1 December 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 

Cyber Weapons – A Weapon of War?

Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)

The character of warfare has changed fundamentally over the last decade. In the past, it was essential for an adversary nation or insurgent to physically bring weapons to bear during combat. That requirement is no longer a necessity. In cyber operations, the only weapons that need to be used are bits and bytes. In this new era of warfare, logistics issues that often restrict and limit conventional warfare and weaponry are not impediments. This new weaponry moves at the speed of light, is available to every human on the planet and can be as surgical as a scalpel or as devastating as a nuclear bomb.

Cyber attacks in various forms have become a global problem. Cyber weapons are low-cost, low-risk, highly effective and easily deployable globally. This new class of weapons is within reach of many countries, extremist or terrorist groups, non-state actors, and even individuals. Cyber crime organisations are developing cyber weapons effectively. The use of offensive Cyber operations by nation-states directly against another or by co-opting cyber criminals has blurred the line between spies and non-state malicious hackers. New entrants, both nation-states and non-state actors have unmatched espionage and surveillance capabilities with significant capabilities. They are often the forerunners for criminal financial gain, destruction and disruption operations. Progressively, we see non-state actors including commercial entities, developing capabilities that were solely held by a handful of state actors.

Socialism in India: Conflicting International Outlooks?

Saneet Chakradeo

Among the various strands of India’s rich and diverse political thought, socialist and Marxist ideas have found peculiar prominence over the years. India is one of the few liberal, capitalist democracies in the world to have semi-autonomous regions governed by political parties with an officially socialist ideology. Because of its historical importance in world politics, socialism does have a coherent set of ideas on world order and how human societies ought to be structured. In line with the dominant political ideologies in India that have a well- established international outlook, socialist ideas have generally been categorized as having a singular conception of India’s outward approach. But this notion seems to reduce the intricate conflicts within the various socialist paradigms and ignores ideological nuances which have been historically prevalent across the world.

This essay aims to delineate the distinctions within the broader socialist ideologies in India’s international thought by initially analysing conflicting currents in the Indian Leftist movement through a historical survey spanning across the twentieth and early twenty-first century. The major communist parties of India – the Communist Party of India (CPI) and the Communist Party of India (CPIM, Marxist) dominate the leftist political establishment in the country. But India has historically seen a variety of socialist ideas gain influence, even though they seem to be non-existent in today’s political landscape. An example of the same is a more libertarian form of socialism as espoused by Indian freedom fighters MPT Acharya and Har Dayal, whose ideas have been unearthed by historians in recent times. The essay attempts to also use the framework laid out by Johnston (1995) for assessing international outlooks of the two diverging socialist schools by looking at their perceptions on three aspects – the nature of international life, the nature of the adversary, and the role of force.

Taliban Covert Operatives Seized Kabul, Other Afghan Cities From Within

Yaroslav Trofimov and Margherita Stancati

“We had agents in every organization and department,” boasted Mawlawi Mohammad Salim Saad, a senior Taliban leader who directed suicide-bombing operations and assassinations inside the Afghan capital before its fall. “The units we had already present in Kabul took control of the strategic locations.”

Mr. Saad’s men belong to the so-called Badri force of the Haqqani network, a part of the Taliban that is designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. because of its links to al Qaeda. Sitting before a bank of closed-circuit TV monitors in the Kabul airport security command center, which he now oversees, he said, “We had people even in the office that I am occupying today.”

Members of the Taliban’s Badri 313 special-operations unit were deployed next to U.S. troops during the airlift from Kabul.

The 20-year war in Afghanistan was often seen as a fight between bands of Taliban insurgents—bearded men operating from mountain hide-outs—and Afghan and U.S. forces struggling to control rural terrain. The endgame, however, was won by a large underground network of urban operatives.

Pakistan braces for a deep and wide US assault


PESHAWAR – When the US State Department tagged China and Pakistan as “countries of particular concern” (CPC) for reputedly violating religious freedoms, Islamabad saw the criticism as the front edge of a potential wider diplomatic assault.

Pakistan’s powerful army, which autonomously handles much of the nation’s foreign relations, reportedly perceived the announcement as veiled US criticism of its broad tilt toward China and alleged hidden role in facilitating the Taliban’s seizure of power in Kabul.

