14 June 2022

Is It Too Late to Stop the Spread of Autonomous Weapons?

Zachary Kallenborn

The congressionally appointed National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence recently concluded that “we can expect the large-scale proliferation of AI-enabled capabilities.” The recent Libya conflict seems to validate that conclusion about artificial intelligence (AI), with soldiers loyal to Libyan Gen. Khalifa Haftar employing a Turkish-made Kargu-2 drone that “hunted down and remotely engaged” retreating forces, according to a United Nations report. It’s not clear whether the Kargu-2 employed its autonomous capabilities, but the Turkish government acknowledged it can field that capability. Likewise, Russia has employed the KUB-BLA loitering munition and reportedly the Lancet 3 during its invasion of Ukraine. Again, the details are murky—some analysts are skeptical that the KUB-BLA possesses AI-enabled autonomous capabilities, and the claims of Lancet 3 usage come from Rostec, the Russian state-owned defense conglomerate that includes the Lancet 3 manufacturer, not from independently-verified battlefield images. Adding to the confusion: in each case, autonomous operation is clearly an option, although it may not be exercised. That makes verification quite hard.

What’s far less murky is the need for the United States to think through policy regarding non- and counter-proliferation of autonomous weapons. Such a policy needs to be nuanced and risk-informed based on a specific weapon’s military value, effects on regional and global competition, and ease of acquisition. In some cases, the United States should treat autonomous weapons as just another tool in the foreign policy chest: share the weapons broadly to bolster allies and weaken adversaries. In other cases, the United States should aggressively pursue non- and counter-proliferation to even include adopting binding restrictions on American use of certain autonomous weapons.

War in Ukraine Is Destabilizing the Middle East and North Africa

Saeed Ghasseminejad

The war in Ukraine is already setting the Middle East on fire. In Iran, the government announced it would cut wheat subsidies amid rising global prices triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The announcement ignited a wave of protests that quickly turned political, as demonstrators called for the overthrow of Tehran’s clerical regime. But the ayatollahs are not the only ones in a hot and dry region that feel threatened by the upheaval in global wheat markets. In 2020, Russia and Ukraine provided 43 percent of the wheat imported by the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), compared to just 19 percent in 2008. The region also depends heavily on Russian and Ukrainian corn.

This system shock is not the first time in recent memory that turmoil in global grain markets has turned up the political temperature in MENA. Wheat prices spiked three separate times between 2008 and 2012, contributing to what began known as the Arab Spring, but mostly degenerated into bloody and intractable wars still raging in Syria, Libya, and Yemen. To tamp down risks, the Biden administration has already allocated hundreds of millions of dollars to fight global food insecurity.

The Fight to Survive Russia's Onslaught in Eastern Ukraine

Michael Kofman

Russia’s war in Ukraine is not the same conflict that it was earlier this spring. The Russian Army’s initial campaign, in February and March, was a three-front invasion with little coherence or military logic. Ukrainian troops mounted small-unit ambushes and used rocket-propelled grenades, antitank weapons, and drones to destroy Russian troop formations and armor. Viral videos show their direct strikes, with tanks disappearing in flame and smoke. Now the Russian military has regrouped its forces for a more targeted assault in the Donbas, in eastern Ukraine, drawing on its advantages in artillery and airpower. As Michael Kofman, an expert on the Russian military at CNA, a defense research organization, said, “Russia is making fitful but incremental gains, and Ukraine’s position in the Donbas is more precarious than it once seemed.” I spent several days in the Donbas recently, where a number of officers and enlisted soldiers told me that Ukrainian infantry rarely see the enemy. Rather, battles are often fought at distances of ten miles or more. The war has become, as one soldier told me, a game of “artillery Ping-Pong.”

The Right Way to Fight Global Hunger


BERLIN – The global food system is broken. Although it produces more than enough calories to feed everyone, up to 811 million people – more than 10% of the world’s population – go to bed hungry each night. Sadly, effective governance to ensure access to food for all is still lacking. A globally coordinated effort to address both the short- and long-term aspects of the hunger crisis must therefore be the top priority.

