17 May 2021

China’s Nuclear and Missile Capabilities: An Overview

 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.

Military takeover without a coup in Pakistan


When Imran Khan was deeply involved in a lawyer’s movement that aimed to end Pakistan’s military dictatorship, the then-aspirant politician frequently targeted the armed forces for its anti-democratic political interventions.

In the subsequent years, as the former famous cricket player’s political ambitions grew, Khan frequently reiterated his intention to clip the military’s political wings in the name of democratic reform if he ever assumed power.

Fast forward to 2021, Khan’s elected Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government has become everything he claimed to stand against, a de facto hybrid martial law regime where ex-soldiers not only dominate key civilian government posts but also largely dictate foreign policy.

With former military personnel ensconced in civilian institutions on an unprecedented scale, not only has the difference between the civil and the military become extremely hard to distinguish, but the military establishment has largely assumed a direct role in managing the country’s economy, politics and now day-to-day administration through its now leading role in containing a new outbreak of Covid-19.

To be sure, the outside world has taken note of the democratic backsliding. A UNDP released last month painted a distressing portrait of the state of human development in Pakistan by noting that “powerful groups” in Pakistan enjoyed privileges valued at some $17.4 billion, or equal to 7% of gross domestic product (GDP).

A U.N. Peacekeeping Mission Is Afghanistan’s Best Hope

Charli Carpenter

For better or worse, the United States military is leaving Afghanistan. Proponents for withdrawal argue the U.S. has done all it can militarily in the country, has more pressing security interests elsewhere and may do more harm than good by staying. Critics say the power vacuum the U.S. is leaving behind will reignite a civil war and open the door to ethnic cleansing, gender apartheid and state failure.

Both views have merit, but the choice is not between these options alone. Yes, the U.S. record of nation-building in Afghanistan is poor. And yes, power vacuums and state fragility breed insurgencies, instability and transnational crime. What is needed now is not a further prolonged U.S. military presence or, alternatively, the military equivalent of a concert of external powers in Afghanistan. Instead, what’s needed is the steadying hand of a robust international peacekeeping, peacebuilding and peace-enforcement mission under United Nations auspices. The U.S. should contribute to this mission, to be sure, but the reins must be surrendered to the international community.

China Is Planning An Airbase On America’s Doorstep

By Caleb Larson

China has plans to improve an airplane landing strip as well as a bridge one of the Republic of Kiribati’s outlying islands, according to a recent report in Reuters. The island, known as Kanton Island or alternatively as Canton Island, is roughly midway between Asia and the North American continent, though it is a scant 1,900 miles southwest of Hawaii.
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It is unclear exactly how extensive the proposed project could be, or what it would concretely look like if finalized. “The [Kiribati] government hasn’t shared the cost and other details other than it’s a feasibility study for the rehabilitation of the runway and bridge,” a Kitibati lawmaker told Reuters. “The opposition will be seeking more information from government in due course.”

Kiribati is a sprawling but thinly populated Pacific Island nation, and the only country in the world with territory in the four Cardinal Hemispheres. Kiribati also has one of the world’s largest Exclusive economic zones through the islands have very few natural resources, and many of Kiribati’s 120,000 citizens depend on the fishing or tourism industries.
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Canton Island, A History

Time For Cognitive Warfare Against China?

By James Holmes

Over at the South China Morning Post, reporter Minnie Chan has the story of how the U.S. Navy destroyer Mustin shadowed the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning in the South China Sea last month. Mustin’s exploits prompted much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments in China. The tabloid Global Times complained that the tin can was “stalking” the Chinese flattop and “risking an accident.”

But safe navigation isn’t the real gripe here. Global Times is wroth about the photo (see above) that accompanied the story. The photo depicts Mustin skipper Commander Robert J. Briggs and his executive officer keeping an eye on Liaoning from the destroyer’s bridge wing while on a parallel course several thousand yards away. That’s a perfectly safe distance, by the way. So much for risking an accident.