Though Pakistan’s so-called “deep state”, led by its powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency, likely believes that the worst is yet to come from its traditional US ally, Pakistan’s foreign office quickly rebuked the US State Department’s CPC assessment as “arbitrary and selective” and in disregard to ground realities.

Despite the deflection, the State Department’s CPC assessment could have severe ramifications for Pakistan at a time its economy and finances are wobbling.

What To Do About China?

Anthony Cowden

“Far from embracing liberal values at home and the status quo abroad, China grew more repressive and ambitious as it rose. Instead of fostering harmony between Beijing and Washington, engagement failed to forestall a rivalry and hastened the end of the so-called unipolar moment. Today, China and the United States are locked in what can only be called a new cold war—an intense security competition that touches on every dimension of their relationship. This rivalry will test U.S. policymakers more than the original Cold War did, as China is likely to be a more powerful competitor than the Soviet Union was in its prime. And this cold war is more likely to turn hot.”

To underscore the military challenge the U.S. would face in any hot war, a recent report by the Department of Defense estimates that the (PLAN) will have 460 ships by 2030, not including 80-some boats capable of launching anti-ship cruise missiles.[2] At less than 300 ships today, including the near-worthless LCS and the untested and under-armed DDG-1000, the U.S. Navy would have to expand by well over 50% in the next eight years to match the PLAN. Given that virtually all of the PLAN ships are dedicated to waters off the China coast, and the U.S. Navy has worldwide commitments, being able to deploy a competitive force to east Asia would require the U.S. Navy to grow by significantly more than that. That isn't possible in the wildest of shipbuilding estimates.

Why wiping out Hong Kong's opposition may have cost China a whole generation in Taiwan

Eric Cheung

Taipei, Taiwan (CNN)In just five years, Lin Fei-fan went from charging into Taiwan's legislature and occupying the building with hundreds of students to a senior job for the island's ruling party.

But his story could have been very different if he lived in Hong Kong, where student activists once brought the financial hub to a standstill as they took to the streets to demand democracy and freedoms.

Lin says he could only watch from afar as nearly all pro-democracy figures in nearby Hong Kong, about 800 kilometers (500 miles) southwest of Taipei were arrested or fled overseas in the year since Beijing imposed a controversial national security law in response to mass pro-democracy protests in the city.

"If I were in Hong Kong, I think I'll probably be in jail," said Lin, the 33-year-old deputy secretary-general of Taiwan's governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

US risks ‘Suez moment’ in a Taiwan war


MANILA – In The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, the historian Paul Kennedy argued that “there is [often] a noticeable ‘lag time’ between the trajectory of a state’s relative economic strength and the trajectory of its military/territorial influence.”

Yet China has been a gigantic outlier to the theory, having rapidly modernized the world’s largest armed forces amid decades of sustained economic growth. If anything, Beijing is enhancing both its asymmetric and conventional military capabilities at once.

Over the past three decades, the million-strong People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has expanded its fleet of fifth-generation fighter jets, aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines while consolidating its overall Command Control Communication Computer and Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance, or C4ISR.

Already boasting the world’s largest marine fleet, with gigantic coast guard vessels dwarfing warships of smaller neighboring states, China is also expanding its military and commercial footprint across a string of strategic bases and port facilities in the Indo-Pacific.

Early Warning Brief: A New Chinese National Security Bureaucracy Emerges

Joel Wuthnow


An intriguing aspect of General Secretary Xi Jinping’s political consolidation was the establishment of a Central National Security Commission (CNSC; 中央国家安全委员会, Zhongyang guojia anquan weiyuanhui ) at the end of 2013. The CNSC seemingly empowered Xi, who was put in charge of the new body, and through a permanent staff structure, perhaps set the stage for more effective strategic planning and crisis response [1]. Over the last few years, subordinate National Security Commissions (NSCs) have been installed at all tiers of the party structure down to the county level. The CNSC thus sits atop a new organizational hierarchy that strengthens Xi’s ability to set the agenda and improves the party’s ability to coordinate national security affairs. While the system’s political utility for Xi is clear, its role in improving crisis response at the local level could be constrained by several factors.

