily reports on Chinese military activity inside the island’s Air Defense Identification Zone, a perimeter extending beyond Taiwan’s territorial waters and airspace that is monitored to provide early warning of approaching Chinese planes or missiles. In previous years, China rarely entered the zone. But in 2020, P.L.A. aircraft breached it nearly 400 times. Last year, that number exceeded 1,700.

Ending the Houthi Threat to Red Sea Shipping

Nadwa Al-Dawsari, Casey Coombs, Ibrahim Jalal, Kenneth M. Pollack, Baraa Shiban, and Katherine Zimmerman

Once again, the United States confronts an unexpected threat in the Middle East—this time, from the Houthis of Yemen, who have chosen to take their war against the government of Yemen out into the Red Sea to try to strangle the 12 percent of global shipping that flows through the Bab el-Mandeb. 1 The Houthis are ostensibly doing this in support of Hamas, but in reality, it is in pursuit of their wider ambitions in Yemen and the region and on behalf of their Iranian allies.

Once again, Americans are asking what is the least we can do to address this threat. Unfortunately, as we should have learned over the past 45 years, trying to do the least in the Middle East often means we end up having to do the most. A smart, feasible middle course isavailable to the United States and its allies, but it will require us to recognize that the United States has a real stake in the outcome of the Yemeni civil war and that that interest lies with ensuring the Houthis do not prevail. While it will require important changes from how we have tackled the problem so far, the best news is it should not require American boots on the ground in Yemen and is likely to be welcomed by most Yemenis and all of our allies in the Middle East.

Washington warned, punished, and warned the Houthis again against drone and missile attacks on vessels transiting the Red Sea. Instead of stopping after joint US-UK strikes on Houthi targets in January, the Houthis escalated, including by launching one of theirmost complex attacks to date and increasingly focusing on US-owned vessels.2 They vowed to respond to a third round of joint US-UK strikes on February 3 that targeted “deeply buried” Houthi military capabilities.3 The Houthis remain undeterred and, in fact, are emboldened in the face of international pressure to back down.

How interoperability benefits military, civil and commercial domains

Dave Martin

As modern-day information systems become more complex, the importance of interoperability cannot be overlooked. Organizations across numerous industries rely on a myriad of software applications and devices to streamline operations, facilitate communication and drive innovation. However, without interoperability, the potential of these systems is hindered, which can lead to inefficiencies and barriers to collaboration.

Whether applied to military, commercial or consumer domains, interoperability can benefit every step of the supply chain by reducing overall costs and enabling rapid integration, as well as by improving the long-term sustainability and maintainability of fielded systems. Interoperability promotes cohesion and efficiency across these diverse systems, and the most obvious beneficiary of this is the system integrator.

Well-defined, standardized interfaces enable integrators to select “best in breed” capabilities from multiple potential suppliers without having to absorb the additional costs associated with proprietary or custom interfaces.

In addition, the use of interoperable interfaces across subsystems and components lets integrators keep up with constantly improving technology and capabilities. In growth areas like unmanned systems, interoperability is critical to sustainability since the current “state of the art” can be quickly replaced by a next-generation breakthrough. By focusing on interoperability, new capabilities can be quickly adopted and rolled out without significant system redesign.

Interoperability also can benefit industry vendors – particularly, small- and medium-sized ones. After all, modern systems have become too complex for a single vendor to excel in each of the system’s hardware, software, and mechanical requirements. Interoperable interfaces enable vendors to specialize their offerings and compete in niche areas, while targeting products toward a broad market.

How to Ruin the Marine Corp

GARY ANDERSON

Few would ever consider how to completely neutralize a truly iconic fighting force like the US Marine Corps.

However, for whatever reason, if one were motivated to do so, I would recommend the following strategy.

The Plan in Theory

First, I would not reveal my plans during my confirmation hearing as Commandant of the Marine Corps. That would alert the traditionalists among the retired Marines and friends of Marines who might oppose my appointment. Once confirmed and installed, I would present my real plan, proceeding confidently and decisively.

Let’s say my concept would involve a radical transformation of the Marine Corps from a worldwide force in readiness into a service primarily focused on deterring or fighting a war with China. I would issue my Commandant’s Planning Guidance to that effect and direct my combat development command to set up a series of war games that would support my plan.

