7 November 2017


Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)

Over the past several years, the Russian Federation has engaged in an unprecedented effort to attempt to influence American politics. A key component of that overall effort has been focused on social media, especially widely used platforms like Facebook, Google and Twitter. By using social media tools to manipulate audiences, Russia has been able to support its policy priorities and create divisions by disseminating information which weakens its perceived adversaries.

Russians use social media more subtly to do something far more dangerous – destroy US democracy from the inside out. With features like account anonymity, unlimited audience access, low cost technology tools, plausible deniability – social media provides Russia an unprecedented opportunity to execute their arts of manipulation and subversion known as Active Measures. Russia has conducted the most successful influence operation to date by infiltrating, steering and now coordinating like-minded audiences across the Western world to subvert democratic governance. The rapid spread of Russian disinformation enflames electoral divisions and employs indigenous American audiences to support the Kremlin’s foreign policy of breaking all unions and alliances that challenge their rise. 

Each social media company has uncovered some piece of Russia’s social media influence campaign but no one company alone can fully comprehend the extent of Russian operations. As they conduct investigations into their data, they’ll each detect only those accounts where the Kremlin failed to hide its hand, seeing only the tip of the iceberg floating above the social media sea upon which they float. Within the Kremlin’s playbook, each social media platform serves a function, a role in an interlocking social media ecosystem where Russia infiltrates, engages, influences and manipulates targeted American audiences. Russia’s Active Measures in social media and those nefarious dark campaigns emerging in the future will need five complementary social media functions to conduct effective full spectrum social media influence campaigns: reconnaissance, hosting, placement, propagation, and saturation.

*** The Next Space Race Is Artificial Intelligence


Nearly 60 years ago, then-Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson seized his colleagues with a stark Cold War warning: Whoever wins the space race, he predicted, would gain “control, total control, over the Earth for purposes of tyranny or for the service of freedom.”

The United States won that race not only by reaching the moon but by inspiring the next generation of scientists, technologists, and optimists.
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Recently, Russian President Vladimir Putin echoed Johnson’s forecast in light of the next great technological race: artificial intelligence, or AI. “Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world,” Putin said.

Johnson, leaning into the consequences of the Soviet threat, can be accused of hyperbole. Putin can be accused of the same and, perhaps, worse. But there is truth in their common understanding of technology’s power, one that transcends generations and geopolitics. Right now, we fear, the United States is at risk of losing this critical race.

One of us commanded 150,000 troops from 50 nations; the other invents AI technologies that are used in — among other applications — energy, finance, and systems for our national defense. We have seen firsthand how AI will transform warfare, from autonomous flight control systems that can revolutionize air combat to algorithms that can give commanders an unprecedented and precise view of the battlefield. Soon, AI also will become the most potent enabler of competitive advantage throughout most areas of our society and economy, both in work and leisure — with consequences far beyond the usual debate about automation supplanting manufacturing jobs.

Pakistan Says It's Ready to Use Nuclear Weapons—Should India Worry?

Zachary Keck

Asif’s statement about Pakistan’s willingness to use nuclear weapons is in line with Islamabad's long-standing nuclear doctrine. In contrast to India and China, which both maintain no first use nuclear doctrines, Pakistan has always maintained that it could resort to nuclear weapons to blunt a conventional attack from India.

Pakistan is ready to use nuclear weapons against India, a senior Pakistani official confirmed on Monday.

Appearing on the Pakistani television channel “Geo,” Pakistan’s Defense Minister Khawaja Asif said that Islamabad is willing to use nuclear weapons to ensure its survival.

“We should pray that such an option never arises, but if we need to use them (nuclear weapons) for our survival we will,” Asif said, according to Geo’s website. His remark was widely reported by Indian media outlets.

Asif went on to accuse India of supporting anti-Pakistani terrorist groups in a proxy war against Islamabad. “Fuelling terrorism directly or indirectly is India’s proxy war in Pakistan,” Asif said. He singled out Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Pakistani Taliban, and Baloch separatists as two of the groups that India is allegedly supporting.

The upper Han

FIVE men who ran a bookshop in Hong Kong disappeared in mysterious circumstances in late 2015. One was apparently spirited away from the territory by agents from the mainland; another was abducted from Thailand. All later turned up in Chinese jails, accused of selling salacious works about the country’s leaders. One bookseller had a British passport and another a Swedish one but the two suffered the same disregard for legal process as Chinese citizens who anger the regime. Their embassies were denied access for weeks. The government considered both these men as intrinsically “Chinese”. This is indicative of a far broader attitude. China lays claim not just to booksellers in Hong Kong but, to a degree, an entire diaspora.

