10 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.

Britain’s New Swing Voters? A Survey of British Indian Attitudes



The British Raj might have exited the Indian subcontinent nearly seventy-five years ago, but the people-to-people connections between India and the United Kingdom have proven resilient.

The Indian diaspora in the United Kingdom—now the largest immigrant group in the country—is young, fast-growing, and relatively well educated. It is one of the highest earning ethnic groups in the country.1 As their numbers have grown, so too has the community’s political stature—two of the four most prestigious ministerial berths in the present government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson are held by persons of Indian origin.

The community’s growth has been accompanied by changes in its political leanings. Historically, the British Indian community has strongly supported the left-of-center Labour Party, but anecdotal evidence and limited survey data suggest that it has been slowly gravitating toward Labour’s principal rival, the right-of-center Conservative Party. Where do British Indians’ partisan leanings reside today? How does the diaspora view Britain’s political leadership? And what are the principal policy issues that undergird the community’s political preferences?

India-Taiwan Ties: A Case for Stronger Partnership


Taiwan has tried to reach out to India. Its carefully crafted New Southbound Policy, President Tsai Ing-wen’s flagship foreign policy move, which was officially launched in 2016, has served as a roadmap for greater engagement with Taiwan’s potential friends and partners – especially India. India’s Act East policy and Indo-Pacific outreach efforts have also encouraged Taiwan to widen and deepen its engagement with India. This, however, is a recent development facilitated by a variety of strategic developments in the region. With the Indo-Pacific construct taking a firmer shape, New Delhi-Taipei ties are poised to assume a more concrete shape and provide a meaningful role for the bilateral relations, which have ebbed and flowed since the establishment of unofficial relations between the two democracies in 1995.

For a long time, the China factor has overshadowed India-Taiwan relations. While Taiwan itself was taking a conciliatory stance toward China before Tsai assumed the president’s office in 2016, India’s complicated relationship with China also played a role in preventing Delhi and Taipei from intensifying their relationship. However, China’s assertive foreign policy under President Xi Jinping has compelled several countries to find a long-term and viable solution to address their national concerns. China’s reluctance to address India’s territorial concerns and two major Chinese territorial incursions over the past four years (Doklam 2017, Galwan 2020) have forced India to rethink its China policy. In the process, India-Taiwan ties have also benefitted, and India is making efforts to revamp its Taiwan policy. The early signs of this were visible during the initial phase of the first term of the Narendra Modi government (2014–17).

Afghanistan’s Looming Catastrophe Why the United States and Its Allies Must Act Now to Prevent a Humanitarian Disaster

P. Michael McKinley
Source Link

On December 1, a United Nations official said that Afghanistan may be facing the most rapid economic collapse in modern history. Since the Taliban takeover in late August, government revenues have all but disappeared and the country’s cash-based economy has shrunk at dizzying rates. The World Food Program estimates that up to 23 million Afghans—more than half the population—may not have enough to eat by the end of the year. Public-sector workers have not been paid in months, and three million children under the age of five face acute malnutrition, an almost unfathomable number. As winter begins, Afghanistan is on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe.

The challenge is providing relief on the necessary scale to meet the unprecedented needs of the Afghan people. The United States and its allies rightly seek to deny the Taliban government any legitimacy or funding until it provides guarantees for the rights of women, girls, and minorities and unequivocally cuts its ties to international terrorism. The U.S. Treasury, international donors, and organizations have frozen billions of dollars of Afghan assets and seek to channel humanitarian aid through UN relief agencies and the nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) still operating, with difficulty, inside the country. Meanwhile, despite the growing crisis, the Taliban have shown little sign of changing their behavior.

Bangladesh’s Identity Crisis: To Be or Not to Be Secular

Shafi Md Mostofa

In a couple of weeks, Bangladesh will celebrate the golden jubilee of its victory in the liberation war against Pakistan. Fifty years have passed since it became independent, and secular nationalist forces gained the upper hand over religious ones in the war. However, Bangladesh has not been able to secure its secularism.

