29 July 2021

The PLA’s Developing Cyber Warfare Capabilities and India's Options

Maj Gen P K Mallick, VSM (Retd)

Chinese President Xi Jinping has made it clear that his objective for China is to emerge as a ‘cyber superpower’. China wants to be the world’s largest nation in cyberspace and also one of the most powerful. The information technology revolution has produced both momentous opportunities and likely vulnerabilities for china. China is home of largest number of ‘netizens’ in the world. It also hosts some of the world’s most vibrant and successful technology companies. It also remains a major victim of cyber crime. 

Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) believes that with the rise of the Information Age future wars will be contests in the ability to exploit information. Wars will be decided by the side who is more capable to generate, gather, transmit, analyse and exploit information.

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.

India: NSCN-K-NS And Persisting Challenge – Analysis

Oyindrila Chattopadhyay*

On July 20, 2021, the Working Committee (WC) of Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) issued a statement questioning Nikki Sumi on his intention “to give peace a chance.”

The statement of the Working Committee read, “If his intention is what he says, why is he inviting and decorating vagabonds, social outcasts, petty thieves, multiple defectors, rank/position collectors, proven traitors and morally bankrupt elements into his fold?… The Naga public in general and business community in particular have had enough of these unprincipled elements. Even footpath vendors surviving from hand to mouth during pandemic are not spared by these social parasites acting as Niki’s collectors.”

The statement further said,

How to Avert Disaster in Afghanistan

H.R. McMaster and Bradley Bowman

The situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating rapidly. As the U.S. and its international partners withdrew military forces over the past few months, the Taliban roughly tripled the territory under its control. If the U.S. and allies don’t take urgent action, the world will bear witness to a disaster.

The Taliban and its allies have taken control of more than 145 districts over the past two months, according to Foundation for Defense of Democracies analysts. The Taliban now threaten half of Afghanistan’s provincial capitals. The Taliban offensive in the north is particularly consequential because it is designed to strike the Afghan government’s power base and pre-empt the reconstitution of an anti-Taliban “northern alliance.” The point is clear: The Taliban intends to isolate and overthrow the government in Kabul.

Why a Taliban victory may not be everything Pakistan wished for

Scott Peterson

In 2017, then-President Donald Trump singled out Pakistan for giving “safe haven to agents of chaos, violence, and terror,” the same groups “that try every single day to kill our people” in Afghanistan.

At the time, it was seen as long overdue recognition of an open secret: that Pakistan, a U.S. ally, was backing its enemy, the Taliban.

“We have been paying Pakistan billions … at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting,” said Mr. Trump. “But that will have to change.”


Pakistan’s heavy investment in the Taliban was vital in leading to America’s military defeat in Afghanistan. But is the prospect of a sweeping Taliban victory giving Pakistan second thoughts?

Taliban Arrived In Moscow With A Rake And Putin’s Regime Stepped On It – OpEd

Gatis Krūms*

I believe the Americans made a slight mistake by leaving Afghanistan in the hands of destiny, the Taliban and the corrupt Afghan democracy. Countless people will suffer, particularly the young generation that was brought up during the last twenty years. It’s also immensely saddening to think about the grim future of Afghan women and young girls

Each day, the media is overflowing with news articles about what is happening in Afghanistan, albeit all of the articles are quite controversial. And, naturally, Russian propaganda isn’t sleeping as well. According to Russian propaganda, the Kremlin has taken the side of the Taliban and is even intending to ask the UN to lift the sanctions imposed against these radicals. The Kremlin could lead the way by proclaiming the Taliban a legal organization in Russia. Seeing how Sergey Lavrov flirts with them in Doha and Moscow, there are no doubts that Russia convinced the Taliban to hunt NATO soldiers in Afghanistan in exchange for Russian rubles and weapons.

A 2nd New Nuclear Missile Base for China, and Many Questions About Strategy

William J. Broad and David E. Sanger

In the barren desert 1,200 miles west of Beijing, the Chinese government is digging a new field of what appears to be 110 silos for launching nuclear missiles. It is the second such field discovered by analysts studying commercial satellite images in recent weeks.

It may signify a vast expansion of China’s nuclear arsenal — the cravings of an economic and technological superpower to show that, after decades of restraint, it is ready to wield an arsenal the size of Washington’s, or Moscow’s.

Or, it may simply be a creative, if costly, negotiating ploy.