China’s foreign minister declared that Lee Bo, the British passport-holder, was “first and foremost a Chinese citizen”. The government may have reckoned that his “home-return permit”, issued to permanent residents of Hong Kong, trumped his foreign papers. Since the territory returned to mainland rule in 1997, China considers that Hong Kongers of Chinese descent are its nationals. Gui Minhai, the Swede taken from Thailand, said on Chinese television, in what was probably a forced confession: “I truly feel that I am Chinese.”

The Fall of a Jihadist Bastion: A History of the Battle of Mosul (October 2016 – July 2017)

By: Brian Glyn Williams, Robert Troy Souza

Islamic State’s (IS) greatest conquest was its bold June 2014 seizure of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city and home to approximately two million predominately Sunni inhabitants. For almost three years, IS dug in to defend this strategic stronghold and the site of the declaration of the IS khilafah (caliphate) by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-styled “Caliph Ibrahim” (al-Jazeera, July 6, 2014). When a U.S.-backed coalition of jostling Kurdish Peshmerga, Iranian-backed Shia militias and Iraqi Security Forces made up of 114,000 troops launched “Operation We are Coming Nineveh” on October 16, 2016, they knew they were in for a bloody slog to dislodge IS fighters who had “worm-holed” the city, creating tunnels through buildings and building extensive defensive barricades. [1] They were not mistaken in this assumption, and for nine months the allies battled their way first through modern east Mosul, then through the warrens of older west Mosul on the opposite side of the Tigris.

The Promise of a Bridge in Bangladesh

By Sajeeb Wazed

The first span of the once-controversial Padma Bridge linking the north and south of Bangladesh is now in place. The bridge’s now-very visible rush to completion shows the promise in the country’s economic future.

The Padma Bridge will connect the relatively poor agricultural districts of Shariatpur and Madaripur to the more affluent, urbanized regions of Munshigani next to Dhaka, the capital. At nearly four miles, the bridge will be the longest in the Padma-Brahmaputra-Meghna river basin. It will ease pressure on the country’s leading seaport in Chittagong, 150 miles southeast of Dhaka, by directly linking the capital and the Mongla Port, the country’s second busiest seaport, which is 182 miles to Dhaka’s southwest.

The bridge will cost as much as $3.5 billion and will be paid for entirely by the government of Bangladesh. It is the first and highest-profile of several infrastructure projects that the government plans to fund and complete over the next several years.

Ukraine Has Gas for Upcoming Winter, but Time for Reforms Is Running Out

Ukraine has entered a new heating season with almost 17 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas stored in its underground reservoirs, according to Ukrtransgaz, the gas transportation and storage subsidiary of the state-owned oil and gas company Naftogaz Ukrainy (Utg.ua, accessed October 30). This is more than Ukraine stored up in anticipation of winter both last year as well as two years ago. As such, winter 2017–2018 will be the third heating season in a row that Ukraine will have enough stored gas to make it through the cold months since natural gas purchases from Russia’s Gazprom were stopped in November 2015. Having built the foundations for stable gas deliveries from the European Union via Slovakia, Poland and Hungary, Ukraine has proved that it can survive without Gazprom, which used to account for 100 percent of its imports of the “blue fuel.” Although, it bears pointing out that much of the gas that Ukraine is buying from the EU is actually Russian gas pumped in the reverse direction.

A small country fights a big war against Russian hybrid warfare

By L. Todd Wood

In the U.S. we are witnessing firsthand the new hybrid warfare of the 21st century — cyberattacks, disinformation, financial shenanigans, social media manipulation and corruption — a combination of weapons for which the West has yet to find an effective defense. There is, however, one small country that has found a way to deal with this plethora of threats and actually find a way forward.

Moldova, the small former Soviet republic wedged between Ukraine and Romania, has gone through multiple cycles of boom and bust on its quest to become a developed, free, secure, market economy. Corruption in most Eastern European countries is well established and pervasive, a giant sucking hole swallowing up growth and prosperity. It has been no different in Chisinau. And like Ukraine, Moldova’s struggles are vastly complicated by a giant neighbor to the east that will do anything in its power to prevent its onetime republic from being pulled into the West’s orbit, never to return.

Moldova, geographically isolated and small, has two “breakaway” regions, Transdniestria and Gagauzia. In Transdniestria, there are a few thousand Russian troops and a massive Soviet ammunition depot. The two sides fought a war over the future of the enclave in the early 1990s. Tensions are still thick.

