26 November 2021


 Maj Gen P K Mallick, VSM (Retd)

Microsoft released its second annual Digital Defense Report, covering July 2020 to June 2021. This year s 134 pages report is quite detailed, with sections on cybercrime, nationstate threats, supply-chain attacks and Internet of Things attacks. The report includes security suggestions for organizations with remote workforces. It has a section describing the use of social media to spread disinformation. The report is a compilation of integrated data and actionable insights from across 

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.

The Benefits of Expanding the India-Russia Partnership in Southeast Asia

Don McLain Gill

As China’s steady accumulation of relative power is getting too close for comfort for its neighbors in Southeast Asia, extra-regional alignments are seen to be a pivotal element for the smaller countries. However, as China continues to be embroiled in a power competition with the United States, Southeast Asian countries have also been wary of using the U.S. as a sole counterweight in the region. It is with this in mind that the attention of these countries has shifted toward the potential roles of Russia and India.

The presence of both countries has been widely accepted and welcomed by the Southeast Asian countries. In fact, there is a great desire among them to encourage New Delhi and Moscow to enhance their involvement in the region. However, with certain limits to each country’s individual Southeast Asian policy, a recalibration can be made toward a more collective approach.

Recently, there have been a series of noteworthy developments in the engagements of both countries in Southeast Asia. During the 10th ASEAN Economic Ministers-Russia Consultations in September, Russia and ASEAN expressed their collective desire enhance and broaden the scope of their cooperation in the economic sphere. This also led to the adoption of a revised ASEAN-Russia Trade and Investment Cooperation Work Program for the period encompassing 2021-2025.

IMF Deal With Pakistan Would Revive $6 Billion Bailout

Munir Ahmed

The International Monetary Fund said Monday that weeks of talks with Pakistan have produced a preliminary agreement toward reviving a $6 billion economic bailout for the Islamic nation.

Pakistan and IMF originally signed the accord in 2019, but the release of a key installment had been on the hold since earlier this year. That’s when the fund expressed reservations about a delay in Pakistan’s compliance with conditions of the bailout.

The IMF statement Monday said that under latest proposal, the fund would disburse about $1 billion to Pakistan, bringing the total disbursement out of the $6 billion bailout to about $3 billion since 2019, according to the statement.

The talks this month yielded an agreement “subject to approval by the Executive Board, following the implementation of prior actions, notably on fiscal and institutional reforms,” the IMF statement said.

Choose a side, China tells Taiwan firms as it punishes conglomerate

TAIPEI, Nov 22 (Reuters) - Taiwan firms operating in China need to draw a line between themselves and independence supporters, China's government said on Monday after punishing a major Taiwanese firm ostensibly for business violations.

China, which claims democratically-ruled Taiwan as its own territory, has heaped pressure on the island to accept Beijing's rule. It said earlier this month it would hold those who support the island's formal independence, including companies, criminally liable.

China's official Xinhua news agency said early on Monday that law enforcement agencies across China had punished Taiwan's Far Eastern Group, which has interests ranging from hotels to petrochemicals, for a series of problems, from tax to fire safety, and that the investigation was continuing.

In a statement late on Monday answering a question on whether the move was linked to the government's targeting of "stubbornly pro-Taiwan independence" forces, China's Taiwan Affairs Office did not draw a direct link, repeating Xinhua's accusations against the company.

China May Steal Encrypted Data Now to Decrypt In Years to Come, Report Warns


Though they are years from being fully realized, quantum technologies are altering the U.S. cyber threat landscape in serious ways and organizations should start acting now to ensure their infrastructure and data will be protected as the field evolves, according to a new report from Booz Allen Hamilton.

In the recently released 32-page document, experts warn that China, specifically, has become a major player in quantum computing and will likely soon collect encrypted American data in hopes to eventually decrypt it when the advanced quantum systems go into operation.