And stalking? Sure. Navies stalk one another all the time, as even a casual perusal of Cold War history shows. U.S. task-force commanders reportedly used to assign Soviet AGIs, or trawlers packed with intelligence-gathering hardware, a station in their formations so everyone could maneuver without fear of collision. Nowadays PLA ships and planes stalk foreign ships and planes in the China seas as a matter of routine and sometimes really do riskor even cause—an accident.

Baltic states start to turn away from China

Andris Banka

Over the past decade, China has made noteworthy strides towards drawing Eastern Europe into a web of cooperative relations. Through a cheque-book diplomacy approach, Beijing promised lucrative financial investments in the region. After the implementation of the so-called 17+1 platform, Eastern Europe’s ties with the emerging superpower intensified and appeared largely friction-free. China’s courting of this part of Europe even rattled Brussels bureaucrats who worried that the Chinese Communist Party could use its financial and technological prowess to drive a wedge between EU member states. As time has worn on, however, three countries of this cooperation forum—Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania—have visibly stopped rowing in Beijing’s direction.

The growing wariness of the People’s Republic of China in the Baltics can be tracked through the countries’ annual national intelligence reports. Traditionally, these strategic documents have almost exclusively fixated on their larger eastern neighbour, Russia. Today, however, paragraphs and pages are also reserved for the threat posed by China. Recently, in a rather bold move that caught the headlines of global news agencies, senior Baltic leaders snubbed the annual 17+1 summit and Chinese President Xi Jinping personally. Leading the way, the Lithuanian parliament agreed to exit this forum and politicians advocated for closer links with Taiwan. Why exactly did this once seemingly promising economic partnership sour so quickly?

The World Might Want China’s Rules

By Stephen M. Walt

In his address to Congress last week, U.S. President Joe Biden pulled a page from former U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower’s playbook and tied an ambitious set of domestic programs to the need to compete more effectively with China. Just as Eisenhower convinced the country to fund the interstate highway system by invoking national security, Biden portrayed a broadly defined infrastructure program as critical to preserving the United States’ global position. Though this approach is not without risks, it recognizes the United States is in a new era of great-power competition and needs to raise its game.

But what is this competition really about? Despite growing (and to my mind, somewhat exaggerated) concerns about a military clash over Taiwan, neither the United States nor China poses a genuine threat to the other’s sovereignty or independence. The two states are simply too large, too populous, and too far away for each other to contemplate an invasion or even to impose its will on the other decisively. Both China and the United States also have nuclear weapons, which places even stricter limits on either state’s ability to compel the other to do its bidding.

Furthermore, neither country is likely to convert the other to its preferred political ideology. China isn’t about to become a multiparty democracy, and the United States is not going to be a one-party state capitalist regime (though the Republican Party’s current drift toward authoritarianism does make one wonder). Like it or not, these two powerful nations are going to have to coexist with each other for a long, long time.

Trade Deals Primarily Promote Stability, Not Trade

By Jeffrey Kucik

The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (CTA) isn’t like most trade deals. As the EU’s lead negotiator Michel Barnier noted recently, “This is a divorce,” not a union. Perhaps it’s fitting, then, that the European Parliament vote on ratification comes amid new threats of retaliation from Europe and lingering questions over the future of economic cooperation in the continent.

The underappreciated value of trade deals isn’t that they promote trade. It’s that they aim to promote market stability. Trade deals are designed to harmonize economic policies and prevent the introduction of new trade barriers among the members. The upshot is that a more stable policy environment should lead to smoother, more predictable trade.