Russia’s Hybrid Attacks Should, At Long Last, Force the EU and NATO to Team Up

Five ways these largely congruent yet poorly coordinated organizations could start putting their collective capabilities to best use.

Russia is using hybrid attacks to strike throughout Europe and even across the Atlantic: election interference in the U.S. and France; kidnappings and attempted assassinations in Estonia and Montenegro; cyber-attacks in Norway, Poland, Ukraine, and elsewhere. But the transatlantic community’s ability to respond is hindered by the rift between two organizations that should be leading the way: NATO and the EU.

Despite having 22 member states in common, the organizations have long talked with each other as if the commonality at their core does not exist. While they pay lip service to partnership and cooperation, NATO and the EU have struggled merely to communicate and coordinate, let alone implement anything together.

Recent years have brought increasing recognition of the need to overcome this impasse. Last year’s Joint Declaration touched off improvements in NATO-EU relations, and notable movement toward collective efforts includes the EU’s Joint Framework and Finland’s new European Center of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats (Hybrid COE). Supported by many NATO and EUnations, the Helsinki-based center will serve as a hub for collective analysis, joint exercises and training, and other activities.

Preparing for What Comes Next in North Korea


By moving carrier strike groups and stealth fighter jets into the region, the United States will enhance its force posture in and around North Korea. 

The preparations do not necessarily suggest that the United States is getting ready to launch a war — though they will elevate the risk in the region. 

Tracking U.S. military movements around the Korean Peninsula will offer insight into the standoff between Washington and Pyongyang. 

North Korea is still racing to achieve a comprehensive nuclear deterrent. And the closer it gets to its goal, the less time the United States and its allies have to try to stop it. Depending on factors such as the strength of U.S. intelligence, the progress of North Korea’s missiles and nuclear programs and how much risk Washington and its allies are willing to tolerate, the United States may already have missed its opportunity for preventive military action. Official assessments indicate that, at most, Washington has 18 months before the window closes; after that, the United States and its allies probably will have no choice but to adopt a policy of deterrence toward North Korea.

The Russian War on Terror

Ilan Berman

The Kremlin needs a real plan to mitigate the threat of returnee ISIS figthers.

Which country ranks as the largest source of foreign fighters for the Islamic State’s “caliphate” in Syria and Iraq?

That dubious distinction doesn’t belong to a Middle Eastern state, despite the fact that countries such as Saudi Arabia have historically been major contributors of radicals to the Islamic State’s ranks. Nor is it a North African nation, even though Tunisia had previously served as the preeminent supplier of fighters for the Syrian front.

Rather, the most active contributor to the current contingent of jihadis supporting the Islamic State is none other than the Russian Federation. That is the finding of a new report from the Soufan Group, a leading U.S. counterterrorism consultancy. The study, entitled “Beyond the Caliphate: Foreign Fighters and the Threat of Returnees,” notes that—while the number of foreign fighters from places like Tunisia has declined appreciably over the past two years—those of Russian origin have not.

On the contrary, Russia’s contribution to the “caliphate” has actually increased over time. In all, the report details, 3,417 Russian nationals are believed to have joined the ranks of ISIS since the organization’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, announced the formal establishment of its state in mid-2014. That figure represents a forty percent increase over the 2,400 Russian nationals that were estimated to have joined the group as of 2015.

The Changing Geopolitics of Energy


TOKYO – In 2008, when the United States’ National Intelligence Council (NIC) published its volume Global Trends 2025, a key prediction was tighter energy competition. Chinese demand was growing, and non-OPEC sources like the North Sea were being depleted. After two decades of low and relatively stable prices, oil prices had soared to more than $100 per barrel in 2006. Many experts spoke of “peak oil” – the idea that reserves had “topped off” – and anticipated that production would become concentrated in the low-cost but unstable Middle East, where even Saudi Arabia was thought to be fully explored, with no more giant fields likely to be found.

The US was regarded as increasingly dependent on energy imports, and this, together with rising prices, was seen as a major limit on American geopolitical influence. Power had shifted to the producers.

The NIC analysts did not neglect the possibility of a technological surprise, but they focused on the wrong technology. Emphasizing the potential of renewables such as solar, wind, and hydro, they missed the main act.

Beware: this Russian cyber warfare threatens every democracy

Natalie Nougayrède

Anyone in Europe and Britain worried about the state of US democracy should take time to watch the videos of this week’s congressional hearings over Russian online meddling in the 2016 presidential election. If the words “checks and balances” mean anything, this surely is it.

