28 September 2021

Deterrence Theory– Is it Applicable in Cyber Domain?

Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)


The Deterrence Theory was developed in the 1950s, mainly to address new strategic challenges posed by nuclear weapons from the Cold War nuclear scenario. During the Cold War, the U.S. and the Soviet Union adopted a survivable nuclear force to present a ‘credible’ deterrent that maintained the ‘uncertainty’ inherent in a strategic balance as understood through the accepted theories of major theorists like Bernard Brodie, Herman Kahn, and Thomas Schelling.1 Nuclear deterrence was the art of convincing the enemy not to take a specific action by threatening it with an extreme punishment or an unacceptable failure.

Social Media in Violent Conflicts – Recent Examples

Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)

Alan Rusbridger, the then editor-in-chief of the Guardian in his 2010 Andrew Olle Media Lecture, stated, “News organisations still break lots of news. But, increasingly, news happens first on Twitter. If you’re a regular Twitter user, even if you’re in the news business and have access to wires, the chances are that you’ll check out many rumours of breaking news on Twitter first. There are millions of human monitors out there who will pick up on the smallest things and who have the same instincts as the agencies—to be the first with the news. As more people join, the better it will get. ”

The most important and unique feature of social media and its role in future conflicts is the speed at which it can disseminate information to audiences and the audiences to provide feedback.

China's New DF-100 Missiles are Another Problem for the U.S. Navy

James Holmes

So China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) unveiled new weaponry during its October 1, 2019 military parade? Color me gobsmacked. If China’s rise to martial eminence has shown one thing, it’s that PLA commanders and their political overseers delight in surprising and trolling Western observers. They excel at developing new hardware in secret, then springing it on the world and watching the ensuing gabfest consume the China-watching community.

And sure enough, launchers bearing “DF-17” and “DF-100” missiles—weapons both supposedly capable of superfast speeds yet hitherto unknown to outsiders—rumbled through Tiananmen Square to help commemorate the seventieth anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. (The DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missile also made its public debut on October 1, but Westerners have known about that one for some time.) Alternatively, foreign intelligence services knew about these “birds” but opted not to disclose it in open sources for fear of revealing how they came by the information.

A Hardline Taliban Cabinet Will Send Afghanistan Back to the Future

Abdul Basit

After sweeping to power in Afghanistan on August 15, the Taliban announced its thirty-three-member interim cabinet on September 7 dominated by the group’s loyalists. The head of the Taliban’s Rahbari Shura, or the leadership council, Mullah Muhammad Hassan Akhund, has been named as the acting prime minister. At the same time, Taliban chief Haibatullah Akhundzada will be Afghanistan’s supreme leader.

The thirty-three-member Taliban provisional cabinet includes thirty-one Pashtuns, only two Tajiks, and one Uzbek. Women and the Hazara Shia community have been given no representation. In fact, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs has been abolished. The interim Afghan cabinet is not just Taliban-exclusive and all-male but also Pashtun-centric. So, what delayed the formation of the acting cabinet and what does a hardline Taliban cabinet signify?

The Taliban’s announcement of a hardline cabinet underscores the restoration of its emirate in defiance of the international community’s expectations of an inclusive government. Critics call it the “victor’s” cabinet. Internal differences between the Taliban’s Haqqani Network and the Kandahar faction, the Taliban’s traditional power base, over the division of power delayed the government’s formation. The Haqqanis wanted an outsize share in the power pie for being insurgency’s most effective and sacrificing faction.

America’s Pakistan Policy: An Incredibly Obvious Perspective

Steve Thomas

The purpose of this article is to reinforce some of the basic tenets of Pakistani foreign policy and to recommend to American policymakers a course of action that treats these tenets as unmalleable truths, as opposed to things America wishes weren't true. This article has no searing insights, but this doesn't make these observations any less worthy of action since the United States has neglected them since roughly 1979.

The first tenet is the control of the Pakistani civilian government by the Pakistan army. Even with the relatively recent addition of current Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Pakistani politics is a dynastic affair, and those dynasties owe their fealty to the military. Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was created by Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) and President Zia ul Haq, as Anatol Lieven points out in his excellent book, Pakistan: A Hard Country. Zia Ul Haq previously served as Chief of Army Staff (COAS) before his coup d'état. In practical terms, this means foreign policy is conceived and executed by the military. The military will also grudgingly subsume other facets of government if it believes the civilians aren't pushing the country in the right direction. The transition of civilian power in Pakistan will (almost) always coincide with the change-over of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), who still maintains the role as king-maker and most powerful man in the country.

