16 June 2022

Ukraine Increasingly More Desperate, Calls For Modern Weapons

(RFE/RL) — Ukrainian forces are suffering painful losses in the fight against Russian troops in the east of the country as they await the delivery of promised weapons from Western countries, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on June 14 in a late-night address.

Ukraine needs modern anti-missile weapons now, he said, adding there could be no justification for partner countries to delay delivery.

“We keep telling our partners that Ukraine needs modern anti-missile weapons,” Zelenskiy said. “Our country does not have them yet at a sufficient level, but it is in Ukraine and right now that there is the greatest need for such weapons. Procrastination in providing them cannot be justified.”

The fiercest battles as before are taking place in Syevyerodonetsk and other nearby towns and communities, he said.

Pentagon Says Russia’s Grand Strategy For Ukraine Takeover Unmet

David Vergun

In the broadest sense, Russia has thus far failed to secure its strategic objectives in Ukraine, said the undersecretary of defense for policy.

Colin Kahl spoke about the war in Ukraine and the pacing challenge of China at the Center for a New American Security’s National Security Conference Tuesday.

“[Russian President] Vladimir Putin went into this war seeking to gobble Ukraine up. … I think he envisioned some kind of a thunder run to Kyiv that would change the regime. The Russians were badly defeated in the battle of Kyiv. They’ve also been pushed out of Kharkiv,” he said.

In the south and east, the Russians have been making incremental gains, but they are not sweeping through Ukrainian defenses as they had hoped to do, Kahl said.

Russia’s Path to Premodernity


LONDON – The Russian writer Pyotr Chaadayev said of his country that “we have never advanced along with other people; we are not related to any of the great human families; we belong neither to the West nor to the East, and we possess the traditions of neither. Placed, as it were, outside of the times,” he wrote, “we have not been affected by the universal education of mankind.

That was in 1829. The “riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma,” as Winston Churchill described Russia more than a century later, is no closer to being solved today. The philosopher John Gray recently wrote that Russian President Vladimir Putin “is the face of a world the contemporary Western mind does not comprehend. In this world, war remains a permanent part of human experience; lethal struggles over territory and resources can erupt at any time; human beings kill and die for the sake of mystical visions.” That is why Western commentators and liberal Russians are baffled by Putin’s so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine.

The Lessons of the Afghan War That No One Will Want to Learn

Anthony H. Cordesman

At the best of times, the U.S. tends to rush out heavily politicized studies of the lessons of war that are more political ammunition than serious analyses, and while these are followed by long formal studies that are often quite good, they then are often ignored as the flow of events moves on. These are scarcely the best of times. The collapse of the Afghan government and forces has occurred during one of the most partisan periods in American politics, followed by a totally different kind of conflict in Ukraine, all while the U.S. focus on terrorism and regional conflicts that began with 9/11 has been replaced by a focus on competition with nuclear superpowers like Russia and China.

The very fact that the war stretched out over two decades has meant that much of the focus on lessons has ignored the first half or more of the war, and the almost inevitable chaos following the U.S. decision to withdraw has led to the focus on the collapse of the Afghan forces and the central government rather than on the actual conduct of the war – and few within the U.S. government now want to rake over the list of past mistakes that turned an initial tactical victory into a massive grand strategic defeat.

RESOLVED: Japan Should Maintain Investments in Russian Oil and Gas Projects

Mr. Taisuke Abiru and Dr. Wrenn Yennie Lindgren

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 was met with international condemnation as countries, led by the G7, began imposing sanctions against Russia. In March, the United States announced that it would prohibit the import of Russian oil, gas, and coal, as well as new investments in Russia’s energy sector, and the European Union is now following suit with its own sanctions package. While Japan has joined the international sanctions regime and been vocal in its opposition to the war, it has yet to divest from joint oil and gas projects in the Russian island of Sakhalin, just north of Hokkaido.

In the 27th issue of the Debating Japan newsletter series, the CSIS Japan Chair invited Taisuke Abiru, senior research fellow at the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, and Wrenn Yennie Lindgren, senior research fellow at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, to assess Japan’s investments in Russian oil and gas and whether it should fully divest from Russian energy.

