3 June 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..... 

Defining China’s Intelligentized Warfare and Role of Artificial Intelligence

  Maj Gen P K Mallick, VSM (Retd)

China feels that U.S. is its main adversary ... China is trying to match U.S. technological capabilities with its own strength in AI as a leap frog technology and a new concept of war ... But there will be lot of problems in implementing this concept of Intelligentization Warfare to reality. However, President Xi Jinping has thrown the gauntlet, and it is up to the U.S. the other adversaries and the rest of the world to follow this concept keenly. Continue Reading...

China’s PLA Upgrades Its Forces Along Disputed Border With India

By Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

Following the Galwan clash in June 2020, India and China have maintained an uneasy calm along the line of actual control (LAC), the de facto border between them, but with the summer approaching rapidly, there is a growing sense that things may heat up. A media report in The Hindu said that “a minor face-off” had occurred between Indian and Chinese troops in the “no-patrolling zone” at Galwan Valley over the last weekend. Even though the media report was sourced to a senior government official, the Indian Army refuted it, stating that there was no such “minor face-off.”

Nevertheless, there are developments close to the border areas that should be noted. Reportedly, the Xinjiang Military District, part of the restructured Western Theater Command, is receiving greater attention in terms of upgrades with new equipment, including combat vehicles. Traditionally, this region was not a priority in comparison to Beijing’s focus on Taiwan. But that is changing, quite rapidly. Following the Galwan clash, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) appears to be giving a fair share of importance to the Xinjiang Military District and upping the overall combat proficiency of the Xinjiang Military Command. Citing a Shanghai-based news website Eastday.com report, Global Times said that the Xinjiang Military Command received three new weapon systems over the last month: the Type 08 armored vehicle, a 122mm-caliber self-propelled howitzer (partially using technologies from the PCL-181 155mm-caliber self-propelled howitzer), and the PHL-03 long-range multiple rocket launcher system. An Indian news report cited the South China Morning Post (SCMP) as saying that the PLA is aiming to buttress China’s border defense and strengthen deterrent measures against India.

Quad & Containment - Xi's Tech Vision - Guangzhou Outbreak - Vaccine Diplomacy in South Asia - Covid Origins - Xi's Inner Circle - HK Electoral System - Defending the Core - Cena Taps Out

Manoj Kewalramani

I. Ladakh, Indo-Pacific, & Quad = Containment?

The boundary issue and the Indo-Pacific returned to prominence in official and media discourse this week. Let’s begin with the report by The Hindu’s Vijaita Singh about a “minor face-off” in the Galwan Valley in early May. Citing an unidentified “senior government official,” she wrote that “no clash occurred and the two sides disengaged quickly.”

This is what the unidentified official is quoted as saying: “After the no-patrolling zones were created last year, the two sides occasionally conduct reconnaissance to see if the other side has crossed the line. The patrols are sent at different times. On the particular day, the Indian and Chinese patrols reached the area at the same time, a minor face-off happened but they returned quickly.” The official also talks about no troop reduction being carried out by either side.

The Indian army was quick to push back. In a series of tweets, it said that “NO such minor face-off has taken place” and that the “article seems to be inspired by sources who may be trying to derail the ongoing process for early resolution of issues in Eastern Ladakh.” Good on The Hindu to update Singh’s piece with these comments.

Anyway, Army chief MM Naravane spoke to PTI this week, emphasising that China had “unilaterally breached” border agreements, leading to the current situation. He added that while India was “open to initiating confidence-building measures, we remain prepared for all contingencies.” He also said that the next round of talks would focus on restoring the status quo ante of April 2020. But this remark is not a direct quote in the story. Here’s the related quote: “Indian Army is very clear that no loss of territory or unilateral change in status quo will be permitted. We are dealing with the Chinese in a firm and non-escalatory way, ensuring the sanctity of our claims in eastern Ladakh.”

