24 April 2021

Limited War and Nuclear Deterrence- Part I and II

Major General PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)

On 15 June 2020, in a brutal, savage skirmish, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) used fists, rocks, rods, baton, spikes, knuckle-dusters, nail-studded clubs and wooden clubs wrapped in barbed wire at a post at Galwan on the Indian side of Line of Actual Control(LAC) in Ladakh sector at an altitude of 4,250 meters. India lost a Commanding Officer of an infantry battalion and 19 other ranks. China did not divulge its casualty figures. There is a famous saying that no two nuclear-powered states have ever fought a war. William S. Lind, who developed Manoeuvre Warfare and Fourth Generation Warfare theories, is sceptical about two nuclear weapon capable countries ever to fight a conventional war. Continue Reading.....

Opinion Biden Ditches the Generals, Finally

By Maureen Dowd

WASHINGTON — Afghanistan has a complicated relationship with time. And America has a complicated relationship with revenge.

Between these two truths, tragedy blossomed.

Awash in grief and anger, we invaded Afghanistan after 9/11 to hunt down Osama bin Laden and punish the Taliban for letting him turn a maze of caves into a launching pad to attack America.

But, despite the lessons the Soviets learned in 10 hard years there fighting ghostly warriors who disappeared into the mountains, American officials and generals never absorbed this simple fact: Even the battles we won, we lost in a way. As we grasped for our own revenge, what kind of revenge quest did we inspire in those who watched daisy cutter bombs rain hellfire or a wedding party disintegrate in a flash from an American airstrike? How many enemies have we spawned trying to help Afghanistan?

Taliban leaders say Americans have all the clocks, but they have all the time.

The Bush administration was arrogant and ignorant about occupying this medieval moonscape. Officials thought they could bomb the bejesus out of the people who hated us, so that they would never look at us cross-eyed again. We would be the swaggering hyperpower. Even Barack Obama, once so prescient on the futility of invading Iraq, was suckered by the military into a pointless surge in Afghanistan, a near tripling of troops, in 2009.

Afghanistan withdrawal will likely dismantle a CIA intelligence network built up over 20 years

By Zachary Cohen, Katie Bo Williams and Barbara Starr

Washington (CNN)President Joe Biden's planned withdrawal from Afghanistan includes an intense unraveling of the extensive intelligence and covert action network that the US has built there over the two decades since 9/11 as part of the global war on terror.

The current plan includes the removal of the hundreds of special operations forces not publicly acknowledged by the US government but known to be there, according to two defense officials and a senior US official with direct knowledge of the situation.

Most, if not all, CIA operators working in Afghanistan are almost certain to leave as well, current and former officials told CNN. Without the support of a conventional military presence, on-the-ground intelligence gathering becomes significantly more difficult -- and more dangerous.

Neither the removal of special operations forces nor the likely removal of intelligence operators has been previously reported.

A final decision has not yet been made as to the status of CIA paramilitary officers, one military official told CNN, but the thinking at the moment is that they likely will have to leave. Even if some personnel do remain after Biden's self-imposed September 11 withdrawal deadline, it will be far more challenging to pull off the kind of covert operations the CIA has become famous for since 9/11.

Northern expedition: China’s Arctic activities and ambitions

Rush Doshi, Alexis Dale-Huang, and Gaoqi Zhang

This report explores China’s internal discourse on the Arctic as well as its activities and ambitions across the region. It finds that China sometimes speaks with two voices on the Arctic: an external one aimed at foreign audiences and a more cynical internal one emphasizing competition and Beijing’s Arctic ambitions. In examining China’s political, military, scientific, and economic activity — as well as its coercion of Arctic states — the report also demonstrates the seriousness of China’s aspirations to become a “polar great power.”[1] China has sent high-level figures to the region 33 times in the past two decades, engaged or joined most major Arctic institutions, sought a half dozen scientific facilities in Arctic states, pursued a range of plausibly dual-use economic projects, expanded its icebreaker fleet, and even sent its naval vessels into the region. The eight Arctic sovereign states — Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States — exercise great influence over the Arctic and its strategically valuable geography. China aspires to be among them.