The Kishida administration of Japan, along with other G7 countries, has imposed unprecedented levels of economic sanctions against Russia since February 24, 2022 when Russia launched a military invasion of Ukraine. In response to this action, the Putin administration of Russia included Japan in the list of unfriendly countries and announced the suspension of bilateral peace treaty negotiations, which successive Japanese governments had worked hard on.

Why Do People Hate Realism So Much?

Stephen M. Walt

The political scientist Robert Gilpin once wrote that “no one loves a political realist.” His lament seems especially apt today, as the ongoing tragedy in Ukraine has spawned an uptick of realism-bashing. A small sample: Anne Applebaum and Tom Nichols of the Atlantic, Columbia University professor and fellow FP columnist Adam Tooze in the New Statesman, University of Toronto professor Seva Gunitsky, and Michael Mazarr of Rand Corp. Even Edward Luce of the Financial Times, who is consistently one of the most insightful observers on U.S. and global policy, recently opined that “the ‘realist’ school of foreign policy … has had a terrible press recently, most of it richly deserved.”

Much of this ire has been directed at my colleague and occasional co-author John J. Mearsheimer, based in part on the bizarre claim that his views on the West’s role in helping to cause the Russia-Ukraine crisis somehow make him “pro-Putin” and in part on some serious misreadings of his theory of offensive realism.

Another obvious target is former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, whose recent comments urging peace talks with Moscow, a territorial compromise in Ukraine, and the need to avoid a permanent rupture with Russia were seen as a revealing demonstration of realism’s moral bankruptcy. As I explain below, Kissinger is an outlier within the realist tradition, but he’s still a convenient foil for its critics.

100 days of Russia-Ukraine conflict: How China's choices have damaged its external environment

Manoj Kewalramani 

Earlier this week, a lengthy front page commentary in the People’s Daily, the Chinese Communist Party’s flagship newspaper, bemoaned the deterioration of China’s external environment. The author warned that following the war in Ukraine, “instability, uncertainty and insecurity” were on the rise, and that the West, led by the US, was doubling down on policies aimed at “containing and suppressing” China.

Although the author called for focus on running internal affairs well and dismissed external factors as not being “decisive” in China’s pursuit of its goal of national rejuvenation, the assessment does reveal how deeply the war in Ukraine has adversely affected China’s strategic interests.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February had left China in an unenviable position of having to balance a set of competing interests. These included maintaining its close alignment with Russia; containing the economic costs of Western sanctions in terms of their impact on commodity prices, supply chains and Chinese enterprises; not appearing supportive of what was clearly a blatant violation of the territorial integrity of a sovereign state; avoiding the acceleration of bloc-style confrontation in the Indo-Pacific; and keeping the developing world on its side.

Macron’s France Struggles to Chart Course in Russia’s War on Ukraine

Maksym Bugriy

President Emmanuel Macron’s recent warning not to “humiliate” Russia (Ouest-france.fr, June 3), while he continues to try to mediate Russia’s “exit” from the war in Ukraine, drew ire from Ukrainian officials, echoed by both Ukrainian and Russian experts and even some French thinkers. Not only does such rhetoric from the Élysée Palace undermine France’s growing military assistance to Ukraine, but it also invites the Kremlin to attack France without fear of repercussions. Geopolitical considerations but also Macron’s personal background may help explain the French president’s current approach to Russia, which inadvertently harms the West’s unity based on shared values and considerations of the rule of law.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba reacted that “Calls to avoid [a] humiliation of Russia can only humiliate France and every other country that would call for it” (Twitter.com/DmytroKuleba, June 4). Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior advisor in President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s Office, went further and rhetorically connected Macron’s language with Russia’s latest missile attack on Kyiv (Twitter.com/Podolyak_M, June 5). Notably, Russian official media also used the opportunity to conclude that the “collective West” realizes Russia’s superiority and understands that Russia will win in Ukraine (RIA Novosti, June 7).

Policy, Guns and Money: China in the South Pacific

In this episode, Alex Bristow, deputy director of ASPI’s defence, strategy and national security program, speaks to Euan Graham, Shangri-La Dialogue senior fellow for Asia–Pacific security at the International Institute for Strategic Studies about the security pact between China and Solomon Islands. Their conversation considers China’s strategic objectives, the different responses to the agreement and its implications for security in the South Pacific.