How Asia can boost growth through technological leapfrogging

By Oliver Tonby, Jonathan Woetzel, Noshir Kaka, Wonsik Choi, Anand Swaminathan, Jeongmin Seong, Brant Carson, and Lily Ma

Asia’s initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 was partly enabled by technological foundations developed long before the crisis. Over the past decade, the region has developed and deepened its technological capabilities and infrastructure rapidly, accounting for a large share of global growth in technology company revenue start-up funding, spending on R&D, and patents filed.

There is more to come, given the potential to leapfrog in the region’s technological development based on the scale of markets and investment and the speed of adoption and intellectual property (IP) creation. However, tariff and data flow barriers, standards, export controls, and research barriers pose new risks. Moreover, Asia still needs to overcome gaps in core capabilities.

This paper is part of a series focused on the Future of Asia. This research focuses on Asian economies, describing growth in major technological indicators, exploring characteristics of growth in technological capabilities, and homing in on four major sector opportunities—with challenges in each—where Asia has significant scope for technological leapfrogging.

Asia has undergone a significant technological transformation

Pakistan realises it can’t abandon US for China yet. But how far will Bajwa & Co go?


Pakistan’s security establishment may be excited about finding the right person to do an important job – help restart its conversation with Washington. Moeed Yusuf, the newly sworn National Security Advisor who was recently elevated from the position of Special Assistant to the Prime Minister, was dispatched to Geneva to meet his American counterpart Jake Sullivan. Although one can only speculate if Yusuf is up for the job, he is expected to deploy his perceived advantage of having spent a decade or more in the think tank and security policy circle in the US capital to start a conversation with the Americans that the Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and his cabal currently need.

The General Headquarters in Rawalpindi wants two friends instead of just one, which means that it earnestly wants to hold on to the US that seems to be disengaging strategically. A generational shift in strategic relationship is at play here, and is worth watching in the coming years. Pakistan military’s dependency on the Chinese for technology has grown consistently. General Bajwa is perhaps of the generation that continues to want a military-technological relationship with the US despite its possibility turning increasingly dimmer. The Pakistan Army chief is still reminded of his meeting with former US President Donald Trump, who had promised him the moon. The Biden administration with its strategic priorities, however, is a different ball game.

If the US went to war with China, who would win?

Admiral James Stavridis was 16th Supreme Allied Commander of NATO and 12th Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He spent the bulk of his operational career in the Pacific, and is author of "2034: A Novel of the Next World War."

A great deal has been written about the possibility of a war between the U.S. and China. It tends to be measured in theoretical terms, and much of the analysis centers on exactly when it might occur. But the vital question is really quite simple: who would win?

Of course -- no one really "wins" a major war. But the best way to avoid having to go to war at all is to convince your potential opponent that they almost certainly would be the biggest loser. The military balance between China and the United States is complicated, and requires thinking about budgets, numbers of warships and aircraft, geography, alliance systems and technology -- especially undersea capability, cybersecurity and space.

Let's start with dollars and yuan. The U.S. defense budget is fairly transparent, at least in terms of total dollars. Defense spending was around $714 billion in the 2020 fiscal year -- and is likely to increase to $733 billion in 2021. Somewhat opaque, China's defense spending is certainly smaller, with this defense budget set at 1.36 trillion yuan ($212.6 billion), a 6.8% increase from the previous year.

Will the South China Sea Spark the Next Global Conflict?

By Richard Javad Heydarian

“One day the great European War will come out of some damned foolish thing in the Balkans,” warned Prussia’s Otto von Bismarck in the thick of fin de siècle insouciance. Lo and behold, the Iron Chancellor’s foreboding at the turn of the new century proved eerily prescient, as “some damned foolish thing” on the margins of empires seamlessly transformed the improbable into the inevitable. What initially began as the Balkan Wars over the last vestiges of Ottoman territory in Europe quickly transmogrified into the First World War following the surreal assassination of Austria’s heir-apparent, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, by the teenage Bosnian-Serb nationalist, Gavrilo Princip.

The fateful event, which at first seemed like a relatively manageable tragedy in the greater geopolitical scheme of things, set in motion a catastrophic wave of belligerent posturing and military mobilizations by a whole host of rival powers, where ascendant hawks ached for a glorious war. “Once the mobilization button was pushed, the whole vast machinery for calling up, equipping, and transporting [millions of] men began turning automatically,” wrote Barbara W. Tuchman in her classic account of the fateful weeks in mid-1914 that would change the fate of humanity.