My favourite moment is when senator Dianne Feinstein leans into the microphone and says sternly to the Facebook, Twitter and Google representatives(whose evasive answers have exasperated her): “You don’t get it! This is a very big deal. What we’re talking about is cataclysmic. It is cyber warfare. A major foreign power with sophistication and ability got involved in our presidential election.”

We don’t yet know the full picture. In particular, we don’t know if Russian-promoted bots, trolls and online ads had an impact that in any way altered the outcome of the US election. At this stage, to claim they did may be crediting Vladimir Putin with more power than he actually wields. What emerged from the hearings is that Russia’s likeliest goal was to sow discord and confusion among citizens of the world’s most powerful democracy.

Russia’s attempts to undermine western democracies may be only the tip of the iceberg. Think China 

The Trump Campaign Indictments Matter, but Not for the Reasons You Think

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It's easy to look at a string of recent indictments against members of U.S. President Donald Trump's former campaign staff and get sidetracked by the partisan rhetoric flying back and forth. But calls for impeachment from the left and claims of a state-sponsored set-up from the right ignore the deeper intrigue beneath the surface.

At the heart of the political turmoil is Russia, which believes itself to be a great power by right but has been held back by an international system designed and dominated by the West, with the United States at its helm. From its seat in Moscow, the Kremlin is determined to see this system undone and has worked tirelessly toward that end using every means it can except military force. Its inherent weakness, however, has determined the tools at its disposal.

Characterizing Russia as a weak nation might seem counterintuitive, but that doesn't make the description any less accurate. The country's options are limited and will likely only narrow in the years ahead. Over the past few years, cracks have begun to emerge in the political structure that Russian President Vladimir Putin built around himself. The government's tight grip on power is slowly starting to slip in the face of growing opposition groups, mounting regional resistance, enduring economic stagnation, increasing financial burdens, substantial international pressure and the rise of a new generation of citizens more willing than ever to challenge the establishment over corruption and hardship. All of these issues signal greater internal instability on the horizon, and as the Russian state grows more fragile, it will act decisively to mitigate any additional threats from beyond its borders. 

Nuclear Triad: Pentagon Taking Steps to Modernize Global Strike Weapons

By Jon Harper

As potential adversaries enhance their long-range weapons, the United States is moving forward with plans to bolster its own global strike capabilities. The stakes are high as officials try to keep their programs on time and on budget.

Russia, China and North Korea are modernizing their strategic weapon systems, defense officials and independent analysts have noted. At the same time, tensions are boiling in the Asia-Pacific following Pyongyang’s recent tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear warheads that could potentially reach the U.S. homeland.

To bolster deterrence and assure anxious allies, the Air Force has flown long-range bombers such as the B-52 near the Korean Peninsula and conducted an ICBM test without a warhead. The Navy has deployed ballistic missile submarines to the region, and allowed officials from allied nations to tour the USS Pennsylvania while it was docked in Guam.

“A lot of that diplomatically is just a show of force,” Gen. Robin Rand, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, said during a meeting with reporters at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Maryland. It signaled that “we’re ready to fight tonight,” he added.

Machine Intelligence and Human Ingenuity Can Achieve the Impossible

By Josh Sullivan and Angela Zutavern

This is an adapted excerpt from The Mathematical Corporation: Where Machine Intelligence and Human Ingenuity Achieve the Impossible Copyright © 2017. It is available from PublicAffairs, an imprint of Perseus Books LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group Inc.

Imagine flying over a major city at night — say, Chicago or Paris or Beijing — and it is completely dark below. It is just a void of light akin to nighttime in the middle of the ocean.

Then imagine someone flips on the power grid, and you see today’s web of human activity light up. Imagine further that someone flips the switch again, and you glimpse a future image of the city. Where you once thought there was nothing, there is a universe of action — both present and future. Enormous detail radiates from the darkness, and you perceive and envision features you never knew existed.

This ability to “flip the switch” to see formerly hidden details and vital insights about the future expresses the potential of the mathematical corporation. Thanks to leaps in technology, we can get a new fine-grained, high-resolution picture of aspects we could never distinguish before. With machine intelligence, built on the bundle of technologies known as data science, we can see patterns, anomalies and associations that were previously cloaked in obscurity.

Four takeaways from the Senate Intelligence hearing with Facebook, Twitter and Google

Attorneys for tech giants Facebook, Twitter and Google appeared on Capitol Hill for the second day in a row on Wednesday, testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee about their efforts to prevent Russian meddling in U.S. politics. The same firms answered questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

On the off chance that you didn’t spend three hours watching Wednesday’s hearing live, here are four takeaways to get you caught up:

Facebook, Twitter and Google agree that they could have done better in 2016

The first step is admitting you have a problem, right?