Turkey Is Not the Answer to the War in Syria

Jonathan Meilaender

The world’s eyes, fixed on Syria only a few years ago, now hardly linger there as the world's focus on Ukraine and China grows. But Syria, Russia’s training ground for Ukraine, is now threatened by a new outburst of violence, one with implications beyond its own borders. For America, this crisis is an opportunity to regain lost leverage in the Middle East.

American troops are still in Syria. So are Russian troops. And so are Turkish troops. All three zones of influence share a common border. American and Russian troops patrol different parts of the territory controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces, the militia that defeated ISIS in Syria with the aid of American airpower, while Turkey controls parts of the northern border, its troops propping up Islamist proxies.

We reached this precarious situation through American error. America has partnered with the Syrian Democratic Forces since 2014 to defeat ISIS. The SDF’s predecessor organization, a Syrian Kurdish militia called the YPG, caught Washington’s attention with a courageous stand at the border town of Kobane. Unlike the Iraqi army and the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga, at that time generally on the run, the YPG and its Arab allies stood and fought. American airstrikes turned what would have been a last stand into a great victory over ISIS, one that eliminated much of its heavy armor along with thousands of its fighters. Though the SDF proved a brilliant partner over the following years, even building a functioning multi-ethnic and semi-democratic statelet as ISIS was destroyed, it nevertheless came with one caveat: Turkish enmity.

The Fight to Survive Russia’s Onslaught in Eastern Ukraine

Joshua Yaffa

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.”

In Bakhmut, a midsize town a few miles from the front, I met members of a Kyiv-based unit of the Territorial Defense, a voluntary military corps, who had been sent east in recent weeks; they looked ragged but cheerful. Since Russian forces had captured the nearby town of Popasna, in May, Bakhmut fell well within Russian artillery range; it was also on Ukraine’s main supply route to Sievierodonetsk, the city that is now Russia’s main target and the site of running street battles. One of the soldiers switched to English to describe the fighting: “Let me put it like this: very fucking awful.” He went on, “We want to shoot the enemy, but we don’t see him. An infantryman has nothing to do in an artillery war other than dig—and run.”

China and Economic Security in the Shadow of Ukraine

Michael R. Pompeo

As with an emergent disease, there are warnings today concerning the primary basis for civilization, which involves economic relations between nations. Nowhere are these warnings more pronounced than in the actions perpetrated by the People’s Republic of China.

Economic life is a central concern of every state, for the subject of economics touches everything. Abundance and deprivation, resources and inputs, exchanges between parties, and processes wherein decisions are made all constitute parts of this vast topic, which begins with economic security—for, without it, freedom is forfeit. Since World War II, America’s economic might has lifted the better part of humanity out of dire poverty. We have done so by sharing our technology, by opening our markets, and by providing a standard for global development, which is based upon the example of our nation’s working men and women.

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.”

4 lessons China should take from Ukraine: Pentagon policy chief


WASHINGTON: When discussing the world’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, US officials have been up front that they are aware China is watching, and they’re hopeful that the strong signal of support for Kyiv will dissuade Beijing from plans to invade Taiwan.

Today Colin Kahl, the undersecretary for defense for policy, underlined that idea, saying, “Potential adversaries and aggressors everywhere else in the world are looking at the global response in Ukraine.

“If I’m sitting in Beijing, I think the fundamental question to draw is, you know, if they were to commit an act of aggression sometime in the future, will the world react the way that it did when China snuffed out democracy in Hong Kong, or will the world react more like they did in the case of Ukraine,” Kahl said at an event hosted by the Center for a New American Security. “I think it’s imperative for the leadership in Beijing to understand that, where the world is now, the Ukraine scenario is a much more likely outcome than the Hong Kong scenario.

China’s ‘Particle Beam Cannon’ Is a Nuclear-Power Breakthrough


The prototype “particle beam cannon” recently completed by Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Modern Physics may sound like science fiction, but it is a novel new technology that promises to recycle dangerous waste produced by a nuclear reactor. A product of China’s huge investment in advanced nuclear-energy systems, the breakthrough could move the country toward energy independence and further cement its global leadership in climate-friendly technology.