Debates about the country’s secular national identity, a founding principle of the state, persist to date. Some argue that secularism was imposed on the country from above. According to this argument, political pressure, especially from India due to its support for Bangladesh during the liberation war, played an important role in determining Bangladesh’s secular identity. But also, as several scholars have argued, secularism became the country’s founding principle due to the secular-linguistic Bengali nationalistic movement in the 1947-71 period.

Unlike the Western conception of secularism, where the state is separate or distances itself from the church/religion, Bangladeshi secularism translates into Dharmanirapekkhata (religious neutrality). The Bangladeshi state does not disassociate itself from religion; rather it accepts the role of religion in public spheres. And in the eyes of the state all religions are equal.

All Roads Need Not Lead To China


SINGAPORE — It all starts with roads. Upon the conclusion of China’s civil war in 1949, China began a decades-long campaign to push westward into restive and contested terrain. Roads and railways began to inch westward along the Yellow River and through the narrow Gansu corridor, the ancient northern Silk Road passageway between the more inhospitable Mongolian and Tibetan Plateaus, into Xinjiang, land of the Muslim Uighurs, terrain labeled East Turkestan on many maps that depicted the Anglo-Russian maneuverings of the fabled 19th-century “Great Game.” By the time the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Chinese roads were well positioned to expand across once frozen Cold War borders and reshape the trade relations of the half-dozen newly independent Central Asian republics. China’s plan to win the new Great Game was to build new Silk Roads.

Throughout China’s turbulent decades under Mao Zedong, the same domestic power play was unfolding in Tibet. When Tibetans resisted the convulsive campaigns of the Great Leap Forward, their 1959 uprising was crushed and the Dalai Lama fled into exile in India. In the 1962 Sino-Indian war, China seized parts of India’s Arunachal Pradesh (which China considers part of “South Tibet”) as well as Aksai Chin, a disputed region in the western Himalayas abutting India’s state of Ladakh.

Microsoft disrupts Chinese hacking group targeting organizations in dozens of countries


Microsoft on Monday announced that a federal court had granted a request to allow the company to seize websites being used by a Chinese based hacking group that were targeting organizations in the United States and 28 other nations.

The hacking group, which Microsoft has dubbed “Nickel,” was observed to be targeting think tanks, human rights organizations, government agencies and diplomatic organizations for intelligence gathering purposes.

The court order unsealed Monday in the Eastern District of Virginia allowed the Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit to take control of the websites used by Nickel and redirect the traffic to Microsoft servers. Customers impacted by the hacking efforts have been notified.

“Obtaining control of the malicious websites and redirecting traffic from those sites to Microsoft’s secure servers will help us protect existing and future victims while learning more about Nickel’s activities,” Tom Burt, the corporate vice president of Customer Security and Trust at Microsoft, wrote in a blog post published Monday.

Protecting people from recent cyberattacks

Tom Burt - Corporate 

The Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit (DCU) has disrupted the activities of a China-based hacking group that we call Nickel. In documents that were unsealed today, a federal court in Virginia has granted our request to seize websites Nickel was using to attack organizations in the United States and 28 other countries around the world, enabling us to cut off Nickel’s access to its victims and prevent the websites from being used to execute attacks. We believe these attacks were largely being used for intelligence gathering from government agencies, think tanks and human rights organizations.

On December 2, Microsoft filed pleadings with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia seeking authority to take control of the sites. The court quickly granted an order that was unsealed today following completion of service on the hosting providers. Obtaining control of the malicious websites and redirecting traffic from those sites to Microsoft’s secure servers will help us protect existing and future victims while learning more about Nickel’s activities. Our disruption will not prevent Nickel from continuing other hacking activities, but we do believe we have removed a key piece of the infrastructure the group has been relying on for this latest wave of attacks.

Is the Africa-China Relationship at Its Lowest or Highest Level Yet?

