14 May 2022

Killer Robots Are Here—and We Need to Regulate Them

Robert F. Trager and Laura M. Luca

Swarms of robots with the ability to kill humans are no longer only the stuff of science fiction. Lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS) are here. In Ukraine, Moscow has allegedly deployed an artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled Kalashnikov ZALA Aero KUB-BLA loitering munition, while Kyiv has used Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drones, which have some autonomous capabilities. Although it’s always hard to determine whether a weapon’s autonomous mode is used, these technologies have reportedly been employed in at least one conflict: Last year, a United Nations report suggested Turkey used autonomous firing by its Kargu-2 drones to hunt fleeing soldiers in Libya’s civil war (though the CEO of the Turkish company that produced the drone denies it is capable of this).

Kaliningrad Could Be the Next Flashpoint in the EU’s Standoff With Russia

Alexander Clarkson

On a warm summer evening in July 2005, Russian President Vladimir Putin, together with the German chancellor and French president at the time, Gerhard Schroder and Jacques Chirac, looked on as a lavish fireworks display entertained a vast crowd in the Baltic city of Kaliningrad. In commemoration of the 750-year anniversary of the founding of what had once been the Prussian city of Konigsberg, the Russian government that had inherited Kaliningrad after its conquest by the Soviet Union during World War II had put on elaborate festivities to celebrate its complex history.

For Putin, Kaliningrad was of both personal and strategic importance as the region in which his then-wife had grown up and as a symbol of Russia’s return to great power status through naval expansion close to the heart of NATO. As an exclave that had been handed to the Russian Soviet Republic under the USSR, Kaliningrad remained under Moscow’s control even after its borders were cut off from the rest of Russia when Lithuania declared independence upon the Soviet Union’s collapse. While the participation of Schroder and Chirac at the 2005 festivities was intended to signal Russia’s partnership with Europe’s most powerful states, the lack of invitations to Polish, Swedish or Lithuanian leaders sent a more ominous signal about who Putin believed should call the shots around the Baltic Sea.

Locking China Out of the Global Order Could Backfire

Robert A. Manning

Both Russia’s scorched-earth invasion of Ukraine and the swift fury of the U.S. and European Union-led global response seem to have come as a shock to Beijing. China’s ambiguous stance—clearly anti-American but not explicitly pro-Russian or anti-Ukrainian—in part comes because the West’s surprisingly strong response has frustrated Chinese ambitions.

It may not have fully sunk in yet in Beijing, but the resurgence of an economic and strategically unified West, and the risk of the financial and political liability of protecting a dependent, wrecked petrostate, should lead Chinese President Xi Jinping to see the wisdom of cooperating with the global economic order, albeit with a larger Chinese voice and modest distancing from its partner in Moscow. Despite its echoing of Russian disinformation, Beijing has cautiously cut off Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank loans and trade financing to Moscow, and China’s state-run Sinopec halted gas and petrochemical projects in Russia. With $3 trillion in mostly dollar and euro assets and watching the United States disappear Russian Central Bank assets overnight, Beijing’s caution is understandable.

Exploring the Civil-Military Divide over Artificial Intelligence

James Ryseff, Eric Landree, Noah Johnson, Bonnie Ghosh-Dastidar

Artificial intelligence (AI) is anticipated to be a key capability for enabling the U.S. military to maintain its military dominance. The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)'s engagement with leading high-tech private sector corporations, for which the military is a relatively small percentage of their customer base, provides a valuable conduit to cutting-edge AI-enabled capabilities and access to leading AI software developers and engineers. To assess the views of software engineers and other technical staff in the private sector about potential DoD applications of AI, a research team conducted a survey that presented a variety of scenarios describing how the U.S. military might employ AI and asked respondents to describe their comfort level with using AI in these ways. The scenarios varied several factors, including the degree of distance from the battlefield, the destructiveness of the action, and the degree of human oversight over the AI algorithm. The results from this survey found that most of the U.S. AI experts do not oppose the basic mission of DoD or the use of AI for many military applications.

