15 June 2022

Utopias: Does living in a perfect society mean you must give up your freedom?

Tim Brinkhof

“What can be expected of man since he is a being endowed with strange qualities?” Fyodor Dostoevsky asks in his 1864 novella Notes from Underground. “Shower upon him every earthly blessing, drown him in a sea of happiness, so that nothing but bubbles of bliss can be seen on the surface; give him economic prosperity, such that he should have nothing else to do but sleep, eat cakes and busy himself with the continuation of his species.”

“Even then,” Dostoevsky continues, “out of sheer ingratitude, sheer spite, man would play you some nasty trick. He would even risk his cakes and would deliberately desire the most fatal rubbish, the most uneconomical absurdity, simply to introduce into all this positive good sense his fatal fantastic element. It is just his fantastic dreams, his vulgar folly that he will desire to retain, simply in order to prove to himself—as though that were so necessary—that men still are men and not the keys of a piano.”

The Gruesome Battle of Donetsk

Neil Hauer

It’s not often that a place like Pryshyb finds itself at the center of the action.

A sleepy village nestled along the Seversky Donets River, its few hundred inhabitants engage mostly in subsistence agriculture. At least, they did. Most have fled now, going deeper into Ukraine because of what lies on the other side of that river — the Russian army, grinding its way forward on one of the key axes of its offensive to capture the entire Donbas region.

On a sunny day in late May, the local territorial defense unit in Pryshyb was conducting its typical duties — patrol, lookouts, conversing with the remaining inhabitants. Most of the combatants looked the part of a typical eastern Ukrainian volunteer fighter. Except Hussein.

With his olive skin and wispy black mustache, Hussein stands out from his comrades. “You’re not the first people to be surprised to find me here,” he laughs. “I’m not exactly your typical Ukrainian.”

Hussein’s father is Lebanese, having moved to Soviet Ukraine in 1978 to study. There he fell in love with and married a local Ukrainian woman. Hussein was born in 1982, in the Donbas town of Kostyantynivka.

There Is No Military Path For Ukraine To ‘Defeat’ Russia

Daniel Davis

The Tide of Battle – and Mounting Casualties – Turning Against Ukraine – Since it became evident a few weeks into Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine that Moscow’s troops were stopped cold outside of Kyiv, there has been a near-universal belief in the West that Ukraine would eventually win. All that was needed, many pundits claimed, was to get Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s forces sufficient numbers of weapons and ammunition. As the war now grinds towards the four-month mark, it is becoming painfully evident that the odds are stacked in Russia’s favor.

Militarily speaking, there is no rational path through which Ukraine will ever win its war. Without a course correction – and soon – Kyiv itself may not ultimately be safe.

After Russian armor suffered a “stunning defeat” by Ukrainian defenders north of Kyiv and Kharkiv during the first few weeks of war, many pundits were writing off the Russian army as “incompetent” and suggested they were incapable of defeating the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF), whose great bravery and skills were widely hailed.

The US and China talk and taunt

Graeme Dobell

The US and China came to Singapore’s Shangri-La security dialogue to argue and score points, to talk and to taunt.

The face-off presented as drama and fight.

As the reigning champ, the US got to throw the first public punch in the first session on day one. As challenger, China starred in a mirror session, to start day two. This was conference scheduling to express the drama that today obsesses the Indo-Pacific.

Beyond the public performances, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and China’s Defence Minister Wei Fenghe had a bilateral meeting plus two ministerial forums chaired by Singapore’s Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen.

Austin kicked off on Saturday because at every Shangri-La Dialogue since the second was held in 2003, the US defence secretary has been the first speaker at the first session. Being number one has its privileges.

Ongoing Dependence on Russian EnergyThe Natural Gas Continues to Flow

Claus Hecking, Isabell Hülsen, Michael Sauga und Gerald Traufetter

Klaus Müller is fond of delivering good news. The head of Germany's Federal Network Agency tweets daily about the current situation on the gas market – and lately, the numbers have only been going up. In mid-March, German fuel storage facilities were only 24 percent full. They were at 30 percent by Easter and 41 percent in mid-May. And last week, Müller's numbers signaled for the first time that more than half of the maximum levels had been reached. "Gas supply in Germany remains stable," the official proudly reported.