Leah Lynch, Hannah Ryder, and Jing Cai

As President Xi Jinping completed his speech at the eighth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) to an African and Chinese audience in Dakar, Senegal, fingers went to work to report the 33 percent percent drop in Chinese finance, widely reported to be the key outcome from the two-day conference. While the announcement of a commitment of a $1 billion-worth of vaccine doses also hit headlines, the overall sentiment seemed to be: We knew the Africa-China relationship would begin to deteriorate! Perhaps taking advantage of this apparent sentiment, the EU published more detailed plans for a new scheme to – in the EU’s words – “mobilize” 300 billion euros of finance to poorer countries (not African countries specifically).

However, the four key documents from FOCAC were not formally published until several days later, meaning few journalists could really understand the overall direction and intentionality of the conference immediately after it closed on November 30. This iteration of FOCAC adopted the largest number of – and longest – outcome documents in a single session (usually only two are adopted). A careful read of these documents indicates an Africa-China relationship that respective governments hope will not just intensify but will also become more Africa-led. Here’s why.

What China Learned From the Collapse of the USSR

Kunal Sharma

The geopolitical discourse of our times is dominated by a growing multipolarity, unlike 30 years back, when the world was dominated by two superpowers: The United States and the erstwhile USSR. In fact, the world has witnessed a massive geopolitical metamorphosis in the first half of the 20th century, as once-great kingdoms, such as the Russian, Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, British, and French empires have transformed into modern democracies, socialist republics, and communist dictatorships. This metamorphosis is ongoing, and is particularly evident and noteworthy in the case of China.

The rather unexpected emergence of People’s Republic of China (PRC) as a near-superpower in the past decade-and-a-half was met by denial by the U.S. foreign policy apparatus until relatively recently. Whatever their party, successive U.S. administrations downplayed China’s growing strategic and military strength until the election of President Donald Trump in 2016.

The harsh and belated realization of China’s economic and military strength has at least partly contributed to the withdrawal of the U.S. armed forces from Afghanistan and Iraq, and the reallocation of more resources to the Indo-Pacific to counter China’s aggressive behavior. Many analysts attribute China’s sudden rise to its strong export-led economic growth and Xi Jinping’s assertive leadership. However, one crucial factor responsible for China’s growing strategic hegemony that is rarely discussed is its unparalleled commitment and rigor to learn from the USSR’s mistakes.

US military minds still stuck in Pearl Harbor mentality


“What would Winston Churchill say?,” protested China hawk Michael Pillsbury when Michael Anton, a former national security official in the Trump administration, asked him what he would do if China sank a US aircraft carrier. I reported the exchange in a November 3 analysis, “Sleepwalkers in the South China Sea.”

More relevant is what Churchill actually said just before the war. Like most of the Allied leadership, Churchill refused to believe that Germany could bypass France’s Maginot Line, or that the Japanese could roll up British forces in Asia in a matter of weeks. Hitler and Hirohito both threw the British into the sea, respectively at Dunkirk and Singapore.

With 350 intermediate-range missile launchers and DF-21 and DF-26 ship-killer missiles, China can sink American carriers as surely as Japanese torpedo bombers sank Allied battleships in World War II.

Allied leaders refused to believe that battleships were sitting ducks. Churchill and his cabinet were mental giants compared to the counterinsurgency soldiers who now lead the American military, but they got it terribly wrong. The Americans now may do worse.

Beijing’s Strategic Blueprint Is Changing as Tensions Grow

Ryan Fedasiuk and Emily Weinstein

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has constructed a strategy that is predicated on both passively absorbing and actively acquiring technology from abroad. Although the tech outflow from the United States to China has undercut U.S. national security, stymying it is easier said than done—and Beijing’s playbook is evolving in response to heightening tensions between the two countries.

In a new framework we’re calling “E.P.I.C.,” we attempt to lay out the four key resources at the heart of U.S.-China competition today. These resources—equipment, personnel, information, and capital—represent the foundational tools that China uses in its push to amass comprehensive national power.

