28 May 2022

Russia’s UAVs and UCAVs: ISR and Future Strike Capabilities

Roger McDermott


As Moscow has modernized Russia’s conventional Armed Forces over the past decade or so, the technological aspects in this process have included the adoption and introduction of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).[1] UAVs have routinely been present in Russian combat training and annual operational-strategic military exercises, used in operations from Ukraine to Syria, and frequently highlighted in statements by Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.[2] These systems have come to play an essential role across the branches and arms of service, forming a symbiotic relationship with both air defense and electronic warfare (EW).[3] How and why these processes were put in place by the defense ministry leadership forms the basis of this paper.

To better understand the place, role and potential future of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) in Russia’s Armed Forces, it is worth tracing their Soviet origins, noting the hiatus that occurred in the attention paid by the defense leadership to such systems, and the reasons for why they re-emerged as a high priority in the military modernization agenda. It is also necessary to contextualize the role of UASs in Russia’s military by outlining the country’s defense-industry capacity to support such efforts, its structure and level of specialist knowledge, as well as how these fit into network-centric approaches to warfare and find their niche within Armed Forces structures.[4]


Maggie Smith and Nick Starck

Three months ago, as Russia invaded Ukraine, the world watched as Twitter exploded with real-time data, reporting, and analysis of the unfolding conflict. It quickly became clear that the war presented analysts with an unprecedented amount of rich, open-source data on military movements, troop location, shelling damage, weapon types, and more. Ukraine has been quick to capitalize on Russia’s poor data protection and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has become Ukraine’s most potent weapon because of his ability to use data and information and Russia’s inability to protect it.

For the US Army, a key takeaway from the Ukrainian conflict so far should be the extent to which our modern-day habits are trackable, traceable, and predictable. Open-source data presents modern militaries, especially wealthy high-tech ones, with a very uncomfortable truth: militaries are exposed because their troops are connected. Currently, the US legal and regulatory systems do not, and cannot, protect the average citizen—and therefore, the average US service member—from risks associated with the ubiquitous open-source data produced by our surveillance economy. From a national security perspective, the accumulation of open-source data on people—their habits, their likes and dislikes, their exercise routines, and more—and its potential to impact the military’s ability to fulfill its man, train, and equip mandate from Congress is deeply concerning. Also alarming is the amount of information our adversaries can glean about US strategic interests from tracking US military activity on any number of apps, like Flightradar24, which includes US military reconnaissance platforms such as the unmanned RQ-4 Global Hawk, the RC-135V Rivet Joint, and others among the aircraft it tracks, and Strava, the fitness tracking app. Ultimately, you can intuit quite a bit about where our forces may be heading, where military planners are focusing their efforts, and where the next conflict is likely to occur if you simply track where Rivet Joints are conducting sorties and service members are working out. And for the Army specifically, the existing and emerging doctrine fails to account for the surveillance economy and its open-source data, leaving a gaping hole in our competitive strategy.

Chinese and Russian propaganda work in tandem to blame the West for war in Ukraine

Ingram Niblock, Samantha Hoffman and Jake Wallis

A new ASPI report demonstrates that in the early days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, social media posts by Chinese diplomats on US-owned platforms almost exclusively blamed the US, NATO and the West for the conflict. Chinese diplomats amplified Russian claims about US biological weapon labs in Ukraine and linked this disinformation narrative with conspiracy theories about the origins of Covid-19. Chinese state media mirrored these narratives while replicating the Kremlin’s language describing the invasion as a ‘special military operation’. As Western governments collectively encouraged Silicon Valley to restrict the reach of Russia’s disinformation ecosystem, China’s propaganda system quickly became an alternate vehicle for the Kremlin’s false narratives.

The information campaigns of the People’s Republic of China are designed to reinforce efforts to shape its operating environment so that the party-state’s power can be consolidated and expanded, not just domestically but also globally. The PRC information campaign responding to events in Ukraine is not taking place in isolation, but instead is being tied to the party-state’s key strategic interests. Understanding how, and why, this is occurring requires acknowledging deeply rooted threat perceptions that the Chinese Communist Party has long articulated and, more importantly, the strategies through which it attempts to deal with those threats.

Unrest in Pakistan as Khan Supporters March on Capital

Trevor Filseth L

Violence erupted in Pakistan on Wednesday after supporters of deposed Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was forced from office in April, marched on Islamabad to demand the government’s resignation and a new round of elections—leading to clashes with security forces manning roadblocks on the highways leading to the capital.

In the run-up to Khan’s planned rally in Islamabad—a rally that the city’s leaders have forbidden—the former prime minister’s supporters have dismantled roadblocks and engaged in repeated clashes with Pakistani security forces. Protests took place along the road to Islamabad and simultaneously in the city of Lahore, the capital of Pakistan’s Punjab province. In Lahore, police dispersed hundreds of supporters of Khan’s “Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf” (PTI) party using tear gas after they attempted to remove roadblocks from the streets. Many protesters were arrested after throwing rocks and tear gas canisters at security forces. The PTI later claimed that overnight raids resulted in the arrest of at least 1,000 of its members.

