24 May 2022

Military looking for new ways to acquire and use commercial satellite data

Sandra Erwin

WASHINGTON — Over a two-day conference last week, U.S. military and intelligence officials were briefed on the capabilities of commercial spy satellites and how data from these satellites could be used in military operations.

Defense and intelligence agencies are longtime customers of commercial imagery companies and their consumption of commercial imagery has increased during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But there is also an emerging demand for new types of data now being collected by commercial satellites, such as radar imagery, radio-frequency signals, maritime and aerial traffic data.

The ability to capture and analyze data from multiple sources, and turn it into useful intelligence, is known in military speak as tactical space-based ISR, short for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

More than 35 companies participated in the U.S. Space Force’s first industry day event May 19-20 focused on space-based ISR, a spokesperson said. The conference, held at an undisclosed location in the Washington, D.C. metro area, was organized by the Space Systems Command and the Aerospace Industries Association.

Google, Meta and Amazon will benefit from the Ukraine war, ad guru Martin Sorrell says

Sam Shead

The war in Ukraine is being fought both online and offline, with hackers on each side targeting the enemy’s national infrastructure.

Over the last few weeks, major tech stocks have plummeted amid concerns of a global recession but Sorrell believes Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could boost their revenues.

Martin Sorrell says the Ukraine war will mark the end of the globalization era

Martin Sorrell, founder and chairman of media firm S4 Capital, believes the war in Ukraine has the potential to benefit three of America’s biggest tech firms.

“I’m very bullish on the tech giants ... because the war will have an impact on them,” Sorrell told CNBC at the World Economic Forum in Davos Monday.

He added: “The big three — Google (or Alphabet), Meta, and Amazon — will benefit, I think, as a result of the war.”

Four Critical Risks To Watch As Experts Predict A Cyber Cold War

Steve Piper

In a backdrop of global geopolitical instability, cyber expert Nicolas Chaillan, the former chief software officer for the U.S. Air Force and Space Force, recently noted that the world has reached a point where cyberspace is approaching a modern cold war.

Chaillan, the ex-Air Force software chief famous for resigning because of the way the Department of Homeland Security procrastinated in implementing zero-trust security controls, warned that a powerful nation-state adversary could wreak havoc for organizations all over the world. Some key cyber risks that have infosec experts particularly worried include attacks on critical infrastructure, software supply chain threats, satellite security and disinformation.

In this article, I’ll briefly assess each risk to give the reader a high-level view of the cyberthreat landscape.

IAF leaves behind China in air defense ranking

The World Directory of Modern Military Aircraft (WDMMA) has ranked the Indian Air Force third in global air defense systems for the year 2022, after examining the air strengths of various other countries.

Moreover, the report evaluated the warfare capabilities of various air services globally and ranked them accordingly. Similarly, the Indian Air Force was graded higher than its regional competitor China and was also placed above the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF), the Israeli Air Force, and the French Air and Space Force.

Furthermore, this categorization was done on the basis of the total combat strength of various countries’ air defense forces. Likewise, the “True Value Rating” (TVR) formula helps the WDMMA in its categorization and evaluation. TVR also aids in the distinction of each power from the other based on elements such as modernization, technology, calculation help, assault, and guard abilities. Additionally, this technique helps to break down a country’s power on the basis of the quality and diversity of its weapons stock.

Sweden and Finland’s NATO Bids Hit a Roadblock Named Erdogan

As of last week, NATO seemed well on its way to expanding, when Finland and Sweden formally submitted their applications for membership. When they officially join, becoming the 31st and 32nd member of the alliance, it could potentially mark the fastest accession process in the alliance’s history. This is reflective of the sudden about-face in the two countries’ foreign policies in the months since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Both went quickly from countries content with a posture of non-alignment marked by occasional cooperation with NATO, to expressing increasing support for the alliance, to applying for full membership.

It is not fully clear why the two states are seeking to join the alliance. As European Union members, they essentially already enjoy de facto security guarantees, because of the EU’s joint defense clause, but also because the EU members that are also in NATO—such as neighboring Denmark and the Baltic states—would in all likelihood push the alliance to intervene in the event of an attack on either Finland or Sweden.

Maneuvering in the Gray Zone: Preparing for Tomorrow’s Battlespace

Historical discussions of national defense have focused on military size and capacity, measured by hardware and platforms. But, in the modern era of strategic competition, adversaries seek to exploit software and networks, often in advance of formal hostilities erupting on the ground. This proverbial gray zone occurs primarily within the cyber domain.

The Russia-Ukraine conflict is a “live” example of how adversaries couple traditional, kinetic tactics with advanced effects delivered through cyberspace and electronic warfare. They use these means to deny, degrade, deceive, destroy, or usurp anyone who threatens their position or ability to carry out operations.

