31 December 2022

China tests America’s will with clashes along India border


The latest clash between Indian and Chinese soldiers across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) is a reminder that China, under President Xi Jinping, plans to remain aggressive and assertive after the 20th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party. With limited and manageable conflict in the Himalayas, the Chinese are testing the will of the United States to check China’s muscle flexing and the strength of burgeoning American partnerships in the Indo-Pacific, especially the one with India.

In China’s reckoning, India is both its most likely Asian rival with a comparable population size and the least likely American military ally in the Indo-Pacific Quad (a loose grouping of U.S., Australia, Japan and India). Given India’s desire to maintain sovereign autonomy, China wants to provoke India into ending its current close relationship with the U.S. — a relationship that is not a military alliance.

Chinese leaders seem to believe that, faced with the prospect of an aggressive China on its land border, India will be further compelled to maintain a more balanced posture towards China and the United States. The U.S. goal, in such circumstances, should be to continue to persuade India to improve its military preparedness, hasten its military modernization and increase interoperability of military equipment in India’s use with American (and allied) systems.

The Taiwan Long Game: Why the Best Solution Is No Solution

Jude Blanchette and Ryan Hass

For 70 years, China and the United States have managed to avoid disaster over Taiwan. But a consensus is forming in U.S. policy circles that this peace may not last much longer. Many analysts and policymakers now argue that the United States must use all its military power to prepare for war with China in the Taiwan Strait. In October 2022, Mike Gilday, the head of the U.S. Navy, warned that China might be preparing to invade Taiwan before 2024. Members of Congress, including Democratic Representative Seth Moulton and Republican Representative Mike Gallagher, have echoed Gilday’s sentiment.

There are sound rationales for the United States to focus on defending Taiwan. The U.S. military is bound by the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act to maintain the capacity to resist the use of force or coercion against Taiwan. Washington also has strong strategic, economic, and moral reasons to stand firm on behalf of the island. As a leading democracy in the heart of Asia, Taiwan sits at the core of global value chains. Its security is a fundamental interest for the United States.

Ultimately, however, Washington faces a strategic problem with a defense component, not a military problem with a military solution. The more the United States narrows its focus to military fixes, the greater the risk to its own interests, as well as to those of its allies and Taiwan itself. War games held in the Pentagon and in Washington think tanks, meanwhile, risk diverting focus from the sharpest near-term threats and challenges that Beijing presents.

Why the U.S. isn’t ready for a fight in the Indo-Pacific


The U.S. has pledged to deploy so much firepower to the Indo-Pacific in 2023 that China won’t even consider invading Taiwan. Lawmakers and allies say it’s already too late.

The promise is a big one: “2023 is likely to stand as the most transformative year in U.S. force posture in the region in a generation,” Ely Ratner, assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs, said in early December.

But GOP lawmakers say the Pentagon faces a stiff challenge in delivering on that pledge. That’s because Beijing now wields a navy large enough — backed by air power and “carrier killer” ballistic missiles — to challenge longtime U.S. naval dominance in the Indo-Pacific. And deliveries to Taiwan of billions of dollars in U.S. arms are backlogged, due to supply chain issues related to the pandemic and exacerbated by the Ukraine conflict.

“We have a rhetorical commitment to a force posture change in the Indo-Pacific, but that’s belied by the reality of what’s actually happening,” said Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), who will become chair of the new House Select Committee on China in the next Congress. He called Ratner’s assertions the military planning equivalent of “whistling past the graveyard.”

How to fight domestic terrorism? First, officials have to define it.

Hannah Allam

Drawing inspiration from a far-right shooter in New Zealand, the gunman who killed 10 Black shoppers at a Buffalo supermarket in the spring used racist, dehumanizing language in his writings, singling out Jews as the real problem to be “dealt with in time.”

Nevertheless, at a congressional hearing this month on the threat of violent white supremacy, two Republican lawmakers cherry-picked a word in the Buffalo killer’s screed — “socialist” — to cast him as a radical leftist. They did not note that the shooter was referring to National Socialism, the ideology of the German Nazi Party, as Democrats and witnesses on the panel pointedly clarified.

“Any sober look” at the Buffalo shooter’s hate-filled manifesto, Oren Segal of the Anti-Defamation League told the lawmakers, “would recognize that attack as clearly a white-supremacist attack.”

The exchange shows the tricky role of language in the politically charged struggle over how to talk about domestic terrorism. Republican leaders portray the far left and far right as equally dangerous, an assertion contradicted by White House assessments that “the most persistent and lethal threats” to the country come from the violent right.

Ukrainian troops fired toward Russian positions in eastern city

Matthew Luxmoore

KYIV, Ukraine—Ukrainian authorities said their army was closing in on the Russian-occupied city of Kreminna, control of which could allow Kyiv to significantly expand its efforts to retake Russian-held areas in Ukraine’s east.

Kreminna, a city in the eastern Luhansk region with a prewar population of 18,000, is being abandoned by Russia’s military command as Ukrainian troops advance through the mined and heavily fortified area surrounding it, said Serhiy Haidai, the governor of Luhansk.

