8 April 2022


Kathryn Knerler, Ingrid Parker, Carson Zimmerman

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Deterring China: A Victory Denial Strategy

Keith B. Payne and Matthew R. Costlow

The United States faces a deterrence challenge wholly unlike those of the Cold War—how to deter China, as a great power, from invading Taiwan. The United States and its allies confront a leadership in Beijing that has staked its legitimacy, to a large extent, on nationalism and the related promise of incorporating Taiwan into the political structure of the mainland.[1] The CCP leadership perceives this as an existential goal and failure to achieve unification as an existential threat. Correspondingly, China has worked for decades to shift the local balance of immediately-available military power for this purpose in its favor. Taiwan is significantly less militarily capable than China; its main ally, the United States, is geographically distant, and the extent of its deterrence commitment to Taiwan is intentionally ambiguous. Similarly, most U.S. allies in the region face the same problems of geographic distance and political sensitivities of interacting with Taiwan on defense issues. Finally, China’s prospective aggression would likely be met by an “international community”—much of which is heavily dependent economically on trade with China. Under these circumstances, the United States may be able to deter China from deciding to resolve the Taiwan Question forcefully, but the challenge is severe.

Purchasing from a pariah: India’s arms-acquisition dilemma

Douglas Barrie

Heavily reliant on Russian military technology, India finds itself in a difficult position following the invasion of Ukraine, explain Douglas Barrie and Viraj Solanki. It must assess the relative value of Russian support for its defence-industrial ambitions versus its ever-closer strategic partnership with Washington.

Non-Nuclear Weapons with Strategic Effect: New Tools of Warfare?

Fabian Hoffmann

Non-nuclear strategic weapons remain understudied conceptually and empirically. In order to enhance the understanding of this weapons category and its implications for security and defence policy, IISS–Europe convened a hybrid roundtable with the title ‘Non-Nuclear Weapons with Strategic Effect: New Tools of Warfare?’, with roundtable attendees from Europe, North America and the Indo-Pacific, and comprised analysts from think tanks and academia, government and military representatives and industry experts. This report outlines the main findings from the event.



The defining decision of President Joe Biden’s first year of foreign policy was the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, where America fought its longest war from 2001 to 2021.

By the end of this time, the costs of continued war outweighed any strategic or humanitarian interest the United States had left in the country. This explainer accounts for these costs then compares them to the war’s alleged benefits to show why withdrawing from Afghanistan was necessary, beneficial, and overdue.

Amid heartbreaking scenes at Kabul airport, several prominent critics argued the United States should have sustained a “light footprint” to “support American allies,” just as it does all over the world.1 After all, U.S. forces have been in Germany, Japan, and South Korea for more than 70 years.2 Should the United States have been equally patient in Afghanistan?3

Artificial Intelligence: DOD Should Improve Strategies, Inventory Process, and Collaboration Guidance

The Defense Department believes that artificial intelligence will transform warfare, and failure to adopt AI technology could hinder national security. DOD is making organizational changes and investing billions of dollars to incorporate AI technology.

We found that DOD's AI-related strategies could be more comprehensive, such as by including full descriptions of the resources needed for developing AI-enabled technologies. In addition, DOD has not yet issued guidance that clearly defines the roles and responsibilities of components that participate in AI activities.

Fight Fire with Fire: The PLA Studies Hybrid Warfare

Moscow’s recent escalation of its invasion of Ukraine has refocused the world’s attention on a war that began in 2014 with Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its proxy war against Kyiv in eastern Ukraine. Russia’s successes in Ukraine in 2014 and the subsequent panic over Russian interference in Western democracies’ elections made “hybrid warfare,” the supposedly new form of warfare that Russia pioneered, a term that is commonly used but is often only vaguely understood.

The Chinese Communist Party’s military, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), recently sought to impart to its rank-and-file a proper understanding of hybrid warfare by publishing a series of articles in its official newspaper. The articles were not the first concerning hybrid warfare that the newspaper has published, but the series is significant because such series are rare. The series was clearly meant to be studied by the entire PLA, so it represents the most authoritative explanation of the PLA’s conception of hybrid warfare that has been openly published.

Trading in US-India data flows: Prospects for cooperation in US-India data policy

Justin Sherman

As the Joe Biden administration and the Narendra Modi government re-convene the US-India Trade Policy Forum (TPF) after a four-year hiatus, one digital issue set remains central to challenges and opportunities in US-India trade: cross-border data flows and data policy. These issues received some attention under the Donald Trump administration, but the combination of a new US administration, key developments in Indian cross-border data flow and data policies, and rising global calls for data privacy and data localization rules make this a unique and important moment for the two powers. With leading technology sectors, strong political influence, and some of the largest economies on the planet, the United States and India have real opportunities to identify common ground on data policy and work to maximize the mutual benefits therein. Yet, key political and ideological differences—particularly around data localization and ideas of data sovereignty—will challenge the United States and India to focus on areas of cooperation with potential for tangible, near-term achievements, rather than attempting to address every data issue at once.

Preparing the next phase of US cyber strategy

Jenny Jun

Four years after the 2018 Cyber Posture Review, the Department of Defense (DoD) will likely soon complete a review of how cyber capabilities and operations relate to the broader US military strategy. A key strategic concept in the current US cyber strategy is Defend Forward, which aims to “disrupt or halt malicious cyber activity at its source” in order to “stop threats before they reach our targets.”1 Several documents articulate this concept including the 2018 Command Vision for US Cyber Command, the 2018 DoD Cyber Strategy, and the 2020 Cyberspace Solarium Commission Final Report.2

A New Framework for Understanding and Countering China's Gray Zone Tactics

Bonny Lin, Cristina L. Garafola, Bruce McClintock, et al.

