26 May 2022

Exclusive: Russia's Air War in Ukraine is a Total Failure, New Data Show


Russia has fired more missiles in the Ukraine war than have been fired by any country in any other conflict since World War II—a record, according to air-warfare experts and new data obtained exclusively by Newsweek, that has failed to pay off for Moscow.

"Just think of this terrible figure: 2,154 Russian missiles hit our cities and communities in a little over two months," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said last week. "The Russian bombing of Ukraine does not cease any day or night."

But the bombing campaign has done little to help win Putin's war, exposing key lessons about the future of warfare.

Watch This Switchblade Suicide Drone Attack A Russian Tank In Ukraine


Ukrainian Special Operations Forces have released a video of what is reported to be the U.S.-supplied AeroVironment Switchblade miniature loitering munition striking a Russian T-72B3 main battle tank. Which Switchblade was used to carry out the attack is unclear, and both the status of the tank and the crew currently remains unknown.

In the video, footage recorded by the Switchblade's handheld control unit shows the Russian tank stopped at an undisclosed location in the middle of a field. As the Switchblade nears at dash speed, the tank’s crew comes into view sitting atop the T-72 and then the video cuts off. It is at this point that Switchblade often loses its line-of-sight control and the special autopilot takes over to complete its terminal run. You can read more about how the system works in this previous feature of ours.

Why Finland Joining NATO Is More Shocking Than Anyone Realizes


The fact that Finland and Sweden are about to join NATO is even more remarkable than many media accounts portray. Not only have both countries maintained a studied neutrality for many decades, they—especially Finland—have done so under the thumb of pressure from Moscow.

During the Cold War, the term Finlandization was coined to describe a nominally independent country whose foreign (and, to some extent, domestic) policies were dictated by a neighboring great power.

In the 1970s, when West Germany led the way in pursuing friendly relations with the Soviet Union, some U.S. officials feared that Moscow would exploit the overtures and “Finlandize” our front-line ally in the East-West standoff. Just a few months ago, when Vladimir Putin was surrounding Ukraine with military forces, some suggested Finlandization as a way to stave off an invasion.

Battle for the Donbas: Russia Moves to Encircle Key Eastern Cities

Mark Episkopos

Russian forces have intensified their efforts to encircle a large pocket of Ukrainian troops in the Donbas region.

Ukrainian officials first reported in late April that the Russian military had captured over 80 percent of the country’s Luhansk region, with Russian and Russian-aligned separatist forces pushing pro-government troops out of the settlements of Kreminna, Rubezhne, Svitlodarsk, and Myronivsky. According to unconfirmed Russian reports, the strategically positioned town of Popasna has fallen under Russian control. Pro-Russian separatist leaders say that they will soon break into the city of Lyman, which lies between Sloviansk and Kreminna.

The advances of the past week have put Russian forces within striking distance of Severodonetsk, one of the last major cities in Luhansk to remain in Ukrainian hands.

“The situation here is difficult because the Russian army has now thrown all [its] forces at capturing the Luhansk region," Serhiy Haidai, governor of Luhansk, said on Ukrainian television.

How to Make Biden’s Free World Strategy Work

Hal Brands

Crises illuminate the contours of world affairs, and the war in Ukraine has had a clarifying effect on the Biden administration’s approach to the world. Since taking office, U.S. President Joe Biden has argued that the struggle between democracy and autocracy is the defining clash of our time, even as critics and some members of his administration haven’t always agreed. For Biden, at least, the Russian invasion and the world’s response to it has proved that he was right all along.

In his State of Union address in early March, Biden described the war in Ukraine as a battle between freedom and tyranny. In Warsaw a few weeks later, in another speech replete with Cold War echoes, the president announced that Washington would lead the free world to victory in a great struggle “between democracy and autocracy, between liberty and repression, between a rules-based order and one governed by brute force.”

Biden has good reason to be hitting these themes hard. The Russian invasion has shown how deeply the struggle to shape global order is rooted in opposing conceptions of domestic order. It has clarified and intensified the struggle between advanced democracies and Eurasian autocracies. And it has given Biden’s foreign policy, which seemed headed for frustration if not outright failure just a few months ago, a new lease on life. Yet critics of the democracy-autocracy thesis aren’t wrong to argue that the world isn’t quite so simple. Winning this contest of systems will require crafting a strategy that takes these complexities into account.

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.



The director-general of Australia’s Secret Intelligence Service, Paul Symon, delivered a rare public address at the Lowy Institute this week to mark the service’s 70th birthday. His address was part of a commendable effort by Australia’s intelligence chiefs to build public knowledge of their activities. But it also highlighted the need for more democratic oversight of our increasingly active intelligence community.

Symon’s speech underscored how much is changing in the world of intelligence – but also that much remains the same. He outlined out how the oldest form of spying – human intelligence – is challenged by a “fundamentally digital era where our covert activities are increasingly discoverable. In this technological sandbox, authoritarian regimes are having a heyday … harnessing the booming IT economy to develop myriad forms of surveillance.”

But Symon made headlines for suggesting that, nevertheless, Xi Jinping’s unbounded rule was creating more discontent and, hence, more espionage opportunities because “officials, individuals unhappy with the trajectory of closed societies are … interested in a relationship”.