“When we de-occupy Kreminna, it will be the turn of other Luhansk cities,” Mr. Haidai said in a televised interview Wednesday. His description of the situation around Kreminna couldn’t be independently verified.

Mr. Haidai said Russian military officials had moved from Kreminna to other nearby settlements and that civilians who had arrived from Russian territory to serve as medics and repair workers in the city had fled or returned home.

The U.K.’s Defense Ministry said in its intelligence briefing on Wednesday that Russia was fortifying the area around Kreminna and is likely to give priority to holding the line there.

Triple threat: Russia, Iran, and North Korea trade arms to get around sanctions

Darya Dolzikova, Daniel Salisbury

On December 16, CIA Director William Burns expressed concern over what he believes to be “at least the beginnings of a full-fledged defense partnership” between Iran and Russia. A few days earlier, the Russian military launched a wave of Iranian-made unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in an attack on Kyiv. These developments followed months of Iranian UAV use by Russian forces in Ukraine and discussion of potential Iranian missile transfers to the Russian military. Recent reports also suggest that the Wagner Group, a Russian private military company, has purchased infantry rockets and missiles from North Korea, several months after US officials first suggested Russia had approached that country for munitions.

Cooperation in the economic and military sphere between countries under sanctions and arms embargoes is not a new phenomenon. Recent reports of Russian procurement of military equipment from Iran and North Korea, therefore, come as no surprise. As Russia faces ever-tightening restrictions on its economy and military procurement, Moscow will likely continue leveraging trade opportunities that Tehran and Pyongyang present, relying on well-established methods of illicit trade and sanction evasion. To develop more effective countermeasures, it is important to understand how Moscow may rely on established sanction-evasion practices and the unique challenges it may present.

Why the Russian doomsday scenario hasn't happened — yet

John Nagl

2022 was bad — but it could have been worse. This essay is part of an end-of-the-year series looking at the silver linings.

Never have I been so thankful to be wrong.

Before Russia invaded Ukraine in February — after the delivery of perishable blood to Russian units made it clear that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s saber rattling was just not an exercise, after it became clear that Russia would invade the largest country in Europe, but before the tanks started rolling — I predicted that Russia would take Kyiv quickly, possibly within a week. I was mostly convinced that the brave and strong Ukrainians would fall to the inexorable logic of numbers in war.

I was wrong.

I was mostly convinced that the brave and strong Ukrainians would fall to the inexorable logic of numbers in war.

To be fair, I had good company in being wrong; Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the senior officer in the American military privy to daily briefings by the best intelligence community in the world, was reportedly wrong, too.

Ukraine marks a turning point for cyberwarfare


Most wars — from Troy to Dien Bien Phu and Waterloo to Yemen — rely on confusion. And Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has similarly been accompanied — even preceded — by an onslaught of cyber “confusion” all over the world, as the Kremlin has been deploying cyberwarfare tactics through, and against, both government and private actors to achieve its military and political goals.

Moscow’s cyberattacks and cyber operations serve multiple ends — such as damaging infrastructure, dismantling the software of government, and carrying out destructive espionage and assaults targeting individuals both in Ukraine and across the globe. A recent report notes that 90 percent of Russia’s attacks detected over the past year targeted NATO member countries, while 48 percent of these attacks targeted IT firms based in member countries.

This method of waging war is, in turn, raising new questions: At what point does a cyberattack become substantial enough to represent a declaration of war? And under what circumstances would a cyberattack on a NATO member constitute an act of warfare, justifying collective defense? And what, if anything, should we read into NATO’s reluctance to debate its role in cyber defense?

The Significance of Bitcoin for State Power

Jose Miguel Alonso-Trabanco

Much has been said about the problematic implications of cybercurrencies like Bitcoin for contemporary security environments. After all, they provide unsupervised conduits for the cross-border circulation of money in ways that can conceal the identities of those responsible. Needless to say, such advantage can be useful for the various financial operations of malicious nonstate actors, such as transnational criminal organizations, terrorist networks, insurgent militias, hacktivists, and even separatist forces.

Unsurprisingly, evidence confirms that the cryptocurrency ecosystem has attracted the involvement of unsavory groups like ISIS, Hamas, Mexican drug cartels, cybercrime syndicates, and professional money launderers. Plus, as the case of the so-called ‘Silk Road’ illustrates, Bitcoin has become the coin of the realm in the illicit markets which flourish in the deepest corners of the digital lawless underworld known as the ‘dark web.’ Likewise, the esoteric realm of cryptocurrencies is seemingly fertile for all sorts of criminal activities, intrigues, fraudulent businesses, scandals, conspiracy theories, scams, make-believe, and wild unconfirmed rumors. Arguably, this emerging microcosm reflects some of the dark traits associated with human nature since the dawn of time, including greed, the pursuit of power, and deception. However, the instrumental implications of Bitcoin for the practice of statecraft have not been fully understood in a comprehensive manner. Thus, this analysis seeks to clarify in-depth the relevance of Bitcoin for national power and, specifically, to determine how and why it can either strengthen or weaken it in today’s increasingly complex strategic geopolitical realities and geoeconomic dynamics.