Today, all four dimensions of food security – availability, access, stability, and utilization – are threatened by the combined negative effects of climate change, conflict, COVID-19, and cost. By disrupting global trade and pushing up food prices, these four “Cs” are creating a short-term challenge of increasing hunger. At the same time, the man-made climate crisis poses a medium to long-term threat.

Climate change has already started to affect the environment in which food can be produced. Exceptional droughts, heat waves, and floods are undermining farming in regions as different as the Horn of Africa and the Midwest of the United States. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recent Sixth Assessment Report leaves no doubt: The climate crisis will have increasingly damaging consequences for food systems around the world.

What it means to ‘be disappeared’ in the Taliban’s Afghanistan

Nikhil Kumar and Fatima Faizi

They were all men, all armed, and they came in the dead of night. Fawzia Sayedzada, a former academic at a university in Kabul, was at home with her family — her 12-year-old son and 29-year-old brother — when the men broke in, storming through her front door as though they were hunting dangerous criminals. “They didn’t knock,” the 32-year-old told Grid.

It was mid-September 2021, about a month after the Taliban returned to power in Kabul following the departure of U.S. forces from Afghanistan. Days before the raid, on Sept. 7, Sayedzada had helped organize a protest calling on Afghanistan’s new overlords to recognize rights and freedoms that had been erased, wholesale, by the Taliban regime that ruled more than two decades before: freedom of the press, and the rights of women and girls to work, travel and go to school. In sum, as Sayedzada put it to Grid, the freedom “to live our lives as we want to.”

The raid on her home was retribution — part of a wider campaign by the Taliban as it settled back into power. That campaign has continued. Rights groups and activists inside the country told Grid that Afghanistan’s new rulers have targeted people they perceive as threats: activists like Sayedzada, who have demanded that the group honor basic human rights, as well as former members of the security forces and officials who worked for the previous, U.S.-backed Afghan government.

India, China Growing Markets for Shunned Russian Oil

Krutika Pathi and Elaine Kurtenbach

India and other Asian nations are becoming an increasingly vital source of oil revenues for Moscow despite strong pressure from the U.S. not to increase their purchases, as the European Union and other allies cut off energy imports from Russia in line with sanctions over its war on Ukraine.

Such sales are boosting Russian export revenues at a time when Washington and allies are trying to limit financial flows supporting Moscow’s war effort.

India, an oil-hungry country of 1.4 billion people, has guzzled nearly 60 million barrels of Russian oil in 2022 so far, compared with 12 million barrels in all of 2021, according to commodity data firm Kpler. Shipments to other Asian countries, like China, have also increased in recent months but to a lesser extent.

Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Declares Unilateral Ceasefire

Umair Jamal

The Pakistani government has been negotiating with the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) for weeks in an effort to permanently halt cross-border attacks from Afghanistan. The latest round of intense and extensive negotiations has seen Pakistan going all in to involve relevant stakeholders to reach an agreement with the group. A tribal jirga of prominent elders has visited Kabul many times to persuade the group to shun violence. To ensure that the peace process stays on track, the Afghan Taliban have thrown their weight behind the ongoing negotiations.

As a result the TTP has declared an indefinite ceasefire with the Pakistani government. Following the announcement of the ceasefire last week, the government acknowledged for the first time that it was negotiating with the TTP.

While both sides have shown willingness to negotiate, it remains to see if the ongoing peace talks can result in a lasting peace. There are several reasons to believe that the ongoing peace negotiations will not be enough to restore peace in the region.

The Future of U.S. Security Depends on Owning the ‘Gray Zone.’ Biden Must Get It Right.

Clementine G. Starling & Julia Siegel

Conventional military superiority once guaranteed the security of the United States and its allies—but no more. Adversaries like Russia and China have learned that if they cannot compete with the United States conventionally, they can undermine U.S. security in the cyber, economic, and information domains through offensive activities in the “gray zone,” or the space between peace (or cooperation) and war (or armed conflict).

After decades of relying on its conventional power, the United States lacks a comprehensive strategy to align gray-zone activities with the national goals it aims to achieve. More complicated still, this term is ill-defined—if even acknowledged—in U.S. and allied strategies, creating an obstacle to further dialogue and policy action. Current efforts are uncoordinated across the executive branch and relevant stakeholders, and the desired end state is unclear.