“Today’s threats no longer fit comfortably into the traditional definition of previous defense strategies. We must be nimble, agile, and open-minded to respond to the challenges at hand,” said Chris Valentino, chief strategy officer at Peraton. “The Department of Defense (DoD) must be as capable in hybrid warfare as it is in traditional warfare, especially around cyber, satellite, cloud, and information operations. It must also be prepared to collaborate with other federal agencies to effectively utilize the full range of national power instruments and combat these new hazards.”

What Does $40 Billion in Aid to Ukraine Buy?

Mark F. Cancian

Congress has approved $40 billion in aid for Ukraine and other countries affected by the conflict―the sixth aid package since the war began. A major change is that this package looks ahead months rather than weeks.

The aid package provides $19 billion for immediate military support to Ukraine, continuing the effort that has been vital to sustaining Ukrainian resistance, and $3.9 billion to sustain U.S. forces deployed to Europe. The package also contains about $16 billion for economic support to Ukraine, global humanitarian relief, and a wide variety of international programs as well as $2 billion for long-term support to NATO allies and DOD modernization programs.

Although some elements of the aid package will be available quickly, many will take years to fully implement. This raises questions about why long-term elements could not have gone through the regular congressional authorization and budget processes.
A New Timeline

How the U.S. Navy Plans to Defeat China’s Carrier-Killer Missiles

Kris Osborn

The U.S. Navy is working intensely to defend against fast-evolving Chinese ballistic missiles, which are not only growing in number but also improving their guidance systems, maneuverability, and attack ranges.

At a recent House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense meeting over the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps’ fiscal year 2023 budget request, Rep. Hal Rogers (R-TX) questioned Navy leaders on the pace of Chinese missile developments as well as how the Navy plans to strengthen ballistic missile defenses in light of the Chinese threat in the Pacific. Rogers also raised concerns about the advancing missile threat in the region.

“...[T]he range of Chinese cruise missiles [is] also projected to vastly increase, with their range projected to reach as far as Guam by 2025. This expanded range of area access, area denial, poses great challenges for our posture in the Indo-Pacific theater. Should the Navy not be able to defend against such potential attacks, they would have to withdraw troops from the region, weakening our posture again,” Rogers said to Navy leaders.

Can a U.S.-China War Be Averted?

Paul Heer

There is no dearth of commentators with ideas about, and proposals for dealing with, the downward spiral in U.S.-China relations. But former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd offers a unique perspective that merits considered attention. A genuine scholar of China who also has broad, deep, and close ties in both Beijing and Washington—without being either Chinese or American—is rare indeed. This allows him to speak frankly to both sides, which he does in The Avoidable War: The Dangers of a Catastrophic Conflict between the US and Xi Jinping’s China.

The purpose of the book, according to Rudd, is to “provide a joint road map to help these two great nations to navigate a common pathway to the future” and thus avert what Rudd correctly sees as a drift toward conflict. He is also correct in his diagnosis that “the worldviews now dominant in China and the United States are pushing the two countries toward war.” Rudd’s prescription is what he calls “managed strategic competition,” in which Beijing and Washington would pursue mutual understandings and rules of the road that allow them to keep their inevitable strategic rivalry within limits, while maximizing opportunities for cooperation where it obviously serves the interests of both countries.

If you have a 401(k), you’re an investor. Geopolitics will affect your financial security

It seems like just yesterday that Francis Fukuyama, writing in the pages of the summer 1989 edition of The National Interest, declared the end of history. In Fukuyama’s words, the end of the Cold War represented “the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.” Freed from a bipolar contest for global supremacy, the U.S. and its liberal allies dove into the 1990s full of optimism, hope, and capital to spend. Geopolitics, at long last, was dead. Globalization was the new world religion; the Washington Consensus was its 10 commandments — and the U.S. was its enforcer. Thou shalt liberalize thy trade!

As it turns out, global hegemony pays dividends. Between November 26, 1990, and December 13, 2019, the S&P 500 grew by over 900%. (For some frame of reference, the Nikkei 225 grew 1% over the same period, despite Japan being the world’s second largest economy and ubiquitous predictions it would supplant the U.S.) The U.S. dollar retrenched itself as the world’s reserve currency, accounting for over 59% of global currency reserves as of Q3 2021. As of January 2022, U.S. equity markets remain the deepest and most liquid in the world, accounting for 42 percent of the world’s $125 trillion global equity market capitalization. For global investors, the best decision you could have made in 1990 was sit back, relax, and park your money in the S&P 500.
Simpler times

The Chinese Economy Is In A Death Spiral

Gordon Chang

The Chinese Economy is in Trouble: “What we are going to see with China, for the first time that anyone can remember who’s alive, is an economy that’s twice the size of the U.S., possibly three times the size of the U.S., and it’s going to be very weird living in that world,” said Elon Musk on the “All-In with Chamath, Jason, Sacks & Friedberg” podcast.