The future of restraint after Ukraine

Michael Brenes

Writing in The Atlantic late last month, journalist George Packer posited a “new theory of American power,” a liberal internationalism that accounted for a “recognition of limits” for US foreign policy. Packer summed up this strategy toward the end of his essay: “Align US policy with the universal desire for freedom, but maintain a keen sense of unintended consequences and no illusions of easy success.”

This was both a challenge and a promise to Americans wanting to move on from the War on Terror: don’t forget the War on Terror’s failures—and reject its methods (torture and rendition)—but maintain a vision of global “freedom” flourishing through military power. The war in Ukraine, Packer argued, had killed the (now fleeting) popularity of “restraint”—the idea that the United States should scale back its international commitments, cut or remake the military budget to reflect a reduced role for the US in the world, and give up on a strategy of what political scientist Barry Posen has called “liberal hegemony.”

As one would imagine, Packer’s essay caused a stir, if not a visceral loathing, among restrainers. But as historian Samuel Moyn tweeted, Packer’s essay—while gilding liberal internationalism for a rehabilitation of American primacy—reflected the reality that the old order cannot return after the War on Terror, “that a militarism-first option of liberal warmongers can’t simply be revived.”

The State of Play in Ukraine

George Friedman

The war in Ukraine seems permanent. Neither side appears capable of destroying the opposing force or articulating what it would take to reach a peace agreement. The Russians are speaking to Belarus, India and anyone else they might find, but no one can help enough on the battlefield or in the munitions factory to turn the tide. The Ukrainians are speaking to the United States, NATO and anyone else who will listen so that they will continue to receive weapons – perhaps even some new ones. But Ukraine hasn’t broken Russia yet, concerned as it is with preventing the collapse of the country, and doing so may prove difficult. On the battlefield, there is movement on both sides, but movement doesn’t carry with it the taste of victory. When, then, do wars end if the leadership will not concede?

History shows there are several answers to that question.

1. A war ends when one side lacks the material to continue. Germany’s campaign in World War II ended when it was unable to produce and field the weapons needed to fend off the Allied powers.

2. A war ends when one side’s morale is exhausted – when soldiers and civilians are simply unwilling to bear the burden of war, even if victory is possible. This was the case for the United States in the Vietnam War.

Why Germany Has Learned the Wrong Lessons From History

Edward Lucas

Denk ich an Deutschland in der Nacht,
Dann bin ich um den Schlaf gebracht
Ich kann nicht mehr die Augen schließen,
Und meine heißen Tränen fließen.

—From Nachtgedanken by Heinrich Heine, 1844

In his poem Nachtgedanken (“Night Thoughts”), written in 1844, the Jewish German writer Heinrich Heine yearned for unity and modernity in his fragmented, feudal-ruled homeland. “If I think of Germany at night, it robs me of my sleep,” he wrote in the first two lines of one of the country’s best-known poems.

I feel similarly about Germany right now.

First as a language student and then as a young foreign correspondent, I spent some of my formative years in what was then West Germany. For the first time in my life, I lived, loved, and dreamed in a foreign language. It was the frontline of the Cold War, and I still remember how the smells of tobacco, food, and car exhaust changed as you crossed the Berlin Wall. The division of Germany exemplified the Soviet empire’s post-war grip on Europe just like German reunification epitomized its end.

Kissinger Sees a Global Leadership Vacuum

Walter Russell Mead

Is the quality of world leadership declining just as humanity’s need for great leadership has become more urgent than ever? As I learned over a long lunch this month, Henry Kissinger thinks that is exactly where things stand, and he worries that civilization may be imperiled as a result.

Worry comes naturally to Mr. Kissinger. His first book, “A World Restored” (1957), laid out some basic ideas that dominate his thinking to this day. Mr. Kissinger believes that only a handful of people at any given time understand the complicated architecture of a viable world order, and that an even smaller number have the gifts of leadership required to create, defend or reform the delicate international framework that makes even partial peace possible.

Worse, it is not enough for an effective leader to understand the international system. Mr. Kissinger believes that there is an immense gap between the kind of world the citizens of any given country want to see and the kind of world that is actually possible. The world can’t be as Sinocentric as Chinese public opinion wants it to be, as democratic or woke as many Americans would like, as Islamic as many Muslims would wish, as responsive to development concerns as some African and Latin American countries want, or as awed by French grandeur or admiring of British moral leadership as people in those countries want.

Ukraine Converts $21.9 Billion In U.S. Military Surplus Into Fearsome Force

Craig Hooper

The list of American security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of Russia’s “unprovoked and brutal invasion” is impressive. What is more impressive is that $21.9 billion in U.S. military aid has been dominated by largely second-string gear, comprised of unpopular or lower-tech systems that were, in many cases, on the way to the scrapyard.

As Congress gears up to constrain the Biden Administration’s relative largesse, it is worth emphasizing that the aid, to date, is neither excessive nor threatening to U.S. national security.