The report advances several primary findings:

China seeks to become a “polar great power” but downplays this goal publicly. Speeches by President Xi Jinping and senior Chinese officials with responsibility for Arctic policy are clear that building China into a “polar great power” by 2030 is China’s top polar goal. Despite the prominence of this goal in these texts, China’s externally facing documents — including its white papers — rarely if ever mention it, suggesting a desire to calibrate external perceptions about its Arctic ambitions, particularly as its Arctic activities become the focus of greater international attention.

Should We Go To War For Taiwan?


Last month, Admiral Philip S. Davidson, commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Taiwan is one of China’s targets and “the threat is manifest during this decade, in fact, in the next six years.” Some observers, noting increased Chinese military action, believe a crisis could come even sooner.

What would the U.S. do? Washington’s policy of “strategic ambiguity” dictates no answer. When asked about the issue, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki responded: “Our position on Taiwan remains clear. We will stand with friends and allies to advance our shared prosperity, security, and values in the Indo-Pacific region,” whatever that means.

The American people deserve to know what they might be expected to die for. Washington is filled with people who believe that being a superpower means never having to limit one’s ambitions, consider the actions of other nations, or fear the consequences of military interventions. Yet the impact of war over Taiwan would be disastrous.

By any normal measure, the Republic of China, its official name, is an independent country. However, the island of Formosa, plus some much smaller possessions, is claimed by China. And the ROC is recognized by only 14 small countries. Most nations, including the U.S., accept Beijing’s “one China” policy while maintaining an unofficial relationship with Taiwan focused on trade.

The island was detached from imperial China by Japan in 1890, recovered by the ROC in 1945 at the end of World War II, and separated again by the retreating Nationalists in 1949. For years, the U.S. recognized the ROC located on Taiwan as the legitimate government of all China.

Biden's blinking red lights: Taiwan, Ukraine and Iran

Dave Lawler

Russia is menacing Ukraine’s borders, China is sending increasingly ominous signals over Taiwan and Iran is accelerating its uranium enrichment to unprecedented levels.

The big picture: Ukraine, Taiwan and Iran’s nuclear program always loomed large on the menu of potential crises President Biden could face. But over the last several days, the lights have been blinking red on all three fronts all at once.

Driving the news: Within 24 hours beginning last Sunday, an explosion rocked Iran’s underground nuclear site at Natanz, 25 Chinese warplanes entered Taiwan’s air defense zone, and Ukraine announced that the number of Russian troops massing in Crimea and on its eastern border had risen to 80,000.

Russia has now assembled enough troops for a “limited military incursion,” CIA director Bill Burns warned Wednesday.

Moscow has avoided such overt intervention in Eastern Ukraine since the war there began in 2014, but could strike now in an attempt to push further into Ukrainian territory or secure a source of much-needed water for occupied Crimea.

After a flurry of phone calls from Washington to Kyiv to signal support for Ukraine, Biden called Vladimir Putin on Tuesday and proposed a summit to discuss Ukraine and other issues.
The state of play: U.S. European Command commander Gen. Tod Wolters said Thursday that there was a “low to medium” risk of a Russian invasion in the next few weeks.

Iran’s New Pivot to Central Asia

By: Omid Rahimi

High-ranking officials from Iran and Tajikistan made a total of three visits to Dushanbe and Tehran, respectively, in less than two months, a significant sign that after years of frosty relations, diplomatic ties are finally improving (Khovar, February 23, March 29, April 5). Even more such bilateral visits are rumored for the near future. At the same time, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif recently concluded a grand tour (April 5–8) of the remaining four Central Asian republics (Irna, April 5), while other foreign ministry officials were in Vienna negotiating with the P4+1 (United Kingdom, France, Russia and China plus Germany) for keeping alive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear program (Irna, April 7). This renewed focus on Central Asia may be considered a new direction in Tehran’s foreign policy toward the region.

