16 November 2021

India in Space Domain - Pathbreaking Developments

 Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)


India is now a major spacefaring nation. Initially, the Indian space programme was focused primarily on societal and developmental utilities. Today, like many other countries, India is compelled to use space for several military requirements like intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. Hence, India is looking to space to gain operational and informational advantages.

India has had its fair share of achievements in the space domain. It includes the launch of the country’s heaviest satellite, the GSAT-11 which will boost India’s broadband services by enabling 16 Gbps data links across the country, GSAT-7A, the military communication satellite and the launch of the Geo-synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle GSLV Mk III-D2, the GSAT 29. The Anti-Satellite (ASAT) test is an intrinsic part of today’s geopolitics and the national security context.

Chinese Cyber Exploitation in India’s Power Grid – Is There a linkage to Mumbai Power Outage?

 Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)


On Feb. 28, 2021 The New York Times (NYT), based on analysis by a U.S. based private intelligence firm Recorded Future, reported that a Chinese entity penetrated India’s power grid at multiple load dispatch points. Chinese malware intruded into the control systems that manage electric supply across India, along with a high-voltage transmission substation and a coal-fired power plant.

The NYT story1 gives the impression that the alleged activity against critical Indian infrastructure installations was as much meant to act as a deterrent against any Indian military thrust along the Line of Actual Control as it was to support future operations to cripple India’s power generation and distribution systems in event of war.

Top Haqqani Network leader named Taliban governor of Logar


The Taliban appointed a top leader of the Haqqani Network, who was previously in U.S. custody, to serve as the group’s governor of the eastern province of Logar.

Haji Mali Khan was appointed by the Taliban to govern Logar on Nov. 7. Khan is an uncle of Sirajuddin Haqqani, the Taliban’s current Minister of Interior and deputy emir who also leads the Al Qaeda and Pakistan-linked Haqqani network. Sirajuddin Haqqani is arguably the most powerful and influential Taliban leader and has also been described by the United Nations Sanction and Monitoring Team as “an Al Qaeda Leader.”

Khan is also the brother-in-law of Jalaluddin Haqqani, the deceased founder and patriarch of the Haqqani Network who helped Osama bin Laden return to Afghanistan in 1996 and was a key figure in cementing Al Qaeda and Taliban ties.

Hundreds Seeking Evacuation From Afghanistan Forced to Leave Safehouses

Jessica Donati

Since the last U.S. forces left Afghanistan at the end of August, charter flights operated by volunteer groups have offered vulnerable Afghans one of the few routes out of the country.

Task Force Argo was one of the biggest volunteer groups, made up of current and former U.S. government officials, veterans and others working to charter evacuation flights out of Afghanistan. The group’s leaders said it has three flights ready to leave but nowhere to land the planes because the U.S. government hadn’t approved the passenger manifests or otherwise cleared the departures.

The group said it had raised nearly $2 million from veterans and other private donors and gets no U.S. government money. Donations streamed in during the chaotic evacuation from Kabul but have fallen off since media coverage of the issue has diminished.

A spokeswoman said that several countries already hosting Afghans temporarily—Albania, Kosovo, Rwanda and Uganda—had offered to receive the passengers but only with the U.S. government’s approval.

The Narco-Terrorist Taliban


NEW DELHI – The strategic folly of US President Joe Biden’s Afghan policy has been laid bare in recent weeks. First, the country came back under the control of the Pakistan-reared Taliban. The announcement of the interim government’s composition then dashed any remaining (naive) hope that this Taliban regime would be different from the one the United States and its allies ousted in 2001. Beyond the cabinet including a who’s who of international terrorism, narcotics kingpins occupy senior positions.

Afghanistan accounts for 85% of the global acreage under opium cultivation, making the Taliban the world’s largest drug cartel. It controls and taxes opioid production, oversees exports, and shields smuggling networks. This is essential to its survival. According to a recent report by the United Nations Security Council monitoring team, the production and trafficking of poppy-based and synthetic drugs remain “the Taliban’s largest single source of income.” So reliant is the Taliban on narcotics trafficking that its leaders have at times fought among themselves over revenue-sharing.

