30 June 2021

The PLA’s Developing Cyber Warfare Capabilities and India's Options

 Maj Gen P K Mallick, VSM (Retd)

Chinese President Xi Jinping has made it clear that his objective for China is to emerge as a ‘cyber superpower’. China wants to be the world’s largest nation in cyberspace and also one of the most powerful. The information technology revolution has produced both momentous opportunities and likely vulnerabilities for china. China is home of largest number of ‘netizens’ in the world. It also hosts some of the world’s most vibrant and successful technology companies. It also remains a major victim of cyber crime. 

Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) believes that with the rise of the Information Age future wars will be contests in the ability to exploit information. Wars will be decided by the side who is more capable to generate, gather, transmit, analyse and exploit information.

China’s Cyber-Influence Operations

 Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)

… With its growing assertiveness in the international arena, China uses new technologies to achieve its foreign policy goals and project an image of responsible global power … spending billions on influence operations across the world ... fits in with China’s larger aim of expanding its soft power alongside its growing economic and military power … reach of Beijing’s overseas media is impressive and should not be underestimated. But the results are mixed ...

Drone Attacks on Indian Air Force Base in Jammu Underscore New Threat

Aijaz Hussain

India’s military said it thwarted a major threat when it intercepted two drones flying over an army base in Indian-controlled Kashmir early Monday, a day after suspected explosives-laden drones were used to attack an air base in the disputed region.

The military said troops around midnight spotted two drones separately flying over Kaluchak military base on the outskirts of Jammu city.

“Immediately, high alert was sounded and Quick Reaction Teams engaged them with firing,” the military said in a statement. “Both the drones flew away.”

Troops launched search operations in the area, the statement said, adding that troops remained on high alert.

China now India’s 2nd largest export partner

China has replaced the United Arab Emirates as India’s second-biggest export destination in fiscal year 2021, with outbound shipments to the neighboring country rising 27% to over $21 billion despite the pandemic.

Official data shows that the US remained the country’s top export partner, but shipments declined 2.78% to $51.63 billion.

Iron ore, organic chemicals, and oil were the top exports to China in the year ending March 31, despite border tensions between the two nations. China’s share of India’s export basket increased to 7.29% in fiscal 2021 from 5.3% in the previous year.

“There was a strong increase in exports of rice, wheat, corn, other cereals, processed food products, fruits and vegetables in 2020-21 with the incorporation of new export markets,” Chairman of Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) Madhaiyaan Angamuthu was quoted as saying by the Economic Times of India. “We are seeing a rebound in organic and value-added products such as processed vegetables and alcoholic beverages, driven by high demand in the Middle East, the Far East, the US and the UK,” he added.ALSO ON RT.COMIndia sees ‘stability’ at China border as Delhi & Beijing work to secure complete disengagement & ‘restore peace’

Biden Says Afghans Must ‘Decide Their Future’ as U.S. Troops Withdraw

WASHINGTON — President Biden said Friday that the future of Afghanistan was in its own hands, but he promised its president, Ashraf Ghani, that the United States would support the country even after American forces withdraw following nearly 20 years of war.

During a visit to Washington by Mr. Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, Afghanistan’s chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, Mr. Biden said the United States would continue to offer security assistance, as well as diplomatic and humanitarian aid.

But his message was clear: The U.S. military is leaving.

“Afghans are going to have to decide their future, what they want,” Mr. Biden said at the White House. “The senseless violence has to stop.”

His decision to pull out American troops by Sept. 11 is one of the most consequential of his presidency so far, a deeply personal calculation that comes “from the gut,” as one official put it. And despite the worsening security situation, gloomy intelligence reports and the likelihood the White House will face terrible images of human suffering and loss in the coming weeks and months, Mr. Biden has vowed to withdraw regardless of the conditions on the ground.

Top Afghan Leaders Visit the White House at a Low Moment

Michael Kugelman

A Difficult Moment for U.S.-Afghan Relations

The Taliban are on a rampage in Afghanistan. They have seized more than 50 districts since May and surrounded five provincial capitals. On Tuesday, they captured Afghanistan’s main border crossing with Tajikistan. Beleaguered Afghan soldiers are surrendering rural outposts. The latest U.S. intelligence assessment says the Taliban could topple Afghanistan’s government within months.

Meanwhile, U.S. forces are carrying out their final withdrawal, and U.S. Defense Department officials confirmed this week they are on track to meet U.S. President Joe Biden’s Sept. 11 deadline. Given rapid destabilization, when Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and chairperson of the High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah meet Biden on Friday in Washington, the mood will be grim.

U.S.-Afghan relations aren’t just suffering because U.S. troops are heading for the exits. In April, leaked documents revealed the Biden administration had proposed a peace initiative to Ghani that called for a new transitional government, something Ghani rejects, fearing it could end his time in power.

Afghanistan is ‘Not a Winnable War,’ White House Says as Taliban Storms Country


The conflict in Afghanistan—which the United States is preparing to hand over to the government in Kabul—is “not a winnable war,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Friday, dismissing Republican calls to reverse the withdrawal from the 20 year conflict hours before President Joe Biden met with his Afghan counterpart in Washington.

At the White House, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani capped a week of meetings, including with several members of Congress and defense officials at the Pentagon. After hearing Ghani talk about the security situation in his country, several Republican lawmakers asked Biden to reverse his decision to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan no later than Sept. 11.The military is on track to complete the drawdown much sooner.