Revisiting the CNSC

The CNSC fits into a larger construct known as the “national security system” (国家安全体系, Guojia anquan tixi) that has been developed during the Xi era to protect the party from domestic and foreign threats. The ideational core of the system is the “holistic national security concept” (总体国家安全观, zongti guojia anquan guan) that Xi outlined at the first CNSC meeting in April 2014 (Xinhua, 2014). The concept’s key characteristic is that the party cannot think of security in narrow, traditional terms (China Brief, 2015). Rather, the concept must be defined more broadly to encompass diverse areas such as cybersecurity, biosecurity, energy security, and counterterrorism, many of which involve interactions between domestic security and the outside world—Xi mentioned 11 areas in total. Other changes complemented the implementation of this emerging security system, including reforms to the People’s Armed Police (PAP), new laws on espionage, NGOs, and cybersecurity [2], and a formal “national security strategy” (国家安全战略, Guojia anquan zhanlüe). In November 2021, the Politburo deliberated the second such “strategy,” which will cover 2021-2015; an earlier document was approved in 2015 (Xinhua, 2021).

Four Psychological Mechanisms That Make Us Fall for Disinformation

Megan McBride

As humans evolved, we developed certain psychological mechanisms to deal with the information surrounding us. But in the 21st century media environment, where we are exposed to an exponentially growing quantity of messages and information, some of these time-tested tools make us dangerously vulnerable to disinformation.

Today, messages of persuasion are not just on billboards and commercials, but in a host of non-traditional places like in the memes, images and content shared online by friends and family. When viewing an Oreo commercial, we can feel relatively confident that it wants to persuade us of the cookie’s excellence and that the creator is likely Nabisco. The goals of today’s disinformation campaigns are more difficult to discern, and the content creators harder to identify. Few viewers will have any idea of the goal or identify of the creator of a shared meme about COVID-19 vaccines. And since this content appears in less traditional locations, we are less alert to its persuasive elements.

In a recent CNA study, we examined how, in this disorienting information environment, normal information-processing and social psychological mechanisms can be exploited by disinformation campaigns. Our report, The Psychology of (Dis)Information: A Primer on Key Psychological Mechanisms , identifies four key psychological mechanisms that make people vulnerable to persuasion.

Russia Has Bigger Plans Beyond Ukraine And Belarus

John Bolton

During the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, after learning Nikita Khrushchev had broken his commitment not to deploy nuclear-capable ballistic missiles on the island, John F. Kennedy called Khrushchev a “f*cking liar” and an “immoral gangster.” Hours later, JFK told his senior advisors, “we certainly have been wrong about what he’s trying to do in Cuba.”

So too with Vladimir Putin and Ukraine. Despite wide-ranging debate in the West, Russia’s objectives remain obscure, as do Putin’s and Alexander Lukashenko’s goals in next-door Belarus. In fact, Putin is pursuing a macro strategy throughout Russia’s “near abroad,” while the West’s approach is micro. Never forget Putin’s lamentation about the USSR dissolving, or that thirty years ago observers said of now-Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, “he’s not a Communist, he’s a czarist.”

Moscow is probing the entire “grey zone” between NATO’s eastern border and Russia’s western border: not just Ukraine and Belarus, but also Moldova and the Caucasus republics. Moldova’s “frozen conflict” with the Russian-created Trans-Dniester Republic; Russia’s ongoing occupation of two Georgian provinces; and Moscow’s recent pro-Azeri intervention in its conflict with Armenia, all demonstrate the Kremlin’s hegemonic or outrightly annexationist policies entangling the six grey-zone states. (The five Central Asian former Soviet republics face their own Russia problems, worthy of separate consideration.) Treating each conflict singly rather than strategically falls into Putin’s trap.

America has forgotten the lesson of total war | Column

The American Civil War was a watershed event with global implications. Beforehand, Western armed conflicts were fought by armies largely on the European-Napoleonic model, which envisioned a victor emerging after winning battlefield engagements of massed armies. The objective was the destruction of the uniformed armed forces’ ability to fight.

Harm to the civilian populace in proximity to battlefields was considered unfortunate collateral damage. But civilians — those not in uniform — were seldom targeted. That all changed in the Civil War. Is there a forgotten lesson from this conflict?

As the Civil War began, the European-Napoleonic model for war was generally still accepted. In the early years of the war, army met army with the expectation that the political and moral questions raised would be decided in battlefield victories by men wearing uniforms. Both sides were led by officers trained at West Point. But the war took a significant turn with President Abraham Lincoln’s appointment of Ulysses S. Grant to general-in-chief of all Union forces.