At first glance, Musk looks correct. China is catching up to America fast. Last year, the Chinese economy skyrocketed 8.1%, producing $17.46 trillion in gross domestic product. The American economy clocked in at $23.00 trillion, growing only 5.7%.

Yes, Musk is America’s leading visionary, but this particular vision is off-target. The Chinese economy will never overtake America’s, at least not this century.

Elon Musk is making predictions by extrapolating. Extrapolation works most of the time, but not now.

How to Prepare for the Next Ukraine

Michèle A. Flournoy

It is too soon to predict how Russia’s brutal, unjustified war against Ukraine will end. But for now, it is clear that the Russian military has shockingly underperformed in the first phase of the war, whereas the Ukrainian military has punched far above its weight. Other revisionist powers contemplating aggression will be looking closely at Russia’s failings to avoid making the same mistakes, and the countries they threaten will be looking to Ukraine’s example for insight into how to fend off a larger, better-equipped adversary.

But there are also lessons for the United States. U.S. defense leaders need to consider what outcomes in Ukraine mean not only for how Washington assesses the military capabilities of adversaries in the future but also for how the United States and its allies can use asymmetric tactics to undermine those adversaries’ strengths and exploit their weaknesses. For example, militaries fielded under leaders who do not tolerate dissent or question assumptions will be vulnerable to a host of problems, from strategic miscalculation and inadequate logistics to poor battlefield command and troop morale. This is a systemic weakness of authoritarian regimes, but other states can also be susceptible. In addition, militaries that have not been tested in battle may struggle to train troops for the actual conditions they will face in war, to fight effectively as a joint force, and to adapt in real time to an adversary’s asymmetric tactics.

Evaluating China’s ‘Space-Ground Integrated Information Network’ Project

Kai Lin Tay

The “Space-Ground Integrated Information Network” (tiandi yitihua xinxiwangluo, SGIIN) is a “mega engineering project” approved by China under its 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020) in March 2016. Like other mega projects, this project reflects China’s “national strategic intentions,” with the specific aim to “promote the comprehensive integration of space-based information networks, future internet and mobile communication networks” by 2030.

The concept behind the SGIIN is not unique to China. The United States Department of Defense, for instance, developed similar networks such as the Global Information Grid and the Transformational Satellite Communications Systems in 2007 and 2008 respectively, which integrate space-based and terrestrial networks for military purposes. China’s development of these integrated networks appears to lag behind U.S. military programs even though it first raised the intent to develop a space-ground integrated network system in a 2000 white paper.

Nevertheless, given the important implications of the SGIIN project on China’s overall economic and military capabilities, it’s important to take stock of the project’s developments and achievements to date, especially following the recent conclusion of the 13th Five-Year Plan period.

Russia seeking to be good neighbors with Central Asia, Lavrov says

"As a reliable member of the international community, Russia is seeking a benevolent external environment, while remaining good neighbors and maintaining constructive cooperation with all countries, primarily with its neighbors. We cannot but enjoy the strategic partnership with Central Asian countries, with the bulk of them being our allies," the diplomat said in the article published by the Russian newspaper in celebration of the 30th anniversary of diplomatic ties with Central Asia.

Lavrov said that Moscow was engaged in a busy agenda with Central Asian countries to celebrate the anniversary. Russia can also see its trade with Central Asia growing dynamically despite "the turbulent geopolitical situation," Lavrov emphasized. "Trade is growing with nearly every country in the region," he said, adding that, apart from commodities, this has involved agriculture, chemicals, oil products, pharmaceuticals, metals, cars and equipment.

Italy proposes four-stage plan to end war in Ukraine

According to media reports, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio has already handed over a document with the plan to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the G7 countries.

Italy is also proposing to set up an international group to monitor compliance with the plan (the complete list of countries has not been identified, but Italy, France, Germany, Turkey, the United States, China, Canada, United Kingdom, Poland, and Israel are among them) and the group also involves the European Union, the UN and other international organizations.

Italy proposes four stages of ending the war:

a ceasefire in Ukraine and the demilitarization of the front line under UN supervision;

negotiations on the status of Ukraine, which provide for the country's accession to the EU, and non-accession to NATO;

Opinion – The West’s Credibility Crisis in the Midst of Putin’s War

Ukraine’s unexpected battlefield success against Russia’s invasion has put the West on a high. This high has translated to the economic, diplomatic, and indeed the moral sphere, sending Western self-confidence burgeoning. Reputable newspapers report that even India may soon abandon its neutrality because India is a democracy (without attempt to capture public opinion in that democracy) and because Russia is close to China (without mentioning recent Indo-Chinese diplomacy). Neither Russian atrocities nor battlefield results command respect. Yet the West may have the larger credibility problem.