In fact, U.S. military support to Ukraine has cost less than what Congress is paying to procure two Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. In total, taxpayers will put some $26 billion into the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) and the USS John F. Kennedy (CVN 79). In comparison to these troubled flattops, the $21.9 billion for Ukraine appears to be a far more effective return on investment.

Aid to Ukraine has, in effect, shattered the Russian military, exposing it as little more than a paper tiger. The war has helped destroy Russia’s once-burgeoning arms bazaar, ruining Russian efforts to destabilize strategic regions. Enabling the fight has bolstered Ukraine’s commitment to their nation, critical for advancing society-building and anti-corruption efforts there. Facilitating Ukraine’s resistance may even end the kleptocratic reign of Vladimir Putin, paving the way for a more just—if not more democratic—society in Russia itself.

Ukraine war: Five ways conflict could go in 2023

The conflict in Ukraine is about to enter its second calendar year. We asked several military analysts how they think events on the ground will unfold in 2023.

Could it conclude in the coming year and how - on the battlefield or at the negotiating table? Or might it grind on to 2024?

'Russia's spring offensive will be key'

Those who seek to invade another country anywhere across the great Eurasian steppes are condemned eventually to winter in it.

Napoleon, Hitler and Stalin all had to keep their armies moving in the face of a steppes winter, and now - his invasion going backwards on the ground - Vladimir Putin is digging his forces in for the winter to await a new Russian offensive in the spring.

Both sides need a pause but the Ukrainians are better equipped and motivated to keep going, and we can expect them to maintain the pressure, at least in the Donbas.

As The US Walks Away, Asia Can’t Give Up On The Rules Based Economic Order

For some, a multipolar world is something to cheer for. Yet no balance of global geopolitical power is intrinsically better than another. Indeed, the world has overall gotten a pretty good deal out of Pax Americana, and there’s no reason to assume that whatever order replaces it would be much of an improvement.

The shift towards multipolarity is nonetheless a reality to be managed — not least by the United States, whose political elites and general public have never known anything but global economic and military pre-eminence, and who aren’t well-practised in imagining how US interests and values can be preserved in a world in which less liberal and less-developed countries, particularly China, have a far greater political, economic and military role.

The United States’ struggle with this predicament, and the hazards it creates, is old news.

But it was in 2022 that the United States truly, emphatically put itself on a course of confrontation and competition with China that extends beyond military primacy to encompass dominance over the industries that will define the 21st century economy, as Gary Hufbauer writes in this week’s lead article, part of our annual Year in Review series that surveys the key economic and political developments shaping Asia and the Pacific today.

No More “Chicken Kiev” for Ukraine


BERKELEY – On August 1, 1991, a little more than three weeks before Ukraine declared independence from the Soviet Union, US President George H.W. Bush arrived in Kyiv to discourage Ukrainians from doing it. In his notorious “Chicken Kiev” speech in the Ukrainian parliament, Bush lectured the stunned MPs that independence was a recipe for “suicidal nationalism,” “ethnic hatred,” and “local despotism.”

The speech was a colossal blunder. Ukraine’s people were being asked to ignore centuries of oppression by decision-makers in Moscow – and this at a time when the Holodomor, the Soviet-engineered “terror famine” that killed millions of Ukrainians in 1932-33, remained embedded in the living memory of many. That December, Ukraine delivered its answer to Bush: a whopping 84.2% of eligible voters turned out for the referendum on independence, and 92.3% of them said yes. But the West’s reluctance to respect Ukraine’s desire for sovereignty was a bad omen, revealing a mindset among US and European leaders that paved the way to Russia’s full-scale invasion in February.

The path to war began in 1994, when Ukraine, at the West’s behest, surrendered to Russia the world’s third-largest nuclear arsenal. In exchange, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States promised to ensure Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. But how was this assurance supposed to be realized? Unlike Poland and other ex-communist countries, Ukraine was not given a chance to join the European Union in the 1990s, and in 2008 France and Germany blocked its admission to NATO.

Will China Lead the End of Globalization?

Scott Friedman

Globalization has been a defining feature of our times. For decades, as the United States shifted to a service and information economy, low-cost goods from China filled our Walmart carts and, later, our Amazon boxes. As shipping rates declined and overseas manufacturing capacity swelled, Americans traded factory jobs at home for imported consumer goods. This was assumed to be the natural order of things.

Until it wasn’t.

A concern that started as a fringe chorus of “China hawks” ringing the alarm bells on the risk of offshoring production was brought center stage by the global coronavirus pandemic, which laid bare the fact that great power competition is now at the forefront of not only politics but business as well. It has forced corporate boards to realize that this competition would play out in the commercial markets in an unprecedented way. One by one, the underpinnings of our consumer economy have been pulled into the fray as U.S. political leaders on both sides of the aisle articulate the growing need to “decouple” our economy from China’s. The view on the street, and in many capitals around the world, is that the United States is driving the unwinding of a twenty-year experiment in lashing the world together through unfettered economic ties.