Taliban Splintered by Internal Divisions, External Spoilers

Lynne O’Donnell

The unity that catapulted the Taliban to victory in Afghanistan is splintering under the pressure of internal divisions that could threaten the group’s survival if rivals cannot mend their differences while dealing with the realities of running a troubled country.

Against a backdrop of looming economic and humanitarian catastrophe, lines—and swords—have been drawn between two senior Taliban figures: political leader Abdul Ghani Baradar, who co-founded the group with Mullah Mohammad Omar and whose power base is in Kandahar, and sanctioned terrorist Sirajuddin Haqqani, who heads the affiliated Haqqani network and is close to al Qaeda.

As Taliban factions battle for bigger slices of the pie, the local branch of the Islamic State is picking up recruits disillusioned with the political direction the Taliban are taking, security and academic sources said.

Amid the internal power struggle at the top of the Taliban, and the Islamic State recruitment drive, indications are emerging of an alliance of smaller jihadi groups spearheaded by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), attracting elements dissatisfied with even the most extreme factions currently in control of Afghanistan.

China’s silence on nuclear arms buildup fuels speculation on motives

Tong Zhao

The US Defense Department released a report this month that spotlights the Chinese military’s rapid nuclear modernization efforts. The report follows news earlier this year that China constructed potential intercontinental ballistic missile silos and tested an orbital hypersonic missile system. China has also been at work strengthening its nuclear triad capability of land, sea, and air missiles. And the country is reportedly experimenting with new and perhaps exotic delivery technologies, while possibly shifting toward a launch on warning posture. World citizens who want to understand the security implications and prospects for future arms control cooperation with China must first try to understand the military rationale behind its nuclear expansion.

Chinese decision makers have never elaborated in public about speeding up China’s traditionally modest nuclear modernization program. But their occasionally reported public statements reveal how their thinking has evolved. The current Chinese paramount leader—Xi Jinping—upgraded the Rocket Force of the People’s Liberation Army from a military branch to a full military service in 2015. Then, in 2016, he instructed Rocket Force officials to “accelerate the pace of development and make a solid effort to bring strategic capabilities to a high level.”

China’s Social Media Explosion

Christina Lu

When LinkedIn, the last major U.S. social media platform to operate in China, announced last month that it was leaving the country, its departure was seen as the final rupture between U.S. and Chinese social networks.

But for the majority of social media users in China, LinkedIn’s closure wasn’t a huge loss. During the company’s decade-long stint in the country, it struggled to build a loyal following, at least in part because Chinese users had a wealth of other options. For years, Beijing has been sealing off its digital sphere—reflected in its censorship of Facebook and Twitter—and cultivating what has become a vast, dynamic social media ecosystem.

U.S.-China relations are increasingly framed in terms of geopolitical competition, and discussions of Chinese social media are often tethered to politics as a result. But researchers say this is only one side of the story, one that fails to account for the innovation prevalent in Chinese social media. Today, social media is a space where Chinese citizens navigate constantly changing regulations—and censorship—to discuss everything from Squid Game to toxic work culture.

The Triumph and Terror of Wang Huning


One day in August 2021, Zhao Wei disappeared. For one of China’s best-known actresses to physically vanish from public view would have been enough to cause a stir on its own. But Zhao’s disappearing act was far more thorough: overnight, she was erased from the internet. Her Weibo social media page, with its 86 million followers, went offline, as did fan sites dedicated to her. Searches for her many films and television shows returned no results on streaming sites. Zhao’s name was scrubbed from the credits of projects she had appeared in or directed, replaced with a blank space. Online discussions uttering her name were censored. Suddenly, little trace remained that the 45-year-old celebrity had ever existed.

