19 March 2021

Russia Wants To Be a Power To Be Reckoned With in the Indian Ocean

By Alexey D. Muraviev

military and paramilitary activity in the region is revealing.

February this year was marked by a heightened Russian naval activity in the Indian Ocean. Russian naval task groups drawn from the Baltic and Black Sea fleets took part in two international naval exercises – one with Iran and another as part of Pakistan-led multilateral exercise AMAN 21. Russia’s military presence in the region will soon include a permanent naval replenishment facility as it seeks to promote itself as an alternative source of influence to other global powers, such as the United States and China.

Moscow has not publicly defined an Indian Ocean regional strategy, but an analysis of major doctrinal documents provides some clues about its thinking. Neither Russia’s 2013 Foreign Policy Concept document nor its 2015 National Security Strategy mention the Indian Ocean as a whole, but instead focus on specific regions in and around the region, such as South Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Perhaps the best indication of a regional strategy can be found in the 2015 Maritime Doctrine, which identifies the Indian Ocean as one of six regional priority areas in the maritime domain (along with the Atlantic, Artic, Pacific, Caspian and Antarctic). The document lists the following objectives: Strengthening relations with India; the intensification of Russia’s commercial and other maritime activities in the area; and enforcing maritime security through a forward naval presence and good relations with regional states. In this, Russia’s growing involvement in the region appears driven by an overall objective of securing a long-term niche presence in a strategically important and lucrative part of the world.

The War That Set India Up for Great Power Greatness

by Michael Peck

Here's What You Need to Remember: In the end, India had demonstrated its military superiority. Pakistan lost half its territory and population. Perhaps more important, Pakistani illusions that an Islamic army could rout the “weak” Hindus had been disproved.

This is what happens when you chop a nation in half.

Before December 3, 1971, Pakistan was a country suffering from a split personality disorder. When British India became independent in 1947, the country was divided into Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan. The problem was that East Pakistan and West Pakistan were almost a thousand miles apart, and wedged in between them was archenemy India. Imagine if the United States only consisted of the East Coast and West Coast, and Russia controlled all of North America in between.

Thirteen days later, Pakistan had been amputated. Indian troops had conquered East Pakistan, which became the new nation of Bangladesh. More than ninety thousand Pakistani soldiers were taken prisoner, half the Pakistani Navy had been sunk and the Indian Air Force came out on top. It was total humiliation, and not just for Pakistan. The United States and Britain sent aircraft carriers in a futile attempt to intimidate India, and ended up facing off against Soviet warships. Pakistan’s defeat also spurred its rulers to begin the development of nuclear weapons.

‘The Hardest Place’ details how the US lost the Pech Valley in Afghanistan

America’s deadliest infantry battle of the Afghan War began in the early hours of July 13, 2008. Taliban fighters unleashed a torrent of machine gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades at a newly built American base in the town of Want in northeastern Afghanistan.

The base, located in area that had turned against the Americans, was nearly overrun. Just under 50 U.S. troops fought waves of enemies, mere feet away from them.

The battle ended with nine Americans dead and 27 wounded. The U.S. withdrew from Want, sometimes written as Wanat, shortly after.

The soldiers displayed courage under fire, but why had they been in such a desperate situation in the first place? That question lies at the heart of “The Hardest Place: The American Military Adrift in Afghanistan’s Pech Valley,” a new book by military affairs reporter Wesley Morgan on the failed U.S. counterinsurgency campaign in rugged northeastern Afghanistan.

The book focuses on the Pech River Valley, and its tributaries, the Korengal and the Waygal. Known for some of the fiercest fighting of the war, the region was the setting of the documentaries “Restrepo” and “Korengal” by filmmaker Sebastian Junger.

Morgan’s book is a compendium of failures by U.S. military officers in the Pech, leading to broken soldiers, dead civilians and a valley lost to the Taliban. He interviewed hundreds of U.S. troops and local Afghans to go beyond not just the “who” and “how” of each battle, but the often-hazy question of “why?”

