11 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 

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.

India Hosts Putin as it Balances Ties With Russia, US

Ashok Sharma and Sheikh Saaliq

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday to discuss defense and trade relations as India attempts to balance its ties with the United States.

The agenda for the annual summit included political and defense issues, according to India’s external affairs ministry. The two leaders also discussed Afghanistan’s takeover by the Taliban earlier this year, which has led to a humanitarian crisis in the country.

“In the last few decades, the world witnessed many fundamental changes and different kinds of geopolitical equations emerged but the friendship of India and Russia remained constant,” Modi said in introductory remarks before his meeting with Putin.

India’s Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said the talks were “productive” and that the two countries signed multiple agreements.

The meeting between Modi and Putin in New Delhi came hours after the defense and foreign ministers of the two countries held a strategic dialogue to discuss reinforcing ties between India and Russia. The two countries also signed a slew of bilateral defense agreements, including India’s procurement of more than 600,000 assault rifles from Russia.

Vladimir Putin: What Russian president's India visit means for world politics

Vikas Pandey

This "all-weather" partnership is one of the success stories of global diplomacy, and a high mark for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to live up to when they meet in Delhi on Monday.

But beyond the big-ticket defence deals, trade announcements, handshakes and Mr Modi's trademark hugs, the two countries will also have to overcome serious challenges.

And that is largely down to the different geopolitical choices the two countries have made in recent months and years. How they solve these issues will influence regional, and global politics.

India-US ties, and the China factor

Growing India-US relations is one irritant that has loomed large over Delhi-Moscow ties, more so in the past decade. Mr Modi even held a big rally for Donald Trump in 2020 when he visited India. It was a vibrant show of support for Washington.

Not at Any Price: LBJ, Pakistan, and Bargaining in an Asymmetric Intelligence Relationship

Diana Bolsinger

International relations theory focuses largely on acknowledged alliances, and yet secret ties also shape relations among states. U.S.-Pakistani intelligence collaboration in the early Cold War highlights the gaps in our understanding of informal and secret international alliances. This case reveals that the factors traditionally associated with bargaining leverage — especially states’ comparative dependence upon each other — also are critical to clandestine negotiations. The U.S.-Pakistani relationship in the 1950s and 60s suggests that judging the other state’s dependence and alternatives may be particularly difficult under conditions of secrecy. American and Pakistani leaders negotiated the terms allowing the United States to collect intelligence on Soviet and Chinese weapons programs from Pakistan, but with limited outside input, each side overestimated its leverage. U.S. and Pakistani leaders assumed that they could extract more through ever-increasing pressure. The resulting resentments ultimately doomed the secret collaboration and undermined the overall bilateral relationship.

How China wrested control of the Congo’s critical minerals

David Uren

China’s system of bankrolling its state companies may be entrenching great inefficiency in its economy but has delivered it unchallenged dominance in the critical minerals required for advanced technologies.

Separate investigations by the New York Times and Bloomberg released in recent weeks have shown how Chinese mining companies, backed by state-owned banks, seized control of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s most prized cobalt deposits. In 2016, China Molybdenum bought out the holdings of US mining group Freeport-McMoran using very similar means to those used by the Nixon administration to gain control of the DRC’s mineral resources in the 1960s.

Despite an avowed concern to end the US dependence on China for supplies of critical minerals, both the Obama and Trump administrations stood aside, allowing Freeport to hand control of the world’s largest cobalt mine to China Molybdenum with the sale of its nickel and cobalt operations in the DRC. The Chinese were assisted in their purchase by President Joe Biden’s son Hunter.

What Really Matters in the Sino-American Competition?


CAMBRIDGE – The United States and China are competing for dominance in technology. America has long been at the forefront in developing the technologies (bio, nano, information) that are central to economic growth in the twenty-first century. Moreover, US research universities dominate higher education globally. In Shanghai Jiao Tong University’s annual Academic Ranking of World Universities, 16 of the top 20 institutions are in the US; none is in China.