In a typical fission reactor, atoms of heavy isotopes such as uranium-235 are broken apart, releasing energy. The process also releases extra neutrons, which collide with other atoms and break them apart in a chain reaction. The broken atoms are spent fuel that is cooled for a few years and then carefully stored for a few centuries. But a proposed new type of reactor built with this “cannon”—formally, a proton accelerator—could recycle this spent fuel, making it cheaper and safer to generate electricity.

Ukraine says Elon Musk's Starlink has been 'very effective' in countering Russia, and China is paying close attention


Since the start of the Russian invasion, the US and its NATO and European allies have sent Ukraine security, economic, and humanitarian aid worth tens of billions of dollars.

Assistance to the embattled Ukrainians has come from the general public and private sector too. One of the most notable contributions has been that of Starlink, a satellite communication system run by Elon Musk's SpaceX.

SpaceX says it has delivered 15,000 Starlink kits to Ukraine since late February. The devices provide the Ukrainian military with a resilient and reliable means of communication. Ukrainian troops have used them to coordinate counterattacks or call in artillery support, while Ukrainian civilians have used the system to stay in touch with loved ones inside and outside of the country.

Besieged Ukrainian troops in the Azovstal steelworks plant in Mariupol were only able to communicate with Kyiv and the world because they had a Starlink device.

A Starlink internet terminal in Odesa, Ukraine, March 15, 2022.Nina Lyashonok/Ukrinform/NurPhoto via Getty Images

There are other commercial satellite companies that provide similar services, but SpaceX has developed one of the most robust networks. Starlink uses a new generation of low-orbit satellites that are resilient and powerful because they work as a constellation.

Starlink has been "very effective," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told Wired. "It helped us a lot, in many moments related to the blockade of our cities, towns, and related to the occupied territory. Sometimes we completely lost communication with those places."

In occupied cities without access to Starlink, Russians have told civilians that Ukraine no longer existed as a country, but those tactics haven't been successful on a large scale because of Starlink, the Ukrainian leader said.

Ukrainians' access to Starlink has "totally destroyed" Russian President Vladimir Putin's information campaign, Brig. Gen. Steve Butow, director of the space portfolio at the Defense Innovation Unit, told Politico.

Putin has "never, to this day, has been able to silence Zelenskyy," Butow said.
'We need Starlink'

Satellite antennas on a destroyed residential building in Hostomel, Ukraine, April 22, 2022.Maxym Marusenko/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Ukraine's government requested Starlink in order to counter Russian cyberattacks against its own satellite communications.

In the hours before the invasion began on February 24, Moscow launched "AcidRain" against Viasat, a US satellite communications company that was providing communication services to the Ukrainian military. "AcidRain" was a "wiper" designed to target Viasat modems and routers and erase their data before permanently disabling them.

In the first hours of the conflict, when the fog of war is thickest, the inability of Ukrainian commanders to communicate with each other and with their troops could have been catastrophic. In the months since then, Russia has also increased its "jamming & hacking attempts" against Starlink, Musk has said.

"What do they say to young officers in training? Your most important weapon is your radio. You're there to coordinate and lead the fight, not necessarily to kick down doors and be the first man in the room," a Special Forces soldier and communications specialist assigned to a US Army National Guard unit told Insider.

"That concept applies the same to the young infantry second lieutenant all the way up to the commander-in-chief. Good comms is everything!" the Special Forces operator, who was not authorized to speak to the media, added.

The cyberattack on Viasat showed the value of having a distributed satellite communications network, but cyberattacks aren't the only way to go after to such networks.

To tap or to attack?

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks to US lawmakers via satellite feed, March 16, 2022.AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, Pool

In modern warfare against highly capable adversaries, having a distributed and resilient satellite network is key to success. The US military has its own satellites for that purpose, and commercial satellite communications provides have been used on battlefields in the past.

As those systems become more vital to military operations, militaries are also looking at how to disrupt them. In a paper published in May, Chinese military researchers called for the development of "soft and hard kill methods" to disable or destroy the whole constellation of Starlink satellites in the event of a conflict.

The researchers didn't describe specific means to counter Starlink, but said "the whole system" would need to be targeted, which "requires some low-cost, high-efficiency measures."