For example, why had intelligence of a large, imminent attack been ignored before the Want battle? Why hadn’t there been a drone overhead? Whose fault was it that those nine soldiers died?

Will Japan’s Olympics Be Rescued by China’s Vaccine?

By Thisanka Siripala

On March 11, Japan was caught by surprise by the International Olympic Committee (IOC)’s sudden decision to provide Chinese-made vaccines to athletes and officials participating in the Tokyo Summer Olympics and next year’s Beijing Winter Olympics.

The Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee could not hide their confusion, particularly after previously announcing that vaccines would not be a prerequisite for the Games. The IOC supported Japan’s decision to forgo vaccinations based on the country’s successful delivery of other world championships and World Cups but has since backtracked on their initial position of “encouraging” vaccines rather than requiring them. On March 12, Tokyo Olympics CEO Muto Toshiro stated, “I have not heard about this ahead of time. The vaccination program is run by the Japanese government and I’m not in a position to comment.”

The day before, IOC President Thomas Bach had revealed that the IOC will cover the cost of the vaccines and are “already working with the Chinese Olympic Committee to produce additional vaccines, which will be supplied through international partners.” Bach said he is grateful “for the offer of solidarity” and stressed it was “a new milestone in ensuring the safety of the Olympics.”

The announcement comes as public anxiety has increased, with more and more Japanese in favor of either postponing or cancelling the Olympics. That’s in part due to the current wave of coronavirus cases in Tokyo, which has seen the original six-week state of emergency extended until March 21, adding two weeks.

Taiwan’s Cabinet Reshuffle a Response to China’s ‘Unrestricted Warfare’

By Corey Lee Bell

Last month, Taiwan’s government announced several personnel changes in leadership positions in its defence and security team, including the key posts of defence minister and National Security Bureau director.

While at least one of these changes had been months in the making, the fact that several occurred concurrently, and were announced just after the Chinese New Year break, has prompted conjecture that certain recent developments have prompted a shift in the island’s strategic thinking.

Many suspect that the changes were in response to the election of Joe Biden as US president, who some Taiwanese politicians believe won’t be as staunch in his support of Taipei as President Donald Trump was. Perhaps unsurprisingly, some opposition politicians have strengthened their calls for the independence-leaning government of President Tsai Ing-wen, which has thus far adopted a hardline position towards the mainland, to now adopt a more conciliatory stance towards Beijing.

But that’s just one way to look at it. An alternative theory is that the reshuffle reflects the administration’s attempts to confront the growing challenges posed by China’s model of ‘unrestricted warfare’, which replaces a narrow focus on kinetic warfare with a wider array of options, including ‘grey zone’ tactics, lawfare, political warfare and economic leverage.

To understand why this may be the case, it’s useful to examine the personnel changes in more detail.


Mark Grzegorzewski and Christopher Marsh

Editor’s note: This article is the first in a series, “Full-Spectrum: Capabilities and Authorities in Cyber and the Information Environment.” The series endeavors to present expert commentary on diverse issues surrounding US competition with peer and near-peer competitors in the cyber and information spaces. Special thanks to series editors Capt. Maggie Smith, PhD of the Army Cyber Institute and MWI fellow Dr. Barnett S. Koven.

When it comes to America’s focus on great power competition, China and Russia loom large, making the analysis of these two competitors and their strategies a booming business for analysts and practitioners alike. But while Russia’s “Gerasimov doctrine” (which is not really a doctrine) and China’s “three warfares” are the focus of many articles, how these two states and their militaries act in cyberspace is less often discussed and less well understood. Information operations play a central role to both the Russian and the Chinese ways of war, and cyber applications are a central mode by which information is applied as a tool of warfare. China conceives of “informationized warfare,” with the space and cyber domains described as becoming the “commanding heights of strategic competition.” Make no mistake: despite claims to the contrary, both China and Russia see themselves currently engaged in information warfare against the United States. This war is playing out principally in the cyber realm. The military application of information as an instrument of war—in isolation and in conjunction with other tools—is a central component of these states’ modern approaches to warfare. As Chief of the Russian General Staff General Valery Gerasimov himself observed, special operations forces leveraging information operations could be effectively employed to “defend and advance [Russia’s] national interests beyond” its borders. China, for its part, has developed and deployed dedicated information operations units skilled in cyberespionage and cyber-enabled information operations. This article serves to highlight some of the differences between how the United States, China, and Russia view cyberspace, and the ways Russia and China are using cyberspace operations to engage the United States asymmetrically.