“Quantum computing is a rapidly evolving technology with far-reaching disruptive potential, and China is a leading developer of it,” BAH’s Head of Strategic Cyber Threat Intelligence Nate Beach-Westmoreland told Nextgov. “So, Booz Allen wanted to know how and when Chinese cyber threats might be shaped by this change to help our clients manage their changing risk profile.”

China's New Mortars Seem Designed for Mountain Warfare Against India

Kris Osborn

Here's What You Need to Remember: The paper says the self-propelled mortar system is based upon a “four-wheeled off-road assault vehicle,” something which seems to indicate a possibility for mountain warfare in the plateau regions.

In what could be seen as a massive modernization push and military build-up, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) continues to plus-up its Western high-altitude plateau regions with new weapons systems.

Following announcements about mobile artillery and new armored vehicles for the region, the PLA is now announcing the deployment of new self-propelled rapid-fire mortars to conduct “mobile, hit-and-run firing positions,” according to the Chinese Global Times.

Due to the parabola-like trajectory of how they fire, mortar weapons can be particularly useful in mountainous regions as they can enable advancing forces to attack otherwise tough to reach enemy positions at higher or significantly lower altitudes. Precision, however, seems to be crucial here as the logistical burden would likely make it very difficult if not impossible to transport large amounts of mortar munitions up to higher altitudes, even if they were air-dropped by helicopters.

Changing the Discourse on China’s Taiwan Policy


A potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan has received exhaustive coverage in recent months. In Japan, too, there has been considerable discourse about cooperating with the United States to maintain peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. In fact, at the U.S.-Japan summit in April 2021, the phrase “peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait” was included in the U.S.-Japan Joint Leaders’ Statement for the first time since the late 1960s. That marks a major change. Now, some observers within Japan are calling for simulations to see what preparations might be possible for the “Liberation of Taiwan.”

What is driving all this? Certainly, the Chinese military has stepped up its activities around the Taiwan Strait during the COVID-19 pandemic. Chinese military aircraft are violating the median line in the Taiwan Strait and are increasingly present around Taiwan and the Dongsha Islands in the South China Sea. Moreover, China is rapidly acquiring the equipment it would need for an invasion; for instance, it is preparing to commission landing craft to attack the east side of the Central Mountain Range, which has been a problem. The Taiwan Ministry of National Defense likely interprets the building of these landing craft as a sign that China will soon possess the ability to invade.

Beijing Sprints While America Slumbers

Bradley Bowman and Maj. Lauren Harrison

Gen. John Hyten, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was asked in an interview published last week whether the Chinese hypersonic weapons test this summer should be compared to Sputnik—referring to the 1957 satellite launch by the Soviet Union that shocked Americans regarding the Kremlin’s military-technology prowess. Hyten suggested the comparison was not a good one. “Sputnik created a sense of urgency in the United States,” Hyten said. “The [Chinese] test on July 27 did not create that sense of urgency.”

Hyten’s concerns about a lack of American urgency in responding to a growing threat from Beijing are reinforced by a Department of Defense report released on November 3 that makes clear Beijing is sprinting to field modern forces that can defeat the U.S. military. Instead of responding to this alarming news with urgent action, Washington seems to be slumbering.

Exhibit A: The Pentagon once again started the new federal government fiscal year on October 1 without the annual defense authorization and appropriation that helps America’s service members defend our country.

How China Became Jihadis’ New Target

Raffaello Pantucci

In early October, an Islamic State-Khorasan bomber killed nearly 50 people at a mosque in Kunduz, Afghanistan. That the militant group claimed responsibility for the attack wasn’t surprising, but, in a worrying new twist for Beijing, it also decided to link the massacre to China: The group said that the bomber was Uyghur and that the attack was aimed at punishing the Taliban for their close cooperation with China despite its actions against Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

China was long seen as a secondary target by international terrorist organizations. Groups like al Qaeda and the Islamic State were so focused on targeting the United States, the West more generally, or their local adversaries that they rarely raised their weapons toward China, even though they may have wanted to due to, for example, China’s mistreatment of Uyghur Muslims. But in Kunduz, this narrative was brought brutally to a close. China can now consider itself a clear target.