Earlier I argued that while Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is wrong, the Kremlin has a plausible narrative for every reason it has given to invade; a fact that has clouded our view and hampers our ability to persuade. The West has, still, technological, military and economic might. Yet in other dimensions it is getting ahead of itself. For Westerners the comparison with a corrupt and unorganized Russia, down to its previously renowned military, clearly proves Western moral superiority. Others may see things differently. And prioritize their own interests.

“China’s Ports in Africa”—Great Chapter in Great Volume!

Isaac B. Kardon

Building on an NBR study of China’s strategic vision for Africa, this report from NBR’s “Into Africa: China’s Emerging Strategy” project examines the implications of China’s growing presence in Africa’s critical infrastructure. Each essay sheds light on a specific domain of activity—ports, railways, industrial parks, information and telecommunication networks, and power generation—and attempts to understand what it could mean for China’s global ambitions.

This essay finds that Chinese firms are rapidly developing Africa’s ports as platforms for the integrated political, economic, and military presence of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in each of the continent’s subregions.



Chinese firms are now leading builders, bankers, owners, and operators of ports in Africa. They have quickly achieved significant scale and scope across the continent, using modern, deepwater ports to drive Chinese trade and promote investment in other economic projects past the pier. Several state-owned enterprises have been moving up the value chain in the sector, taking long-term control over ownership and operations of port assets instead of just building them on contracts. Such ports provide robust platforms for China’s economic, political, and diplomatic access in Africa. They also establish ready sites for civil-military dual use. Chinese companies evidently pursue these projects to access African markets and resources, but also to advance broader Chinese foreign policy goals that are competitive with U.S. interests in Africa.

POLICY IMPLICATIONSChinese firms pursue commercial and political incentives within an overall foreign policy framework. So long as PRC foreign policy continues to promote development of African ports as a means to greater access on the continent, Chinese firms will enjoy major cost and scale advantages in further building out Africa’s maritime transport network. The practical policy questions revolve around how to adjust to this reality and mitigate China’s exercise of undue influence through its position in African ports.

The U.S. will not directly compete with China in developing and operating port infrastructure in Africa. But with enhanced U.S. coordination with local allies and partners (including their port and logistics firms) on prioritized countries and projects, Chinese firms can be kept from achieving market dominance. The U.S. can likely remain the great-power partner of choice for key African nations by providing superior security and technology.

Even if Equatorial Guinea does not ultimately agree to host a Chinese military base, some other African state or states will eventually do so. A small number of People’s Liberation Army bases will not tip the Atlantic naval balance nor fundamentally change the basic security dynamics in Africa, but it will alter perceptions of China’s long-term objectives and intensify competition with the U.S.


Why has China sought to play such a significant role in the development and operation of African ports? Some insights may be gleaned from official documents and statements, as well as commentary by industry and academic experts in China. These sources help explain PRC firms’ motivations to become Africa’s leading port-builders and prominent financiers, owners, and operators of its port terminals. Chinese companies clearly pursue commercial gain, but are also evidently incentivized to align their port projects with Beijing’s economic, political, and strategic priorities.

The factors pushing and pulling PRC firms into African ports may be stylized in terms of supply and demand. There are certain economic pulls (i.e., demand factors) that both make

maritime transport a priority for Chinese firms and make Africa an especially attractive target for developing and operating trade infrastructure like ports. Meanwhile, PRC firms are also motivated by pushes (i.e., supply factors) from China, which include overcapacity in key sectors and various financial incentives. But, critically, a big push comes from central political inducements to make ports the platform for PRC economic, political, and military access across Africa. … …

In aggregate, there are substantial demand-side drivers for Chinese firms to invest in the continent with the world’s lowest share of maritime trade and largest stores of unexploited natural resources.27 China brings huge scale advantages, insatiable demand for African resources, and an export machine that is always seeking growth into new consumer markets. These are conditions that led CHEC chair and party secretary Lin Yichong to claim that “demand for ports in Africa will inevitably further increase.”28 Chinese firms are uniquely positioned to supply the capital, manpower, and expertise to meet this demand.

The Supply Side of China’s Port Ambitions in Africa

General Secretary Xi Jinping has remarked that “there’s a common saying, ‘if you want to get rich, first build a road,’ but in coastal areas, if you want to get rich, you also need to build a port.”29 Xi, like other Chinese leaders, has long promoted ports connected to roads and rail as the basic platform for economic development.30 Chinese economic planning prioritizes ports as fundamental to the “construction of a strong transport nation,” as emphasized in the authoritative 14th Five-Year Plan (2021–25) and its various supporting official documents.31 As in domestic industrial policy, Chinese leaders also promote ports in their international development plans. This clear priority introduces a set of powerful supply-side forces—that is, motivations originating within PRC officialdom that actively push domestic firms to build and control ports abroad. … …


PRC firms have pursued ocean ports as key facilitators of China’s economic, diplomatic, and military presence across Africa. A small handful of Chinese SOEs and policy banks have become the central players in Africa’s growing maritime transport sector, positioning Beijing to influence vital flows of trade, investment, data, and capital (financial and political). The 61 (and growing) PRC port projects reflect a simple commercial logic: with virtually all China-Africa

trade conveyed by sea, modern ports serve to expand and consolidate trade flows to and from China. But PRC firms’ enthusiasm for building out trade infrastructure is also a function of national-level objectives and security interests. Achieving greater control over the maritime trade and transport network on which China’s economic system depends—especially for crucial natural resource inputs—is a central policy goal for Beijing that animates the push to develop ports in Africa and elsewhere.