The situation is also easing in other European countries. On average, gas storage facilities are now at more than half of capacity. Furthermore, many in Brussels currently believe that the European Union will have made itself sufficiently independent of Russian gas by the end of the year that member states will be ready if Moscow decides to cut supplies in winter.

That may sound like "mission accomplished," but, in fact, the mood is better than the actual situation, because it is also Russian gas that is helping to fill those storage facilities. The Moscow state gas monopolist Gazprom has indeed stopped its deliveries to Poland, Bulgaria, Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands. However, it continues to supply its most important customers, including Germany's Uniper and Italy's Eni.

US Army to double cyber corps strength as focus shifts from counterinsurgency

Colin Demarest

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army will double the size of its active-duty cyber forces by the end of the decade as the Pentagon shifts its focus from counterinsurgency and prepares for future fights with technologically savvy opponents, officials said.

Growth in Cyber Mission Force teams and electronic warfare companies and platoons will boost the strength of the cyber corps from around 3,000 personnel to “just over” 6,000, an Army spokesperson said June 13. Across active duty, reserves and National Guard, the cyber branch will expand to more than 7,000 people, up from 5,000.

“You will continue to see the growth of our cyber branch, as we proliferate cyber-electromagnetic activities, capabilities,” Army Lt. Gen. John Morrison, deputy chief of staff, G-6, said in a discussion with reporters June 9. “Think cyber and electronic warfare, integrated together, throughout all of our tactical formations.”

rophet row sparks cyber war: Malaysia’s DragonForce hacks corporate VPNs, websites of Mumbai varsity, Thane police


The Malaysia-based DragonForceIO continued attacking Indian websites on June 14 in response to comments against Prophet Mohammad, with the “hacktivist group” announcing attacks on two Indian corporate VPNs and websites of Mumbai University and Thane city police.

As part of the OpsPatuk campaign, wherein DragonForceIO called on hackers across the world to target Indian government websites, hackers claimed breaking into Cybernetyx VPN and Logixal VPNs. Cybersecurity company CloudSEK confirmed to Moneycontrol that the VPNs were hacked into.

The hackers also shared login credentials with designated IP addresses associated with the two corporate VPNs. Apart from that, the hackers also shared screenshots in supports of their claims.

Economies and War

George Friedman

The American economy, the largest and most dynamic in the world, is a geopolitical issue. And right now, it is in a predictable period of dysfunction. It’s been compared – rightly, in my opinion – to the tumult of the 1970s. Unemployment reached 8.2 percent in 1975, inflation rates hit 14.4 percent in 1980 and interest rates were 11.2 percent in 1979. I bought my first house in 1978 at 19 percent interest. It was a hard time, and it was intimately linked to the Vietnam War.

Lyndon B. Johnson inherited that war and intensified it. The U.S. was facing an election in 1964 and another in 1968. By then, things in Vietnam were not going well. Arguably more important to Johnson was what he called the Great Society, a massive and very expensive attempt to wage war on poverty. He was faced with a choice between “guns and butter.” A massive social program and a full-scale war were incompatible, but Johnson was ideologically committed to the social program and couldn’t abandon the war. He decided to do both. It was at that point that the economic crisis that would erupt in the 1970s began.

Why War Fails Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine and the Limits of Military Power