The Biden administration, for its part, acknowledges the strategic imperative to effectively compete in the gray zone with concepts like integrated deterrence, which is aimed at integrating all instruments of power “across the spectrum of conflict.” Now, the forthcoming National Security Strategy (NSS), National Defense Strategy (NDS), and Quadrennial Homeland Security Review (QHSR) provide an opportunity to unite national efforts to deal with these nonmilitary security challenges.


Al Boyer and Cole Livieratos

Last month, the United States Military Academy at West Point graduated around one thousand cadets from the class of 2022 and commissioned them as second lieutenants into an Army emerging from two decades of war. While the Army’s newest officers are physically fit, incredibly smart, and qualified to lead, dozens of cadets we have taught during their four years at the academy admit that something is missing from their experience, leaving them genuinely concerned about their preparation to lead in future wars. These admissions are not simply the natural trepidation of people taking a major step in their lives. Their concerns are much more specific, with many divulging that they feel more adequately prepared to fight the conflicts of the past than those they see around the world today.

As officers who have spent a good deal of our own careers fighting America’s post-9/11 wars, we recognize a host of tactical, leadership, and life lessons these wars have imparted on us. The past few years at West Point, we taught and mentored many cadets in the graduating class, but we did not focus on our experiences fighting these wars of the past. Rather, we centered our instruction on the future of warfare. And what we found was astonishing. As with most professional military education in the Army, West Point does an excellent job imbuing its graduates with general attributes and competencies expected of military leaders in all environments. However, there is too little attention paid to how these traits should be applied in a context characterized by conventional and irregular threats from powerful competitors, the increasing use of artificial intelligence and autonomous systems on the battlefield, the rising importance of electronic warfare and signature management, and the erosion of truth itself. In other words, we train young leaders on the nature of leadership while often disregarding its character altogether.

A Ukraine Strategy for the Long Haul

Richard Haass

With Russia’s war against Ukraine having passed the 100-day mark, calls for the conflict to be brought to an end are multiplying in the United States and Europe. Italy has put forward a detailed peace plan, French President Emmanuel Macron has emphasized the importance of giving Russia an off-ramp, and former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has suggested that Ukraine ought to consider ceding territory to Russia in exchange for peace.

But wars end in only one of two ways: when one side imposes its will on the other, first on the battlefield, then at the negotiating table, or when both sides embrace a compromise they deem preferable to fighting. In Ukraine, neither scenario is likely to materialize anytime soon. The conflict has become a war of attrition, with Russian and Ukrainian forces now concentrated against each other in a relatively confined area. Diplomatically, the Ukrainians have little interest in accepting Russian occupation of large swaths of their territory. Russian President Vladimir Putin, for his part, has little interest in agreeing to anything that could be judged at home to constitute defeat. The inescapable conclusion, then, is that this war will go on—and on.

India-Iran Ties Are Ripe for a Reset

Rajeev Agarwal

Iran’s Foreign Minister Dr. Hossein Amir-Abdollahian was on an official visit to India from June 8 to 10, during which he held talks with Dr. S. Jaishankar, the Indian external affairs minister. This was his first visit to India since assuming office in August 2021 and comes at a crucial juncture amid geopolitical churn not only in the region but across the globe.

Amir-Abdollahian also called on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a privilege not accorded to all visiting foreign ministers. Tweeting on the meeting, Modi highlighted how “relations have mutually benefitted both the countries and have promoted regional security and prosperity.”

The official statement released by the Ministry of External Affairs highlighted the exchange of views on important issues like the Iran nuclear deal, the Ukraine conflict, and the situation in Afghanistan. India “appreciated the role of Iran in facilitating India’s medical assistance to Afghanistan, including supply of COVID-19 vaccines to Afghan nationals residing in Iran.” In addition, all bilateral issues including cooperation in the field of regional connectivity and the progress made at the Chabahar port were reviewed. Exuding confidence at the outcome of the visit, the Iranian foreign minister said that “preparing a roadmap for strategic cooperation between Iran and India can regulate long-term relations and protect it from the impact of destructive factors.”