The first resource is equipment—most notably, advanced computer chips and the billion-dollar machines that make them. Beijing’s reliance on imported technologies extends well beyond foreign-designed semiconductors, including lidar systems for self-driving cars, engine housings for commercial aircraft, and reagents for gene editing kits, among others. However, despite its multibillion-dollar efforts to boost domestic production in many of these key fields, China still has a long way to go to produce them domestically.

China Seeks First Military Base on Africa’s Atlantic Coast, U.S. Intelligence Finds

Michael M. Phillips

“As part of our diplomacy to address maritime-security issues, we have made clear to Equatorial Guinea that certain potential steps involving [Chinese] activity there would raise national-security concerns,” said a senior Biden administration official.

The great-power skirmishing over a country that rarely draws outside attention reflects the rising tensions between Washington and Beijing. The two countries are sparring over the status of Taiwan, China’s testing of a hypersonic missile, the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic and other issues.

World-wide, the U.S. finds itself maneuvering to try to block China from projecting its military power from new overseas bases, from Cambodia to the United Arab Emirates.
In Equatorial Guinea, the Chinese likely have an eye on Bata, according to a U.S. official. Bata already has a Chinese-built deep-water commercial port on the Gulf of Guinea, and excellent highways link the city to Gabon and the interior of Central Africa.

China’s cyber vision: How the Cyberspace Administration of China is building a new consensus on global internet governance

This report provides a primer on the roots of the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) within China’s policy system, and sheds light on the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) intentions to use cyberspace as a tool for shaping discourse domestically and internationally.

The report details the position of the Cyberspace Administration of China in China’s propaganda system. Considering its origins in the former Party Office of External Propaganda, the authors argue that ‘countries that lack comprehensive cyber regulations should err on the side of caution when engaging with the CCP on ideas for establishing an international cyber co-governance strategy.’

By assessing the CCP’s strategy of becoming a ‘cyber superpower’, its principle of ‘internet sovereignty’, and its concept of ‘community of common destiny for cyberspace’, this report seeks to address how the CCP is working to build a consensus on the future of who will set the rules, norms and values of the internet.

The report also examines the World Internet Conference - a ‘platform through which the CCP promotes its ideas on internet sovereignty and global governance’ – and its links to the CAC.

Diplomacy Is the Middle East’s Best Bet, but It’s Still a Long Shot

Thanassis Cambanis 

High-level diplomacy has intensified among competing Middle East regional powers, a flurry of bilateral talks that increasingly suggests what a “Plan B” would look like if, as seems likely, the U.S. and Iran fail to revive the deal that briefly constrained Tehran’s nuclear program.

The pace of contacts and meetings between the region’s prime movers has stepped up a notch in recent weeks, in a tangible sign that governments in the Middle East are responding to what they see as a clear downsizing of Washington’s role in the region.

The most visible example of this adjustment was a meeting that took place in Tehran this week between the top security officials of Iran and the United Arab Emirates. Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE’s national security adviser, met with Ali Shamkhani, the head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, as well as with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.

The Intelligence Community Must Work to Gain the Public’s Trust

Thomas Joscelyn

Late last month, Richard Moore, the chief of the United Kingdom’s Secret Intelligence Service (SIS, also known as MI6) delivered an especially newsworthy speech. It was remarkable chiefly because it was so rare. Moore assumed his current role in October 2020, but hadn’t given a public address until now.

In popular fiction, British spy masters lurk in the shadows, hiding their true identities from the public. Most famously, James Bond’s boss is known only as “M.” In the past, this was also a reality, as the heads of MI6 preferred anonymity. Indeed, the chief British spy was long referred to simply as “C.” This tradition dates back to the first head of the SIS in the early 20th century, Sir Mansfield George Smith-Cumming, who signed his correspondence with that lone initial.

But there has always been a tension within Western democracies between the dueling needs for transparency and secrecy. Some clandestine capabilities are necessary. But which ones? And how should elected representatives ensure that proper oversight is conducted on behalf of the people?