No Magic Bullet: The Difficulties of Reforming Big Tech

Matt Perault

In tech policy, everything comes with a cost. If you remove more content, you’ll get accused of censorship. If you reverse course and allow more posts to stay up, you’ll get criticized for turning a blind eye to harmful speech. If you tighten privacy controls to try to protect against data misuse, you’re accused of creating barriers that stand in the way of fair competition. If you loosen them, you increase the risk of data misuse or a security breach.

Developing a sensible policy agenda for reforming the tech sector isn’t about finding a cost-free magic bullet; rather, it’s about identifying reform proposals with benefits that outweigh costs and then getting comfortable with those costs. A pragmatic approach to any tech policy proposal requires being realistic and transparent about its downsides.

New legislation in Europe carves out a bold new path in tech policy, but it creates the impression this path is cost-free. It’s not.

India and the Emerging Dynamics of the Indo-Pacific

Dr. Stuti Banerjee 

India’s role in the Indo-Pacific is considered crucial by the countries of the region. The Indo-Pacific strategies of the European Union, France, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States all emphasis on the need to engage with India in ensuring the development of a peaceful Indo-Pacific. Correspondingly, the importance of the Indo-Pacific region in India’s policy thinking cannot be understated, with its foreign policy choices impacting its security environment.

India’s approach to the Indo-Pacific is guided by the Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) vision and the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI). SAGAR is India’s vision to work with partners to ensure a safe, secure and stable Indian Ocean Region. India seeks to deepen economic and security cooperation with its maritime neighbours and assist in building their maritime security capabilities by cooperating in information/intelligence sharing, coastal surveillance, building of infrastructure and strengthening capabilities. The main objective of the IPOI is to ensure the safety, security, and stability of the maritime domain and to do that, seven pillars have been laid out[i]. They allow India to engage with its Indo-Pacific partners either bilaterally, or on plurilateral and multilateral platforms, in a multitude of spheres including maritime security, maritime resource management, and development of blue economy, maritime connectivity, disaster management and capacity building. Both initiatives are important as the seamless connectivity in the maritime domain means that instabilities anywhere would impact on India’s maritime security too. This thought was articulated by External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar when he stated that, “This remains a maritime century, and the tides of the Indo-Pacific region will certainly help shape its future. And India along with its partner nations will make a collective effort to keep the oceans peaceful, open and secure, and, at the same time, contributes to conserve its resources and keep it clean.”[ii]

Immaterial Competition: Rethinking the Roles of Economics and Technology in the US-China Rivalry

Arthur Tellis

In partnership with the Andrew W. Marshall Foundation, Hudson Institute hosted Arthur Tellis as the inaugural 2021 Andrew W. Marshall Scholar. The Andrew Marshall Scholar program awards a one-year research grant dedicated to promoting innovative thinking in the field of national security.

The US-China rivalry is likely to be the fulcrum around which international affairs are structured in the twenty-first century, akin to the Cold War from 1947 to 1991. This rivalry, like its predecessor, emerges from divergent geopolitical interests and imperatives. While the Chinese Communist Party’s aims are many, various, and subject to change, they include its continued control of the Chinese State; economic and technological modernization and leadership; internal order; complete union with Taiwan on Beijing’s terms; certain territorial concessions from its neighbors; and the disestablishment of security arrangements across the Indo-Pacific that it views as threatening and trammeling. The latter three are in direct conflict with US interests and imperatives in the Indo-Pacific: prohibiting China’s unilateral modification of the status quo vis-à-vis Taiwan; preserving the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its allies and partners; and maintaining its military partnerships and presence in the region. These antithetical interests animate a larger struggle for hegemony in the Indo-Pacific and serve as the terms on which this contest will be decided.

What is Taiwan’s porcupine defence strategy?

The threat of Chinese invasion has loomed over Taiwan for more than 70 years—so long that many Taiwanese have grown to assume it will never happen. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine shattered that complacency. Taiwan suddenly has a live example of a large state invading a smaller neighbour while claiming that it is not a real country—the same claim China makes about Taiwan. The disturbing parallel has sparked a public debate over whether Taiwan is prepared to fend off an invasion. One recurring topic is the “porcupine” method of defence that American and Taiwanese strategists have pushed Taiwan’s armed forces to adopt. What does it mean to be a porcupine, and how might it help deter Chinese aggression?

Taiwan and China have been in conflict since 1949, when China’s Nationalist Party, known as the Kuomintang (KMT), lost a civil war and withdrew to the island of Taiwan. Both the Communist Party, which took over mainland China, and the KMT at first claimed that they ruled all of China, including Taiwan and its surrounding islands. In the 1980s Taiwan democratised, ending nearly four decades of martial law under the Kuomintang and allowing suppressed Taiwanese identity and history to re-emerge. Since then most people in Taiwan have dropped the idea of “retaking China”—but China’s Communist Party remains bent on conquering Taiwan. China’s president, Xi Jinping, refuses to rule out force in his pursuit of the island, and has overseen rapid military reform and expansion since he came to power ten years ago.

And the World Should Prepare for Instability in Russia

Anders Åslund

Russian President Vladimir Putin could hardly have used his May 9 Victory Day address, an annual holiday marking the Nazis’ surrender to the Soviets, to declare victory in his military campaign against Ukraine. Neither did he use the occasion to declare a general mobilization, as some analysts had predicted. Instead, speaking from a podium in Moscow's Red Square, Putin sounded like a sore loser, whining that NATO’s threats had “forced” him to act preemptively in the Donbas.