China’s history with violent Islamist groups is complicated. For a long time, Beijing’s ability to project a status as a “developing world” power meant it could hide to some degree behind a veneer of not being a “first world” former colonial power that antagonized the world’s downtrodden. Before 9/11, al Qaeda theorists went so far as to speak of Beijing as a possible partner. According to their logic, China was against the United States, al Qaeda’s sworn enemy, and therefore the old “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” trope might apply.


Trevor Aaronson

IN THE COLD, final months of 2018 and early 2019, the U.S.-led coalition ramped up its bombing and artillery campaign in eastern Syria as part of a final effort to strip away from the Islamic State any land the group still controlled. The air campaign had two aims: Weaken the ISIS forces on the ground, and push the remaining fighters and civilians south along the Euphrates River. Kurdish fighters, the coalition’s allies, would then take control of the bombed-out villages.

The last ISIS fighters had finally been corralled in March 2019 in a small village called Baghuz, between the Euphrates and the Iraqi border. ISIS made its last stand there, the fighters mixed together with family members and civilians trapped by the conflict as the U.S.-led coalition pummeled the village from the air.

“It’s hard to imagine how anybody can survive,” said CBS News reporter Charlie D’Agata, who watched airstrikes from the ground near Baghuz in March 2019.

Havana Syndrome: American Officials under Attack

Sean Power, Michael Miner

Executive Summary
In September 2021, the CIA recalled its Vienna station chief reportedly over his response to a series of “anomalous health incidents” experienced by over two dozen personnel. These incidents mark the latest entry in a series of mysterious afflictions more commonly referred to as “Havana Syndrome.” Since 2016, over 200 U.S. diplomats, intelligence officials, and their family members across the globe have reported similar experiences of severe headaches, vertigo, and other cognitive difficulties while in their homes or hotel rooms on assignments. The effects can persist for years, leading to early retirement, impacting quality of life, and harming close-knit communities that represent Washington abroad and provide America’s first line of defense.

The initial U.S. government response to Havana Syndrome lacked coordination across agencies and left many victims without adequate medical care. Senior officials questioned whether the symptoms were the result of deliberate attacks but did little to investigate other explanations even as the frequency of incidents increased. Some suggested the victims were simply experiencing mass hysteria. The Biden administration and CIA Director William Burns have redoubled their efforts to uncover the cause of Havana Syndrome and provide care to affected officials, but the U.S. government’s policy response options remain limited by the nature of an opaque threat with no definitive attribution. How the White House and partners in Congress identify and respond to these aggressive actions will have policy implications in the years ahead.

Helping Iran fail in Iraq

Hussain Abdul-Hussain

Hours after the failed Nov. 7 assassination attempt on Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al Kadhimi, pro-Iran militias in Iraq claimed responsibility but denied that Tehran had ordered the attack. Not only was Tehran kept in the dark, they insisted, but its deployment of a top Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander to Baghdad after the failed attempt was to urge calm.

However, judging by how Tehran organizes its proxies, their use of explosive drones, Iraq’s political context, Iranian statements after the attack, and the history of pro-Iran militias around the region, there is little doubt that the assassination order came from Iran.

Iran has been building and exporting its militia model throughout the region since 1979, often by exploiting opportunities to plant and grow local armed groups that pledge allegiance to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. War usually offers Iran a great opportunity to recruit followers and form militias.

Iran nuclear talks are restarting, but they’re pointless: Biden needs a bipartisan strategy

Anthony Ruggiero

President Joe Biden’s Iran policy is failing, and the indirect negotiations restarting in Vienna Nov. 29 won’t yield a win.

Biden assumed that goodwill gestures and proactive concessions would bring Tehran to the table. Instead, Iran is patiently moving toward a nuclear weapon — or at least a turnkey nuclear option — narrowing the president’s decision space.