History Can Teach Joe Biden How To Outcompete China

By James Holmes

MEDITERRANEAN SEA (March 11, 2021) The Arleigh-Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116), left, the Italian navy Carlo Bergamini-class frigate ITS Virginio Fasan (F 591), the Hellenic Navy Hydra-class frigate HS Psara (F 494) and the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), right, are underway in formation, March 11, 2021. The Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group on a routine deployment in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national interests and security in Europe and Africa. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kaleb J. Sarten) 210311-N-QD512-3060.

That’s what the ancients seemed to believe, at any rate. Athenian and Spartan grandees sized up their soon-to-be foes in 432 B.C., sketching policies and strategies for waging what would come to be known as the Peloponnesian War. Judging from their prewar speeches, the Athenian “first citizen” Pericles agreed with the Spartan king Archidamus that mistakes can play a glaring if not decisive part in war-making.

Archidamus told Spartans to hope for enemy blunders but not to count on them. “In practice,” he vouchsafed, “we always base our preparations against an enemy on the assumption that his plans are good; indeed, it is right to rest our hopes not on a belief in his blunders, but on the soundness of our provisions.” Better to compete competently than entrust one’s strategic fortunes to enemy incompetence. For his part Pericles entreated Athenians to refrain from trying to expand their empire. They should husband and concentrate their resources for a protracted struggle. He professed confidence in the ultimate outcome if they abided by his strategic counsel. Conserving mistakes was uppermost for him: “I am more afraid of our own blunders than of the enemy’s devices.” Hence the need to forego adventurism.

Watch Out: China Cannot Feed Itself | Opinion


Consider U.S. farmers happy. They are exporting record volumes of products to China. Shipments of soybeans, corn and pork are bringing smiles back to the American heartland.

Or, to put this another way, Beijing is effectively acknowledging it cannot feed the Chinese people.

China's leader, Xi Jinping, recently made such an admission. Last August, he announced what became known as the "clean your plate" campaign to end what he called a "shocking and distressing" waste of food. Just about everyone saw this effort, to get the Chinese people to eat less, as a warning of food shortages to come.

Chinese officials will not formally admit China is becoming increasingly dependent on foreign food—that would be political dynamite—but it is now apparent that the country needs to buy foodstuffs from abroad.

We start in 2019, which according to Beijing was a very good year on the food front. The official Xinhua News Agency, in a piece titled "China's Food Self-Sufficiency a Blessing To World," claimed in October that China was producing far more food than it needed. The country, Xinhua reported, contained 20 percent of the global population and produced a quarter of its food. Moreover, Beijing felt it was time to brag, noting China had been able to accomplish this feat with only 9 percent of the world's farmland and 6 percent of its freshwater.

Xinhua in 2019 was exaggerating, and that became clear in 2020, an especially difficult year for Chinese agriculture. Floods in the country's south, drought in the north, typhoons in the northeast and pest infestations in the southwest took their tolls. Disease continued to spread among animals across China.

The New Space Race: Russia and China Want a Joint Lunar Space Station

by Mark Episkopos

Earlier this week, China’s National Space Administration and Russia’s Roscosmos issued a memorandum of understanding outlining the construction of a space outpost called the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS).

“China and Russia will use their accumulated experience in space science, research and development as well as the use of space equipment and space technology to jointly develop a road map for the construction of an international lunar scientific research station (ILRS),” read a statement by China’s chief space agency. According to the Chinese government, the joint initiative will include “planning, demonstration, design, development, implementation, and operation of scientific research station projects, including project promotion to the international aerospace community.”