It's a mistake to think some jihadis are only focused on the 'local'


Joe Biden seems to be hoping that the Taliban will sever ties with al Qaeda and deny the group a chance to again plan attacks on the U.S. Many have challenged this assumption. But there is another false assumption behind the administration’s decision to abandon counterterrorism: that jihadist groups with local ambitions (like ruling Afghanistan) do not also have international goals (like striking America). Relying on this false assumption blinds us to the growing threat in Afghanistan, but also to the danger of the other “Islamic Emirates” proliferating around the world.

As strange as it sounds, Salafi-jihadi groups’ primary goal is to govern — they want to destroy the Muslim world’s existing governments and build their own states that knit together into a global caliphate.

This ideology is inherently antagonistic to the West. But this does not mean that attacking the West is always their top priority.

Who Shares the Blame in Afghanistan?

Caleb Franz

Most everyone agrees the troop withdrawal from Afghanistan was a disaster. In a matter of days, the Taliban regained nearly complete control of the country, and U.S. citizens struggled to escape the country in time. The pressing question, however, is not whether it was handled well, but rather who is to blame for the disarray. That’s why Congress has begun inquiring into the Biden administration — to figure out what went wrong.

Make no mistake, there is a wrong way to withdraw, as the Biden administration demonstrated so perfectly. But those crying for even longer intervention in Afghanistan are missing a key takeaway: Not only did our two-decade occupation accomplish nothing, but our military leaders have also revealed a severe level of negligence that should concern every American.

Many legislators on Capitol Hill failed to see it that way. As Secretary of State Antony Blinken testified before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Republicans on the Hill used this as an opportunity to rip into him. To many of these Republicans, the withdrawal wasn’t just poorly executed, it was a complete policy blunder — something that never should have happened in the first place.

Despite Afghanistan Withdrawal, Americans Continue to Support US Presence in South Korea

Juni Kim

The United States’ chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and the subsequent Taliban takeover have brought up new concerns about Washington’s global security commitments and supports of its military partners. This includes South Korea, where the U.S. has maintained a heavy troop presence for over 70 years, and which is under threat of a nuclear-armed North Korea. While the Biden administration has sought to reassure its allies, including South Korea, of the United States’ continued commitment, memories are still fresh of former President Donald Trump’s “America First” policies, which questioned the nature of the South Korea-U.S. alliance. The withdrawal from Afghanistan has also spurred discussion on whether the transfer of wartime Operational Control Authority (OPCON), which the U.S. maintains in South Korea, should be sped up.

While some observers may draw parallels between Afghanistan and South Korea, there are many fundamental differences that make such comparisons difficult. Polling results highlight two particularly significant ones: the continued public support for South Korea-U.S. military relations and key national interests that are important to Americans.

Low-Level Commanders Need Authority to Counter Information Operations, Northcom Leader Says


"I think we're getting, and I'm on the record, I think we're getting our rear end handed to us in the information space because we're so risk-averse in the environment that we operate in today," Air Force Gen. Glen D. VanHerck said yesterday, during a presentation with the Air Force Association.

The general said he thinks the United States must speed up its ability to respond if it's going to protect things like elections or prevent the spread of misinformation and propaganda by the likes of Russia and China.

"I think we need to be a little more aggressive," he said. "I think, right now, we should change the paradigm [for] the way we do information operations."

Right now, he said, information operations plans might go through a combatant commander, to the Defense Department, bring in the National Security Council and involve the White House as well, he said.

"That is a very slow process, and in the environment we're operating in right now ... in about 12 hours to 24 hours in the information space, you're irrelevant. It has moved on," he said. "I believe we need to flip that paradigm and push down, use mission command — the lanes in the road, the rules of the road — and allow commanders of the lower level to be able to execute within the mission environment that we're operating in to be more effective in real time."

More Than Nukes

Northcom is responsible for protecting the U.S. homeland — its people, national power and freedom of action. Right now, VanHerck said, more of that protection is dependent on nuclear power than what should be.

