25 May 2021

China’s Cyber-Influence Operations

 Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd) 

The digital era has transformed the way we communicate. Using social media like Facebook and Instagram, and social applications such as WhatsApp and Telegram, one can be in contact with friends and family, share pictures, videos, messages, posts and share our experiences. Social media has become an effective way of influencing human society and behavior, and shaping public opinion. By sharing a post, tweeting an idea, contributing a discussion in a forum and sharing a sentimental picture, we can influence others and sometimes convince into with our opinion.

Use of cyber tools and methods to manipulate public opinion is called ‘Cyber Influence Operation’. In the present day, many countries use cyberspace, especially the social media, to accomplish Cyber Influence Operations as a part of Information Warfare. Most of these operations are done covertly. It is difficult to differentiate between legitimate or malicious influence operations. Continue Reading..... 

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.

An Afghanistan at peace could connect South and Central Asia

by Emily Carll

A frontier guard stands on a bridge to Afghanistan across Panj river in Panji Poyon border outpost, south of Dushanbe, Tajikistan, on May 31, 2008. Photo via REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov.

Over the past forty years of conflicts, Afghanistan’s potential as a contributor to development and prosperity in Asia has gone unrealized. If it were a stable neighbor, as the current Afghan peace process is meant to make it, Afghanistan could harness its potential as the “heart of Asia” and connect the South and Central Asian regions.

The five Central Asian countries have been isolated to the south by war-torn Afghanistan, to the east by rough terrain with nearly impassable mountains, and to the west by Iran, making engagement with South Asia both implausible and difficult. And though connecting the regions completely would be a lengthy process requiring the expansion and improvement of infrastructure across Afghanistan, achieving it would unlock opportunities for all: for Afghanistan, building infrastructure to integrate the regions would stimulate the country’s fragile economy; and for South and Central Asia countries, doing so would not only increase regional engagement but also serve their economic interests and open up access to new markets. Such infrastructure would increase trade and the flow of people and ideas between both regions—and the additional flow would stimulate innovation, job creation, and economic growth. Regional connectivity is also crucial to harnessing the economic potential of South and Central Asia’s youth bulge; the median age in both regions is 27.6 years old. Given these potential benefits, South and Central Asian countries have a strong incentive to partner in support of a stable, peaceful, and democratic Afghanistan.

Signs of Rift Between Military and Prime Minister Imran Khan in Pakistan

By Umair Jamal

Once again, Pakistan’s capital is rife with rumors that the government of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has lost the support of the security establishment.

These rumors may have some weight if the last two weeks’ developments in Pakistan’s politics are taken into account. Recent happenings indicate that opposition to the PTI’s government from within and outside the party ranks are increasingly significantly.

In Pakistan’s politics, a widely held view is that nothing happens unless the military makes a move, be it in favor of a sitting government or to oppose it. As things stand, everything is happening against the sitting government, and Prime Minister Imran Khan’s 2019 statement that this is the “first setup where the Army is standing by the government agenda and manifesto” may not be true anymore.

The key warning in this regard comes from within the ruling party’s ranks. One of the PTI’s most senior leaders from Punjab, Jahangir Khan Tareen, has formed a forward block in the national and provincial assemblies against his own party’s government. The development is very unusual as Tareen’s group, which has the support of roughly 34 parliamentarians from the PTI, says his own party’s government in Punjab is targeting them with fake legal cases in the name of accountability. It is important to note here that Tareen played an important role in putting together the PTI’s government in Punjab in 2019 and his efforts were lauded as instrumental by Khan.

Time Crunch for Afghanistan Withdrawal Is Producing a Big Trash Pile


Sen. Joe Manchin is worried about the military’s wasteful destruction of equipment in Afghanistan, but analysts say troops are on such a tight timeline to leave, that they don’t have any other options.

Troops have sent more than 1,800 pieces of equipment to the Defense Logistics Agency to be destroyed, U.S. Central Command said in a statement Tuesday. In addition, more than 100 C-17 cargo planes of material have already been taken out of the country.

