27 May 2022

Russia May Be Ready to Annex Breakaway Territories

Eugene Chausovsky

As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine hits the three-month mark, an important shift in Moscow’s strategy may be emerging. This shift isn’t a military one: Russia remains focused on expanding control over eastern Ukraine. But Russia’s political strategy regarding so-called breakaway territories, not only in Ukraine but throughout the former Soviet space, may be changing.

From Russian-occupied territories in eastern Ukraine to the region of South Ossetia in Georgia, there is growing speculation that such Moscow-aligned breakaway territories may soon formally become annexed by Russia. Reports by Ukrainian officials suggest that Mariupol, Kherson, and other cities in Ukraine that have been occupied by Russian forces could hold a referendum to be annexed by Russia in September, while U.S. officials have suggested it could happen even sooner than that. In the meantime, South Ossetian President Anatoly Bibilov signed a decree on May 13 for a referendum to be held on July 17 for the breakaway territory to join Russia.

Proton Is Trying to Become Google—Without Your Data

SINCE ITS FOUNDING in 2014, ProtonMail has become synonymous with user-friendly encrypted email. Now the company is trying to be synonymous with a whole lot more. On Wednesday morning, it announced that it’s changing its name to, simply, Proton—a nod at its broader ambitions within the universe of online privacy. The company will now offer an “ecosystem” of linked products, all accessed via one paid subscription. Proton subscribers will have access not just to encrypted email, but also an encrypted calendar, file storage platform, and VPN.

This is all part of CEO Andy Yen’s master plan to give Proton something close to a fighting chance against tech giants like Google. A Taiwanese-born former particle physicist, Yen moved to Geneva, Switzerland, after grad school to work at CERN, the nuclear research facility. Geneva proved a natural place to pivot to a privacy-focused startup, thanks to both Switzerland’s privacy-friendly legal regime and to a steady crop of poachable physicists. Today, Yen presides over a company with more than 400 employees and nearly 70 million users. He recently spoke to WIRED about the enduring need for greater privacy, the dangers of Apple's and Google's dominance, and how today’s attacks on encryption recall the rhetorical tactics of the War on Terror.

Sri Lanka Is an Omen

Mark Malloch-Brown

Many Western leaders are behaving as though there is one crisis in the world: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. While some are waking up to the widespread knock-on effects for food and energy security, there is little bandwidth, it seems, to address the underlying looming crisis: a global economic unwinding driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, climate breakdown, and degradation of the international political and economic system that has been at least a decade in the making.

Together, these crises have put scores of countries at serious risk and lit a fuse where those risks intersect with authoritarianism and poor governance. Sri Lanka is a case in point. The country owes over $50 billion to government creditors such as India, China, and Japan, and private bondholders—and it is no longer making interest payments.

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.

In China, a Challenge to Xi’s Power?

Victoria Herczegh

China has been teetering on the precipice of an economic crisis for quite some time now. Structural issues within the country’s financial system and the protracted lockdowns of essential hubs, ports and even entire provinces resulted in supply chain disruptions, slowed economic growth and generalized unrest throughout the country. And because economic vitality is the basis of the Communist Party of China’s power, these circumstances pose a threat to government stability. Until now, President Xi Jinping has managed to consolidate power such that he could remain China’s ruler for life. But his failure in navigating new challenges has put his leadership in doubt, particularly in the circles that truly matter: the rest of the CPC, of which there are two factions with two distinct views on China’s future relationship with the rest of the world, particularly the West.

Jobs of Tomorrow: The Triple Returns of Social Jobs in the Economic Recovery

A volatile global economic outlook today is exacerbated by rising inequality and widening polarization impacting the most disadvantaged groups in economies across the world. The global population of individuals living in poverty is estimated to have increased by 131 million, and 54 million people dropped out of the global middle class in 2020 compared with the period before the COVID-19 pandemic. As the world starts to recover from two pandemic years, accelerating disruptions are translating into permanent changes to labour markets.