The five years since the Brexit referendum show what happens when the rules break down and uncertainty reigns. When the referendum cast doubt over the future of economic cooperation, the impact on British traders was immediate and significant, leading to a sharp drop in exports from the United Kingdom in 2016. Over the subsequent five years, firms struggled to adapt. In turn, there was much more volatility in British trade relations than in recent decades, marked by shorter, sharper fluctuations in trade flows. More recently, UK exports to the EU were down markedly in the first months of 2021—and not simply because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Biden Wants to Replicate China’s Infrastructure Miracle

By Yukon Huang

In March, U.S. President Joe Biden announced a plan to invest more than $2 trillion in repairing and building new infrastructure in the United States. In his remarks to introduce what is ostensibly a domestic policy, however, Biden invoked a foreign-policy challenge—“global competition with China.” That makes sense; in a Washington where both parties are anxious about China’s rise, raising the specter of its dominance could build domestic support for his initiative.

China angst is not unique to Washington. India, Brazil, and other major emerging market economies dream of catching up with China, but their ambitions have been thwarted by overwhelmed urban services, antiquated transport systems, and inadequate power grids. For them, too, competing with China may mean investing in new infrastructure.

But Washington has another thing in common with these countries: the dilemma of how to pay for such investments. There is already much skepticism about the financial feasibility of Biden’s proposal, which he says may be paid for through higher capital gains tax rates, a new inheritance tax, and improvements in tax collection—all of which face either staunch opposition or hard limits of feasibility.

Meanwhile, China’s economic structure and financing mechanisms are fundamentally different from the United States’ and, consequently, its experience investing in infrastructure only highlights how difficult it will be for the United States to actually compete in these terms.

Saudi Arabia and Iran Are Starting to Solve Their Differences Without America


Saudi and Iranian security officials have been holding secret talks since January without any U.S. involvement—a bit of news that has led some to bemoan a decline in American power as President Biden seeks to withdraw from the Middle East. But in fact, this is good news, both for the United States and for the prospects of calm in the region.

The development might also serve as a lesson for U.S. foreign policy broadly—a sign that Washington doesn’t need to involve itself in every conflict in the world, that sometimes its self-vaunted role as a peacekeeper or mediator only heightens tensions, and that sometimes it’s best to let local powers work through their problems on their own.

The secret talks were first reported last month in the Financial Times. The British news site Amwaj.media has since reported that five such meetings have been held, beginning as far back as January, and that some of these sessions have also included officials from the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Jordan, on topics ranging from the war in Yemen to security in Syria and Lebanon.*

Why Mohammed bin Salman Suddenly Wants to Talk to Iran

Trita Parsi

“We are seeking to have good relations with Iran,” Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Saudi television this week. “We are working with our partners in the region to overcome our differences with Iran.” Only four years ago, the notorious royal sang a different tune, claiming dialogue with Iran was impossible. “How do you have a dialogue with a regime built on an extremist ideology?” he said, pledging that Saudi Arabia would take the battle to Iranian territory.

What changed to make this 180-degree shift possible?

One factor looms larger than all others: increasing signs that the United States is serious about shifting its focus away from the Middle East. It’s not so much anything Washington has done but rather what Washington has stopped doing—namely, reassuring its security partners in the region that it will continue to support them unconditionally, no matter what reckless conduct they engage in. Washington’s turn away from entangling itself in the quarrels and stratagems of its Middle Eastern partners has compelled the region’s powers to explore their own diplomacy. Contrary to the doomsday predictions of Washington’s foreign-policy establishment, chaos has not been unleashed by the United States’ pending military withdrawals from the region. Instead, regional diplomacy has broken out.

Top Iranian General Says Israel Could Be Defeated With 'a Single Operation'


The head of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard said recent events across the Middle East have exposed vulnerabilities in Israel, which he argued could be defeated with just one, decisive blow should a conflict break out between the two top foes.

In an interview aired Wednesday by the semi-official Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, Major General Hossein Salami discussed recent developments he argued belied Israel's weakness.

These included an apparently ongoing series of cyberattacks affecting dozens of Israeli companies that began late last year; the alleged execution of suspected Israeli spies in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil in January; explosions that rattled a petro Israeli port city of Haifa in February; last month's missile factory blast at a missile site; and landing of a Syrian anti-air missile near the Dimona nuclear reactor—as well as a recent fire that broke out by Ben Gurion International Airport.

