11 May 2020

Reopening India: Implications for economic activity and workers

By Rajat Gupta, Anu Madgavkar, and Hanish Yadav
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Over the next many months, India’s economy will need to operate alongside COVID-19 by building the capability to manage granular, dynamic, and localized lockdowns and restarts.
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COVID-19 is an unprecedented humanitarian challenge for all countries. Six weeks of national lockdown have given India the time to make a concerted effort to flatten the pandemic’s curve. Now attention is shifting to reopening the economy while containing the virus: a conundrum many other nations are also grappling with.

In the past six weeks, India’s economy has functioned at 49 to 57 percent of its full activity level, by our estimates. That economic cost, though unavoidable in the early stages of a lockdown, might not be sustainable in the longer term. It is becoming increasingly clear that COVID-19 will not disappear immediately; the economy will need to be managed alongside persistent infection risks, possibly for a prolonged period. After reopening, some countries have needed to resume lockdowns in response to rising infection rates, and India may be no exception.

How Indian businesses, consumers, and workers are equipped to resume their activities, even amid the ebb and flow of the virus, will decide how lives and livelihoods fare in India. Effective management of lockdowns, along with health-system preparedness1 to manage and contain the virus), will be a critical capability for Indian administrators, since restarting the economy comes with risks. The lockdown- and restart-management capability will have to be granular and dynamic, with local implementation closely aligned to state- and central-government policy and support from high-quality communication.
Implications of lockdown to consider

China’s Military Capabilities And The New Geopolitics – Analysis

By Jeremy Black*

(FPRI) — Discussion of Chinese intentions inevitably draws attention to the pronounced buildup of naval weaponry in recent years, with each year bringing fresh confirmation of China’s ability to leapfrog existing assessments of the size of its navy.

Thus, in April 2020, China constructed a second Type 075 warship, a class designed to compete in amphibious capability with the American Wasp class ships. Two more are anticipated, as are two more aircraft carriers. These are clearly designed to match American warships, and raise interest in China’s ability to sustain distant interest by sea, most obviously in the Indian Ocean, but also wherever Chinese geopolitical concerns may be favored by naval power projection.

Areas where China has maritime interests include not only the South-West Pacific, where it has been actively developing alliance partnerships, much to the disquiet of Australia, but also the Caribbean. Moreover, Chinese maritime partners include Equatorial Guinea. So, the notion that China might automatically “limit” itself to dominating a “near China,” of the East and South China Seas is implausible.

Will Russia Be the Real Loser in the New U.S.-China Cold War?

by Dimitri Alexander Simes

China found itself in the international wilderness after its suppression of the 1989 Tiananmen Square student protests. The violent crackdown elicited widespread condemnation from the West and, shortly thereafter, the United States and the European Union imposed an arms embargo on China that remains in place to this day.

In the subsequent years, Beijing found an unexpected partner in post-communist Russia. The collapse of the Soviet Union had financially devastated the Russian arms industry, making it very eager to do business with an economically-ascendant China. Over the following decade, China bought up Russian fighter jets and missile systems as part of its quest for military modernization, emerging as Russia’s largest arms customer in the process. 

More than thirty years later, a new crisis could once again bring China and Russia closer together. An outbreak of a novel strain of coronavirus in the Chinese industrial center of Wuhan has over the past few months spiraled into a global pandemic and economic depression, inciting an international backlash against China along the way. 

Amidst the recent turbulence, Russia was among the few nations that sided with China against its critics. With the current global health crisis taking an increasingly geopolitical turn, Moscow and Beijing are looking to each other for support. 

How Will COVID-19 Reshape Asia’s Energy Future?

By Prashanth Parameswaran

While the global coronavirus pandemic continues to have significant macro-level political and economic impacts on the Asia-Pacific and the world more generally, it is also likely to affect key industries in profound ways. Among the most notable sectors to watch is the energy realm, where COVID-19 could reshape interactions between various actors across several levels in the region with ripple effects for geopolitics more generally.