Senior party-state officials prize Chinese firms’ overseas port assets in particular because “port terminals are the highest priority for securing the sea lanes…they are not only for cargo handling, but also provide replenishment and logistics services” required to protect PRC interests overseas— with naval might, if necessary.81 The ports, however, are only one key node in a much more extensive network of maritime infrastructure built, financed, owned, or operated by PRC firms. For example, Huawei Marine has built submarine fiber-optic cables to each of the three ports examined as case studies above, and their other landing points are not coincidentally in other ports in which Chinese firms have established platforms. Chinese shipping lines are ubiquitous in Africa, especially those of the central SOE transport behemoth COSCO Shipping.82 …

More significant near-term implications arise from the vast network of commercial ports that now serve as platforms for Chinese access across Africa. For the military, these facilities help forge new relationships with regional navies, as China emerges as a provider of military technology, training, and assistance. They enable routine intelligence collection and the accumulation of logistical experience by operating task forces around the region. The ports showcase the optics of attractive new PLA Navy surface vessels showing the PRC flag around a distant continent.

They are also the beachhead for wider Chinese engagement in Africa, providing a politically visible and commercially practical point of further access for PRC firms and official actors.

China’s ports in Africa might be essential elements of the inchoate effort “to make Africa a strategic exterior line for China to geopolitically contain the United States,” as observed in the lead report of this wider project on China in Africa.86 The commander of the U.S. Africa Command, General Stephen Townsend, voiced a similar concern when he testified to a House committee that “the thing I think I’m most worried about is this [Chinese] military base on the Atlantic coast.”87 China will need to make much more intensive use of ports in Africa for them to present a meaningful operational challenge to the U.S. military. Yet the opportunity for China to take such a consequential step toward direct strategic competition with the United States in Africa is now latent in the network of ports built, financed, owned, and operated by Chinese firms. The depth and breadth of PRC firms’ positions in African ports make these critical infrastructure assets some of the most likely and useful sites from which China can project power on the continent.

Two Strong Hands China’s vision for the private sector.


Over the last two years, China has cracked down on some of its most successful companies, including Alibaba, Tencent, Didi, and Meituan-Dianping. Starting in 2018, the authorities have also restructured many of China’s largest conglomerates such as the Wanda and Evergrande groups. The conclusion many have drawn is that China’s decades long embrace of markets and private enterprise is coming to an end. Yet over the same period, China has also quietly enacted a large number of business-friendly reforms, aimed at reducing red tape for small- and medium-sized firms, making it easier for them to raise capital, and smoothing their access to the country’s legal dispute resolution processes. This apparent contradiction in China’s policy direction — an ongoing crackdown on the largest Chinese firms combined with strong support for smaller private firms — in fact reflects the Communist Party’s dual objectives: retaining total control while still allowing the private sector to

China, U.S. lead rise in global debt to record high $305 trillion - IIF

Rodrigo Campos

NEW YORK, May 18 (Reuters) - The world's two largest economies borrowed the most in the first quarter as global debt rose to a record above $305 trillion, while the overall debt-to-output ratio declined, data from the Institute of International Finance showed on Wednesday.

China's debt increased by $2.5 trillion over the first quarter and the United States added $1.5 trillion, the data showed, while total debt in the euro zone declined for a third consecutive quarter.

The analysis showed many countries, both emerging and developed, are entering a monetary tightening cycle -led by the U.S. Federal Reserve- with high levels of dollar denominated debt.

The China-Russia-Kazakhstan triangle

Joe Webster

Bilateral ties between Moscow and Nur-Sultan appear increasingly strained due to long-standing factors that have been exacerbated by Russia’s irredentist invasion of Ukraine. Russia essentially sanctioned Kazakh-Chinese oil flows on the westbound CPC pipeline in late March, upsetting Kazakhstan and apparently triggering a bilateral, energy-related spat between Moscow and Beijing.

Moscow’s sanctioning of CPC flows was primarily designed to harm the West and bolster the Kremlin’s preferred candidate in the April French Presidential election — not pressure Kazakhstan. Still, the CPC shutoff and resulting financial pain compounded Nur-Sultan’s anxiety and anger at Moscow, particularly since Kazakhstan experienced major economic protests in January.