Out of ideas, Biden should quickly assemble a high-powered, bipartisan team of outside advisers — think Condoleezza Rice and Leon Panetta — to craft a new policy that can unify Washington while Tehran signals it’s preparing to sprint for a bomb.

Iran has produced uranium enriched up to 60 percent purity, a short distance to the 90 percent needed for nuclear weapons. It’s also producing uranium metal, an important step in nuclear-weapon development.

The US can't deter an attack on Taiwan


If the United States can’t deter Beijing, it is likely that sometime within the next six years Taiwan will be “liberated” by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). And as things currently stand, the U.S. can’t deter Beijing. So within the next six years, Taiwan will be “liberated.”

Although it can be complicated in practice, deterring a conventional attack of the kind Beijing is likely to launch against Taiwan is in theory very simple. All that the United States needs to do is raise the anticipated cost of a Chinese conventional attack to the point where it exceeds the benefits Beijing might realistically hope to gain from such an attack.

Confronted with such a cost-benefit calculus, China’s leadership would have a powerful disincentive to use military force to attack Taiwan. It would, in other words, be effectively deterred.

And for most of the period since Chiang Kai-shek’s nationalist forces retreated to the island in 1949, the combined forces of Taiwan and the United States have done just that.

Lost in Translation: The U.S. and China’s Nuclear Ambitions


OPINION — During Monday’s dialogue, President Biden described Chinese President Xi Jinping as “a major world leader.”

If, as Biden said, the United States accepts that China is a major world power, does that mean that China can have a great-power-sized nuclear arsenal?

The Pentagon’s recent report, “Military and Security Developments Involving the
People’s Republic of China (PRC),” released November 3, seems to see Beijing’s increase in nuclear weapons as a major threat, even though their numbers aren’t even close to the number of nuclear weapons in the U.S. stockpile.

The Pentagon report says, “The accelerating pace of the PRC’s nuclear expansion may enable the PRC to have up to 700 deliverable nuclear warheads by 2027. The PRC likely intends to have at least 1,000 warheads by 2030, exceeding the pace and size the DoD projected in 2020.”

U.S. officials have been calling attention to China’s nuclear weapon expansion for years without noting how much larger the U.S. stockpile is, at some 3,750 warheads.

The West Should Be Ready to Coerce Belarus

Henrik Larsen, Sten Rynning

The migrant crisis in Belarus has now grown into a European security crisis. The regime of Belarusian dictator Aleksandr Lukashenko has been forcibly pushing migrants into the European Union and is perhaps ready to accept a Russian troop presence that could threaten NATO’s most exposed territory. NATO was on the brink of Article 4-consultations—a first step on the ladder toward collective defense. To prevent spiraling conflict, the West must turn the table against the Lukashenko regime and leverage credible threats to coerce it into de-escalation.

The Lukashenko regime has clearly upped the ante. Whereas it previously hijacked an airplane and assassinated a dissident in Ukraine, its brinkmanship now involves grey-zone threats to Western territory, including the threat of armed escalation on the Polish-Belarus border. This became a concern for NATO, which may have to decide how to react to Lukashenko’s grey-zone aggression with migrants equipped for and allegedly trained in how to attack the border. Two conditions offer themselves for Western diplomacy.

Oil, COVID and prospects of economic growth in Russia


Russia is reaching 2022 with mixed economic performance. The coronavirus pandemic has forced the authorities to declare a lockdown, albeit a short-term and partial one. But a lockdown nonetheless, one which could cause a correction in recovery growth and reduce the final indicator to 4.0-4.2%. Currently, the Bank of Russia’s GDP growth forecast stands at 4, 5%, and the IMF at 4.7%.

Besides the lockdown, this virus is undermining the economy while claiming more than a thousand lives every day. It requires extra funds to support health care (which the authorities were going to cut in the budget for 2022).