Ghani said he respects America’s decision to withdraw and rejects any “false narrative of abandonment.” Still, he painted a grim picture of the security situation in Afghanistan, comparing it to the United States in 1861, when the Civil War that ultimately killed more than 600,000 people began despite President Abaraham Lincoln fighting to unite a bitterly divided nation.

Can Biden Save Ashraf Ghani?

Elise Labott

On Friday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani will visit U.S. President Joe Biden at the White House for the first, and what is likely to be the last, face-to-face interaction ahead of the remaining U.S. and NATO forces’ withdrawal from the war-torn country by Sept. 11.

Ghani, who wrote a book on how to fix failed states, seems to be writing a test case for how to help a state fail. This week, U.S. military officials confirmed a U.S. intelligence assessment, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, that the Afghan government could collapse as soon as six months after U.S. forces leave. Ghani is on a last-ditch mission to stave off gains by Taliban militants, secure continued U.S. financial support after the withdrawal of NATO troops from the country, and, above all, seek tangible assurances from Biden that the United States will not allow his government to fall.

More than 80 Afghan districts have fallen to the Taliban since April, when Biden announced his plan to withdraw all U.S. troops. In the last week alone, the Taliban have taken closer to 40 districts across northern Afghanistan, according to a source in Kabul. Many Afghan forces are fighting valiantly, but countless others are surrendering to the Taliban or simply abandoning their positions, leaving behind weapons for the Taliban to stockpile.

Zeroing in on the Grey Zone in the Indo-Pacific

Lesley Seebeck

The Indo-Pacific looms large as an arena of intensifying geopolitical competition. Typically, governments look to their militaries to balance competitors in such circumstances. But the great-power competition we’re seeing now is not merely military—it’s political, economic, technological and ideological. It’s a competition for strategic advantage, waged in the ‘grey zone’, the no-man’s land that sits between peace and war.

The importance of the grey zone has long been recognised. The Chinese strategist Sun Tzu argued in the 6th century BC that the height of strategic success was to win wars without having to fight. Nowadays, with the costs of war increasingly high and power diffused among a wider range of actors, the grey zone is host to an escalating number of strategic challenges. It has also become somewhat of a catch-all term, stuffed with every anxiety-inducing action from a foreign power.

For the purpose of strategy, however, more is needed than just a list of activities we don’t like. After all, some ostensibly grey-zone activities—influence, competition, funding—may be comparatively benign, or potentially even positive, such as the provision of infrastructure to poorer nations. Nor can we afford to securitise every uncomfortable action short of war or assume every action will lead to war.

China’s Fusion Research Is Heating Up


The hottest thing in the solar system is usually the Sun, with its core temperature of 15 million degrees Celsius. But for nearly two minutes on May 28, the title was held by an experimental fusion reactor in Hefei, China. The implications for global politics and security are monumental.

Unlike nuclear fission, which slams a neutron into an atom to yield two smaller and generally radioactive atoms plus energy, nuclear fusion combines two atoms. The outcome is far more energy, but without the radioactive waste. Though some doubt the prospects, the concept of safe, clean, renewable power from fusion has been the holy grail of energy experimentation.

A key approach has been the Tokamak reactor, the first of which was powered up in 1958 in Moscow. These reactors follow a toroidal design, akin to a donut, in which plasma is generated and contained using extremely powerful magnetic fields. Atoms within the field are forced together until their cores fuse, forming heavier elements and releasing tremendous amounts of energy. Research programs at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory and Joint European Torus in England follow similar approaches.

Hybrid CoE Research Report 1: China as a hybrid influencer: Non-state actors as state proxies

Jukka Aukia

Along with other authoritarian states engaged in hybrid threat activities, China’s strategic rationale is to undermine democratic norms. In creating hybrid threats, the use of non-armed non-state actors (NSAs) is a key element. Thus, an understanding of China’s NSA-related behaviour and the identification of NSA-related activity is vital for democratic states in countering hybrid threats. This Hybrid CoE Research Report provides an overview of the main NSAs associated with the Chinese state, and discusses the use of proxy NSAs by the Chinese state from the political system and strategic culture points of view. The report concludes by discussing democratic responses to China’s NSA-related hybrid activity.
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The Robber Barons of Beijing

Yuen Yuen Ang

It seemed like a typical story of Chinese corruption. Stuffing suitcases full of company shares, the businessman lavished bribes on influential officials in exchange for cheap loans to subsidize his railroad projects. The target of his largess, those in charge of public infrastructure and budgets, were his friends and business associates. Their family members ran firms in the steel industry, which stood to benefit from the construction of new track. Over time, as the ties between the officials and the businessman grew closer, the officials doubled their financial support for his ventures, indulging his inflated costs and ignoring the risk of losses. Slowly but surely, however, a financial crisis brewed.

Stories like this are endemic to China: business leaders colluding with officials to exploit development projects for personal enrichment, graft infecting all levels of government, and politicians encouraging capitalists to take on outsize risks. No wonder some observers have insisted since the 1990s that the Chinese economy will soon collapse under the weight of its own excesses, and bring down the regime with it. But here’s the twist: the businessman is not Chinese but American, and the tale took place in the United States, not China. It describes Leland Stanford, a nineteenth-century railroad tycoon who helped catapult the United States’ modernization but whose path to immense fortune was paved with corrupt deals.