But destroying vehicles and other assets in Afghanistan “doesn’t make any sense,” said Manchin, D-W.V.

“After all that we have spent, after all that we have endured, after all the blood that has been shed there by Americans,...now we destroy everything...to make [the Afghans] think ‘Who are these Americans? They have no value for anything whatsoever,’” Manchin said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing to consider the nominations of Michael McCord and Ronald Moultrie, who were tapped to be the comptroller and undersecretary for intelligence and security, respectively.

Taiwan's Army Has Big Plans To Rebuild (And Take on China, If It Must)

by Mark Episkopos

Amid soaring tensions between Taipei and Beijing, Taiwan is pursuing a major army restructuring effort.

Taiwanese officials announced earlier this month that the Army’s command structure is being overhauled to facilitate joint operations between its services, as reported by Defense News. The restructuring will likewise empower regional commanders to make operational decisions in the event of a conflict, with the Army’s various defense commands being rebranded as distinct “combat theater commands.” Specifically, Defense News reports that the Penghu, Huadong, Sixth, Eighth and Tenth Army corps will be renamed the first to fifth commands and given jurisdiction over the eastern, northern, southern, and central parts of the country, respectively. Theater commanders—currently all Army generals, though the position may be opened to officers from other service branches in the future—will have broad leeway to coordinate the forces in their respective region. The government maintains that this recent round of decentralization will improve the performance of local forces and mitigate the effects of potential electronic warfare operations targeted at the country’s communication systems.

The BRI in EU-China Relations: Geostrategic Stakes

By Mercy A. Kuo

Trans-Pacific View author Mercy Kuo regularly engages subject-matter experts, policy practitioners and strategic thinkers across the globe for their diverse insights into U.S. Asia policy. This conversation with Dr. Benjamin Barton, assistant professor in the School of Politics, History and International Relations at the University of Nottingham Malaysia, is the 272nd in “The Trans-Pacific View Insight Series.”

Explain China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in the context of EU-China security cooperation.

EU-China security cooperation has largely remained rhetorical in form, despite sporadic instances of actual practical cooperation/coordination. The BRI could potentially unlock further avenues for bilateral security cooperation given the high stakes of security risks which could derail its progress and also the fact that its land and maritime routes traverse regions where the EU shares overlapping security concerns with China. There is a sense that even if the EU is not a signatory to the BRI, the latter could nonetheless drive Brussels and Beijing to explore the possibility of further security cooperation in and around the Silk Roads, especially since China is already looking to mutualize the protection of BRI projects with the signatory states.

All of this, however, remains speculative for now as the prospects for their cooperation is rigged by structural disagreements pertaining to the interpretation of what constitutes a security threat, differences over political values ̶ notably state sovereignty in China’s case and the promotion of liberal values in the EU’s case ̶ the agency of local actors, or even the simple fact that the EU (as a whole) continues to remain an outsider to the BRI.

What is the correlation between this bilateral security cooperation and the BRI in Central Asia?

A New Database Reveals China’s ‘Secret’ Loans? Think Again.

By Leah Lynch, Patrick Anam, and Judith Mwai

“China’s secret loan contracts reveal its hold over low-income nations.” This was the Financial Times headline on a new report issued last month: “How China Lends: A Rare Look into 100 Debt Contracts with Foreign Governments.”

The publication, which analyzed a database of 100 Chinese loan agreements to 24 countries – 47 percent of which are to 10 African nations – had both academics and the media going into overdrive. Most media outlets, from the FT to Reuters to Al Jazeera and Quartz, focused on “secrecy” as the key issue that jumped out from the data.

But while we understand why the “secrecy narrative” might be appealing to headline writers and journalists, on reflection it is a distraction and ultimately unhelpful to both borrowers and people really trying to understand the relationship between China’s financial institutions and other countries.

Why? Two key reasons.

First, the report’s authors claim that a key aspect of China’s contracts is that they contain “unusually far-reaching” confidentiality clauses. Our view is that this is a somewhat misdirected message for borrowers and citizens in borrowing countries.