Over the past few years, Asia’s energy future has been driven by a series of broader, long-term trends. These include the rise of major Asian economies that have powered energy demand, the diffusion of energy technologies, and the growing awareness by governments of the need to manage carbon emissions even as they pursue economic growth. Along the way, we have also seen a series of notable shifts that have affected these dynamics, including the recent shale boom in the United States and fluctuations in oil prices.

Viewed from this perspective, COVID-19 is just one among a series of developments that will shape Asia’s energy landscape. It is worth noting that COVID-19 is also interacting with several other trends and developments occurring simultaneously or concurrently, including the collapse in oil prices, rising U.S.-China tensions, growing stress on regional and international institutions, perceptions of democratic rollback, friction between some major energy producers, and a global financial recession, which the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts will be the worst since the Great Depression.

How China’s Belt and Road Initiative Went Astray

By Chan Kung and Yu (Tony) Pan

The most fundamental reason for China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) lies in optimizing China’s domestic economic development model, economic structure, and industrial sector, as well as solving the historical problems left over after the rapid development of the Chinese economy from 2000 to 2010.

However, seven years after it was first announced, the continued advancement of the BRI is facing increasing resistance. In practice, the development of the entire initiative has deviated from the original strategic goal, as seen through two points. First, resource investment between the “Silk Road Economic Belt” (the “Belt”) and the “Maritime Silk Road” (the “Road”) is too unbalanced. In other words, the Maritime Silk Road has monopolized too many policies and material resources. Second, the implementation of the BRI overemphasizes “infrastructure connectivity.” As a result, the original grand and all-encompassing national strategy degenerated into a simple juxtaposition of “state-owned enterprises plus infrastructure.” Most importantly, the alienation of the BRI from its original goals poses huge challenges to the development prospects of the entire project.

Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman says evidence suggests coronavirus was not man-made or released from lab

by Ellen Mitchell 

The Pentagon’s top uniformed official on Tuesday maintained that available evidence indicates the virus that has caused a global pandemic was natural and not man-made or released purposely from a Chinese lab.

“The weight of evidence — nothing’s conclusive — the weight of evidence is that it was natural and not man-made,” Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Army Gen. Mark Milley said of the coronavirus.

“The second issue is, was it accidentally released, did it release naturally into the environment or was it intentional? We don’t have conclusive evidence in any of that, but the weight of evidence is that it was probably not intentional,” he told reporters at the Pentagon.

Milley added that “various agencies, both civilian and U.S. government, are looking at” the issue of where the virus originated.

The Trump administration this month stepped up efforts to blame China for the pandemic, with top officials including President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pushing the unverified theory that the virus was created by Chinese researchers or accidentally released by a lab in Wuhan, China, where it was being studied.

Patterns of Military Activity in the Battle against the Coronavirus: Lessons for Israel from Other Nations

Stuart Cohen, Meir Elran
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A survey of the involvement of democratic nations’ militaries in the anti-coronavirus campaign identifies five, escalating levels of action: (A) logistical and medical support for agencies serving civilians; (B) transfer of military supplies and equipment to civilian networks; (C) assistance to police forces in maintaining order; (D) assumption of operative responsibility for the management of individual civilian networks; (E) direct management of the entire system of governance. The IDF is required to assist the country’s civilians in accordance with the political echelon’s directives at levels A through C, employing its many capabilities as circumstances evolve, with the Homefront Command spearheading the effort. Any shift among levels deepens friction with civilians, and hence mandates extreme caution and sensitivity. A shift to Level D, under circumstances of an acute immediate threat to public health (an example being the situation in Bnei Brak) would constitute a significant escalation, demanding careful deliberation. A shift to Level E should be considered only in mass-disaster conditions, and hinge on a decision by a comprehensive apparatus that commands a high level of public legitimacy – a framework that does not exist in Israeli law and experience.No military in the world prepared for a civilian scenario on the scale of the coronavirus pandemic. Even so, most of the world’s militaries – in autocratic and democratic countries alike – began mobilizing in recent weeks to help tackle the spread of the virus. Frequently they have done so at the behest of the political leadership, which, especially in democratic countries, is understandably prone to summon military assistance to civilians in an emergency situation that many – among them US President Trump – designate a “war.” Notwithstanding budget cuts, most democratic countries’ militaries still have at their disposal many resources that can also be relevant to management of the struggle against the coronavirus. Some of these resources are material; others – more significantly – are human: a disciplined and organized workforce that is rich in experience and adaptability.