For over half a decade, the World Economic Forum has modelled the impact of technologies on global labour markets to better understand the impact technological adoption has on jobs of yesterday and jobs of tomorrow. The Jobs of Tomorrow White Paper series examine proactive investments that yield a triple dividend – boosting economic activity, expanding employment opportunities and generating multiplier effects in the form of more inclusive economies and societies.

Pentagon Deputy: Russia’s Defense Industry ‘Will Feel’ Pain of Ukraine War

Jack Detsch

STUTTGART, Germany—U.S. and international economic sanctions and export controls are likely to significantly hamper Russia’s ability to produce advanced fighter jets, naval platforms, and space capabilities essential to the Kremlin’s efforts to modernize its military, the U.S. Defense Department’s No. 2 official said.

The Pentagon and Western governments have indicated for weeks that Russia is struggling to restock precision-guided munitions that use foreign-made computer chips and guidance systems to help them hit targets, which has an immediate impact on Russia’s war in Ukraine. But U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks, who is in Europe on her first international trip after a year on the job, told reporters on Tuesday that the Kremlin’s deep reliance on foreign-produced microelectronics that are now under harsh economic controls is expected to hamper a much wider range of platforms.

Francis Fukuyama Plays Defense

Krithika Varagur

If a neoconservative, as Irving Kristol once quipped, is a liberal mugged by reality, what should we make of Francis Fukuyama? In 1989, when Fukuyama published his landmark essay, “The End of History?,” he was a thirty-six-year-old political-science Ph.D. with a pristine neocon résumé: he had been Allan Bloom’s protégé at Cornell; an analyst for the rand Corporation, the military-oriented think tank; and an official in both Ronald Reagan’s and George H. W. Bush’s State Departments. The essay, which Fukuyama later expanded into a book called “The End of History and the Last Man,” characterized the impending collapse of the Soviet Union as part of “the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution” and declared liberal democracy to be the “final form of human government.” And it launched him, practically overnight, as a public intellectual of unusual prominence.

PNG and the Solomon Islands-China security agreement

Reactions to the security agreement between Solomon Islands and China were swift and relentless. Much of the rhetoric is creating needless anxieties. It demonstrates that an unwritten rule exists in the practice of Pacific diplomacy. Supposedly sovereign Pacific states must choose wisely who they do business with. Their relationships must also not be disruptive to stability and peace in the region – read here as the geostrategic influence of traditional powers in the Pacific.

Pacific states stand to be shamed over perceived foreign policy missteps, or singled out as unappreciative members of the Pacific “family”. The Australian media and pundits have successfully framed Solomon Islands as reckless, further emboldening both Solomon Islands and China to dig in. Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare summarised it well: “We find it very insulting to be branded as unfit to manage our sovereign affairs, or have other motives in pursuing our national interest”.

Russian Military’s Next Front Line: Replacing Battlefield Equipment Destroyed in Ukraine

Daniel Michaels and Matthew Luxmoore

Russia’s heavy use and loss of weapons in Ukraine, combined with severe Western sanctions, will crimp its military might and lucrative arms exports for years, hindering its ability to produce everything from new weapons systems to spare parts for existing armaments.

Now in the ninth week of what was envisioned as a quick military operation, Russia has deployed large parts of its arsenal, including some of its most modern equipment. It has fired vast numbers of missiles, rockets and artillery shells and cut deep into supplies of newer, precision munitions, say analysts.

Russia has also lost more than 3,000 pieces of large equipment in battle, according to Oryx, an open-source intelligence tracker. The tally includes more than 500 main battle tanks, 300 armored fighting vehicles, 20 jet fighters and 30 helicopters.

Russia in recent years has produced around 250 tanks and 150 aircraft annually, according to Mark Cancian, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank in Washington. That means Ukrainian forces in two months have destroyed the equivalent of at least two years of Russian tank production.

Playing games in NATO, Turkey eyes its role in a new world order

James M. Dorsey

NATO’s spat over Turkish opposition to Swedish and Finnish membership is about more than expanding the North Atlantic military alliance. It’s as much about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s immediate political goals as Turkey’s positioning itself in a new 21st-century world order.