Power is ‘up for grabs’: Behind China’s plan to shape the future of next-generation tech

Arjun Kharpal

China is set to release a new plan this year called “China Standards 2035” with the aim of influencing how the next-generation of technologies, from telecommunications to artificial intelligence, will work.

Standards will define how some technologies work and their interoperability around the world.
Experts described standards as something that can “shape the playing field and landscape for the future of these technologies.”

But China will have challenges dislodging the dominance of Europe and the U.S., experts said.

China is set to release an ambitious 15-year blueprint that will lay out its plans to set the global standards for the next-generation of technologies.

The move could have wide-ranging implications for the power Beijing wields on the global stage in areas from artificial intelligence, to telecommunications networks and the flow of data, experts told CNBC.

The Colonial Pipeline Ransomware Attack and the Perils of Privately Owned Infrastructure

By Sue Halpern

On May 8th, I had just flown into Norfolk, Virginia, when news broke that the I.T. system of the Colonial Pipeline Company had been compromised by ransomware and, as a consequence, the company had shut off the flow of the pipeline that supplies oil to most of the eastern United States. It was Mother’s Day weekend, and the line at the airport rental-car counter was prodigious: everyone, it seemed, wanted to drive. When I finally reached the front, I assured the agent that I’d return the car with a full tank of gas. What I did not yet know was that the pipeline, which stretches from the Texas Gulf to Linden, New Jersey—a distance of five thousand and five hundred miles—was the main supplier of fuel to Virginia retailers. The governor, Ralph Northam, made this point three days later when, with the pipeline still offline, he declared a state of emergency.

Of course, by then, anyone driving in Virginia would have figured this out. Many gas stations were shuttered, and lines of cars crowded the ones that were not. “This looks like the seventies,” my mother said, as we idled in one of the lines, behind a car-less man carrying a plastic jug. In Washington, President Biden was urging gas-station owners not to price-gouge. “That’s not who we are,” he said—and for the most part he seemed to be right. Where I was, at least, gas prices stayed below three dollars a gallon, despite the high demand, much of it brought on by panic-buying.

This is Not a Drill: Ransoming American Security

by Cristin J. Monahan

The ransomware-incited shutdown of Colonial Pipeline is just the latest incident keeping cyber issues at the forefront of the Biden Administration’s first four months. On Saturday, May 8, Colonial Pipeline, a major conduit for fuel delivery for much of the East Coast, announced that it had been the victim of a ransomware attack, and had temporarily shut down all pipeline operations as a precautionary measure.

Concerns over fuel shortages led the Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Service Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to post a Regional Emergency Declaration (Document 1) for states spanning from Texas to New York. The declaration suspends hours of service regulations for “motor carriers and drivers providing direct assistance to the emergency in the Affected States in direct support of relief efforts related to the shortages of gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and other refined petroleum products due to the shutdown.”

Similarly, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a fuel waiver (Document 2) “to address the fuel supply emergency caused by a cyberattack on Colonial Pipeline’s computer networks.” The waiver temporarily suspends volatility gasoline regulations in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. The Biden Administration released a fact sheet (Document 3) on the Colonial Pipeline incident, highlighting the aforementioned efforts, as well as others, “focused on avoiding potential energy supply disruptions to impacted communities, the U.S. military, and other facilities reliant on gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and other refined petroleum products.”

Is a New War in the Middle East About to Erupt?

by Mark Episkopos

Militants in Gaza fired rockets into Israel on Monday, prompting retaliatory strikes from the Israeli Defense Forces. Jerusalem announced earlier that it had killed three Islamic Jihad commanders and another commander from Hamas. “Those who were eliminated were responsible for rocket fire by Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), including in the most recent round of escalation,” read a joint statement from the Israeli military and internal security service. The Israeli government added that it killed sixteen members of Hamas, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu noting “This is just the beginning. We'll hit them like they've never dreamed possible.” Shortly following the announcement, Hamas launched a new rocket barrage at the Israeli city of Ashdod and is reportedly preparing to strike the Tel Aviv area.