As America retreats, regional rogues are on the rise

In august samantha power, America’s aid chief, visited Ethiopia. Not long ago, such an important official from the world’s only superpower would have been welcomed with deference. Instead, her request for a meeting with Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, was ignored. However, Abiy did find time that day to appear on television inspecting drones apparently made by America’s arch-enemy, Iran.

It was an extraordinary snub. America until recently enjoyed friendly relations with Ethiopia. It has been a big donor to a government that depends heavily on aid, and energetically backed the democratic reforms that Abiy had promised when he came to power in 2018. But relations have now soured. America has criticised Abiy for his increasingly authoritarian ways and for waging a brutal civil war. Abiy has responded by thumbing his nose at Uncle Sam and finding less preachy friends.

Turkey, Iran, Israel and the United Arab Emirates (uae) have all reportedly been selling weapons to Ethiopia. Eritrea has sent troops. The uae has been accused of flying drones for Abiy. It also pledged billions in aid, and has reportedly trained Abiy’s personal bodyguard. Such help may have given him the confidence to wage total war on rebels in Tigray, a northern region, rather than negotiate with them.

The Navy is testing a GPS-like device that doesn’t require satellites


The Navy is researching a new technology that could help sailors and Marines navigate in places where the Global Positioning System just doesn’t work.Top Articlesby Task & Purpose

Unlike GPS signals, cosmic ray muons are a natural source of radiation that can pass through rock, buildings and earth and can be used at high latitudes north of the Arctic Circle, where GPS satellites do not work well due to their orbital constraints, the Office of Naval Research wrote in a press release on Tuesday.

In September, ONR and the U.S. Army Development Command co-funded a group of international researchers who want to show that muons can work as an alternative to GPS and still deliver the same level of precision. They have nine months to show their stuff, and if it works, it could be a game-changer for the military.

Hyten’s Parting Shot: U.S. Must Step Up Response to Chinese Space Weapons

Brian G. Chow Brandon Kelley

General John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the United States’ second highest-ranking military officer, retired on November 19 following an illustrious forty-year career in the U.S. Air Force. At a Defense Writers Group event on October 28, Hyten delivered a parting shot, saying that “although we’re making marginal progress, the DoD [Department of Defense] is still unbelievably bureaucratic and slow” in its response to China’s rapidly advancing space weapons. Given his access to all relevant public and classified information regarding both China’s emerging space threats and current U.S. responses, Hyten was uniquely well-positioned to speak to whether the United States is presently on track to adequately counter these space weapons. We are not. The Senate confirmation hearing for the next vice chairman, Navy Adm. Christopher Grady, will begin December 2. We must hope that Grady will move quickly to offer an innovative tailored and proactive approach to countering space threats.

The current ossification is not for lack of effort. In January 2020, Hyten declared that “as long as he [was] vice chairman… he [would] make sure speed is put back into every element of the Pentagon.” While speeding up the DoD bureaucracy writ large is an important and worthy goal, doing so will inescapably require many years of concerted effort. And, as Hyten’s statements and recent events both make clear, countering space threats cannot wait that long.

Israel and Iran Broaden Cyberwar to Attack Civilian Targets

Farnaz Fassihi and Ronen Bergman

Millions of ordinary people in Iran and Israel recently found themselves caught in the crossfire of a cyberwar between their countries. In Tehran, a dentist drove around for hours in search of gasoline, waiting in long lines at four gas stations only to come away empty.

In Tel Aviv, a well-known broadcaster panicked as the intimate details of his sex life, and those of hundreds of thousands of others stolen from an L.G.B.T.Q. dating site, were uploaded on social media.

For years, Israel and Iran have engaged in a covert war, by land, sea, air and computer, but the targets have usually been military or government related. Now, the cyberwar has widened to target civilians on a large scale.

The Unchecked Rise of the China-Iran-Russia Axis

David Woo

According to a new Axios report, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan recently "floated to his Israeli counterpart Eyal Hulata" a proposal for an "interim agreement" with Iran that would offer to "release some frozen Iranian money" in exchange for Iran suspending "enriching uranium to 60 percent".