On its surface, the spat is about Turkish efforts to hinder support for Kurdish ethnic, cultural, and national aspirations in Turkey, Syria, and Iraq and a crackdown on alleged supporters of a preacher who lives in exile in the United States. Turkey accuses the preacher, Fethullah Gulen, of instigating a failed military coup in 2016.

The spat may also be a play by NATO’s second-largest standing military to regain access to US arms sales, particularly upgrades for Turkey’s aging fleet of F-16 fighter jets as well as more advanced newer models of the F-16 and the top-of-the-line F-35.

How the Coronavirus Pandemic Upended Life as We Know It

For over two years, the coronavirus pandemic upended life as we know it with its devastating effects not only on health, but on domestic economies and multilateral trade, cooperation and aid. It reframed domestic politics by crowding out other issues, with political performances measured against how successfully leaders navigated their countries through the pandemic. Failure to do so toppled seemingly entrenched rulers, while upending politics in electoral democracies. Afraid of facing similar consequences, some governments used the pandemic as a pretext for restricting free speech and stripping away the rule of law.

Meanwhile, the pandemic stalled economies and wiped out millions of jobs, leaving governments everywhere struggling to map out possible paths to recovery. There have been calls for debt relief across the Global South, and the economic damage has required sustained government interventions to head off catastrophe.

It’s Not Just 5G: China’s Telecom Strategy Needs to Be Countered in Space

Lt Col Gabe S. Arrington
Source Link

Over the last five years, the security implications of China’s 5G proliferation have received a steady amount of attention. But there is a lesser-discussed, increasingly important side of technological competition between the US and China: Beijing’s growing involvement in the many other critical components and technologies that power the future of global telecommunications, from the depths of the oceans to outer space.

Advanced technologies that will ride on top of 5G networks — such as robotics, drones, autonomous vehicles, augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) and video surveillance cameras — could prove vulnerable. But so too can backhaul, subsea cables, mobile applications, and mobile devices that all contribute to the global telecommunications network. China has increased state investment in these areas, with an eye on controlling the networks that data is transported on and, potentially, access that critical data.

China is approaching these with the same stance they have taken towards 5G — that domination is needed across the board. And unlike America, where the various communications technology sectors tend to run parallel but separate, China is seeking to intertwine everything, an important strategy that could give them a leg up on the US unless Washington can switch its thinking and take countering actions.

The good news: it’s not too late to take action, and in one crucial domain, the US still has dominance. As previously disassociated technologies begin to overlap, 5G applications through the space domain will be the connective tissue. Washington must prepare for this new frontier of technological competition by taking several steps to change the current thinking.

U.S. Warns Sophisticated ICS/SCADA Malware Can Damage Critical Infrastructure

Ryan Naraine

The U.S government is sounding a loud alarm after discovering new custom tools capable of full system compromise and disruption of ICS/SCADA devices and servers.

A joint advisory from the Department of Energy, CISA, NSA and the FBI warned that unidentified APT actors have created specialized tools capable of causing major damage to PLCs from Schneider Electric and OMRON Corp. and servers from open-source OPC Foundation.

“The tools enable them to scan for, compromise, and control affected devices once they have established initial access to the operational technology (OT) network. Additionally, the actors can compromise Windows-based engineering workstations, which may be present in information technology (IT) or OT environments, using an exploit that compromises an ASRock motherboard driver with known vulnerabilities,” the agencies warned.

Report to Congress on the Relationship Between China and Russia

The People’s Republic of China (PRC or China) and the Russian Federation (Russia) maintain a strategic and multifaceted relationship with extensive military, diplomatic, and economic connections. Although the contemporary China-Russia relationship dates back to the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the two countries also share a long, tumultuous history that has included periods of security and diplomatic cooperation, fluctuations in ideological alignment, diplomatic crises, and a border war in the 1960s. Many experts trace the current dynamism of the relationship to 2014, when the reaction of some countries to Russia’s first invasion of Ukraine, including sanctions, led Moscow to seek to strengthen its ties to China and other countries.