Researchers urge Chinese military to build anti-Starlink weapons

John C. Tanner

ITEM: Chinese military researchers think SpaceX’s Starlink satellite broadband network could threaten China’s national security, and that’s why China needs to develop “anti-satellite” capabilities to monitor all Starlink LEOsats and – if necessary – destroy them.

That’s according to a research paper published last month by Ren Yuanzhen, a researcher with the Beijing Institute of Tracking and Telecommunications under the PLA’s Strategic Support Force.

The paper’s emergence follows the publication of a commentary piece in the PLA Daily warning the international community that Starlink enables the US military to dominate outer space.

The whole thing sounds silly on its face, not least because Starlink is not the only global LEOsat broadband constellation in the works. Even China is working on its own LEOsat network called SatNet, which is planned to have 13,000 satellites. That means literally thousands of LEOsats will be flying over China, not just Starlink’s.

28-Drone Swarm Just Led The Way For A Simulated Air Assault Mission


In the Army's most recent aviation experiment, four waves of seven drones were launched into the Utah sky in the largest networked 'interactive' sortie of 'Air-Launched Effects' (ALE) unmanned aerial vehicles of its kind to date. A single operator was able to control the resultant swarm of drones as they hunted for and destroyed simulated enemy positions ahead. Some details about the test were announced in advance, as you can read about in The War Zone's initial reporting, but now we are getting a far clearer view of exactly how the potentially historic exercise went down.

Launching the 28-drone operation, all controlled and overseen by a surrogate for the Army's Future Attack Recon Aircraft (FARA), was the culminating event at the service's 2022 Experimental Demonstration Gateway Exercise (EDGE 22) held earlier this month at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah. The notional FARA was played at times by crewed UH-60 Black Hawk and others an uncrewed MQ-1C Gray Eagle. The throngs of smaller drones, the ALEs, were launched from aircraft, as well as several ground vehicles serving as surrogate helicopters.

Chokepoints China’s Self-Identified Strategic Technology Import Dependencies

Ben Murphy

Speaking to Chinese scientists in September 2020, President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China warned that the PRC is at the mercy of foreign countries that supply it with “chokepoint” technologies. “We rely on imports for some critical devices, components, and raw materials,” he said. PRC leadership concerns about strategic technologies are not new. Many Chinese policy documents issued in the last several years identify categories of technology with particular importance for PRC national security and economic competitiveness. And others, notably China’s 2016 National Innovation-Driven Development Strategy, fret that certain “key and core technologies are controlled by others,” a phrase that Xi also frequently uses. However, as a rule, these policies and other PRC state-run media content rarely go into detail about exactly which “key and core technologies” (关键核心技术) are “controlled by others” (受制于人), nor do they specify just who these “others” are.

China’s Foreign Technology Wish List

Ryan Fedasiuk, Emily S. Weinstein and Anna Puglisi

Executive Summary

Within the People’s Republic of China’s broader strategy to acquire foreign technology, “science and technology diplomats” (科技外交 官) act as brokers. Stationed in PRC embassies and consulates across 52 countries, S&T diplomats monitor host country technological breakthroughs, identify investment opportunities for Chinese firms, and serve as the overseas arm of the International Cooperation Department of China’s Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST).

S&T diplomats occupy a unique role in China’s technology acquisition strategy, forming a bridge between foreign and domestic entities. At home, MOST personnel interface with Chinese firms and track the scientific bottlenecks holding back China’s development. Abroad, they coordinate with overseas scientists, professional associations, diaspora guilds, and elements of the United Front Work Department in the countries where they are stationed, to identify opportunities where Chinese firms can grow relationships and invest. In short, S&T diplomats form the outward-facing portion of China’s broader technology transfer ecosystem, and monitor scientific breakthroughs, technology enterprises, and other forms of innovation that may be of interest to the Chinese government.

China’s STI Operations Monitoring Foreign Science and Technology Through Open Sources

William Hannas and Huey-Meei Chang

Executive Summary

The United States is no longer the hegemon in worldwide research and development (R&D) and is vulnerable to technical surprise. This country’s fragmentary, secrets-based monitoring of foreign science and technology will not protect it in an era of rapid global development. Can open source intelligence lead the way?

China and the United States hold opposing views of “open source” and its role in the intelligence process. In the United States, Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) “enables” classified reporting, while in China it is the “INT” of first resort.

The contrast extends to “science and technology intelligence,” which has a lower priority in the U.S. system, whereas China and its top leaders personally lavish great attention on STI and rely on it for national decisions.

Chinese monitoring through open sources of foreign science and technology (S&T) is based on statutes dating to 1958. The system supported China’s development of nuclear and other strategic weapons, and its paramount role persists today.