I would use a small group of trusted agents to run the games and make sure that they supported the concept. I would ensure that anyone participating in the games signed non-disclosure agreements, and I would classify the process so that no dissenting opinions would be let loose. I would then declare that the results validated my concept.

Next, I would divest the Marine Corps of what I considered to be legacy capabilities no longer needed for the implementation of my plan. These divestitures would include all tanks, all its heavy engineer and assault breaching capabilities, much of the conventional artillery, its vaunted snipers, and about a third of the aviation assets.

Knowing that many retired Marines and friends of Marines would object to this radical departure from the Marine Corps’ traditional force-in-readiness posture, I would direct my public affairs people to dismiss them as hopeless reactionaries.

Ukraine: A struggle for the ages

JAMIE DETTMER

“Today I will not panic and cry. I will be calm and confident. My kids are watching.”

These were the words of Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska as dusk approached on the first day of Russia’s invasion two years ago. And she wasn’t alone in trying to fortify herself with such an admonition.

Ukrainian parents — hundreds and thousands of them — were all repeating similar sentiments. Their kids, in turn, were watching, scanning their parents’ faces for signs of fright, seeking reassurance and guidance on how to react as their world turned upside down. Conscious parenting doesn’t stop when bombs start falling. It just becomes much harder and much more urgent. And the children observed everything — they always do.

And what exactly did they see that day, when Russian President Vladimir Putin’s avowals that he wouldn’t invade his neighboring country were shown to be hollow? Like anyone who was there during those opening days of war, as I was, they saw a disciplined, resolute state gird itself, ready to defend its freedom and become what Putin says doesn’t exist — a nation.

As Russian tanks bore down on Kyiv and Western leaders wrung their hands — forecasting a quick collapse and offering the Ukrainian president a ride into exile — on the ground in Ukraine, it was clear the country would put up a fight.

And what a fight it has put up against its giant of a neighbor for two whole years now — a David and Goliath struggle for the ages.

What happened during those first few days of war will stay etched in my mind forever. There wasn’t panic. Instead, there was calmness and steadfastness. There were also tears — tears as families parted, with children and mothers heading west, out of harm’s way; tears as grandparents decided to stay rooted in cherished family homes as the bombs got closer; and tears as fathers said their final goodbyes to their families before heading east to confront the enemy.

Responsible science: What Sam Altman can learn (and not learn) from Nobel and Oppenheimer

Sarah Kreps

Last September, Emmett Shear, who was later temporarily CEO of OpenAI during an organizational shakeup, cautioned that artificial intelligence was moving too quickly: “[I]f we’re at a speed of 10 right now, a pause is reducing to 0. I think we should aim for 1-2 instead.” Shear, who is concerned about human-level artificial intelligence, did not last long as CEO. And OpenAI, like its competitors, has kept its foot on the development pedal. Pauses (like the one suggested for giant AI experiments) or Shear’s slowdown suggestion are unlikely to work given the investment-driven technological arms race that has raised the payoff for first mover advantages.

In science, technology, and business, “disruptive innovation” is a goal. But the same innovations that start in the business world often end up in the national security space. Disruptive innovations are both dual-use and double-edged. Not only can they go from civilian to military applications, but they can also present opportunities as well as dangers. There is no stopping innovation, nor should there be. But it’s important to ask if innovators can create transformative technologies while not imperiling their country’s national security. In other words, can they be more mindful scientific stewards without compromising advancement? And what can today’s disruptors learn from yesterday’s innovators?

Answering those questions requires reflecting on historical instances of disruptive technologies. It turns out. the scientists behind some of those technologies did not intend to be disruptive. Alfred Nobel is the quintessential example. Nobel was curious, a “barefoot empiricist,” the type of scientist who learned by hands-on experimentation through trial-and-error. In 1847, a French chemist had discovered nitroglycerin, used as an antidote for angina. Nobel began studying the chemical’s homeopathic virtues but also recognized its volatile properties and ultimately developed the explosive and detonator that countries used in ways that he regretted. The Swedish innovator nursed his remorse by creating five Nobel Prizes, one a peace prize that would be awarded in Norway, a country that had previously demanded that its union with Sweden dissolve.