The two countries’ apparent mutual affinity has led some U.S. policymakers and Members of Congress to express concern that Beijing and Moscow constitute a de facto alliance, and to seek ways to counter their global influence. The PRC and Russia’s bilateral relationship falls short of a mutual defense pact, more closely resembling a non-binding alignment based on shared opposition to what they describe as the U.S.-led international order. This common opposition has spurred cooperation between the two countries, but has not fully overcome their historical strategic mistrust.

Regional Security Architecture in the Andaman Sea: Perspectives from Southeast Asia, India, and Beyond

Yogesh Joshi, Nishant Rajeev, Hoang Thi Ha, Sinderpal Singh, Ian J Storey

The Andaman Sea is increasingly becoming a new battleground for maritime influence in the Indian Ocean. Its geographical centrality in the Bay of Bengal and the Eastern Indian Ocean confers the Andaman Sea geopolitical heft. The geographical centrality of the Andaman Sea in the Bay of Bengal – sprawling as an arc between the Indian subcontinent and the Indochinese peninsula – is eliciting significant interest from both regional and extra-regional powers for three primary reasons: security, trade and shipping. Due to this strategic location, China, the United States, Japan, Australia and the Andaman Sea’s coastal states have begun paying close attention to this critical maritime space. The Institute of South Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore, ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute and the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at the Nanyang Technological University organised a workshop on the various critical elements relating to the Andaman Sea, which are contained in this Special Report.

IP22031 | China’s Grey Zone Strategy: Historical Trajectory, Recent Trends and Policy Options

Andrew Chubb

The Biden administration’s February 2022 Indo-Pacific Strategy declared the United States’ intent to counter coercion against its “allies and partners” in the region. But can the United States deter the kinds of grey zone activities by which the People’s Republic of China has advanced its claims in the South China Sea in recent decades? If so, how? And what can other regional actors, including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its members states, do to protect their own interests, regional stability and the marine environment in the South China Sea? To answer these important practical questions facing the region it is useful to examine the historical trajectory of China’s grey zone strategy.

Historical Trajectory: Since 1970

The Maritime Assertiveness Times Series (MATS) data set measures China, the Philippines and Vietnam’s contestation of the South China Sea from 1970 to 2015. These unique data show that intensifying PRC assertiveness has been a near-constant feature in the South China Sea dispute since 1970. In almost half a century since that time, there have only been four years in which the PRC did not identifiably advance its position at its neighbours’ expense in some form, using means short of military force.

War of Narratives: Russia and Ukraine

Dr Emma Butcher

All wars generate narratives, stories that go beyond the statistics and allow nations to imagine and be imagined. For the ongoing war in Ukraine, words have been an essential part of self-identification, justification and defiance. Narratives are, after all, the manipulation and representation of connected events, and the fast-moving action of the current crisis means that narratives are being built, adjusted and even pulled down every day. This is helped by social media, where every narrative can be turned into a web of micro-narratives by users, offering the freedom of individual thought and interpretation.

But what of the big narratives? Both Russia and Ukraine have recognised the usefulness of words and images to forge their wartime identities on the world stage, but their marketing strategies could not be more different.

Ukraine: The Daily Intelligence Event

Jeffrey Michaels

In the world of secret intelligence, at least in the UK, such is the mystique surrounding the various agencies that a rare public speech by ‘C’ or the head of GCHQ is treated as a ‘must watch’ event and the words of the intelligence chiefs are assumed to hold great significance. Traditionally, intelligence released into the public domain has tended to be infrequent, indirectly attributed or deliberately obscured.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has led to a partial break with this established practice. Shortly before the invasion, and ever since, Defence Intelligence (DI), the intelligence arm of the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD), has been releasing daily intelligence updates on Twitter. There are two types of updates. Once a day, a map will be released showing Russian attack and troop locations, those areas of Ukraine under Russian control or being contested, as well as likely axes of advance of both sides’ military forces. In addition, since 24 February, there have been between one and three daily intelligence updates, each containing bullet-pointed information and analysis.