The Navy Must Learn to Hide from Algorithms

Lieutenant Andrew Pfau

During World War I, German submarines menaced Allied shipping. Without radar or sonar, the Allies struggled to locate and attack the submarines in the stormy and foggy North Atlantic. To confuse and deceive the enemy, the Allies painted their ships to camouflage them on the ocean. These paint schemes, often called dazzle camouflage, were designed not only to conceal a ship’s presence, but also to complicate the submarine’s fire-control solution by making it more difficult to determine the aspect of the ship. Paint schemes remained in use through World War II and still find occasional use today. In renewed great power competition, the paint scheme deception tactic should not be retired but, instead, scaled for the 21st century.

Instead of relying solely on human detection, as German submarine captains did, modern military systems increasingly rely on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) systems to detect and classify objects in images and video feeds. Algorithms monitor satellite and drone feeds and alert a human if an object of interest is detected. The volume of data generated by these sensor platforms means that human intelligence analysts cannot effectively search for targets without AI/ML algorithms. The Department of Defense (DoD) has developed algorithms to perform this task through Project Maven, an effort to apply computer vision algorithms to drone feeds to identify objects.

Engage, Isolate, or Oppose American Policy Toward the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan

James Dobbins, Andrew Radin, Laurel E. Miller

With the American military withdrawal, the Taliban's seizure of control, and a developing humanitarian crisis, the United States faces a question of what policy it should pursue toward the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. To inform U.S. policymakers, the authors of this Perspective identify the remaining American interests in Afghanistan — principally counterterrorism and humanitarian relief — and propose a framework to evaluate three different U.S. overall policy approaches: to engage with the Taliban, to isolate the regime, or to oppose the Taliban by seeking to remove them from power. The authors identify the conditions under which these policies may be most appropriate and how they would best serve U.S. interests. They conclude that engagement offers the only prospect of advancing American interests in the country. They caution, however, that isolation is the more usual U.S. response to an unwelcome change in regime. With its embassy closed and a comprehensive sanctions regime in place, this will become the default U.S. policy toward Afghanistan in the absence of contrary decisions.

How to build an economically viable, inclusive and safe metaverse

Cathy Li

During the COVID-19 pandemic, an increasing number of people have relied on media and technology to inform, entertain and educate themselves, do business, and socialize.

Not everyone understands what the term 'metaverse' actually means and encompasses, even though a number of young people say they are familiar with the metaverse.

This lack of common understanding leads to a necessity to define and build the metaverse. Here is what seven business leaders had to say about which challenges we need to focus on.

Public opinion research finds that almost two in five (38%) of Americans consider themselves very or somewhat familiar with the metaverse - a figure that rises to more than half (53%) among young people (18-34-year-olds) and those with children in their households.

Out-Gunned Ukrainians Holding Donbas Line Amid 'Intense' Fight


The governor on Ukraine's frontline has told Newsweek that defenders facing Russia's eastern offensive in the Donbas region are holding their ground, but are badly outgunned and in need of more Western military aid.

Pavlo Kyrylenko said Thursday that the frontline situation in his Donetsk Oblast "is very intense," as Ukrainian troops sought to blunt Russian advances designed to encircle defending units around the city of Severodonetsk and fully occupy the neighboring Luhansk Oblast.

"Right now, Russians are aiming to encircle our troops in Luhansk Oblast, so they are attacking the Bakhmut region," Kyrylenko explained.

Bakhmut is a city with a pre-war population of about 72,000 people. It lies directly west of the town of Popasna, where Russian forces have achieved a significant breakthrough in recent days. This thrust seeks to surround Severodonetsk from the south.

Is there a future for globalization? Business leaders discuss at Davos 2022

Gayle Markovitz and Amy White
Source Link

Will the business rationale for integration prevail against the growing geopolitical dynamics of fragmentation?

Seven industry leaders on what they consider to be the key regional and industry priorities to adapt to changing global forces, and how they see the global order shifting over the next six months.

A new report from the World Economic Forum, Four Futures for Economic Globalization: Scenarios and Their Implications, aims to kickstart the debate.

The pandemic, the war in Ukraine, rising energy and food prices, supply chain disruptions and the climate crisis are challenges that threaten to destabilize decades of globalization, but there are diverging views on how this will play out.

While globalization has created significant opportunities and lifted millions out of poverty, there has been a rise in distrust of interdependence, with threats like information warfare, cyber warfare and economic war among many, raising the alarm.

The Mystery of China’s Sudden Warnings About US Hackers

FOR THE BEST part of a decade, US officials and cybersecurity companies have been naming and shaming hackers they believe work for the Chinese government. These hackers have stolen terabytes of data from companies like pharmaceutical and video game firms, compromised servers, stripped security protections, and highjacked hacking tools, according to security experts. And as China’s alleged hacking has grown more brazen, individual Chinese hackers face indictments. However, things may be changing.

Since the start of 2022, China’s Foreign Ministry and the country’s cybersecurity firms have increasingly been calling out alleged US cyberespionage. Until now, these allegations have been a rarity. But the disclosures come with a catch: They appear to rely on years-old technical details, which are already publicly known and don’t contain fresh information. The move may be a strategic change for China as the nation tussles to cement its position as a tech superpower.