This story strengthens my conviction that the next and seventh round of the U.S.-Iran nuclear negotiation, due to start on November 29, will go anywhere. The Axios report, quoting an unnamed Israeli official, suggests that Israel is opposed to an interim deal that it (rightly) fears will become a permanent one that allows Iran to maintain its nuclear infrastructure. It is safe to assume that the Israeli position is shared by Saudi Arabia and other U.S. allies in the Gulf.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported last week that the IAEA, the UN nuclear watchdog, informed its members earlier this month in a confidential report that Iran still had not granted its inspectors the access it promised two months ago to re-install surveillance cameras at the workshop in its Karaj complex that makes components for centrifuges, machines that enrich uranium.

This should not come as a surprise. Iran is entering the new round of negotiation with backing from China and Russia. President Ebrahim Raisi and President Vladimir Putin spoke last week over the phone about signing a strategic partnership agreement similar to the one Iran signed with China earlier this year.

How to Deter Russia Now

Daniel Fried, John E. Herbst, Alexander Vershbow

War drums are beating in Europe. For the second time this year, Moscow is assembling up to 100,000 troops and military hardware on its border with Ukraine. The Biden administration judges that there is a real possibility that Russian President Vladimir Putin may decide to launch a new invasion of Ukraine in the next 2-3 months despite the high costs Moscow would incur.

Alarmed at the prospect of a potential Russian escalation, Washington dispatched CIA Director Bill Burns to warn of the severe consequences of such a step. When that mission produced no notable results, Washington made its concerns public. Secretary of State Antony Blinken took advantage of a press conference with visiting Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kuleba to scold Moscow for its military build-up, raise the possibility of a major new Russian offensive, and express strong support for Ukraine.

With Blinken in the lead, Washington has been consulting closely with allies. The results have been notable as NATO and then France and Germany jointly issued statements of support for Ukraine in the face of new aggression. Equally important, the United States has been asking its European allies and partners what they might do in terms of sanctions on Russia and military assistance to Ukraine if Moscow strikes again.

Russia-Ukraine border: Why Moscow is stoking tensions

Sarah Rainsford

But whatever they agreed about Ukraine at their summit, something has since gone awry.

In recent weeks, Russian tanks have been moving west towards Ukraine once again, prompting fresh, even starker warnings from US intelligence circles that a cross-border offensive could be on the cards.

IMAGE SOURCE,MAXAR VIA REUTERSImage caption, This build-up of Russian forces was spotted some 300km (185 miles) from Ukraine

Moscow insists that's "anti-Russian" hysteria, and most analysts agree there's no rationale for Russia openly entering - and massively escalating - the conflict in Ukraine, where it backs separatist forces but always denies a direct role.

'Red rag to a bull'

Instead, they see the Kremlin sending a message that it's ready to defend its "red lines" on Ukraine: above all, that it must not join Nato.

"I think for Putin it's really important. He thinks the West has begun giving Ukraine's elite hope about joining Nato," political analyst Tatiana Stanovaya at R.Politik told the BBC.

"The training, the weapons and so on are like a red rag to a bull for Putin and he thinks if he doesn't act today, then tomorrow there will be Nato bases in Ukraine. He needs to put a stop to that."

Ukraine's desire to join the security bloc is nothing new, nor is Russia's insistence on vetoing that ambition in what it sees as its own "back yard".

But Moscow has been rattled recently by the Ukrainian military using Turkish drones against Russian-backed forces in eastern Ukraine; the flight near Crimea of two nuclear-capable US bombers was an extra irritant.

IMAGE SOURCE,REUTERSImage caption, Russia has been angered by Ukraine's use of Bayraktar drones

There's also concern that the so-called Minsk agreements, a framework for ending Ukraine's seven-year-old conflict that's too contentious to actually implement, could be jettisoned for something more favourable to Kyiv.
'Signal Putin wants to send'

In April, Russia found that demonstrative military deployment worked well so it's repeating the trick.

"Our recent warnings have indeed been heard and the effect is noticeable: tensions have risen," President Putin told Russian diplomats last week. He argued that tension needed sustaining to force the West to reckon with Russia, not ignore it.

"If the military movements [close to Ukraine] are explicit, then this is not about direct military action - it's about a signal Putin wants to send," Andrei Kortunov, head of the RIAC think-tank in Moscow, told the BBC.

The signal to Ukraine is not to try anything rash, he believes, like seizing back control of the Donbas.

For the West, Mr Kortunov says Russia's message is to stop its "infiltration" of Ukraine with Nato infrastructure, including new kinds of weapons.

"That's definitely a matter of concern for Moscow," he argues.