"Homeland defense today is too reliant on what I think is the foundation of homeland defense, and that is our nuclear deterrent and deterrence by punishment," he said. "But what that doesn't do for us is give us opportunities to deescalate early and deter earlier."

Deterrence with nuclear capabilities he said, while useful, are too escalatory in nature and other avenues must be looked at.

"What I'm trying to do is fill that gap and focus on a little bit of deterrence by denial," he said. "Ballistic missile defense is deterrence by denial. But I also believe hardening resiliency, or the way we project our force, creates deterrence options on a day-to-day basis."

The homeland defense of tomorrow, he said, won't look like what it does today. Getting there starts with changes to policy — which he said will need to involve civilian policy makers rather than uniformed military personnel.

"It needs to be our policymakers that decide what we must defend kinetically," he said. "And it's not everything. So I'm reaching out, trying to work through the department, trying to work through the interagency, to figure out what that is."

Certainly, he said, things like continuity of government, nuclear command and control capabilities, forward power projection capabilities, and the defense industrial base are included.

Beyond that, he said, homeland defense can also include things like resilience, deception and information operations. But those are not enough either. VanHerck said he wants to go even further to the left — meaning to get ahead of crises before they happen.

"I believe that takes a layered defense, a layered defense focused on forward capabilities," he said. "I don't want to be shooting down cruise missiles over the National Capital Region. I think we need to be partnered with [our] 11 combatant commands, allies and partners forward, to generate deterrence day-to-day, and then in crisis and conflict, utilize those capabilities to deter and defend forward before it becomes a threat to our homeland. That's where my homeland defense design is focused."

Prospects Of Armenia-Turkey Normalization Appear Closer Than Ever

 Ani Mejlumyan

After nearly three decades with no relations and a closed border, the two countries’ leaders sound more hopeful than they have in years. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan recently said that Yerevan has been receiving “positive public signals” from Turkey. “We will evaluate those signals, we will respond to the positive signals with a positive signal,” he said at a government sitting on August 27. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters two days later: “We can work to gradually normalize our relations with an Armenian government that has declared its readiness to move in this direction.”

But there also were positive signals more than a decade ago, in the diplomatic 2009 effort to restore relations that became known as the “protocols.” Those ultimately foundered, however, as Azerbaijan pressed its ally Turkey to break them off.

Following last year’s war between Armenia and a Turkey-backed Azerbaijan, though, the calculations of all three sides have changed. And analysts and officials from around the region say that this time, the possibility of restoring relations is closer than ever. Questions nevertheless remain about a potential spoiler role that Russia may play.

The AUKUS Nuclear Submarine Deal: Unanswered Questions for Australia

Michael Clarke

The announcement of the Australia-U.K.-U.S. (AUKUS) agreement for cooperation on Australian acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines (SSNs) – as well as closer cooperation between the three allies on artificial intelligence, cyber, quantum, underwater systems, and long-range strike capabilities – has generated an enormous amount of over-heated commentary.

For some, this agreement is something of a magical unicorn that will deliver all manner of strategic and security blessings onto Australia. Rory Medalf proclaimed that this “new triple near-alliance is based on capability, convergent interest and, above all, trust” and will deliver “a merger of our military, industrial and scientific capabilities.” These are bold claims.

Yet, for the submarine component of the agreement, at least, there remain a number of significant unanswered questions. What does this mean for Australia’s already strained submarine capability? For Australia’s capacity to establish the necessary infrastructure and technical know-how to build and maintain a fleet of SSNs? And is this acquisition aligned with a coherent strategy for the submarines’ use?

Does the Afghan Debacle Signal Declining US Influence?

Niha Dagia

Twenty years after the United States ousted the Taliban regime, the insurgent group captured power in Kabul on August 15. The breathtaking collapse of the Ashraf Ghani government and the Afghan security forces paved the way for Taliban fighters to not only capture one provincial capital after another over a span of just 10 days, but also to take Kabul without a fight.

The Taliban takeover of Kabul was followed by a scrambled evacuation of foreign diplomatic staff and nationals as well as of Afghans who, having worked with the U.S.-led coalition or the Ghani government, now feared Taliban retribution. Scenes of the evacuation from the U.S. embassy in Kabul on the eve of the Taliban’s takeover evoked memories of the 1975 fall of Saigon.