The senior military official said Israel was especially at risk due to its reliance on maritime trade, something he claimed accounted for 90 percent of Israel's trade. These routes, he said, "could be easily disrupted," and he argued the country's relatively small size made it susceptible to a devastating strike.

The EU’s Much-Flaunted Climate Leadership is Full of Loopholes


The EU supports the race to net zero, the process aimed at reaching carbon neutrality by 2050. The net zero goal means that the EU, like the rest of the international community, seeks to emit no more greenhouse gas emissions than can be absorbed.

Olivia Lazard is a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe. Her research focuses on the geopolitics of climate, the transition ushered by climate change, and the risks of conflict and fragility associated to climate change and environmental collapse.

To achieve this, the EU will work on cutting emissions as swiftly as possible from energy, industrial, and housing sectors, while investing into “offsetting” strategies that allow for greenhouse gas absorption—either through technological or natural means.

There is a hidden danger in the race to net zero: stalling and banking on technological innovations that do not yet exist, such as carbon capture systems or geo-engineering, whose impacts on living systems we cannot anticipate. These traps are currently included in all climate transition strategies, including those of the EU, whose effects are projected to be critically underwhelming.

The Trade Two-Step as Part of Biden’s Diplomatic Dance

By Robert B. Zoellick

President Biden’s new international policy is missing one big pillar: trade. The administration would like to dodge the politics; Democrats have only a narrow majority in Congress, and the party includes many economic isolationists. But America can’t afford to drop out of the competition to write the world’s new trade rules and commercial designs.

North America is an immediate opportunity. The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, the Nafta rewrite, enables Americans to challenge labor conditions in individual Mexican plants. The administration could use this power to help build honest Mexican unions—or as an excuse to block exports from America’s southern neighbor. The new infrastructure bill should include “Buy North America” procurement rules to lower costs, fight uncompetitive bid-rigging, and encourage reciprocity. U.S. and Canadian steelworkers share the same union, so they should support continental cooperation. Washington could also lower the soaring costs of home construction by removing penalty tariffs on Canadian lumber.

As companies redirect supply chains, the U.S. should make it easier to shift production from China to Mexico. Canadian railways are competing to buy Kansas City Southern to streamline the continent’s transport network; Mr. Biden’s team should expedite border and regulatory procedures to capitalize on such private investment.

With Putin’s Latest Crackdown, Russia Is Going Dark

By Alexey Kovalev

When I returned home to Moscow in 2012 after three years in London as a correspondent for various Russian media outlets, my parents were puzzled. “Why wouldn’t you just stay in Britain?” my mom wondered, convinced Russia could only get worse before it got better. She’d seen it before. “We can go back to our internal emigration,” she said, referring to the late Soviet-era escapist practice of immersing oneself in the arts (both my parents are big opera buffs) or an obscure hobby—as far away from the propaganda on television and in the newspapers as possible.

I brushed my mother’s pessimism off. Back then, it felt like Russia was on the cusp of something wonderful and exciting. Hundreds of thousands of people were taking to the streets to demand change. The government barely fought back; some high-profile Kremlin figures even made conciliatory noises. I wanted to be there to cover it as a journalist.

On April 23, my mother was proven right.

That’s when, in a simple line of text issued by a nameless bureaucrat in Russia’s Ministry of Justice, my work as a journalist was undone. Meduza, the news website where I have worked as an investigative editor since 2019—one of only a small handful of independent Russian media outlets—was officially classified as a “foreign agent” by the Russian state, effectively shutting us down.

France’s Culture War Intensifies


LONDON – By laying a wreath on Napoleon Bonaparte’s tomb on the 200th anniversary of his death, French President Emmanuel Macron has stepped further into the fray of the country’s escalating culture war. Can France’s rifts be healed, or is the country really headed, as some predict, toward “deadly civil war”?