This week, Russia's external intelligence agency, the SVR, evoked the 2008 Georgia war, in a statement on Ukraine.

It recalled the "high price" paid by then Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who sparked all-out conflict with Russia by attempting to regain control of the separatist region of South Ossetia, which is backed by Moscow.

IMAGE SOURCE,GETTY IMAGESImage caption, Russian troops invaded Georgia in 2008 when it tried to recapture a breakaway region

"The Georgian scenario is on the table and could be used in Ukraine," Tatiana Stanovaya argues. "That doesn't mean Russia is preparing it; that there's no way back. I think it's just an option for now, not a decision," she says.

'We're not invading'

Ukraine itself at first dismissed US talk of an unusual troop build-up, though it has since joined the chorus of concern.

According to its head of military intelligence, Kyrylo Budanov, around 90,000 Russian troops are now deployed in the vicinity of Ukraine - fewer than during similar tensions last spring.

He believes they could launch an attack from several directions early next year.

On Friday, Ukraine's president made clear his country had no plans for an incursion into the Donbas.


Others are sceptical.

"Russia would definitely like to send the signal that if forced to fight, it will fight," Mr Kortunov reasons. "But I don't see what can be accomplished by a direct military offensive against Ukraine."

"No matter how it goes, the collateral damage will be much more significant than any possible gain."

So it's possible Mr Putin is hedging his bets.

"My suspicion is that this is contingency planning," was security expert Mark Galeotti's conclusion in his podcast In Moscow's Shadow.

He suggests the Kremlin is "creating all sorts of opportunities", and no firm decision has been taken.

But he too doubts that Moscow wants open conflict, bringing more sanctions and a total rupture in relations with the West.

"A vicious war in Ukraine could shatter the unity and legitimacy of the Russian regime," warns Mark Galeotti. "The good news is that I suspect the regime… understands that."

On balance, he believes the Kremlin will find reasons not to escalate the situation.

Tanks for talks

There are also signs that, once again, what Moscow really wants to achieve with its tanks are more talks with the US: another summit of the two presidents.

It's a risky way of conducting diplomacy, but for Mr Putin the stakes are high.

IMAGE SOURCE,REUTERSImage caption, The two leaders met in Geneva in June

"At a meeting between Putin and Biden, neither will give clear commitments but there may be some tacit understanding on how far the US is ready to go in increasing its military support to Ukraine," Mr Kortunov argues. "That's not impossible."

Russian sources say such talks could happen in the coming weeks, perhaps remotely at first. The White House hasn't yet confirmed that.

"Whilst Putin has a flicker of hope that he can do a deal with Biden, he won't take any rash steps. But if he thinks it's all doomed, he could do the worst things we can imagine," Tatiana Stanovaya warns.

As long as the Russian leader has that hope, then she believes "things won't be so awful".

Testing the waters: Russia explores reconfiguring Gulf security

James M. Dorsey

Russia hopes to blow new life into a proposal for a multilateral security architecture in the Gulf, with the tacit approval of the Biden administration.

If successful, the initiative would help stabilise the region, cement regional efforts to reduce tensions, and potentially prevent war-wracked Yemen from emerging as an Afghanistan on the southern border of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf of Aden and at the mouth of the Red Sea.

For now, Vitaly Naumkin, a prominent scholar, academic advisor of the foreign and justice ministries, and head of the Institute of Oriental Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, is testing the waters, according to Newsweek, which first reported the move.

Last week, he invited former officials, scholars, and journalists from feuding Middle Eastern nations to a closed-door meeting in Moscow to discuss the region's multiple disputes and conflicts and ways of preventing them from spinning out of control.

China’s climate goals hinge on a US$440bn nuclear buildout

Dan Murtaugh and Krystal Chia / Bloomberg

Nuclear power once seemed like the world’s best hope for a carbon-neutral future. After decades of cost overruns, public protests and disasters elsewhere, China has emerged as the world’s last great believer, with plans to generate an eye-popping amount of nuclear energy, quickly and at relatively low cost.

China has over the course of the year revealed the extensive scope of its plans for nuclear, an ambition with new resonance given the global energy crisis and the calls for action coming out of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland.

The world’s biggest emitter, China is planning at least 150 new reactors in the next 15 years, more than the rest of the world has built in the past 35. The effort could cost as much as US$440 billion; as early as the middle of this decade, the country would surpass the US as the world’s largest generator of nuclear power.