Iraq Needs a Grand Bargain to Halt Its Downward Spiral

Sajad Jiyad

There is serious doubt as to whether Iraq’s upcoming parliamentary elections in October will be free and fair, or have any meaningful level of voter turnout, yet the outcome is easy to foresee. Iraqi elections inevitably produce no clear winner: Major parties compete as parts of alliances, and once results are announced, several of these blocs engage in a protracted period of negotiations that yields a fragile ruling coalition. These weak governments, hobbled by political divisions and corruption, are designed to maintain the political elite’s grip on power and protect the system from internal and external pressures. The prime minister, who heads a government of rivals concerned with protecting their own gains at the cost of the state, becomes either a toothless bystander or a willing participant in the game.

At the same time, the prime minister is also the only one who might conceivably change the status quo and force the country onto a new path. Doing so will require striking a grand bargain with all of Iraq’s key external partners, addressing each side’s concerns in return for concessions that serve Iraqi interests. Such a grand bargain will require negotiating with tough partners who are already in a more advantageous position. The next Iraqi prime minister should be prepared for such an undertaking, as it will be one of the last opportunities to turn the country around from its current state of economic decline, insecurity and social unrest. ...

Iranian Nuke Centrifuge Plant Badly Damaged By Drones


TEL AVIV: An attack on Iran’s centrifuge production facility in Karaj by drones caused major damage, say Middle East sources.

While there’s been no official Israeli confirmation of their involvement, reputable news outlets in the US and elsewhere report that Israeli forces are believed to have carried out the attack.

The New York Times reports that the plant was included in an Israel “Target Bank” presented by Israel to senior members of Donald Trump’s administration in early 2020, part of a target list for possible attacks against Iran’s nuclear program.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett appeared to hint Thursday — the day after the attack — that Israel may have been involved when he spoke to a graduating ceremony for Israeli Air Force pilots: “Our enemies know — not from statements, but from actions — that we are much more determined and much more clever, and that we do not hesitate to act when it is needed.”

Apple Between US-China Wars – Analysis

Dan Steinbock

America’s most valuable $2 trillion company is no longer immune to US geopolitics. Apple’s global success is an anomaly to the protectionist Trump-Biden administrations – for all the wrong reasons.

Recently, Apple announced a set of additional privacy protections. The “private relay” feature will not be available to users in China. After the announcement, New York Times reported that Apple had given in to Beijing.

In fact, in addition to China, the privacy feature will not be available to users in many countries, including Belarus, Colombia, Egypt, Kazakhstan, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkmenistan, and Uganda.

Yet, Times only targeted China.

No multinational can ignore local responsiveness

New Laws Are ‘Probably Needed’ to Force US Firms to Patch Known Cyber Vulnerabilities, NSA Official Says


The vast majority of cyber attacks exploit known vulnerabilities that could be fixed by patching older software and replacing older computing gear. But that costs money, and legislation will likely be needed to force companies to make these fixes soon — before the kind of AI-powered tools used by Russia and China become commonplace among smaller-scale hackers, said Rob Joyce, who leads the National Security Agency’s Cybersecurity Directorate.

“The biggest problem is historical tech debt,” said Joyce, meaning old computers and software that aren’t up-to-date on the most recent patches against attackers. “That means we have to be investing in refresh. We have to be investing in the defensive teams. We have to be investing in organizations that will track, follow and upgrade to close out those vulnerabilities and from where I sit, there's probably going to have to be some regulation over time.” Joyce made his remarks during a pre-taped session that aired on Friday during the sixth annual Defense One Tech Summit.

Digital Authoritarianism is a National Security Threat, Pentagon Cyber Leader Says


A top cyber official at the Defense Department called digital authoritarianism a threat to national security and said the U.S. must invest in partnerships and development of indigenous technology alternatives.

The U.S national security enterprise is moving its focus away from countering terrorism and toward competition with so-called great power or near peer adversaries. With China rising to the fore as a “pacing threat” for the U.S., its status as a state that relies on surveillance of its own people is drawing scrutiny over the national security risks posed by digital authoritarianism.

Digital authoritarianism is a term that describes regimes that use technology to control and repress their populations. While China is certainly not the only purveyor of digital authoritarianism, it is certainly the largest.

At Defense One’s Tech Summit event Thursday, Mieke Eoyang, deputy assistant defense secretary for cyber policy, explained how digital authoritarianism poses a threat to national security, and what the Defense Department can do about it. Eoyang described digital authoritarianism as contrary to the values those at DOD are sworn to defend.

America Needs a Supercharged Space Program

Mark Y. Rosenberg and Peter Marber

President Joe Biden has declared that “America is back” on the global stage, and his first actions on this front look bold so far. He has rejoined the Paris Agreement, prioritized traditional U.S. allies, and returned to a more liberal approach to immigration.

But if Biden truly wants to re-establish U.S. global leadership while uniting a fractured country behind a greater common purpose, he must be bolder and go where no president has gone before: He must prioritize a dedicated and multilateral U.S. government approach to outer space. Indeed, the solutions to many of the United States’ terrestrial challenges—from rebuilding the economy to solving climate change—may be found in the cosmos.