But U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken dismissed the drawing of parallels between the American evacuations in Saigon and Kabul.

“Kabul is not Saigon,” he said.

Blinken may be right. The epic defeat of the U.S., a global power with the most technologically advanced military in human history, at the hands of a few thousand Taliban fighters may have just bookended U.S. influence in the region.

To contain China, joining the Pacific trade pact might be more effective than new submarines

Fareed Zakaria

On Sept. 15, the United States and Britain announced that they were signing an agreement with Australia to share technology for nuclear-powered submarines as part of a new “enhanced trilateral security partnership” to be known as AUKUS. This event was treated as big news around the world — and rightly so. It is a sign that the fulcrum of geopolitics has moved east and that Asia will be at the center of international affairs for decades to come.

The day after that announcement, however, came another that received relatively little coverage. China formally applied to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), the successor of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the trade pact negotiated and promoted by the Obama administration in large part to counter China’s growing economic dominance in Asia. (President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement three days after entering the White House.) Taken together, the two announcements show the complexity of the China challenge.

In the wake of Washington’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, many have commented on the United States’ short-term thinking, its mercurial foreign policy and its lack of staying power. But the AUKUS deal illustrates that, on the big issues, the opposite is true. For 15 years now, the United States has been gradually pivoting away from Europe and the Middle East and toward Asia.

Experts say China’s low-level cyberwar is becoming severe threat

Dan Sabbagh

Chinese state-sponsored hacking is at record levels, western experts say, accusing Beijing of engaging in a form of low-level warfare that is escalating despite US, British and other political efforts to bring it to a halt.

There are accusations too that the clandestine activity, which has a focus on stealing intellectual property, has become more overt and more reckless, although Beijing consistently denies sponsoring hacking and accuses critics of hypocrisy.

Jamie Collier, a consultant with Mandiant, a cybersecurity firm whose work is often cited by intelligence agencies, said the level of hacking emerging from China in 2021 was “a more kind of severe threat than we previously anticipated”.

That culminated, in July, with the US, the EU, Nato, the UK and four other countries all accusing Beijing of being behind a massive exploitation of vulnerabilities in Microsoft’s widely used Exchange company server software in March. In some cases they blamed China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS) for directing the activity.

The Secret Behind the French Interest in Iraq: A Geostrategic Analysis

Munqith Dagher

The Emeritus Chair at CSIS is presenting a commentary by an affiliate of the organization. Dr. Munqith Dagher is an Iraqi expert and a Senior Associate with CSIS, whose biography is summarized below.

French President Emmanuel Macron visited Iraq twice in the span of one year from 2020-2021. The first visit was on September 3, 2020, when he declared his intention to support Iraqi sovereignty.1 His visit demonstrated a clear message about the significance of Iraq to France, especially as it immediately followed his important trip to Lebanon. The second trip was on August 27, 2021, to attend the Baghdad Conference for Cooperation and Partnership. There, he reiterated the same message as well as represented a commitment to strategic partnership, indicating a pronounced shift in the French approach toward Iraq and the rest of the region, which had so far only mirrored that of the United States.2

There were four key points communicated during the second visit. The first was on the geostrategic level, as France was the only non-regional participant in the Baghdad Conference as well as the only participant that is a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

The US is unfairly targeting Chinese scientists over industrial spying, says report

Eileen Guoarchive

The study, published by the Committee of 100, an association of prominent Chinese-American civic leaders, found that individuals of Chinese heritage were more likely than others to be charged under the Economic Espionage Act—and significantly less likely to be convicted.

“The basic question that this study tries to answer is whether Asian-Americans are treated differently with respect to suspicions of espionage,” said the report’s author, Andrew C. Kim, a lawyer and visiting scholar at the South Texas College of Law Houston. “The answer to that question is yes. “

The study, which looked at data from economic espionage cases brought by the US from 1996 to 2020, found that just under half of all defendants were accused of stealing secrets that would benefit China. This is far lower than the figures laid out by US officials to justify the Department of Justice’s flagship China Initiative.