Kazakh officials were further alarmed when Russian officials and Kremlin-connected figures began expressing irredentist visions about Kazakhstan in March, continuing a long tradition of Russian disregard for Kazakh sovereignty.

Kazakh President Toqaev takes a trip to Turkey

Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev traveled to Turkey on May 11, where he highlighted China-to-Europe freight linkages that bypass Russia. While in Turkey, Toqaev inked a deal which will site Turkish ANKA attack drone production in Kazakhstan. Since ANKA drones can carry anti-tank missiles, the deal may have raised eyebrows in Moscow.

On May 12, the day after Toqaev’s visit, Russian state media noted that “Russia has not and does not regard Central Asia as an arena for geopolitical confrontation and is interested in the development of all Central Asian states.”

Kazakh officials have repeatedly expressed support for Ukrainian sovereignty. President Tokayev published an April 4 op-ed in the National Interest, saying “We respect [Ukraine’s] territorial integrity — as the overwhelming majority of the world does.” With Russian power atrophying due to its invasion of Ukraine, Kazakhstan may feel increasingly emboldened to pursue a more independent foreign policy.

While Central Asia is a tertiary theater for Beijing, it does have real economic and security interests in the region. Beijing will watch any growing tensions between Moscow and Nur-Sultan very carefully, or consider filling a vacuum if Russia cedes regional hegemony. Chinese authorities may be quietly considering the costs and benefits of constructing new Central Asia-to-China oil and gas pipelines.

China is considering filling its strategic petroleum reserves with Russian crude oil

China is also lapping up barrels of cheap Russian oil: Bloomberg reported that the Chinese government is directly negotiating with its Russian counterpart to replenish its strategic crude stockpile. The sale would conflict with the goals of the U.S., which is moving to gradually reduce Russian oil revenues by imposing price caps on Russian oil via secondary sanctions, according to the New YorkTimes.

While Beijing’s action will trouble Washington and Brussels, it could have agreed to the purchase weeks or even months ago. As Reid Standish and other commentators noted, Beijing’s action is neither unexpected nor an act of charity.

Chinese cyberspies reportedly seek Russian defense tech

Citing cybersecurity firm Check Point, the New York Times reported that Chinese security services targeted Russian technology in airborne satellite communications, radar, and electronic warfare.

Chinese cyberspies are suspected to have previously attempted to obtain ultra-sensitive data on Russian submarines. In 2020, the Russian counterintelligence service explicitly blamed Chinese intelligence services for attempting to recruit two human sources in the Russian submarine complex.

People’s Daily amplifies Putin’s biolab accusation as Chinese corporates continue to largely comply with sanctions

In a Chinese-language article, the People’s Daily repeated Vladimir Putin’s false claims that the U.S. and Ukraine violated the Biological Weapons Convention.

As is often the case in Sino-Russia relations, Beijing may be offering Moscow some symbolic concessions, such as pushing the Kremlin’s disinformation in place of more substantive measures like economic support. Beijing is (self-interestedly) maintaining general compliance with sanctions, with Alibaba announcing this week that it has laid off 40% of its joint venture with Russian partner Mail.ru since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Chinese exports of telecommunications data plummeted 98% from February to March, while shipments of laptops fell 40% over the same time period, according to U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.

China’s muted response to NATO expansion

Chinese foreign policy spokesperson and wolf warrior extraordinaire Zhào Lìjiān 赵立坚 repeated Kremlin talking points while responding to a reporter’s question about Finland’s accession to NATO:

On the other hand, Zhao noted that “China and Finland enjoy very friendly relations. Finland’s application to join NATO will naturally add new factors to the bilateral relations.”

As noted in last week’s column, neither Russia nor China appear likely to substantively oppose Finland or Sweden’s accession to NATO. Hungary and Turkey are blocking the Scandinavian NATO bids, at least for now, but these measures will very likely slow expansion rather than stop it.

Learning from Ukraine conflict, info security agency pushes ahead on JADC2


TECHNET CYBER 2022: For the Pentagon’s information security agency, the Ukraine conflict has only emphasized the need to bake in resilient information-sharing as it lays the foundations of the military’s sprawling Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) initiative.

Caroline Bean, acting director for Defense Information Systems Agency’s joint enterprise services directorate, told the AFCEA TechNet Cyber 2022 conference that the agency wants to deliver enterprise services with the “foundation of JADC2.” The agency is starting to think of challenges from the beginning, like denied and disconnected low bandwidth situations, instead of that being an afterthought.

“We’re thinking of it from the beginning because we need to do things differently…The situation in Ukraine has made this more evident that we need to do the information sharing and we need to… mobilize our enterprise services,” Bean said. “That’s really a lot of what we’re looking at, especially as we’re evolving our enterprise service capabilities.”