Three months after launching his ill-conceived invasion of Ukraine, it seems increasingly likely that Putin’s bid to liberate the Donbas from Kyiv will be remembered as one of the most spectacular failures in contemporary military history. Russian troops lost the battle for Kyiv within the first month of the conflict and are now struggling to make any headway in eastern Ukraine. Meanwhile, they continue to suffer devastating losses: by May 16, according to Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense, Ukrainian forces had killed more than 28,000 Russian soldiers. The question now is whether the national humiliation Russia faces more closely resembles the 1905 Russo-Japanese war, which marked the beginning of the end of the Tsarist era, or Josef Stalin’s failed attempt to seize Finland in the Winter War of 1939-1940.

Russia’s Military Was Doomed by Putin’s Culture of Militarism

Alexander Clarkson 

At least once at every conference about an international security crisis, in the midst of debate, a participant will suddenly lean back and quote Carl von Clausewitz in a booming voice to underscore a tenuous point. Sometimes, in order to demonstrate that they are not just drawing on conventional wisdom about politics and war, the Clausewitz citation might be followed up by an observation borrowed from Henri Jomini. Every once in a while, there might even be a Sun Tzu quip thrown in for good measure.

When it comes to analysis of what the Russo-Ukrainian war tells us about the future of conflict, we have seen the full deployment of quotes from all three. When trying to define the potential trajectory of the struggle between Ukraine and Russia, many analysts have reached back to Clausewitzian concepts focusing on how strategic goals generated by political pressures should define military approaches. Looking at the fighting on a tactical level, the debates have also reflected the influence of Jomini’s vision of warfare, with its emphasis on a set of specific rules of battle whose purpose is to ensure that an army can use maneuver to concentrate its strength on an enemy’s key point of weakness. Poking through all this speculation are also concepts around the Ukrainian military’s use of indirect approaches and information war that draw on the thinking of Sun Tzu, with its perspectives on how strategic goals can be achieved through minimal use of force.

The Quad Needs More Than Bilateral Agreements to Achieve Its Space Goals


Last year, the Quad—consisting of the United States, Japan, India, and Australia—committed to convene a working group on space issues to foster efficient satellite data exchanges and manage space-related risks. The working group was also charged to “consult on norms, guidelines, principles, and rules for ensuring the long-term sustainability of the outer space environment.” Bilateral agreements between Quad members demonstrate that they are beginning to live up to their pledge, but the Quad must do more to achieve its lofty goals. These partnerships build trust and confidence among participants but do not go far enough in characterizing principles or demonstrating norms that safeguard the long-term sustainability of space.


Use the interactive dial below to explore recent space-related bilateral agreements among the Quad. Click on two Quad members to display their notable agreements and joint activities. Broad themes of the partnerships are indicated by the highlighted icons. Deselect a member by clicking on the country name.

Not Sun Tzu or Confucius, Xi Jinping & elite Chinese politicians are reading this philosopher


In the past weeks, visuals of police and health workers in Shanghai forcing themselves into people’s homes and spraying massive quantities of disinfectant captured headlines worldwide. But what justifies China’s authority over people’s personal space under Xi Jinping? Han Fei, an ancient Chinese political philosopher, may have some answers to offer.

Confucius and Sun Tzu are probably the most well-known Chinese political philosophers outside China. But the philosopher who has grown very popular lately among elite Chinese politicians is Han Fei. Sometimes referred to as China’s Machiavelli, Han Fei—of Korean origin—was a prince of the ruling family of Han and is known to have lived during the Warring States period.

The books that leaders read impact their governance style—leaving a long shadow. And Xi Jinping regularly quotes from Han Fei.

Ukraine Needs Long-Range Precision Fires. Will America Deliver?

Kris Osborn

As eastern Ukraine’s open plains become mired in heavy fighting between the Russian military and Armed Forces of Ukraine, Kyiv’s forces are requesting the ability to target and kill with precision from long distances. And the U.S. Department of Defense is on the case.

“We’re doing the best we can to meet their -- their capabilities in as near real-time as we can,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters, according to a transcript. And we keep trying to make those capabilities match what’s going on on the ground. And what's going on on the ground right now is a very artillery heavy, long-range fire heavy fighting in the Donbas.”

Not surprisingly, the Pentagon is working intensely to supply Ukraine’s military with what it needs to fight Russia. Several months ago, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy told CNN that he wanted Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), among other things, which would allow his forces to attack and destroy Russian missile and rocket launchers before they can bombard Ukraine’s cities. Many of Russia’s known rocket systems—which continue to kill civilians, wreak havoc, and decimate entire communities—operate with mobile launchers and could be tough to pinpoint and attack. Most of all, the launchers are simply too far away to be easily destroyed; many of Russia’s rockets travel several hundreds of miles before striking their targets.

Learning and working in the digital age: Advancing opportunities and identifying the risks

Annelies Goger, Allyson Parco, and Emiliana Vegas

The rapid expansion of new technologies into every sector has co­ntributed to the proliferation of alternative models of education, learning, and skill signaling in global labor markets. From digital badges to bootcamps to learning and employment records (LERs), a wide range of public, private, and nonprofit initiatives and platforms have emerged to address ongoing demand for education and skills among employers and workers alike. Within the next five years, 50 percent of all employees will need reskilling and 40 percent of core skills are expected to change (World Economic Forum, 2020).

Beyond simply moving existing courses and curricula into an online environment, the latest wave of educational innovation represents a more fundamental shift in how education and skills data are gathered, stored, taught, verified, accessed, and signaled in the labor market (Figure 1). Some observers refer to this shift as “Education 3.0,” (Borden, 2015) and others refer to it as “The Internet of Education” (Learning Economy Foundation, 2020).