Lawmakers storm out of classified Afghanistan briefing after questions go unanswered

Kylie Atwood

The Republican and Democratic lawmakers grew frustrated after State Department, Pentagon, Department of Homeland Security, and Office of the Director of National Security officials failed to answer their basic questions during the briefing for members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the sources told CNN.

State Department officials -- both privately and publicly -- continue to say that about 100 Americans are still in Afghanistan who want to get out. Some lawmakers have told CNN they do not understand that accounting, given the department has said that they evacuated more than 75 Americans from Afghanistan through evacuation efforts in the last few weeks. State Department officials have said that the dynamic situation on the ground is the reason they cannot give a more precise figure.

A State Department spokesperson told CNN on Wednesday that "as a general matter, we do not comment on communications with Congress, especially those conducted in a classified setting."

Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told CNN's Jake Tapper on "The Lead" on Wednesday that "everybody walked out" from the meeting, and he questioned whether administration officials knew the number of Americans still in the country.


Cathal O'Connor

A few years ago, a member of the Secretary of Defense’s staff asked what I would tell a new staff-member returning to the Pentagon from a D.C. think tank. I offered the following story to differentiate between being “in government” and “observing the Pentagon” from the outside.

“Welcome back to the government and congratulations on your new position. It has been a few years since you left the previous administration. During that time, you have written some remarkably perceptive articles. Thought it might be useful for us to chat before you dive into the briefing books the staff prepared. So, I would offer three different sets of thoughts.

First my impressions on working in the Pentagon. Let’s start with your family. Wanted to make sure you have had that “important conversation” with your spouse and children. This position will likely preclude being home most mornings for breakfast and in the evenings for dinner. People underestimate the impact on your family given your lack of control over when you come and go. If you are mentally prepared for it, your spouse is onboard, and you can balance the work with showing up for your kids, it is doable, but it is not a trivial thing.

AUKUS reveals much about the new global strategic context

Dr Robin Niblett CMG

First, Australia’s decision to break off the $66 billion contract it signed with France in 2016 to purchase a new fleet of diesel electric submarines underscores the heightened level of concern in Canberra about China’s growing naval capabilities.

Despite all the industrial, legal, and diplomatic disruption, the Australian government has decided only the stealthy nuclear-powered submarines developed by Britain with US support can provide the genuine naval capability it needs long-term.

Next, in helping Australia resolve this conundrum, the British government has revealed the versatility of its new foreign policy. Part of the reason UK prime minister Boris Johnson eschewed the concept of a formal foreign policy and security treaty in the post-Brexit deal with the European Union (EU) was to pursue freely new ventures such as the recent ‘G7-plus’ summit in Cornwall, and enhanced cooperation among the Five Eyes allies. AUKUS reveals that this approach can produce real results.

Twenty Years Of ‘War On Terror’ Hits Taliban Roadblock, But Has It Ended? – OpEd

Palestine Chronicle

The reality is that while the Biden administration has withdrawn US troops, it hasn’t disengaged from pursuing policies cast in stone: “War On Terror”, being a bedrock of its fundamentalist militant ideology.

Intercept’s latest report reveals that America’s ‘war on terror’ has killed nearly 1 million people globally and cost more than $8 trillion since it began two decades ago. Their source of the staggering figures comes from a landmark report issued a few days ago by Brown University’s Costs of War Project, an ongoing research effort to document the economic and human impact of post-9/11 military operations.

Though containing shocking details of unending war, it is timeous for many international human rights organizations, including Media Review Network, headed by Cage in Britain, who have partnered under the theme “International Witness Campaign” to commemorate two decades of gruesome deaths resulting from the ‘War on Terror’.

Via a series of campaigns involving more than 40 partners across 15 countries, the IWC hopes to feature activities highlighting the impact and failures of the ‘War on Terror’.

How Biden Can Use Soft Power To Rein In Hezbollah – OpEd

Dr. Dania Koleilat Khatib

Hezbollah staged a show of confidence this month, threatening to respond if anyone intercepted an Iranian ship carrying fuel destined for Lebanon. Defying US sanctions on Iran, the tanker arrived in Syria, where the fuel was unloaded and transported by truck to Lebanon. The question is, can a Biden administration that advocates diplomacy use soft power to rein in Hezbollah? The answer is yes.