The War’s Impact on Russia’s Economy and Ukrainian Politics

Mitchell Orenstein

Moscow grossly underestimated the economic costs of launching its war in Ukraine. Lulled by the limited sanctions that greeted its invasions of Crimea and Donbas in 2014, and a false sense of security provided by its hundreds of billions of dollars in reserves, President Vladimir Putin appears to have believed that he could ride out any sanctions that a divided West could muster. He seems not to have understood the shock wave that a full invasion of a European state would produce in the West and the massive unity of the European Union’s economic response. He did not anticipate Germany’s about-face in its relations with Russia or the sudden attractiveness of NATO membership to Finland and Sweden. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine appears to be a catastrophic blunder by Putin, one that puts Russia and his regime in great peril.

On April 6, 2022, the White House stated, “Experts predict Russia’s GDP will contract up to 15 percent this year, wiping out the last fifteen years of economic gains. Inflation is already spiking above 15 percent and forecast to accelerate higher … Supply chains in Russia have been severely disrupted. Russia will very likely lose its status as a major economy, and it will continue a long descent into economic, financial, and technological isolation.” This seems like a reasonable projection. However, there remain a number of uncertainties, such as whether Russia will be forced to default on its debt; whether its foreign trade, particularly in oil and gas, will be banned; whether it will continue to be able to count on India and other developing countries for economic support and sanctions busting; and how great Russia’s currency reserves actually are and whether these include oligarch assets, for instance, or other hidden treasures of Russia’s mafia state networks.

How long will Xi Jinping rule China?

For some time now it has been assumed that in November the National Congress will rubber stamp Xi Jinping’s continued role as China’s supreme leader for a third five-year term, which would make Xi the first Chinese leader for a generation to serve more than two terms.

Just a year ago his position as one of China's three pre-eminent leaders was confirmed when the 400 members of the Central Committee passed the third ‘Historical Resolution’ in the Chinese Communist Party’s 100-year history. The previous two were organised by Mao in 1945 and Deng Xiaoping in 1981. The resolution highlighted the concept of ‘Xi Jinping Thought’ as a historical equivalent to that of his two legendary predecessors. But a number of crises, international and domestic, have put a question mark against Xi’s continued omnipotence.

When Xi met Putin before the Beijing Winter Olympics, the allies, who had moved ever closer over the last decade, declared that there were ‘no limits’ to the Russia-China relationship. What followed Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, about which Xi was forewarned, is therefore a puzzle. Although China voted against the UN resolution to denounce Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, China’s active support for Russia has been notable by its absence.

Biden Is Right About Saudi Arabia

Andrew Exum

Biden’s planned visit to the kingdom represents a determination to both rationalize the amount of attention we pay to the region and formulate a foreign policy that works on behalf of the American middle class. But it is not going to make anyone happy in the near term, and it is going to cost him precious political capital with his own party.

In the two decades since the September 11 attacks, elite opinion in the United States regarding the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has finally caught up to where popular opinion has been headed for some time. American elites—to include elected and appointed officials—have come to resent the historically close relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia. This resentment is bipartisan, but is most keenly felt within the more progressive ranks of the president’s party.

The ascension of crown prince Mohammed bin Salman as the kingdom’s de facto leader has accelerated the decline in relations between the two countries. For many Americans, elites and non-elites alike, the brutal murder of the Saudi dissident and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi—approved, according to U.S. intelligence, by the crown prince himself—was the last straw.

Egypt looks to India for wheat to make up losses from Ukraine war

Rasha Mahmoud

Egypt is currently in talks with India over a deal to import 500,000 tons of Indian wheat in exchange for Egyptian exports of fertilizers and other products, the country’s Minister of Supply and Internal Trade Ali al-Moselhi revealed to Bloomberg on June 3.

Moselhi said that he discussed the potential swap deal with the Indian ambassador to Egypt on the sidelines of the annual meetings of the Islamic Development Bank held in Sharm el-Sheikh in June. Bloomberg quoted Moselhi as saying that he met the Indian ambassador on June 1 “to discuss the potential swap agreement to secure 500,000 tons of wheat, through various shipments.”

The potential Egyptian-Indian deal comes amid a global wheat supply shortage sparked by the Russian invasion of Ukraine after Russian forces closed Ukrainian seaports.