Both sides have reported numerous civilian casualties, with at least sixty-five dead in Gaza as of the time of writing. Hundreds of rockets have been fired from the Gaza strip, in what is the heaviest fighting between Israel and Hamas since the 2014 Gaza War. The Hamas and PIJ arsenal includes hundreds of rockets with ranges of under 100 km and dozens of rockets in the 100-160 km range, the latter being able to cover swathes of Israel. The militants have reportedly fired 500 rockets alone at a chain of towns on Israel’s coast, killing several civilians; much of the population of Tel Aviv has been evacuated into shelters.

Russia: Pentagon’s Indo-Pacific Strategy Spoiler?

By Dan Gouré

While the U.S. military likes to talk about being in an era of great power competition, it acts like there is only one real challenger: China. The armed forces are moving to reorganize and re-equip themselves to meet the specific dictates of potential future crises and conflicts in the Indo-Pacific region. Each is seeking to stake a claim on future resources and the prominence of their roles in countering the advance of China.

Unfortunately, in their rush to make China the more imminent threat, the Pentagon is downplaying the threat from Russia, the actual most likely adversary, at least in the near term. Yes, Russia is a power in decline, with a struggling economy and demographics below the replacement rate, but its military power has improved significantly over the past 15 years. As a result, Moscow is poised to spoil the Pentagon’s desire to shift its focus to the Indo-Pacific.

It is remarkable how in just a few years, the specter of China has come to dominate thinking in the Department of Defense and the Military Services. The Navy wants more ships and missiles to outgun the rapidly growing Peoples Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). The Marine Corps has decided that its central mission is to become the 21st century equivalent of the old coastal artillery, employing land-based ISR and anti-ship missiles to help the U.S. Navy sink its Chinese counterpart. To that end, it is shedding capabilities necessary to seize and control land. Even the Army is looking to frame its modernization priorities to make land operations relevant to a theater consisting mostly of air and water.

U.S. and Russia Are on a Collision Course in the Black Sea

James Stavridis

James Stavridis is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is a retired U.S. Navy admiral and former supreme allied commander of NATO, and dean emeritus of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He is also an operating executive consultant at the Carlyle Group and chairs the board of counselors at McLarty Associates. His latest book is "2034: A Novel of the Next World War."

Ukrainians breathed a collective sigh of relief last month when Russian President Vladimir Putin said he would withdraw the majority of more than 100,000 troops that had been shifted to the Russian-Ukrainian border. So did the U.S., NATO and the rest of Europe.

But nobody should be breathing easy: Putin isn’t one to stay on the retreat. So, where should we expect his next provocation? Very likely, the waters of the Black Sea.

Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014 and carved off the strategically vital peninsula of Crimea, the largest land grab from a sovereign state in this century. Since then, he has supplied money, training, arms and military advisers to separatist forces in the Donbas region of southeast Ukraine.

The recent buildup was probably a signal to the West of how relentless Putin will be on pressuring Ukraine, and of his deep opposition to it joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. It was also a distraction from his persecution of opposition leader Alexey Navalny, and played well with Putin’s base in Russia, where his approval rating soared during the Crimea annexation. Finally, the buildup allowed the Russian military a pretty effective practice run, in case Putin does decide to roll the dice and invade across the border.

Israeli-Palestinian Clashes Resonate Across the Middle East

Barnaby Papadopulos 

Israeli forces and Palestinian militant factions in the Gaza Strip have been engaged in their heaviest exchange of fire this week since the 2014 Gaza War. A heavy barrage of Israeli airstrikes has killed at least 83 people thus far in Gaza, including 17 children, while authorities in Israel have reported seven fatalities due to Palestinian rocket attacks. Among them was a 6-year-old child. Qatar, Egypt and the United Nations are all working to broker a cease-fire, but there is no indication yet of an end to the violence, with potentially far-reaching implications across the region.