The Spy War: How the C.I.A. Secretly Helps Ukraine Fight Puti

Adam Entous and Michael Schwirtz

Nestled in a dense forest, the Ukrainian military base appears abandoned and destroyed, its command center a burned-out husk, a casualty of a Russian missile barrage early in the war.

But that is above ground.

Not far away, a discreet passageway descends to a subterranean bunker where teams of Ukrainian soldiers track Russian spy satellites and eavesdrop on conversations between Russian commanders. On one screen, a red line followed the route of an explosive drone threading through Russian air defenses from a point in central Ukraine to a target in the Russian city of Rostov.

The underground bunker, built to replace the destroyed command center in the months after Russia’s invasion, is a secret nerve center of Ukraine’s military.

There is also one more secret: The base is almost fully financed, and partly equipped, by the C.I.A.

“One hundred and ten percent,” Gen. Serhii Dvoretskiy, a top intelligence commander, said in an interview at the base.

Now entering the third year of a war that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, the intelligence partnership between Washington and Kyiv is a linchpin of Ukraine’s ability to defend itself. The C.I.A. and other American intelligence agencies provide intelligence for targeted missile strikes, track Russian troop movements and help support spy networks.

But the partnership is no wartime creation, nor is Ukraine the only beneficiary.

It took root a decade ago, coming together in fits and starts under three very different U.S. presidents, pushed forward by key individuals who often took daring risks. It has transformed Ukraine, whose intelligence agencies were long seen as thoroughly compromised by Russia, into one of Washington’s most important intelligence partners against the Kremlin today.

A Neutral Ukraine Is Not the Answer

Dr. Philip Dandolov

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine there have been multiple negotiation rounds as well as proposed peace plans seeking to lay the groundwork for ending the war. While finding a lasting resolution is turning out to be elusive, if we are to take into consideration the events that have unfolded over the course of the last two years, what should almost certainly be ruled out with regard to the spectrum of desirable outcomes is the adoption of a neutral status by Ukraine.

Ukraine is not exactly a stranger when it comes to the notion of neutrality. In the aftermath of the fall of the Soviet Union, the country expressed an intention in its declaration of state sovereignty of 1 July 1990 to become a permanently neutral state that would shun participation in military blocs and show a commitment to denuclearization. This largely nonaligned status resulted in a vacillating foreign policy, which nonetheless appeared to be conducive to the pursuit of amicable relations with both the European Union (EU) and Russia, before being ultimately abandoned in December 2014 in the aftermath of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the start of the Donbas war. In February 2019, with the overwhelming approval of the Verkhovna Rada (the Parliament of Ukraine), the Ukrainian constitution was amended, setting the country on a course toward full membership in the EU and NATO. Nonetheless, in late March 2022 Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy was still prepared to discuss the possibility of Ukraine taking a neutral position as part of a potential peace deal with Russia to halt the invasion.

Yet there are quite a few practical and moral reasons as to why the train of neutrality should now be considered to have long left the station.

White House Wades Into Debate on ‘Open’ Versus ‘Closed’ Artificial Intelligence System


The Biden administration is wading into a contentious debate about whether the most powerful artificial intelligence systems should be “open-source” or closed.

The White House said Wednesday it is seeking public comment on the risks and benefits of having an AI system’s key components publicly available for anyone to use and modify. The inquiry is one piece of the broader executive order that President Joe Biden signed in October to manage the fast-evolving technology.

Tech companies are divided on how open they make their AI models, with some emphasizing the dangers of widely accessible AI model components and others stressing that open science is important for researchers and startups. Among the most vocal promoters of an open approach have been Facebook parent Meta Platforms and IBM.

Biden’s order described open models with the technical name of “dual-use foundation models with widely available weights” and said they needed further study. Weights are numerical values that influence how an AI model performs.

When those weights are publicly posted on the internet, “there can be substantial benefits to innovation, but also substantial security risks, such as the removal of safeguards within the model,” Biden’s order said. He gave Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo until July to talk to experts and come back with recommendations on how to manage the potential benefits and risks.

Now the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration says it is also opening a 30-day comment period to field ideas that will be included in a report to the president.