The new silos are clearly being built to be discovered. The most recent silo field, on which construction began in March, is in the eastern part of the Xinjiang region, not far from one of China’s notorious “re-education” camps in the city of Hami. It was identified late last week by nuclear experts at the Federation of American Scientists, using images from a fleet of Planet Labs satellites, and shared with The New York Times.

General Ju Qiansheng Takes Command of the PLA Strategic Support Force

Marcus Clay

The People’s Liberation Army Strategic Support Force (PLASSF) has a new commander. On July 5, General Ju Qiansheng was promoted to full general and was named the new commander of the PLASSF. He is the third PLASSF commander in almost six years, succeeding General Li Fengbiao and General Gao Jin, who assumed command in 2019 and 2015, respectively.

Ju has long kept a low profile. He was cited in 2019 reporting as the commander of the PLASSF Network Systems Department (NSD). In this position, he probably was dual hatted as a PLASSF deputy commander. Unverified Chinese media source claims that Ju was born in May, 1962, and was a deputy director of the former PLA General Staff Department (GSD) Technical Reconnaissance Department. Today, the Technical Reconnaissance Department, also known as the GSD Third Department, or 3PLA, likely constitutes the backbone of the NSD. In the 2009-2010 timeframe, Ju directed the former GSD Technical Reconnaissance Department 12th Bureau, which likely had a space mission.

National Cybersecurity Center Map

Dakota Cary, Jennifer Melot

China wants to be a “cyber powerhouse” (网络强国). At the heart of this mission is the sprawling 40 km2 campus of the National Cybersecurity Center. Formally called the National Cybersecurity Talent and Innovation Base (国家网络安全人才与创新基地), the NCC is being built in Wuhan. The campus, which China began constructing in 2017 and is still building, includes seven centers for research, talent cultivation, and entrepreneurship; two government-focused laboratories; and a National Cybersecurity School.

This product provides readers with a walk-through of the NCC’s campus and facilities. The satellite imagery used for this product was procured by Apollo Mapping; the image was taken in October 2020. Since then, construction has continued unabated and more information about the components of the NCC are published each day.

America’s Vital Chip Mission


BERKLEY – Semiconductors are an essential product. They are the foundation of everything from sophisticated weapons systems and critical infrastructure to a growing number of technologies used daily by consumers and businesses. Scarcities are thus felt widely, and the current semiconductor shortage has exposed gaps and vulnerabilities across the global supply system.

Today’s semiconductor shortage reflects a variety of factors – including significant pandemic-driven disruptions in both demand and supply and unilateral US trade restrictions with China. And any number of causes could trigger future shortages. For the sake of both national and economic security, the United States needs a multifaceted strategy for providing a competitive, resilient, secure, and sustainable (CRSS) supply of semiconductors. Such a strategy must address all parts of the industry, from design, fabrication, assembly, and packaging to materials and manufacturing equipment.

Biden’s China Strategy Meets Resistance at the Negotiating Table

Chris Buckley and Steven Lee Myers

As it seeks to manage an increasingly testy relationship, the Biden administration has mapped out a strategy of confronting China on points of dispute, while leaving the door open for cooperation against global threats.

On Monday, China seemed to slam the door on the idea that the two countries could collaborate one day and clash the next.

Talks with Deputy Secretary of State Wendy R. Sherman — the highest-ranking administration official to visit China so far — began with a barrage of public criticism from the Chinese side and ended with little sign that the two combative powers were closer to narrowing their disagreements.

“The relationship between the United States and the P.R.C. is a complex one, and our policy is very complex as a result,” Ms. Sherman said in a telephone interview after the meetings, referring to the People’s Republic of China. “We believe our relationship can tolerate that nuance.”

U.S. allegations of China hacking disingenuous and self-defeating

The Biden administration has scored a diplomatic victory of sorts by strong-arming the EU, NATO and a handful of other countries into blaming China for the Microsoft exchange server hack that was revealed early this year and patched in March. But beyond the verbiage, there is no real substance behind the allegations. In fact, these allegations are only the latest installment of the administration's doomed-to-fail ideological crusade to confront and contain China with a shaky coalition of the unwilling.