A world grain shortage puts tens of millions at risk

In 2001 olena nazarenko’s father started farming in Lukashivka, a small village about 100km north of Kyiv, with three cows and a horse called Rosa (”Dew” in Ukrainian). In 2020 Mrs Nazarenko and her husband Andriy inherited the 400-hectare (1,000-acre) farm, now named Rosa after that founding horse. Early this year they took out a substantial loan to cover fertiliser for the coming spring-wheat crop.

On March 9th, well before they had planted any, Russian troops occupied the village and the couple fled. On March 31st, when the invaders had turned tail, they returned. It was a harsh homecoming. The main farm building was shelled out. Three tractors had been vandalised and their diesel drained. Of their 117 cows, 42 were dead and the rest were roaming fields littered with debris, mines, mortar shells, unexploded cluster bombs and burnt-out trucks. Fifty tonnes of wheat, sunflower seed and rye had been destroyed, costing them tens of thousands of dollars. “We have no money left,” says Mrs Nazarenko. “We have nothing to pay salaries and are struggling to pay interest on the loan.”

Biden has the means to reduce inflation. Why isn’t he acting?

Fareed Zakaria

President Biden says that combating inflation is his “top domestic priority.” But he certainly isn’t acting that way. He has in plain sight several measures that would reduce inflation significantly, and yet appears hesitant to take them. As many distinguished economists have noted, the repeal of most or all of Donald Trump’s tariffs would be the single most effective way of reducing inflation in the near future.

As a reminder, a tariff is a tax on goods paid by the U.S. consumer who buys those goods. It is by definition inflationary; it raises the price of a good such as an imported car. But it causes even more inflation than that, because it raises the price of the domestically made equivalent goods as well. If a Mazda sells for more, then Ford and General Motors also tend to raise prices on their cars.

In March, the Peterson Institute for International Economics produced a study estimating that reversing most of the Trump tariffs would reduce inflation by 1.3 percentage points. Lawrence H. Summers, a Post contributing columnist who has been prescient on many things in this economic crisis, endorsed that study, concurring that trade barrier reduction was the single biggest microeconomic measure “by far” that could be taken to alleviate inflation in the near term.

Stryker-mounted high-energy laser can defeat multiple mortars, large drones


Raytheon Intelligence & Space is producing 50kW-class high-energy laser systems that can track and defeat enemy drones, mortar rounds, and other dangerous targets right out of the sky. The directed energy weapon system mounted on a U.S. Army Stryker combat vehicle was recently successfully tested at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

During the four weeks of continuous live-fire tests, the team led by Raytheon Intelligence & Space and Kord defeated multiple 60 mm mortar rounds with the directed energy weapon system. The high-energy laser acquired, tracked, targeted, and defeated multiple 60 mm mortars and successfully accomplished multiple tests simulating real-world scenarios.

The 50kW-class high energy laser weapon is a part of the U.S. Army’s Directed Energy Maneuver-Short Range Air Defense, or DE M-SHORAD. Continuing to put the DE M-SHORAD system to the test, the recent operational assessment also included defeating several small, medium, and large drones.

Ukraine invasion ‘reinforcing’ Army’s work on secure networks, comms


PHILADELPHIA: The Russian invasion of Ukraine has underscored the importance of communications, logistics and “baked-in” cybersecurity, reinforcing the concepts the Army is pushing forward with its network capability set development, according to service officials.

Speaking to reporters at the sidelines of an Army Technical Exchange Meeting, Maj. Gen. Rob Collins, the service’s program executive officer for command, control, communications-tactical (PEO C3T) said Tuesday the invasion has brought the Army “back to the basic blocking and tackling of transmission security [and] communications security.”

“And also when you have a living and breathing threat, you need to think about the things such as a contested and congested environment,” Collins said. “And that’s just not something in the small scale… It is reinforcing some of the concepts that we’re pushing forward within the capability set strategy.”

Understanding the Importance of Bangladesh in the Bay of Bengal and the Indo-Pacific

Tariq A. Karim

Our planet Earth was so named by human beings who are essentially terrestrial creatures. Their vision was necessarily nestled in their viewing their planet from wherever they inhabited it, their perspective shaped by their habitat on terra firma.

But let us imagine how a visitor from outer space, from another galaxy, voyaging across space in search of new planets, would react on discovering our planet for the first time. In sharp contrast to other planets, our visitor would see a planet that is 71% covered with oceanic waters, with continental land masses as floating islands on these oceanic expanses. All the oceans would appear interconnected. Such a visitor, one may well imagine, might name this planet of ours as “Oceana.”