She wasn’t alone. Other Chinese entertainers also began to vanish as Chinese government regulators announced a “heightened crackdown” intended to dispense with “vulgar internet celebrities” promoting lascivious lifestyles and to “resolve the problem of chaos” created by online fandom culture. Those imitating the effeminate or androgynous aesthetics of Korean boyband stars—colorfully referred to as “xiao xian rou,” or “little fresh meat”—were next to go, with the government vowing to “resolutely put an end to sissy men” appearing on the screens of China’s impressionable youth.

Gaza Conflict 2021 Assessment: Observations and Lessons

As retired U.S. generals, admirals, and military legal experts, we undertook this study of the May 2021 armed conflict between Israel and Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in the Gaza Strip to glean legal, strategic, operational, and technological observations about the challenges confronting Israel today and that the United States could face in the future.

Perhaps the most telling feature of the Gaza conflict was the strategy mismatch between Israel’s purely military and operational objectives to degrade Hamas’ military capabilities— assisted by impressive advances in identifying and precisely striking targets—and Hamas’ information-based strategic objectives of delegitimizing the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in global opinion and degrading the IDF’s operational advantage.

Our consensus judgment is that IDF military operations complied with Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) and consistently implemented precautions to mitigate civilian risk, some exceeding those implemented in recent U.S. combat operations that we participated in, despite confronting an adversary that often sought to exacerbate that risk deliberately.

The United States Can Shape China’s Collapse

Robert L. Wilkie

Acertain fatalism has crept into some corners of Western thought: the notion that a rising China is destined to become the most dominant power on earth; there is nothing America can do to prevent that, and the best we can hope for is to “manage the decline” into also-ran status.

This is a view heartily endorsed by Chinese president Xi Jinping. In a speech earlier this year celebrating the centennial anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party, Xi boasted of how the party had “transformed the future of the Chinese people and nation.” Now, “China’s national rejuvenation has become a historical inevitability,” he said.

For all of Xi’s chest-thumping, however, China is not invincible, nor is its path to dominance foreordained. Indeed, one could just as easily argue that China is fast approaching an era of economic and demographic decline, and Xi’s regime has no idea how to manage its coming.

The United States’ Offshore Wind Industrial Strategy

Stephen J. Naimoli

Key Points

Offshore wind is a key part of the United States’ climate strategy. The country hopes to deploy 30 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind by 2030.

In addition to climate goals, the federal government hopes the offshore wind industry will drive investment in new manufacturing plants and create 44,000 jobs by 2030.

The federal government invests in research and development, runs the leasing process for offshore wind farms, and provides funds to incentivize deployment. The states secure contracts for power from planned offshore wind farms and leverage the process to generate economic development in their borders.

Most offshore wind development is on the East Coast due to favorable waters, but interest has spread to the Gulf of Mexico and the West Coast, where the country could harness over 700 GW of potential.

Why America Needs to Rethink the Taiwan Narrative

Adam Taylor

President Biden’s October remarks about protecting Taiwan have re-ignited debate over American defense planning in the Taiwan Strait. This comes after other lawmakers on Capitol Hill have also recently suggested that the U.S. abandon strategic ambiguity as well. Proponents of this approach contend that the benefits of strategic clarity outweigh its risks and offers America the best opportunity to deter China and reassure Taiwan. Unfortunately, this logic relies on misguided assumptions about current U.S. policy and is aided by outdated arguments intended to support strategic ambiguity. Furthermore, this conversation pays too little attention to Chinese deterrence theory. A more thorough review of the evidence invoked in this debate and Chinese deterrence practice highlights why strategic ambiguity must remain the strategy of choice for U.S. policymakers in the years to come.

Current U.S. defense policy towards Taiwan is governed by the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), which stipulates that America will provide Taiwan with defensive arms and maintain the “capacity to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion” that threatens Taiwan. This opaque commitment has come under increased scrutiny as Beijing ramps up its campaign of coercion against Taiwan. Criticism of TRA’s vague defense promise has coalesced around three broad narratives.

US Intel Warns China Could Dominate Advanced Technologies

Nomaan Merchant

WASHINGTON — U.S. officials issued new warnings Friday about China’s ambitions in artificial intelligence and a range of advanced technologies that could eventually give Beijing a decisive military edge and possible dominance over health care and other essential sectors in America.