In many ways, the South China Sea disputes are today’s version of the early 20th century Balkans, where “some damned foolish thing” can trigger a devastating global conflict without precedence and beyond our wildest imagination. It is here in Asia’s maritime heartland, where all the ingredients of a global cataclysm are conspiring against the post-Cold War period of peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific. It’s also here where the naked edge of China’s hegemonic ambitions are on full display, with dire consequences for smaller neighbors and the broader liberal international order. Here lies the defining geopolitical dilemma of our times.

New DIA Report—“Challenges to Security in Space”—Offers Copious China-Related Information

Executive Summary
Space-based capabilities provide integral support to military, commercial, and civilian applications. Longstanding technological and cost barriers to space are falling, enabling more countries and commercial firms to participate in satellite construction, space launch, space exploration, and human spaceflight. Although these advancements are creating new opportunities, new risks for space-enabled services have emerged. Having seen the benefits of space-enabled operations, some foreign governments are developing capabilities that threaten others’ ability to use space. China and Russia, in particular, have taken steps to challenge the United States:

Chinese and Russian military doctrines indicate that they view space as important to modern warfare and view counterspace capabilities as a means to reduce U.S. and allied military effectiveness. Both reorganized their militaries in 2015, emphasizing the importance of space operations.

Both have developed robust and capable space services, including space-based intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. Moreover, they are making improvements to existing systems, including space launch vehicles and satellite navigation constellations. These capabilities provide their militaries with the ability to command and control their forces worldwide and also with enhanced situational awareness, enabling them to monitor, track, and target U.S. and allied forces.

Opinion – China and the US in Israel: The Lucrative Versus the Indispensable?

Nicholas Lyall and Roie Yellinek

China and the US have adopted different attitudes towards the Palestinians and the Israelis following the break out of hostilities in May 2021. A consideration of these different approaches, as reflected by the respective US and Chinese stances in the United Nation Security Council (UNSC), highlights important considerations for Israel’s international relations going forward as it navigates the rising US-China tensions that are increasingly defining the international order.

As per norm, the US has resolutely emphasized Israel’s right to self-defense and three times in one week blocked the UN Security Council’s joint statement calling for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. US President Joe Biden spoke, for the third time since the outbreak of the latest Israeli-Hamas violence, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on May 17th, and expressed his support for a ceasefire, but also reiterated his firm support for Israel’s right to self-defense against Hamas’s rocket attacks. The Biden administration also sent a special envoy to Israel to discuss the situation with all sides.

In contrast to the US position, China has called for the UNSC push for a de-escalation declaration, with a subtle but evident point to Israel as the instigator of the recent conflagration. In addition, China’s Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, accused the US of undermining the UNSC’s attempt to produce a unified response to the situation. Chinese state media also insinuated that the US supports Israel because of “the influence of wealthy Jews in the U.S. and the Jewish lobby on U.S. foreign policy makers” – raising anti-Semitic tropes that will likely only strain relations between Israel and China.

China could soon outgun the U.S.


Welcome, China Watchers. This week’s guest host is Jacqueline Deal, senior fellow of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, co-founder of the American Academy for Strategic Education and president of LTSG, a defense consultancy. She’s been tracking China’s military buildup for two decades and has testified frequently before the congressional U.S.-China Economic & Security Review Commission. Over to you, Jackie. — John Yearwood, global news editor

The People’s Liberation Army is the oft-cited but poorly understood “pacing threat” during U.S. debates about the defense budget, which the White House will release Friday. Though Pentagon officials since the Obama administration have called the Chinese military the U.S.’s most capable rival, data about what China has actually been spending, or what it’s bought, remains scarce. Research into Chinese defense investments since 2000 reveals that, compared with the United States, China has prioritized purchasing weapons and equipment over spending on personnel salaries or on operations and maintenance. As a result, the U.S. military is on track to be outgunned — potentially in quantity and quality of armaments — by the end of President Joe Biden’s first term.