In the US, the military and intelligence agencies play a role both in protecting US satellite networks and in targeting those of adversaries. The division of labor depends largely on the goal: tapping into the network or attacking in order to shut it down.

US soldiers set up a US tactical microwave tower in a field in Saint Hubert, Belgium, June 28, 2016.US Army/Henri Cambier

For example, US Cyber Command, which is responsible for the military's cyberspace operations, is likely to focus on the means by which Chinese generals speak to each other rather than on what they discuss during their calls.

Cyber Command operators "really want to understand the networks themselves. They don't really care about what information is being conveyed on that network. They just want to know that network is being used and its nature (military, financial, diplomatic, etc.)," a former US intelligence officer with a background in signals intelligence told Insider.

The National Security Agency, the US's premier signals-intelligence collectors, would be less concerned about the specific nodes and more focused on what is being transmitted. Intelligence officers would want to know what Chinese generals are saying in order to better inform US policymakers.

High-level signals intelligence is generally the most closely held, and there are "very few people who have access to that because it's highly technical, complex information that requires a lot of analysis," the former intelligence officer said, speaking anonymously to avoid compromising ongoing work with the US government.

A Russian journalist asked his former classmates about the Ukraine war. The answers were disturbing.

Stanislav Kucher

I have a clear memory of that July day in 1987. My friends and I were on the bus, a group of 14-year-olds from Orel, some 220 miles southeast of Moscow, returning home after judo practice, when the traffic suddenly stopped. The road was blocked by a funeral procession. The casket, carried on the shoulders of young guys in sailors’ vests and blue berets, was open. We could see the body, a 20-year-old perhaps, in a paratrooper’s uniform. The Soviet Union had invaded Afghanistan in 1980; such processions in Orel and other Russian cities were not uncommon.

On TV and in the newspapers, they talked about Soviet soldiers planting flowers and helping to build schools in Afghanistan. My friends and I knew there was a war in that faraway land and that people were dying. Most of us worshipped the paratroopers, and some even cherished the dream of serving in Afghanistan.

Silkroad Papers and Monographs

S. Frederick Starr

Greater Central Asia is reeling from the twin shocks of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. The chaotic U.S. withdrawal risks postponing indefinitely Central Asian efforts to escape the region’s key geography-induced challenge – its landlocked status – as the prospect of building direct links to the world seas through that country now seem bleak. Russia’s aggressive behavior in Ukraine
suggests it could be poised to assert itself in Central Asia as well, benefiting from Central Asia’s inability to connect directly to the world economy. These events, to which China’s growing role in the region should be added, suggest that U.S. and EU approaches to the region –governed through relatively recent strategy documents – must be rethought.

The Afghan government formed in 2002 had worked with international funders and partners to reopen the ancient corridors to the South and to transform them into modern roads and railroads supplemented with pipelines for the east-west shipment of gas and north-south power lines for transmitting electricity. A new era of connectivity seemed to be dawning across the region. These developments held great promise for Central Asian states, as their dependence on trade routes through Russia undergird Russia’s geopolitical dominance in Central Asia.

What’s Behind American Decline: Domestic Dysfunction

William Neuman

As the golden light bled from the Los Angeles sky one evening last week, a mariachi band played at a rooftop cocktail party for corporate executives and government officials from a couple dozen countries. They had gathered on the eve of the Summit of the Americas, an every-few-years meeting that would begin in the city the following day. With a flare of trumpets, the band launched into “El Rey,” the Mexican ranchera classic of wounded machismo. “I don’t have a throne or a queen,” the lead mariachi sang, “or anyone who understands me. But I’m still the king.”

Or anyone who understands me. The song could have been the theme to President Joe Biden’s week.

If a group of unusually prescient political scientists had wanted to design a mechanism to measure the decline of U.S. influence and stature, it might have created the Summit of the Americas. First hosted by Bill Clinton in Miami in 1994, that inaugural meeting marked a moment of U.S. ascendancy, as America stood atop a unipolar world after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Latin America was also going through a transformation, no longer a region of military dictatorships: Nearly every country had a democratically elected government, and many were eager to work with Washington.