But China is investing heavily in research and development, and it is already competing with the US in key fields, not least artificial intelligence (AI), where it aims to be the global leader by 2030. Some experts believe that China is well placed to achieve that goal, owing to its enormous data resources, a lack of privacy restraints on how that data is used, and the fact that advances in machine learning will require trained engineers more than cutting-edge scientists. Given the importance of machine learning as a general-purpose technology that affects many other domains, China’s gains in AI are of particular significance.

Moreover, Chinese technological progress is no longer based solely on imitation. Former US President Donald Trump’s administration punished China for its cybertheft of intellectual property, coerced IP transfers, and unfair trade practices. Insisting on reciprocity, the US argued that if China could ban Google and Facebook from its market for security reasons, the US can take similar steps against Chinese giants like Huawei and ZTE. But China is still innovating.

The Myths and Realities of China's economic coercion

Luke Patey 

China is far from alone in using its economic muscle to advance its foreign- and security-policy aims. For decades, the United States has weaponised trade, finance and technology, even against key allies, in pursuit of its broader geopolitical and economic aims. Washington has also imposed punishing economic sanctions on Sudan, Iran and other states it has branded as rogue.

Outside of military invasion, trade, financial and diplomatic sanctions became the primary tools for America and its allies to coerce foreign leaders ‘to start behaving differently’ by disarming weapons programmes, ending support to international terrorist groups and ceasing widespread human-rights abuses. Now China wants advanced democracies around the world to behave differently, too.

Over the past decade, Beijing has engaged more frequently in economic coercion against both western countries and its East Asian neighbours. In 2017, Beijing blocked Chinese tourists from visiting South Korean island getaways after Seoul deployed an American missile-defence system.

PRISM Vol. 9, No. 3

Though Great Power Competition (or GPC) dominates the current national security discourse, the United States is a global power with global interests. In addition to GPC, PRISM V.9,N.1 offers insight on the future of NATO, on U.S. engagement in Africa, and on emerging technology domains of competition such as quantum computing, 5G technology, and influence operations. Read American and South East Asian perspectives on competition with China, as well as Huawei’s rejoinder to "The Worst Possible Day: U.S. Telecommunications and Huawei," from PRISM V.8,N.3.

What are the origins of Russian conduct? Has Russian domestic and foreign policy predominantly been the result of misguided U.S. and European actions? Would the Kremlin have behaved differently if these policies had been more accommodating to Russia as a separate but equal partner in European integration?

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.

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.

Why Putin Won’t Invade Ukraine

Loren Thompson

A flurry of media reports last week warned that Russian military forces were massing near the border of Ukraine with the apparent intention of invading. The U.S. intelligence community estimates 70,000 troops are deployed at four locations, with Ukrainian sources estimating higher numbers.

Ukraine thus becomes the latest focus of Vladimir Putin’s campaign to exert pressure on Russia’s neighbors. Putin’s main objective seems to be dissuading Kyiv from joining NATO, a move that could position Western forces close to the Russian heartland.

There is little doubt that Russia’s vastly superior forces are capable of overrunning Ukraine, particularly the region east of the Dnieper river where many ethnic Russian live (see map). Moscow has been aiding a rebellion of ethnic Russians in the east against the central government since 2014, when it seized the Crimean Peninsula—the other area where ethnic Russians predominate.

Putin’s choice: Hot war or a deeply frozen conflict


Top United States officials say they are worried Russia is aiming to heat things up in Ukraine, with troops positioned along the border for a potentially imminent invasion. However, Russian President Vladimir Putin may have precisely the opposite in mind: deepening the freeze of the conflict in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region as his best, and perhaps only, guarantee that Ukraine won’t join NATO.

At a meeting in Stockholm on Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken presented utterly contradictory assessments of the situation in eastern Ukraine. Blinken insisted that the only risk of war was the threat of Russian military aggression. Lavrov said NATO’s eastward expansion was the threat.