The warnings include a renewed effort to inform business executives, academics and local and state government officials about the risks of accepting Chinese investment or expertise in key industries, officials at the National Counterintelligence and Security Center said. While the center does not intend to tell officials to reject Chinese investment, it will encourage efforts to control intellectual property and implement security measures.

National security agencies under President Joe Biden’s administration are making an aggressive public push against China, which some officials have called the greatest strategic threat to the United States. The Biden administration has simultaneously tried to ease some tensions with Beijing dating to the Trump administration and seek common ground on trade and climate change.

How America can defend Taiwan

Elbridge Colby

How would America respond if China attacked Taiwan? The pressure to defend the island would be compelling, if not overwhelming. Washington nominally maintains a “strategic ambiguity” towards the defense of Taiwan, but the two countries are linked in many ways and the Biden administration recently reiterated its “rock solid” commitment to the island.

Beijing clearly wants to subordinate self-governing Taiwan. American credibility, meanwhile, is connected to its protection. The island is also militarily significant. Its fall would seriously undermine the defense of Japan, South Korea and the Philippines, and open up the central Pacific to the Chinese military.

Beijing knows heavy sanctions and harassment are unlikely to force Taiwan to give up its freedom. A quick and decisive air and sea invasion would, though. And while China has spent the past 25 years allocating resources to getting ready to take the island, the US has unwisely focused on other things. Taiwan and Japan have also neglected their defenses. As a result, in the event of an invasion, coming to the island’s aid would be extremely difficult. But it is still feasible.

Biden's Nightmare: The Challenge of Countering China’s New Missiles

Kris Osborn

China’s fast-expanding arsenal of missiles involves a large-scale increase in the size of its mission, according to a Defense Department report on China that was published earlier this year. The department has flagged recent advancements that have been made by the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF).

“In 2020, the PLARF launched more than 250 ballistic missiles for testing and training,” according to the report, titled Military and Security Developments involving the People’s Republic of China. “This was more than the rest of the world combined.”

China’s “carrier-killer” Dong-Feng 21D (DF-21D) and Dong-Feng 26 (DF-26) have been on the Defense Department’s radar for many years. The PLARF’s growing inventory of DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missiles are now capable of “conducting both conventional and nuclear strikes against ground targets as well as conventional strikes against naval targets,” according to the report. China is known to test these missiles and adjust them so that they are better able to track and destroy moving targets at sea. China’s ability to hit moving targets at sea, such as carrier aircraft, has been somewhat questionable. However, the technology required to perform this feat will quickly improve.

The Fate of China’s Rail Line to Uzbekistan Likely to Be Decided in Kyrgyzstan

Paul Goble

As a part of its Belt and Road Initiative, Chinese plans to construct a railway from Xinjiang through Kyrgyzstan to Uzbekistan and onward to Turkmenistan has been under discussion for two decades. If realized, the railway would transform the geopolitical situation in the region. This rail corridor would open new possibilities for China and the countries of the region to bypass Russia in pursuit of foreign markets. Moreover, this railway would accelerate China’s gradual displacement of Russia as the dominant power in post-Soviet Central Asia, particularly given that Beijing has already demonstrated its willingness to use its economic might to extract political concessions from governments there (see EDM, March 21, 2019 and April 23, 2020).

For these reasons, Beijing and Tashkent are enthusiastic about the plan, but Moscow is opposed and has been exploiting fears in Bishkek that the proposed route would pass through the southern part of Kyrgyzstan rather than through the capital, in the north. The government of the Kyrgyz Republic worries that such an outcome could not only intensify secessionist attitudes in the long-restive south but also undermine chances for laying down a north-south rail route, which Bishkek sees as essential to its control of the country as a whole. As a result of Russian persuasion, Kyrgyzstan in the past has been less willing to support the idea of a China–Uzbekistan railroad across its territory. But in recent days, leaders in Bishkek announced they favor going ahead after all, raising the possibility that the construction of said rail line could soon begin. If so, the prospect of tensions between Moscow and Beijing as well as between Moscow and Bishkek will likely grow (see EDM, May 24, 2017 and July 6, 2020; Stan Radar, November 8, 2021).