Cole Livieratos

While describing the role of friction in warfare, Carl von Clausewitz wrote that “everything in war is very simple, but the simplest thing is difficult.” Though war has always been and will always be very difficult, changes in the character of warfare over the past two centuries indicate that everything may not be as simple as it once was. For example, the types of problems the Russian military has struggled with during its invasion of Ukraine are not new: logistics, sustainment, achieving surprise, protecting forces, and achieving unified command are all enduring military challenges. Yet new threats from unmanned aircraft, loitering munitions, multispectral sensors, satellite imagery, cyber, and many more emerging technologies have made the successful execution of warfighting functions far more complex than they were on previous battlefields.

The increasing number of variables on the battlefield, increasing range of sensors and weapons systems, and increasing speed of decision-making are evidence of an exponential increase, rather than a linear one, in warfare’s complexity. In fact, Army Research Laboratory chief scientist Alexander Kott developed a formula to demonstrate that growth in the range and destructive capacity of weapons systems over time is exponential. Russian military leaders have proven unable to adapt to a dramatically more complex battlefield, resulting in operational failures and the deaths of senior military leaders. If American military leaders are to fare better in future wars, they must understand the increasing complexity of the battlefield far more than their Russian counterparts.

What Erdoğan Has Wrought?

Eric Edelman

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has continued to hold Finland and Sweden’s potential membership in NATO hostage to his stated demands. He wants concessions from the two aspirants on issues connected to Kurdish terrorism and has an unstated agenda of distracting Turks from his catastrophic economic mismanagement, pleasing his Russian “competimate” Vladimir Putin, and making himself the center of attention at the forthcoming Madrid Summit of the North Atlantic alliance later this month, as well as greasing the skids for the potential sale of advanced U.S. F-16 aircraft to Turkey.

In the wake of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, moving swiftly to incorporate Finland and Sweden into NATO is imperative for the geopolitical and military benefits it brings to European security. It is almost certain that a reluctant President Joe Biden will have to get involved, and it is equally likely that, at the end of the day, Erdoğan’s objections will be assuaged and the NATO enlargement process will move forward. But the damage that Erdoğan has done to Turkey’s standing in Europe and its long-term geopolitical interests (as opposed to his short-term domestic political interests) will be profound.

The battle of Donbas could prove decisive in Ukraine war

The Associated Press

Day after day, Russia is pounding the Donbas region of Ukraine with relentless artillery and air raids, making slow but steady progress to seize the industrial heartland of its neighbor.

With the conflict now in its fourth month, it’s a high-stakes campaign that could dictate the course of the entire war.

If Russia prevails in the battle of Donbas, it will mean that Ukraine loses not only land but perhaps the bulk of its most capable military forces, opening the way for Moscow to grab more territory and dictate its terms to Kyiv. A Russian failure could lay the grounds for a Ukrainian counteroffensive — and possibly lead to political upheaval for the Kremlin.

Following botched early attempts in the invasion to capture Kyiv and the second-largest city of Kharkiv without proper planning and coordination, Russia turned its attention to the Donbas, a region of mines and factories where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces since 2014.

Taiwan: Are the US and China heading to war over the island?

Tessa Wong

On Sunday, China's Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe essentially accused the US of supporting the island's independence, saying it was "violating its promise on Taiwan" and "interfering" in China's affairs.

"Let me make this clear: if anyone dares to secede Taiwan from China, we will not hesitate to fight. We will fight at all costs and we will fight to the very end. This is the only choice for China," he said at the Shangri-la Dialogue, an Asian security summit held in Singapore.

His comments follow US President Joe Biden's recent message to China that it was "flirting with danger" by flying its warplanes close to Taiwan. He vowed to protect the island militarily if it was attacked.

As China Rattles Sabers, Taiwan Asks: Are We Ready for War?

Amy Qin and Amy Chang Chien

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine has jolted Taiwan into confronting the specter of a sudden attack from the island’s own larger and more powerful neighbor: China.

The invasion has given new weight to the authoritarian vision of China’s leader, Xi Jinping, who has long laid claim to self-governed Taiwan for the “rejuvenation” of China — much as President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia did with Ukraine. To many in Taiwan, Ukraine has been a lesson in the tactics and weaponry that could slow a more powerful invading force. It has also been a stark warning that the island may be inadequately prepared for a full-scale attack.