Why a Taiwan Invasion Would Look Nothing Like D-Day

By Ian Easton

Every year on June 6, the United States and its NATO allies commemorate the anniversary of D-Day, the daring amphibious assault on France’s Normandy region that helped bring down Nazism and liberated Western Europe. Today, commentators frequently draw parallels between D-Day and an imagined Chinese invasion of Taiwan. But such comparisons are wrong. Here’s why.

Emotion Versus Logic

Most observers view the Normandy landings as a glorious moment in human history. The very thought of D-Day evokes strong positive emotions, especially for citizens in the Western democracies that were involved. It’s easy to see, then, why likening D-Day to the invasion of democratic Taiwan could be problematic. Chinese Communist Party (CCP) propaganda notwithstanding, Beijing’s campaign would be about spreading tyranny, not liberating oppressed peoples.

Beijing waged ‘disinformation warfare’ on Taiwan in lead-up to elections – report


Beijing launched a “disinformation campaign” on Taiwan to undermine the island’s democracy and boost it’s own image last year, researchers in Taipei have found. The campaign took place ahead of Taiwan’s general elections and at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Analysing thousands of online posts from mid-2019 to mid-2020, researchers from DoubleThink Lab traced how content from Beijing-backed actors forwarded a narrative that “democracy was a failure,” worsening ideological rifts within Taiwanese society.

The lab’s full findings were released in a report called “Deafening Whispers” on Monday.

“According to our research, the purposes of China’s information operations are not limited to elections,” the report read. “China aims at propagandizing its governance model and values; that is ‘China’s model is better than Western democracy.'”

Did Israel walk into a Hamas trap in Gaza?


A month before the Gaza war, things were going well for Israel. The Abraham Accords were going strong and a vaccination campaign had made Israel an envy during the pandemic. The peace agreements appeared to herald a new era in the Middle East and all that was required was to keep Iran and its proxies from trying to destabilize the region. A new US administration was keen to increase the US role around the world and support human rights. That might mean no more chaotic policies, like the flip-flops of the Syria withdrawal in 2018-2019.
On May 22, after the recent Gaza war, the Palestinian Authority mufti was expelled from al-Aqsa for not supporting Hamas. Hamas was riding a wave of popular support, claiming it had defeated Israel. Protests in many countries had targeted Jews and articles slamming Israel were being printed in newspapers worldwide. China had led efforts at the UN critiquing Israel and in the US, several far-left members of the Democratic Party were calling Israel “apartheid” and pushing to stop arms sales.

Israel support was declining among key supporters, such as American Evangelicals. Hamas was more popular than ever suddenly and it wasn’t even being condemned for firing 4,000 rockets at Israeli civilians, of which some 60 fell in Israeli cities and towns. There’s talk now of a shift in how countries will approach Hamas and it has received more legitimacy in the weeks since the war than in the decades prior.

Operation Guardian of the Walls: The Legal Angle

Pnina Sharvit Baruch

While the 11-day military campaign between Israel and the Hamas government controlling the Gaza Strip has ended, the legal front and the campaign over legitimacy with regard to the recent operation is far from over.

There is little doubt that Hamas initiated the fighting by launching rockets at Jerusalem, Israel's capitol, with no prior action by Israel. This, and the widespread recognition that Hamas is a terrorist organization, provided Israel with relatively broad international support and understanding about the need to take action to stop Hamas’s rocket fire in the initial stages. However, once images of civilian victims and severe destruction in the Gaza Strip began appearing in the international media, increasing allegations portrayed Israel as using excessive force. Israel was cast, once again, as the powerful Goliath smashing the weak and defenseless Palestinians.

The arguments against Israel are clothed in legal terminology. It is claimed that Israel carried out war crimes, and the sheer scope of the widespread destruction of civilian infrastructure in Gaza is proof that Israel has acted unlawfully. This analysis, however, is based on a misunderstanding, at best, or a deliberate distortion, at worst, of the law.