Lawrence Freedman

On February 27, a few days after Russia invaded Ukraine, Russian forces launched an operation to seize the Chornobaivka airfield near Kherson on the Black Sea coast. Kherson was the first Ukrainian city the Russians managed to occupy, and since it was also close to Russia’s Crimean stronghold, the airfield would be important for the next stage of the offensive. But things did not go according to plan. The same day the Russians took over the airfield, Ukrainian forces began counterattacking with armed drones and soon struck the helicopters that were flying in supplies from Crimea. In early March, according to Ukrainian defense sources, Ukrainian soldiers made a devastating night raid on the airstrip, destroying a fleet of 30 Russian military helicopters. About a week later, Ukrainian forces destroyed another seven. By May 2, Ukraine had made 18 separate attacks on the airfield, which, according to Kyiv, had eliminated not only dozens of helicopters but also ammunition depots, two Russian generals, and nearly an entire Russian battalion. Yet throughout these attacks, Russian forces continued to move in equipment and materiel with helicopters. Lacking both a coherent strategy for defending the airstrip and a viable alternative base, the Russians simply stuck to their original orders, with disastrous results.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has described the Chornobaivka battle as a symbol of the incompetence of Russia’s commanders, who were driving “their people to slaughter.” In fact, there were numerous similar examples from the first weeks of the invasion. Although Ukrainian forces were consistently outgunned, they used their initiative to great advantage, as Russian forces repeated the same mistakes and failed to change their tactics. From the start, the war has provided a remarkable contrast in approaches to command. And these contrasts may go a long way toward explaining why the Russian military has so underperformed expectations.

Biden Hopes to 'Work Together' with Xi on North Korea Amid U.S.-China Feud


President Joe Biden's administration is looking to foster renewed diplomacy with China with a close eye on the nuclear threat looming over the Korean Peninsula, a subject of the latest talks between top officials from Washington and Beijing.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Chinese Central Foreign Affairs Commission Director Yang Jiechi met Monday in Luxembourg for a four-and-half-hour session of discussion that a senior Biden administration official described as "candid, in-depth, substantive and productive" during a press call later that same day.

A readout issued by the White House offered few details of the meeting, simply saying that the two men discussed "a number of regional and global security issues, as well as key issues in U.S.-China relations," and Sullivan "underscored the importance of maintaining open lines of communication to manage competition between our two countries."

World Bank Predicts Bleak Future as Global Economy Faces Multiple Crises


The World Bank recently predicted that the global economy could continue to decline in the coming months, as the world faces numerous crises, such as the ongoing war in Ukraine and the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a recent video posted to Twitter by the World Bank, Prospects Group Director, Ayhan Kose said, "Things have gotten, unfortunately, much worse than what we expected. We were expecting a slowdown, that slowdown is much more pronounced now. Growth is going to go down to 2.9 percent, at the global level, last year it was 5.7 percent."

Kose continued, "So global economy is facing overlapping crisis. Of course, we have the war in Ukraine and its repercussions. We have increasing interest rates, tightening financial conditions. And the third crisis that's still with us is the health crisis...So, it is a difficult period for the global economy."

Ayhan Kose, the World Bank Prospects Group Director recently warned that the global economy could continue to decline in the coming months. Here, the World Bank building is seen on October 5, 2000 in Washington, D.C.PER-ANDERS PETTERSSON/GETTY

The remarks by Kose come shortly after the World Bank published a report about the rising risk of "stagflation."

According to the report, the global economic growth is expected to remain at around 2.9 percent, which is "significantly lower than 4.1 percent that was anticipated in January," throughout 2023 and 2024," as the war in Ukraine disrupts activity, investment, and trade in the near term, pent-up demand fades, and fiscal and monetary policy accommodation is withdrawn."

"The war in Ukraine, lockdowns in China, supply-chain disruptions, and the risk of stagflation are hammering growth. For many countries, recession will be hard to avoid," World Bank President David Malpass said in the report, published on June 7. "Markets look forward, so it is urgent to encourage production and avoid trade restrictions. Changes in fiscal, monetary, climate and debt policy are needed to counter capital misallocation and inequality."

Last week, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that the inflation rate in the nation reached 8.6 percent in May which was "the largest 12-month increase since the period ending December 1981."

"The increase was broad-based, with the indexes for shelter, gasoline, and food being the largest contributors," the report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics said.

While U.S. President Joe Biden was blamed by several Republican lawmakers for the rising inflation, he issued a statement following the report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, where he said, "My Administration will continue to do everything we can to lower prices for the American people. Congress must act urgently as well. I call on Congress to pass a bill to cut shipping costs this month and get it to my desk, so we can lower the price of goods."