Could Ukraine Actually Win Its War Against Russia?

Kris Osborn

When Russian convoys, armored vehicles, and fighter jets began entering Ukraine in late February, much of the world expected a Russian victory in days or weeks. Yet, despite all of Russia’s many advantages, this has not been the case. The war continues; Ukraine still stands.

Indeed, despite surprising Russian setbacks, combat losses, logistical and supply problems, and a serious morale crisis, many believed that Russia’s numerical superior military footprint and firepower would ultimately prevail. However, after months of fighting, the besieged city of Kharkiv is largely in Ukrainian hands, Ukrainian fighters have pushed the Russians out of multiple occupied territories and all the way back to the Russian border, and Russian fighter jets still cannot achieve air superiority.

On top of this, while the Russians have reportedly learned from their logistical and tactical mistakes during their failed campaign in northern Ukraine, they are not performing much better in their new campaign in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas. In fact, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby has stated that while the Russians are making some gains in the area, they are uneven, challenged, transient, and offset by sizable Ukrainian gains as well. Essentially, Russia is not quickly prevailing in its eastern Donbas campaign, and there are widespread reports that U.S. and NATO-supplied artillery are making an enormous difference.

Digital transformation is a key to maintaining US overmatch against China, Russia


After two decades of counterterrorism warfare, the US is playing catchup as it refocuses on near-peer adversaries. China and Russia have been investing and modernizing to erode US overmatch, and their increasing aggression—on vivid display now as Russia invades Ukraine—has made acceleration of our defense modernization a national security imperative.

The defense enterprise is responding. The recent overhaul of defense acquisition is now being followed by a reform commission on Defense Department’s resource management process: the Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution (PPBE) Commission. These process reforms are valuable steps removing obstacles, but they don’t accelerate modernization by themselves.

To stay ahead of our adversaries, DoD must use these more flexible processes to adopt innovative business practices like digital transformation and as-a-service purchasing of capability — valuable strategies that must be a priority for the PPBE Commission and that DoD itself must incentivize when working with industry.

Long Shadows: Deterrence in a Multipolar Nuclear Age

Stacie Pettyjohn and Jennie Matuschak

This report examines the nuclear policies and postures of the United States and its three primary nuclear adversaries: China, Russia, and North Korea. It concludes that the world is entering a multipolar nuclear era, which is unprecedented, and far more complex and challenging than the Cold War. The current nuclear order has been gradually shifting over the past decade. Russia remains the United States’ only nuclear peer, but the arms control regime that constrained the superpowers’ nuclear arsenals is disintegrating. Relations between Washington and Moscow have worsened since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s nuclear saber-rattling. China’s nuclear arsenal is growing in size and sophistication, potentially enabling Beijing to launch conventional attacks behind its nuclear shield. This development will shape both competition among Beijing, Washington, and Moscow and potential future military confrontations. Similarly, North Korea has a small but expanding number of deployed nuclear weapons and is improving its missile technology. In this new nuclear environment, the United States must deter two nuclear-armed great powers as well as a regional nuclear power from launching conventional and nuclear attacks on itself and its allies. As the number of nuclear-armed states grow, interactions become more complex and the risks of miscalculation and misperception increase. The ramifications of this new reality are not well understood, aside from the implication that there is a growing risk that nuclear weapons might be used. The study’s findings have five primary implications for American policy and nuclear posture. To improve strategic stability and enhance deterrence, the United States should take several courses of action.

First, President Joe Biden’s administration should maintain current U.S. declaratory policy and implement existing modernization plans for the U.S. triad and nuclear infrastructure. This is not to suggest that the United States should give up its long-term goal of reducing the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. national strategy. But American leaders must be clear-eyed about the current security environment and aware of the potential repercussions of suddenly changing its nuclear policy and posture in a very dynamic and increasingly dangerous nuclear environment.

Second, the Department of Defense (DoD) should renew its focus on nuclear deterrence as a part of its strategy of integrated deterrence. For several decades, the DoD has focused on deterring conventional or gray zone attacks, but the nuclear shadow falls over all forms of competition and conflict with Russia, China, and North Korea. The Pentagon needs to truly integrate its planning across all levels of conflict and recognize that nuclear considerations shape actions across the entire spectrum.

Third, the United States should take steps to strengthen deterrence and crisis stability against North Korea.

Fourth, the DoD must study escalation risks across a range of conventional and conflict scenarios with China, Russia, and North Korea to understand likely flashpoints and red lines.
Fifth, the United States should pursue strategic dialogues with China and Russia and establish communication links and crisis mechanisms to avoid misperception and inadvertent escalation.

U.S. Nuclear Profile

The United States maintains a large but aging inventory of nuclear delivery systems across the air, land, and undersea domains. For three decades, the United States has deferred modernizing its nuclear weapons or acquiring new delivery systems, and now many of these systems are reaching the end of their planned service lives. As a consequence, the entire triad and nuclear command, control, and communications (NC3) system simultaneously need to be recapitalized.

Nuclear Modernization From 1955–20351

This infographic depicts major U.S. nuclear weapons programs and the three-decade gap in which no major nuclear weapons modernization occurred. It omits efforts to modernize subcomponents of U.S. nuclear weapons (e.g., W76 super-fuze or Minuteman III guidance system) that have improved existing weapons’ performance.