Five-dimensional combat: Cyber and electromagnetic spectrum targets gain legitimacy in 'Guardian of the Walls'

Ami Rojkes Dombe

Operation "Guardian of the Walls" ended a number of days ago in Gaza, and one of the questions being asked, in the military context, is what was the difference between the operation and its predecessors. Well, in order to understand the C4I aspect of the recent fighting in Gaza, I interviewed Brigadier General (Res.) Nati Cohen. Cohen was previously Chief C4I Officer and later Director General of the Ministry of Communications. He is currently a reservist in the Exercises Division of the C4I Division.

"Let me remind you that Operation Guardian of the Walls began in the first days of the big 'war' exercise that the IDF was preparing for," Cohen explains. "We prepared for a war exercise and in the end we implemented the exercise in the Gaza war. It was a surprising coincidence, having to carry out the exercise for real. We prepared for the kind of scenarios that the IDF encountered during the fighting in Gaza."

Why has China emerged as leading critic of Israel over Gaza? - analysis


Israel-China relations have grown ever-closer in recent decades as new innovation hubs were created and both countries were looking forward to celebrating 30 years of diplomatic relations next year. President Reuven Rivlin received the new Chinese Ambassador Cai Run in April.

However, the recent controversy over the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza has elicited harsh comments from China, some directed at the United State, but which appear to be a tougher criticism of Israel than in the past.

For instance, on May 16, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that the US was obstructing an attempt by the UN Security Council to speak with one voice on Israel’s actions in Gaza.

According to CGTN, Wang Yi said that the escalation conflict between Israel and the Palestinians had caused a large number of casualties. The language of the statement did not mention Hamas rocket fire on Israel.

To Compete with China in Space, America Must Ramp up Funding

by Anthony Imperato Peter Garretson Richard Harrison

In recent weeks, much attention has been paid to the uncontrolled re-entry of China’s Long March rocket, which fell back to Earth last week. Missing from the coverage of the landing, however, has been the broader context: the fallen booster was the result of successful orbiting of the core module of China’s space station, which is expected to be completed by the end of next year. As such, it was a clear sign of Beijing’s growing emphasis on space.

Other signs of these ambitions abound. China has now become the second nation to successfully land a communicative rover on Mars, cementing its status as a premier space power on nearly the same footing as the U.S. Beijing has also made notable strides in civil space exploration in recent years, and developed counter-space weapons that pose a significant threat to U.S. space assets.

These steps are part of a clear strategy. By 2045, China seeks to become the dominant space power, and by mid-century, it aims to develop an Earth-Moon space economic zone potentially capable of generating $10 trillion in value per year. And while estimates suggest that China’s annual space expenditures now total between $8 billion and $11 billion, the country’s notoriously opaque space- and defense-related budgets make it likely that the actual figures are much higher.

There’s No Such Thing as ‘Precision’ Explosives in Urban Warfare

Charli Carpenter 

In the wake of the latest round of fighting between Israel and Hamas, Israel remains in the spotlight for the civilian casualties and widescale destruction of civilian areas caused by its attacks on Gaza. Like most democracies whose air wars kill large numbers of civilians, Israel claims the moral high ground. Though acknowledging that the harm caused to civilians was regrettable, Israel argues that its armed forces took all feasible precautions to avoid it, while taking care to aim their strikes at Hamas military targets. By contrast, according to Israel, Hamas was targeting Israeli civilians directly and intentionally.

But this kind of thinking misses an important point in the laws of war. The requirement to avoid indiscriminate attacks is more than just an injunction against targeting civilians directly. It also prohibits attacks using weapons systems that would be incapable of being directed at a specific military objective in the particular context of their use, because their effects cannot be limited or are of a nature to strike military and civilian objects without distinction. ...

Colonial Pipeline Cyber Attack Needs To Serve As A Wake-Up Call

Three challenges facing the United States and other right-thinking nations in the wake of the cyberattack targeting Colonial Pipeline’s 5,500-mile system in the U.S. are as follows:

¯ Learn the identities of the people responsible for the attack.