Taiwan’s defenses are, by many accounts, ill-equipped and understaffed. Its president, Tsai Ing-wen, has vowed to defend the island, but she has struggled to impose a new strategic vision on the uniformed leadership.

Musk versus Mackinder

James Andrew Lewis

This commentary is part of Technology and Power, a series from the CSIS Strategic Technologies Program on the development and governance of key technologies and how they can be used to gain national advantage.

The United States is no longer the sole superpower, hegemon, or whatever term one prefers. This situation, accompanied by its military failures and domestic political turmoil, has led some to return to that ever-popular theme: the United States' decline. But the discussion of decline can reflect Schadenfreude or wishful thinking as much as impartial analysis. While it is true that the unipolar moment is over, the United States is still more like the first among equals rather than a vanishing superpower.

This becomes clearer if one compares the current moment of multipolar competition to an earlier episode, as Britain went from dominance and Pax Britannica to face challenges from new competitors. Halford Mackinder, the British scholar who in the 1900s created the concept of a Eurasian “heartland” as the center of global power, predicted Britain’s decline—unless the empire restructured itself to compensate for the arrival of powerful new rivals like the Germany, Japan, Russia, and the United States. Mackinder was a counterpoint to Alfred Mahan, whose writings on the influence of sea power as central to the rise of Britain shaped foreign and military policies in many countries for decades. Mackinder argued that continent-sized powers with a strong industrial base, large populations, and national resources would dominate world politics—not those that ruled the seas.

Smart Oil Sanctions against Russia

Edward C. Chow

From the start of Russia’s unprovoked, unjustified, and brutal war against Ukraine, which Vladimir Putin reignited on February 24 after invading Ukraine in 2014, the United States and its allies decided against direct military intervention. A no-fly zone enforced by the United States or NATO and efforts by Western navies to free Ukrainian ports from Russia’s blockade to bring critical matériel in and essential Ukrainian food exports out might have ended the war in weeks.

There are arguable reasons for the West not to intervene directly, including the risk of enlarging the war. This meant that economic sanctions became the default second-best policy option. However, what might have taken weeks to achieve militarily will now take many months, if not years. The West should also understand the economic and political consequences both to Ukraine and to itself.

When it comes to economic sanctions against Russia, energy is the obvious place to look, since the sector generates half of Russian central government revenue and most of the country’s export earnings. Unfortunately, it is not possible to restrict exports from the world’s largest exporter of oil and gas combined without serious impact on the global market, since there is simply no equivalent spare capacity elsewhere or strategic stock drawdown available.

Peace or No Peace? Ukraine at a Crossroads

Arash Toupchinejad

After over 100 days into the Russian invasion of Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin’s campaign has exhibited a significant shift in dynamic. What started as a multi-pronged full-scale invasion has turned the Russian command’s focus to Ukraine’s eastern periphery. Having given up on capturing the capital of Kyiv, Russian commanders are taking fewer risks by scaling back their operations in Ukraine’s interior and instead emphasizing the contested regions closer to the Russian border. Since this change in strategy, the conflict has entered somewhat of an impasse, with Russia making steady gains across the Luhansk oblast in recent weeks.

As Russia occupies roughly one-fifth of Ukraine’s territory, some prominent voices in the West have begun to question the viability of a protracted conflict in Eastern Europe. However, rather than placing the onus on the Kremlin, renewed calls for peace increasingly look towards Ukraine as the independent variable. Most noteworthy was former U.S. secretary of state Henry Kissinger’s suggestion that Ukraine’s leadership should consider ceding territory in exchange for a ceasefire.

Congress Raises Good Questions on Space Industry Role in Defense

Grant Anderson

On May 17th, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Defense, held a hearing on the President’s Fiscal Year 2023 funding request and budget justification for the Air Force and Space Force. Witnesses included Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, Air Force Chief of Staff General Charles Brown and Space Force Chief of Space Operations, General Jay Raymond. The hearing was one of many being held now at the height of the appropriations season and touched on a wide range of issues central to the defense of the country.