Why Zelensky Replaced Ukraine’s Top General and What It Means for the War

Eric Ciaramella

President Volodymyr Zelensky’s replacement of Ukraine’s top military leadership in early February—the most significant shake-up in Kyiv since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion two years ago—was long in the making. Zelensky cast his decision to replace Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief Valeriy Zaluzhny and other senior officers as necessary to rejuvenate the war effort after last year’s failed counteroffensive. But, although Zelensky and Zaluzhny had clashed over certain aspects of Ukraine’s military strategy, the decision ultimately stemmed from politics and an interpersonal conflict between the two men that had escalated steadily since the earliest days of the war.

Zaluzhny was a relatively unknown figure when Zelensky appointed him to his position in summer 2021. Age 48 at the time, Zaluzhny was part of a younger generation of Ukrainian officers with no experience in the Soviet military and whose careers had been defined both by the war in the Donbas, which began in 2014, and by growing cooperation with the United States and NATO militaries.

In the run-up to Russia’s full-scale invasion, Zaluzhny is credited with critical decisions to disperse ammunition stockpiles and reposition forces that enabled a small number of outgunned Ukrainian troops to blunt Russia’s main ground attack against Kyiv. His quiet preparations came as Zelensky and other top civilian leaders were publicly dismissing warnings from the United States that Russia would attack. During the Battle of Kyiv, Zaluzhny’s quick and adaptive thinking allowed Ukrainian troops to exploit the Russian army’s many blunders, saving the capital from occupation. He soon became a folk hero, lionized as Ukraine’s “Iron General.”

But his popularity was also a vulnerability. Zelensky came to see Zaluzhny, whose public approval and trust ratings gradually eclipsed his own, as a rival. For the first 18 months of the war, Zaluzhny was careful not to overtly challenge Zelensky, although the general seemed to underestimate the political turbulence created when people around him tried to capitalize on his rising star. In recent months, some of Zelensky’s opposition critics, including former President Petro Poroshenko and Kyiv Mayor Vitaliy Klychko, began promoting the idea of Zaluzhny as an alternative leader for Ukraine. Zaluzhny may not have been behind these efforts, but the perception that he was working with the opposition fueled Zelensky’s mistrust.

Ukraine Can’t Win the War

ANATOL LIEVEN

The long-awaited counteroffensive last year failed. Russia has recaptured Avdiivka, its biggest war gain in nine months. President Volodymyr Zelensky has been forced to quietly acknowledge the new military reality. The Biden Administration’s strategy is now to sustain Ukrainian defense until after the U.S. presidential elections, in the hope of wearing down Russian forces in a long war of attrition.

This strategy seems sensible enough, but contains one crucially important implication and one potentially disastrous flaw, which are not yet being seriously addressed in public debates in the West or Ukraine. The implication of Ukraine standing indefinitely on the defensive—even if it does so successfully—is that the territories currently occupied by Russia are lost. Russia will never agree at the negotiating table to surrender land that it has managed to hold on the battlefield.

This does not mean that Ukraine should be asked to formally surrender these lands, for that would be impossible for any Ukrainian government. But it does mean that—as Zelensky proposed early in the war with regard to Crimea and the eastern Donbas—the territorial issue will have to be shelved for future talks.

As we know from Cyprus, which has been divided between the internationally recognized Greek Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus since 1974, such negotiations can continue for decades without a solution or renewed conflict. A situation in which Ukraine retains its independence, its freedom to develop as a Western democracy, and 82% of its legal territory (including all its core historic lands) would have been regarded by previous generations of Ukrainians as a real victory, though not a complete one.

As I found in Ukraine last year, many Ukrainians in private were prepared to accept the loss of some territories as the price of peace if Ukraine failed to win them back on the battlefield and if the alternative was years of bloody war with little prospect of success. The Biden Administration needs to get America on board too.

Yet supporters of complete Ukrainian victory have engaged in hopes that range from the overly optimistic to the magical. At the magical end of the spectrum is the notion, set out by retired U.S. Army General Ben Hodges among others, that Russia can be defeated, and even driven from Crimea, by long-range missile bombardment.