Washington can use diplomacy to strip from Hezbollah any legitimate claim to possess arms. It can do so by using its leverage with Israel and putting pressure on a newly formed Lebanese government that is so much in need of support.

Delineating the full border between Lebanon and Israel would reduce the potential for conflict between the two countries and make Hezbollah’s “narrative of resistance” void of meaning. This would put internal pressure on the group to disarm and, at the same time, allow it to offer concessions without losing face in case of a regional deal with Iran.

Why the head of the IMF should resign

In 2003 the world bank launched a league table that assessed the ease of doing business in different countries around the world. By 2017 Li Keqiang, China’s prime minister, grumbled that his country was lagging behind its peers. At his urging, officials began freeing entrepreneurs from red tape—and crimson ink. They cut fees, streamlined approvals, and began to use electronic seals instead of the traditional ink stamp on many documents.

China’s progress illustrates the power of the bank’s Doing Business rankings. Leaders have used them to motivate and monitor regulatory reforms, and like to boast about their country’s progress. The imf cited the rankings last year in arguing for lending to Jordan. The data help guide investors. And they have informed 676 of the World Bank’s own projects (worth $15.5bn) in the past decade, according to an as-yet-unpublished internal evaluation.

But with that profile came pressure. A new investigation has found that bank staff improperly altered the scores of China and three other countries. They wanted to spare China an embarrassing fall in the rankings in 2017, just as its reforms were gathering steam. According to the investigation, the China tweaks were carried out at the behest of the bank’s then president, Jim Yong Kim, and his second-in-command, Kristalina Georgieva, who is now head of the imf.

In a statement, Ms Georgieva has said she disagrees “fundamentally” with the findings and interpretation. In a meeting with imf staff, she said she only asked bank researchers to triple-check the data. But the investigators found that she and the team explored a change in the bank’s method (ie, including only one city per country) to engineer a better result. And, according to the bank’s own review, the tweaks that were finally implemented introduced errors rather than removing them.

In her defence, it was her boss who initiated the extra tyre-kicking. She had the higher motive of strengthening multilateralism. Scope for discretion had crept into the Doing Business indicators as they grew more elaborate over time. And a senior researcher assured her he could “live” with the revised report, although it is likely that neither he nor she knew exactly what tweaks had been made.

It is also true that institutions like the bank suffer from an inherent tension between their diplomatic duties and their scientific aspirations, as Paul Romer, a former chief economist of the bank, has pointed out. Reconciling the two is always difficult. Once the Doing Business rankings became so politically important to the bank’s member countries, it should have brought in outside institutions, like think-tanks or universities, to help oversee them.

But although Ms Georgieva deserves sympathy, the episode does not sit easily with her present role at the imf. The fund has an influential research department of its own. It is also the custodian of data standards for the world’s macroeconomic statistics. The head of the imf must hold the ring while two of its biggest shareholders, America and China, confront each other in a new era of geopolitical rivalry. Critics of multilateralism are already citing this affair as evidence that international bodies cannot stand up to China. The next time the imf tries to referee a currency dispute, or helps reschedule the debt of a country that has borrowed from China, the fund’s critics are sure to cite this investigation to undermine the institution’s credibility.

That is why Ms Georgieva, an esteemed servant of several international institutions, should resign. After China’s embarrassment was averted, she thanked a senior researcher for “doing his bit for multilateralism”. Now she too should do her bit for multilateralism by falling on her sword. 

No Wonder the French Are Angry

Sylvie Kauffmann

The new partnership announced last week between the United States, Britain and Australia, in which Australia would be endowed with nuclear-powered submarines, has left the French angry and in shock. And not just because of the loss of their own deal, signed in 2016, to provide Australia with submarines.

French officials say they have been stonewalled and duped by close allies, who negotiated behind their backs. The sense of betrayal is so acute that President Emmanuel Macron has uncharacteristically opted to keep silent on the issue, delegating the expression of a very public rage to his otherwise quiet foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian. Asked on public television whether President Biden’s behavior was reminiscent of his predecessor’s, Mr. Le Drian replied, “Without the tweets.”

The fallout is about much more than a scrapped business deal, Gallic pride and bruised egos. This diplomatic bombshell has crudely exposed the unwritten rules of great-power competition, in which France cannot be a player unless it carries the weight of the European Union behind it. The past week has been about 21st-century geopolitics and the brutal adjustment of old alliances to new realities.