The prevailing consensus among Israelis that Palestinian nationalism had been defeated – and thus that a political solution to the conflict was no longer necessary – lies in tatters. And even as the violence escalates, it has become clear to both sides that the era of glorious wars and victories is over.

Napoleon’s legacy has long been divisive. His admirers laud his role in creating the modern French state; his detractors condemn him as a colonizer who enslaved millions. But the issue has become particularly incendiary today, in the aftermath of the publication last month of an open letter by 20 retired generals.

According to the generals, France is in a state of “disintegration,” owing to several “deadly dangers,” including “Islamism and the hordes of the banlieue” (poor, immigrant-dominated suburbs surrounding French cities). An anti-racism movement that “despises our country, its culture and traditions” represents another such danger.

The U.K. Still Knows How to Punch Above Its Weight

By Azeem Ibrahim

With the recent publication of the United Kingdom’s Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, a country that lost an empire may finally have found a role. That matters not just in a post-Brexit Britain looking for direction but for a world in which the U.K. still matters. Though no superpower, the U.K. remains a significant player on the geopolitical chessboard, with sustained medium- to long-term capabilities that can alter global dynamics. The shift in defense stance and offensive focus that this review signals will do just that.

After World War II, the U.K. settled into a path of managed decline on the global stage as it slowly withdrew from an empire it could no longer afford. Part of the process was the conscious effort to become a trusty lieutenant to the then-unquestioned Western superpower, the United States, while aiming its dwindling capacities at defending against the potential ambitions of the Soviet Union in continental Europe and ditching expensive imperial possessions. Consequently, the defense posture of the country for the past half-century has been largely aimed at large-scale land battles in Europe against the national armies of Warsaw Pact countries.

Why America’s Trillion-Dollar War on Terrorism Couldn’t Defeat Boko Haram

By Nosmot Gbadamosi

In April 2014, the hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons was on a yacht cruising in the Caribbean when he tweeted about the 276 girls kidnapped by the terrorist group Boko Haram from a secondary school in Chibok, northeastern Nigeria. The hashtag he copied lit a matchstick that inflamed the world. Politicians and celebrities followed suit and shared the viral campaign, #BringBackOurGirls.

It was perhaps the first time a single hashtag had driven a multilateral military intervention. Yet the combined intelligence capabilities of seven powerful nations—the United States, Britain, Australia, Canada, France, Japan, and Israel—failed to rescue any of the kidnapped schoolchildren and couldn’t defeat the terrorist group hiding in a forest.

The failings of this global intervention led to a number of fatal miscalculations, argue the Wall Street Journal correspondents Joe Parkinson and Drew Hinshaw in their new book, Bring Back Our Girls. What’s more, the fame brought about by the social media campaign kept the girls in captivity for even longer and the mistrust between the U.S. and Nigerian governments delayed action on vital information sharing.

For instance, the authors found that a Nigerian military airstrike aided by U.S. drones had accidentally bombed some of the kidnapped girls, killing at least 10. It wasn’t reported to senior officials in Washington despite a grim Boko Haram video circulating online of the dead bodies.

Sturgeon’s Vision for Independence Is on the Ballot in Scotland

By Jamie Maxwell

GLASGOW, Scotland—Now 14 years in power in Edinburgh’s devolved Parliament, the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) is polling ahead of its nearest rivals by at least 25 percentage points as elections approach on May 6. The party’s leader, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, remains the country’s most popular and trusted politician. Her steady handling of the coronavirus pandemic has garnered praise, bolstering the feeling that Scotland could thrive on its own—cut loose from the legislative ties of the United Kingdom.

Sturgeon’s SNP will win the elections. The only question is, on whose terms? A slight shift in the polls could mean the difference between an SNP majority in the Scottish Parliament or another five years of rancorous minority coalition rule. If her party wins the majority, Sturgeon has pledged to call another independence referendum by the end of 2023. She remains locked in a high-stakes standoff with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has said he will block Scotland from voting again on the question of leaving the United Kingdom.