Is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia a Vital Ally?

By Gil Barndollar

“You’re supposed to be our damn friend!” Senator Ted Cruz’s plaintive cry, issued during a radio interview earlier this month, was an unprecedented eruption from one of Saudi Arabia’s most consistent defenders on Capitol Hill. States, of course, ultimately act in their own interest; the COVID-19 crisis is providing frequent reminders of the limits of sentiment and even relationships in international affairs. But the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, an American partner, and client state for the better part of a century, is being intensely criticized for escalating an oil price war with Russia in the midst of a pandemic. American shale producers and their workers were the collateral damage.

U.S. lawmakers are furious, and President Trump is mulling a ban on Saudi oil imports. Reuters reported last week that Trump even threatened the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the Kingdom. But the recent oil fight is only the tip of the iceberg. The U.S. – Saudi relationship, long the linchpin of American strategy in the Middle East, is in sore need of reappraisal.

After an early honeymoon of sword dances and glowing orbs, Trump has shown that his support of Saudi Arabia only goes so far. In September 2019, Iran gave the Saudis and the world a wakeup call: a cruise missile and drone attack on the Abqaiq and Khurais oil processing facilities that cut Saudi oil production in half at a stroke. America and Saudi Arabia rattled sabers, but neither country retaliated. Though American troops remain on Saudi soil today, the idea of war on behalf of the Kingdom is a political non-starter. Barely a fifth of Americans consider Saudi Arabia an ally and only 13 percent supported strikes on Iran as retaliation for the Abqaiq and Khurais attack.

Russia’s Victory In WWII Changed The World, But War Drums Continue – OpEd

By Somar Wijayadasa*
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On May 9, 1945, after four years of violent battles inside Russia, recorded as the bloodiest and most destructive military conflict in the whole history of humanity, the Russians defeated Nazi Germany in World War II. It is the single most important day in Russian history that elicits a strong feeling of pride and patriotic fervour that binds the nation together.

However, due to the coronavirus pandemic Russia’s President Vladimir Putin had to postpone the massive military parade through Red Square. Postponing the event, Putin said, “On Victory Day, we honour the heroes who defended the country and the rest of the world and sacrificed their lives to protect others”.

According to Wikipedia, an estimated total of 70–85 million people around the world perished during the War, and many of them died due to deliberate genocide, massacres, mass-bombings, disease, and starvation. 

Among poignant atrocities are the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor; atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; the firebombing raid on Tokyo; and Hitler’s deliberate program of extermination that systematically killed over 11 million people.

Focus More on Oil Country, Less on the Oil Industry

The Trump administration’s repeated attempts to support the U.S. oil industry have triggered mixed reactions, with both supporters and detractors forming ever-changing camps that defy categorization. When Texas holds hearings to set quotas on oil production, and when the U.S. president, along with Republican senators, cheer Saudi Arabia to cut production to lift oil prices, our mental maps need overhauling. Yet the debate itself is too centered on the U.S. oil industry and whether to help it. We need to broaden that conversation. It is not the oil industry that needs a bailout; it is oil country.

Those who support federal help fall into several camps. Some see oil as a strategic commodity and are unashamed to ask for federal help. Others see governments around the world meddling in oil markets anyway, so why defer to Riyadh and Moscow but not Austin and Washington, D.C.? Reluctant groups want the oil industry to tap into whatever help is available to companies (If the government is offering, why should they refuse?) more broadly but without any special provisions. Some welcome the chance to fill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, seeing it as an energy security measure as much as a measure to support the industry. And others are willing to provide help on a conditional basis, extending support to nudge the industry toward improved environmental stewardship of land and resources.

Assessing the Industrial Base Implications of the Army's Future Vertical Lift Plans

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As the Future Vertical Lift programs down select to a smaller pool of competitors, understanding the industrial base implications of the Army’s FVL plans is crucial. This report presents a detailed analysis of the industrial base implications of the Army’s approach to vertical lift modernization. It examines the Army’s addressable market for vertical lift, looks at opportunities and challenges in restructuring and optimizing the industrial base, what Middle Tier Acquisition and Modular Open Systems Architecture approaches might mean for key industry dynamics, and how incentive structures can be aligned for success.