The “Look East” policy has become the core idea of Iran’s post-JCPOA approach to international relations. And Tehran considers Central Asia a “bridge region” between Iran and the East. During the previous seven years, Iran’s relations with Central Asia were largely stagnant, and in some cases even declined. Thus, it is noteworthy that, in the final months of President Hassan Rouhani’s administration (elections are scheduled for June 18, 2021), so much special attention is being devoted to Central Asia.

Post-Merkel Germany May Be Shaded Green

By Steven Erlanger

Whatever government fills the vacuum in Germany after Chancellor Angela Merkel will be tinged with green.

After nearly 16 years in office, Ms. Merkel’s conservative party, the Christian Democrats, is slipping and stagnant, critics say — short of ideas on how to keep Germany vibrant and rich in a world where its industrial and export model is outdated; where faith in the United States has been damaged; and where China is more self-sufficient and Russia more aggressive.

The other traditional mainstay, the left-center Social Democrats, currently junior partners with Ms. Merkel, is in even worse shape, both electorally and ideologically.

The German Greens are filling the vacuum. Five months before elections in September, the party is running a close second in the opinion polls to the struggling Christian Democrats, and some think it might even lead the next government.

“They will be part of the next government,’’ said Norbert Röttgen, a prominent Christian Democrat, in a forecast widely shared in Germany. “Either a big part or even the leading part.’’

But these are not the Greens of the Cold War, a radical party appalled by the nuclear standoff between the Soviet Union and the United States over a divided Europe. The Greens are now centrist, eager for power, with a surprisingly gimlet-eyed view of international affairs and of how Germany needs to change without alienating big business.

If the Greens surge in Europe’s largest and richest country, it would be a watershed not only for the party but for all of Europe, where it already is part of the governing coalitions in six countries.

Is time running out for the union as the case grows for a new independence vote?

Neal Ascherson

Are postal voters bolder? Does the solemnity of polling stations cow voters into having second thoughts? Because of the pandemic, there will be far more postal voters than ever in the Scottish elections on 6 May – almost a quarter of the electorate. It’s easier to be adventurous with a ballpoint at your kitchen table. The radio next to the teapot said last week that Boris Johnson and his English Tories were going to veto Scottish bills aimed at strengthening the rights of the child and of local authorities, even though both were passed unanimously by Scotland’s parliament, which could prove a significant landmark. It grows easier to vote for the three parties that want another independence referendum.

Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP, Patrick Harvie’s Greens, Alex Salmond’s new-born Alba. Two – three, if Alba overcomes its dire beginning – will make a majority in the Scottish parliament. Uncannily, the SNP and Sturgeon seem to have emerged from the uproar over the Salmond inquiries with nothing worse than deep scratches on the paintwork. Public grillings of Salmond and Sturgeon, merciless media bombardment – and yet trust in the SNP and its leader did little more than bob down and up again. The independence camp, its minds made up, apparently stands where it stood before, counting roughly half the pollsters’ samples.

So, after 6 May, Johnson will almost certainly face a Scottish parliament claiming a mandate to call another referendum. That claim will almost certainly be dumped in front of the supreme court. Holyrood will implore the court to declare its mandate legal. Westminster’s barristers will remind the court that it has accepted the almighty principle of “parliamentary sovereignty” – the right of a Commons majority to overrule anything it doesn’t like. Constitutional lawyers will go into an orgy of Zoom as they consult one another on the doctrines of Dicey, Bagehot and Lord Cooper of Culross (the Scottish judge who declared parliamentary sovereignty was an English nonsense that had no place north of the border).

Devastating demographics

Nikos Marantzidis

The data are devastating. For 10 consecutive years, deaths in Greece have outnumbered births. A total of 931,884 people were born from 2011 to 2020 while 1,198,502 died over the same period, resulting in a net decrease of 266,618 people.

During the past decade, Greece has been losing the equivalent in population of a city the size of Corinth every year. Even more alarming is the fact that over the past couple of years, the country’s negative growth rate has expanded. Deaths have surpassed births by an annual 40,000 people.

All that resembles an unprecedented hemorrhage. Of course, this is not a new problem. Greece had been registering more deaths than births for six consecutive years between 1998-2003, although the gap back then was smaller. The causes behind this problem have often been the subject of debate. It is extremely important that a remedy is found as soon as possible.