High-Power Laser Applications on the Future Battlefield

Yehoshua Kalisky

The laser is a unique light source for many and varied uses in a wide range of intensities. The prominent advantage of the laser is its ability to produce and concentrate an energetic light beam across a defined target, moving at the speed of light over a large range and heating of the target shell to the point of structural failure. Jeff Hecht (2019) reviewed the race to develop powerful laser-based weapon systems. As a result of Hecht’s review, the opinion was formed that a high-power laser system, combined with kinetic systems and a variety of suitable optical and electro-optical systems, could be used to strike and neutralize air threats in possession of Israel’s enemies – missiles, rockets, mortar shells (drones), unmanned small craft, unmanned aerial vehicles (such as UAVs) or skimmers. Today, the opponents operating these means of flight have advantages due to the simplicity of operation and the relatively low cost, which allows them to cause a lot of damage, disrupt normal life, and sow terror. A high-power laser-based weapon is one of the necessary layers to defend against these threats (Kalisky, 2007).

Types of Lasers

Laser-based weapons have a number of significant advantages: They enable accurate, continuous, high-power, light-speed interception with both minimal cost and logistics compared to kinetic missile interception. In addition, laser power can be controlled according to the type of target, without the need to “load an ammunition cartridge,” since the laser is a non-biodegradable system. The limitations of laser operation are mainly environmental – limited activity in clouds, haze, and rain as well as limited range of action due to atmospheric attenuation caused by the absorption of laser radiation by various water vapors or gases in the atmosphere. In addition, there must be a straight line between the laser and the target, since the movement of light is in a straight line, and the beam must stay on the target to cause the required damage.

When distinguishing between laser for tactical applications and laser for strategic applications, the required capacities are derived from this definition: Tactical laser, hereinafter referred to as kW-class lasers, is used to destroy short- and medium-range rockets, shells such as UAVs, skimmers, and light ships. The required power is around 100–150 kilowatts. It only takes 30 millionths of a second for a laser beam to reach a target that is 10 km away.

Lasers for strategic applications are used to destroy long-range missiles (hundreds and thousands of kilometers), the required power is 1–2 megawatts, and accordingly they are called MW-class lasers. It is important to know that depending on the amount of power required, the laser can be portable by land or air or can remain stationary.

Chemical Lasers

Historically, developments in the 1970s and 1980s focused on powerful strategic lasers – MW-class lasers – to neutralize and destroy ballistic missiles carrying nuclear warheads. The source for producing laser radiation of this magnitude are chemical lasers. These are lasers based on a mixture of gases, such as hydrogen or deuterium, together with fluorine or its derivatives as the active medium, with the heat generated from the chemical reaction between the fluorine atoms and the hydrogen or deuterium atoms causing processes leading to powerful laser radiation in the infrared domains. This development took place mainly in the United States, the Soviet Union, China, and the United Kingdom, and was significantly accelerated after the “Star Wars” speech of then US president, Ronald Reagan, on March 23, 1983. In this context, chemical laser systems “Nautilus” and “Skyguard” were developed in cooperation with Israel to intercept missiles, rockets, and shrapnel, which showed initial feasibility as early as 1996 in destroying short-range rockets and shells. Later, improved models of hydrogen or deuterium fluoride-based chemical lasers were developed for tactical purposes, i.e., power supplies up to 100 kilowatts and even chemical lasers based on a chemical reaction between oxygen and iodine in various configurations (stationary, portable or airborne), which have proven feasibility in destroying targets. In parallel with this activity, a chemical oxygen iodine laser was designed, assembled, and activated at 1–2 megawatts, carried on an airborne laser (ABL) Boeing 747. In field trials, the airborne laser performed two successful ballistic missile interceptions at the acceleration stage and at a distance of 400 km, but in 2011 the project was closed for economic reasons and poor performance evaluation.

Solid-State Lasers and Fiber Lasers

The US as well as Russia, Germany, and China have significantly developed solid-state lasers and fiber optic-based lasers since the late 1990s and accelerating in 2000–2010. During these years, solid-state laser and fiber laser systems were developed in various geometric configurations and in combination of a chain of optical amplifiers to increase the laser power. In addition, significant progress has been made in the development of high-power diode lasers, which are used to stimulate the crystal laser or optical fiber (Kalisky, 2013). At the same time, a significant breakthrough occurred in the development and production of unique optical fibers for producing laser beams, high-power-resistant optical components, cooling and heat removal systems, optical systems for the correction of atmospheric distortions, and methods for unifying rays. Unlike chemical lasers, solid-state lasers or fiber lasers produce intense power by combining several low-power beams into one high-power beam. The currently accepted combination is Coherent Beam Combining (CBC) and is done by coordinating the phases of the different beams so that they are all in the same phase – i.e., the peaks of the different light waves appear at the same time and increase the power produced by the system, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Non-phase beams (right) and unified phase beams (left)

Fiber lasers have additional advantages over solid-state lasers: efficient heat dissipation due to the large surface area, the considerable increase of laser radiation due to the length of the fiber, 50% lower power consumption than solid-state lasers, flexibility in assembly and operation, compactness and therefore the possibility of a terrestrial and aerial platform. Despite a number of shortcomings, especially in the optical field, high-fiber laser technology is considered “mature” and very promising.