Azerbaijan’s Lachin Road Conundrum

Farid Shafiyev

For over two weeks, Azerbaijani ecological activists have blocked the road from Khankendi (Armenians call it Stepanakert) to Lachin. They demand access to mineral deposits that have been illegally exploited by local Armenians in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. The area is currently under the temporary control of Russian peacekeeping forces in accordance with the Trilateral Statement—the ceasefire agreement signed between all three nations at the end of the Second Karabakh War in November 2020,

Many international policymakers and observers have rushed to support the Armenians, repeating a narrative about an imminent “humanitarian disaster” and accusing the Azerbaijani government of staging the protest on the road, which is supposed to be used to connect Karabakh Armenians with the Republic of Armenia. Experts who wish to spend some time considering this issue might discover that the conundrum around the Lachin road has deeper and wider implications, as well as a historical context.

Lachin was the first region outside the former Nagorno-Karabakh autonomous oblast that Armenia occupied on May 18, 1992, in the course of the bloody conflict with Azerbaijan. Armenian nationalists, who launched the irredentist project to unite Azerbaijan’s Karabakh autonomy with Armenia under the slogan of miatsum (unification) in 1987–1988, regarded establishing this road connection as a vital strategic goal. Thus, Lachin became the “miatsum road” that enabled military supply. In April 1993, Armenia attacked from two directions: Armenia proper and Karabakh, and another Azerbaijani region, Kelbajar, located between the former autonomy and Armenia.

Hacktivism Is Back and Messier Than Ever

DURING ITS BRUTAL war in Ukraine, Russian troops have burnt cities to the ground, raped and tortured civilians, and committed scores of potential war crimes. On November 23, lawmakers across Europe overwhelmingly labeled Russia a “state sponsor” of terrorism and called for ties with the country to be reduced further. The response to the declaration was instant. The European Parliament’s website was knocked offline by a DDoS attack.

The unsophisticated attack—which involves flooding a website with traffic to make it inaccessible—disrupted the Parliament’s website offline for several hours. Pro-Russian hacktivist group Killnet claimed responsibility for the attack. The hacktivist group has targeted hundreds of organizations around the world this year, having some limited small-scale successes knocking websites offline for short periods of time. It’s been one player in a bigger hacktivism surge.

Following years of sporadic hacktivist activity, 2022 has seen the re-emergence of hacktivism on a large scale. Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine spawned scores of hacktivist groups on both sides of the conflict, while in Iran and Israel, so-called hacktivist groups are launching increasingly destructive attacks. This new wave of hacktivism, which varies between groups and countries, comes with new tactics and approaches and, increasingly, is blurring lines between hacktivism and government-sponsored attacks.

New Materials Will Bring the Next Generation of Quantum Computers

TECHNOLOGIES ENABLED BY quantum science will help researchers better understand the natural world and harness quantum phenomena to benefit society. They will transform health care, transportation, and communications, and enhance resilience to cyber threats and climate catastrophes. For example, quantum magnetic field sensors will enable functional brain imaging; quantum optical communications will permit encrypted communications; and quantum computers will facilitate the discovery of next-generation materials for photovoltaics and medicines.

Currently, these technologies rely on materials that are expensive and complicated to prepare, and they often require expensive and bulky cryogenic cooling to operate. Such equipment relies on precious commodities such as liquid helium, which is becoming increasingly costly as the global supply dwindles. 2023 will see a revolution in innovations in materials for quantum, which will transform quantum technologies. Alongside reducing environmental demands, these materials will allow for room-temperature operation and energy saving, as well as being low-cost and having simple processing requirements. To optimize their quantum properties, research labs can manipulate chemical structure and molecular packing. The good news is that physicists and engineers have been busy, and 2023 will see these materials moving from science labs to the real world.

Kaspersky uncovers what cyber confrontation looked like in 2022

Woburn, MA, Dec. 26, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- As part of Kaspersky’s annual Security Bulletin prediction series, experts analyzed cyberspace activities relating to the Ukrainian crisis, observing their meaning in relation to the current conflict, and their impact on the cybersecurity field. The story of the year, prepared by Kaspersky researchers within annual Kaspersky Security Bulletin, tracks every stage of the armed conflict in Ukraine, the events that have taken place in the cyberspace and how they correlated with on-the-ground operations.

2022 was marked by a 20th century-style military conflict that definitely brought uncertainty to and some serious risks of spreading over the continent. While the broader geopolitical analysis of the conflict in Ukraine and its consequences are best left to experts, a number of cyber-events took place during the conflict that turned to be very significant.

Significant signs and spikes in cyberwarfare in the days and weeks pre-dating military conflict were evident. February 24, 2022 saw a massive wave of pseudo-ransomware and wiper attacks indiscriminately affecting Ukrainian entities. Some were highly sophisticated, but the volume of wiper and ransomware attacks quickly subsided after the initial wave, with a limited number of notable incidents subsequently reported. Ideologically-motivated groups that presented themselves in the original wave of attacks appear to be inactive now.

AI cyber attacks are a ‘critical threat’. This is how NATO is countering them

Pascale Davies

Artificial intelligence (AI) is playing a massive role in cyber attacks and is proving both a “double-edged sword” and a “huge challenge,” according to NATO.

