1 May 2022

Russian hacking in Ukraine has been extensive and intertwined with military operations, Microsoft says

Sean Lyngaas

Washington (CNN)At least six different Kremlin-linked hacking groups have conducted nearly 240 cyber operations against Ukrainian targets, Microsoft said Wednesday, in data reveal a broader scope of alleged Russian cyberattacks during the war on Ukraine than previously documented.
"Russia's use of cyberattacks appears to be strongly correlated and sometimes directly timed with its kinetic military operations," said Tom Burt, a Microsoft vice president.

The Microsoft report is the most comprehensive public record yet of Russian hacking efforts related to the war in Ukraine. It fills in some gaps in public understanding of where Russia's vaunted cyber capabilities have been deployed during the war.

Russia plumbs new depths in cyber war on Ukraine

Alex Scroxton

Russian threat actors are sinking to new lows in support of Moscow’s illegal and unprovoked war on Ukraine, according to new intelligence from Microsoft, which has catalogued more than 230 distinct cyber operations from at least six threat groups since the war began in February.

Alongside more broad-brush espionage and intelligence-gathering activities that might be expected during a cyber war, Russia has been conducting destructive cyber attacks that are clearly designed to threaten the welfare of Ukrainian civilians by degrading the systems of Ukrainian institutions, disrupting access to reliable information and critical services, and attempting to damage citizen confidence in the Ukrainian government.

The Real Reason the Russian Orthodox Church’s Leader Supports Putin’s War

Janine di Giovanni

This month in Russia, Kirill, a powerful bishop who has been the patriarch of Moscow and primate of the Russian Orthodox Church since 2009, came out once again in support of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s killing machine in Ukraine. Kirill’s view is that God is on Russia’s side, even as Putin’s forces bomb maternity hospitals and the bodies of mutilated men, women, and children are discovered in Ukrainian towns recently occupied by Russian troops, such as Bucha.

In many ways, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has become a holy war for Russia. His geopolitical ambitions are closely entwined with faith: Like former U.S. President Donald Trump, Putin has woven nationalism, faith, conservative values, and the restoration of the Russky mir (“Russian world”). And he has enlisted Kirill as his wingman, who shares his homophobic views. Freedom House, a democracy watchdog, calls Putin’s anti-LGBT rants “state-sponsored homophobia” used to control Russia and says, “Regulating gender and sexuality remains at the forefront of Russia’s domestic and international political agendas.”

The Real Threat to Social Media Is Europe

Jacob Mchangama

Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter has caused fear and loathing among pundits and politicians wary of his vow to revert the platform to its position as “the free speech wing of the free speech party.” These fearful elites might seek solace in Europe, where Musk’s techno-utopian dreams of online free speech absolutism now face unprecedented obstacles. Whether they will recognize the dystopian aspects of Europe’s own technological culture is another question.

The European Union is in the midst of finalizing the Digital Services Act (DSA), an ambitious legislative attempt to create a “global gold standard” on platform regulation. After five trilogues, on April 23, the European Parliament and European Council reached a provisional political agreement on the DSA. Given the EU’s economic and political clout, the DSA may have a substantial impact beyond Europe through the so-called “Brussels EffectBrussels Effect.” As such, the DSA is likely to affect the practical exercise of free speech on social media platforms, whether located in Silicon Valley or owned by American tech billionaires.

Russia Ramps Up the Pressure in Eastern Ukraine

Thore Schröder, Alexander Sarovic, Fritz Schaap

The front runs not far from where the collective farm "Friendship" once stood. Two field artillery pieces are posted to the right and left of the road around 100 kilometers east of Zaporizhzhia. The guns are manned by a dozen soldiers, who load them with propelling charges and 152 mm shells by the minute. The roar of each launch is followed by a cloud of gray smoke floating over the fields.

Professional soldiers and volunteers are here defending the farms, villages and fields of eastern Ukraine, standing up to the Russian army, just a few kilometers behind the border of the Donetsk district. Among them are members of the Territorial Defense Forces, experienced fighters and officers, special forces units and recruits who are experiencing their very first battle. Facing them is Russia’s army, which is no longer focusing its attentions on the capital Kyiv, but is now seeking to gain control of the entirety of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

At war with the whole world’: why Putin might be planning a long conflict in Ukraine

 Max Seddon

 Despite Russia’s failure to break down Ukraine’s defences, heavy casualties and a series of military defeats, the Kremlin has kept up a refrain: the goals of Vladimir Putin’s invasion will be reached in full.

 Russia’s territorial targets have appeared to shift depending on the short-term gains Putin feels his troops can achieve on the battlefield. He scaled back an initial plan to seize central areas including the capital, Kyiv, in favour of a new assault focused on the eastern Donbas region. But Russia’s goals, which the Russian presiden

What If the War in Ukraine Doesn’t End?