The Age of Global Protest

Popular protests are on the rise, and they are increasingly going global. Over the past two years, popular movements demonstrating against fiscal austerity and corruption have brought down governments—in democracies and authoritarian regimes alike—from Europe and Latin America to Africa and Asia. And with the advent of new communication technologies and media platforms, what happens anywhere can be seen everywhere. The messages and actions of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, for instance, have inspired and guided demonstrators in other continents.

The Black Lives Matter protests in the United States during the summer of 2020 were particularly resonant. Building on centuries of international abolitionist and anti-colonialist protest, the demonstrations, sparked by the May 2020 killing of George Floyd by a white police officer who kneeled on his neck for nearly eight minutes, spread rapidly around the world. In addition to standing in solidarity with U.S. protesters, demonstrators in Europe, South America and Asia connected the movement to their own experiences of colonialism, racism and state violence that have been perpetrated by their governments.

US-China geoeconomic rivalry intensifies: A risk or an opportunity for European companies?


As the US and China balance between the pursuit of strategic security interests and ambitions to attain economic growth, novel sources of risk are emerging for globally active businesses, ranging from sanctions to export controls.

The Biden presidency will offer only moderate respite from the escalation of this geoeconomic rivalry, even as US-China trade recovers in the aftermath of the pandemic.

In the face of US-China rivalry, the EU and its member states have opted for the third way of “open strategic autonomy”, including a range of trade instruments that will allow the EU to support the competitiveness of its companies more effectively.

European companies need to closely monitor their risk exposure in various transmission channels and stay attuned to unexpected opportunities that can materialise in the form of market entry possibilities and the development of new niches.

Russian group behind SolarWinds incident ramping up hacking efforts, analysis says


The Russian government-linked hacking group behind one of the biggest cyber espionage incidents in U.S. history has only intensified its hacking efforts in the year since, research released Monday found.

Cybersecurity group Mandiant on Monday released findings showing how the group, known as “Nobelium” or “UNC2452,” has continued to target governments and businesses, zeroing in on technology solutions and services groups, along with technology resellers, and using new tactics to make it more difficult to trace the threat activity and maintain access to networks.

“This intrusion activity reflects a well-resourced threat actor set operating with a high level of concern for operational security,” Mandiant researchers wrote in the report. "Though Mandiant cannot currently attribute this activity with higher confidence, the operational security associated with this intrusion and exploitation of a third party is consistent with the tactics employed by the actors behind the SolarWinds compromise."

Japan Steps in to Support India Against China in South Asia

Krzysztof Iwanek

When it comes to the economy, the sun of China’s might is casting a Himalayan shadow over India. The result of this disproportion is felt not only in their bilateral relations, but in China’s growing economic involvement in India’s immediate neighborhood and New Delhi’s limited scope of reactions. Over the last few years, however, one of the countries that has offered India various types of assistance on this front is its Quad partner Japan.

Briefly speaking, there are four areas where Indo-Japanese cooperation against China can be noticed: growing security collaboration; Japan’s promises to help India reduce its economic dependence on China; Japanese assistance in enhancing infrastructure connections between India and its neighbors, and joint Indo-Japanese projects in smaller South Asian states.

Russia planning massive military offensive against Ukraine involving 175,000 troops, U.S. intelligence warns

Shane Harris and Paul Sonne

As tensions mount between Washington and Moscow over a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine, U.S. intelligence has found the Kremlin is planning a multi-front offensive as soon as early next year involving up to 175,000 troops, according to U.S. officials and an intelligence document obtained by The Washington Post.

The Kremlin has been moving troops toward the border with Ukraine while demanding Washington guarantee that Ukraine will not join NATO and that the alliance will refrain from certain military activities in and around Ukrainian territory. The crisis has provoked fears of a renewed war on European soil and comes ahead of a planned virtual meeting next week between President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“The Russian plans call for a military offensive against Ukraine as soon as early 2022 with a scale of forces twice what we saw this past spring during Russia’s snap exercise near Ukraine’s borders,” said an administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information. “The plans involve extensive movement of 100 battalion tactical groups with an estimated 175,000 personnel, along with armor, artillery and equipment.”