Russian Nuclear Profile

In addition to modernizing traditional nuclear weapons, Putin has publicly highlighted the development of a range of “novel” nuclear delivery systems, including hypersonic weapons, a nuclear-powered cruise missile (Burevestnik), and a nuclear-powered unmanned underwater vehicle (Poseidon).2 Of these, Russia has made the most progress in hypersonics. The Kinzhal air-launched ballistic missile has been deployed since 2018 on MiG-31Ks, while the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) was first deployed in 2019 and two SS-19 (UR-100) regiments are now equipped with it.3 Lagging only slightly behind is the Tsirkon (3M-22, SS-N-33) antiship hypersonic cruise missile intended for ships and submarines, which was successfully tested in 2020 and 2021 and is expected to enter production in 2022. Putin has tied the development of these novel nuclear weapons to the United States’ withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002 and subsequent development of missile defenses.

Russia’s Novel Nuclear Delivery System Development, 1980–20254

For decades, Russia has sought to develop novel nuclear weapons delivery platforms that can defeat American missile defenses, but this effort only made significant progress in the last decade or so.

Chinese Nuclear Profile

Because uncertainty is so great, it is worth considering a range of possible Chinese nuclear futures. Using different starting assumptions, we developed several different cases that varied the starting size of China’s nuclear stockpile and its rate of growth to illustrate the range of potential outcomes.5 These cases should be seen as sketches that lay out the hypothetical contours and illuminate the possible high and low bounds of future Chinese nuclear weapons stockpiles.

For each of these three cases, we consider two different starting conditions—one in which China has the Defense Department’s 2020 estimate of warheads in the low 200s, and the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists’ 2021 estimate of 350 warheads.6 In the lowest case, starting with 220 weapons, China more than doubles its nuclear stockpile to 490 weapons by 2030, and in the high-end case, it reaches 1,120 weapons by 2030. With a 2021 stockpile of 350 warheads, China could have 620 weapons in the low-end case by 2030 and a high-end projection of 1,250 warheads. This analysis suggests that the starting stockpile matters less than Chinese nuclear strategy and its overall international ambitions.

Chinese Nuclear Arsenal Projections 2021–2030

This graph shows projections of Chinese nuclear arsenal size, starting from different 2021 estimates and three different growth rates. These are based on our estimates and the cases developed for this paper.

North Korean Nuclear Profile

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s goals and plans for North Korea’s nuclear program have been remarkably consistent and transparent. At the Eighth Workers Congress in 2020, Kim laid out a series of next steps for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) nuclear program, and he has since realized most of these milestones.7 Nevertheless, there is more uncertainty about North Korea’s current nuclear capabilities and its ability to produce fissile material, so we outline four potential cases that consider four plausible growth rates.

In the lowest case, we assume that Pyongyang can only produce enough fissile material for two additional warheads a year. This may be due to setbacks in its nuclear production capacity or the lack of resources to devote to the nuclear weapons program, perhaps caused by harsher international sanctions. In the second case, we take renowned North Korean nuclear expert Sigfried Hecker’s projection that Pyongyang can produce enough fissile material for six warheads a year.8 The third case uses the 2017 Defense Intelligence Agency estimate that North Korea could produce 12 warheads a year, while the fourth case assumes a very high rate of production of 18 warheads a year.9 This high-end case supposes that Pyongyang has a much larger secret nuclear production program, that it has mastered this process, and that its production does not experience significant interruptions.

We present these four cases using two different starting positions—40 nuclear warheads, which is the low-end Bulletin of Atomic Scientists estimate, and 50 warheads as a high-end estimate. In the most pessimistic case where North Korea starts with 40 nuclear weapons and can only add two per year, it would have 58 warheads by 2030. This 2030 estimate increases to 94 if Pyongyang can produce six weapons a year, and 148 if it can produce 12 a year.

North Korean Nuclear Arsenal Size Projections 2021–2030

This graph shows projections of North Korea's nuclear arsenal size, starting form different 2021 estimates and four different growth rates. These are based on our estimates and the cases developed for this paper.

Country Comparison

Comparing the nuclear stockpiles of the four countries in 2021 leads to one stark conclusion: Russia and the United States are in a different class than China and North Korea. The U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals are roughly 10 times the size of China’s modest stockpile and 100 times the size of North Korea’s embryonic stores.
American, Russian, Chinese, and North Korean Nuclear Warheads in 2021 10

This graph depicts the estimated number of nuclear warheads that the United States, Russia, China, and North Korea have in 2021. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists estimates that North Korea could have enough fissile material to produce 40 to 50 simple warheads. This chart depicts 40.

One snapshot, however, does not capture the overarching trends. When comparing projections for warhead stockpiles from 2021 until 2030, it is apparent that, even with no further deployments on their parts, the United States and Russia remain head and shoulders above a growing China and North Korea. Only in the medium and high cases is China approaching the number of deployed

U.S. and Russian warheads, but both Washington and Moscow will likely retain their large reserve stockpiles that they could actively deploy if not constrained by a new arms control deal after the New START treaty expires in 2026. At the same time, both China and North Korea are significantly expanding their current nuclear capacity. In the medium or high cases, China could deploy a nuclear force that is 50 to 70 percent of the size of the current deployed nuclear arsenal of the United States. Nevertheless, if China is on track to have around 1,000 nuclear warheads and significantly improved delivery systems by 2030, it has reached a point where it needs to become a larger factor in U.S. strategic planning. While the DPRK’s inventory is small compared to what the three superpowers will likely have in 2030, it is likely large enough to deter attacks and to be employed as a coercive tool, if not for warfighting.