GAO finds delays in major weapons programs, broad cybersecurity worries


WASHINGTON: The Columbia-class submarine program jumped billions in price, the Air Force’s T-7A trainer has a bird problem, and cyber concerns remain prevalent across the department, according to a newly-released report by the Government Accountability Office.

The GAO’s Weapon System Annual Assessment also found broad concerns about the defense industrial base.

GAO does not study every single Pentagon weapon system, instead seeking to find a representative segment; it also has something of a time delay, with research having been completed primarily in 2021. Still, the annual report is considered a key overview to provide lawmakers and the public with a sense of how the DoD is spending taxpayer money.

Pentagon’s new AI and data chief: ‘Let me say honestly that the bureaucracy is real’


WASHINGTON: Three days into the job, the Pentagon’s first chief data and artificial intelligence officer has already seen first hand how the department’s famous bureaucracy can slow down the most common sense ideas — or, quite literally, keep people out of the building.

“So let me say honestly that the bureaucracy is real,” CDAO Craig Martell said today at the DoD Digital and AI Symposium. “I’ve been here three days. I still don’t have a CAC card. I still have to wait in line at the visitor’s entrance…We’re not going to change bureaucracy as a whole. That’s not a challenge I want to put for the team. We need to find the right gaps, the right places where we can leverage value and then that value is going to drive a virtuous cycle of change.”

The Pentagon established the new office of the CDAO last November, Breaking Defense first revealed. As CDAO, Martell is responsible for coordinating the Defense Department’s data and AI efforts. Martell said he’s done similar efforts “at massive scale” during his time at Lyft, where he worked as head of machine learning, but he’s never “done it at scale with the bureaucratic resistance that I predict will be here at DoD.”

Army CIO: FY23 is ‘year of inflection’ for digital transformation


WASHINGTON: The Army’s chief information officer said he wants fiscal 2023 to be the service’s “year of inflection” for digital transformation, as he revealed details about how the service plans to spend its requested $16.6 billion in cyber and IT funding.

“It’s very, very tempting to continue to spend money on technologies that are 10 years old because we’ve gotten comfortable with them,” CIO Raj Iyer said Thursday during a briefing with reporters. “We know that they work to meet today’s needs and it’s so much easier to just keep them on…That’s not what’s going to help us fight and win…for the Army of 2030.”

Iyer said that the overall budget is “almost flat” going from FY22 to FY23, so the service needs to closely watch how it uses its money and continuously reprioritize its budget in support of future modernization.

China’s Crisis of Confidence What if, instead of being a competitor, China can no longer afford to compete at all?

Craig Singleton

What if the new era of great-power competition was over before it had even begun? Many of today’s fears about a multigeneration conflict with Beijing rest on linear extrapolations of yesteryear’s data, harkening back to a time when China appeared on track to supplant the United States as the world’s largest economy. Yet more and more signs point to a China that is fully unprepared for the competition with the United States it once sought.

China’s economy, long in decline, is now in freefall—thanks to Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s mismanagement. Case in point: This year, the U.S. economy is forecast to grow faster than China’s for the first time since 1976, with strong indications that China has entered a prolonged era of slow growth. More surprising is that Xi, in an attempt to stabilize China’s finances, has largely abandoned his ambitious plans to overhaul China’s growth model, choosing instead to double down on the very economic policies that got China into today’s economic bind in the first place.

China ‘will fight to the very end’ over Taiwan: Chinese defense minister


SINGAPORE: In a much anticipated keynote at the Shangri-La Dialogue, Chinese defense minister Gen. Wei Fenghe warned that China “will fight to the very end” if “anyone dares to secede” from China, a not-so-veiled shot at Taiwan.

“We will fight at all costs. And we will fight to the very end. This is the only choice for China,” Wei said. Taiwan, of course, is claimed by China as a runaway province.