They did agree that Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden would speak directly in the coming days. Russia has long wanted to set aside the Franco-German-sponsored peace talks with Ukraine (known as the Normandy format) in favor of a direct dialogue with Washington that would echo Moscow’s former superpower status.

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?

NATO Must Adapt to an Era of Hybrid Threats


As the foreign ministers of the NATO allies met this week in Riga, Latvia, they did so against the backdrop of an increasingly tense geopolitical situation in Eastern Europe. Large numbers of Russian forces remain deployed not far from Ukraine’s borders, postured for offensive military action. And Minsk announced on November 29 that it was prepared to conduct large-scale exercises with Russia near Ukraine’s border.

Although Ukraine is not a NATO ally—and therefore not covered by the alliance’s mutual defense clause—another Russian invasion there would greatly destabilize Central and Eastern Europe. NATO allies Poland, Romania, and the Baltic States would all perceive a renewed existential threat. They would very likely call for NATO to respond with efforts to bolster the alliance’s eastern flank.

To its credit, NATO has done much over the last several years to prepare for and deter a traditional attack from Russia. A reinvigorated NATO defense planning process has improved allied capabilities, readiness initiatives have shortened alliance response times, and allies have re-embraced territorial defense. It is likely that a Russian military assault against Estonia or Lithuania, for instance, would result in a strong, unified response that would ultimately defeat and expel the invading force.

Ukraine: Conflict at the Crossroads of Europe and Russia

Jonathan Masters

The conflict in Ukraine is viewed by some as part of a renewed geopolitical rivalry between western powers and Russia.
A former Soviet republic, Ukraine has deep cultural, economic, and political bonds with Russia.

In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea, a part of Ukraine, and it is keen not to let the country become more aligned with Western institutions, chiefly NATO and the European Union.


Ukraine has long played an important, yet sometimes overlooked, role in the global security order. Today, the country is on the front lines of a renewed great-power rivalry that many analysts say will dominate international relations in the decades ahead.

In recent elections, Ukrainians have clearly indicated that they see their future in Europe, but the country continues to grapple with extreme corruption and deep regional rifts that could impede its path. Meanwhile, Russia’s aggression in Ukraine has triggered the greatest security crisis in Europe since the Cold War. Though the United States and its allies have taken significant punitive actions against Russia during the seven-year-old conflict, they have made little headway in helping to restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity. A buildup of Russian military forces along the border with Ukraine in late 2021 stoked fears that Moscow is preparing for a large-scale invasion of its neighbor, although the Kremlin has denied this.

Why has Ukraine become a geopolitical flash point?

Ukraine was a cornerstone of the Soviet Union, the archrival of the United States during the Cold War. Behind only Russia, it was the second–most populous and powerful of the fifteen Soviet republics, home to much of the union’s agricultural production, defense industries, and military, including the Black Sea Fleet and some of the nuclear arsenal. Ukraine was so vital to the union that its decision to sever ties in 1991 proved to be a coup de grâce for the ailing superpower.

In its nearly three decades of independence, Ukraine has sought to forge its own path as a sovereign state while looking to align more closely with Western institutions, including the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). However, Kyiv has struggled to balance its foreign relations and to bridge deep internal divisions. A more nationalist, Ukrainian-speaking population in western parts of the country has generally supported greater integration with Europe, while a mostly Russian-speaking community in the east has favored closer ties with Russia.

Ukraine became a battleground in 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea and began arming and abetting separatists in the Donbas region in the country’s southeast. Russia’s seizure of Crimea was the first time since World War II that a European state annexed the territory of another. More than fourteen thousand people have died in the conflict, the bloodiest in Europe since the Balkan Wars of the 1990s.

For many analysts, the conflict marked a clear shift in the global security environment from a unipolar period of U.S. dominance to one defined by renewed competition between great powers [PDF].

What are Russia’s interests in Ukraine?

Russia has deep cultural, economic, and political bonds with Ukraine, and in many ways Ukraine is central to Russia’s identity and vision for itself in the world.