Why the Russia-Iran Alliance Will Backfire Whither Iran?

Michael Rubin

For all its talk of leading a "resistance front," the Islamic Republic of Iran has historically had few allies. When Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini led his revolutionaries, "Neither East nor West but Islamic Republic" was a foundational slogan of the Islamic Revolution. Khomeini also described the United States and Russia as being "two blades of the same scissors."[1] He meant it: While the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran symbolized the Islamic Republic's hostility toward the United States and its European allies, Khomeini was equally distrustful of the Soviet Union and its eastern bloc satellites. Iran's isolation was cemented when every Arab state with the exception of Syria sided with Iraq during their 1980-88 war. Tehran's ties with Damascus have remained tight, but Syria's influence is limited inside the Middle East and its diplomatic weight is nonexistent outside it. The Iranian authorities sought to cultivate African states and were able to purchase the occasional vote on an international body, but Tehran's declining resources limited its success.

Today, that isolation is over. Whereas Khomeini was wary lest Moscow take advantage of Iran's vulnerability, Ali Khamenei, who succeeded him in 1989, took the risk to align with Russia in pursuit of a broader, anti-U.S. agenda. In this, he found success. But, the question for Iranians is, at what cost?

Diplomacy—and Strategic Ambiguity—Can Avert a Crisis in Ukraine

Angela Stent

In 2008, at a contentious NATO summit in Bucharest in which member states chose not to invite Ukraine to join the alliance, Russian President Vladimir Putin shared a candid moment with his U.S. counterpart, President George W. Bush. “George,” Putin said, “you have to understand that Ukraine is not even a country. Part of its territory is in Eastern Europe and the greater part was given to us.” In July of this year, Putin elaborated extensively on this theme in a long treatise entitled “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians,” in which he insisted on the cultural and religious unity of Russians and Ukrainians and blamed the West for trying to pry Ukraine away from Russia. His central point: “We are one people.”

That conviction motivated Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea in 2014, and it has surfaced again in Russia’s large military buildup on the border with its western neighbor. The buildup is leading to alarm that an invasion may be imminent. It has also led to an urgent debate about Russia’s intentions. What does Russia really expect to achieve by amassing troops? Does it think it can push Ukraine to install a pro-Russian government after seven years of military hostilities? Or is it pursuing other aims?

The Evolution of Russian and Iranian Cooperation in Syria

Nicole Grajewski 


The Russian intervention in September 2015 provided decisive air power to Syrian and Iranian-backed ground forces, expanding Bashar al-Assad's territorial control and solidifying the regime's hold on power through parallel diplomatic efforts. Challenges associated with military integration materialized due to the Iranians' perceived lack of Russian air support and misunderstandings over basing agreements. However, throughout the course of the Syrian Civil War, regularized military and political exchanges strengthened the Russia-Iran relationship while contributing to greater coherence between Moscow and Tehran on the limits and parameters of cooperation. With the changing military dynamics in Syria, Russia, Iran, and Turkey spearheaded the Astana Process as a parallel track to UN mediation. Moscow's diplomatic and military gains, however, have also embroiled them in the broader regional conflict between the United States, Russia, Israel, and Iran.

Europe offers a third way in the technological transformation

Carme Colomina

At the end of March 2020, a Russian army convoy arrived in the Italian region of Lombardy to deliver medical supplies and personnel to help contain the virus in the epicentre of Europe’s COVID-19 outbreak. The images went around the world. The first stages of the new geopolitics of the pandemic were underway, and the European Union watched on in astonishment as its vulnerability increased even further. Overwhelmed by the health emergency, the EU’s complete loss of control of the pandemic narrative was also notable, as case numbers and information overexposure spiralled.

Large visible stickers on the Russian military aircraft landing in Rome and the army supply trucks that crossed the Austrian border featured the Italian and Russian flags intertwined in a heart-shape and the message “From Russia with Love” in giant letters. But this was more than just a major propaganda triumph for the Kremlin. It also laid bare the internal complexity of a European Union divided by the outbreak of the virus and overwhelmed by the new reality. This time the tale of EU weakness was not only magnified by the Russian disinformation machine – the headlines and images were real, albeit strategically amplified.