A parallel Roscosmos statement added that Russia and China seek to “promote cooperation on the creation of an open-access ILRS for all interested countries and international partners, with the goal of strengthening research cooperation and promoting the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes in the interests of all mankind.”

American Needs to Invest in Future Tech *Now* If It Wants to Compete with China

by Kris Osborn

Aprominent member of Congress is expressing significant concern that China’s military-oriented AI initiatives could pass the U.S. in terms of sophistication in merely the next several years, absent a more vigorous, sustained, and well-funded effort to stay in front.

Speaking at the opening of an extremely pressing and high-priority joint hearing of the House Oversight & Reform Subcommittee on National Security and the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Cyber, Innovative Technologies and Information Systems,” Rep. Elise Stefanik said “China will surpass the United States in AI leadership and with the innovation race if we fail to invest in emerging technologies.

Intended to address the findings of a newly released National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence report, Stefanik, who is the ranking member on the HASC Subcommittee on Cyber, Innovative Technologies and Information Systems, cited the report’s conclusions.

In her opening statement on the hearing, Stefanik describes the report’s conclusions as delivering a “profound and disturbing” impact on national security.

“The report concluded that China will achieve superiority over the U.S. within the next decade if we don’t solve our organizational and investment challenges by 2025—just four years from now,” she said.

The U.S. Marines Are Dumping Their Tanks. The Reason? China.

by Caleb Larson

In preparation for a future fight in the western Pacific Ocean against a near-peer rival, the Marine Corps is undergoing some of the most radical change it has ever experienced in its long and storied existence. Along with getting rid of a number of artillery battalions, the Marines have also divested all of their tanks, to the consternation of some.

In the not-so-distant future, the Marines anticipate they’ll need to hop from island to remote island, somewhat like their island-hopping campaign of Second World War fame — though this campaign is updated for the 21st century.

Why the Marines Wants to Ditch Their Tanks

The logic behind the recent tank divestment is two-fold: the United States’ main battle tank, the M1 Abrams, has steadily ballooned upwards in weight, so much so that it now faces logistical hurdles due to being just too dang heavy. Especially in a maritime environment, getting 74-plus ton tanks from ship to shore would be challenging. Essentially the plan is, if it doesn’t swim, it doesn’t fight.

There is, however, another reason the Marines may have little use for tanks in the future: long-range, precision fire.

China’s Dangerous Step Toward Cyber Conflict

By Tobias Burgers and David J. Farber

A recent report by the cybersecurity company Recorded Future describes a sophisticated cyber campaign by Chinese agents aimed at Indian targets. The report outlines how a Chinese state-supported group – dubbed Red Echo – managed to install malware in India’s critical civilian infrastructure, including electric power organizations, seaports, and railways. While there is confusion as to whether the attacks caused power outages last October, Recorded Future’s report is clear in their conclusion that Red Echo’s cyber intrusions are directly linked to the Sino-Indian conflict along the mountainous northern border. While the two nuclear-armed states were fighting at sub-zero temperatures and high altitudes with medieval tools, a much more high-tech, 21st century-style battle occurred across the Indian cyberspace.

Using this campaign, China has embarked on a new game in the East Asian cyber domain. Now a major state actor has used offensive cyber means to send a political signal with disruptive effect. The use of cyber tools as part of the international security relations toolkit is not novel. China has previously used cyber means to send political messages to other nation-state adversaries. For example, when Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen was elected, her social media networks were attacked by Chinese actors. However, what sets the Indian hack apart from prior cyber operations is the intended effect of the operation: Prior signalling cyber operations were acts of digital vandalism, yet in this case, the campaign aimed to have a destructive, or at least disruptive, impact in the physical domain. A campaign of this sort – causing potential physical destruction – comes much closer to a conventional military conflict.

Is Israel Slowly Building a Military Alliance in Persian Gulf?

by Paul R. Pillar

Israel is following up expansion of its diplomatic presence in the Persian Gulf by promoting, according to a report from the Israeli television channel i24News, a “defense alliance” to include itself, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia. The would-be Arab members of the alliance appear wary of getting that deeply in bed with Israel, but the move puts into perspective the recent upgrading of relations between Israel and several Arab states.