China’s Position on the Ukraine War Mirrors its Global Pursuits

Sari Arho Havrén

While it has been entirely justified to demand that China, as a UN Security Council Member, does everything in its power to end the war in Ukraine, Europe seem to misunderstand – or disregard – how Beijing sees the war and its geostrategic position, including its view that the EU and its member states form the weak link in the transatlantic alliance.
The Ukraine War is about Great Power Rivalry

For China, the Russian war against Ukraine is first and foremost a proxy war between Russia and the US-led NATO, and as such it confirms China’s view that the US continues to advance its hegemony at the expense of others, and primarily at the expense of the People’s Republic. While China trumpets the proxy war narrative with a surge of disinformation, together with Russia, it is also pushing ahead with a new model of international relations that includes rewriting the definition of democracy. A new international order shaped by the Chinese Communist Party is primarily about its own raison d’être and securing its power base at home. Therefore, a China-led international order ultimately aims to structure the world to make it safe for China. This new, altered world order would contain increasingly illiberal elements and fewer freedoms. It would secure its legitimacy by remodelling the fundamentals of democracy in international organisations and in people’s lives – including, increasingly, outside China – using advanced surveillance technologies and propaganda, operating on platforms the free world openly provides.

A Climate of Terror? Approaches to the Study of Climate Change and Terrorism

Climate change is one of the most significant global issues of our time. In a recent United Nations Security Council Meeting, UN Secretary-General António Guterres stressed that “no one is safe from the destructive effects of climate disruption.” The ongoing gravity of stresses to the global climate system is increasingly understood as “unequivocal” and “unprecedented” as rapid and widespread climatic variability occurs. Moreover, accelerating rates of anthropogenic environmental change engender novel human security threats. Increased severity and frequency of natural disasters, land degradation, diminishing biodiversity, extreme weather, and many other environmental insecurities pose great societal risks. There is growing acknowledgment within the national security, research, and policy communities and among the private sector that climate change acts as a “threat multiplier.” As a threat multiplier, climate change has the potential to exacerbate existing social, political, and economic tensions aggravating societal vulnerabilities. These tensions and vulnerabilities manifest in numerous and often unforeseen ways but can increase the likelihood of fragility and violent conflict in a given context.

James Hackett
Source Link

The starting gun appears to have been fired in a process that will see Finland and Sweden joining NATO, as the leaders of Finland declared on 12 May that they wish their country to become a member ‘without delay’. Russia’s 2022 assault on Ukraine has driven this forward. There may be hurdles ahead, but both Finland and Sweden had already started sharpening their focus on defence following Russia’s initial 2014 invasion of Ukraine. In recent years both have increased their international defence cooperation, including with NATO and its member states. However, taking this further major step towards NATO membership will see increased focus on the two countries’ defence capabilities, how they will develop, and how they could integrate into the Alliance structure.

Strengthening ties Finland and Sweden's already close bilateral defence ties have grown even stronger. A memorandum of understanding on defence cooperation was signed in 2018. The intent was to lay the foundation for military cooperation and combined operations. According to a defence ministerial joint statement in March 2022, both countries ‘are prepared to act together in peacetime and beyond it. We have bilateral operation plans and contingency measures, enabling us to coordinate our actions in times of crisis and war.’

The urban terrain of the Donbas will not easily fall to the Russians

Ben Barry

Russia faces a bloody and grinding struggle even to meet its revised military goals in eastern Ukraine. The battles for Kyiv and Mariupol have shown once again how urban terrain often favours determined defenders and enables them to hold out against superior numbers of attackers.

Superior leadership and battlefield competence enabled Ukraine to repel the Russian advance in the forests and towns north of Kyiv. Its forces made good use of their supplies of US Javelin and UK-Swedish Nlaw missiles and cleverly synchronised them with strikes by mortars and artillery, often
 co-ordinated by drones overhead.

Some successful Ukrainian attacks saw their light infantry using swarm tactics to rapidly strike much more ponderous Russian armoured columns, afterwards rapidly dispersing into cover before the Russians could react.

Risky Competition: Strengthening U.S.-China Crisis Management