The conflict follows weeks of escalating tensions in anticipation of a now-delayed Israeli Supreme Court ruling on whether six Palestinian families could be evicted from their homes in the historic Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem to make way for Israeli settlers. .

What Are China and Russia Saying About the Israel-Palestine Conflict?

By Danil Bochkov

The long-running Israel-Palestine conflict is in the midst of the gravest escalation between the two parties in recent years, with the possibility that the situation will deteriorate into a “full scale war,” as the United Nations warned. Israel has been ramping up attacks in the Gaza Strip by intensifying air operations, while Hamas has reportedly launched some 3,000 rockets into Israeli territory. Both sides’ actions have increased the death toll to more than 230, with the breakdown showing the imbalanced nature of Israel’s response: At least 227 Palestinians have been killed compared to 12 killed in Israel.

Though Israel was responding to aggressive missile attacks from Gaza, the roots of current escalation can be attributed to Tel Aviv, whose police exercised excessive brutality while dealing with Palestine demonstrators on May 6.

The situation has been furthered exacerbated by the domestic political challenges facing the ruling establishments of both states. In Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu has failed yet again to coalescence a coalition government and while Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas decided to postpone parliamentary and presidential elections for fear of losing the race to the opposition party. The prospects for a resolution between the two sides look slim.

As Israel-Hamas Cease-Fire Holds, Gazans Survey Wreckage

There were no reports of violations of an agreement that went into effect on Friday, bringing nearly two weeks of violence to an end. A minor skirmish broke out between the Israeli police and Palestinians outside the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

Here’s what you need to know:

With the fighting suspended, assessing the destruction in Gaza.

Why Biden used a light touch while pressing Netanyahu.

The rockets may have stopped, but Palestinians are no less angry.

For Israelis, victory is hard to define, much less achieve.

Biden says Democrats are still committed to Israel, but he walks a fine diplomatic line.

On the ground: The road to Gaza.

Cease-fires can be fragile, and short-lived, with underlying disputes unresolved.

The Tensions Inside a Mixed Jewish-Arab City in Israel

By Ruth Margalit

Faten Alzinaty was heading to the community center that she manages in the Israeli city of Lod on Sunday morning when she noticed a familiar face. “Itzik!” she called out. A police officer wearing full body armor and carrying a semi-automatic rifle approached her, and the two embraced. “We missed you,” the officer told Alzinaty, who is Arab and has lived in Lod all her life. “What’s all this?” She scanned his getup. “It’s nothing; it’s for the camera crews,” he said. He smirked uncomfortably. “Take it off,” she told him, her smile slightly fading. “It’s way too hot.”

By day, the streets of Lod are quiet. It’s a nervous quiet—the kind that descends after an earthquake, say, or a tornado. When I arrived, on Sunday, torched, upturned cars were strewn all along a single road. Around the corner, charred dumpsters blocked the paths leading to the square where a mosque, a church, and a synagogue converge in what is known as the triangle of religions. I walked to the sound of glass crunching underfoot. Over here, a graffiti saying “Death to the Arabs” had been sprayed over but not hidden; over there, the second story of a Jewish prep school had been burned.

The Costs of America’s Unconditional Support for Israel

Howard W. French

As an American, watching the violence explode between Israel and Palestinians over the past two weeks has felt like awakening from a heavy narcotic sleep.

The drug, in this instance, has been the willful and persistent denial embraced by American politicians and media alike about the grave crisis that, though less visible recently, has been ticking like a time bomb in this part of the Middle East for years. ...

Operation Guardian of the Walls: Envisioning the End

Udi Dekel

Ten days of fighting in the Gaza Strip have again illustrated the dilemma of when, how, and under what conditions the campaign should be ended. While Hamas achieved the goals that it set for itself at the outset of the campaign – positioning itself as the defender of al-Aqsa and Jerusalem and leading the Palestinians in the struggle against Israel – Israel has not freed itself from the logic that guided its actions in previous rounds of conflict with Hamas, centering on strong deterrence. The strategic objective that the Israeli government should have formulated is attaining control over the conflict arena and preventing its expansion to additional arenas, while focusing on weakening Hamas – preventing it from gaining control over the Palestinian arena, reversing its military capabilities to at least their level of a decade ago, creating new rules of the game in the Palestinian arena, and restoring the Palestinian Authority to the status of the exclusive representative of the Palestinians, while looking ahead to the day after Abbas.