We must recognize that cybersecurity is indeed an increasingly important concern for individuals, companies, businesses and governments around the world with Eugene Kaspersky, CEO of Kaspersky Lab, the Russian cybersecurity and anti-virus provider, estimating millions of unique viruses in the wild today. Also, cyber-warfare has not only become a legitimate means of combat but perhaps even the arena in which the fate of nations will be decided. As such, any country that values its sovereignty must ensure that it possesses balanced and effective capabilities in cyber-warfare are sufficient to meet the geopolitical challenges which it faces.

We’re Not Prepared to Live in This Surveillance Society

Martin Ivens

Last week, an investigation by Amnesty International and several media outlets alleged that 37 heads of state, reporters, human rights activists and businessmen had been hacked with spyware developed by the Israeli surveillance company NSO Group. The names came from a leaked list of 50,000 mobile phone numbers of individuals regarded “as people of interest” by NSO’s government clients. Around 600 of them are politicians or heads of state, ranging from French President President Emmanuel Macron to the King of Morocco.

NSO denies the charges. But the revelations as well as other evidence suggest that gross violations of privacy are becoming a norm rather than an exception. Traditional state agencies are struggling to keep pace.

The reason is simple: Most laws on privacy were passed in the age of postal services, landlines and physical newspapers. Today people conduct much of their lives online. They allow their mobile phones to record, wittingly or not, evidence of their deepest secrets. And the pandemic has moved more confidential business onto digital platforms that record their chats.

How the Red Sea Became a Trap

Nicholas W. Stephenson Smith

The recent history of the Red Sea reads like a macabre thriller, from industrial-scale hostage-taking by pirates to tit-for-tat naval attacks between Israel and Iran in international waters to unchecked drug and arms smuggling. The aftermath of the most recent major Red Sea news, the wedging of the Ever Given in the Suez Canal, has been equally sour.

As pilots guided the freed mega-ship to an opening about halfway along the Suez Canal (appropriately named the Great Bitter Lake), Egyptian authorities and the Ever Given’s owners began what turned out to be a three-month-long wrangle over the sum of salvage and damages payable to the Suez Canal Authority in return for the ship’s release. An agreement means the ordeal is now mercifully over—not least for the ship’s crew. But while another chapter in the Red Sea’s fraught recent history is concluded, it is far from the end of the story of conflict.

As I show in my book, Colonial Chaos in the Southern Red Sea: A History of Violence From 1830 to the Twentieth Century, the region’s vexatious contemporary culture lies in the impact of colonialism. Colonialism created chaos in the Red Sea in two ways. First, European rulers carved the region into a patchwork of highly militarized, patronage-seeking, mutually competitive states. Second, colonialism sowed the seeds of civil division. In the process, European colonialism comprehensively upended the culture of the region’s politics, as well as its international relations.

To TPP or Not to TPP: That Is the Question

William Alan Reinsch

The Biden-Harris administration continues to wrestle not only with the ghost of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) but with its reincarnation in the form of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). The TPP was not originally an American idea. It began with New Zealand and several other countries in the region during the George W. Bush administration. The United States was invited to join the negotiations, and the Obama administration eventually decided to do so, after far more agonizing than the decision deserved or needed.

For Obama, the point was never about improved market access. Of course it would be nice to sell Japan more pork, but the real reason to join was to demonstrate the United States’ commitment to the Pacific region and its determination to maintain an economic presence there. U.S. policy since the end of World War II has been to prevent single power dominance in the Pacific, and simply being there—economically, militarily, and diplomatically—has been an essential part of its strategy. For Southeast Asian nations in particular, long used to be being bullied by China, the U.S. presence is both comforting and necessary to allow them to avoid falling entirely into China’s orbit.

Pegasus intel project brings Israel more trouble

Ben Caspit

The Pegasus Project affair brings back to the headlines Israel’s glorious status as the leader in cyber technology and champion of intelligence gathering. But the line separating glory from ignominy is often blurred and fragile in the Middle East. Israel is the region’s “cyber queen” and is ranked among the world’s top cyber powers. It is also considered a global “intelligence silo” based on the capabilities of the Mossad, the unbelievably creative technologies of the military’s famed unit 8200 and its national cyber expertise. Still, as we saw this week, things could get complicated.

Israel, as all of its allies know, leverages its intelligence assets in order to forge alliances and establish relations, security cooperation and even peace agreements. It not only shares intelligence with other countries (bar information damaging to its own interests), but it also helps other regimes and leaks tips and reports potentially helpful to various leaders. In Jordan’s case (according to reports in past years), it has helped the Hashemite family thwart assassination and other subversive plots against the monarchy.