Those who claim that all problems will suddenly go away because Greece will somehow “take off” in the coming years cannot be taken seriously. To be sure, the economic turmoil of the previous years exacerbated the problem. However, given the fact that Greece lost about a third of its gross domestic product between 2008 and today, assuming that Greece achieves an average annual growth rate of 3 percent, it will need about 10 years to return to 2007 levels.

Solving the pandemic's drinking problem

David Adam

Sourdough and baking helped many people cope with 2020, and many have found solace in family Zoom calls. But for millions around the world, the stress of the pandemic and tedium of lockdown life saw them seek the comforting embrace of another, fickle friend: alcohol.

Like most social behaviors, drinking habits have been upended by pandemic restrictions. With people furloughed and working from home, wine bottles have been opened earlier and earlier in the day. But one major role of booze in normal times is to act as a social lubricant, and with bars and pubs closed and parties banned, other drinkers have simply lost the taste for it.

So has COVID-19 got us drinking more, or less, than before? Public health researchers are trying to find out — to see if the events of 2020 have helped the world to sober up, or if we're all heading for the mother of all hangovers. They're finding that age and outlook on life drive our response to lockdown. Younger drinkers seem happier to find other things to do, while their stressed-out parents are more likely to be seeking solace in the bottom of a glass.

And, surprise, surprise, it looks like we British have reacted to COVID-19 by drinking the most.

The Intelligence Community’s Annual Threat Assessment and the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Worldwide Threats Hearing

The intelligence community (IC) last week made a rare foray into public view to explain the top threats facing the United States. In a paper and in testimony before the Senate and House intelligence committees, agency heads described a complex and “cascading” set of national security challenges, with China securing a prominent position among them. A clear subtext to the report and testimony is that the IC’s priorities are shifting—perhaps too slowly—from a focus on counterterrorism to addressing near-peer competitors. Those competitors have robust intelligence efforts and no compunction about operating aggressively in the gray zone, for example, influencing elections and spreading misinformation. The report and testimony also featured discussions of the pandemic and climate change, and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines specifically referred to “broadening our definition of national security,” likely to incorporate issues like these that have normally been a factor, though not a focus, of IC work.

These hearings by tradition are held every year, but this year, for the first time, both the hearings and report were legally mandated, thanks to a provision in the 2021 Intelligence Authorization Act. That provision was in large part a reaction to the Trump administration’s no-show in 2020, and the legislative intent was to ensure the U.S. public receives at least an annual glimpse into the big-picture work of the IC. This glimpse is important because, just as in every other aspect of government, the public has a taxpayer’s right to know their public servants are working to advance the nation’s interests. As Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Marco Rubio (R-FL) said in his opening statement, if intel is working well, problems are averted, rather than allowed to bloom into public crises, and the public remains mostly unaware anything was ever wrong.

Climate Leadership Should Include Foreign Assistance

April 22 is Earth Day. It also marks a major opportunity for the Biden-Harris administration to increase U.S. credibility and ambition by hosting the first Leaders Summit on Climate to discuss high-level efforts and strategies. After years of U.S. disengagement and denial on climate issues and disruption and denigration of foreign assistance, the summit is the perfect opportunity for Washington to reengage internationally and build a more climate-centric U.S. foreign assistance apparatus.

President Joe Biden has shown great enthusiasm for tackling climate-related issues. Climate change was one of only four pillars of the Biden-Harris transition. On his first day in office, the president released an executive order “to immediately commence work to confront the climate crisis,” which, as a result, immediately reoriented the priorities of “all executive departments and agencies.” This includes the over 20 departments and agencies that collectively make up U.S. foreign assistance.

To achieve its goals and missions, the U.S. foreign assistance apparatus needs to integrate a climate lens broadly across all its efforts.