The Real End of Pax Americana Germany and Japan Are Changing—and So Is the Postwar Order

Mark Leonard

The post–World War II international order is often described as a product of American strength. Together with its allies, a victorious United States imposed its will on the rest of the world, crafting institutions and norms that served its interests and assured its primacy. But to an often underappreciated degree, that order is also a product of the artificial weakness of Germany and Japan. For three-quarters of a century after 1945, both countries consciously eschewed great-power status and pursued pacifist approaches to foreign policy. At the heart of the postwar order, in other words, is the unique status of the world’s third- and fourth-largest economies. Although that order has come to seem natural to many in the West, it is predicated on an arguably unnatural condition: the forced pacification of two countries that—owing to geography, demography, and history—had predictably become regional hegemons in the prewar modern era.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine—and the growing antagonism between the United States and China—is threatening to upend that status quo and with it Pax Americana, which has held since the end of World War II. In response to Moscow’s aggression, Germany has fundamentally reoriented its foreign policy, pledging to radically increase defense spending and taking a hawkish line on Ukraine. And Japan, wary of China’s quest for regional hegemony, seems closer than ever to a similar transformation.

Early Warning Brief- Unemployment Monitoring and Early Warning: New Trends in Xinjiang’s Coercive Labor Placement Systems

Adrian Zenz


In mid-2019, the first efforts to systematically research and conceptualize state-sponsored forced labor systems in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) took place (Journal of Political Risk, December 2019). First, this research examined the placement of detainees in Vocational Skills Education and Training Centers (VSETCs, 职业技能教育培训中心, zhiye jineng jiaoyu peixun zhongxin), which function as re-education camps; and second, the findings detailed the transfer of rural surplus laborers (农村劳动者转移就业, nongcun laodongzhe zhuanyi jiuye) into secondary or tertiary sector work – referred to as Poverty Alleviation through Labor Transfer (脱贫转移就业, tuopin zhuanyi jiuye). In addition to general evidence for coercive labor placements into labor-intensive manufacturing, scholars uncovered evidence of coercive labor transfers for specific economic sectors such as cotton and tomato picking, as well as the production of polysilicon for solar panels (Newlines Institute, December 2020; CBC News, October 29, 2021; Bloomberg, April 2021).[1] Much of the evidence implicating these industries came from publicly available government data, media or company reports, typically dating from between 2017 and 2020. Unfortunately, since then, such evidence has become much sparser. This examination argues that this falloff in information is not just due to government censorship. Rather, it also reflects systemic and concerning changes to the ways that coercive labor placements in Xinjiang are being consolidated.

Islamic State in Khorasan Province’s Rocket Attack in Tajikistan

Nurbek Bekmurzaev

On May 7, several rockets were launched from the Hojagor district of Takhar province, Afghanistan into the neighboring Panj district in Tajikistan (Radio Ozodi, May 8). The Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP) released a statement on the same day to claim responsibility for the attack (Eurasianet May 9). On May 8, the State Committee of National Security of Tajikistan (GKNB) claimed that “bullets accidentally ended up on the territory of Tajikistan” after a shootout between Taliban and ISKP forces near the Afghan-Tajik border.

The GKNB statement also noted the situation on the border was stable, and the Taliban was conducting operations to locate and disarm the perpetrators (Khovar, May 8). Taliban officials confirmed this by delivering a statement on May 9 promising that “efforts are being made to arrest the perpetrators of the rocket attack from Afghanistan into Tajikistan (Pajhwok Afghan News, May 9).” Several Tajik analysts and authorities nevertheless doubted the sincerity of this promise and blamed the Taliban for the attack.

Close encounters of the PLA kind: Xi shows the South Pacific its future

Michael Shoebridge

The 26 May incident where a Chinese fighter aircraft fired flares and chaff at an Australian maritime patrol aircraft in international airspace above the South China Sea, risking a potentially fatal crash, is not an isolated episode. And it’s not peculiar to the Australia–China relationship, so it would be wrong to see it as all about us and connected with any notion that Beijing is focusing much effort on a positive ‘reset’ of our bilateral relationship.