¯ Use whatever means are necessary to neutralize the hackers’ ability to conduct more attacks.

¯ Ascertain beyond reasonable doubt whether the hackers were working under the direction of some foreign power seeking to damage this country.

Even if all that were to be accomplished — and there is cause for great skepticism about the prospects for that happening — the world would not be out of the proverbial woods in the battle against cyberattacks and the despicable individuals who concoct such operations.

For the United States, the stakes would continue to be very high, as evidenced by situations and developments of the past half-decade.

However, eyes were opened nearly 60 years ago — long before personal computers — about a big risk the U.S. could face in decades ahead, specifically in regard to the nation’s power grid.

Eyeing China, Biden’s First Pentagon Budget Would Cut Troops, Buy Future Weapons


The Biden administration is proposing cuts to the military’s ranks and arsenals in an effort to invest in a new generation of high-tech weapons to counter China.

In a $715 billion spending plan sent to Congress Friday, the Biden administration proposes sidelining ships and hundreds of aircraft to pay for fast-flying hypersonic missiles and newer generation warships.

“To defend the nation, the department in this budget takes a clear-eyed approach to Beijing and provides the investments to prioritize China as our pacing challenge,” Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks said Friday. “The PRC has become increasingly competitive in the Indo-Pacific region and around the world. It has the economic, military and technological capability to challenge the international system and American interests within it.”

The $715 billion request is $11 billion more than the $704 billion Congress enacted for the current fiscal year, but If inflation stays around 4 percent, it will represent about a 3 percent real decrease.

The Intent Behind Russia’s New Cyber Hacking Against America

by Nikolas K. Gvosdev

What are we to make of reports that hackers affiliated with the Russian special services have targeted groups and organizations that receive support from the U.S. Agency for International Development?

Having been in enough Track-II dialogues where the Russian side routinely disavows any knowledge of or support for such actions, I'd like to dispense with the forensic accounting and posit that we assume, for purposes of this essay, that the cyber intrusions came from Russian sources so that we can move to an assessment of Kremlin decision-making.

This revelation--and the associated reporting that these intrusions are ongoing, not historical, raise the question of what Moscow might be thinking. These cyber-attacks are taking place at a time when Western governments are offering olive branches after a rough patch in relations with Russia. President Joe Biden has confirmed that he will meet for a face-to-face summit with President Vladimir Putin in Geneva in June, while President Emmanuel Macron has called for Western leaders to re-assess the utility of further sanctions on Russia. What purpose would be served by continuing with what can only be perceived as aggressive action?

Russia’s Entry to Sixth-Generation Warfare: the ‘Non-Contact’ Experiment in Syria

By: Roger McDermott

Executive Summary

Russia’s adoption of high-technology assets aims to increase a broad spectrum of military capabilities, but it does not seek to emulate its foreign counterparts or to risk becoming involved in a post–Cold War variant of an arms race. Moscow’s experimentation with cruise missiles during operations in Syria fits into long-known Russian military theoretical works concerning the evolution of modern and future warfare, defined in this context as “sixth-generation” warfare, with its highest form being “non-contact.” The particular origins and leading Russian military advocates of such concepts reveal how high-precision strikes fit naturally into modern Russian military thought and doctrine.

While considerable interest among Western analysts of Russia’s military modernization has focused on the speeches and published articles of the chief of the General Staff, Army General Valery Gerasimov, his comments on the role of the military in operations in Syria since September 2015 are replete with an emphasis on the “limited” application of hard power, culminating in articulating this as an emerging “strategy of limited actions,” in such conflicts. Gerasimov has also referred to “non-contact” warfare and the employment of high-precision weapons systems.

Although most of Russia’s military operations in Syria, with the Aerospace Forces in the lead role, centered around more traditional methods of support of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), a smaller but important element was the Russian Armed Forces’ novel use of high-precision strikes in an operational environment. From Moscow’s perspective, this was judged as a success and allowed teething issues to be addressed, while further developing such advanced capabilities.