For the first time, the United States faces two nuclear-armed great powers as well as a nuclear-armed regional adversary that it seeks to deter from attacking not only the U.S. homeland, but also its allies. Although the fundamental tenets of deterrence and tools like arms control remain unchanged, the current and future situation is more complex and challenging than the Cold War. Multiple nuclear powers complicate the calculus of how much and what is needed to deter, increase the risk of miscommunication and misperception, and reduce the likelihood of multilateral cooperation.
American, Russian, Chinese, and North Korean Nuclear Warhead Stockpile Projections: 2021–2030

This graph assumes the American and Russian stockpiles remain static and uses the medium cases for China (start at 350 plus 70 weapons a year) and North Korea (start at 40 plus six weapons a year).(Derived from CNAS analysis detailed earlier in the paper.)

Launcher Comparison

Another key area to look for similarities and differences is in each country’s launcher inventories. All four nations are heavily invested in the ground-based leg of the triad. There are more differences in the undersea leg of the triad. Because the U.S. Navy operates Ohio-class nuclear ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs), each of which carries 20 submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), the United States has the largest number of undersea-launched nuclear weapons. Russia’s 11 SSBNs can carry only 176 SLBMs, and China’s six Jin-class submarines can hold 72 SLBMs.11 The air leg of the triad also reveals significant differences between the nuclear great powers and the smaller nuclear-armed states. While the United States and Russia have a similar number of strategic bombers, 62 and 68 respectively, it is estimated that China only has four H-6N bombers, although that number almost certainly will increase.12

American, Russian, and Chinese Strategic Warheads by Domain (Left) and American, Russian, and Chinese Strategic Launchers (Right)13

These charts show the number of strategic delivery platforms and nuclear warheads by domain for the United States, Russia, and China in 2021. The American and Russian numbers only include strategic delivery platforms, while the Chinese warheads include nonstrategic systems such as MRBMs and IRBMs. The charts omit North Korea given the uncertainties about its inventories.

This comparison drives home that the nations have different strategies for ensuring their second-strike capability. The United States has invested heavily in the undersea leg of its triad, which is relied on for its survivability in the wake of an enemy first strike. While Russia also has a capable SSBN force, it appears to be relying mainly on the mobility of its newer intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) to secure its second-strike capability. China, meanwhile, has long been vulnerable to disarming first strikes by either Russia or the United States. Their remedy to this mainly has been to field mobile ICBMs, although they are also seeking to put to sea a more robust fleet of SSBNs as well as bombers.14

This comparative assessment makes it clear that while China and North Korea are making great strides in their nuclear arsenals, the United States and Russia remain in a league of their own and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future. There are notable asymmetries between these different countries’ nuclear postures. It is important to recognize differences, but that does not necessarily translate into strengths or weaknesses. The United States should not seek to mirror its rivals’ nuclear capabilities, but instead should consider how to take advantage of American strengths to exploit its rivals’ weaknesses. Additional assessments are required to understand the implications of these differences, but comparisons are likely to be more difficult because the United States cannot simply focus on Russia and assume that any other nuclear rivals are lesser included cases. Instead, U.S. officials need to carefully think through what it takes to bolster stability and strengthen deterrence against each rival individually, and then collectively what that amounts to.

Strengthening digital infrastructure: A policy agenda for free and open source software

Frank Nagle

While there is little debate that digital forces are playing an increasingly crucial role in the economy, there is limited understanding of the importance of the digital infrastructure that underlies this role. Much of the discussion around digital infrastructure has focused on broadband availability (which is certainly important), but the role of free and open source software (FOSS or OSS) has gone underappreciated. FOSS—software whose source code is public, is often created by decentralized volunteers, and can be freely used and modified by anyone—has come to play a vital role in the modern economy. It is baked into technology we use every day (cars, phones, websites, etc.), as well as into various aspects of critical infrastructure including our finance and energy systems.

Like physical infrastructure, this digital infrastructure requires regular investment to further enable innovation, commerce, and a flourishing economy. However, also like physical infrastructure, there is a market failure in the private sector that leads to an underinvestment in digital infrastructure. Therefore, there is a clear need for government investment and regulation to ensure the future health, security, and growth of the FOSS ecosystem that has become indispensable to the modern economy.

New Risks in Ransomware: Supply Chain Attacks and Cryptocurrency

Amy Robinson, Casey Corcoran and James Waldo

With the first attack dating back to 1989, ransomware is far from a new phenomenon. However, as of late, ransomware attacks have significantly changed in nature, becoming larger, more sophisticated, and more frequent. While once a rare and petty crime, ransomware has now proliferated and quickly matured into a lucrative business with the emergence of cryptocurrencies that have facilitated large, untraceable transactions. Now, organized and often state-backed hacking groups not only perpetuate sophisticated, targeted campaigns, but also franchise the infrastructure needed to carry such campaigns and sell it as Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) on the dark web.

Just as concerning as the increased pace of ransomware is the emergence of a new delivery mechanism for malware that has been used in some of the most infamous ransomware attacks. As hacker groups have become increasingly sophisticated, modern software has become increasingly vulnerable to attack. Complex software must incorporate a multitude of pre-written code components from various sources, including open source code. Hacker groups can then target less secure software components, known as a supply chain attack, in order to extort a wide swath of companies or customers. Supply chain attacks are particularly dangerous if they establish a thread of control through an update package, such as the SolarWinds attack, which then provides hackers with the highest level of access to a machine’s resources.