Crisis on the Polish-Belarusian Border—What Strategy for Warsaw?

Jakub Bornio

On November 8, Poland’s President Andrzej Duda held consultations in Warsaw with the government, military and border guard service regarding the artificial migration crisis at the Polish-Belarusian border (Prezydent.pl, November 8). The situation there has intensified, with 3,000–4,000 migrants gathered in the direct vicinity of Poland’s eastern frontier, declared Piotr Müller, the government spokesperson (PAP, November 8). On the same day, the Polish Ministry of Defense put the Territorial Defense Force on standby, with six-hour call-ups for brigades located in districts bordering Belarus and Russia (Twitter.com/terytorialsi, November 8). Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak informed, on November 9, during an extraordinary session of the Sejm (lower chamber of parliament) that 13,000 troops were on active duty along the border (Sejm.gov.pl, November 9). The Border Guard has suspended trans-border traffic in Kuźniki, one of seven road crossings on the border with Belarus (Strazgraniczna.pl, November 8). The actions were preceded by “push-back” operations, a declaration of a state of emergency in some of the bordering regions, a build-up of the provisional fence, and a decision to build more fencing and detection infrastructure along the state boundary in the coming months (estimated total cost around $400 million).

First Strike: The Political Consequences of Ukraine’s Bayraktar Drone Attack on Russia-Backed Forces in Donbas

Yuri Lapaiev

On October 26, the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) for the first time used the Turkish-produced Bayraktar TB2 unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) to strike at forces of the so-called Donetsk “People’s Republic” (DPR) militia in Donbas. According to the official statement of the AFU General Staff, enemy units used a battery of D-30 howitzers to fire on Ukrainian positions in the area of ​​the settlement of Hranitne (Donetsk Oblast). Two AFU service members were wounded during the shelling, and one was killed. After several attempts to stop the shelling through diplomatic channels—via the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Special Monitoring Mission (OSCE SMM)—the AFU’s commander-in-chief, Major General Valeriy Zaluzhny, ordered Ukrainian units to deploy a Bayraktar TB2 to fire on and suppress the enemy’s offensive capabilities. The UCAV did not cross the line of contact, but it destroyed one howitzer gun with a guided bomb. In order to minimize casualties, a small ordnance was used—an 8.5-kilogram МАМ-С modification. This succeeded in halting further shelling of the Ukrainian positions. Within hours, the AFU posted a video of the strike online (Facebook.com, October 26).

The incident marked Ukraine’s first employment of this modern UCAV in combat since its purchase from Turkey in late 2018. In the first few years following the acquisition, many in the AFU top brass believed that a deployment of those Turkish strike drones on the front lines was too premature, impractical or even dangerous considering possible consequences coming from Moscow in response to this weapon’s use against the Russia-backed separatists. But the situation changed in light of several episodes of Turkish military units using the Bayraktar TB2 against Moscow-supported forces in the Syrian theater and, especially, after these drones’ much-commented-on performance in the recent war in Karabakh (September 27–November 9, 2020). Thus, since 2020, the AFU started to use these UCAVs more often in exercises, mostly to rehearse intelligence-gathering but also to practice aerial targeting of missile-artillery systems (Ukrinform, May 26). The first flight of a Bayraktar TB2 near the front lines in the Donbas “Joint Forces Operation” (JFO) zone occurred on September 28, 2020 (Tyzhden, October 14).

Ending the Permanent Respiratory Disease Pandemic


NEW YORK – COVID-19 has exposed the limited ability of health systems around the world to cope with a pandemic of respiratory infection. With the official death count from COVID-19 now over five million, and the unofficial count estimated at up to five times higher, the struggles of health systems everywhere have been evident to all.