Climate issues are cross-cutting and represent a major and ever-growing obstacle on the road to progress on economic growth, fragility, human mobility, and more. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) enshrined this understanding in SDG 13: Climate Action, but climate change is already disproportionately impacting development, humanitarian, and political outcomes across the developing world. Hotter weather and droughts are decreasing agricultural yields. GDP could decrease significantly across the globe, disproportionately affecting vulnerable countries and people least responsible for anthropogenic climate change. The increased frequency of floods and hurricanes is destroying infrastructure and livelihoods, not to mention displacing tens of millions of people annually. By 2030, climate change could push 132 million additional people into extreme poverty. To achieve its goals and missions, the U.S. foreign assistance apparatus needs to integrate a climate lens broadly across all its efforts.

The Great Cities Partnership

“The United States should work with African partners today to… start an urbanization initiative, including partnerships with U.S. cities, to help African cities plan for their growth in terms of critical sectors like energy access, climate change adaptation, transportation, and water management.”

— Joe Biden, August 1, 2019

A multiagency presidential initiative to partner with Africa’s fast-growing cities will help to meet U.S. economic, development, climate, and national security objectives.
The Context

Africa is on the cusp of an urban revolution. By 2050, the majority of Africans—some 1.5 billion people—will live in cities. More than 30 African cities will top 5 million people by 2050 (Annex B). The region’s most pressing foreign policy challenges and most enticing commercial opportunities will consequently unfold across these rapidly urbanizing landscapes.
The Problem

Unfortunately, U.S. policy toward Africa has been unprepared for this transition. It has overwhelmingly focused on rural development and security. According to the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) foreign aid dashboard, Washington spends more than twice as much on rural areas than urban areas in sub-Saharan Africa. Cities, however, are engines of productivity, epicenters of creativity, and generators of wealth. But many are also poorly designed and governed while suffering from crime, traffic, pollution, and food insecurity. Ultimately, they underserve the potential of their citizens. The United States needs to pivot now.

The Urgency

The New Russia Sanctions Resolve a Mystery That Mueller Left Unanswered

By Quinta Jurecic 

On April 15, the Treasury Department answered one of the biggest questions left unresolved by the Mueller investigation—and left unanswered as well by the 2020 Senate Select Intelligence Committee report about 2016 election interference.

The resolution of the mystery arrived unexpectedly, tucked inside the department’s announcement of a package of sanctions against Russia issued in response to the SolarWinds hack and the Russian government’s attempts to interfere in the 2020 election. As important as the nugget is, the Treasury Department didn’t particularly highlight it. Any reader would have to look closely and be obsessively familiar with past developments in the Mueller investigation to know what to keep an eye out for. But there it was: Under a heading labeled “Treasury Targets Known Russian Agent Konstantin Kilimnik,” the department announced that Kilimnik—whom the press release described as a “Russian and Ukrainian political consultant and known Russian Intelligence Services agent”—had, in 2016, “provided the Russian Intelligence Services with sensitive information on polling and campaign strategy.”

Both the Mueller report and the Senate investigation established that Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort had passed that sensitive information to Kilimnik—but only now, years later, has the Treasury Department unveiled what Kilimnik did with it. With President Trump no longer in office, the development has attracted less excitement than it might have during the era of constant outrages about Trump’s friendliness with the Russian government and the former president’s attempts to hamstring investigations into his willingness to accept foreign help. But the Kilimnik news is worth paying attention to. As the New York Times put it, the Treasury Department’s press release provides “the strongest evidence to date that Russian spies had penetrated the inner workings of the Trump campaign” in 2016.

That should be concerning as a historical matter. But it should be even more worrying for what it says about the future of American elections.

Update The Small Wars Manual For The 21st Century

By James Holmes

U.S. Soldiers assigned to the 65th Field Artillery Brigade, and soldiers from the Kuwait Land Forces fire their High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (U.S.) and BM-30 Smerch rocket systems (Kuwait) during a joint live-fire exercise, Jan. 8, 2019, near Camp Buehring, Kuwait. The U.S. and Kuwaiti forces train together frequently to maintain a high level of combat readiness and to maintain effective communication between the two forces. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. James Lefty Larimer).