So far, the Biden administration has ignored the Trump administration’s establishment of a new Space Force as an additional branch of the U.S. military. Arguably, Biden’s team has done so with good reason: Space needs to be managed and commercialized, not militarized. But it absolutely cannot be ignored.

One reason space cannot be ignored is potential competition for space-based natural resources. The moon, for example, offers vast quantities of rare earth minerals needed for making batteries, electronic gadgets, and sophisticated military equipment. Since China has a near-monopoly on the production of these resources—and plans to extract them elsewhere on Earth are moving slowly—there is geopolitical interest to source them from the moon.

Cryptocurrency Isn’t All Bad

Mark Leon Goldberg

Cryptocurrencies have an image problem. And their reputation for driving reckless speculation and requiring immense energy output is richly deserved. Many of those on the market today were literally created as jokes. And others, like Bitcoin, consume as much energy as a nation. Indeed, if Bitcoin were a country, it would be among the top 30 energy users in the world, nestled between Norway and Argentina.

But the environmental hazards of Bitcoin and the irresponsible hyping of so-called meme coins such as Dogecoin by celebrities like Elon Musk belie a broader trend in the ongoing development of cryptocurrency.

Over the last year, there has been an explosive growth in the research and development of blockchain technologies known as decentralized finance. DeFi, as it is called, will enable an entire financial ecosystem without conventional intermediaries like banks. Using DeFi blockchains, money can be transferred cheaply and efficiently around the world, access to capital will be broad, identity documents secure, supply chains verified, and financial contracts self-executing, among many other uses.

NATO’s Strategic Concept: Three Do’s and Don’ts

Henrik Larsen

The new Strategic Concept must clarify the tasks that NATO should undertake in the great-​power competition with, and defense of common values against, Russia and China, argues Henrik Larsen in this CSS Policy Perspective. It should concentrate on military burden sharing to improve alliance cohesion rather than on the condemnation of allies’ democratic shortcomings, tie resilience to collective defense and national security but not extend into an area like ordinary law enforcement, and state NATO’s ambition to define gold standards for new technology but refrain from “going global”.


The New Space Race

Lara Seligman

As Russia and China increasingly threaten U.S. interests on land and in orbit, the space race that so defined the Cold War is once again becoming a focus for the U.S. Defense Department.

The latest front in the emerging scramble for dominance of the stars is the U.S. government’s attempt to develop a domestic source of rocket engines to boost military spy satellites and other sensitive payloads into space—an industry that even now still depends on Moscow.

For almost 20 years, the United States has relied on the Russian RD-180 engine to power national security space launches. But Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Crimea in 2014 and Moscow’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election brought an end to the tentative post-Cold War truce. The U.S. government now increasingly views Moscow as a source of instability worldwide and the U.S. military’s reliance on the RD-180 for access to space as a liability.

The Pentagon is caught in the middle as operations in space become increasingly critical to the United States’ ability to wage war. In the face of a growing threat from Russian and Chinese anti-satellite weapons, U.S. President Donald Trump last summer announced his intent to establish a new Space Force as a separate branch of the armed services. Meanwhile, military leaders have renewed efforts to build a space-based sensor layer to detect incoming missiles.

Reengaging the Northern Triangle

Allison Fedirka

In recent years, there’s been a periodic and predictable exchange between the United States and the Northern Triangle countries – Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. A group of immigrants heads north to the U.S. to escape poverty and insecurity, whereupon U.S. policymakers argue either that the immigrants should be stopped in their tracks or that conditions should be improved in their home countries so that they don’t need to migrate in the first place. This rote episode inevitably falls into the background of international affairs, only to resurface a few months later when another “caravan” forms. Occasionally, some security assistance or added consular support would be introduced, but nothing really happens that alters the relationship between the U.S. and the Northern Triangle or that upsets the regional balance of power.

But the status quo is beginning to change, however slowly. Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala certainly continue to call for greater cooperation and funding from Washington, but they are also entertaining overtures from China, a tactic Washington will be unable to ignore.

The Age of Global Protest

Popular protests are on the rise, and they are increasingly going global. Over the past two years, popular movements demonstrating against fiscal austerity and corruption have brought down governments—in democracies and authoritarian regimes alike—from Europe and Latin America to Africa and Asia. And with the advent of new communication technologies and media platforms, what happens anywhere can be seen everywhere. The messages and actions of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, for instance, have inspired and guided demonstrators in other continents.

The Black Lives Matter protests in the United States last summer have been particularly resonant. Building on centuries of international abolitionist and anti-colonialist protest, the demonstrations, sparked by the May 2020 death of George Floyd after a white police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly eight minutes, spread rapidly around the world. In addition to standing in solidarity with U.S. protesters, demonstrators in Europe, South America and Asia connected the movement to their own experiences of colonialism, racism and state violence that have been perpetrated by their governments.

A Socially Conservative Left Is Gaining Traction in Latin America


It’s no secret that the Latin American left has a strongman problem. From Havana to Caracas to Managua, self-proclaimed socialists are notorious for taking office only to never step down. But while left-wing autocrats and their human rights abuses garner much media attention, an emerging crop of leftist politicians in Latin America poses a more insidious threat: they’re embracing regressive social values. If they continue to fail in elevating the causes of equality, diversity and individual freedom, the new leaders on the left will leave the region’s most vulnerable and underrepresented communities at great risk.