Few developments have been as overly lauded as this upgrading, on which someone bestowed the august label “Abraham Accords,” as if harmony had suddenly broken out among adherents of the world’s monotheistic religions. Certainly, in general, it is better for all countries in a region to have full relations with all other countries in the region than not to have them, if only as assurance that people are talking to each other. But the main driver of the hosannas for the Israeli-Arab relationship upgrade is not any breakout of goodwill and peace. It is instead the strong desire of the Israeli government to demonstrate that continued festering of its conflict with the Palestinians and continued de facto annexation of Palestinian-inhabited territory will not condemn Israel to pariahdom.

Whatever the Israeli government desires significantly affects, of course, how any matter is treated in American political discourse. In the matter at hand, this connection was especially conspicuous during the Trump administration, which hyped the relationship upgrades not only to appeal to constituencies that follow the Israeli government’s lead but also to claim the upgrades as foreign policy “accomplishments” in a presidency with a scarcity of them.

Rethinking Britain’s Central Asia Strategy

By Jade McGlynn

Central Asia provides fertile ground for the U.K. as it looks to showcase its potential to be a “global force for good.” Through its relations with the states of Central Asia — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan — the U.K. could demonstrate its ability to not only combine but also balance trade, human rights concerns, and effective developmental assistance. Yet, so far Britain has failed to develop a cohesive strategy toward the region.

Instead, most of the U.K.’s largely underwhelming efforts to engage in the region have focused on trading opportunities. With the U.K. now outside the EU and free to strike its own trade deals, there has been a concerted effort by the Department of International Trade (DIT) to build on the country’s existing standing with the region’s countries. First and foremost, this has been targeted at the region’s largest economy, Kazakhstan, where there is still considerable scope to expand trade. Comparing U.K. exports to Kazakhstan with those of Italy, for example, we see that they are from similar sectors (machinery, electrics, furniture) but Italy exports three times as much as the United Kingdom. Germany’s exports to Kazakhstan are almost four times as high.

Kazakhstan is not the only country with potential for U.K. export growth. Since the death of Islam Karimov in 2016, incipient — if not entirely convincing — signs of democratization and more overt demonstrations of economic liberalization in Uzbekistan have led to increased trade with the U.K. and the signing of the United Kingdom-Uzbekistan Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. But regional experts have expressed skepticism over the potential for genuine political reform.

Top Conflicts to Watch in 2021: What's Next for Syria

Steven A. Cook

Steven A. Cook is Eni Enrico Mattei senior fellow for Middle East and Africa studies and director of the International Affairs Fellowship for Tenured International Relations Scholars at the Council on Foreign Relations.

It has been ten years since Syrians rose up in peaceful protest against Bashar al-Assad demanding political change. In that time, half a million people have died and roughly half the population has been displaced. The uprising turned into a civil war that became a regional proxy battle and a zone where great power competition continues to grind on.

Although in recent years, observers have come to believe that the Assad regime—with both Russian and Iranian backing—will prevail, victory for Damascus remains elusive. The Assad regime controls most of Syria’s territory, but significant regions in the North, Northwest, and Northeast remain beyond its control. In addition, Syria’s sovereignty is compromised. Aside from Russian and Iranian/Iranian proxy forces that support the regime, the United States and Turkey have forces on the ground in Syria and Israel routinely violates Syrian airspace in its low-level war against Iran and its allies. The Syrian Defense Forces—a Kurdish dominated group—continues to fight the Islamic State and al-Qaeda affiliates for control of Idlib. In this dynamic environment there are several scenarios for increased conflict, including between Turkey and the Kurds, Turkey and regime forces, Turkey and Russia, as well as conflict between the United States and Iranian-backed militias. There is also the risk of miscalculation and accident in the field that could lead to blows between American and Russian forces. And there is ever-present risk of a recrudescence of the Islamic State and other extremist groups. The likelihood of these conflicts materializing vary, of course, but they are all plausible.