But while laying down that threat, Wei also used a rare public speech to then try and paint China as an innocent player in the region, constantly at threat from an US Indo-Pacific strategy that is “an attempt to build an exclusive small group in the name of a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

Open source intelligence methods are being used to investigate war crimes in Ukraine


DEBORAH AMOS, BYLINE: This is the office of a group that's part of the loose-knit community of open-source investigators. It's called Forensic Architecture - less about architecture, more about forensics, the technique of investigating crimes.

EYAL WEIZMAN: To expose secrecy, not by looking at secret documents but by looking at that which is already public.

AMOS: That's director Eyal Weizman. He got his start by tracking secret U.S. drone strikes in Afghanistan. The Syrian conflict expanded the movement. Ukraine has supercharged it because of the quantity of online data, plus new social media platforms and technologies. In Ukraine, battles are documented on TikTok. Atrocities are streamed on Facebook - dead bodies captured in satellite images. The volume of data is staggering, says Weizman, and can clear the fog of war.

WEIZMAN: How one video connects to another video, and how, between two videos, a story start to emerge. Each one is showing not the full story, not the actual proof, but evidence.

How U.S. policymakers can enable breakthroughs in quantum science

Michael G. Raymer and Saikat Guha

A decade ago, scientists expected the quantum technology revolution to lie in the distant future—say, 30 years out. But recent developments have shortened that timeline dramatically, generating greater confidence than ever that the quantum revolution really is around the corner, although major technical challenges remain to be overcome. Just as U.S. government funding and policy allowed the internet to flourish, the United States now has the opportunity to help shepherd the next revolution in technology.

Today, the field of quantum information science and technology (QIST), stands at the cusp of a series of breakthroughs that could finally bring quantum technology—and the great benefits it will likely bring with it—into the mainstream. But progress in QIST is fragile, and sustaining this progress requires investment and coordination by the U.S. government and a continued policy of openness toward the scientists that will deliver these breakthroughs.

The promise of quantum technology

Understanding the state of the art and the potential payoffs of QIST requires delving into the technical details. While quantum computing is the best known technology in the field, quantum-enhanced sensing and communications are two other technologies of equal importance for delivering on the promise of quantum breakthroughs.

Dissent Is Getting Even More Dangerous in Turkey

Henri J. Barkey

Nine years after the Gezi Park protests erupted in Istanbul and quickly spread to many other parts of Turkey, the “culprits” behind the demonstrations were sentenced in April. Civil society leader and philanthropist Osman Kavala was convicted of having attempted to overthrow the government and sentenced to life imprisonment; seven other co-defendants received 18 years.

Like many other prosecutions in Turkey these days, the Gezi case was based not on evidence, but pure conjecture. Kavala has long been a target of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government. He had already been imprisoned for four years based on spurious accusations that he was involved in the failed 2016 coup attempt against Erdogan. Erdogan’s antipathy for Kavala appears to be personal, perhaps dating back to 2013, when Kavala expressed concern that Erdogan’s since-successful project to establish a presidential system in Turkey would result in a “totalitarian” regime.

Lessons from Ukraine could help shape Europe’s new tank — if there is one

Tom Kington

ROME — The burned-out carcasses of scores of Russian tanks in Ukraine have prompted the world to once again write the obituary of the venerable fighting vehicle.

Repeatedly caught by Turkish drones or destroyed by Javelin anti-tank weapons, then towed away by Ukrainian tractors, Moscow’s tanks have proved to be paper tigers, demonstrating to the world these lumbering relics of past wars are no longer relevant.

But some experts warn it’s far too soon to write off the tank, pointing to Russia’s woeful misuse of its tracked vehicles and arguing high-intensity war on land still demands the armor and firepower tanks provide. And now some are worried European plans for a shared main battle tank — the Franco-German Main Ground Combat System with an estimated development cost of €1.5 billion (U.S. $1.6 billion) — will perish thanks to work-share tussles and a renewed focus on quick, off-the-shelf procurements.

Russia Is Fielding 50-Year-Old Tanks in Ukraine, Which Is ... Not a Great Strategy


The Russian Army has begun deployment of one of the oldest tanks in its stockpile, the T-62 main battle tank. The T-62, which the Soviet Union produced between 1962 and 1973, is poorly armored by modern standards, with little of the protection that modern vehicles offer. Relying on these tanks will only exacerbate Russia’s losses in its ongoing invasion of Ukraine—both in hardware and in human lives.