“Artificial intelligence allows defenders to scan networks more automatically, and fend off attacks rather than doing it manually. But the other way around, of course, it's the same game,” David van Weel, NATO’s Assistant Secretary-General for Emerging Security Challenges, told reporters earlier this month.

Cyber attacks, both on national infrastructures and private companies, have ramped up exponentially and become a focal point since the war in Ukraine. NATO said this year that a cyber attack on any of its member states could trigger Article 5, meaning an attack on one member is considered an attack on all of them and could trigger a collective response.

Cloud contracts, the JADC2 mystery and Russian cyber attacks: 2022 in Review


WASHINGTON — Looking back at 2022, it feels like this year the Pentagon started making some real moves on the cyber and cloud front, but there were still some misses, namely with the confusion surrounding Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2).

In July 2021, the Defense Department announced it had canceled the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) program in favor of a new multi-source, multi-vendor contract called the Joint Warfighter Cloud Capability (JWCC).

Seventeen months and a contract award delay later, DoD awarded Amazon Web Services, Google, Microsoft and Oracle each a piece of the $9 billion JWCC enterprise cloud contract. Each vendor will compete for individual task orders under the contract.

JWCC also allows DoD to acquire commercial cloud capabilities directly from the cloud service providers instead of going through an intermediary or reseller, creating for a more efficient and effective leveraging of those capabilities, DoD Chief Information Officer John Sherman told reporters earlier this month.

How Can Artificial Intelligence Advance Open Source Software?

Sanjit Singh Dang

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been making waves in various industries for its potential to revolutionize the way we work and live. One area where AI has made significant strides is in the realm of open-source software.

Open-source software refers to software whose source code is available for anyone to view, modify, and distribute. This collaborative approach to software development has been embraced by developers around the world, and has resulted in a vast array of high-quality software that is free to use.

The role of AI in open-source software can be divided into two main categories: development and use. In terms of development, AI can help automate the process of producing, writing, and testing code. For example, AI algorithms can be used to identify patterns in code and suggest improvements or optimizations. Use of ‘co-pilot’ AI coders is a common scene in the open-source developer community. This can save developers tremendous time and effort and hence allows them to focus on more complex tasks.

AI can also be used in the maintenance and improvement of open-source software. For example, AI algorithms can be used to scan code for bugs and vulnerabilities, and suggest fixes. This can help ensure that the open-source software is reliable and secure. This is especially critical for open-source software since it relies upon the community for code robustness. Effectively, AI can become a contributor in the developer community of open-source software.

Drones Shooting Microwave Rays Could Be the Drone Killers of Tomorrow


The military has been looking at a variety of ways to take down swarms of enemy drones, from hacking and jamming to lasers deployed on ships and trucks. Directed microwave energy has emerged as a promising option, but the bulkiness of conventional microwave weapons makes them a pain to lug around, and they aren’t as precise as necessary for an environment with friendly and enemy drones.

On Monday, California-based company Epirus announced their solution to this problem: a microwave-emitting pod that can sit on the bottom of heavy-lift drones and quickly down sudden drone swarms.

The Leonidas Pod, as they call it, builds off the company’s other, land-based microwave weapons, which use gallium nitride transistors to produce microwaves, rather than clunky magnetron vacuum tubes, of the sort that militaries have been using in radars for decades (and that likely create the waves in your microwave oven.) Gallium nitride microwave radar technology emerged as a research area around 2004, but didn’t make its way into counter drone technology until more recently.

Does Ukraine’s Military Need To Become More Like America’s?

Sebastien Roblin

It’s no secret that Ukraine’s resilience in its nearly year-long war resisting Russian invasion owes something to military aid from the U.S. and Europe. But that aid extends beyond just weapons, munitions and technical instruction. It also includes training and counsel on how to conduct military operations.

A recent Washington Post article reports the Pentagon would like to transform Ukraine’s military by training it to “fight more like Americans.” A senior U.S. defense official reportedly told the Post: “I think if we can train larger formations — companies, battalions — on how to employ fires, create conditions for maneuver, and then be able to maneuver like you’ve seen [the U.S. military] maneuver on the battlefield, then I think we’re in a different place. Then you don’t need a million rounds [of artillery]. We’ve got to get them to that point.”

That means conducting aggressive combined arms maneuvers on the ground — closely coordinating tanks, mechanized infantry, artillery and air power/air defense for mutual support — while relying less on heavy artillery bombardments and trench warfare.

But these comments raised the eyebrows of experts on Russia and Ukraine’s militaries. Michael Kofman, a prominent analyst on Russia’s military at the CNA Corporation, wrote on social media:
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Sikorsky-Boeing protest Army’s FLRAA award to Bell Textron


WASHINGTON — Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky and teammate Boeing today formally protested the Army’s choice of Bell Textron’s V-280 Valor tiltrotor in the coveted Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) competition, asking the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review the decision.

“Based on a thorough review of the information and feedback provided by the Army, Lockheed Martin Sikorsky, on behalf of Team DEFIANT, is challenging the FLRAA decision. The data and discussions lead us to believe the proposals were not consistently evaluated to deliver the best value in the interest of the Army, our Soldiers and American taxpayers,” the two companies declared in a statement.