Four Setbacks to Western Credibility in Ukraine (Part One)

By: Vladimir Socor

Within the last three weeks, a series of decisions by leading Western powers seem to indicate a downgrading of Ukraine on the scale of Western policy priorities. Taken partly in deference to Russia, these decisions risk demotivating Ukrainian reform efforts (hesitant though these are) and eroding Western credibility in Ukraine.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has scrapped the meeting of the NATO-Ukraine and NATO-Georgia commissions that had been envisaged to be held during the Alliance’s upcoming summit in Brussels. United States President Joseph Biden’s administration has decided to exempt the Russian-owned Nord Stream Two subsea pipeline from US sanctions, thus effectively greenlighting that project as a favor to Russia and Germany and at the expense of other countries‘ interests, first and foremost Ukraine’s. The German and French governments have given Kyiv reason to conclude that their position is weakening in the “Normandy” negotiations with Russia on the war in Ukraine’s east. And US Secretary of State Antony Blinken gave Ukraine’s concerns the short shrift when meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Reykjavik, preparatory to a Biden-Putin summit.

Some of those decisions seem to be in line with preexisting Western policies, but mostly they seem related to the launch of a new “reset” of sorts in US-Russia relations—the second such reset in Biden’s career. This initiative also tends to redefine the transatlantic consensus on a low common denominator that would accommodate Germany first and foremost, along with German-Russian special relations.

How to Negotiate with Ransomware Hackers

By Rachel Monroe

Afew days after Thanksgiving last year, Kurtis Minder got a message from a man whose small construction-engineering firm in upstate New York had been hacked. Minder and his security company, GroupSense, got calls and e-mails like this all the time now, many of them tinged with panic. An employee at a brewery, or a printshop, or a Web-design company would show up for work one morning and find all the computer files locked and a ransom note demanding a cryptocurrency payment to release them.

Some of the notes were aggressive (“Don’t take us for fools, we know more about you than you know about yourself”), others insouciant (“Oops, your important files are encrypted”) or faux apologetic (“we are regret but all your files was encrypted”). Some messages couched their extortion as a legitimate business transaction, as if the hackers had performed a helpful security audit: “Gentlemen! Your business is at serious risk. There is a significant hole in the security system of your company.”

Brussels Faces Off With ‘Europe’s Last Dictator’

Judah Grunstein 

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only Weekly Wrap-Up newsletter, which uses relevant WPR coverage to provide background and context to the week’s top stories. Subscribe to receive it by email every Saturday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox.

For decades, the president of Belarus, known as “Europe’s last dictator,” has been a thorn in the side of the continent’s democracies. But the threat Alexander Lukashenko poses to European security suddenly grew more serious Sunday, when his security forces—with the help of a transparently false cover story and an armed MiG-29 fighter jet—forced a commercial airliner flying over Belarusian airspace to land in Minsk in order to arrest Roman Protasevich, a reporter associated with the opposition-in-exile who was on the flight.

The incident internationalized what had been an internal political crisis within Belarus and immediately resulted in sanctions from the European Union and the U.K., including the banning of overflights of Belarus by European carriers and the suspension of landing rights to Belarus’ national airline.

Exploring the digital jihadist underground on the Onion Router (TOR)

Miron Lakomy

The emergence of the dark web at the beginning of the 21st century is considered to be one of the most significant developments in the history of the digital revolution. What was initially perceived as an experimental and legitimate response to the increased government control over the Internet in time has become a source of a broad spectrum of computer-related crimes. This was mostly caused by the fact that the Onion Router (TOR),[1] Invisible Internet Project (I2P), Freenet or—more recently—ZeroNet[2] provide users with a set of tools enabling anonymous and safe communication. Cybercriminal underground quickly realized that these technologies substantially facilitate the exchange of illicit goods, services, and content. Effectively, the dark web has become an online communication layer known not for the freedom of speech but rather for popular drug markets, firearm vendors, leaked databases, or illegal pornography.