Then again, the recovery of the global economy and speculative surges of financial markets provoked an increase in prices for all main Russian exports, which will make it possible to end this year with a budget surplus. That should leave plenty aside for the year ahead.

All over the world, economists are attempting to estimate the losses caused by the coronavirus. The calculation methods vary widely. For this analysis we will use basic parameters. In 2020, Russia’s GDP decreased by 3%. In 2021 it will grow, most likely, by 4.2%, so the losses will at least be covered.

How Useful Is North Korea’s Railroad Missile Launching System?

Alan Cunningham

In September of 2021, North Korea “successfully launched ballistic missiles from a train for the first time,” with the country’s official news agency stating “the missiles were launched during a drill of a ‘railway-borne missile regiment’ that transported the weapons system along rail tracks in the country’s mountainous central region and accurately struck a sea target 500 miles away.”

These ballistic missiles entered Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). In a meeting of the United Nations Security Council after North Korea’s missile launch, the French ambassador to the U.N., Nicolas de Riviere, was quoted as saying the Council had agreed to condemn the test and perceived it as a “major threat,” as it was “a clear violation of the Council’s resolutions.”

Initial outside estimates by the North Korean analysis website 38 North, determined the missiles launched were KN-23 short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs). According to Vann Van Diepen, a career intelligence analyst and former assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, “The 800-km range demonstrated in the latest launches is substantially greater than the 600-km range claimed by the North Koreans in March, much less than the 450 km demonstrated by the original KN-23.” Van Diepen further stated that this new method of missile delivery would “certainly diversify the force” as the rail-mobile delivery is more “survivable than fixed-based ones” in addition to the fact that this launch system would “bolster the size of the SRBM force.”

The Quiet China-Africa Revolution: Chinese Investment

Yike Fu

The Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), a gathering of Chinese and African officials that has been held seven times (including three leaders’ summits) since its inauguration in 2000, has always been known – and occasionally chastised – for being highly government-focused. At the same time, however, a quiet transformation has been taking place: Investors have begun to dominate China-Africa finance.

Since 2003, the earliest date official data is available, annual flows of Chinese foreign direct investment to Africa has risen significantly – from a mere $74.8 million in 2003 to $5.4 billion in 2018. Chinese FDI flows to Africa declined in 2019 to $2.7 billion, and then – despite the COVID-19 pandemic – swung up again to $4.2 billion in 2020. Over the same period, Chinese FDI stocks in Africa grew nearly 100-fold over a 17-year period – from $490 million in 2003 to $43.4 billion in 2020, peaking in 2018 at $46.1 billion. That makes China Africa’s fourth largest investor, ahead of the United States since 2014.

How digital espionage tools exacerbate authoritarianism across Africa

Nathaniel Allen and Matthew La Lime

Earlier this year, an international reporting project based on a list of 50,000 phone numbers suspected of being compromised by the Pegasus spyware program revealed just how widespread digital espionage has become. Pegasus, which is built and managed by the Israeli firm NSO Group, turns mobile phones into surveillance tools by granting an attacker full access to a device’s data. It is among the most advanced pieces of cyber espionage software ever invented, and its targets include journalists, activists, and politicians. Of the 14 numbers belonging to world leaders on the list of numbers suspected of being targeted, half were African. They included two sitting heads of state—South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa and Morocco’s King Mohammed VI —along with the current or former prime ministers of Egypt, Burundi, Uganda, Morocco, and Algeria.

That African leaders are both victims and users of malware systems such as Pegasus should come as little surprise. Governments on the continent have for some time relied on Pegasus and other spyware to track terrorists and criminals, snoop on political opponents, and spy on citizens. However, recent reporting about NSO Group’s surveillance tools—dubbed the “Pegasus Project”— makes clear that governments across Africa are also using spyware for purposes of international espionage. And these tools are being used in ways that risk worsening authoritarian tendencies and raise questions about whether security services are being properly held to account for their use.