Afghanistan: Where US-Iranian Interests May Yet Intersect


When the Taliban seized control of Kabul and much of the rest of Afghanistan in a lightning offensive in the summer of 2021, the country’s neighbor to the West, Iran, seemed as surprised as any other interested party including the United States and United Nations agencies. Like other regional and global powers, Iran found itself scrambling to secure its personnel and facilities. Like Afghanistan’s other neighbors, Iran braced for the humanitarian fallout, as thousands of Afghan families sought an escape from what they feared would be unbearable and possibly fatal living conditions under the victorious, self-declared “Islamic Emirate.”

 More than any other nation except Pakistan or other institutions closely linked to Afghanistan, Iran was prepared for the cataclysm of August 2021. Despite past confrontations and the sectarian and ethnic divide between Shia, Persian-speaking Iran and the Sunni, Pashtun-dominated Taliban, Tehran had spent at least a decade cultivating ties to the network. While it was apparently as shocked as any nation at the quick collapse of Ashraf Ghani’s Kabul government, Iran clearly had had for months a sense of the potentially impending dangers and opportunities that a US withdrawal would present. It had approached Ghani just months earlier, offering security assistance,1 and it had bolstered refugee camps at its border in anticipation of fleeing Afghans. 

Counterterrorism from the Sky? How to Think Over the Horizon about Drones

Erol Yayboke and Christopher Reid

August 31, 2021, marked the end of the United States’ two-decade military presence in Afghanistan. It also marked the end of U.S. military and intelligence eyes and ears on the ground in a place known to be a safe haven for violent extremist groups. In Afghanistan and other areas where the United States lacks a persistent, physical presence, the Biden administration announced a pivot to “over-the-horizon” counterterrorism operations (OTH-CT) that rely heavily on stand-off assets, such as overhead satellite technology and airpower, in the absence of eyes and ears. While the use of drones—or “remotely piloted aircraft” (RPAs)—to target potential terrorist threats seems to be a cost-effective approach from a military perspective, their use has come under increasing pressure from Capitol Hill, human rights and humanitarian organizations, and others for their effects on civilian populations. Military action almost always carries risk of collateral damage, but the disproportionate civilian impact associated with RPAs is not only troubling from rights and humanitarian perspectives, but it also calls into question the strategic, longer-term rationale of using them for counterterrorism purposes in the first place.

Congressional leaders sent a letter to the president on January 20, 2022, about the ongoing OTH-CT strategy review. In it, they point out that “while the intent of U.S. counterterrorism policy may be to target terrorism suspects who threaten U.S. national security, in too many instances, U.S. drone strikes have instead led to unintended and deadly consequences—killing civilians and increasing anger towards the United States.” They, therefore, call on the administration to “review and overhaul U.S. counterterrorism policy to center human rights and the protection of civilians, align with U.S. and international law, prioritize non-lethal tools to address conflict and fragility, and only use force when it is lawful and as a last resort.”

Open Source Intelligence May Be Changing Old-School War

AN OPEN SOURCE panopticon—from commercial big data aggregation to information infrastructure across mobile, smart devices, and social media—is reshaping the way intelligence is collected and used in conventional war.

Open source intelligence is information that can be readily and legally accessed by the general public. It was used in war and diplomacy long before the internet—alongside information stolen or otherwise secretly obtained and closely held. But its prevalence today means what was once cost-prohibitive to many is now affordable to myriad actors, whether North Korea, the CIA, journalists, terrorists, or cybercriminals.

One consequence of widely available open source information is that anonymity is eroding, not only for ordinary civilians, but also for members of law enforcement, military, and the intelligence community. Even missing information can alert an adversarial spy service, says a former US intelligence official who spoke on background. When the US State Department unfolded a public diplomacy strategy in 2008 that emphasized the use of social media, a foreign counterpart joked to the former US intelligence official that CIA officers, working under nonofficial cover at US embassies, were easily deduced because they lacked Facebook profiles. The US government has a gargantuan effort underway to address similar issues brought on by an absence or expectation of digital exhaust associated with intelligence officers’ cover identities.

Russia’s war hits its economy on many fronts

Mika Kortelainen
In just over two months, the Russia’s war has caused severe economic dislocation in many areas. Ukraine’s economy has suffered immensely. The International Monetary Fund’s recently-released World Economic Outlook, for example, sees Ukraine’s GDP declining by a staggering 35 % this year. The war ultimately will be very costly also for Russia. General uncertainty has increased and sanctions levied against Russia have impaired domestic production as financing and foreign intermediate goods supplies have dried up.

In assessing the economic impact of Russia’s war, we utilize the global integrated monetary and fiscal (GIMF) model based on a general equilibrium framework (Kumhof et al., 2010). Our version of the model distinguishes three economic areas (Russia, the euro area, and the rest of the world), and includes oil production and oil prices as they are important in assessing the Russian economy.


The Commission did not have a mandate to predict where and when the nation will call upon its Army to respond to an imminent threat, unexpected crisis, or to secure a strategic objective. The Commission is certain, however, that such a demand will come. Land power will be required to fight and win wars now and in the future, despite the aspirations of some to fight wars at arm’s length.