This material is based upon work supported by the U.S. Army under contract #GS10F0095R. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Army.

Wearing the World Out

Gabrielle Sierra

What’s the true cost of cheap clothes? Fast fashion has become a multibillion-dollar industry in recent decades, reshaping the world’s shopping habits. But the industry’s low prices disguise a staggering environmental cost.

These days it’s easy to shop for stylish and affordable clothing. With the development of fast fashion, stores are no longer bound by just four seasons; new items can be produced and sold every few weeks. But low prices and endless style choices have come at a massive environmental cost. In this episode, we explore how our clothes are manufactured, and the global trail of pollution they leave in their wake.

Finding a Vaccine Is Only the First Step

By Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
It is now abundantly clear that the world cannot fully emerge from its current state of novel coronavirus lockdown until a vaccine is found. Never before have so many lives, livelihoods, and economies depended so much on a single health intervention. But as scientists race to develop potential vaccine candidates, the international community must remember that the ultimate goal is not only to produce a safe and effective inoculation but to bring the pandemic to an end. And that can happen only after billions of doses are produced affordably and made available to everyone, particularly those in low-income countries.

An enterprise on this scale requires a new perspective: vaccines must be recognized as global public goods. Neither domestic agendas nor profit can be allowed to drive the effort for the largest vaccine deployment in history. Governments, pharmaceutical companies, and multilateral organizations must work together to develop, produce, and deliver the vaccine. Producing and distributing billions of doses of a new vaccine would be challenging at the best of times. Doing so during a pandemic will require an unprecedented global effort.


Hypersonic weapons and strategic stability

Hypersonic weapons, which combine the speed of the fastest ballistic missiles with the manoeuvrability of cruise missiles, will enter the arsenals of China, Russia and the US over the next five years. Whether their arrival starts an action–reaction cycle in military spending or further weakens crisis stability may depend on whether the countries building these weapons can agree on ways to control their proliferation.

On 27 December 2019, Russia’s defence ministry announced that its Yasnensky Missile Division, based in the Orenburg region bordering Kazakhstan, had deployed a missile regiment armed for the first time with a hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV). Many additional countries – including Australia, China, France, Germany, India and the United States – are also developing hypersonic weapons for their potential to penetrate advanced missile-defence systems and threaten mobile missile launchers.

Russia and the US have the oldest research programmes focused on hypersonic technology, dating to the 1980s. Currently, China appears to have the largest and best funded research programme, with the most aerospace graduates produced by its universities, scientific publications on hypersonics, operational ground-test facilities, hypersonic tests performed and systems in prototype development. The amount China spends each year on research and development has not been publicly disclosed, but statements by US Department of Defense officials suggest that China is spending more per year than Russia, and also more than the US, which spends US$1–2 billion annually. China’s first HGV, the DF-17, is expected to become operational some time in 2020 and has the potential to function as a highly effective anti-access/area-denial weapon in the Western Pacific.


To explain the dilemma that is at the heart of France’s armaments policy today, this Adelphi considers the origins of the institutional arrangements that have underpinned the French arms-export doctrine since the Cold War.

At the 2013 Paris Air Show, attended by the world’s biggest military and commercial aircraft manufacturers, President François Hollande made a joke as he helped the 88-year-old CEO of Dassault Aviation, Serge Dassault, to climb the stairs of an exhibition stand: ‘It’s the state that’s supporting Dassault… as usual,’ he said.1 His words were overheard by a journalist and caused something of a stir in the defence community, even compelling a Dassault Aviation executive to declare in the media that ‘Dassault Aviation does not live at the state’s expense’.2 The quip had touched on a sensitive issue, namely the relationship the French state maintains with the country’s defence industry – and specifically its substantial backing for arms exports.