Russia’s Move

George Friedman

Russia is not a trustful country – for good reason. Germany invaded it twice in the 20th century, France invaded it once in the 19th century, and Sweden once in the 18th century. These were not the nibbling incursions that Europe was used to, but deep penetrations meant to capture the Russian heartland and permanently subordinate it. Each century saw an assault on Russia that threatened its existence. It’s hard to forget something like that, and it’s hard for Russia not to be suspicious of moves on its periphery. There is nothing in Russian history to cause its leaders to think otherwise.

This attitude makes Russia a threat to its neighbors. The West saw the collapse of the Soviet Union as Russia simply giving independence to foreign countries. The Russians, stunned by what had happened, were prepared to view it this way as well. Moscow assumed the best from the West. It assumed that the newly independent countries would be neutral and would therefore not be a threat to Russia. The dynamics of history are not so orderly, and over time the Ukrainian government and Russia drifted closer. This threatened to undermine the Western vision of the post-Soviet world – as well as the expectation of many Ukrainians.

Qatari World Cup sparks healthy controversy across multiple issues

James M. Dorsey

When seven-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton wore a helmet this weekend featuring the colours of the LGBTI Pride Progress Flag during the debut Qatar Grand Prix, he was challenging more than the Gulf state’s failure to recognise rights.

So will the Danish Football Union (DBU), Denmark’s governing soccer body, that announced that its commercial sponsors had agreed to surrender space on training kits to allow for messaging critical of Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers.

The union said it would also minimize the number of trips to Qatar by the Danish team that has already qualified for the 2022 World Cup to avoid commercial activities that promote the World Cup hosts’ events.

The stance by Mr. Hamilton and the Danish union calls into question the success of Qatar’s use of sports as a pillar of its soft power strategy. Moreover, it lays bare the state-owned Al Jazeera television network's inability or unwillingness to report critically about Qatar.

Oil, Energy and Mining in International Politics

Despite concerns over the environmental impact of industrial mining and the contribution that fossil fuels make to global warming, resource extraction continues to be a major source of revenue for both developing countries and wealthier nations alike. In fact, the amount of resources being pulled from the earth has tripled since 1970, though the global population has only doubled in that time.

Global efforts to reduce carbon emissions as part of climate change diplomacy notwithstanding, fossil fuels remain among the most prized extractives, for a simple reason: Global demand combined with the wealth they generate have historically given some countries, including members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, outsized global influence.

The lucrative contracts associated with the extractive sector help to explain why resource extraction remains central to many developing countries’ strategy to grow their economies. But the windfalls don’t come without risks, most prominent among them being the “resource curse” that can plague countries that fail to diversify their economies to generate alternate sources of revenue. Corruption can also thrive, especially when government institutions are weak. When the wealth generated from resource extraction isn’t fairly distributed, it can entrench a permanent elite, as in Saudi Arabia, or fuel persistent conflicts, as in the Democratic Republic of Congo. And the environmental damage caused by the extractive industries has decimated local communities and driven social protest movements around the world.

The Poland-Belarus Border Crisis Is a Harbinger of the Future

Humza Jilani

SOKOLKA, Poland—Zanyar Ahmad has survived tear gas and beatings by Polish and Belarusian guards and shivered through sub-zero temperatures at night—huddling by a campfire, wearing torn winter coats, and trying to tune out the blaring sirens warning him to turn back. In one of his five attempts to cross into Poland, he made it 0.6 miles into Polish territory before a military convoy caught him in the dead of night and dragged him back over the border to a makeshift camp in Belarus.

But he is determined never to return to what he describes as “violence, corruption, and evil” in the northern Iranian region he escaped. “We will stay here until the European Union does something for us,” he told me.

Ahmad is one of 7,000 migrants living in makeshift tent camps hugging the Belarusian borders with Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania. They are pawns in a geopolitical drama the European Union has termed “hybrid warfare,” accusing Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko’s regime of using disinformation to attract migrants from the Middle East and then ferrying them to the border to cross into Europe.