What is less clear is how the world could have been so blindsided by COVID-19. Respiratory diseases have long been the leading infectious cause of death globally. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, an estimated 2.5 million adults and children died from pneumonia each year. No other infection causes anywhere near this number of fatalities.

A Strategic Compass for Europe


BRUSSELS – A compass helps one find one’s way, and the “Strategic Compass” that I have drafted at the behest of the European Council will serve as an operational guide for the European Union’s development and decision-making on security and defense. It is now heading to EU foreign affairs and defense ministers for discussions next week.

The compass is designed to answer three questions: Which challenges and threats do we face? How can we better pool our assets and manage them effectively? And what is the best way to project Europe’s influence as both a regional and global actor?

Our overall threat analysis shows clearly that Europe is in danger. The EU risks what I have called a “strategic shrinkage.” This can be perceived from three points of view. First, our economic reach is becoming increasingly circumscribed. Thirty years ago, the EU represented one-quarter of the world’s wealth; in 20 years, it will account for just over 10%. Our demographic shrinkage develops similarly: By the end of this century, Europe will account for less than 5% of the world’s population.

Climate Change and Resource Scarcities are Reshaping the World Order

Joergen Oerstroem Moeller

Like the four horsemen in the book of revelation, climate change and resource scarcities bring disastrous occurrences to mankind.

The 2021 United Nations Climate Conference (COP26) focused on predictions that climate change is likely to push billions of people into unlivable conditions. Yet it largely avoided the fact that, before such a disastrous scenario, humanity may have another existential struggle on its hands—war by nation-states fighting one another over increasingly-scarce resources.

Climate change and resource scarcities interact cataclysmically with one another. The most dramatic example is water from the Himalayan Plateau, which flows into China, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Due to economic development and population growth, more water is needed than ever—and demand will continue to increase. Due to climate change, the world’s glaciers are melting, leaving less water flowing into river systems.

Adapting Covid-19 Innovations to Accelerate Progress toward Meeting Global Tuberculosis Goals

Katherine E. Bliss

The Issue
Tuberculosis (TB) is one of the world’s principal causes of death due to infectious disease. Before 2020, technical innovations in diagnostics, therapies, service delivery, and vaccine development had hinted at a promising future for TB control. But while the annual incidence of new cases had decreased compared to 2015, progress in meeting targets set in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 was off track, and the spread of multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB), as well as persistent high rates of TB coinfection with HIV, remained key challenges, particularly in lower- and middle-income countries. Since 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic has worsened the global outlook for TB in multiple ways.

As efforts to close gaps, restore health services, and prepare for future health emergencies unfold, it will be important to increase financial commitments for TB programs worldwide; prioritize TB and drug-resistant TB (DR-TB) within pandemic preparedness initiatives; and ensure that innovations and adaptations from the Covid-19 response, including the greater use of digital technologies for diagnostics and data analysis, inform efforts to address the global challenge of TB.

Dr. Richard Brennan, WHO Emergency Operations: The “Delicate Dance” with the Taliban

Andrew Schwartz: You're listening to the Covid-19 Update a podcast from the CSIS Global Health Policy Center, focused on the science and policy implications of the outbreak. I'm Andrew Schwartz of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and I'm joined by my colleague, Steve Morrison, to discuss the latest on Covid-19.

Steve Morrison: We're delighted today to be joined by Dr. Rick Brennan. Rick is the Regional Emergency Director for WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean, based in Cairo, Egypt. Previously, he had spent seven years at WHO headquarters as Director of Emergency Operations, Director of Ebola Coordination and Response, and Director of Emergency Risk Management and Humanitarian Response. We're going to focus overwhelmingly today on the catastrophe unfolding in Afghanistan. We'll talk about Covid and the Covid response, but also a full range of other issues, especially pertaining to the risk of collapse of the Sehatmandi health project that sustains 2,300 facilities inside Afghanistan. Thank you, Rick, so much for joining us today. Andrew Schwartz cannot be with us today and sends his regrets.