Ten days of fighting in the Gaza Strip have again illustrated Israel’s dilemma of when, how, and under what conditions the campaign should be ended. This time, the challenge is more complex than in earlier asymmetric conflicts in the Gaza Strip (and in Lebanon), because Israel has become embroiled in a multi-front campaign: fighting against Hamas and the other terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip, religious and national tension in Jerusalem, disturbances in mixed Jewish-Arab towns and cities in Israel, and the danger of an outbreak in the West Bank and in the northern arena.

How COVID broke the evidence pipeline

Helen Pearson

It wasn’t long into the pandemic before Simon Carley realized we had an evidence problem. It was early 2020, and COVID-19 infections were starting to lap at the shores of the United Kingdom, where Carley is an emergency-medicine doctor at hospitals in Manchester. Carley is also a specialist in evidence-based medicine — the transformative idea that physicians should decide how to treat people by referring to rigorous evidence, such as clinical trials.

As cases of COVID-19 climbed in February, Carley thought that clinicians were suddenly abandoning evidence and reaching for drugs just because they sounded biologically plausible. Early studies Carley saw being published often lacked control groups or enrolled too few people to draw firm conclusions. “We were starting to treat patients with these drugs initially just on what seemed like a good idea,” he says. He understood the desire to do whatever is possible for someone gravely ill, but he also knew how dangerous it is to assume a drug works when so many promising treatments prove to be ineffective — or even harmful — in trials. “The COVID-19 pandemic has arguably been one of the greatest challenges to evidence-based medicine since the term was coined in the last century,” Carley and his colleagues wrote of the problems they were seeing1.

Broken Threads: Reshaping Multilateralism with COVID-19 under Way

Carlos Frederico Pereira da Silva Gama

The year 2020 was a year of domestic lockdowns, enclosed international borders, dramatic retreats for global trade and tourism. A new breed of coronavirus discovered in Wuhan, China, swept across the globe, ushering in the broadest pandemic since 1918’s Influenza. Unexpected shockwaves affected domestic, as well as international, relations.The sudden arrival of COVID-19 provided a crash course for globalization. During the early months of pandemic, reliable data was scarce. That could have reinforced bonds of diffuse reciprocity cutting across states and communities. In hindsight – after more than 150 million cases and 3 million casualties – the international community would have greatly benefitted from a set of common rules, steered in indivisible and equanimous fashion by international public agencies. That proved not to be the case. As region and nation-based lockdowns were unilaterally instituted across the first semester of 2020, World Health Organization’s technical authority was in checkmate.

Our Fragile Bodies: Economic Change, the Nation-State and the Coronavirus Pandemic

Francisco Antonio-Alfonso

Like most major events in history, no one could have anticipated that by December 2019 the world was set to experience a dramatic change. However, a year after the outbreak of a new type of coronavirus in the city of Wuhan in Hubei, China, it is clear that the disastrous COVID-19 pandemic, which has since kept humanity in standby with a colossal number of infections and deaths, has altered how we presently conceive the world and how, in turn, international interaction will be redefined in the future.

When compared with the physical world, of slowly, cumulative changes, human history changes at a relentless rate (Taleb 2010). Human societies have been characterised by their constant struggle against devastating threats such as war, political dislocations and natural cataclysms. At the same time, in just a few millennia, we have deliberately made great achievements like no other species. A few centuries ago, for instance, the possibility of reaching outer space was a deed merely reduced to wild imagination. On such a vertiginous journey, only a few things have remained constant, but there is a fact that seems to be repeatedly confirmed. While it takes centuries for great civilizations to emerge, any great state can fall apart suddenly, bringing down with them the entire international order they support. Nothing illustrates this better than the severe impact that pandemics have had on human societies, destroying over and over and in no time the institutions we laboriously build. As the coronavirus has come to remind us, pandemics embody a universal challenge for human kind. The unpredictable and quick devastation that infectious diseases can inflict upon societies has no comparison, and there is little that we do to prevent them, despite our great technological progress.