Treasury Takes Aim at Ransomware and Illicit Cryptocurrency Trading

RADM (Ret) Mark Montgomery and Annie Fixler

As a result of the sanctions, Washington will block SUEX’s ability to interact with the U.S. financial system, and international banks will likely cut off the exchange as well because of SUEX’s failure to prevent illicit transactions. While malicious actors often exploit unwitting exchanges to move their ill-gotten gains, SUEX facilitates illegal activities for its own profit, Treasury said. More than 40 percent of the transactions on SUEX occur between criminals, Treasury estimated, and the exchange has facilitated proceeds from at least eight ransomware groups.

The sanctions also demonstrate the department’s modus operandi of targeting smaller actors with limited ties to the United States to pressure larger ones into preventing illicit activity more assiduously. “Shutting down one exchange will not materially alter the threat landscape,” Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI) observed, but it is “an important demonstration of our resolve.”

Michael Phillips, co-chair of the Ransomware Task Force, a coalition of government agencies, private industry groups, and think tanks, noted that “sanctioning those bad actors puts pressure on actors who may be operating in a grayer space, who may [now] be inclined to start to invest in compliance.”

Russia’s Climate Gamble

Heather A. Conley

The Russian government has positioned itself as a beneficiary of climate change and has welcomed a rapidly transforming Arctic that is warming three times faster than the rest of the world and becoming increasingly accessible. It has had extraordinary success with its Yamal LNG megaproject and seeks to build on this with new projects like Vostok Oil and ambitious plans for the Northern Sea Route. At the same time, it expands and deepens its Arctic military footprint with new bases and capabilities and an uptick in exercises and missile tests. This study attempts to identify the most significant climate impacts across the Russian Arctic to understand the broader implications for Russia’s economy, internal political dynamics, and security posture. With this information, this study sought to predict whether Russia’s considerable economic and military ambitions in the Arctic would succeed and, based on this analysis, tease out meaningful geostrategic implications. This research determined that the impacts of climate change—coupled with global, especially European, momentum toward decarbonization and energy transition—makes prospects for Russian success in the Arctic increasingly unfavorable. Key decisionmakers in Moscow are unlikely to be deterred by this fact, however, and Russia’s economic and military development of the region will continue in the near term.

Lessons from the Rally in European Energy Prices

Nikos Tsafos

Energy prices in Europe have risen sharply over the past few months. This spike has coincided with the release, over the summer, of the European Union’s “Fit for 55” package, a set of measures to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. As expected, higher prices have been used as a political excuse by both sides of the aisle: as a reason to accelerate the energy transition in Europe, and as a caution against a transition that is too rapid. Both perspectives deserve to be taken seriously. But neither is quite right.
Why Have Prices Risen?

The rally in prices has occurred across three markets: electricity, gas, and certificates for emitting carbon dioxide (for simplicity, carbon prices). These markets, in turn, are driven by dynamics that are both local and global, and they interact in ways that are new and poorly understood. Carbon prices, for example, spent much of the 2010s trading under €10 per ton; they are now around €60/ton. It is thus impossible to rely on history for insight on what drives such a rally in prices or what it means. Gas markets have similarly become more interconnected: shocks that were previously local or regional now have global ramifications. The territory is uncharted.

Why Provide Nuclear Submarines to Australia, But Not South Korea or Japan?

A. B. Abrams

The announcement on September 15 that the United States and United Kingdom would support a Royal Australian Navy (RAN) program to acquire nuclear-powered attack submarines, the first of which will reportedly be launched by the end of 2039, represents one of the most significant developments of the year for East Asian security. Australia will become the seventh country to field such assets and the very first non-nuclear weapons state to do so, with U.S. reactors using weapons-grade uranium expected to power the new vessels.

The unprecedented deal has sparked concerns of a proliferation risk either through Australia’s eventual acquisition of nuclear arms or, more likely, through a sharing arrangement similar to what the U.S. currently has with several European allies. The latter possibility would see U.S. nuclear weapons, in this case cruise missiles, transferred to Australian service in the event of a major war, with the RAN training to use them until then, much as European states train to use U.S. nuclear gravity bombs today. All this remains speculation, however, and the possibility remains that Australia currently intends to field its attack submarines purely as conventionally armed assets for long-distance power projection.