Gray zone tactics—coercive actions that are shy of armed conflict but beyond normal diplomatic, economic, and other activities—are widely recognized as playing an increasingly important role in China's efforts to advance its domestic, economic, foreign policy, and security objectives, particularly in the Indo-Pacific. But there is little consensus to date on which tactics pose the greatest challenges to the United States and its allies and partners in the region.

RAND Project Air Force researchers developed a framework to help U.S. policymakers categorize China's use of gray zone tactics and identify the most-problematic People's Republic of China (PRC) tactics that the United States could prioritize countering. Studies of China's gray zone tactics typically have focused on specific countries, domains (e.g., maritime), or incidents. RAND analyzed trends and patterns in China's gray zone behavior by examining the country's use of different types of gray zone tactics over time against five key U.S. allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific: Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam, India, and the Philippines.



One month on from the outbreak of war in Ukraine, it is unfortunately not yet time to draw our final conclusions. However, an initial provisional political stocktaking exercise is particularly necessary as the conflict is experiencing a moment of uncertainty which may lead to a tipping point. The future of Ukraine, the importance of Russia and the security of Europe are at stake and the fighting has not yet settled anything. Russia’s “special military operation” launched on 24th February had a threefold objective: to change the regime in Ukraine, to confirm Russia’s power and to show up the European Union’s weaknesses. Yet today, despite high-intensity fighting and snatches of diplomatic discussions, the fates of the three main protagonists of this war have not yet been sealed. We could even go further and consider that the four weeks of armed conflict place each of the stakeholders at a crossroads that remains uncertain.

Pakistan’s Political Crisis Is Masking a Foreign Policy Realignment

Arif Rafiq

Addressing a security forum in Islamabad on Saturday, Pakistan’s army chief of staff, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, condemned Russia’s war in Ukraine in no uncertain terms, describing it as an “invasion” and “aggression against a smaller country that cannot be condoned.”

These statements would be uncontroversial had they not contradicted the official position of Pakistan’s civilian government, which is in the midst of a political crisis that also involves the army. Indeed, Pakistan’s ongoing political turmoil—which has seen Prime Minister Imran Khan avoid a vote of no confidence through questionable parliamentary maneuvers, as his coalition and party fracture amid pressure from the opposition—is as much about foreign policy as it is about domestic politics.

German Industry Prepares for Worst-Case Scenario

Tim Bartz, Simon Book, Simon Hage

You can find something from Hinrich Mählmann just about everywhere you look in Germany. His company, the Otto Fuchs Group, founded in 1910, literally delivers the things that make the country move. They include wheels and coupling systems for railroads, engine components for the aviation industry and even battery housings for electric cars. Mählmann also sells thermally insulated windows and doors through its subsidiary Schüco. The supplier has revenues of just under 3 billion euros annually and employs 10,000 people.

Why the destruction of Ukraine’s churches matters

Christopher Howse

One small, deadly incident in the Ukrainian war proved memorable because it involved the ordinary things of life. A mother and two children trying to leave the town of Irpin on foot on 6 March died from Russian shelling. Their suitcases fell beside them and, miserably, a pet dog carrier. They lay on an ordinary road that could be in Surrey, on the steps of a memorial to Soviet dead from the second world war.

The Russo-Ukraine War: Phase Two

Lawrence Freedman

On 24 February as they began their invasion of Ukraine, Russian forces began shelling Mariupol, a port city of over 400,000 inhabitants. The next day they began to advance to its outskirts. By 2 March the city was surrounded and the shelling had become routine and deadly. Soon reports came in of schools and hospitals being hit. On 5 March came the first attempt to evacuate people under the auspices of the Red Cross: a convoy was organised but it was unable to escape because, despite Russian promises, the shelling did not stop. This was to be repeated many times. The lives of the residents became progressively more miserable and dangerous, with shelters, including one under a theatre, being targeted as well as homes. Some 90 percent of the buildings are now said to have been destroyed. By late March the Mayor was reporting that 5,000 civilians had been killed.

Why Cyber Holds the Entire World at Risk

Danielle Jablanski

“Cyber” as a field of study is riddled with poor analogies as takes on cyber strategy and statecraft continue to get hotter with no boiling point in sight. With the dawn of digitization, scholars and pundits alike began to predict a multipolar world in which digital interdependence of society and economy would hamstring great power competition. The truth is it only makes it uglier.

The Buzzards Are Circling Around Putin

George Friedman

As we consider how the war in Ukraine will end, we must first understand how it began. Russia invaded for geostrategic reasons – having Ukraine as a buffer state safeguards Moscow from invasion from the west – and for economic reasons, which have often gone overlooked. The transition from the Soviet Union to the Russian Federation wasn’t exactly lucrative. It may have increased total wealth, but Russia remains a poor country. Its gross domestic product ranks just behind South Korea’s, a respectable placement but hardly where a superpower should be. And in terms of per capita GDP, Russia ranks 85th, nestled between Bulgaria and Malaysia.

Putin’s War on Ukraine Is Spreading Global Shockwaves

Frida Ghitis

Just before midnight on Monday, Peruvian President Pedro Castillo appeared on television to declare an unprecedented state of emergency for Lima, the capital. All the city’s residents, he said, were to stay indoors for 24 hours, beginning just two hours after his announcement. The controversial decision, which would later be rescinded after protesters ignored it, came in response to widespread demonstrations by truck drivers and transportation syndicates against the spike in fuel prices caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.