Strength Through Peace

Countering Russia’s Influence Operations in the Balkans

By David Shedd & Ivana Stradner

Even the pandemic has the potential for fomenting political unrest.

In recent days, thousands of Serbs have taken to the streets to protest Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic’s announced strict curfew in response to a surge in Covid-19 cases. Many have pointed a finger at pro-Russia ultra-right groups and foreign intelligence services for fueling the violent riots.

Moscow denies any “Russian trace” in the unrest. Whether Russia is behind the violent protests in Belgrade remains to be seen. One thing is for certain. The Kremlin’s efforts to sow mayhem in the Balkans would not be new; this would merely be the latest attempt by a resurgent Russia to threaten Euro-Atlantic security and challenge the United States’ ability to defend its interests in Europe.

Russia is promoting its interests in the Western Balkans through the widespread use of disinformation and cyberwarfare. The U.S., however, isn’t helpless. It has an opportunity to obtain insights into these efforts and counter Russia's influence campaigns. It is time to confront Russia's strongman Vladimir Putin's cyber games before American interests are permanently damaged in the Balkans.

Opinion – Japan’s 3/11: Ten Years On

Giorgio Shani

In spite of the localized ‘state of emergency’ in force in the Tokyo in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19, a memorial service attended by the Japanese Imperial family was be held to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the ‘triple disasters’ of March 11, 2011 (hereafter 3.11). Schools and workplaces throughout the country fell silent at 14:46 to remember the more than 20,000 who died or are still missing in the North-East of Japan. The ‘triple disasters’ refer to the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident of 3.11. The earthquake’s magnitude measured 9 on the richter scale and generated a tsunami with 17 meter waves which breached the walls protecting the Fukushima Daiichi and Dainii nuclear power plants. 15,900 lives were lost with a further 2,500 people unaccounted for and numerous other have died as a result of physical and psychological injuries inflicted by the triple disasters. Over 400,000 homes were destroyed by the tsunami and further 470,000 evacuated. 10 years on 40,000 people are still waiting to return to their homes. The disaster is estimated to have cost Japan almost 16% of its national budget.

3/11 had consequences which reached far beyond the tsunami devastated Tōhoku region. The natural devastation wrought by a natural disaster of unprecedented proportions which displaced entire communities was compounded at the Fukushima Daiichi and Daini nuclear reactor by a ‘man-made’ disaster (The National Diet of Japan 2012) which exposed the entire Kantō area to radiation. The ‘triple disasters’ of 3.11 revealed the inability of a modern, industrialized nation-state to protect its own citizens, shattering the public’s trust in the government led by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) under former Prime Minister Kan Naoto. The Japanese state, despite adopting the principle of Human Security as a basic policy goal of its foreign policy, had failed to protect the human security of the Japanese and in so doing, endangered national cohesion (Bacon and Hobson 2014, Shani 2014). This in turn created space for the articulation of a discourse of ‘resilientnationalism’ by ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) under former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo with the support of Japan’s ‘nuclear village’.

Subsidiarity and Social Europe

Rosa Mulé

This is an excerpt from Varieties of European Subsidiarity: A Multidisciplinary Approach. Get your free download from E-International Relations.

Social policy is concerned with instruments, processes and activities designed to intervene in the operations of markets to provide social protection and social welfare. A central issue in social policy has been how to protect vulnerable groups consisting of individuals excluded from work due to age, sickness or family responsibilities. In the current stage of economic development there are various reasons why social policy should take on a supranational character. The most pressing reason follows from economic competition between countries. Unless there are supranational regulations in place, countries may try to shed the costs of social protection to increase their international competitiveness.

European integration can be viewed as a process of market-making with Economic and Monetary Union leaving the market-correcting functions of social policy at the national level. Therefore, the functioning of social protection at European and national level is characterised by an asymmetric structure (Scharpf 2010). Under the principle of subsidiarity, social policy remains within the competence of the member states, whereas economic policy has shifted significantly towards the European level. The principle recognises that action in the social policy domain is the responsibility of member states, but within a framework of common objectives. In other words, member states are not free to pick and choose whatever suits the preferences of their policy makers or voters. As a consequence, the development of a supranational social policy has been slow and cumbersome.