Valentin Weber

The member states of the European Union (EU) face an unprecedented challenge arising from cybercrime perpetrated by both non-state actors and well-resourced state actors. Europe’s industry suffers from industrial espionage and its foreign ministries from advanced persistent threats. In 2020, Germany even experienced what was described by some as the first death resulting from cyber means when a ransomware attack caused the unavailability of systems at a hospital. A patient was consequently turned away from Düsseldorf University Hospital and transferred to a different hospital, leading to her death.

To look beyond the present and provide an outlook into the future cyber threat landscape, the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) hosted several workshops in September 2021 with experts from industry, academia, European ministries, and international organizations. In addition to contemplating how a future cyber threat landscape might look, participants envisioned strategies and mechanisms that the EU could deploy to overcome the various challenges that lie ahead.

Strategic Alert: National Security Implications of Quantum Technology and Biotechnology

Quantum technology and biotechnology are key emerging technologies that are having a growing impact on security and defense. How can the Netherlands and the EU leverage these emerging technologies in efforts to strengthen (inter)national security? What potential challenges do these crucial technologies pose to the Netherlands?

The strategic alert addresses these questions and concludes with the following key takeaways:

Quantum computing technology will be able to break current (asymmetric) encryption standards and facilitate cyber-attacks.

The Netherlands should invest in cooperation at the European level on quantum technology development to strengthen the entire European quantum value chain.

The Netherlands should prepare for the next pandemic by making clear and early arrangements (preferable at the EU level) on the development of vaccines and therapeutics.

Centrally coordinating biotechnology research would allow the Netherlands to play a more prominent role in the field.

The Netherlands should factor the possible negative consequences of genetic modification on fragile ecosystems into its planning processes.

The Netherlands should invest in research into possible applications of biotechnology for creating and improving renewable energy sources.

The Netherlands should monitor potential dependencies vis-à-vis other nations for both technologies and should prioritize maintaining control over those elements that are vital with regards to developing strategic autonomy.

It’s Time to Democratise Doctrine

Steve Maguire

General Erwin Rommel famously said ‘the British write some of the best doctrine in the world; it is fortunate that their officers do not read it’. This quote is now routinely (mis)used to demonstrate how British military attitudes to doctrine have changed.

Despite its common use, Rommel’s quote is more interesting because of what it does not say. It excludes the majority of the Defence workforce; Civil Servants and ‘other ranks’. Defence needs to think beyond the broadest consumption of doctrine. It’s time to move from reading doctrine to considering who is writing it.

This article makes the case for greater democratisation of doctrine. If Defence dares to think differently about exploiting ideas then it can utilise a wider talent pool and create faster feedback loops. Many modern organisations are more complex than the military and do this already. The article firstly shows why doctrine needs to be democratised. It then looks at two organisations that do it already to discuss the positives and negatives of each approach.
What is doctrine, how is it created, and why is it important?

U.S. Military Has Acted Against Ransomware Groups, General Acknowledges

Julian E. Barnes

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — The U.S. military has taken actions against ransomware groups as part of its surge against organizations launching attacks against American companies, the nation’s top cyberwarrior said on Saturday, the first public acknowledgment of offensive measures against such organizations.

Gen. Paul M. Nakasone, the head of U.S. Cyber Command and the director of the National Security Agency, said that nine months ago, the government saw ransomware attacks as the responsibility of law enforcement.

But the attacks on Colonial Pipeline and JBS beef plants demonstrated that the criminal organizations behind them have been “impacting our critical infrastructure,” General Nakasone said.

In response, the government is taking a more aggressive, better coordinated approach against this threat, abandoning its previous hands-off stance. Cyber Command, the N.S.A. and other agencies have poured resources into gathering intelligence on the ransomware groups and sharing that better understanding across the government and with international partners.