How the Air Force is tackling electronic warfare challenges

Lauren C. Williams

The Air Force is on high alert when it comes to electromagnetic spectrum threats. But extensive system updates pose a risk.

"If we lose the war in the spectrum, we lose the war in the air and we lose it quickly," Gen. Mark Kelly, the commander of Air Combat Command, said during keynote remarks at the Air Force Association's Air, Space, and Cyber conference Sept. 22, noting that a peer adversarial fight would engage frequencies across the spectrum.

Kelly's comments come a month after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin signed out the classified implementation plan for the Electromagnetic Spectrum Strategy released last year.

The Air Force, in recent years, has made organizational changes to elevate the importance of electronic warfare, including moving the Air Force Spectrum Management Office into its Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Cyber Effects Operations (A2/6) branch under Lt. Gen. Mary O'Brien. That branch will also soon be home to the Air Force's EMS directorate in October, O'Brien said Sept. 22.

"This is key terrain. We have to connect our joint force," Kelly said during his presentation of the Air Force's fighter roadmap, "because if the adversary can break our network, or if we can never establish a network, they can break our blue kill chains and potentially break our force."

What’s Working and What Isn’t in Researching Influence Operations?

Alicia Wanless

The world first learned about Russian attempts to manipulate the information environment in 2013. Staff hired by the Internet Research Agency (IRA) posed as Americans online posting divisive comments to social media. Continued activities during the 2016 U.S. presidential election put influence operations on center stage globally. It’s been eight years since the initial IRA operation, but how far has the field working to understand and counter influence operations come in that time? The field has certainly grown apace producing countless case studies highlighting examples of influence operations. Yet in many other ways the field has hit a rut. Scholars of influence operations still quibble over establishing common definitions and frequently come up empty when seeking to access more social media data.

Influence operations are not a new phenomenon, although the concept still has not been well defined. As part of influence operations, actors engage in a variety of activities aimed at affecting an audience or situation for a specific aim. Such activities can include tactics such as disinformation; for example, Chinese officials have repeatedly attempted to dispute the origins of the novel coronavirus through a coordinated campaign involving diplomats, state broadcasters and social media. But influence operations aren’t just limited to intentional spreading of misleading information. It’s a term that can also encompass knowing when to put an emotive message in front of an audience to encourage a behavior change, as Operation Christmas aimed to in demobilizing FARC guerrillas; agenda-setting particularly in mainstream media to frame a topic, as both Greenpeace and Shell did in encouraging audiences, especially policymakers, to adopt their side; and mobilizing audiences to participate by taking up and spreading a message.

Are Directed-Energy Weapons Behind the Havana Syndrome?


The latest episodes of so-called Havana syndrome, a series of unexplained ailments afflicting U.S. and Canadian diplomats and spies, span the globe. They include two diplomats in Hanoi, Vietnam—which disrupted Vice President Kamala Harris’s foreign travel schedule—in August, several dozen reports at the U.S. Embassy in Vienna earlier this year, and a pair of incidents at the White House last November.

The cause of these incidents is unknown, but speculation in the U.S. centers on electromagnetic beams.

If Havana syndrome turns out to be caused by weapons that shoot energy beams, they won’t be the first such weapons. As an aerospace engineer and former Vice Chair of the U.S. Air Force Scientific Advisory Board, I’ve researched directed energy. I can also personally attest to the effectiveness of directed energy weapons.

In 2020, a study on Havana syndrome by the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine concluded that the more than 130 victims experienced some real physical phenomena, and that the cause was most likely some form of electromagnetic radiation. These incidents began in 2016 with reports of multiple personnel at the U.S. embassy in Havana, Cuba,experiencing alarming and unexplained symptoms. The symptoms included a feeling of pressure on the face, loud noises, severe headaches, nausea and confusion. In some cases, the victims seem to have been left with permanent health effects.

Scientists from Cuba’s Academy of Sciences issued a report refuting the U.S. National Academies report and ascribing the reported symptoms to psychological effects or a range of ordinary ailments and preexisting conditions. But based on my own experience, directed energy appears to be a plausible explanation.