War has returned to Europe: Three reasons why the EU did not see it coming

Corina Stratulat

Before 24 February, Europe decidedly defined itself as 'post-war'. But since Putin's full-scale, cold-blooded invasion of Ukraine, war again defines the Union's reality. Damage control is the main priority now — but knee-jerk reactions and moral outrage do not amount to a strategy, argues Corina Stratulat.

To create a future that stops perpetuating the past, the Union and its member states must also start to critically contemplate how they got into the current predicament and change course. Three lessons stand out:

First, since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, overconfidence in its own allure and model has skewed the EU's perspective of itself and the rest of the world. While freedom, pluralism and liberal democracy remain attractive, liberal expectations that the Union would be able to convert even its immediate neighbourhood – let alone the world – to its image have proven illusory. Despite almost two decades of European integration, democratic performance has still not acquired a positive dynamic in the Balkans. And yet the membership card has now been confidently and imprudently put on the table for Ukraine and other eastern countries, posing as a solution to the current crisis. Without practising humility, the EU stands to persevere in its confirmation biases and continue to evade learning.

Ukraine’s Military Pulled Itself Out of the Ruins of 2014

Adrian Bonenberger

Early this March, I and two other U.S. veterans spent 10 days helping to train Ukrainian troops on the ground. I’m just one of many volunteers, many of us former soldiers, who did so. For nearly three decades, the United States and other NATO countries have sent personnel to help train Ukrainian forces, efforts that intensified and crystalized after the loss of Crimea and parts of the Donbas in the 2014 Russian invasion. It would be nice to think, as some have claimed, that Ukraine’s success is due to that training. But the truth is that it probably hasn’t played a decisive role in shaping Ukraine’s remarkable underdog performance against the Russian military.

For many analysts, the focus has been on an army burdened, until recently, by Soviet doctrine. Various articles and op-eds describe a Ukrainian military deeply shaped by the experience of the Soviet Union. To be sure, the senior officers of the 1990s had been soldiers and junior officers in the Soviet army, and many Ukrainians served in Afghanistan. But the crucial difference isn’t between the Soviet era and today. The reforms imposed on the Ukrainian army in the 1990s—and the decisions Ukrainians themselves made after those reforms—led to disaster in 2014.

Training Tomorrow’s AI Workforce The Latent Potential of Community and Technical Colleges

Diana Gehlhaus, Luke Koslosky

It is a national security imperative to grow, sustain, and diversify U.S. artificial intelligence (AI) talent pipelines. But to date, the predominant focus of U.S. policymakers and industry continues to be on four-year degrees. Such a narrow focus is leaving talent behind and limiting opportunity, as many AI careers do not require a four-year college credential.

Community and technical colleges offer enormous potential to grow, sustain, and diversify the AI talent pipeline. They are a critical part of the U.S. postsecondary system with a student body that represents many segments of the population.

However, these institutions are not being leveraged effectively in educating and training AI talent. To understand the current landscape of AI and AI-related education at these institutions, we evaluated current program offerings and the associated number of graduates. We focused on programs where associate’s degrees could be a powerful source for training and upskilling AI talent.

Tech regulation in China brings in sweeping changes

Kai von Carnap, Valarie Tan

Relations between Beijing and China’s tech giants have been complex and in flux for many years. But just recently the government has taken a much clearer approach, introducing a swathe of measures designed to bring these companies in line with its goals and keep them on their toes. MERICS analysts Kai von Carnap and Valarie Tan analyze the latest developments.

When Jack Ma told China’s financial elites on October 24, 2020 that their incompetence had created a severely underdeveloped financial system and insinuated that his fintech may be the cure, his words marked the moment when Beijing shifted its relations to big tech giants from toleration to confrontation.