Zooming in from outer space on our oceanic planet, our intergalactic visitor would see the vast Pacific Ocean on the east, the Atlantic Ocean on the west, the Antarctic Ocean on the south, and the Indian Ocean in the center of this oceanic geosphere. Quite appropriately, therefore, geographers on Earth refer to the Indian Ocean as the great “great middle bay.” Zooming in more, our intergalactic visitor would see the Bay of Bengal, the largest bay in the world with an expanse of over 2.1 million square kilometers, as the “lesser middle bay” in this great middle bay. Now, tempted to zoom in farther on this triangular Bay of Bengal, our visitor from outer space would view Bangladesh, at the apex of the inverted funnel-shaped water body, as being at the epicenter of this oceanic planet.

Japan steps up its Africa engagement

Japan’s economic diplomacy in Africa pursues both economic and geopolitical objectives. Japan aims to catch up with other Asian and Western actors, moving from a focus on official development assistance to a private investment-based approach. It is also in competition with China, aiming to provide an alternative to the Belt and Road Initiative in Africa.

Tokyo’s support for private business was outlined by Foreign Minister Hayashi as the first of three priorities for the upcoming TICAD in July, and the second Japan–Africa Public–Private Economic Forum has just been held in Nairobi. Beyond this, Japan’s engagement with the African continent is likely to be strengthened in a more political and strategic way.

Japan is concerned that the pandemic will weaken African economies and worsen their dependence on Chinese aid and investment. Tokyo plans to help Africa’s recovery from COVID-19 by preventing sovereign and private debt defaults and building up the fiscal autonomy of African nations. Japan’s policy also promotes international norms of transparency and sustainability in infrastructure financing.

A question of balance: India and Europe after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Frédéric Grare

European officials are frustrated at India’s apparent fence-sitting over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Yet, for Indian policymakers, maintaining a workable relationship with Russia is central to counterbalancing Chinese hegemony in their shared neighbourhood.

India also depends significantly on Russia for arms supplies, including advanced systems that help it keep pace with China.
Despite this, India has for some time been slowly decoupling from Russia and strengthening its relations with the West, especially the US.

Europeans should be aware of how India defines its own strategic positioning, and support India where possible as they negotiate the tricky issues relating to the Indo-Pacific region.

Europe's "Gas Rush" in Africa: Risks and Opportunities (for Both)

Rafiq Raji

Western nations are indeed imposing economic and political sanctions on Russia after it invaded Ukraine in late February 2022. Italy is potentially among the hardest hit as it imports about 29 billion cubic metres (bcm) of natural gas from Moscow every year —a figure second only to Germany which accounts for over 40% of its gas demands. Replacing Russia as its main gas supplier will be no mean feat.

Algeria, Egypt, and beyond

In April 2022, Italian Prime Minister, Mario Draghi, signed an agreement with Abdelmadjid Tebboune, Algeria’s President to buy more natural gas.

Sonatrach, the Algerian state-owned oil firm, which already sells about 21 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas to Italy every year, will supply an additional 9 bcm of gas to Eni, Italy’s main energy company, from as early as September 2022.

Myanmar - China´s west coast dream

John Nielsen

Myanmar is blessed as well as cursed by its geography. Sandwiched between Asia’s heavyweights, China and India, it is potentially in a favorable position for trade and economic relations with both countries. However, trade and economic relations are secondary to China’s geopolitical and security interests in Myanmar. China´s main objective in Myanmar is to gain access to the Indian Ocean through Myanmar and gain control over a dual-use deep-sea port in Kyauk Phyu on Myanmar´s west coast.

Another priority for China involves managing the stability of the two countries´ 2,000 km shared border. The porous border region has for decades played host to armed conflicts and is also the center of a billion- dollar drugs production and trafficking network. China regards Myanmar as forming part of its neighborhood, an extension of its national interests, and is extremely sensitive to any western engagement along its borders.

The Unprofessional Russian Soldier

Joris Van Bladel

Stuck in the middle between past and future, the Russian army struggles with a manpower paradox as it is simultaneously too big and too small. It is too big to train appropriately, emphasizing materiel above human capital, firepower above manpower, and mass above precision. Yet it is too small to match the hubris that goes with Russia’s great power obsession. As a result, the Russian army is still a force in the making, showing varying levels of combat readiness. This is a surprise since the Russian military has been implementing systemic reform and comprehensive modernization programmes for at least fifteen years. It has organized impressive strategic exercises and numerous snap drills, and it has conducted military operations abroad, accumulating combat experience.

Since the era of perestroika, the Russian high command has discussed recruiting contract soldiers (kontraktniki) instead of conscripts (prizivniki) to modernize their forces. Despite the intention to create an entirely professional army, Russia still has a force-in-being, an organization in transition between a mass army and an all-volunteer force. In 2022, still a quarter of their total manpower is conscripted. Concretely, the Russian military counts approximately 220,000 conscripts and 430,000 contract soldiers in the ranks. However, these conscripts are not evenly distributed over the different units: some units are fully professionalized while others count more than 50 percent conscripts. Moreover, it is reported that some units are fully manned, while in others about 35 percent of the posts are unoccupied.