A New Era of UN Peacekeeping? The Women, Peace and Security Agenda in Africa

Lena Herbst

Where are the Women? Seeming simple at the first glance, this question from the 1980s, posed by Ann Tickner, a feminist theorist, is an essential component of the feminist movement and can be asked for many parts of women’s lives. Going beyond the solely physical and local meaning, the question becomes about women’s position in society and their role in politics. Throughout the 20th century, there was little involvement of women in the international political realm. Commissioned reports by the UN on peacekeeping operations (PKOs), traditionally considered hard politics and linked to militarism and masculinity, showed a general lack of female participation and recognition of gender, which highlighted the importance of rethinking women’s role in international peace and security (Simić 2010: 189). After a century of feminist movements, long-time lobbying of the civil society, and several UN conferences on women, the UN Security Council finally adopted Resolution 1325 on “Women, Peace and Security” in 2000, which was celebrated as a landmark in international feminist efforts (Willett 2010: 142). Having learnt from the devasting wars of the 1990s, Resolution 1325 addresses for the first time the diverse needs and experiences, the disproportionate impact of violent conflicts on women, and the necessity of their involvement in the processes of conflict prevention and peacekeeping for sustainable conflict resolution (Klein 2012: 283; Pratt and Richter-Devroe 2011: 491; Tickner 2019: 17). Subsequent resolutions in the last two decades have been built on Resolution 1325 and its four pillars: participation, prevention, protection, and relief and recovery, and have further shaped the “Women, Peace and Security” (WPS) Agenda for the 21st Century.


Sandor Fabian 

The 2018 US National Defense Strategy (NDS) signals a major shift for the US military from irregular warfare toward developing capabilities for conventional wars against near-peer and peer competitors. Recent events such as the Russian military buildup along the Ukrainian border and the provocative Chinese naval and air activities near Taiwan seem to support such realignment of US military capabilities. At the same time, the 2020 Irregular Warfare Annex to the 2018 NDS suggests that irregular warfare capabilities must remain core competencies of the military because the US conventional overmatch will encourage both state and nonstate adversaries to seek indirect approaches to challenge the United States and its allies. Conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Ukraine are examples of how both state and nonstate adversaries have used irregular warfare to advance their strategic goals.

Many argue that this debate is the most important US defense policy question of our day because the answer will determine the direction of long-term military capability development for the United States and its partners. However, the current debate is not an optimal way to inform long-term military capability development because its foundations are faulty.


JD Maddox, Casi Gentzel and Adela Levis

Editor’s note: This article is the ninth 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. Read all articles in the series here.

Special thanks to series editors Capt. Maggie Smith, PhD of the Army Cyber Institute and MWI fellow Dr. Barnett S. Koven.

Imagine the following scenario: A group of US military and diplomatic officials meet to discuss a named operation. During the meeting, a heated argument erupts among a uniformed trio about the need to overcome the current doctrinal limits of information operations. After a few clever retorts from a diplomat about the primacy of public diplomacy, a visiting Silicon Valley technocrat chimes in, explaining how his one-click solution might work. The argument goes on, in a circular manner, as one side or another refers to definitions and authorities until, like many similar discussions, the meeting ends in an agreement to revisit the topic at another time. Frustratingly, in the time it took the officials to reach an unsatisfying conclusion, malign actors have likely initiated an entirely new disinformation campaign to undermine trust in our democratic institutions and values.