North, South Korea Agree to Reopen Communication Channels

Mitch Shin

South Korea announced Tuesday morning that it has agreed to restore stalled communication channels with the North and improve ties between the two Koreas. It has been 13 months since Pyongyang shut down all communication channels in June of last year as a protest against the distribution of leaflets by North Korean defectors. The North even blew up the inter-Korean joint liaison office located in Kaesong, showing the extent of its dissatisfaction with the South’s stance on the U.N.-led economic sanctions, South Korea-U.S. joint military exercises, and the “no-deal” Hanoi summit between North Korea and the United States.

South Korea’s National Assembly passed the bill to ban the distribution of leaflets in the North, but Kim Yo Jong, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister, kept insisting that the North will not re-engage in dialogues with the United States or South Korea unless both countries halt the hostile acts against the North.

Regulating the Global Spyware Market Won’t Be Easy

Emily Taylor

Like picking up a rock in the garden, the NSO Pegasus spyware scandal exposes a repulsive world teaming with life in the muck and mire—so much so that it is tempting to put the stone back in place and pretend that world doesn’t exist. There are many layers to the story: the human cost, the murky ethics of selling powerful spy tools to states with poor human rights records, and the complexities of trying to regulate the global market for such software. They all point to a challenge that will be with us for some time, despite the popular outrage the scandal has caused.

The stories of the human cost are awful. Take Cecilio Pineda Birto, a Mexican journalist who wrote about corruption and whose phone number appears on a leaked list of 50,000 numbers that is reportedly a master list of phones targeted by NSO Group’s clients using Pegasus software. Pineda was shot dead as he waited for his car to be washed. He was 38 years old. Reading about his death, it’s impossible not to wonder whether the NSO Pegasus tool’s ability to track a target’s location, or turn on a smartphone’s camera and microphone to film and eavesdrop on them, played a part in helping his killers to track him down. And who was the customer? Was it the Mexican state, or a drug cartel? Could the answer have been both? ...

Can Putin Change Russia’s Role From Spoiler to Global Power?

Russia occupies an unusual position on the world stage. Under President Vladimir Putin, Moscow has repeatedly demonstrated that it has the capacity to destabilize the international order. While Russia lacks the military strength to challenge U.S. supremacy, no one—particularly not the NATO alliance—is ignoring its capabilities. Moscow’s use of arms sales and military engagements to build ties to countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and especially the Middle East has also attracted attention. And its massive exports of fossil fuels to Europe offers Russia additional leverage. But for all its ability to upend power dynamics in places like Libya and Ukraine, Moscow has so far not demonstrated the capacity to fill the vacuums it creates.

Even as Moscow maintains an outsized influence on the global stage, discontent is brewing at home. Putin has dominated the Russian political scene for more than two decades, but his popularity is waning amid a slowing economy and following a deeply unpopular pension reform effort. That didn’t stop him from engineering a way to hold onto power after his current presidential term ends in 2024, despite a constitutional term limit. But it has opened space for Putin’s long-suffering political opponents to call attention to the corruption and violence that have marked his tenure. The most prominent among them, Alexei Navalny, almost paid for his life for doing so, and is now paying with his freedom.

Air & Space Power Journal

Thinking about Thinking: Training Aircrew to Make Decisions in Complex Situations

Game-Theoretic System Design in the Development of Space Power

Coming to a Theater near You: Evolving Air Combat to Counter Anti-Access and Area-Denial

OverSTEMulated: The Science and Art of Space Power Leadership

A Concept for Next-Generation Combat Search and Rescue

Every Airman and Guardian a Technologist: Reinvigorating a Disruptive Technology Culture

Harvesting the Rewards of Multinational Cooperation: The Royal Air Force’s Project “Seedcorn”

Opinion | The Cyber Apocalypse Never Came. Here’s What We Got Instead.


Even for those of us who watch cyber warfare closely, the seeming barrage of cyber-related headlines in 2021 has felt remarkable. This spring, the Biden administration sanctioned Russia for last year’s breach of network software firm SolarWinds, which allowed Russian hackers to access major U.S. government agencies and over 18,000 companies. A few months later, Russian cyber attacks were back in the news, with purported Russian criminals extorting oil distributor Colonial Pipeline and meatpacking firm JBS for millions of dollars in ransomware payouts. Ransomware attacks have become so widespread that exhausted cybersecurity firms are turning away desperate customers.