Unique technical traits of the dark web have also attracted attention from Salafi-jihadist violent extremist organizations (VEOs) that are in constant search of new technologies allowing safer and more persistent communication with their sympathizers and members. They have experimented with this environment for more than a decade. One of the first to do so was al-Qaeda, as its affiliated message boards moved “under the surface” during the War on Terror. However, this trend has become increasingly visible since the advent of the Islamic State’s (IS) campaign, which maintained at least several services in TOR, including the infamous Isdarat. At the time also the popular Shumukh al-Islam message board was available in this environment.[3] Moreover, recent reports suggest that terrorist organizations have also attempted to utilize the potential of the rapidly developing ZeroNet.[4]

Know This: Hack Attacks are Acts of ‘Unrestricted Warfare’

by John Rossomando

Constant cyberattacks against U.S. military and civilian targets from foreign adversaries need to be treated as acts of war and addressed comprehensively, not in isolation.

Cyberspace is a global battlefield that blurs national boundaries. The current fragmented state of U.S. cyber defenses is a hacker’s dream. Before 9/11, the nation’s effort against Al Qaeda was siloed between the CIA and the FBI without communication. A similar situation persists in U.S. cyberdefenses.

An improved response requires integrated cooperation among the Defense Department’s Cyber Command, Department of Justice, states, and industry to formulate a comprehensive strategy to harden our infrastructure and protect state secrets from intruders.

“The line between nation-state and criminal actors is increasingly blurry as nation-states turn to criminal proxies as a tool of state power, then turn a blind eye to the cybercrime perpetrated by the same malicious actors,” Mieke Eoyang, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for cyber policy, told a subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee last week. “China is the pacing threat to the Department [of Defense]. China uses cyber operations to erode our military overmatch and economic vitality, stealing U.S. intellectual property and research.”

Big Changes Could Be Coming to the U.S. Army's Infantry Squads

by Peter Suciu

Here's What You Need to Know: The Army could follow the Marine Corps, which increased the size of its infantry squads.

As the U.S. Army adopts new “Next Generation” technology and weapons, it is evaluating whether it needs to change the size of its infantry squads. The Army has held infantry squads of nine soldiers for decades and has maintained the company as the base of maneuvers for its dismounted troops. The smaller squads were utilized as components of that larger group.

However, the addition of new tools—including drones and enhanced communication—could change the number of soldiers in each squad. According to Task and Purpose, Brig. Gen. David Hodne, commandant of the U.S. Army Infantry School, confirmed in a statement that the service is “conducting a study ... but this might not result in a change to the current 9-soldier rifle squad.”

The study was prepared to help Army officials evaluate the ideal size of a squad when employing those next-generation capabilities. This includes the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) and the Next Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW), which are currently in development. The study is currently being carried out by the Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team, which is overseen by Hodne, and the Maneuver Capabilities Development and Integration Directorate at Fort Benning.

Military Honor in the Twenty-First Century: Some Contemporary Challenges

Francisco Lobo

‘We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline!’ This is a quote from Jack Nicholson’s famous ‘You can’t handle the truth’ speech in the film ‘A few good men’. In the scene set in a court martial, Nicholson’s character, USMC Colonel Jessup, admonishes his cross-examiner who is more lawyer than naval officer and who doesn’t seem to grasp the complexities of modern military work, including its core values such as honor. Colonel Jessup thinks that civilians don’t understand honor. They use it as a punchline. Or as Falstaff, the main character of Verdi’s eponymous opera, snidely remarks: ‘Che dunque l’onore? Una parola!’ (‘What, then, is honor? A word!’).

Are Falstaff and Jessup right? Is honor for most of us just a word, a punchline? Do we even use it anymore as a concept in real life? According to Kwame Anthony Appiah, author of ‘The Honor Code’, ‘We may think we have finished with honor, but honor isn’t finished with us’. Indeed, Appiah postulates that the concept of honor has always been at the center of our deep moral need for recognition and respect of our shared human dignity. Thus, honor is not just the province of the military, although some, like Colonel Jessup or military ethicist Peter Olsthoorn, do believe that the military might be ‘the last stronghold of honor’ in modern life. But even if we agree that honor feels more at home in the military, it still faces some contemporary challenges within that milieu that need to be addressed. These challenges are both of a conceptual and practical nature.