Liana Fix and Michael Kimmage

All wars end, and their closing moments are often vivid and memorable. Take, for instance, Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s surrender to Union General Ulysses S. Grant in April 1865, which brought an end to the U.S. Civil War. Or the armistice that terminated World War I, signed by Germany and the Allies in a train car near Paris in November 1918. Or the end of the Cold War, symbolized by the toppling of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 and, later, the lowering of the Soviet flag from the Kremlin on Christmas Day of 1991. These scenes loom large in the cultural imagination as decisive moments that provided the sense of a definitive ending.

Why Xi Is Trapped in Ukraine Now, it is Russia, not China, sitting in the geopolitical driver’s seat.

Craig Singleton

Among the Ukraine war’s surprising geopolitical takeaways—such as Russia’s military ineptness and the transatlantic alliance’s unexpected resilience—is that China is not yet a great power. Beijing has proven incapable of influencing either Russian President Vladimir Putin’s calculus in Ukraine or the West’s response to Russia’s unprovoked invasion. What’s more, Chinese President Xi Jinping has been reduced to a bystander seemingly at the mercy of decisions made not in Beijing but in Washington, Brussels, and, more importantly, Moscow.

None of this was part of Xi’s plan. His vision for a “new democratic world order” was predicated upon Russia playing an important, albeit supporting, role in advancing Beijing’s own revisionist agenda. Putin, it seems, had other plans. Now, it is Russia, not China, sitting in the geopolitical driver’s seat.

Who’s to Blame for the Global Hunger Crisis?

Colum Lynch

To listen to Qu Dongyu, the director-general of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), you would never know that Russia has been bombing Ukrainian farms and granaries, imposing a sea blockade on Ukrainian grain exports, and generally accelerating a global food emergency that risks sending tens of millions of additional people into an acute hunger crisis.

Ever since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, Qu, a former senior Chinese government agricultural official, has studiously skirted matters of Russian culpability, speaking vaguely about the impact of the war in Ukraine on food supplies, while remaining silent about Russian Black Sea blockade that has prevented Ukraine from exporting millions of tons of grains onto the world market. At the same time, Qu has repeatedly echoed Russian concerns that international restrictions on its exports are responsible for growing food scarcity.

Pakistan’s Military Ends Its Experiment With Hybrid Democracy

Abdul Basit

This month, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was ousted in a parliamentary no-confidence vote, ending months of political turmoil. For weeks, Khan had faced public discontent with his mismanagement of the economy and lost the support of Pakistan’s powerful military establishment. The political opposition seized the opportunity. In the end, Khan’s removal was made possible by Supreme Court action: Days before, the court reversed a ruling by the National Assembly’s deputy speaker to dismiss the no-confidence vote.

Who Got China Wrong? Two books take very different approaches on the past and future of engagement.

Bob Davis

Looking to win congressional approval to bring China into the World Trade Organization (WTO), then-U.S. President Bill Clinton rhapsodized how closer economic ties would mean greater freedom for Chinese citizens.

“The more China liberalizes its economy, the more fully it will liberate the potential of its people,” the president argued in a speech given in March 2000. “And when individuals have the power not just to dream but to realize their dreams, they will demand a greater say.”

Why Russia’s Economy Is Holding On

Michael Hirsh

Despite predictions of doom for the heavily sanctioned Russian economy, nearly two months into Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, his country’s oil exports to Europe and nations such as India and Turkey have actually risen, and its financial sector is so far avoiding a serious liquidity crisis.

Sanctions may work in the long run, experts say, but for now many of the same countries that are sanctioning Russia are still seriously undercutting their efforts by buying energy from it—in some cases in even larger amounts during April than in March.

Taiwan Doesn’t Need a Formal U.S. Security Guarantee

Ivan Kanapathy

In September 2020, Richard Haass and David Sacks reignited a debate over providing a formal U.S. security guarantee to Taiwan, ending decades of strategic ambiguity regarding U.S. intentions. They reiterated their support for “strategic clarity”—“to make explicit to China that the United States would respond to an attack against Taiwan with … severe economic sanctions and military force”—in late 2021, two months before Russia’s latest invasion of Ukraine.

Following the invasion, former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe argued, “The time has come for the U.S. to make clear that it will defend Taiwan against any attempted Chinese invasion.” Similarly citing the Russia-Ukraine war example, Eric Edelman and Franklin Miller lobbied for “a clearly stated U.S. commitment to vigorously defend Taiwan against efforts to forcibly incorporate it into the [People’s Republic of China].”

Elites Are Getting Nationalism All Wrong

Stephen M. Walt

If a head of state or foreign minister asked for my advice—don’t be alarmed; that’s not likely to happen—I might start by saying: “Respect the power of nationalism.” Why? Because as I look back over much of the past century and consider what’s happening today, the failure to appreciate this phenomenon seems to have led numerous leaders (and their countries) into costly disasters. I’ve made this point before—in 2019, 2011, and 2021—but recent events suggest a refresher course is in order.