Socially progressive causes began to lose their luster in the mid-2010s, especially as evangelical groups with hardline stances on abortion and LGBTQ rights – and equipped with mega-churches – expanded as a voting bloc. Right-wing politicians like Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro swept back into office, styling themselves as defenders of “traditional family values.” Donald Trump proved a convincing example to follow.

Russia Policy Puts Biden Under Pressure Across Europe

Robbie Gramer, Jack Detsch

After four years of U.S. President Donald Trump’s oft-compliant attitude toward Russia, the Biden administration is facing pressure from Capitol Hill and Eastern European allies to harden its stance toward Moscow, following a meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin this month in Geneva and efforts by France and Germany to restart a dialogue with Putin.

For Biden, the problem is that he’s trying to clean up two inherited messes that are at cross-purposes: He needs to repair relations with Germany, America’s main ally in mainland Europe, and chart a more muscular approach to rein in Russia’s malicious behavior. All the while, Ukraine—the country caught in the middle—is trying to figure out which way the United States is leaning.

The first tripwire has been Russia’s controversial gas pipeline project into Germany, Nord Stream 2. Biden has been hammered for withholding some sanctions related the pipeline as he tries to repair relations with Berlin in the post-Trump era. But it also comes as Eastern European officials and Western analysts raise alarm bells about Russia’s refusal to remove military forces near its border with Ukraine after it amassed troops there in April.

Understanding The Problem Of Explanation When Using AI In Intelligence Analysis

Chris Baber, Ian Apperly, Emily McCormick

Executive summary
For artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) to augment human intelligence (in terms of extending a human’s cognitive capabilities through the provision of sophisticated analysis on massive data sets), there needs to be sufficient common ground in the way humans and AI/ML communicate.

In this report, we assume that interactions between humans and AI/ML occur in a system in which cooperation between humans and AI/ML is one interaction among many, e.g. humans cooperate with other humans; humans programme the AI/ML; humans could be involved in selecting and preparing the data that the algorithms use; the AI/ML could interact with other algorithms etc.

Not only is it important that humans and AI/ML establish common ground, but also that humans who communicate with each other using AI/ML share this common ground.


Joe Byerly and Dan Vigeant

There is a problem in the military. Too many leaders identifying themselves as servicemembers (or even as commanders) online pick up their smartphones in a state of heightened excitement after reading an article, someone else’s comments online, or a real-life experience, and then impulsively tweet about it. These tweets can become fodder for journalists, or even worse, inflame the passions of other social media users and create digital dog piles that aren’t representative of military values.

When servicemembers see other military leaders share emotionally charged posts, fight trolls, or, specifically, express outrage over a hot button social or political topic they can get sucked into the mob. We have seen more than one #miltwitter mob go wild in the last year, and it seems like it’s happening at an increasing rate.

Are We Really in Control When We Post on Social Media?

Transparency, Accountability and Legitimacy—Chatham House Report on Military Drones in Europe, Part I

Jessica Dorsey, Nilza Amaral

Two weeks ago, Chatham House published the research paper we authored, Military Drones in Europe: Ensuring Transparency and Accountability. This report is the culmination of two high-level expert workshops, a simulation exercise and two-years’ worth of research and analysis on issues related to the increase in armed drones procured and used by European states. The full text examines the proliferation of military drones in Europe and the challenges this poses, as well as the opportunities that arise for revisiting and recommitting to fundamental democratic norms and values such as transparency, accountability and the rule of law.

The first of our two-part contribution outlines the context of our report, including an overview of military drones in Europe, and Part II highlights legal issues surrounding transparency, accountability and legitimacy and offers a preview of recommendations and conclusions to policy makers within and beyond the European context.

Ep. 74: The next big thing(s) in unmanned systems

This episode, we'll explore emerging trends in unmanned systems. We’ll start in the air, before turning to the land and sea in a review of Russian-made systems and military thinking. And we’ll end with a discussion about trust and artificial intelligence. (Music by Bob Bradley, Paul Clarvis, Thomas Balmforth; Guy Farley, Andrew Carroll; Richard Lacy; Paul Mottram; Jeff Meegan, David Tobin, Rob Kelly; Theo Travis, Paul Ressel; Sue Verran, Paul Ressel; and David Kelly — via Audionetwork.com)

Part One: The aerial events in Arizona, Colorado and Mexico (at the 3:41 mark);
Part Two: From Russia, by land and sea (24:10);
Part Three: Beyond AlphaDogfight (33:48).

Guests include:
Arthur Holland Michel, associate researcher at the UN Institute for Disarmament Research in Geneva, where he researches autonomous systems and artificial intelligence.
Brett Velicovich, U.S. Army veteran and author of the book “Drone Warrior.”
Samuel Bendett, analyst with the Center for Naval Analyses' International Affairs Group.

This episode is underwritten by Aerovironment.



FM 7-0, Training, expands on the fundamental concepts of the Army’s training doctrine introduced in ADP 7-0. This publication applies to all Army leaders and the three components of the Total Army: the Regular Army, the Army National Guard, and the Army Reserve. 

This publication focuses on training leaders and Soldiers as effectively and efficiently as possible given limitations in time and resources. FM 7-0 guides leaders to develop realistic and challenging training, which includes changing conditions and various environments when required. 