One grave risk lurks within the upcoming pullout of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, otherwise an altogether wholesome development. Namely, the armed services may—either through neglect or conscious choice—forget hard-won lessons learned from the past two decades of counterinsurgent combat. Never again is a recurrent but underappreciated reflex in human affairs, including the martial strain thereof. Individuals or an institution—which is nothing more than a group of individuals—may resolve never again to undertake enterprises resembling those that proved painful or inglorious in the past.
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In that sense our contemporary era feels like the late 1970s, when no more Vietnams rang out from sea to shining sea—especially in the armed forces, the ground services in particular. After all, it was U.S. Army and Marine Corps troopers who bore the brunt of frustrating close combat against Vietcong insurgents and their North Vietnamese patrons. (U.S. Air Force and Navy aviators belong to this honorable company as well, as do the crews of Navy and Coast Guard brown-water units.) Counterinsurgent warfare fell into disrepute in the services along with all things Vietnam, and service magnates more or less deliberately forgot about this mode of warfare in favor of girding for great-power strategic competition with the Soviet Union. They wanted to get back to missions at which they excelled.

Taiwan says its seeking long-range cruise missiles from U.S.

TAIPEI – Taiwan is seeking to acquire long-range, air-launched cruise missiles from the United States, a defense official said Monday, as the Chinese-claimed island bolsters its forces in the face of increasing pressure from Beijing.

While Taiwan is developing its own long-range missiles, to give it an ability to strike back deep into China in the event of war, it has also looked to the United States to help provide it more advanced weaponry.

Asked in parliament which weapons systems Taiwan wants to buy but the United States has not yet said it can, Lee Shih-chiang, head of Taiwan’s Defense Ministry’s strategic planning department, named Lockheed Martin Corp.’s AGM-158.

“We are still in the process of seeking it” from the United States, Lee said. “Communication channels are very smooth and normal.”

He did not elaborate.

FastTake: What’s missing from US Intel’s 2021 Threat Assessment

by Barry Pavel and Ronald Marks

The U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, DC on Feb. 12, 2021. Photo by Oliver Contreras/Sipa USA via Reuters.

The Director of National Intelligence’s Threat Assessment for 2021, released this week, outlines the US intelligence community’s projection of the most dangerous threats to the United States over the next year—beginning with China as the primary threat facing the United States and proceeding “down the list” to Russia, Iran, and North Korea; then moving to transnational issues such as COVID-19, climate change, and terrorism; and then outlining ongoing instability in key regions of the world.

In so doing, the report nicely parallels both the Biden administration’s Interim National Security Strategic Guidance, released last month, as well as the preliminary outline of the administration’s fiscal year 2022 budget, which was just presented to Capitol Hill.

The report’s assessment of disruptive technologies as major geopolitical tools is a relatively novel and long overdue element of this annual report, and one that we should expect to grow in prominence and importance throughout this new, turbulent decade. The Threat Assessment begins to address the challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution that are bedeviling the decentralized United States but proving easier to surmount for the autocratically centralized China amid its push to replace the United States as the dominant power on earth by 2050.

US Should Push New Space Treaty: Atlantic Council


WASHINGTON: The US should push hard to overhaul the entire international legal framework for outer space — including replacing the foundational 1967 Outer Space Treaty (OST), a new report from the Atlantic Council says.

As it moves to do so, the US also should more aggressively court allies with an eye to establishing a “collective security alliance for space” among likeminded countries to “deter aggression” and defend “key resources and access.”

“The 1967 Treaty is dated. It was written, literally, in a different era,” said former Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James in an Atlantic Council briefing today. “At present it is too broad, and in some cases it’s probably overly specific.”

The year-long study, “The Future of Security In Space: A Thirty-Years US Strategy” was co-chaired by James and retired Marine Corps Gen. Hoss Cartwright, former vice chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In essence, it argues that the US needs to lead international efforts to craft a new rules-based regime to govern all space activities — from exploration to commercial ventures to military interactions. As the two argued in a recent op-ed in Breaking D, “Great-power competition among the United States, China, and Russia has launched into outer space without rules governing the game.”