We are constantly reminded of the real-world impact of disinformation, from Russia’s long-standing active measures to weaken democratic and international institutions, to terrorist groups’ deceptive recruitment tactics, to the impact of vaccine disinformation on COVID vaccine acceptance rates around the globe. Adding to the problem are deepfakes and other technological advances that are emerging as mainstream disinformation capabilities. Disinformation is a widespread and serious threat and countering it requires coordination and collaboration across a broad array of tools and actors to make meaningful progress.

A cyber-attack exposes risks to America’s energy infrastructure

Pipelines, like cables and substations, are the type of dull, critical infrastructure that Americans don’t think about until, suddenly, they must. On May 7th a cyber-attack prompted Colonial Pipeline, a firm headquartered in Georgia, to shut down a tube stretching from Texas to New Jersey that supplies about 45% of the petrol and diesel used on the east coast. Federal officials confirmed that DarkSide, a ransomware gang believed to be based in the former Soviet Union, was responsible. “We’re not talking about some small pipeline,” explains Amy Myers Jaffe, author of “Energy’s Digital Future”, a new book. “We’re talking about the jugular.”

On May 12th Colonial Pipeline said it had “initiated the restart of pipeline operations”, a carefully worded statement that conveys both the difficulty of returning to normal and a desire to contain panic. That day average petrol prices topped $3 a gallon for the first time since 2014. Much depends on whether more drivers rush to buy petrol, as they did in the oil shocks of the 1970s. If 30m car-owners with half a tank decide to fill up, reckons s&p Global Platts Analytics, a data group, they would guzzle over 4m barrels, more than the recent daily demand of the entire eastern seaboard. Many are already buying while they can. Long queues formed at petrol stations in the south-east on May 11th. Some stations limited purchases; others ran out of fuel. The White House said it had established “an inter-agency response group” to “ensure a continuing flow of fuel”.

Is DarkSide Really Sorry? Is It Even DarkSide?


“We are apolitical, we do not participate in geopolitics, do not need to tie us with a defined government and look for other our motives. Our goal is to make money and not creating problems for society.” That may sound like satire, but it is how the cyber criminals behind the Colonial Pipeline outage attempted to apologize. Crippling a pipeline operator and shutting off 45 percent of the gas supply and jet fuel to the East Coast was, they claim, just an accident.

The reality may not be so simple.

True motives and players are often murky in the days following high-profile hacks like this. Last week the FBI confirmed the involvement of DarkSide, a little-known gang of cyber criminals based somewhere in Eastern Europe, possibly Russia. It purports to be a cyber-punk version of Robin Hood, collecting ransom from rich corporations and giving (some) to charity. It reportedly got $5 million in digital currency from Colonial and has now dropped out of sight online.

Space Force’s First Battle Is With the US Army


The fight for control of space is brewing — not the competition with China, but between the Space Force and the Army.

Over the last several months, Space Force officials have been negotiating with their Army and Navy counterparts over what missions and personnel will transfer into the newest branch, which is part of the Department of the Air Force.

To date, no agreements have been signed on what satellites or units will transfer over, though handshake deals and draft plans indicate that some progress is being made.

On the Navy’s end, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday announced in April that the service would transfer 13 satellites, including its five Mobile User Objective System comsats — not to Space Force, but to U.S. Space Command, a combatant command, which would allow the Navy to retain a role in their operation.

Space Force Aims to Take on an Air Force Surveillance Mission


A few years ago, the Air Force began looking at ways to replace its JSTARS surveillance aircraft, to ensure it could keep providing a clear picture of ground movement when the fleet of outfitted Boeing 707s encounters a highly contested environment. The Space Force has now taken on that challenge.

Chief of Space Operations Gen. Jay Raymond announced Wednesday the service is “building out” a Ground Moving Target Indicator, or GMTI, that would operate from space.

“The Air Force, now the Space Force, has a program that we're building GMTI for space, from space. And so you will see that's another area where we're actively working to be able to provide that capability,” Raymond said at the McAleese FY2022 Defense Programs Conference

GMTI in open-source publications is known for enabling the intelligence community and DOD to track moving vehicles and people.