On Dec. 4, the Army announced it had selected the Valor over the Defiant. The announced deal is worth up to $1.3 billion with the initial obligation valued at $232 million over the next 19 months. However, should the FLRAA program move into full production, the Army estimates it could be worth $70 billion over its lifetime.

Given the money involved, a bid protest wasn’t unexpected. Following the award announcement, Douglas Bush, the assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, told reporters on Dec. 5 that the service’s FLRAA schedule already has “accounted” for a protest.

Army special operations rethinking force structure, tech

Davis Winkie

The next year could prove pivotal for the Army’s most elite forces, as ongoing experiments with force structure and how to best integrate technical expertise at the tactical level could reshape the way the service’s special operations look and fight.

Army Times obtained an exclusive interview with the commanding general of Army Special Operations Command at the Association of the U.S. Army conference in October, highlighting the pilot programs for the publication’s November cover story.

Lt. Gen. Jon Braga explained that the increasing role that space and cyber operations play in competition and conflicts (such as the ongoing war in Ukraine) has necessitated a reconsideration of long-held truths. The recently-unveiled “influence triad” is a framework to help commanders consider special operations, space and cyber together in a modern-era “combined arms” model.

The command is experimenting with expanding the size of the Special Forces operational detachment-alpha from the traditional 12 soldiers to 16. Other “convergence” efforts are underway to integrate all three branches of Army SOF at the battalion and brigade headquarters levels rather than keeping them siloed by branch as they currently are.

With war in Europe, US Army replenished weapons, pushed modernization: 2022 in Review


WASHINGTON — Deterring China in the Indo-Pacific region remains the US Department of Defense’s top priority, but Russia’s invasion of Ukraine this year provided Army leaders with the opportunity to tout the service’s role supporting allies and partner nations via training and weapons deliveries.

Although Army leaders faced a confluence of challenges in 2022 including a recruiting shortfall, problems with military housing and accusations of “wokeness,” the year also saw the effectiveness of Army-centric weapons like the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), Javelin manportable, anti-tank system, and the Stinger anti-aircraft missiles on today’s battlefield.

“You don’t need armor if you don’t want to win,” Army Chief of Staff Gen James McConville told reporters during an October 10 press conference when asked about lessons learned from the war and future of the M1 tank.

“You never want to present your adversary with one dilemma… if you just push tanks at them,” those can be defeated just like Russian tanks inside of Ukraine, he added. “That’s why you want infantry, you want armor, you want attack aviation, you want [long-range] fires [and] intelligence. All those systems working together.”

Editors’ picks for 2022: ‘What’s happened to Russia’s much-vaunted battlefield AI?’

Huon Curtis

The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the poorer than expected performance of the Russian army have prompted fierce debate among military commentators on why Russia’s much-vaunted military reforms of the past decade—particularly the integration of artificial intelligence technologies that were supposed to enhance Russia’s joint operations capability—seem to have been unsuccessful.

So far, Russia’s deployment in Ukraine has been a demonstration of some of the limitations and vulnerabilities of AI-enabled systems. It has also exposed some longer-term strategic weaknesses in Russia’s development of AI for military and economic purposes.

Russia’s use of AI-enabled technologies in the invasion reportedly includes disinformation operations, deep fakes and open-source intelligence gathering. But information operations are not the sum total of Russia’s AI capabilities. AI is embedded across the military spectrum, from information management, training, logistics, maintenance and manufacturing, to early warning and air-defence systems.

Since at least 2014, Russia has deployed multiple aerial, ground and maritime uncrewed systems and robotic platforms, electronic warfare systems, and new and experimental weapons in both Syria and Ukraine.

NCOs: America Has Them, China Wants Them, Russia is Struggling Without Them


One reason the Russian military has struggled to win territory in Ukraine is its lack of a strong corps of non-commissioned officers, or NCOs, which are more crucial than ever to success on the modern battlefield, U.S. military officials and experts say.

In the American military, NCOs—enlisted servicemembers at or above the rank of Army and Marine corporal, Air Force staff sergeant, and Navy petty officer—are trusted experts who execute officers’ battlefield directions and take care of the troops. But while China is working to develop a corps of enlisted leaders, Russia seems stuck in an older model.

"The Russians are practicing a top-down, very, very top-heavy directive in nature–sort of, settled orders coming from the top, which is not necessarily the best thing to do in a dynamic battlefield," Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Tuesday to the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said that Russia’s failure to “integrate aerial fires with their ground maneuver” was due to the lack of lower-level leadership.

Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-N.J., who served as a Sea King helicopter pilot in the Navy for 10 years, said Russia's performance in the war reaffirms her own experience: the military doesn't function without an empowered NCO class.

30 December 2022

Maritime Road to 2030: EU’s Indo-Pacific Footprint and India

Jagannath Panda

Europe’s role in the Indo-Pacific has become a matter of strategic importance in global politics. China’s disruptive role in the region, especially with its hardening stance towards Taiwan and burgeoning relations with Russia, have forced a shift in the European Union’s (EU) outlook towards the Indo-Pacific. With the Indian Ocean being a gateway to the region, the EU’s Indo-Pacific outlook and Maritime Security Strategy (MSS) require careful scrutiny.