The French state espouses the doctrine that arms sales are intrinsic to the country’s strategic autonomy. The rationale is as follows: for France to be able to act independently in the defence and foreign-policy domains, which means not having to depend on other states when it wishes to use force, it requires its own weapons-manufacturing capacity. However, the French defence industry cannot survive on domestic orders alone: it also needs to export. Arms exports are therefore both an expression and a vital component of France’s sovereignty. As the defence minister, Florence Parly, put it in 2018, ‘arms exports are the business model of our sovereignty’.3

What Kim Wants The Hopes and Fears of North Korea’s Dictator

By Jung H. Pak
Between 2017 and 2019, relations between the United States and North Korea made for great television. Perhaps this was by design: U.S. President Donald Trump seemed to believe that any interactions between the two adversaries would be more successful—or at least play more to his strengths—the more they resembled an entertaining spectacle in which he took center stage. For his part, the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un took advantage of Trump’s apparent desire for drama, which put Kim and his country at the center of world events. But a spectacle might have been inevitable, given the two leaders’ shared penchant for aggressiveness and unpredictability. 

The first season of the resulting show was marked by confrontation: Kim’s belligerent rhetoric and nuclear and missile tests in 2017, Trump’s threats (“fire and fury”), and insults the two men hurled at each other (Trump dubbed Kim “Little Rocket Man,” and Kim dismissed Trump as a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard”). In the second season, the plot took a twist, as the main characters stepped back from the brink and held two carefully choreographed summits. After the first meeting, held in Singapore in June 2018, Trump was effusive. “Everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office,” he declared on Twitter. “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.”

Rommel Met His Match: Sir Claude Auchinleck

by Warfare History Network

British Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery has gone down in history as the victor of El Alamein and the relentless nemesis of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, Nazi Germany’s famed “Desert Fox.” But Monty’s feat was merely a repeat of that of the British general who preceded him, a general who defeated Rommel not once, but twice. General Sir Claude Auchinleck met the best that Rommel had to offer and came out victorious time and again. Yet today, the less colorful Auchinleck remains little known outside of Great Britain, while Montgomery has entered the pantheon of World War II heroes.

General Sir Claude Auchinleck: From a Military Family

Auchinleck was born into a military family in 1884 and later attended Sandhurst Military Academy. He served for a time in India, earning the respect of the native population. In World War I, he successfully defended the Suez Canal from an attack by the Turks. He later saw service on the Tigris River, where nearly half his regiment became casualties, and he fought throughout all stages of the Mesopotamian campaign. In peacetime, he served for two years as an instructor at the Royal Staff College, and he worked his way through the ranks holding various staff appointments. He later saw action in Afghanistan and was promoted to deputy chief of the General Staff in India.

Contact-Tracing Apps in the United States

By Elliot Setzer 

Digital contact tracing has become a central component of the global response to the coronavirus, with more and more countries preparing to roll out apps to help identify and isolate people who have been exposed to the virus. South Korea and Singapore were among the first to deploy a digital version of contact tracing, and experts have identified the BlueTrace system used by both countries—alongside other surveillance measures—as a key reason why they have experienced relatively few coronavirus cases. Meanwhile, other countries are taking note. More than 4.5 million Australians have downloaded a coronavirus contact-tracing app since its release a week ago. And within the European Union, Germany and France are developing tracing tools as well.

In the United States, efforts to develop digital contact-tracing systems have largely fallen to states and tech companies—though privacy advocates have voiced concerns about the invasiveness of such apps. Apple and Google recently agreed to partner in developing a contact-tracing technology that will be interoperable between iOS and Android phones and will provide public health officials and others with the ability to develop contact-tracing apps. The system uses Bluetooth beacons to log devices that phones have been near and anonymizes the data. The technology relies on a decentralized system—meaning that an individual’s data is stored locally on their phone rather than in a central database accessible to app developers or government officials. The companies have already released draft documentation and sample code for the API—the set of bare-bones protocols that will make contact-tracing schemes work on their respective platforms—and it should be available for developers to include in contact-tracing apps in mid-May. Later this year, users will no longer need to install an app to opt in to the contact-tracing effort: Apple and Google say proximity tracking will be built directly into phones’ operating systems in the coming months “to help ensure broad adoption.”