Support for Scottish independence has registered near or above 50 percent for the last year, spurred by widespread opposition to Brexit and Johnson’s right-wing government in London. Seven years after the “No” vote won out in the first independence referendum, the challenges facing Scottish nationalism are now largely internal. Divisions within the movement could shape the result on May 6. Sturgeon, a judicious tactician, seeks to build a broader coalition before launching another referendum campaign—appealing to moderate, middle-class voters who might incline toward the union. But the nationalist fringes are growing impatient for a second vote.

A Guide to Global COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

Claire Felter

Governments, multilateral organizations, and private firms have spent billions of dollars to develop effective vaccines for the new coronavirus within one year. Close to a dozen vaccines—including ones by Pfizer and BioNTech, Moderna, and Sinopharm—are already being distributed, with hundreds of millions of people fully vaccinated so far.

Vaccines go through rigorous testing for safety and effectiveness before they are approved for public use, a process that typically takes years.


A year into the pandemic of the COVID-19 coronavirus disease, the global effort to develop and distribute an effective vaccine produced several promising options. The accelerated development of multiple vaccines is unprecedented; the process typically takes eight to fifteen years.

Now, the immunization of a critical mass of the world’s population—which is crucial for getting the pandemic under control—is up against a new set of challenges, including dangerous new strains of the virus, global competition over a limited supply of doses, and public hesitation about the vaccines.

What is the status of COVID-19 vaccine distribution?

The World Is Still Producing More Oil Than It Needs. Why?

SOMETHING WEIRD HAPPENED on the oil market last week. For a few minutes on April 20, the price of a barrel went negative for the first time ever. The unprecedented collapse of prices is linked to the pandemic, which has caused people to stop doing oil-guzzling things like flying and driving. There’s now so much extra petroleum on the market that the world is running out of places to put it. If you’re an oil producer, it seems like the sensible thing to do in this situation would be to … stop producing so much oil.

On Friday, members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Russia, the US, and others will begin scaling back their production by nearly 10 million barrels per day. They hope that this will help stabilize prices and take some pressure off of producers and refineries that are scrambling to find a place to store the excess. But the rollback isn’t likely to be enough. Oil producers would have to reduce production by almost three times that amount to match the downturn in demand. So why don’t they?

The short answer is because temporarily closing or “shutting in” a well costs money—and potentially lots of money. It’s not just about the foregone revenue, which is less of a concern when prices are dipping into the negative. It’s about what happens when the well is opened back up. “Shutting in a well is not especially difficult,” says Eric van Oort, a petroleum engineer at the University of Texas at Austin. It’s mostly a matter of shutting off a master valve at the surface, much like turning off a faucet. But, he says, “operators are generally reluctant to shut in their wells if they don’t absolutely have to, because they know they’re going to incur some damage on those wells.”

The Confessions of Marcus Hutchins, the Hacker Who Saved the Internet

AT AROUND 7 am on a quiet Wednesday in August 2017, Marcus Hutchins walked out the front door of the Airbnb mansion in Las Vegas where he had been partying for the past week and a half. A gangly, 6'4", 23-year-old hacker with an explosion of blond-brown curls, Hutchins had emerged to retrieve his order of a Big Mac and fries from an Uber Eats deliveryman. But as he stood barefoot on the mansion's driveway wearing only a T-shirt and jeans, Hutchins noticed a black SUV parked on the street—one that looked very much like an FBI stakeout.

He stared at the vehicle blankly, his mind still hazed from sleep deprivation and stoned from the legalized Nevada weed he'd been smoking all night. For a fleeting moment, he wondered: Is this finally it?

But as soon as the thought surfaced, he dismissed it. The FBI would never be so obvious, he told himself. His feet had begun to scald on the griddle of the driveway. So he grabbed the McDonald's bag and headed back inside, through the mansion's courtyard, and into the pool house he'd been using as a bedroom. With the specter of the SUV fully exorcised from his mind, he rolled another spliff with the last of his weed, smoked it as he ate his burger, and then packed his bags for the airport, where he was scheduled for a first-class flight home to the UK.