Instead, this type of aggression is the face the People’s Liberation Army is showing to numerous nations and in more places as its power-projection ability grows. It’s doing what Xi Jinping wants from it in his ‘new era’ of a Sino-centred world, controlled by the CCP.

On several occasions including on the same day as the incident with the Australian jet, Chinese fighter aircraft aggressively and dangerously harassed a Canadian military aircraft enforcing United Nations sanctions along the border with North Korea. As the Canadian government stated after the incidents, the PLA Air Force aircraft ‘did not adhere to international air safety norms’. It added ‘These interactions are unprofessional and/or put the safety of our Royal Canadian Air Force personnel at risk.’

Countering hybrid threats in the Indo-Pacific

Lesley Seebeck, Emily Williams and Jake Wallis

Enabled by digital technologies and fuelled by geopolitical competition, hybrid threats in the Indo-Pacific are increasing in breadth, application and intensity. Hybrid threats are a mix of military, non-military, covert and overt activities by state and non-state actors that occur below the level of conventional warfare. The consequences for individual nations include weakened institutions, disrupted social systems and economies, and greater vulnerability to coercion—especially from revisionist powers such as China.

But the consequences of increased hybrid activity in the Indo-Pacific reach well beyond individual nations. The Indo-Pacific hosts a wide variety of political systems and interests, with multiple centres of influence, multiple points of tension and an increasingly belligerent authoritarian power. Given its position as a critical centre of global economic and social dynamism, instability in the Indo-Pacific, whether through or triggered by hybrid threats, has global ramifications.

China increases deployment of fighter aircraft near Indian territory| Exclusive

Manjeet Negi

Amid the assertion by an American military officer that the situation along the Eastern Ladakh sector was alarming, it is emerging that the Chinese Air Force has more than doubled the deployment of fighter aircraft at its main base near Indian territory.

The Chinese Air Force is operating from its main base in Hotan during the conflict. They are now maintaining around 25 fighter aircraft there. This is much higher than what they used to keep earlier, top government sources told India Today.

Indian agencies are closely monitoring the development and Indian agencies responsible are prepared for any eventuality, they said.

China is also developing a new fighter aircraft base in Shakche which is expected to strengthen Chinese Air Force along the LAC with India. The Indian side feels that Chinese have realised that the Indian Air Force was able to move faster in the conflict zone than them and that is why they have started working on new airbases.

Sparring at the Shangri-La Dialogue

Manoj Kewalramani

Hi folks,

I was working on our weekly Eye on China newsletter and put together this section on the different engagements at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. Since many of you are not subscribed to the weekly newsletter, I thought i’ll share it here too.

Hope you find it useful.



After two years, the annual Shangri-La Dialogue Forum is being held in Singapore from June 10 to 12th. I thought I’d recap some of the developments from the event so far. Let us begin with the first meeting between China’s Defense Minister Wei Fenghe and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. Reports inform that the meeting ran for 30 minutes longer than scheduled.

Xinhua’s report on the meeting says that the two sides agreed to “enhance strategic mutual trust and properly manage differences between the militaries of the two countries.” The report adds that Wei said that the US:

Autonomy through digital resilience: The importance of upholding the national tech stack

The national tech stack refers to the totality of a nation’s technological capability, including its infrastructure, supply chains, governance, and knowledge base. In a digitally interconnected world, strong and resilient tech stacks are the key to maintaining the capability for autonomous decision-making.

Expertise is key for digital resilience. Once knowledge of how to build, repair, rebuild, reconnect, or reform technological infrastructure is lost, it cannot be quickly replaced.

Even-handed binding regulation is paramount for strengthening digital resilience. Yet not all regulation is beneficial, which is why expertise and public-private cooperation are important. Legislation should bind actors irrespective of the technologies utilised.

Writing the rules for mining in space

Rebecca Banagala

With the announcement that Defence Space Command operations have kicked off, it’s unsurprising that Australia’s defence and national security experts are increasingly talking about space.

In March, then defence minister and now opposition leader Peter Dutton said he was eager to avoid space becoming a threat environment that either breeds conflict or exacerbates tensions back on earth. He described space as becoming increasingly congested and contested and announced that Australia will ‘invest in new military space capabilities to counter threats … to uphold the free use of space’.