‘I Could Solve Most of Your Problems’: Eric Schmidt’s Pentagon Offensive

By Kate Conger and Cade Metz

In July 2016, Raymond Thomas, a four-star general and head of the U.S. Special Operations Command, hosted a guest: Eric Schmidt, the chairman of Google.

General Thomas, who served in the 1991 gulf war and deployed many times to Afghanistan, spent the better part of a day showing Mr. Schmidt around Special Operations Command’s headquarters in Tampa, Fla. They scrutinized prototypes for a robotic exoskeleton suit and joined operational briefings, which Mr. Schmidt wanted to learn more about because he had recently begun advising the military on technology.

After the visit, as they rode in a Chevy Suburban toward an airport, the conversation turned to a form of artificial intelligence.

“You absolutely suck at machine learning,” Mr. Schmidt told General Thomas, the officer recalled. “If I got under your tent for a day, I could solve most of your problems.” General Thomas said he was so offended that he wanted to throw Mr. Schmidt out of the car, but refrained.

Building Food Security During the Pandemic


LONDON/NAIROBI – Every year, some nine million people worldwide – equivalent to the population of Austria – die of hunger or hunger-related diseases. That is tragic enough, but COVID-19’s disruption of food supply chains risks doubling this number in 2020.

Germany's Federal Constitutional Court, heedless of the political consequences for Europe and Germany, has issued a ruling that risks sacrificing the euro and possibly even the European Union. An institution that, under Germany's Basic Law, no one governs is now out of control.3Add to Bookmarks

This is the hidden cost of the coronavirus pandemic, and it will fall on the poorest and most vulnerable. To prevent these avoidable deaths, we must first recognize that Africa, South Asia, and other poorer regions cannot go into lockdown or seek to contain the disease by mimicking measures adopted in the West. Instead, they must find their own way to balance the risks of the virus with the risks to livelihoods and lives arising from attempts to defeat it.

Above all, however, the international community must act now to keep food supply chains operating. Otherwise, for the poorest parts of the world, the unintended consequences of the cure will be worse than the disease.

Will the Human Race Go Extinct? Science Tells us Yes.

by Nick Longrich

Will our species go extinct? The short answer is yes. The fossil record shows everything goes extinct, eventually. Almost all species that ever lived, over 99.9%, are extinct.

Some left descendants. Most – plesiosaurs, trilobites, Brontosaurus – didn’t. That’s also true of other human species. Neanderthals, Denisovans, Homo erectus all vanished, leaving just Homo sapiens. Humans are inevitably heading for extinction. The question isn’t whether we go extinct, but when.

Headlines often suggest this extinction is imminent. The threat of earth-grazing asteroids is a media favourite. Mars is regularly mooted as a bolt hole. And there is the ongoing menace of the climate emergency.

Humans have vulnerabilities. Large, warm-blooded animals like us don’t handle ecological disruptions well. Small, cold-blooded turtles and snakes can last months without food, so they survived. Big animals with fast metabolisms – tyrannosaurs, or humans – require lots of food, constantly. That leaves them vulnerable to even brief food chain disruptions caused by catastrophes such as volcanoes, global warming, ice ages or the impact winter after an asteroid collision.

Modernizing Russia’s Tanks: The Case of the T-14 Armata

By: Roger McDermott

On April 19, Denis Manturov, the head of Russia’s Ministry of Industry and Trade, stated that “foreign partners” had lodged applications to procure the future export version of the much-advertised new T-14 Armata tank. The problem is that this main battle tank model has not yet entered service, despite its prototype first appearing in 2015 and raising hopes of the imminent arrival of the “tank of the future” within the Armed Forces. Various reports indicate that state tests will conclude this year, with possible procurement of the Armata sometime next year. However, that timescale may need to be adjusted not least due to the challenges Russia’s defense industry is facing as a result of the coronavirus pandemic (Lenta.ru, April 29).

The T-14 was officially unveiled during the May 9, 2015, Victory Day parade—accompanied by a carefully crafted promotional campaign. And since that time, Moscow-based defense specialists have continued to argue about the revolutionary nature of the tank. Indeed, it is designed with an uninhibited turret, a specially protected compartment for its crew in the hull, and reinforced frontal armor. The T-14 will also be equipped with a tank information management system (tankovoy informatsionno-upravlyayushchey sistemoy-TIUS), which controls all components and operations of the combat vehicle (Vzglyad, April 21).