FM 7-0 contains five chapters: 

Chapter 1 discusses the importance of training and the criteria for measuring unit training proficiency. It presents the Army’s principles of training from ADP 7-0, explaining why they are foundational to everything leaders do in training. It discusses the unique responsibilities of senior leaders in training. The chapter closes with an introduction to the Army’s training management cycle, which is also the framework of FM 7-0.

29 June 2021

The PLA’s Developing Cyber Warfare Capabilities and India's Options

Maj Gen P K Mallick, VSM (Retd)

Chinese President Xi Jinping has made it clear that his objective for China is to emerge as a ‘cyber superpower’. China wants to be the world’s largest nation in cyberspace and also one of the most powerful. The information technology revolution has produced both momentous opportunities and likely vulnerabilities for china. China is home of largest number of ‘netizens’ in the world. It also hosts some of the world’s most vibrant and successful technology companies. It also remains a major victim of cyber crime. 

Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) believes that with the rise of the Information Age future wars will be contests in the ability to exploit information. Wars will be decided by the side who is more capable to generate, gather, transmit, analyse and exploit information.

 Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)

Since China first conducted a nuclear weapon test in 1964, its nuclear doctrine has remained unchanged and is underpinned by two principles: a minimum deterrent doctrine and a No First Use (NFU) policy. China’s 2019 defence white paper states, “China is always committed to a nuclear policy of NFU of nuclear weapons at any time and under any circumstances, and not using or threatening to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states or nuclear-weapon-free zones unconditionally.”

However, a recent U.S. Department of Defence (DoD) report claims that the scope of China’s nuclear modernisation and its lack of transparency “raise concern that China is not only shifting its requirements for what constitutes a minimal deterrence but that it could shift away from its longstanding minimalist force posture.” The data available show that China is modernising and expanding virtually every element of its nuclear forces, including each aspect of its nuclear weapons and missile, sea, and air delivery systems. What is not clear are China’s current and planned holdings of nuclear weapons, China’s future plans for deploying additional delivery systems, its commitment to some form of NFU, first preemption, or launch on warning, and the extent to which it will accept what might be called a form of ‘minimum assured destruction.

We need to look at leveraging the anti-China sentiment: FIEO’s Ajay Sahai

Pranbihanga Borpuzari

The second Covid wave has left the economy in tatters. Amid all the gloomy news, the country’s exports seem to have done well. But are we out of the woods yet? To understand where the country stands in global trade, ET Digital spoke to Ajay Sahai, Director General & CEO of the Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO). Edited excerpts of the interview:

ET Digital (ET): The exports numbers have been looking good for the past three months. How is the future looking, according to you?
Ajay Sahai (AS): At the moment, the growth is looking spectacular. But it is on a very low base. We have to keep in mind that we were under lockdown because of the second wave of Covid from the second half of March to May this year. Therefore, these figures might look very impressive, but it is best not to draw conclusions from that. According to the data available with the government in May, India’s exports reached $50.7 billion during the first seven weeks of the fiscal year, 11% higher than the corresponding period in 2019-20.

India Lost a War to China In Less Than a Month

Robert Farley

Here's What You Need to Know: The Chinese-Indian War still has implications for how each country views the other today.

In 1962, the world’s two most populous countries went to war against one another in a pair of remote, mountainous border regions. In less than a month, China dealt India a devastating defeat, driving Indian forces back on all fronts. Along with breaking hopes of political solidarity in the developing world, the war helped structure the politics of East and Southeast Asia for generations. Even today, as Indian and Chinese forces square off on the Doklam Plateau, the legacy of the 1962 resonates in both countries.

Who Fought?

While both the Chinese and Indian governments were relatively new (the People’s Republic of China was declared in Beijing in 1949, two years after the India won its independence), the armed forces that would fight the war could not have been more different.

The Situation in Afghanistan Is Much Worse Than You Realize

Thomas Joscelyn

Just two weeks after President Biden announced on April 14 his decision to withdraw all American forces from Afghanistan by September 11, the Taliban launched a massive offensive. Since May 1, the jihadists have captured a large swath of the country, laying the groundwork for the resurrection of their Islamic emirate. America and its allies have remained mostly indifferent—retreating from the battlefield as the jihadists advance.

This is what a lost war looks like.

Here are four takeaways from recent events.

The U.S. military is downplaying the Taliban’s gains.

While testifying before the House Armed Services Committee this week, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley tried to downplay the Taliban’s gains. “There's 81 district centers that are currently, we think, are underneath Taliban control. That's out of 419 district centers,” Milley claimed. “There's no provincial capital that is underneath Taliban control, and there’s 34 of those.”

As America Withdraws from Afghanistan, the Taliban Are Attacking

Trevor Filseth

In April 2021, President Joe Biden announced that the United States would begin its withdrawal from Afghanistan – as obligated by a February 2020 agreement negotiated with the Taliban – beginning on May 1 and continuing until September 11, the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.

In an address regarding the reasons for the withdrawal, Biden described the belief that the United States had entered into “mission creep” in Afghanistan; having defeated the Taliban in the early days of the war, they had begun to pursue other, open-ended objectives such as supporting the Afghan government under Hamid Karzai and Ashraf Ghani. While Biden indicated that the decision to withdraw would come with consequences, he underscored that the United States would continue to provide military and financial support to the Ghani administration and the Afghan military.

By most accounts, the U.S. and NATO withdrawal, which began in early May in accordance with the agreement, has been quick and efficient. The Pentagon has previously indicated that all American troops could be gone by July, two months ahead of schedule.