In just over 100 days, the Russian Army has lost an estimated 15,000 personnel, killed in action. Russian equipment losses have been especially heavy, as well, with at least 761 tanks, 840 infantry fighting vehicles, 271 artillery pieces, 30 fixed-wing aircraft, and an entire guided-missile cruiser destroyed. Much of Russia’s war machine has proved hollow, with numerous cases of substandard or crudely-maintained equipment, poorly-trained soldiers, and overall lousy morale.

Xi signs order to promulgate outlines on military operations other than war


BEIJING, June 13 (Xinhua) -- Xi Jinping, chairman of the Central Military Commission, has signed an order to promulgate a set of trial outlines on military operations other than war.

The outlines aim to protect people's lives and property, safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interest, and safeguard world peace and regional stability.

The outlines, comprising 59 articles in six chapters, serve as a legal base for military operations other than war and will take effect on June 15, 2022.

Ant IPO revival may signal end of tech clampdown


The possible revival of Alibaba’s Ant Group’s shelved initial public offering (IPO) may signal an end or at least a softening of the regulatory curbs that have crushed many of China’s technology companies since November 2020.

Although the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC), the country’s stock market watchdog, on Thursday (June 9) swiftly denied a media report that it had started early-stage talks on resurrecting Ant Group’s abruptly canceled IPO, it added that it supported eligible platform companies to list at home and abroad.

Alibaba’s ADR shares have been on a roller coaster ride in the United States, soaring 22% in the first three days of the week only to fall as much as 8.1% on Thursday on the CSRC’s cold water statement. On Friday, Alibaba’s Hong Kong-listed shares rose 1.35% to HK$112.8 (US$14.37).

The Next Challenge for Solid-State Batteries? Making Lots of Them

FOR DECADES, SCIENTISTS have wondered what to do with the liquid inside a lithium-ion battery. This electrolyte is key to how batteries work, shuttling ions from one end of the cell to the other. But it’s also cumbersome, adding weight and bulk that limit how far electric vehicles can go on a charge—on top of which, it can catch fire when a battery shorts. A perfect fix would be replacing that liquid with a solid—ideally one that’s light and airy. But the trick lies in making that switch while preserving all the other qualities a battery should have. A solid-state battery not only needs to send you farther down the road on each charge, it also has to juice up quickly and work in all sorts of weather. Getting all that right in one go is among the hardest questions in materials science.

In recent months, startups working on solid-state batteries have made steady progress towards those goals. Little battery cells that once sputtered after being charged are growing up into bigger ones that go much longer. There’s still a ways to go until those cells are road-ready, but progress is setting up the next challenge: Once you’ve built a good-enough battery under painstaking lab conditions, how do you build millions of them quickly? “These companies are going to have to have a massive mindset change, going from being R&D companies to manufacturing companies,” says Venkat Srinivasan, director of the Argonne Collaborative Center for Energy Storage Science. “It’s not going to be simple.”

The U.S.-China Decoupling Is Coming for Academia

Eduardo Jaramillo

Discussions in Washington and Beijing about U.S.-China decoupling, both potential and actual, often focus on diplomacy, technology and trade. But while the growing tensions between the two strategic rivals are most visible in these areas, decoupling is also taking place in other, often-overlooked dimensions of the relationship, including in the academic and intellectual realm.

In late May, China’s Ministry of Education and the Chinese Communist Party’s Propaganda Department jointly released an action plan to develop a distinctly Chinese approach to the academic disciplines of philosophy and the social sciences in China's higher education. A report in the state-run People’s Daily newspaper explained that the plan aims to operationalize recent remarks by Chinese President Xi Jinping calling for “accelerating the construction of philosophy and social sciences with Chinese characteristics.

Russia Seizes Severodonetsk Center as Ukraine War Turns in Putin's Favor


Russian troops forced Ukraine's units out of central Severodonetsk, a strategically vital city in Ukraine's eastern, the Ukrainian military said on Monday as Putin's forces increasingly press forward in the Donbas region.