We’ve had the great fortune to enlist Len Rubenstein, a close friend and collaborator and Professor of the Practice at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Director of the Program on Human Rights, Health, and Conflict. He's the author of the recently published volume Perilous Medicine: The Struggle to Protect Health Care from the Violence of War . He founded and chairs the Safeguarding Health in Conflict coalition. He has, for a very long time, as we'll hear in this conversation today, tracked the health sector within Afghanistan and the many complexities that have entered the history of that sector going back in recent decades. Recently, Len and I published a CSIS commentary, which you can easily find. The title is “Pulling Afghanistan back from the Precipice—without Capitulation”. This conversation today with Dr. Rick Brennan grows out of that earlier work.

Russia’s Race for Hypersonic Weapons

Pavel Luzin

The global race for hypersonic weapons, or at least for technologies to reach hypersonic velocity, undoubtedly goes on. Russia is paying close attention to the research, development and testing of hypersonic missiles in the United States (TASS, September 27, 2021), China (RIA Novosti, October 21, 2021), Japan (RT, March 15, 2020) and others, while itself attempting to become a major player in this field. Moscow officially completed the tests of the scramjet-driven 3M22 Tsirkon hypersonic anti-ship missile (Mil.ru, October 4). The first production missiles of this type are contracted for 2022 (Interfax, August 24). At the same time, Russia increased the number of Avangard nuclear-armed gliders deployed on the Soviet-era UR-100NUTTH intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), also classified as the RS-18A or SS-19 Mod 4. Two Avangard gliders had been built in early 2020, and an estimated four existed as of early 2021 (TASS, December 17, 2020; Moskovsky Komsomolets, February 5, 2021); additional units can be expected to roll off the factory floor soon (Zvezda, August 10). However, Russia’s hypersonic weapons should be considered part of asymmetric and even psychological warfare rather than weapons of ultimate military dominance.

The main function of the Russian navy’s Tsirkon tactical hypersonic missiles is to overload the adversary’s missile-defense systems and provide a way for more traditional subsonic and supersonic anti-ship missiles to hit their targets. This approach derives from the two challenges Russia currently faces. First is a lack of both quantity and quality of Russian surface and submarine forces. Russia is still not capable of producing guided-missile destroyers. Meanwhile, the rates of manufacturing of the newest Yasen-class cruise-missile submarines (TASS, October 26) as well as the modernization of Oscar II–class and Akula-class submarines are far too slow (Krasnaya Zvezda, March 19). These shipyard bottlenecks hamper Russia’s ability to launch sufficiently large and capable conventional missile salvos to challenge the military capacities of the United States (and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization—NATO) or China. This naval deficiency means Russia struggles to secure political gains from its claims of great power status.

Belarus Seeks to Export Instability

Amy Mackinnon, Robbie Gramer

Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko has weaponized migration, with thousands of asylum-seekers and migrants from the Middle East caught up in a multilayered geopolitical standoff with neighbors like Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia.

As tensions escalate between Belarus and the West in the wake of fraudulent presidential elections last year and a violent crackdown on protests, Lukashenko has sought to exploit the European Union’s weak seams of unresolved internal tensions over migration and Poland’s increasing defiance of Brussels by shipping in would-be migrants and then flooding them toward his European neighbors’ borders.

At least 2,000 people are believed to be stuck at the border with Belarusian guards pushing them into the EU while their Polish counterparts shove them back. Polish border guards estimate that 30,000 people have tried to cross the border since August, and the crisis is only likely to worsen as winter sets in, according to multiple Eastern European officials. One official said the Polish and Baltic state governments expect Belarus to begin operating anywhere between 40 and 55 direct flights per week from the Middle East to Minsk, Belarus, bringing potentially thousands of new migrants with false promises of an easy passage into the European Union.

Can You Drive a Stake through the Heart of Spyware?

James Andrew Lewis

The answer to this question, despite the welcome news that the NSO Group has been added to the entities list, is no, probably not. The demand for spyware will only grow as networked digital technologies are universally used and incorporated into human life. Activity centers around digital networks and companies will arise to service this demand.