How Tech Giants Turned Ukraine Into an AI War Lab

Vera Bergengruen

Early on the morning of June 1, 2022, Alex Karp, the CEO of the data-analytics firm Palantir Technologies, crossed the border between Poland and Ukraine on foot, with five colleagues in tow. A pair of beaten-up Toyota Land Cruisers awaited on the other side. Chauffeured by armed guards, they sped down empty highways toward Kyiv, past bombed-out buildings, bridges damaged by artillery, the remnants of burned trucks.

They arrived in the capital before the wartime curfew. The next day, Karp was escorted into the fortified bunker of the presidential palace, becoming the first leader of a major Western company to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky since Russia’s invasion three months earlier. Over a round of espressos, Karp told Zelensky that he was ready to open an office in Kyiv and deploy Palantir’s data and artificial-intelligence software to support Ukraine’s defense. Karp believed they could team up “in ways that allow David to beat a modern-day Goliath.”

In the stratosphere of top tech CEOs, Karp is an unusual figure. At 56, he is a lanky tai chi aficionado with a cloud of wiry gray curls that gives him the air of an eccentric scientist. He has a Ph.D. in philosophy from a German university, where he studied under the famous social theorist Jürgen Habermas, and a law degree from Stanford, where he became friends with the controversial venture capitalist and Palantir co-founder Peter Thiel. After Palantir became tech’s most secretive unicorn, Karp moved the company to Denver to escape Silicon Valley’s “monoculture,” though he typically works out of a barn in New Hampshire when he’s not traveling.

The Ukrainians weren’t sure what to think of the man making grandiose promises across the ornate wooden table. But they were familiar with the company’s reputation, recalls Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s Minister of Digital Transformation, who was in that first meeting. Named after the mystical seeing stones in The Lord of the Rings, Palantir sells the same aura of omniscience. Seeded in part by an investment from the CIA’s venture-capital arm, it built its business providing data-analytics software to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the FBI, the Department of Defense, and a host of foreign-intelligence agencies. “They are the AI arms dealer of the 21st century,” says Jacob Helberg, a national-security expert who serves as an outside-policy adviser to Karp. In Ukraine, Karp tells me, he saw the opportunity to fulfill Palantir’s mission to “defend the West” and to “scare the f-ck out of our enemies.”

What are space nukes, the ‘indiscriminate’ satellite weapon raising tensions between Washington and Moscow?

Karen Gilchrist

A fresh spat between Washington and Moscow has raised alarm about the potential risk of a space-based nuclear satellite attack which could cause chaos to critical communications systems on Earth.

Russia denied U.S. claims that it was developing a space-based anti-satellite nuclear weapon, with President Vladimir Putin saying Tuesday that the Kremlin was “categorically against” the deployment of nuclear weapons in space, and accusing the White House of scaring lawmakers into passing a new aid package for Ukraine.

It comes after a Reuters report emerged earlier Tuesday, citing one source, that said the U.S. believes Moscow is developing a space nuke whose detonation could knock out the satellites underpinning critical U.S. infrastructure, including military communications and mobile phone services. CNBC could not independently verify the report.

Alarm bells around Russia’s nuclear advancements were first raised last week when U.S. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Turner warned of a “serious national security threat” related to Russian capabilities in space.

President Joe Biden later said Moscow appears to be developing an anti-satellite weapon but noted that it posed no urgent “nuclear threat” to the U.S. people, and said that he hoped Russia would not deploy it. However, one source familiar with the matter told Bloomberg that such a capability could be launched into orbit as soon as this year.

Analysts told CNBC that the deployment of such a weapon could cause “indiscriminate” damage, reaping havoc on the systems on which people rely for everyday services such as payments, GPS navigation and even the weather.

Naval Special Warfare Will Have to Fight Differently

Seth Cropsey

Naval Special Warfare is a crucial strategic tool for the U.S. military. Yet there has been remarkably little public thinking on the role special operations forces might play in a large-scale strategic confrontation. The War of 2026 scenario helps clarify the requirements for Naval Special Warfare (NSW) in such a conflict.

Two points need articulation. First, the revisionist coalition the United States and its allies face, primarily in Eurasia, has weak points; second, special operations forces (SOF) are the best tool to stress these weak points while ensuring high-end conventional assets are available for traditional engagements. These two arguments indicate a third, more profound reality: SOF can demonstrate the necessary link between the operational and the geopolitical in great power war—assuming it is properly resourced. This is true not only for NSW, but also for the broader SOF community.