"In the Severodonetsk direction, the enemy, with the support of artillery, carried out assault operations in the city of Severodonetsk, had partial success, pushed our units away from the city center, the fighting continues," the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said on Facebook.

The Ukrainian military said Russians fired artillery at its troops in the areas of the settlements of Lysychansk, Severodonetsk and Toshkivka.

UN’s Failed Xinjiang Visit Comes at Heavy Cost

Mark S. Cogan

For UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, a visit to China has been in the works for years, and with it comes high stakes. Responding to reports that in the western Chinese province of Xinjiang, more than one million Uyghur Muslims had been subject to torture as well as imprisoned in so-called re-education camps, the United Nations requested direct access to Chinese facilities as early as 2018.

Despite the fact that information has been slow to trickle out of authoritarian China due to strict control over national media, international researchers and human rights activists gathered convincing evidence, calling out the deplorable conditions facing the Uyghur Muslim population, from prolonged detainment, mass surveillance, forced sterilization, to the accusation of cultural genocide. A trove of data recently obtained by hackers includes 2,800 photographs, hundreds of spreadsheets, and speeches that link Chinese President Xi Jinping directly with abusive policies aimed at the Uyghur population.

Bachelet had hoped to secure a timeline for her visit last year and aimed to look into reports of human rights violations at the hands of the Chinese state. In June of 2021, Bachelet had voiced her own frustration at the pace of negotiations, threatening to document the difficult environment for Uyghurs in Western China regardless of whether a visit transpired or not. Some of the delays involved China’s perceived guilt in the eyes of Western observers, to which Jiang Duan, minister at the Chinese Mission to the UN in Geneva suggested that her visit should not be a “so-called investigation based on presumption of guilt.”

Negotiations eventually concluded and in March Bachelet announced her visit, yet the end result was a grand failure. It was to be the first time a sitting UN human rights chief visited China since 2005, but the trip amounted to little to none of what was first suggested: a trip with “meaningful, unsupervised access” to the Xinjiang region. Bachelet herself had originally insisted on “unfettered” access. While she visited the cities of Kashgar and Ürümqi in Xinjiang, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said that her trip would be conducted in a “closed loop,” supposedly to contain the spread of COVID-19. No international journalists were allowed to travel with her.

During her visit, Bachelet met with a number of senior Chinese officials including Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, as well as civil society organizations, business representatives, academics, and of course, some carefully-selected members of China’s Uyghur population. In preparation however, China repeatedly warned Uyghurs in China and abroad not to talk about “re-education” camps. State police reportedly pressured the relatives of Uyghurs in exile to prevent them from talking about rights abuses in Xinjiang.

The damage done by Bachelet’s uncritical tour through China is serious. In addition to the mountain of evidence recently uncovered such as detailed photographs of police abuse in Xinjiang and revelations of a shoot-to-kill policy for those trying to escape Chinese detention camps, a host of other human rights abuses still exist in plain sight.

In Tibet, abuses are commonplace, ranging from multiple cases of arbitrary arrest and detention, restrictions on freedom of movement and assembly, widespread censorship, and the religious persecution of Tibetan Buddhists. China’s distaste for His Holiness the Dalai Lama is well known. Hong Kong has gone from a bustling city of broad international appeal to one deprived of essential civil liberties, including freedom of assembly, the decimation of civil society, as well as a crackdown on opposition lawmakers and what remained of a free press. Hong Kong’s diaspora have markedly increased since the passage of the 2020 national security law. China’s human rights abuses have been a dominant part of a global discourse, and earlier sparked a diplomatic boycott of Beijing’s Winter Olympic Games.