Varieties of Social Policy

There’s Not Much For the United States Up in Space


In public, former U.S. President John F. Kennedy spoke inspiring words about the space program. “We choose to go to the moon,” Kennedy said in a speech at Rice University in September 1962, not because reaching that goal would be easy but because it would be hard: “because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills.”

Kennedy’s rhetoric birthed the moonshot myth: that a dynamic, doomed young leader rallied a country to great heights through research and engineering. It was only ever partially true, if that, but the image endures, from television shows like Disney+’s The Right Stuff and Apple TV’s alternate history series For All Mankind to how corporations and governments refer to their ambitious goals as “moonshots.” Google’s parent, Alphabet, brags of its “moonshot” factory. As vice president, Joe Biden promoted the “Cancer Moonshot”—a “new national effort to end cancer as we know it.”

Since Kennedy’s time, presidents and others have tried to recapture moonshot magic. Mostly, they’ve failed. Both President George H.W. Bush and President George W. Bush called for a return to the moon and a Mars landing. (The original George H.W. Bush Mars landing goal was for boots on the Red Planet by 2019.) Former U.S. Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump put forward their own lofty targets, including the Artemis program to land the next man—and the first woman—on the moon by 2024, a goal that officially remains in place. Today, activists and politicians overtly hope that increased great-power competition with China will spur U.S. interest and investment in space exploration, just as rivalry with the Soviet Union did in the 1960s.

White House Weighs New Cybersecurity Approach After Failure to Detect Hacks

By David E. Sanger, Julian E. Barnes and Nicole Perlroth

WASHINGTON — The sophisticated hacks pulled off by Russia and China against a broad array of government and industrial targets in the United States — and the failure of the intelligence agencies to detect them — are driving the Biden administration and Congress to rethink how the nation should protect itself from growing cyberthreats.

Both hacks exploited the same gaping vulnerability in the existing system: They were launched from inside the United States — on servers run by Amazon, GoDaddy and smaller domestic providers — putting them out of reach of the early warning system run by the National Security Agency.

The agency, like the C.I.A. and other American intelligence agencies, is prohibited by law from conducting surveillance inside the United States, to protect the privacy of American citizens.

But the F.B.I. and Department of Homeland Security — the two agencies that can legally operate inside the United States — were also blind to what happened, raising additional concerns about the nation’s capacity to defend itself from both rival governments and nonstate attackers like criminal and terrorist groups.

In the end, the hacks were detected long after they had begun not by any government agency but by private computer security firms.


March 11, 2021 marks the one-year anniversary of the “day everything changed” for many Americans, as fears about rising coronavirus cases prompted widespread disruption to everyday life. This same one-year period saw the rapid spread of online misinformation about everything from elections to infections, as the COVID-19 crisis transformed the digital landscape into a breeding ground of false speculation about masks, election results, vaccines, and more.

Today, the online misinformation crisis has never been more apparent. Over the past year, social media platforms have taken unprecedented action to label, slow, and stop the spread of false information. Despite these efforts, millions of Americans still hold false, and potentially dangerous, views about the efficacy of FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines and the results of the 2020 presidential election. The failed insurrection on Jan. 6 exemplified the real-world consequences of online misinformation converging with heightened polarization. After the digital disorder of this past year, what can US policymakers and tech companies learn about the current realities and uncertain future of the online misinformation problem?


The COVID-19 pandemic fused Americans’ digital and physical realities unlike ever before. What happens online is now “real life” in a way that it never was, meaning digital misinformation can have unprecedented real-world consequences. All Americans — even those with little online presence — are impacted by what happens online.

Pentagon processes ‘antithetical’ to AI development, former Google CEO warns

Joe Gould

WASHINGTON ― The Pentagon’s onerous acquisition pipeline is “antithetical to prioritizing” artificial intelligence and must change if the country hopes to stay ahead of China, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt said Friday.