Almost all countries conduct domestic surveillance, even if they don't always admit it. The real issue is under what rules they surveil and how strong any oversight procedures are to ensure that surveillance complies with these national rules. Democracies have effective rules to control surveillance. Countries that are not democracies or where the rule of law is weak do not. These go well beyond China, Russia, and Iran, and it is this global market that creates demand for services provided by companies like NSO.

Some countries have indigenous capabilities to make advanced surveillance software, but most must buy from an external source (the same way that very few countries make advanced weapons and others must buy from them). That raises a question: Under what rules does the international community regard such sale as legitimate? It is in the interest of democracies to fence the Wild West of spyware with rules governing its sale. That only a relatively few countries have the capability to make NSO-like products, and that many of them are democracies, provides an opportunity for progress in building these rules.

Do Cyber Spies Dream of Electric Shadows?

Albert Zhang

Alice sits at a bar with Bob, a travel consultant she has been seeing socially since she met him a few weeks ago in the lobby of the building where she works as a network administrator. Her company develops IT systems for the military. Bob isn’t actually a consultant but a foreign intelligence officer who has been influencing Alice to sell state secrets. He is facing away from the closed-circuit TV camera above the counter, but he’s oblivious to the fact that his movements have been tracked via facial recognition ever since he arrived in the country. Bob’s true identity was revealed in a ransacked personnel database and the microphone on his smartphone was hacked through a zero-day vulnerability to record Alice breaking the law.

While this story is fictional, it highlights how pervasive surveillance, online personal data and new technologies such as trackable devices are making it harder for states to collect intelligence from human sources (commonly referred to as human intelligence, or HUMINT), which includes a range of activities whose core purpose is to recruit an individual to ‘spy’.

In this new era, espionage will pit tech against tech to avoid detection and create more plausibly deniable covers. Covert communications will likely become more sophisticated to avoid detection, but HUMINT collection agencies could further collaborate with their technical counterparts to take full advantage of other emerging technologies to protect their intelligence officers and agents on the ground.

Cyber Marines could be empowered to act boldly under commandant’s future force vision

Megan Eckstein

WASHINGTON — As the U.S. Marine Corps continues to reshape the force through the commandant’s Force Design 2030 effort and the recently released Talent Management 2030 plan, cyber and information warfare Marines in the future may be further empowered to use their digital skills to create operational advantages for kinetic forces, one official said.

The Marine Expeditionary Force Information Group (MIG) formation was fielded four years ago and has already made progress in training fellow Marines on how to operate amid cyber threats as well as showing MEF commanders how to blend a range of kinetic and non-kinetic options, Col. Brian Russell, who commands the II MEF Information Group, said Nov. 10 during a discussion as part of C4ISRNET’s CyberCon.

But those Marines’ talents could still be further unleashed.

America’s lesson from Gaza: prepare for disinformation war


While the US may be turning its focus towards the Pacific, the Middle East still has military lessons to teach. This is particularly true of the May 2021 conflict between Israel and armed Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip. Israel has termed its operations the “first artificial intelligence” war, but perhaps the most important takeaway has to do with disinformation.

May’s 11-day conflict, the fourth major round of hostilities since Hamas violently took control of Gaza in 2007, made up for its brevity with intensity. Hamas’ deployment of advanced capabilities, civilian shields, and disinformation are characteristics of tactics US forces will likely encounter. And while Israel’s ability to dominate Gaza’s finite battlespace was an advantage American planners cannot count on, Israel’s operational and technological innovations, and its challenges in the informational domain, should help shape how US forces prepare for their next conflicts.

Hamas entered this conflict with updated offensive capabilities and plans. Its most visible advance was its high sustained rate of rocket fire, including barrages of up to 150 rockets fired at a single target, all meant to overwhelm Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system. Hamas also sought to attack Israeli forces with anti-tank missiles, unmanned aerial and submersible vehicles, naval forces, and an electronic warfare capability designed to jam Iron Dome radars.