That’s why we’ve seen trials by companies such as the Boeing’s test flight of the Starliner to the International Space Station, and budget commitments in abundance. Funding was allocated for building space command’s kinetic and non-kinetic capabilities, enhancing Australian space capability and locally made satellites, and expanding the international space investment with India. Things appear to be looking up for those who’ve long campaigned for a greater focus on security threats emanating from (or in) space.

When Autocrats Get it Wrong, What is the Moral Response?

Dr Matt Killingsworth and Professor Nicholas Farrelly

In February 2021 Myanmar’s top military brass dusted off their old play book for an old-fashioned coup d’état, rolling out the tanks and commando squads. They sought to decapitate the democratically elected leadership and re-install themselves as supreme leaders. Within hours, the generals, led by Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, were back in-charge.

Over the months that followed, the world watched in horror as conditions deteriorated, with thousands locked up, and countless more displaced or forced into hiding. The battle against this reinvigorated authoritarianism also ramped up quickly.

Outgunned by one of Southeast Asia’s largest military forces, opposition groups needed to get their hands on weapons and other supplies if they were to stand a chance. Myanmar’s anti-coup fighters have limited access to better weapons, relying, mostly, on what circulates in the region’s black markets.

What the Ukraine war should teach China

Minxin Pei

As Russia’s war on Ukraine enters its fourth month, the endgame remains murky. But one thing is clear: Russia’s military has taken a beating from Ukrainian forces that, at the start of the conflict, were thought to be no match for it. For China’s People’s Liberation Army, which shares many of the deficiencies that are undercutting Russia’s effectiveness on the battlefield, this should be a wake-up call.

One such deficiency is corruption. Of the world’s 20 largest economies, Russia rates the worst in this domain. Perhaps it shouldn’t have been surprising, then, that Russia’s military—long considered one of the world’s strongest—has been severely weakened by a variety of abuses. Judging by the number of senior generals arrested for corruption in China in the past decade, the rot inside the PLA may run just as deep.

Shortly after Xi Jinping came to power in November 2012, he launched an anti-corruption drive that, by the end of 2017, had ensnared more than 100 generals. Two former vice-chairmen of the Central Military Commission, which commands the PLA, were arrested for taking bribes in exchange for promotions. Another commission member died by suicide in 2017 while an investigation into his ties to the disgraced vice-chairmen was underway.

Adding up the global costs of Putin’s war

Ben Stevens

The death, destruction and disruption caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine suggest that short-term savings achieved by running down defence capabilities in peacetime can incur huge costs in the longer run. The cost of investing in military capabilities to deter coercive authoritarian regimes could be far cheaper than the costs of war.

While the invasion has cost Ukraine dearly in human, economic and physical terms, Russia, too, is enduring great cost, probably in ways that President Vladimir Putin didn’t anticipate. Europe will endure higher energy costs for some time. Around the world, food insecurity will be exacerbated for those least able to manage it, potentially leading to political instability.

It’s difficult to know what level of European defence spending could have deterred Putin, and military equipment alone is not enough. Resolve and a willingness to use those capabilities are just as important.

The Future of Open Source Intelligence for UK National Security

Ardi Janjeva, Alexander Harris and Joe Byrne

This joint paper from RUSI and the Alan Turing Institute’s Centre for Emerging Technology and Security aims to establish an independent evidence base to inform future government policy development regarding the use of publicly available information (PAI) and open source intelligence (OSINT) for national security purposes. The findings are based on in-depth consultations with stakeholders from across academia, civil society, commercial organisations, law enforcement and the UK government.

The paper explores the extent to which the increasing proliferation of PAI – and wider accessibility of tools leveraging PAI for OSINT – is changing perceptions of modern intelligence. From this foundation, it asks what the commercial, cultural, policy and technological implications are for UK national security stakeholders.

The militarization of Russian polar politics

Mathieu Boulègue

Russia’s policies for the polar regions overlap and are increasingly becoming militarized, as the perception of threats to Russian national interests grows. This has direct consequences for other polar nations and for NATO and its allies.