NATO prepares for world's largest cyber war game - with focus on grey zone

Alexander Martin

Military cyber security specialists are preparing for the largest cyber war game in the world, which kicks off tomorrow as the fictional NATO member state of Berylia comes under attack.

The real-time NATO exercise will include defenders practising the protection of critical civilian and military infrastructure, including water treatment facilities and energy plants.

Amid the increasing risk of real international conflict, the exercise will also include legal teams who will need to figure out if and when a particular action is acceptable under international law, as well as strategic communications experts to handle disinformation.

An invisible enemy is on the rise in a grey zone between war and peace. The weapons of choice include disinformation, intimidation and cyber hacks.PODCAST

How does it work?

Organised by the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE) based in Tallinn, Estonia, the Locked Shields exercise is an annual network defence drill using real-world skills.

The scenario is based on an attack on the fictional country of Berylia - hypothetically situated in the northern Atlantic - and an adversary called Crimsonia that is creating some artificial islands.

A 'Worst Nightmare' Cyberattack: The Untold Story Of The SolarWinds Hack


An NPR investigation into the SolarWinds attack reveals a hack unlike any other, launched by a sophisticated adversary intent on exploiting the soft underbelly of our digital lives.Zoë van Dijk for NPR

"This release includes bug fixes, increased stability and performance improvements."

The routine software update may be one of the most familiar and least understood parts of our digital lives. A pop-up window announces its arrival and all that is required of us is to plug everything in before bed. The next morning, rather like the shoemaker and the elves, our software is magically transformed.

Last spring, a Texas-based company called SolarWinds made one such software update available to its customers. It was supposed to provide the regular fare — bug fixes, performance enhancements — to the company's popular network management system, a software program called Orion that keeps a watchful eye on all the various components in a company's network. Customers simply had to log into the company's software development website, type a password and then wait for the update to land seamlessly onto their servers.

The routine update, it turns out, is no longer so routine.

Hackers believed to be directed by the Russian intelligence service, the SVR, used that routine software update to slip malicious code into Orion's software and then used it as a vehicle for a massive cyberattack against America.

"Eighteen thousand [customers] was our best estimate of who may have downloaded the code between March and June of 2020," Sudhakar Ramakrishna, SolarWinds president and CEO, told NPR. "If you then take 18,000 and start sifting through it, the actual number of impacted customers is far less. We don't know the exact numbers. We are still conducting the investigation."

The Army’s faster way to field tactical network gear gets its first big test

Mark Pomerleau

FORT POLK, La. — Paratroopers testing the Army’s latest communications equipment jumped into a sprawling field surrounded by dense woods and moved north upon landing in an effort to secure the area.

Significant equipment improvements allowed the 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division to communicate clearly across greater distances than in the past — up to about 28 miles, said Lt. Col. Andy Harris, commander of the brigade’s 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment.

Mapping on hardened cell phones, another new capability, showed teammates’ locations in near real time across the training environment’s miles of fields and forests. The devices gave team leaders new options to text if needed or follow the mission route on their screens instead of using paper maps alone.

“It’s 100 times better,” Harris said of the equipment. “If you can establish the mesh network and [connected] bubbles throughout, you can communicate as far as you want as long as those networks are established.”

West Point cadets expelled over worst cheating scandal in 40 years


West Point has expelled at least eight cadets and are holding more than 50 back a year as a result of the military academy's worst cheating scandal in over 40 years.

The military academy investigated 73 cadets suspected of cheating on a freshman calculus exam in May administered virtually because of the coronavirus. More than 50 of the cadets were athletes, several of whom were on the football team, according to a West Point spokeswoman.

"West Point must be the gold standard for developing Army officers. We demand nothing less than impeccable character from our graduates," said Superintendent Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams in a press release.

Fifty-five of the 73 immediately admitted to cheating through the academy's process of willful admission when confronted with suspicions of cheating. Willful admission was instituted in 2015 to encourage cadets to adhere to the academy's honor code and take responsibility for any violations of the code. However, officials have concluded that this program has not been effective, and the academy is terminating the program.

This is the worst cheating scandal at the school since 1976, when 153 cadets resigned or were expelled because they cheated on an electrical engineering exam.