China’s ‘Offensive Deterrence’ and Avoiding War

Brendan Nicholson

Avoiding conflict with China will require a much deeper understanding of how its rulers and military planners view deterrence and coercion, warns a new ASPI report.

To deter the PRC … is written by Lieutenant Colonel Kyle Marcrum, a United States Army foreign area officer specialising in China and Dr Brendan S. Mulvaney, director of the China Aerospace Studies Institute (CASI). The report launches a series of essays, workshops and events seeking to improve understanding of what the Chinese Communist Party and its People’s Liberation Army mean by ‘deterrence’.

The series is a joint ASPI–CASI project which will examine how both democratic countries and the People’s Republic of China approach deterrence, what liberal democracies are doing to deter China and what China is doing to deter those nations. It will assess the impacts of those efforts and will draw heavily from original PRC and PLA documents, as well as interviews and personal experiences, to help understand PRC thinking.

China's unrivaled economic power will define Asia's political future

William Bratton

Much of the current Western debate on the future of Asian geopolitics suffers from three major limitations.

The first is that it is often framed within the great power struggle between China and the U.S., with the other Asian nations seen as mere pawns within the broader game. This results in the persistent idea that the region's countries will need to choose sides in an emerging Cold War between the two superpowers, even if such an action results in punitive economic consequences.

The second is the tendency to view the region's current allegiances as fixed and to be maintained by virtue of their existence rather than the reality of the evolving situation. Such a dogmatic view, however, fails to recognize the dynamism of relationships between countries. Allegiances and animosities are rarely permanent but wax and wane depending on the relative strength of influencing factors, as demonstrated by the U.S.'s complicated history in Asia.

New President of the Tibetan Exile Government Hopes to Resume Talks With China

Ashwini Bhatia

The new president of the Tibetan exile government said on Thursday he will do his best to resume a dialogue with China after more than a decade, and that a visit by the Dalai Lama to Tibet could be the best step forward.

The Buddhist spiritual leader “has expressed his wish to go to Tibet to his birthplace, Lhasa and some other places depending on his physical condition,” Penpa Tsering said in an interview with The Associated Press. The Dalai Lama lives in the northern Indian town of Dharmsala, where the exile government is based.

Penpa Tsering, 53, said the Dalai Lama is eager to settle the China-Tibet dispute and he “will leave no stone unturned” to achieve that.

China doesn’t recognize the Tibetan government-in-exile and hasn’t held any talks with representatives of the Dalai Lama since 2010. Beijing accuses the Buddhist leader of seeking to separate Tibet from China, which he denies. Penpa Tsering supports the Dalai Lama’s position.

The Houthis, Saudi Arabia and the War in Yemen

Bernard Haykel

The conflict in Yemen is poorly understood in the United States. The general view in policy and government circles is that Saudi Arabia is the principal cause of the crisis, and that if the Saudis can be made to stop their military campaign against the Houthi rebel movement, the war would end quickly. Furthermore, this conflict is often mistakenly characterized as one between the regional powers of Saudi Arabia and Iran or one between Sunnis and Shia Muslims. It is in fact first and foremost a civil war, the most recent of several wars between Yemenis that began in 1962. Thus, it is internal dynamics that drive Yemenis to fight each other, and this war is unlikely to end quickly no matter what Saudi Arabia does or is made to do. After considerable resistance and perhaps willful naïveté, Washington finally appears to be accepting this reality.

Upon taking office, the Biden administration held the view that Riyadh was the principal culprit in the Yemeni war and therefore sought to exert pressure on the Kingdom to end its military intervention. This is a view that many Democrats in Congress also hold. Biden immediately reversed the Trump administration’s designation of the Houthis as a terrorist organization, announced a general review of US-Saudi relations, ostracized the Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman (MBS), and declared a moratorium on the sale of offensive weapons to the Kingdom. In other words, Biden believed that America’s pressure on Riyadh would initiate peace talks between the various Yemeni and regional actors in this conflict and that the Houthis would stop their military assault on Ma’rib, a strategically important city in the east of the country. Washington’s moves were indeed soon followed by a Saudi offer of a ceasefire and the lifting of the blockade, something MBS had been preparing for months because he has finally realized the quagmire he is in. Yet, rather than come to the negotiating table, the Houthis--just like the Taliban--doubled down on their military attacks, both on Ma’rib and by firing ballistic missiles and drones inside Saudi territory. Why did the Houthis react aggressively in this way and why do they continue to seem uninterested in ending the war? To understand the Houthis’ rationale, one has to delve into Yemen’s history and the particular ideology and program of this radical Islamist movement.

Hold Hamas Accountable for Human-Shields Use During the May 2021 Gaza War

Orde Kittrie
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During the May 2021 Gaza conflict, Hamas relied heavily on the use of civilians as human shields. Every time Hamas used civilians to shield its weapons or fighters from lawful attack, the terror group committed a war crime in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and customary international law.1 Despite strong evidence that Hamas and Hezbollah have used human shields extensively in prior conflicts,2 former President Donald Trump never imposed the sanctions required by U.S. law in such circumstances. President Joe Biden should seize the opportunity to do so, both to support America’s Israeli allies and to bolster U.S. and other NATO troops, who similarly face rampant terrorist use of civilians as human shields.