In the Arctic, a fear of encirclement by NATO and its allies informs this posture – heightened by worsening relations with the West over Russia’s renewed war against Ukraine and potential NATO expansion. Another key Russian goal is to secure control over the Northern Sea Route, amid increased human activity prompted by climate change. In Antarctica, Russia perceives a need to protect its national interests against other state parties to the Antarctic Treaty System.

This paper details the reasons behind Russia’s militarized postures in the Arctic and Antarctic regions. It assesses the North and South Poles as potential theatres for military activity and geopolitical confrontation, and recommends ways to mitigate risks for the US, NATO and their allies.


Although Russia does not have a defined common approach to the polar regions, its postures in the Arctic and in Antarctica overlap. They are securitized and increasingly militarized, with direct consequences for other polar nations.

In the Arctic, Russia’s main threat perception relates to the fear of encirclement by NATO and its allies. In the context of Russia’s renewed war against Ukraine since February 2022, the Finnish and Swedish applications to join NATO and the likely expansion of the alliance are a case in point. In Antarctica, Russia’s posture relates to protecting its national interests from territorial claims over the continent by other Antarctic Treaty System (ATS) member states.

Moscow views the Arctic as a strategic continuum stretching from the North Atlantic to the North Pacific. The Kremlin’s priorities are to: impose costs on other countries’ access to Russia’s European Arctic; protect the Northern Sea Route; defend North Pole approaches;
 remove tensions from the region; and extend Russia’s military capabilities beyond the Arctic Zone of the Russian Federation (AZRF).

Russia is rebuilding its military capabilities and modernizing its regional military infrastructure by using a ‘double dual’ approach: Arctic infrastructure is being used for civilian and military purposes (dual-use), while Russia is also blurring the lines between offensive and defensive intent (dual-purpose).

This ambition to exercise control and denial capabilities beyond the AZRF and the Kremlin’s willingness to push military tensions towards the North Atlantic are increasing pressure on regional navigational chokepoints – namely the Greenland–Iceland–UK and Greenland–Iceland–Norway gaps – and the Svalbard archipelago. Russia also seeks to undermine US strategic dominance in northeast Asia – more specifically, the deployment of US theatre missile defence in Japan and South Korea.

Moscow also has an increasingly securitized understanding of the future of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean. This is reflected in policies aimed at safeguarding Russian national interests within the ATS, as well as those allowing Russia to contest the maritime and naval activities of other states in the Southern Ocean.

Russia’s posture in polar affairs has two main consequences for Arctic coastal states and for the future of the ATS: the need to manage accidents and miscalculations in polar affairs; and increased Russia–China interaction at both poles.

The Russian approach to China’s increasing presence at both poles is pragmatic and compartmentalized. While Russia for now is developing cooperation with Beijing within the ATS, it is much more cautious when it comes to the Arctic, where China’s presence is only tolerated. At both poles, the Kremlin needs to manage Beijing’s attempts to shape the future of polar governance, and take steps to ensure that Russian interests are respected.

Tension and miscalculation in polar affairs must be managed by shaping Western policy around Russia’s increasingly militarized approach to the Arctic and Antarctic regions. Preserving the spirit of ‘low tension’ in the Arctic and stability within the ATS will require careful adjustments from Western policymakers.

This paper recommends that Western policymakers consider Arctic and Antarctic policies as interdependent; understand the Arctic region as a strategic continuum; expand discussions on military security in the Arctic without Russia; and take action to address the lack of transparency around Russia’s actions in Antarctica.

Disinformation fight goes beyond Ukraine and its allies

Adam Kowalski

Although Russia’s war in Ukraine has yet to deliver any significant military victories, and its economy is wobbling towards the worst recession since the fall of the Soviet Union, Moscow’s fight in the information space is proving tougher to defeat.

Malign information is a key aspect of Russia’s war strategy as it uses the information environment to justify its war, both domestically and abroad, and to coerce audiences into unwittingly supporting its actions.

It uses narratives that play on the broad themes of anti-colonialism and Western imperialism, with recurring lies including the protection of ethnic Russians in Donbas from supposed genocide, ‘de-nazifying’ Ukraine, and blaming the invasion on NATO aggression.