Instead of being more insistent on uninterrupted access to Uyghur minorities, Bachelet was greeted by Chinese President Xi Jinping with a lecture. In a video call, Xi said that there was “no need for ‘preachers’ to boss around other countries, still less should they politicize the issue, practice double standards or use it as an excuse to interfere in other countries’ internal affairs.” Worse, Bachelet was photographed with Wang Yi holding a copy of Xi Jinping’s book, mockingly titled, “Xi Jinping’s Excerpts on Respecting and Protecting Human Rights.” In short, by being so willing to capitulate to the demands of the Chinese government, Bachelet willingly agreed to participate in a guided tour that served to further its propaganda aims.

Part of the problem has been the leadership of UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who has stayed largely silent on human rights in China. Bachelet’s visit wasn’t the only option. The UN Human Rights Council could have appointed a Special Rapporteur to address the concerns of the Uyghur population. A number of independent experts had previously called for such a mechanism, but without success. Guterres has not pushed for fundamental reforms of the UN system, which has allowed China to increase its influence over major UN institutions, including the Human Rights Council. At COP26, held in Glasgow last year, human rights in China were downplayed in favor of bringing the Chinese leadership to the table on climate change.

While Bachelet insisted that she spoke with “candor” with Chinese leaders, her scripted visit to China left little to show in the way of details. She is expected to punctuate her visit with a report, which will reveal the extent to which she was allowed access and how open and transparent people she spoke with truly were. However, Bachelet already admitted she did not visit a prison in Xinjiang where those convicted of terrorism or political crimes are housed. She also did not visit China’s infamous “vocational training centers,” which Beijing now claims have been closed.

By agreeing to the terms set by the Chinese, the United Nations has little opportunity for a repeat trip, even if conditions worsen. China can now claim that they were open and transparent, and dismiss the notion of a follow-up as unnecessary. Beijing negotiated the terms of Bachelet’s visit with precision and in turn received a major public relations boost in the process. The visit did little to bolster the reputation of the Office of the High Commissioner or Bachelet herself, who was roundly mocked by the United States, calling her trip “a mistake.” After nearly four years of posturing and negotiation, the UN’s grand opportunity to shed light on some of the gravest human rights abuses of our time ended in failure.

Russia: Western Cyberattacks Risk Causing ‘Direct Military Clash’

Ethen Kim Lieser

Russia took direct aim at the West on Thursday by asserting that continual cyberattacks against its infrastructure risked leading to a “direct military clash.”

“The militarization of the information space by the West and attempts to turn it into an arena of interstate confrontation, have greatly increased the threat of a direct military clash with unpredictable consequences,” the Russian Foreign Ministry’s head of international information security said in a statement, per Reuters.

The statement continued by saying that Washington was “deliberately lowering the threshold for the combat use” of information technology (IT).

Biden’s War on Chinese Computer Chips Harms Americans

Kevin Klyman

The shortage in microelectronics is increasing prices in addition to stunting economic growth in the United States. Inflation has reached a forty-year high as a result of pandemic-driven distortions in demand and disruptions in supply chains for key inputs like semiconductors. Treasury Secretary Janet Yelled estimated this week that “a third of U.S. inflation is new and used cars and … it is all due to a shortage of semiconductors.”

U.S. foreign policy is making the chip shortage worse, thereby fueling inflation. The Biden administration has sanctioned more than twenty major Chinese chip companies, opting to lengthen and expand Trump’s trade war. This has helped reduce China’s production of semiconductors: in 2021, China’s share of the global semiconductor market fell for only the second time this century. Restricting the growth of China’s semiconductor industry is the single best way to reduce the number of semiconductors that are produced as China assembles more chips than any other country.

Could the U.S. Achieve Air Dominance Over Taiwan?

Kris Osborn

If China were to launch an immediate, all-out attack on Taiwan, what kind of response might the United States and its allies be able to launch? Could such a Chinese attack be stopped, given that Taiwan is only 100 miles off the coast of mainland China?

A number of key variables would most likely impact this equation, such as the extent to which the U.S. and allied forces were sufficiently forward positioned in the Pacific region to respond quickly. Perhaps this is a key reason why the U.S. Navy conducts many forward training operations such as dual-carrier exercises and collaborative drills with Pacific allies. Fourth and fifth-generation aircraft launched from maritime platforms could quickly try to intercept and destroy Chinese invasion forces.