What is nationalism? The answer has two parts. First, it starts by recognizing that the world is made up of social groups that share important cultural traits (a common language, history, ancestry, geographic origins, etc.), and over time, some of these groups have come to see themselves as constituting a unique entity: a nation. A nation’s claims about its essential character need not be strictly accurate in either biological or historical terms. (Indeed, national narratives are usually distorted versions of the past.) What matters is that members of a nation genuinely believe that they are one.

Russia’s war could spread to space; the U.S. should be prepared

Thomas Ayres

In both cyber and space, nefarious and destructive actions can be difficult to attribute to a specific actor or sponsoring nation-state. In the cyber realm, experts puzzle that we haven’t yet experienced a Russian cyber attack given the capability displayed during the Colonial Pipeline ransomware disruption.

So far, Western banks and corporations’ defensive measures may account for the success. Or Russia may be walking a cyber tightrope — seeking not to cross the line of an “act of war” and hazard a U.S. or NATO response.

Is Russia Planning A Cyberwar Against America And Europe?

Stavros Atlamazoglou

As the war in Ukraine enters a more stable phase, Russia might try to utilize its expansive hybrid warfare toolkit, including cyberattacks against the U.S. and Europe.

As a result, the U.S. intelligence community and its intelligence partners from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom have issued a warning on what to expect and how to deal with it.

Cyber Advisory

On April 20, the National Security Agency (NSA), Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), and the FBI issued a joint advisory with the Five Eyes’ cyber intelligence services.

Ukraine Can Show Taiwan How to Win a Cyberwar With China

Omree Wechsler

With the amassing of Russian forces on Ukraine’s borders in January and February 2022, many observers believed that the world was about to witness the first true cyberwar. Despite these predictions, however, the Russian invasion was not accompanied by any major, successful cyber blows to Ukrainian critical infrastructure, and Russian distributed denial of service (DDoS) and wiper attacks largely failed to curb Ukraine’s ability to defend itself.

Prior to the invasion, many had warned that China was closely watching the events in Ukraine and, if Russia invaded, may be prompted to attack Taiwan. Given many Russian military failures, observers pointed out the challenges that China could face if and when it decides to attack Taiwan. While the Ukrainian case study shows that cyberwarfare is not to be paralleled with traditional kinetic warfare, it is worth asking whether Taiwan will face similar attempts to sabotage and disrupt its infrastructure and services.

If the supply of Russian gas to Europe were cut off, could LNG plug the gap?

Editor’s note: On April 26th the state-owned gas firms of Bulgaria and Poland said they had been warned by Gazprom that it would stop all deliveries of gas to them within 24 hours. It would be the first such action by Russia’s energy giant since the outbreak of war in Ukraine. Almost half of Poland’s gas, and nine-tenths of Bulgaria’s, is from Russia.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to renewed speculation about the future of European energy, and in particular about its supply of natural gas. The continent gets around a quarter of its energy from gas. In 2019 Russia provided over 40% of that gas. The West has not gone so far as to place limits on Russian gas exports, although Germany has suspended the licensing of Nord Stream 2 (ns2), a completed but not yet operational pipeline between Russia and Germany. But what if Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, were to cut off gas to the West? One alternative source of energy is liquefied natural gas (lng), which is usually transported by sea. To what extent could lng replace piped Russian gas as a source of energy for Europe?

Ranking the World’s Major Powers: A Graphic Comparison of the United States, Russia, China, and Other Selected Countries

Anthony H. Cordesman
The following analysis is a working draft that attempts to provide an initial graphic overview of the comparative strengths of the world’s three major powers: The United States, China, and Russia. It highlights the radically different spending patterns and resources of each major power, and it compares the balance each state has established between the size and development of its economy and the size and cost of its military forces.

The analysis shows that Russia is now a relatively minor power in economic terms and in terms of the resources it can spend on military forces. It also shows that Russia relies heavily on its inheritance of a massive number of nuclear weapons for its increasingly tentative status as a superpower. In contrast, China has succeeded in carrying out a massive expansion of its economy, technology base, and its military forces, and it is far more able to compete at a civil level as well.

How Russia’s war in Ukraine upended the breadbasket of Europe

John Reed, Emiko Terazono, Alexandra Heal

Ukraine has long been a land of natural bounty, not just for its own population but also for people around the world. Products made from its wheat, corn and sunflowers can be found in markets and kitchens from Estonia to Egypt. Its black soil is richly fertile. Its farmland is cheaper to run than that in Europe and the US. And its deep seaports have given it easy access to international markets. The combination has allowed Ukraine to become a key exporter of agricultural commodities, and to be described as the breadbasket of Europe.