Cyberspace Is Neither Just an Intelligence Contest, nor a Domain of Military Conflict; SolarWinds Shows Us Why It’s Both

By Erica D. Borghard 

Operations in cyberspace—at least those perpetrated by nation-state actors and their proxies—reflect the geopolitical calculations of the actors who carry them out. Strategic interactions between rivals in cyberspace have been argued by some, like Joshua Rovner or Jon Lindsay, to reflect an intelligence contest. Others, like Jason Healey and Robert Jervis, have suggested that cyberspace is largely a domain of warfare or conflict. The contours of this debate as applied to the SolarWinds campaign have been outlined recently—Melissa Griffith shows how cyberspace is sometimes an intelligence contest, and other times a domain of conflict, depending on the strategic approaches and priorities of particular actors at a given moment in time.

Therefore, rather than focusing on the binary issue of whether a warfare versus intelligence framework is more applicable to cyberspace, the fact that activity in cyberspace takes on both of these characteristics at different times raises interesting questions about how these dimensions relate to one another at the operational level. How does maneuvering in cyberspace for intelligence purposes impact military cyberspace operations, and vice versa? When are these actions not mutually exclusive? Typically, operational considerations of intelligence and military action are discussed in the context of intelligence gain-loss calculations—that is, the trade-offs between prioritizing intelligence versus military objectives. But this framing plays into the overall dichotomy that pervades the discourse. Certainly, in some contexts there are compromises and zero-sum choices between intelligence and military operations—where, for instance, the decision to conduct an offensive cyber operation might jeopardize valuable access to a network that is used for intelligence purposes. However, less explored is how military operations shape and are shaped by intelligence considerations for mutual opportunities.

Cybersecurity Ignorance Is Dangerous

By Tarah Wheeler

In one of the biggest tech book launches of 2021, Nicole Perlroth, a cybersecurity reporter at the New York Times, published This Is How They Tell Me The World Ends to cheers from the general public, plaudits from fellow journalists, and a notable wave of criticism from many in the cybersecurity community.

Perlroth’s book about the global market in cyberweapons is a riveting read that mixes profound truth on policy with occasional factual errors, and it ultimately achieves its goal of scaring the shit out of anyone who doesn’t know much about the topic. But the book might also be read by people who have to act on cybersecurity policy and are unfortunately trusting Perlroth to explain the technical details accurately.

The book fails on that count, and the risk is that policymakers either won’t implement the sensible policies she recommends, or that they’ll so misunderstand and fear the technology described that they’ll overreact and make ill-informed and potentially dangerous policy choices.

In a string of interviews with known and shadowy figures largely from the U.S. cybersecurity journalism and military community, with some credible information security technologists mixed in, Perlroth’s book describes the global market for what are known as zero-day vulnerabilities—undisclosed software bugs that can be exploited for access.

To Make These Chips More Powerful, IBM Is Growing Them Taller

COMPUTER CHIPS MIGHT be in short supply at the moment, but chipmakers will continue wringing more power out of them for a while yet it seems.

Researchers at IBM have demonstrated a way to squeeze more transistors onto a chip, a feat of nanoscopic miniaturization that could significantly improve the speed and efficiency of future electronic devices.

The engineering feat might also help the US regain some ground when it comes to minting the world’s most advanced chips, something that has become central to geopolitics, economic competition, and national security. Chips are critical for a growing array of products, and access to faster, more advanced chips is likely to fuel progress in critical areas including artificial intelligence, 5G, and biotechnology.

IBM says 50 billion of the new transistors—the electronic switches that let chips perform logical operations and store data—could fit on a chip the size of a fingernail, two-thirds more than what was possible using the previous process. It says the chip could help a smartphone or laptop run 45 percent faster or consume only one-fourth of the energy of the previous best design.