What does AI mean for the future of manoeuvre warfare?

Artificial intelligence could potentially revolutionise warfighting concepts based on manoeuvre, but there are several technical and operational hurdles that need to be overcome first, explains Franz-Stefan Gady. 

Artificial intelligence (AI) is in essence a computer-based capability to execute human mental processes at superhuman speeds. AI-enabled technologies have already been deployed in military operations. For example, automated intelligence-processing software, based on machine-learning algorithms developed under the US Department of Defense’s (DoD) Project Maven, has been used in the Middle East to support counter-terrorism operations. Modern long-range air- and missile- defence systems, including the latest variants of the US-made Aegis combat system, are also using rudimentary machine-learning algorithms to defend against incoming ballistic- and cruise-missile threats.

AI-enabled technologies based on machine learning algorithms that accelerate the so-called ‘kill chain’ by linking sensors and shooters in an internet of things or system of systems architecture could have a profound effect on conventional offensive military operations. A 2019 US Army wargame concluded that an infantry platoon, reinforced by AI-enabled capabilities, can increase its offensive combat power by a factor of ten, thus significantly tipping the defensive-offensive balance in the attacker’s favour. Not only does this suggest that military forces deploying AI applications can outfight an adversary that deploys fewer or no AI-enabled capabilities, it also appears to indicate that AI can help reduce the materiel and human costs of offensive operations.

Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt reportedly once told the US Army’s top special forces general ‘you absolutely suck’ at artificial intelligence

by Tyler Sonnemaker
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Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt told the US special forces’ top general “you absolutely suck at machine learning,” The New York Times reported Saturday.

The comments came in 2016 during Schmidt’s push to expand his influence over the US military’s strategy around technology and innovation, The New York Times reported.

Schmidt now sits on two Department of Defense advisory boards, but his new roles have sparked allegations that he could be trying to sway business to Google or startups where he has financial ties, according to The New York Times.

Recently, Schmidt has advocated publicly on several recent occasions for the federal government to rely more heavily on tech giants like Google, Amazon, and Apple.

Eric Schmidt, former CEO and chairman of Google, has spent years trying to convince the US military to become more tech-savvy — and to listen to his advice on how to do it — in a campaign marked at times by hubris and allegations of conflicts of interest, according to a Saturday report from The New York Times.

Tomgram: Andrew Bacevich, A Greatest Generation We Are Not

Andrew Bacevich

There was certainly a hint that the previous century was not going to unfold in a particularly propitious manner when World War I, “the war to end all wars” (a phrase famously attributed to American President Woodrow Wilson), proved but an introduction to a second world war that would make the first look more like a skirmish. Add in the fact that the pandemic to end all pandemics, the 1918 “Spanish flu” (that may actually have originated in the United States), killed at least 50 million people on this planet before being forgotten in the catastrophic Great Depression and, until recently, essentially dropped from history.

And that, mind you, is the world that Andrew Bacevich’s parents and mine inherited. They -- at least those of them who fought in that second world war -- would later be dubbed “the greatest generation” (a phrase made famous as the title of a 1998 book by journalist Tom Brokaw). At least in my experience and those of my friends, however, the fathers of that era knew better and generally were remarkably silent about that war of theirs and its supposed glories, even as, in my childhood, Hollywood was putting shining versions of it on every movie screen around.

Now, we’re two decades into a new century, one in which the U.S. has been fighting a series of wars that won’t end (no less end all war) and in which this country has only recently been consumed by a Spanish-flu-like global pandemic whose best (that is, worst) days may still be ahead of it on significant parts of the planet. In that context, TomDispatch regular Bacevich, author of the new book The Age of Illusions: How America Squandered Its Cold War Victory, considers what the children of that “greatest” generation (including both him and me) have to look back on 75 years after their parents' war (at least the one in Europe) ended in a triumph that promised an American world beyond compare and has ended up in a nothingness that's sad to behold. Tom