Europe Needs to Step Up on Defense

Max Bergmann and Benjamin Haddad

Security and defense are suddenly back on Europe’s agenda. The United States’ chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan—which left European allies reeling over the perceived lack of consultation—and tensions with France over the Australia–United Kingdom–United States (AUKUS) submarine deal have sharpened European concerns that as Washington embraces the “pivot” to Asia, American priorities are shifting away, not just from Europe but also from the Middle East and North Africa. And although President Joe Biden’s commitment to NATO’s Article 5 pledge—to treat an attack against one NATO member as “an attack against them all”—remains ironclad,

U.S. Intel Shows Russia Plans for Potential Ukraine Invasion

Alberto Nardelli and Jennifer Jacobs

The U.S. has shared intelligence including maps with European allies that shows a buildup of Russian troops and artillery to prepare for a rapid, large-scale push into Ukraine from multiple locations if President Vladimir Putin decided to invade, according to people familiar with the conversations.

That intelligence has been conveyed to some NATO members over the past week to back up U.S. concerns about Putin’s possible intentions and an increasingly frantic diplomatic effort to deter him from any incursion, with European leaders engaging directly with the Russian president. The diplomacy is informed by an American assessment that Putin could be weighing an invasion early next year as his troops again mass near the border.

The information lays out a scenario where troops would cross into Ukraine from Crimea, the Russian border and via Belarus, with about 100 battalion tactical groups -- potentially around 100,000 soldiers -- deployed for what the people described as an operation in rough terrain and freezing conditions, covering extensive territory and prepared for a potentially prolonged occupation.

China Brief

Chinese Government’s Push for Masculinity Targets Boy Bands, Online Influencers

Power of the Weak: Taiwan’s Strategy in Countering China’s Economic Coercion

China’s Vocational Education Workshops Seek to Strengthen Relations with Africa

Western Sanctions on Belarus’s Potash Industry Test Beijing-Minsk Partnership

How Confucius Institutes Shape Arab Perceptions of China in the Middle East

14 tactics to use during a ransomware negotiation

Veronica Combs

Be polite during negotiations, ask for more time and always request a test file for decryption. Those are a few of the best practices for dealing with a ransomware attack, according to a new analysis of 700 incidents.

Pepijn Hack, cybersecurity analyst, Fox-IT, NCC Group and Zong-Yu Wu, threat analyst, Fox-IT, NCC Group wrote the research paper, "'We wait, because we know you.' Inside the ransomware negotiation economics." The researchers explain how adversaries use economic models to maximize profits and what strategies ransomware victims can use to win more time and reduce the final payment as much as possible. The report is based on two datasets. The first consists of 681 negotiations and was collected in 2019. The second dataset consists of 30 negotiations between the victim and the ransomware group and was collected from the end of 2020 and the first few months of 2021.

Here's a look at what tactics work as well as how thieves set the ransom figure.

Deterring Chinese strategic attack: Grappling with the implications of China’s strategic forces buildup

Matthew Kroenig

The People’s Republic of China is engaged in the most significant buildup of nuclear forces in its history. What are the implications of this buildup for international security, and what can the United States and its allies do about it? Atlantic Council Director of Studies and Scowcroft Center Deputy Director Matthew Kroenig examines what updates to US nuclear strategy are needed in light of China’s strategic forces buildup.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is rapidly expanding and modernizing its strategic forces

US government officials estimate that China’s nuclear arsenal will double if not triple or quadruple within the decade, increasing US and allied vulnerability to nuclear attack. The PLA is rapidly testing and deploying nuclear-capable hypersonic missiles. China is building hundreds of ICBM silos in its western desert. Further, China has an advantage in theater nuclear forces over the United States. Finally, the PLA possesses counterspace and cyber capabilities that could be employed in a nonnuclear strategic attack.