Family ties. Russia and Ukraine have strong familial bonds that go back centuries. Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, is sometimes referred to as “the mother of Russian cities,” on par in terms of cultural influence with Moscow and St. Petersburg. It was in Kyiv in the eighth and ninth centuries that Christianity was brought from Byzantium to the Slavic peoples. And it was Christianity that served as the anchor for Kievan Rus, the early Slavic state from which modern Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarussians draw their lineage.

Russian diaspora. Among Russia’s top concerns is the welfare of the approximately eight million ethnic Russians living in Ukraine, according to a 2001 census, mostly in the south and east. Moscow claimed a duty to protect these people as a pretext for its actions in Ukraine.

Superpower image. After the Soviet collapse, many Russian politicians viewed the divorce with Ukraine as a mistake of history and a threat to Russia’s standing as a great power. Losing a permanent hold on Ukraine, and letting it fall into the Western orbit, was seen by many as a major blow to Russia’s international prestige.

Crimea. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev transferred Crimea from Russia to Ukraine in 1954 to strengthen the “brotherly ties between the Ukrainian and Russian peoples.” However, since the fall of the union, many Russian nationalists in both Russia and Crimea have longed for a return of the peninsula. The city of Sevastopol is home port for Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, the dominant maritime force in the region.

Trade. Russia was for a long time Ukraine’s largest trading partner, although this link has withered dramatically in recent years. China now tops Russia in its trade with Ukraine. Prior to its invasion of Crimea, Russia had hoped to pull Ukraine into its single market, the Eurasian Economic Union, which today includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.

Energy. Russia has relied on Ukrainian pipelines to pump its gas to customers in Central and Eastern Europe for decades, and it continues to pay billions of dollars per year in transit fees to Kyiv. However, in mid-2021, Russia completed construction of its Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which runs under the Baltic Sea to Germany. Although Russia is contracted to keep moving gas through Ukraine for several more years, some critics in the United States and Europe warn that Nord Stream 2 will allow Russia to bypass Ukrainian pipelines if it wants and gain greater geopolitical leverage in the region.

Political sway. Russia has been intent on preserving its political influence in Ukraine and throughout the former Soviet Union, particularly after its preferred candidate for Ukrainian president in 2004, Viktor Yanukovych, lost to a reformist competitor as part of the Orange Revolution popular movement. The shock in Ukraine came after a similar electoral defeat for the Kremlin in Georgia in 2003, known as the Rose Revolution, and was followed by another—the Tulip Revolution—in Kyrgyzstan in 2005. Yanukovych later became president of Ukraine, in 2010, amid voter discontent with the Orange government.
What motivated Russia’s moves against Ukraine?

Western scholars disagree somewhat on the motivations behind Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. Some emphasize NATO’s post–Cold War enlargement, which Russia has viewed with increasing alarm. In 2004, NATO added seven members, its fifth expansion and largest one to date, including the former Soviet Baltic republics Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Four years later, when NATO declared its intent to bring Ukraine and Georgia into the fold at some point in the future, Russia made clear a redline had been crossed.
NATO’s Expanding Membership

In the weeks leading up to NATO’s 2008 summit, President Vladimir Putin warned U.S. diplomats that steps to bring Ukraine into the alliance “would be a hostile act toward Russia.” Months later, Russia went to war with Georgia, seemingly showcasing Putin’s willingness to use force to secure Russia’s interests. (Some independent observers faulted Georgia for initiating the so-called August War but blamed Russia for escalating hostilities into a broader conflict.)

Other experts dispute the assertion that Russia’s fear of NATO was its primary motive, countering that the NATO expansion question had largely dissolved after 2008 as Western governments lost interest and Russia increased its influence in Ukraine. Rather, they say, the biggest factor behind Russia’s intervention was Putin’s fear of losing power at home, particularly after historic anti-government protests erupted in Russia in late 2011. Putin claimed U.S. actors were sowing this unrest and thereafter began casting the United States as an archenemy to rally his political base. It was by looking through this Cold War redux lens that he chose to intervene in Ukraine, they say.