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) demanded a yes-or-no answer to the following question from representatives of all three companies: “Are you satisfied with your platform’s response to foreign interference in the 2016 election?”

Google general counsel Kent Walker tried to dodge, at first. “We are constantly doing better,” he replied. Pressed by Wyden, he said, “We could have done more.”

Under pressure, social media giants acknowledge their platforms were used by Russia to meddle in 2016 elections

WASHINGTON (AP) — In three exhaustive hearings this week, executives from Facebook, Twitter and Google acknowledged that their platforms were used by Russia to try and create division over such disparate issues as immigration, gun control and politics. House investigators released a trove of Facebook and Twitter ads that showed just how extraordinary the cyber intrusion was.

The companies’ admissions and disclosures over the last several months have given congressional investigators one of their first real wins in the Russia probes. The committees have been frustrated by delays — and overshadowed by special counsel Robert Mueller — since they launched probes into Russian interference in the 2016 election earlier this year. Initially dismissive of Russia’s threat, all three companies have pledged improvements since lawmakers ramped up pressure and called them to testify.

It’s unclear what next steps Congress will take. The top Democrat on the Senate intelligence panel, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, has co-sponsored legislation that would bring political ad rules from TV, radio and print to the internet. Warner calls it “the lightest touch possible,” but many Republicans have been lukewarm.

Is Big Data Up to the Military Challenge?

By Beverly Cooper

In today’s big data environments, it is not that “we don’t know what we don’t know.” It is actually “we don’t know what we do know,” according to Col. Pete Don, USA, deputy senior intelligence officer for intelligence operations, U.S. Army Pacific. “We are being dazzled with so much data that it is hard to focus and find the needle in the haystack." The net seizes our attention only to scatter it, he contends. Col. Don joined three other colleagues as part of a panel on cybersecurity intelligence at TechNet Asia-Pacific

The problem could be that “we are gathering more needles to find the right needle,” suggested Col. Matt Rau, USMC, commander Joint Intelligence Operations Center, U.S. Pacific Command. Col. Rau suggested that big data could give us what is promised if we process data faster than the enemy to anticipate the next move “before he can make it.”

But, Col. Don acknowledges that there are silos of data we have not tapped into or shared. “Today’s Internet of Things world saturates us with big data across all domains, cyber, logistics, medical, all data. We need a complete picture to enable decisions.” 

The Future of EU Defence: A European Space, Data and Cyber Agency?

By Jean-Pierre Darnis 

According to Jean-Pierre Darnis, converging technological and political trends in the space, data and cyber domains are providing opportunities for the EU to establish supra-national defense policy responses. Indeed, Darnis argues that the EU can find justification for the creation of such EU-level responses in 1) the globally pervasive nature of technological advances in these arenas and their potential for dual-use applications; 2) the inability of member states to fund defensive cyber and space capabilities on their own, and more.

Sovereignty has always been a tricky issue for EU Defence policy. When it comes to the use of military forces, it is difficult to bypass the views of member states. This is not only a legal issue related to the prerogatives of individual member states versus those of the communitarian Union, but rather an issue of democratic control: the use of force is deeply rooted in the political constituencies of EU member states.

Two kinds of risks emerge when seeking to find a common denominator in terms of military affairs in Europe. The first, is to go along with countries pushing for a full spectrum use of force, such as France, which might be too ambitious for most EU member states. The second, is to limit EU defence capabilities and exposure to a minimum, an approach that seems somewhat unsatisfactory in terms of operational capabilities.

Why Twitter Is the Best Social Media Platform For Disinformation

Twitter is the most open social media platform, which is partly why it’s used by so many politicians, celebrities, journalists, tech types, conference goers, and experts working on fast-moving topics. As we learned over the past year, Twitter’s openness used by adversarial governments trying to influence elections. Twitter is marketing itself as a news platform, the go-to place to find out, in the words of its slogan, “What’s happening?”

So what’s happening with disinformation on Twitter? That is very hard to tell, because Twitter is actively making it easier to hide evidence of wrongdoing and making it harder to investigate abuse by limiting and monitoring third party research, and by forcing data companies to delete evidence as requested by users. The San Francisco-based firm has long been the platform of choice for adversarial intelligence agencies, malicious automated accounts (so-called bots), and extremists at the fringes. Driven by ideology and the market, the most open and liberal social media platform has become a threat to open and liberal democracy.