Why Do Governments Reveal Cyber Intrusions?

Gil Baram

On Sept. 26, Germany held federal elections to select the new members of the Bundestag, the country’s national parliament. Neither of the leading parties secured enough seats to govern alone, and it’s been estimated that it might be weeks before the public knows the political future of Europe’s largest economy. And while the three parties likely to constitute Germany’s next governing coalition announced on Nov. 16 that they are close to sealing a deal, concerns of election meddling and cyber intrusions against political institutions before and during the elections have made the political situation even more complex.

On Sept. 6, the German government publicly revealed it had been affected by “illegal cyber-activities,” such as direct phishing attacks on politicians, and attributed these to Moscow. According to Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Andrea Sasse, “the German government considers this unacceptable action a threat to the security of the Federal Republic of Germany and to the democratic decision-making process and a serious burden on bilateral relations.”

Germany publicly attributing the attack to Russia reflected a direct and specific approach. Sasse stated that there are “reliable findings” that the activities of the Ghostwriter hacking group—they’ve also been operating in Poland, Latvia and Lithuania since 2017—can be attributed to “cyber-actors of the Russian state” and specifically its military intelligence service (GRU). The hacking campaign focused on phishing attacks against politicians and decision-makers, impersonating government and diplomatic correspondence, and disseminating false information aimed at interfering with the internal affairs of European countries.

Ukraine’s Answer to Russia: Turkish Drones and American Javelins

Caleb Larson

The Ukrainian military is sounding alarm bells, warning of a potential Russian incursion deeper into the country amid a slow but steady build-up of military forces along the country’s eastern border.

Some estimates place the number of Russian troops placed around Ukraine’s borders as high as 92,000, with soldiers from Russia’s interior staging in Russia’s western military district, which abuts Ukraine, and troops stationed near the Balkans moved to Crimea.

Fear is high in both the West and Ukraine, with multiple American and Ukrainian officials ringing alarm bells at what has been dubbed a creeping stage-up ahead of military action.

In an interview with the Washington Post, the Ukrainian Minister of Defense Oleksiy Reznikov outlined his concerns about the threat from Russia on his country’s eastern border. Reznikov said Russian president Vladimir Putin is at a crossroads, “deciding whether to “go through the Ukrainian border and burn the bridges, or he is still bargaining and trying to find something interesting for him” Reznikov explained. “I hope he has not made his decision on this point.”

Does Solving the China Trade Problem Not Involve Beijing?

Frank Lavin

What are we to make of U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai’s October 4 speech on U.S.-China trade relations? Tai called for a “new approach” to the trade relationship but promises to continue key elements of Donald Trump’s policies, maintaining both the tariffs and the purchase requirements he imposed. Tai also brought attention to China’s industrial policy, a regular theme of Trump’s, and appeared to differ with Trump mainly in allowing for some tariff exclusions and in promising to work with other trading partners.

The approach Trump, and now Joe Biden, appear to be taking is that trade policy is primarily an exercise in which the U.S. focuses on the greatest impediments to trade. This is opposed to seeing trade as a focus on opportunities. We can see the difference in these two approaches if we consider trade as a restaurant management problem.

Think of a business exercise in which you are responsible for managing ten restaurants in a city, and each restaurant attains break-even if it can reach $1 million in annual sales. Let’s say nine of the ten restaurants you manage exceed that amount, but one is only generating $800,000 in sales. What do you do?

What we know so far about Omicron


Since early in the COVID pandemic, the Network for Genomics Surveillance in South Africa has been monitoring changes in SARS-CoV-2. This was a valuable tool to understand better how the virus spread. In late 2020, the network detected a new virus lineage, 501Y.V2, which later became known as the beta variant. Now a new SARS-CoV-2 variant has been identified, known as B.1.1.529. To help us understand more, The Conversation Africa’s Ozayr Patel asked scientists to share what they know.

What’s the science behind the search?

Hunting for variants requires a concerted effort. South Africa and the UK were the first big countries to implement nationwide genomic surveillance efforts for SARS-CoV-2 as early as April 2020.

Variant hunting, as exciting as that sounds, is performed through whole genome sequencing of samples that have tested positive for the virus. This process involves checking every sequence obtained for differences compared to what we know is circulating in South Africa and the world. When we see multiple differences, this immediately raises a red flag and we investigate further to confirm what we’ve noticed.