Russia’s intervention in Ukraine proved to be immensely popular at home, pushing Putin’s approval ratings above 80 percent following a steady decline.
What triggered the 2013–14 crisis?

It was Ukraine’s ties with the European Union that brought tensions to a head with Russia. In late 2013, President Yanukovych, acting under pressure from his supporters in Moscow, scrapped plans to formalize a closer economic relationship with the EU. Russia had at the same time been pressing Ukraine to join the not-yet-formed Eurasian Economic Union. Many Ukrainians perceived Yanukovych’s decision as a betrayal by a deeply corrupt and incompetent government, and it ignited countrywide protests known as Euromaidan.

Putin framed the ensuing tumult of Euromaidan, which forced Yanukovych from power, as a Western-backed “fascist coup” that endangered the ethnic Russian majority in Crimea. (Western leaders dismissed this as baseless propaganda reminiscent of the Soviet era.) In response, Putin ordered a covert invasion of Crimea that he later justified as a rescue operation. “There is a limit to everything. And with Ukraine, our western partners have crossed the line,” Putin said in a March 2014 address formalizing the annexation.

Putin employed a similar narrative to justify his support for separatists in southeastern Ukraine, another region home to large numbers of ethnic Russians and Russian speakers. He famously referred to the area as Novorossiya (New Russia), a term dating back to eighteenth-century imperial Russia. Armed Russian provocateurs, including some agents of Russian security services, are believed to have played a central role in stirring the anti-Euromaidan secessionist movements in the region into a rebellion. However, unlike Crimea, Russia continues to officially deny its involvement in the Donbas conflict.
What are Russia’s objectives in Ukraine?

Putin’s Russia has been described as a revanchist power, keen to regain its former power and prestige. “It was always Putin’s goal to restore Russia to the status of a great power in northern Eurasia,” writes Gerard Toal, an international affairs professor at Virginia Tech, in his book Near Abroad. “The end goal was not to re-create the Soviet Union but to make Russia great again.”

By seizing Crimea, Russia has solidified its control of a critical foothold on the Black Sea. With a larger and more sophisticated military presence there, Russia can project power deeper into the Mediterranean, Middle East, and North Africa, where it has traditionally had limited influence.

Russia’s strategic gains in the Donbas are more fragile. Supporting the separatists has, at least temporarily, increased Russia’s bargaining power vis-à-vis Ukraine, but the region’s future is highly uncertain. Fostering political instability there may be Russia’s aim until other factors shift in its favor.

Putin has made clear that he will never allow Ukraine to become “anti-Russian” and will continue to push back against the expansion of Western influence in Ukraine. In July 2021, he penned an article explaining his views of the two countries’ shared history, describing Russians and Ukrainians as “one people” who effectively occupy “the same historical and spiritual space.”

What are U.S. priorities in Ukraine?

Immediately following the Soviet collapse, Washington’s priority was pushing Ukraine—along with Belarus and Kazakhstan—to forfeit its nuclear arsenal so that only Russia would retain the former union’s weapons. At the same time, the United States rushed to bolster the shaky democracy in Russia. Some prominent observers at the time felt that the United States was premature in this courtship with Russia, and that it should have worked more on fostering geopolitical pluralism in the rest of the former Soviet Union.

Former U.S. National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, in early 1994 in Foreign Affairs, described a healthy and stable Ukraine as a critical counterweight to Russia and the lynchpin of what he advocated should be the new U.S. grand strategy after the Cold War. “It cannot be stressed strongly enough that without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be an empire, but with Ukraine suborned and then subordinated, Russia automatically becomes an empire,” he wrote.

In the months after Brzezinski’s article was published, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Russia pledged via the Budapest Referendum to respect Ukraine’s independence and sovereignty in return for it becoming a nonnuclear state.