The performance status for the various systems (solid-state lasers and fiber lasers) is currently 100 kilowatts, with an average efficiency of 30% with the expectation of receiving power of up to 400 kilowatts in 2024 with an efficiency of 30–50%. Powerful solid-state lasers – Laser Weapon System (LaWS) – in the range of 15–50 kilowatts (Fig. 2), that were developed by various bodies have demonstrated impressive operational feasibility in field interception experiments as UAVs and unmanned vessels and have been in operational service since 2014 in the Persian Gulf on the USS Ponce and on the USS Portland. This laser also intercepted a cruise missile in the White Sands Experimental Field, New Mexico. In terms of weight and volume estimation, today a solid-state laser system of 100 kilowatts weighs about 3 tons and has a total volume of 7,400 liters. The aim is to reach a system that weighs 500 kg, with a volume of 700 liters and an overall efficiency of 30% (Titterton, 2015: 255–256).

Figure 2. LaWS operational solid-state laser at 15–50 kW is placed on the USS Ponce fleet | Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AN/SEQ-3_Laser_Weapon_System


A high-power laser beam is a technologically complex electromagnetic weapon system, belonging to a generation of directed energy weapons. It has many advantages in terms of low cost, unlimited firing, minimal logistics, infinite reaction speed (relative to the target), and the ability to hit points within moving ranges depending on the type of laser and its location either on land or at high altitude. This weapon, however, also has environmental operating limitations and a limited range. The laser system is supposed to integrate and complete the Iron Dome system and provide an optimal protective shell for the State of Israel. The importance of Israel’s national security is reflected in the words of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, in a speech at the International Conference of the Institute for National Security Studies held in February 2022, that within a year the IDF will operate a “blue and white” laser interception system.

The future of work was high on the agenda at Davos 2022.

Kate Whiting

The future of work, jobs and skills was a core theme of the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos, with 13 dedicated sessions.

Discussions ranged from tackling skills shortages, to the multiple benefits of investment in social infrastructure, and redesigning organizational structures altogether.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the week.

A digital skills shortage could slow down the green transition, while boosting investment in care work could aid the global economic recovery.

We can’t all work in the metaverse, so we need to value essential work, and invest more in care and education to enable societies to function.

Job security differs around the globe - but beyond wages, jobs need to be flexible and have purpose, to attract more women and younger people.

And perhaps we should just scrap managers altogether.

These were just some of the key takeaways from 13 sessions on the future of work, jobs and skills at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos.

Why We Need Davos Man Back

Michael Hirsh

I never thought I would say this, but we need Davos Man back in the game.

“Davos Men” was a term coined by Samuel P. Huntington in 2004 for the transnational elites who, “empowered by new notions of global connectedness,” made a point of attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, every year.

I am one of the legions of journalists and writers who, at one time or another, also attended and huffed at the hypocrisy of it all. I mean, c’mon: a bunch of billionaires and elites pretending to solve the world’s problems when, in truth, they were often the very culprits perpetuating those problems? All that feel-good nonsense about globalization when, year by year, global markets were generating vast inequality—most of the benefits of which accrued to filthy rich Davosians. All those oh-so-earnest daytime discussion panels about food shortages when, making deals at champagne soirees the same evening, Davos participants were selling the global economy short with elaborate tax dodges.

A Fight Over Taiwan Could Go Nuclear War-Gaming Reveals How a U.S.-Chinese Conflict Might Escalate

Stacie L. Pettyjohn and Becca Wasser

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has raised the specter of nuclear war, as Russian President Vladimir Putin has placed his nuclear forces at an elevated state of alert and has warned that any effort by outside parties to interfere in the war would result in “consequences you have never seen.” Such saber-rattling has understandably made headlines and drawn notice in Washington. But if China attempted to forcibly invade Taiwan and the United States came to Taipei’s aid, the threat of escalation could outstrip even the current nerve-wracking situation in Europe.

A recent war game, conducted by the Center for a New American Security in conjunction with the NBC program “Meet the Press,” demonstrated just how quickly such a conflict could escalate. The game posited a fictional crisis set in 2027, with the aim of examining how the United States and China might act under a certain set of conditions. The game demonstrated that China’s military modernization and expansion of its nuclear arsenal—not to mention the importance Beijing places on unification with Taiwan—mean that, in the real world, a fight between China and the United States could very well go nuclear.

The Best Counter to Misinformation is More Information

Justin Malzac

As war spread across Ukraine earlier this year, Russia and its allies were spinning tales and stretching the truth to support a clearly unlawful use of force. First it was a claim that Ukraine was committing genocide against ethnic Russians in contested regions. Next was a claim that neo-Nazis in Ukraine posed an immediate threat to Russia, as a pretense for an unlawful invasion, or a false defense offered by the aggressors is that Ukraine was developing nuclear or biological weapons. Meanwhile, Russian censors went into overdrive back home, and the government even passed a law threatening anyone who calls the “Ukraine issue” a war with 15 years in prison. Information has now become a strategic weapon, even in conventional wars.