Meanwhile, last week, the United States, NATO and the EU pointed the finger at China for a massive breach of a Microsoft exchange server, propagated by cyber mercenaries hired by the Chinese Ministry of State Security. The countries’ joint statement is all the more remarkable given both NATO and the EU’s unwillingness to brand China an “adversary.” And on the same day, researchers revealed a multi-state effort to hack and monitor presidents, monarchs, journalists and more, using spyware created not by the Russian government, China’s security apparatus or the National Security Agency—but by a private Israeli company called the NSO Group.

Proposed ‘Hack-Back’ Bill Tells DHS To Study Allowing Companies To Retaliate


WASHINGTON: Two members of the Senate Finance Committee have introduced a bipartisan bill that instructs the Department of Homeland Security to study the “potential consequences and benefits” of allowing private companies to hack back following cyberattacks.

Sens. Steve Daines, R- Mont., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., have introduced the legislation as frustration over repeated cyberattacks against US companies has led to growing calls across the national security community and the private sector for retaliatory actions. Some, including military legal advisors, are now calling for the US to revisit its policy on military offensive cyber operations, especially in response to increasing ransomware attacks targeting the public and private sectors.

The draft Study on Cyber-Attack Response Options Act tells DHS to study “amend[ing] section 1030 of title 18, United States Code (commonly known as the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act), to allow private entities to take proportional actions in response to an unlawful network breach, subject to oversight and regulation by a designated Federal agency.”

PARAT – Tracking the Activity of AI Companies

Rebecca Gelles, Zachary Arnold, Ngor Luong, Jennifer Melot

CSET’s Private-sector AI-Related Activity Tracker (PARAT) collects data related to companies’ AI research and development to inform analysis of the global AI sector. The global AI market is already expanding rapidly and is likely to continue growing in the coming years. Identifying “AI companies” helps illustrate the size and health of the AI industry in which they participate as well as the most sought-after skills and experience in the AI workforce.

While there is no one correct definition of an “AI company,” analyzing the AI-related activities of a company allows researchers to make their own determinations of the degree to which it is active in AI and in areas relevant to any particular policy question. PARAT offers an interactive tool for exploring data about private-sector companies and their AI research and development. Researchers, for example, can use PARAT to identify AI-related research publications or patents made by publicly-traded or privately-held companies relevant to their analysis.

AI Accidents: An Emerging Threat: What Could Happen and What to Do

Zachary Arnold, Helen Toner

Executive Summary
Modern machine learning is powerful in many ways, but profoundly fragile in others. Because of this fragility, even the most advanced artificial intelligence tools can unpredictably fail, potentially crippling the systems in which they are embedded. As machine learning becomes part of critical, real-world systems, from cars and planes to financial markets, power plants, hospitals, and weapons platforms, the potential human, economic, and political costs of AI accidents will continue to grow.

Policymakers can help reduce these risks. To support their efforts, this brief explains how AI accidents can occur and what they are likely to look like “in the wild.” Using hypothetical scenarios involving AI capabilities that already exist or soon will, we explain three basic types of AI failures—robustness failures, specification failures, and assurance failures—and highlight factors that make them more likely to occur, such as fast-paced operation, system complexity, and competitive pressure. Finally, we propose a set of initial policy actions to reduce the risks of AI accidents, make AI tools more trustworthy and socially beneficial, and support a safer, richer, and healthier AI future. Policymakers should:

Improving The Battle Rhythm To Operate At The Speed Of Relevance – Analysis

Matthew Prescott*

The art and science of decisionmaking begin with the establishment of an effective, efficient, and agile battle rhythm. Combat and stability operations throughout the past 20 years have enabled commanders and staffs to execute real-world operations based on established battle rhythms. Unfortunately, current operational-level exercises to evaluate joint force commands and their components in the U.S. Armed Forces and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization increasingly observe battle rhythms that do not effectively provide the commander and subordinates with timely information to make decisions.1 Furthermore, our current joint force battle rhythm design involving numerous briefings, working groups, and boards does not provide the commander with timely analysis and recommendations given the speed and frequency of high-intensity operations. This article is intended for the commander or staff officer who has ever felt the pressure of a compacted battle rhythm and is interested in understanding why and how the battle rhythm is designed to drive the commander’s decisionmaking process.