The following section of this memo discusses the Sanctioning the Use of Civilians as Defenseless Shields Act (“Shields Act”), which requires the president to impose sanctions on persons involved in the use of human shields by Hamas or Hezbollah.3 The memo then provides numerous specific examples of human-shields use by Hamas during the May 2021 Gaza conflict. Subsequently, the memo describes how the extensive use of human shields against NATO has hindered the alliance, leading NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe to urge all member states to impose sanctions and take other measures to counter the use of human shields.

Can Turkish Drones Bolster NATO’s Eastern Flank Against Russia?

Can Kasapoglu

Turkish unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) are becoming popular strategic assets and affordable military modernization solutions on the international arms market. Following Azerbaijan’s dramatic achievements in the Second Karabakh War (September 27–November 9, 2020), whose forces employed advanced Turkish military technologies, including combat drones, Ankara has attracted growing numbers of customers interested in procuring the “Pantsir-hunter” Bayraktar TB-2 (produced by Baykar). As such, some writers have drawn attention to the Turkish drone warfare model’s increasing popularity on Russia’s doorstep, arguing that this trend may help President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s administration develop further leverage against Moscow (TRT World, June 2).

Ukraine looms particularly large in Turkey’s drone exports portfolio. In 2019, the two countries reached an agreement on the purchase of 12 Turkish Bayraktar TB-2 systems for the Ukrainian Army (Daily Sabah, January 12, 2019; see EDM, February 6, 2019). Subsequently, Kyiv made two additional requests to buy more Bayraktar TB-2s for its Navy (Daily Sabah, October 6, 2020). In fact, the way Moscow reacted to the Ukrainian deal hinted at Russia’s growing concern about Turkish drone warfare solutions spreading across its geopolitical neighborhood (TASS, April 21, 2021; see EDM, December 16, 2020).

Shusha Declaration Cements Azerbaijani-Turkish Alliance

Fuad Shahbazov

On June 15, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan paid an official visit to Karabakh to meet with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Ilham Aliyev, thus becoming the first foreign leader to visit the region following last year’s 44-day war. The meeting agenda included a trip to the city of Shusha, where the two leaders signed the “Shusha Declaration on Allied Relations Between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Turkey.” The document is seen as a new bilateral roadmap entailing political and economic cooperation (including in energy, media, diaspora, trade, and other spheres) but particularly regarding defense and mutual military aid (Trend News, June 16).

The location of the signing ceremony was not the only significant aspect of Shusha Declaration. In his speech during the event, President Aliyev emphasized the document’s reference to the Kars Agreement, signed a century earlier, which has significant symbolic meaning for both countries (TRT Azerbaijan, June 15). The still-binding treaty dates to 1921 and established the modern-day border between the three (then-Soviet) South Caucasus republics and the Republic of Turkey; moreover, Kars clarified the status of Azerbaijan’s Nakhchivan exclave (Report Agency, February 8). The explicit reference to the Treaty of Kars should not come as a surprise since, as a result of that document, the newly declared Republic of Turkey assumed responsibility as the guarantor of Nakhchivan in that period. A hundred years later, Azerbaijan signed another document with Turkey that effectively assigns the latter as the guarantor of Azerbaijani sovereignty over Shusha. The city of Shusha is considered a leading religious, historical and cultural center for Azerbaijanis; though it also holds similar, albeit contrasting, significance for Armenians (see EDM, November 12, 2020).

The First Gulf War: Did America Actually Lose?

Robert Farley

Here's What You Need to Know: In the wake of the war, the near total consensus was that the conflict represented a huge triumph of American arms.

The United States and its coalition partners evicted Iraq from Kuwait over twenty-three years ago. Temporally, the Gulf War is closer to the fall of Saigon than it is to us today. Given the struggles of the past fourteen years, it’s difficult to remember how important the Gulf War seemed in 1991, as the Soviet Union neared its collapse.

The war suggested a bright future. The United Nations, riding the overwhelming power of American arms, could finally meet its true potential as a collective security and peacemaking organization. The thawing of the Cold War opened up political possibilities, while the remarkable effectiveness of American precision-guided munitions meant that warfare no longer demanded the destruction of civilian life and property.

The End of the Islamic Republic


PALO ALTO – Iran’s presidential election on June 18 was the most farcical in the history of the Islamic regime – even more so than the 2009 election, often called an “electoral coup.” It was less an election than a chronicle of a death foretold – the death of what little remained of the constitution’s republican principles. But, in addition to being the most farcical, the election may be the Islamic Republic’s most consequential.

The winner, Sayyid Ebrahim Raisi, is credibly accused of crimes against humanity for his role in killing some 4,000 dissidents three decades ago. Amnesty International has already called for him to be investigated for these crimes. Asked about the accusation, the new president-elect replied in a way that would have made even George Orwell blush, insisting that he should be praised for his defense of human rights in those murders.

Never has such a motley crew been chosen to act as a foil for its favored candidate. The regime mobilized all of its forces to ensure a big turnout for Raisi, who until the election was Iran’s chief justice. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei decreed voting a religious duty, and casting a blank ballot a sin, while his clerical allies condemned advocates of a boycott as heretics. But even according to the official results, 51% of eligible voters did not vote, and of those who did, more than four million cast a blank ballot. There are already allegations that the announced numbers were doctored, and a powerful movement to boycott the election has already declared the outcome a virtual referendum against the status quo.