In a recent article I wrote for the Harvard National Security Journal, I examine the customary rules of international law as they relate to influence operations, showing that there exists a wide maneuver space for lawful information operations, especially those that are truthful or that promote compliance with international law. I argue that the fight against malicious influence cannot simply be defensive, but rather the West must expand our own influence operations against these bad actors. We must fight misinformation with the truth, by employing overwhelming fires.

Pentagon Says Russia’s Progress In Ukraine Is Only Incremental

Jim Garamone

Despite an enormous advantage in numbers, Russian forces attacking the Donbas region of Ukraine have made only “incremental progress,” a senior defense official said Thursday.

Russia has deployed 110 operational battalion tactical groups in Ukraine, the official said. The majority are in the south, and the remaining groups are split and fighting in the Donbas region. Even with the preponderance of troop numbers, officials say Russian forces have made small gains.

These gains are offset by Ukrainian gains on other battlefields, most notably around Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city.

The Russian war on Ukraine is in its 92nd day, and Russia’s strategy is evolving, the official said. At first, Russian forces aimed to capture the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, and replace the democratically elected government. Three wings of the Russia army expected to quickly overtake the Ukrainian military. One wing attacked from the north; the second attacked Crimea, and the third wing squeezed in from the east. “Well, that didn’t work,” the official said. “So, they started to try to carve off the whole Donbas region by coming south out of Kharkiv and north out of Mariupol.”

Playing Games In NATO, Turkey Eyes Its Role In A New World Order – Analysis

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.

Putin Against History How His War Has Erased Russia’s Past—And Endangered Its Future

Andrei Kolesnikov

If a Ukrainian grandmother with pro-Russian views did not exist, it would be necessary to invent her—or at least that is what the Russian government decided in April. At the time, Anna Ivanova inhabited a village near Kharkiv. One day, mistaking a group of arriving Ukrainian soldiers for Russians, she took out an old Soviet flag and waved it vigorously at them to remind them of their shared past and try to deter them from destroying the village. Instead, the Ukrainian forces, outraged at the sight of the hammer-and-sickle, took the flag from her and trampled it.

Caught on video, the episode was immediately seized on by the Kremlin. Soon, “Granny Anya” as she was called—though she’s only 69, the same age as Putin—was adopted as a potent symbol of local support for Russia’s “special operation.” Here, apparently, was living proof that the people of Ukraine were desperately waiting to be “liberated.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, despite Anna Ivanova’s efforts, her own home was later damaged in a Russian mortar attack, and for some time she and her husband were both in a hospital in Kharkiv. “It was really miserable of Russia to attack us,” she said, in a statement she recorded from her hospital bed. Now, she and her husband have returned to their home village, Velikaya Danilovka.

The Hazards of Optimism “Hope is a waking dream.” – Aristotle

G. Murphy Donovan

An old cliché tells us that “no news is good news.”

Today, that aphorism might come out of rewrite as “good news is not really news.” A recent BBC piece, under the ironic rubric of a “war on truth” told of a woman in the port city of Mariupol who heroically gave birth midst a Russian bombardment. The narrative was an inane argument about whether or not the women were a propagandist.

Given the strategic significance of Mariupol, the truth of such a yarn is moot when the real story of that day was the unarguable loss of a strategic city and the defeat of an operationally significant Ukrainian military asset. The Azov Regiment was the most iconic, albeit neo-Nazi unit in all of Ukraine. Azov fighters, some say thousands, who surrendered in Mariupol are now being shipped to Russian territory, chits for the inevitable prisoner exchange.

The Geopolitics Of Technology: How EU Can Become A Global Player – Analysis

Julian Ringhof and José Ignacio Torreblanca

Today’s major powers engage in comprehensive global technology politics. The weaponisation, mastering, and control of digital technologies is the new ‘Great Game’. These power dynamics are helping shape technological spheres of influence. Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, and the Indo-Pacific – but also in central Eastern Europe and the Balkans – have fallen or may soon fall under Chinese or Russian technological influence or dominance. China is luring countries into technological dependencies to undermine their political sovereignty through its Digital Silk Road (DSR) initiative. Beijing also shields its own citizens from foreign influence with its ‘great firewall’ and develops industrial strategies to secure its technological autonomy from the West. It uses digital disinformation to influence public opinion in other countries, mounts cyberattacks and cyberespionage to strengthen its industrial base, strategically deploys attractively-priced 5G technologies abroad to gain control of telecom networks, and tries to impose its technical standards through international organisations.

A New, Old Global Reality

George Friedman

The United States recently said that it would defend Taiwan in the event China invades it. More interesting is that Japan, a country that hasn’t undertaken military action since 1945, said the same. This doesn’t change much militarily – American missiles would still savage China’s amphibious assault before it even reached Taiwan’s shores, hence why Beijing talks a lot about invasion without actually invading. But this changes the political environment dramatically.