This policy paper by Jagannath Panda looks at the EU’s policy frameworks – like the MSS, Strategic Compass and the Indo-Pacific strategy – to understand their complementarities and impact on its presence in the Indo-Pacific domain. Through a review of such an integrated EU approach, which emphasizes regional maritime multilateralism alongside bilateral frameworks, the paper outlines key trends that Brussels will need to contend with over the coming decade, including dissonance over the China factor and collaboration with regional middle powers.

The paper highlights that moving forward, the EU must focus on broadening partnerships in the Indian Ocean, and collaboration with states like India, as well as greater participation in regional multilateral forums, is critical. India-EU maritime diplomacy is at a nascent stage and requires continued impetus; the paper outlines key policy recommendations for such India-EU cooperation. The EU’s Indo-Pacific approach is constructive, inclusive and non-confrontational. Whether it moves beyond its limited scope and translates into meaningful action remains to be seen.

Why China Is Losing Leverage Against India

Atul Kumar

On December 9, a conflict broke out between Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) forces and Indian soldiers in the Yangtze Mountains in India’s Tawang district. Approximately 300 PLA soldiers attempted to cross the McMahon Line, the de-facto border, into India and dismantle sentry posts on the ridge. However, Indian soldiers repulsed the Chinese intrusion. The confrontation became public three days later and reignited tensions between the two nations.

Both China and India have been engaged in negotiations to resolve the ongoing border standoff that began in April 2020. These efforts have led to partial disengagements and the establishment of a belt of buffer zones in eastern Ladakh. However, the recent conflict in the eastern sector highlights the unstable and unpredictable situation on the Sino-Indian border. The clash in Yangtze further reveals China’s limited options to prevent India’s slide toward the Western camp in the growing Sino-American strategic competition.

The Yangtze Mountains in the eastern sector of the Sino-Indian border are a mutually recognized disputed area. The McMahon Line, accepted as the boundary in the 1960 China-Myanmar border agreement, separates India and Tibet through the ridgeline. The mountain range is home to grazing grounds where locals have traditionally brought their livestock. Its 17,000-foot-high peaks offer a direct line of sight to survey military developments in both the Chinese and Indian directions. Consequently, control over these peaks confers a natural military advantage.

China Says It’s Ready to Work with India to Improve Ties

Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

India-China relations have been under enormous strain in recent years. The Indian foreign minister, S. Jaishankar, on many occasions has stated that India-China relations are going through an “extremely difficult phase.” For the two to return to normalcy in the relationship, he added that it will depend on three mutuals: mutual sensitivity, mutual respect and mutual interest. On the current status of the ties, Jaishankar remarked that “the state of the border will determine the state of the relationship.”

China appears to want a reset of ties. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi stated that China is ready to work with India in improving bilateral ties. Speaking at a symposium on the international situation and China’s foreign relations in 2022, Wang reportedly said that both countries “have maintained communication through the diplomatic and military-to-military channels, and both countries are committed to upholding stability in the border areas. We stand ready to work with India in the direction toward steady and sound growth of China-India relations.”

Taliban Erasing Women From Society in Afghanistan

Baktash Siawash

On Saturday, the Taliban banned women from working with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in Afghanistan. The ban comes days after the Taliban indefinitely banned women from universities.

These restrictions add to the growing list of impositions by the Taliban on Afghan women. Since its takeover in August 2021, the group has barred girls from secondary schools, women from most of the workforce, women and girls from participating in sports, and women from traveling without a male chaperone. Further, the Taliban have dismantled domestic abuse shelters, created barriers for women and girls to access health care, and arrested and tortured female protesters demanding their basic rights, among a litany of other abuses. In its recent report, Amnesty International referred to the Taliban’s policies against women as “death in slow motion.”

Afghan women are being erased from society in Taliban-run Afghanistan.

As the Taliban have not lived up to its international obligations, countries must take measures beyond condemnation, such as avoiding bilateral meetings with the Taliban (since their return to power, the group has had at least 440 engagements with foreign countries) and ensuring all interaction is limited within the purview of the United Nations to tackle the country’s humanitarian crisis, conditioning economic assistance, placing travel ban restrictions on group leaders, and freezing their personal bank accounts to raise the costs of denying Afghan women their rights.

Pakistan and the US Join Hands Against the Pakistani Taliban

Umair Jamal

The United States has offered to help Pakistan in dealing with the terror threat posed by the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Recent developments indicate that a conversation between Pakistan and the U.S. in this regard may have begun, allowing space for coordinated action against TTP and other militant groups.

Addressing a news briefing last week, U.S. State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said that Pakistan remains an important security partner. Highlighting concerns regarding militant threats in the region, he said terrorist groups are “present in Afghanistan, in the Afghan-Pakistan border region that present a clear threat as we’re seeing not only to Pakistan but potentially to countries and people beyond.”

“We’re in regular dialogue with our Pakistani partners. We are prepared to help them take on the threats they face,” he added.