Russo-Ukraine War: Gauging the Impact on Global Economy

The global economy has suffered a significant setback due to Russia's military intervention in Ukraine. This crisis is unfolding when the world economy is still recovering from the pandemic. Even before the war, inflation rose in many nations due to supply-demand mismatches and official support during the pandemic, forcing monetary policy tightening. The latest Chinese lockdowns may trigger new bottlenecks in global supply networks.

In this scenario, the war will negatively influence economic development and inflation and its immediate and sad humanitarian consequences. As a result, financial risks have increased significantly, and policy tradeoffs have grown increasingly complex.

U.K.: China Views Russia’s War as ‘Bad for Business’

Jack Detsch

China appears to be increasingly embarrassed by Russia’s conduct of its war in Ukraine, Britain’s defense secretary told reporters on Tuesday, underlining a growing split in the once-budding relationship between the two powers that has dissuaded Beijing from providing material support to Moscow over the course of the ongoing conflict.

In more than two months of war, while China has refused to condemn Russia’s full-scale invasion and has helped parrot Russian disinformation, it has also stopped short of providing real support for the Kremlin’s war effort. There was speculation that China could supply rations for hard-pressed Russian troops or backfill Russian arms needs, but that hasn’t come to pass. China’s top drone-maker, DJI, suspended operations in Russia and Ukraine in late April, depriving ill-supplied Russian units of additional capability to send off-the-shelf intelligence into Ukraine’s skies. China has also balked at providing Russia with spare parts for its sanctioned civilian airliner fleet, underscoring Moscow’s isolation under an array of economic and financial sanctions. One Western official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence assessments, said that there was no indication that Beijing was supplying anything of scale.

The Uneven Global Response to Climate Change

Recently published climate science ultimately underscores the same points: The impacts of climate change are advancing faster than experts had previously predicted, and they are increasingly irreversible. One blockbuster report, from a United Nations grouping of biodiversity experts in May 2019, found that 1 million species are now in danger of extinction unless dramatic changes are made to everything from fuel sources to agricultural production. Despite these warnings, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s most-recent report, released in August 2021, confirmed that the world remains on pace to blow past the goal of restricting the rise in average temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, with likely catastrophic consequences.

No Marshall Plan for Ukraine Geography and Geopolitics Dictate a Different Reconstruction Model

Benn Steil

Perhaps the most enduring legacy of the Marshall Plan, the massive U.S. program to rebuild Western Europe’s economy after World War II, is the endless desire to repeat it. Daunting geopolitical challenges invariably spawn appeals for new Marshall Plans to foster stability and prosperity. The global financial crisis seeded in 2008 brought forth calls for a Marshall Plan in southern Europe. The Arab Spring did the same in the Middle East. Ditto the civil war in Syria.

Today, Ukraine, victim of horrific mass brutality and destruction, is only the latest in a procession of stricken countries spurring calls for the legend’s reapplication. “There will be a new Marshall Plan for Ukraine,” declared Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in March. European Council President Charles Michel concurred, announcing that a May donor conference was “the starting point for [a] kind of European Marshall Plan for Ukraine.”

Why the West just can’t get enough of Zelensky


Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has dominated headlines since late February 2022. The war struck a nerve among Western audiences, evoking a high degree of support for Ukraine. The reasons for the prominence of the war in the West are many and varied.

A ground war in Europe launched by a major military power evokes the ghosts of World War II. This is especially true when the attacking country has designs on territory it considers integral to its nation, and is led by a personalist authoritarian regime where all power is concentrated in a single leader.

The deep involvement of the US and European countries, both individually and collectively through NATO and the European Union, also inspires Cold War comparisons. The resulting humanitarian crisis, including the mass exodus of over 5 million refugees, underscores the ethical and moral implications of the war.

Satellite images ‘suggest China is practising missile strikes on targets in Taiwan and Guam’

Minnie Chan

The Chinese military has refined its anti-ship missile training from striking large, carrier-sized targets to smaller ships and naval bases, according to recent satellite images.