Not least because of its economic implications. Washington and Tokyo not only boast two of the largest economies in the world but are major Chinese customers. The military warning is implicitly coupled with an economic one. This is compounded further by a declaration of what Washington is calling the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, which will ostensibly include Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, India, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Thailand and Brunei. It is not clear what this group will do, or when it will do it. What’s clear is that there are a lot of Asian countries that are willing to participate in an economic grouping essentially sponsored by the United States, with Japan as its first member.

This is no small matter. China is in economic trouble, and President Xi Jinping is in trouble along with it. The Chinese economic miracle depended on exports to generate domestic capital. But for a variety of reasons, demand for its exports is shrinking, which has conspired with other issues to destabilize China’s financial system. India is eager to take China’s place as the world’s top exporter, and Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam the Philippines and Thailand would also like to take a piece of it. So if the framework grants any of them free or freer access to the American and Japanese markets, China will become less competitive.

And yet, the origin of China’s problem was political. The U.S. was its biggest customer (and still is but not as much) and that hurt a swath of social groups in the United States. Former President Donald Trump imposed tariffs on goods sold to the U.S., signaling a U.S. shift and shifting China’s internal psychology for unlimited exports to how to manage with potentially contracting exports. In the long run, this was a crisis of confidence that undermined the Chinese financial system, based as it was on real estate, which must be stabilized with the pain of economic restructuring. That in turn creates a political crisis that leads to either new rulers or more repression by the old ones.

There are now two guns pointing at China. One is military, which includes the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue of Japan, India, Australia and the United States. The other is economic, offering a serious challenge to China’s export strategy well before it is ready to shift to domestic consumption. Wars can solve economic problems as World War II did for the United States. The military coalition arrayed against China is unlikely to start a war, while Beijing would be facing a dangerous coalition if it started one itself. The two guns support each other.

This is occurring at the same time the Russo-Ukraine war rages. Russia chose to invade Ukraine with the assumption that Ukraine would crumble. It did not, primarily because of the massive infusions of weaponry sent to support Ukraine as well as an economic strike on Russia. China’s military threat is now facing an increasingly powerful military counter. China is also increasingly isolated. Months ago, it had formed an alliance of sorts with Russia. It was never clear how that alliance would benefit either nation, but now we’ll never know, thanks to Russia’s so far unsuccessful invasion of Ukraine. China can no longer afford to help Russia politically or economically, and Russia cannot afford to help China militarily.

The sum of all this is that the U.S. has reemerged as a global hegemon, even though it really never disappeared. The growth of Russia and China compelled the U.S. to achieve the position it had reached between 1945 and 1991, but that same growth has made Moscow and Beijing vulnerable. The U.S. is now engaged with Russia and China, and for what it’s worth, in Europe.

This is something I forecast in 2009. I said Russia would attack Ukraine, even if I was wrong about the timing of the invasion and how well Russia would fare in it. I also predicted that the war would lead to an internal crisis and that meanwhile an economic crisis in China would create a political crisis, leaving the U.S. as the de facto dominant power in the world.

Now that much of what I wrote has come to pass, I want to start focusing on my next set of 10-20 year forecasts: the emergence of Poland as a leading power in Europe, the reemergence of Japan as the dominant Asian power, and the rise of Turkey. This war is making Poland a significant military power and a decision-maker in Europe. Japan has now admitted that it is both a military and economic power, and as China weakens, it will be the decisive Asian power. My Turkey prediction looks bad, but I stand by it.

Minecraft’s Code-Writing AI Points to the Future of Computers

At the Microsoft Build developer conference today, the company’s chief technology officer, Kevin Scott, demonstrated an AI helper for the game Minecraft. The non-player character within the game is powered by the same machine learning technology Microsoft has been testing for auto-generating software code. The feat hints at how recent advances in AI could change personal computing in years to come by replacing interfaces that you tap, type, and click to navigate into interfaces that you simply have a conversation with.

The Minecraft agent responds appropriately to typed commands by converting them into working code behind the scenes using the software API for the game. The AI model that controls the bot was trained on vast amounts of code and natural language text, then shown the API specifications for Minecraft, along with a few usage examples. When a player tells it to “come here,” for instance, the underlying AI model will generate the code needed to have the agent move toward the player. In the demo shown at Build, the bot was also able to perform more complex tasks, like retrieving items and combining them to make something new. And because the model was trained on natural language as well as code, it can even respond to simple questions about how to build things.

Russia’s Black Sea blockade is a problem for the whole world

Lawrence Freedman

From the beginning of the war in Ukraine there have been concerns about confining it to two belligerents within defined geographical boundaries. The concern most often expressed is if Vladimir Putin, having seen his ambitions thwarted and with his forces on the run, lashes out in anger with nuclear weapons.