“The regulations are essentially antithetical to prioritizing AI. They’re built around large weapon systems of a hardware kind, and the real strength of our nation will come from the strength of our software and AI activities,” Schmidt, the chairman of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, told lawmakers.

At a hearing on the the commission’s new recommendations, its members highlighted ways to retool Defense Department acquisition management system, in addition to boosting AI research and development spending by $40 billion over the next five years.

The report, which presents the race to get the country “AI-ready” by 2025 as an existential national security challenge, also teed up legislation to address it as lawmakers draft the annual defense policy bill. The 756-page report includes dozens of recommendations across the federal government.

Asked by House Cyber, Innovative Technologies, and Information Systems Chairman Jim Langevin, D-R.I., whether new software acquisitions pathways and pilot programs established by last years National Defense Authorization Act were sufficient, Schmidt said they were only “helpful.”

Cyber Command works to address criticism over how it integrates tools — challenges remain

Mark Pomerleau

WASHINGTON — U.S. Cyber Command is working to instill more seamless integration of disparate cyber war-fighting systems.

Congress has expressed concern that the command’s vision lacks a governance strategy to connect systems together, a key finding of an audit published in November by its nonpartisan watchdog. Lawmakers ordered the Department of Defense to report to them on its governance strategy, called the Joint Cyber Warfighting Architecture. While the report, turned in at the end of the previous administration, is not released publicly, a Senate Armed Services Committee staffer told C4ISRNET that the senators were correct in their assessment that the cyber strategy lacked proper structures.

The strategy, created in 2019 and meant to better align the commands’ programs and resources, is a priority this year for the command, Executive Director David Frederick said this week. He and other leaders who spoke at virtual events said the command is working on integrating its systems to serve needs across the military, but they acknowledged there are inherent difficulties with technology purchases for cyber warriors.

“The tricky part, for anybody who’s done large-scale acquisition programs is: How do you synchronize? How do we get all these programs to have a shared vision and a shared set of priorities to work through the interconnections and interdependencies? That’s our big challenge right now,” Frederick said March 10 at an Intelligence and National Security Alliance event. “We also are working with relatively limited authority at the command level. Most of the decision-making authority is at the acquisition program level within the military services.”

Artificial intelligence leads NATO’s new strategy for emerging and disruptive tech

Vivienne Machi

STUTTGART, Germany — NATO and its member nations have formally agreed upon how the alliance should target and coordinate investments in emerging and disruptive technology, or EDT, with plans to release artificial intelligence and data strategies by the summer of 2021.

In recent years the alliance has publicly declared its need to focus on so-called EDTs, and identified seven science and technology areas that are of direct interest. Now, the NATO enterprise and representatives of its 30 member states have endorsed a strategy that shows how the alliance can both foster these technologies — through stronger relationships with innovation hubs and specific funding mechanisms — and protect EDT investments from outside influence and export issues.

NATO will eventually develop individual strategies for each of the seven science and technology areas — artificial intelligence, data and computing, autonomy, quantum-enabled technologies, biotechnology, hypersonic technology, and space. But for the near future, the priority is AI and data, said David van Weel, NATO’s assistant secretary general for emerging security challenges.

Don’t Let Academia Destroy Military History

Thomas Spoehr

The presumption in much of modern academia appears to be that only warmongers would teach about war.

Knowledge, critical thinking and prudent judgment are as vital as military hardware, artificial intelligence, and powerful economies.

There is no question that the United States needs to better think the future. That requires getting back to fostering critical thinking and judgment.

Distinguished war historian Max Hastings recently lamented, “In centers of learning across North America, the study of the past in general, and of wars in particular, is in spectacular eclipse.” This created a bit of a buzz among “classically” educated national security professionals—i.e., those who learned the blocking-and-tackling basics of their field through the study of history.

But this “buzzing” matters little. While they would like history to be used to help keep America safe, free and prosperous, these folks don’t control how history is taught and propagated. That’s controlled by American academia, American universities have no intention of fixing the problem. Instead, they are unilaterally disarming America’s knowledge base.

Crisis! What Crisis?

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