They show a training base in Xinjiang’s remote Taklamakan desert with the layout of mock-up ship moored in a naval base that resembles one in northeast Taiwan and other targets in Guam, according to a Taipei-based naval analyst.

The US Naval Institute (USNI) news site said new satellite photos show China is building more large-scale target ranges along the rim of the desert, including model destroyers and piers.

Will Ukraine Break The Back Of Beleaguered US Indo-Pacific Strategy? – Analysis

Mark J. Valencia

The US Indo-Pacific Strategy (IPS) intends to prevent China’s hegemony in the region by building greater coordination with allies and partners “across war-fighting domains”. Its success depends on a US-centered network of security allies and partners and their willingness to go along with it in confronting China. But its implementation is already facing significant obstacles and now divisions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are further undermining US diplomatic efforts.

First of all, the US emphasis on a militarist approach is not welcome by many countries. Indeed, the U.S. military buildup in the region and its thinly-veiled threats to use force against China in the South China Sea worries ASEAN members who will suffer collateral damage from a US-China kinetic conflict.

The US may be using Ukraine as a blueprint for how Taiwan could stop a Chinese invasion

President Joe Biden’s administration reportedly wants to arm Taiwan with the same types of portable weapons that the United States and other NATO members have been providing to Ukraine, such as Javelin and Stinger missiles.

Politico and the New York Times have reported that the U.S. government has accelerated its efforts to make Taiwan harder for any invader to swallow – like a porcupine – based on lessons learned from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Not only have U.S. officials urged Taiwan to buy portable weapons systems that would be harder for China to target, but the State Department also indicated it would not respond to Taiwan’s request for MH-60R Seahawk helicopters, which can be used to attack submarines and surface ships, both media outlets reported.

Failing to Deter Russia’s War against Ukraine: The Role of Misperceptions

One of the most underexplored dimensions of Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine is the failure of the West – the US and the EU – to deter it. Understanding this, nevertheless, is of paramount impor­tance for a score of reasons. The West’s per­ceptions and consequent actions towards Russia seem to continue to rely on the same faulty assumptions that led to that failure of deterrence. Generally, this perspective includes both the West’s misperceptions about Russia’s foreign policy objectives, the preferred ways to achieve them, and – no less important – Russia’s perceptions about the West’s objectives and the pre­ferred ways to achieve them. The actions needed to achieve the objectives reflect the parties’ capabilities and their tolerance of the involved costs. Sorting out the errors of the respective assumptions in the case of Ukraine would improve Western diplomacy towards Russia generally and help it build more effective deterrence in the future.


Dr. Valentin Weber

Key points:The European Union should implement systemic measures to improve cybersecurity by encouraging encryption and redundancy in critical systems, as well as increasing the speed of patching and the quality of open-source software.

The EU needs to engage in strategic capacity-building abroad, setting geographical priorities in Southeastern Europe and the Middle East, as well as South and Southeastern Asia.

It must foster the deception of attackers through decoy network elements.

EU member states should envisage conducting limited cyber operations to disrupt ongoing attacks.

The Coup in the Kremlin How Putin and the Security Services Captured the Russian State

Nina Khrushcheva

On December 20, 1999, Vladimir Putin addressed senior officials of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) at its Lubyanka headquarters near Moscow’s Red Square. The recently appointed 47-year-old prime minister, who had held the rank of lieutenant colonel in the FSB, was visiting to mark the holiday honoring the Russian security services. “The task of infiltrating the highest level of government is accomplished,” Putin quipped.

His former colleagues chuckled. But the joke was on Russia.

Putin became interim president less than two weeks later. From the start of his rule, he has worked to strengthen the state to counteract the chaos of post-Soviet capitalism and unsteady democratization. To achieve that end, he saw it necessary to elevate the country’s security services and put former security officials in charge of critical government organs.