While no one dares to rule out an act of supreme irrationality, as I have argued here and here, nuclear weapon use would not solve any strategic problems for Russia. It would create many more. Nor has there been any indication that Putin is actually thinking along these lines: he is not even prepared to escalate by acknowledging that he is actually fighting a war and not just a limited “special operation”. Reservists have been signed up for the war in an almost covert fashion rather than through full mobilisation. Putin set a “red line” at the start of hostilities by demanding that Nato countries hold back from direct intervention in the war, and thus far this has been respected. For now, Nato is making an impact simply by keeping Ukraine economically afloat and militarily buoyant.

Former CENTCOM commander skeptical of counterterrorism strategy for Afghanistan

Mike Brest

The U.S. military is in a precarious position as it attempts to deter terrorism in Afghanistan without a presence in the country and limited help in the region, according to a former U.S. Central Command leader.

Gen. Joseph Votel, who served as the head of CENTCOM from March 2016 to March 2019, expressed doubt about the military’s planned reliance on over-the-horizon strikes as a counterterrorism strategy in an interview with the Washington Examiner.

“So the first thing is, I think we have to make sure we actually have that [capability], and I'm not so sure we do,” he said, though he noted, “I’m not in government right now, so I don't know. … I just get the feeling we don't yet have that problem solved or [are] continuing to search for an answer there."

The Coming Storm: Insights from Ukraine about Escalation in Modern War

Benjamin Jensen

In the Future 

There will be more crises like Ukraine that pull in great powers, spark escalation risks based on fear and uncertainty, and test the viability of integrated deterrence.

The longer a conflict such as Ukraine lasts, the less likely it will be confined to one state.

The national security community will need to develop tools and techniques for assessing competition, escalation tendencies, and risk attitudes among foreign leaders that combine old concepts from political psychology with new capabilities afforded by data science and natural language processing.

Based on three crisis simulations held in late March 2022 with think tank fellows, military planners, and congressional staffers, The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) will likely struggle to address escalation vectors almost certain to push the current war in Ukraine beyond the country’s borders. This paper captures key insights from across these simulations based on two triggering events: (1) a Russian surgical strike on a NATO logistics hub used to provide weapons to Ukraine in southeast Poland, and (2) Russian use of chemical weapons along the Polish border while simultaneously mobilizing to threaten the Baltics. As the conflict crossed a key threshold and risked becoming a regional war, most participants found a natural pull to escalate in each scenario despite limited expectations of achieving a position of competitive advantage. Analyzing how individuals and teams approached decisionmaking provides insights on rethinking escalation models in the twenty-first century and taking advantage of new concepts and capabilities to better support signaling during a crisis.

Russia Probably Has Not Used AI-Enabled Weapons in Ukraine, but That Could Change

Gregory C. Allen

In March, WIRED ran a story with the headline “Russia's Killer Drone in Ukraine Raises Fears About AI in Warfare,” with the subtitle, “The maker of the lethal drone claims that it can identify targets using artificial intelligence.” The story focused on the KUB-BLA, a small kamikaze drone aircraft that smashes itself into enemy targets and detonates an onboard explosive. The KUB-BLA is made by ZALA Aero, a subsidiary of the Russian weapons manufacturer Kalashnikov (best known as the maker of the AK-47), which itself is partly owned by Rostec, a part of Russia’s government-owned defense-industrial complex.

The WIRED story understandably attracted a lot of attention, but those who only read the sensational headline missed the article’s critical caveat: “It is unclear if the drone may have been operated in this [an AI-enabled autonomous] way in Ukraine.” Other outlets re-reported the WIRED story, but irresponsibly did so without the caveat.

WIRED’s assessment that Kalashnikov claims the KUB-BLA “boasts the ability to identify targets using artificial intelligence” is based on two main pieces of evidence: a Kalashnikov press release about ZALA Aero’s “Artificial Intelligence Visual Identification (AIVI)” capabilities for its unmanned aircraft, and the original Kalashnikov press release announcing the KUB-BLA in 2019.

The Costs of U.S.-China Semiconductor Decoupling

Justin Feng

As Washington and Beijing move toward “partial” technological decoupling, semiconductor chips have emerged as a key national security priority. In recent years, the United States has increased export controls against Chinese technology firms, and both sides have pursued industrial policies to promote domestic semiconductor manufacturing. A long-term concern for investors and multinational firms will be whether ongoing developments eventually snowball into a full-fledged U.S.-China semiconductor decoupling. Based on their deep integration in- and complementary positions along the global semiconductor value chain, a complete chip decoupling would carry immense economic and innovative costs.

The Global Semiconductor Value Chain

Beginning in the late 1980s, integrated device manufacturers (IDMs) that independently design and manufacture chips (e.g., Intel) found it increasingly difficult to simultaneously deliver the capital intensity of manufacturing and R&D expenditures for design. This gave rise to the foundry model consisting of pure play foundries (e.g., TSMC) that focus solely on manufacturing and fabless chip companies (e.g., Nvidia) that specialize in design. Today, all types of chipmakers—IDMs, foundries, and fabless firms—rely on a highly specialized global value chain and open trade to move around various chip components.