SOF and Strategic Objectives


Romanian, Ukrainian, and U.S. special operations personnel conduct close-quarters battle training in Romania in May 2021. The most pervasive peacetime SOF mission today is training with U.S. allies and partners globally. 

Special warfare is, by definition, odd. Anglo- American strategic historian Colin Gray once argued that special operations does not fit well into the United States’ political-military taxonomy. It is culturally, strategically, operationally, and tactically distinct from the traditional warfighting arms of any service. While NSW may fall under the Navy Department’s organizational chart, for example, SOF are naturally ground forces, and there will be friction between them and the traditional mechanized and armored forces that predominate.

Twenty years of counterinsurgency and counterterrorism transformed U.S. special operations from a niche discipline within a conventional military into a well-known, near-celebrity, almost standalone component of U.S. power. Joint Special Operations Command completely retooled itself during the 2000s and 2010s, becoming a force capable of prosecuting a strategic campaign against a mobile, adaptable, tenacious network of conventional and unconventional forces.

TROUBLING WATERS : Understanding Global Water Security

Zane Swanson & Sarah B. Grace 

Today, global water demand already outstrips availability, with at least half of the global population experiencing highly water-stressed conditions. That is, they live in a region of the world that is highly water stressed for at least one month of the year.

At the same time, climate change will have diverse and unpredictable consequences for water security.

The ramifications of the existing water crisis will continue to grow in scope and severity without swift and robust intervention.


I. The Basics of Global Water

Water covers about 71 percent of the earth's surface. However, only a relatively small quantity is available for human use and consumption.

Of the estimated 1.39 billion cubic kilometers of water on the earth, approximately 97 percent is found in the oceans. Just 3 percent of the earth's water is freshwater, but most of that is unavailable—either locked up in glaciers, polar ice caps, the atmosphere, and soil; too highly polluted; or located where is it not practically or economically feasible to access. That leaves about one half of 1 percent of the earth's water remaining as freshwater that is available for human use.

With what is available, the world uses about 4 trillion cubic meters of freshwater annually. This is a volume about six times greater than global freshwater withdrawal at the turn of the twentieth century.

By 2050 the world is projected to demand 20 to 25 percent more water. And it is estimated that the number of people suffering from severe water scarcity could increase by 40 percent by the end of this century.

Coming Year May Not End The War In Ukraine: But It Could Decide The Outcome – Analysis

Steve Gutterman

On February 21, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin made a grim, resentful speech that changed the minds of many who had until then believed Russia would not launch a major new invasion of Ukraine.

Less than 72 hours later, Russian missiles rained down across the country, and Russian forces crossed the border, as well as the existing front line in the Donbas. And Putin, Western intelligence indicates, believed that Ukraine would be under Moscow’s thumb within weeks, if not days.

That did not happen, and now the full-scale war is reaching the two-year mark. Will it end in its third year?

The answer: Probably not. But talk of a stalemate may be misleading, lulling Kyiv’s backers into complacency at a time when one massive factor that has come to the fore could determine the outcome of the war: Western weapons deliveries.

“It’s always dangerous to make predictions, but it’s difficult to imagine the war ending by the end of 2024,” Ruth Deyermond, senior lecturer in the Department of War Studies at King’s College London, told RFE/RL.

“As things stand, neither side seems to have the capability to inflict a decisive defeat on the other. For that to change there would probably need to be a significant shift in external factors, most importantly, the level of support provided by the West,” Deyermond said in an e-mail exchange.

“Significantly more Western material support will help Ukraine to make progress in liberating territory,” she added, while “a reduction in Western assistance could force Ukraine to agree to peace talks on Russia’s terms.”

Olga Oliker, program director for Europe and Central Asia at the Crisis Group, puts it in starker terms. “If Ukraine runs out of weapons and people, yes, the war will end in the next year,” Oliker said in a telephone interview.