National Commission on the Future of the Army Report to the President and the Congress of the United States, 28 January 20211

Congress mandated the National Commission on the Future of the Army (NCFA) in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15). While Army aircraft resourcing arguments underpinned the call for the NCFA, the Commissioners noted a deeper concern in the forward section of their report: “It was disheartening to sometimes hear elements of discord from within the Army’s ranks—and some from without—pitting the Army National Guard against the Regular Army.”2 The Commissioners were concerned with the estrangement between the Army’s components and how the Commission’s work could bring the components closer together as a Total Army.

Congress and Crises: Technology, Digital Information, and the Future of Governance

Leisel Bogan

On Wednesday May 5th, 1971, just hours before 1,200 Vietnam War protestors were arrested on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in the midst of what would become the largest mass arrest in U.S. history, forty-year-old Lawrence Britt was testifying before a subcommittee of the United States Senate. Inside what would become the Senate Russell Building, Britt, a former senior intelligence officer for the Czechoslovakian Intelligence Service and Deputy Chief of the country’s newly created Department for Disinformation described the Soviet Union’s influence operations, and, despite the risk, did so under his real name. He opened his testimony by clarifying that the term “disinformation” was the same as “active measures” in the Soviet Union, and that his department conducted three types of operations: disinformation operations, propaganda operations, and influence operations.

India to boost arms output, fear ing shortfall from Russia


NEW DELHI (AP) — India on Thursday said it would ramp up its production of military equipment, including helicopters, tank engines, missiles and airborne early warning systems, to offset any potential shortfall from its main supplier Russia.

India depends on Russia for nearly 60% of its defense equipment, and the war in Ukraine has added to doubts about future supplies.

Defense Ministry officials say India, with the world’s second-largest army, fourth-largest air force and seventh-largest navy, can’t sustain itself through imports.

“Our objective is to develop India as a defense manufacturing hub,” Defense Minister Rajnath Singh said Thursday while releasing a list of military equipment that will be produced domestically and no longer imported.

The ministry’s website said military orders worth 2,100 billion rupees ($28 billion) are likely to be placed with domestic state-run and private defense manufacturers in the next five years.

Is Beijing Changing Tack on Big Tech?

Rui Ma, Ruihan Huang, Graham Webster and Xibai Xu

In recent weeks, news has emerged that China may be slowing its Big Tech regulations. On Tuesday, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Congress (CPPCC) held a special meeting on the digital economy, with Vice Premier Liu He highlighting the need “to support the platform economy.” This followed similar statements in March, calling for regulators to adopt a “standardized, transparent, and predictable” model. And last month came a Politburo meeting in which leaders vowed support for the Internet economy. With China’s economy reeling amid large-scale COVID lockdowns, a rollback of tech regulations could provide a much-needed boost. But given the vagueness of the language, it’s unclear how such statements will translate on the policy front. We asked experts how they read these statements, whether they anticipated a loosening of regulations, and what that might look like. 

The government is not seeking to roll back regulations that have just been put in place. Rather, it is signaling that most of the rectification has been completed, and supportive policies may be coming down the pipeline.

Meet The TF-X, Turkey’s Stealth Fighter Dream

Maya Carlin

Turkey and Pakistan are collaborating to design and produce a new fifth-generation stealth fighter aircraft. The TF-X stealth twin-engine fighter was first announced in 2016, and the plane is now set to make its first flight in 2025. Turkish Aerospace Industries displayed a full-scale figure of the National Combat Aircraft this February at the Singapore Air Show.

The Top Fighter of the Islamic World

After Turkey went ahead with its purchase of Russia’s S-400 air defense system, Washington removed it from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan then turned to Pakistan to develop an alternative.

The TF-X is meant to replace the country’s aging F-16 fleet. Dubbed the “first big fighter of the Islamic world,” the new fifth-generation aircraft will improve Turkish-Pakistani defense ties and lessen Ankara’s dependence on U.S. airframes.

CNAS Responds: Takeaways from President Biden's first Asia trip

Richard Fontaine, Lisa Curtis, Emily Kilcrease, and Jacob Stokes

As President Joe Biden concludes his first trip to Asia since taking office, the Center for a New American Security experts weighed in on the geopolitical, economic, and strategic significance of this debut tour

All quotes may be used with attribution. To arrange an interview, email Cameron Edinburgh, cedinburgh@cnas.org.

Richard Fontaine, Chief Executive Officer:

Taiwan and trade dominated President Biden’s Asia trip. During an otherwise beneficial visit, there was too much of the former and too little of the latter.

The president’s Taiwan comments mark the third time he has publicly committed to defend Taiwan if attacked. Each time, the White House quickly insists that there is no change in the policy of strategic ambiguity. The far more reasonable conclusion is that he means what he says, and that the president sets the policy. Biden or a senior official should, sometime soon, give a speech fully clarifying the American approach.

U.S. looks to rejoin Asia trade game

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian

The Biden administration wants to make the U.S. a major player in the Indo-Pacific economy again.

Why it matters: President Trump's withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a regional free-trade agreement the U.S. once championed, has left China as the largest economic player in the region.

Driving the news: President Biden's upcoming visit to Japan this month will "coincide with the formal launch" of a new U.S.-led regional economic framework, Japan's ambassador to the U.S. Koji Tomita said on Monday.Biden will travel to South Korea and Japan from May 20 to 24. The visits are aimed at advancing "rock-solid commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific and to U.S. treaty alliances with the Republic of Korea and Japan," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on April 27.