The Western economy is about to be dealt a devastating blow

Karl Holmqvist

The modern Western world is dependent on undependable technology. From healthcare to banking, communications to infrastructure – electricity grids, water supplies, sewage systems and trains – we rely on complex systems that do what they do, when they’re meant to. For this to work, these systems must be secure against attack.

However, as shown by recent ransomware attacks on everything from hospitals to libraries, we often aren’t ready for sophisticated attacks on our technology. Our systems were built to be operationally reliable, but were not designed to be resilient to the efforts of determined adversaries who want our information or money. And this situation could get significantly worse. New technology has put a timer on our current security methods.

We are rapidly connecting the critical components of the most important systems that keep our economy running to the internet. The cornerstone of the current security practices that make this safe is cryptography; encoding information so that only the intended recipient can decipher it. Our current cryptographic techniques are highly secure against current technologies. They are totally unready for the quantum age and the new types of attacks our adversaries are aggressively developing.

Last year, the cybersecurity community was stirred by a sensational claim that RSA, the most widely deployed asymmetric encryption algorithm, had been cracked by a new method harnessing properties of quantum mechanics augmented by AI. This story passed without disaster. But at some point, quantum computers capable of breaking our current system will be here. Researchers and institutes around the world are pouring tens of billions of dollars into quantum computing, and the timelines for working devices are shrinking.

While there are many promising applications in science and medicine for a large quantum computer, one of the first specific and proven applications will be breaking cryptography. This means that RSA’s immunity, and the security of all the cryptographic systems powering our Internet connected society, may soon be in doubt. Last year’s announcement was a shot across the bows for the Western world. The next breakthrough could be real.

27 February 2024

Nancy Pelosi on Israel's Gaza War: 'I'm Not a Big Fan of Netanyahu'

David Brennan

House Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi is among the U.S. politicians most in the crosshairs of furious pro-Palestinian activists, as they look to force the American political establishment out of its "ironclad" support for Israel's devastating war on the Gaza Strip.

"I understand, for some people their frustration," Pelosi told Newsweek in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference last weekend.

Pelosi's San Francisco home has been repeatedly targeted in recent months. Red paint and fake blood have been splashed around it, while severed pigs' heads have been left displayed outside. Last week, a truckload of manure was dumped on her driveway.

The California lawmaker has accused some protesters of being linked to Russia and China, most notably in a January confrontation outside her home in which she shouted at activists: "Go back to China."

"I don't know that this is all organic," Pelosi said. "Much of it is, much of it is organic and spontaneous and sincere. I respect that. I don't think all of it is."

A Reality Check on Afghanistan’s Isolation Under the Taliban

Shanthie Mariet D’Souza

The two-day meeting of regional and national special envoys for Afghanistan convened by the U.N. Secretary General António Guterres in Doha ended on February 19 with consensus among the participants over “what needs to happen.” But there was almost no unanimity about how the international community should engage with the Taliban. The Taliban continue to demonstrate no signs of backtracking on their policies and show no interest in forming an inclusive government and restoring the rights to education, employment, and movement that girls, women, and minorities enjoyed for two decades.

Worse still, beneath the U.N. secretary general’s claims of consensus, a clear division is visible among countries regarding doing business with the present regime.

The meeting provided an opportunity for important stakeholders, regional as well as global, to converse on the future of Afghanistan and the steps required to arrest the country’s downhill slide under the Taliban. More importantly, the meeting aimed to bring the Taliban face-to-face with Afghan human rights and women activist groups on its sidelines, for a frank exchange of views. No such dialogue has been possible in Afghanistan.

The Taliban, however, refused to attend as their demand for recognition as the sole governing entity of Afghanistan in the meeting was not met. This would have amounted to the world body recognizing the so-called Islamic Emirate. In addition, the Taliban refused to meet any of the human rights and activist groups. The Taliban also rejected the idea of a new U.N. special envoy for Afghanistan given that the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) is already functioning in the country.

The Taliban’s reaction was to be expected. The group is seeking to make the international community accept it without conditions. Time and again the Taliban regime has made it clear that it views such recognition as its right and it must not be linked to any improbable change in its policies or Afghanistan’s governing system. Under this view, another U.N. special envoy, one tasked with promoting dialogue between the Taliban and Afghan opposition groups, is unnecessary, as the Taliban have no intention of sharing power with anyone else.