But a notable exchange occurred between Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and the witness panel on an issue that is progressively important for the country: the topic of industry collaboration and government on matters of defense, national security and space. In her remarks, Senator Feinstein stated that,

“We’re seeing an increasingly close collaboration with industry in the development of our space capabilities…many of our smaller high-tech companies say it’s difficult to work with the Department of Defense, and to bridge the period between research and development phase and winning a procurement contractor. This is an issue the Space Assistance Command in Los Angeles has been working with industry to resolve. Can you report on the Air Force and Space Force’s progress in helping smaller companies bridge the gap between research and production?”

Both General Raymond and Secretary Kendall answered with a comprehensive reply that acknowledged the issue at hand, provided some clarity on how the services are working to bridge the gaps, and touched on how the challenges manifest themselves. General Raymond ran down a list of current projects and efforts where the Space Force is working directly with industry via specific initiatives to enhance technical collaboration and to encourage partner innovation on key needs for the service. Amidst all the constant chatter, the bluster, the chaff and the politicking, it is always heartening to see the U.S. Congress – specifically the Senate, in this case – drill down on issues that are important for the future of both our nation’s defense and industries.

The truth is, the effort to get DOD to become more flexible in acquisition and procurement – to move more quickly, to accept more risk, and to find ways to allow for more innovation – has been a long-standing challenge. And it is due to a multitude of complicating factors. On one level, the fundamental structure of government – the conflicting design of the three branches – limits the speed and latitude with which the Pentagon and the services can move; it’s always been a tug-of-war between Congress and the Pentagon on how we intend to equip our services. On another, parameters and stipulations set forth in the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) and the Defense FAR Supplement (DFARS) – while rightfully meant to prevent fraud, conflict of interest, and at least give a patina of fairness in contracting – automatically constrain how much the executive branch can flex when it comes to choosing contractors, suppliers, platforms, and technologies. Security clearance protocols are also very geared toward larger organizations and daunting for small businesses. And finally, the sheer size of the military requires a company to “impedance match” the customer’s resources in personnel to be able to respond to the customer – often beyond a small company’s capabilities and further handicapping small, agile, and innovative business participation. Despite the noble efforts of generations of policymakers and legislators to reform our defense acquisition system, many of these factors and conditions are simply not going to go away.

But the accelerated pace with which the world is moving in scientific and technological development only heightens the need for focus on these concerns. One need only witness the speed at which America’s chief global adversaries are developing defense capabilities that are not only alarming but are frankly forcing us to completely reevaluate how we fight wars, defend our Earth and space-based interests, structure our military, and spend taxpayer dollars. This lesson – strategically developing capabilities that force the opposition off balance – is one that our competitors seem to have learned well. It’s a lesson that, hopefully, we haven’t forgotten. And so, even if what the joint force is doing to encourage innovation – and to modernize our defense with game-changing technology – seems incremental or modest, it is still movement in the right direction and deserves applause.

On the bright side, there have been periods of close collaboration – nearly seamless in some cases – between the U.S. government and private industry in designing and developing platforms and technologies for space and defense. The “Space Race” of the Cold War era, for example, saw a highly fruitful, tightly aligned, and collaborative relationship between NASA and the aerospace industry to get an American on the Moon. But it was a success because the goals were clearly defined, strong leadership at all levels of engagement drove the effort and kept things on track, and because both government and industry had a shared patriotic interest in accomplishing the mission. Necessity is not only the mother of invention – but the caretaker of progress toward a goal as well.

With this in mind and seeing both the Congress and the services taking the concerns of industry seriously, we may be in a moment again where the government – civil and defense agencies both – and our dynamic science and technology industries are recognizing the importance of working more closely together towards a national imperative. We’ve seen it in the special operations community – where SOCOM has worked to encourage innovators to pitch ideas and concepts for use by elite units. We’re seeing more openness in the intelligence community – where agencies are quickly grasping and employing the value of open-source, off-the-shelf platforms. And as the dynamism and speed of invention in America’s space industry increases, the importance of harnessing its powers is being recognized by elements of government as well. That our national leaders are working to make sure this relationship is positive, smooth, and mutually beneficial is an encouraging sign.

So, as the Congress moves forth on appropriating the nation’s defense for this coming Fiscal Year, and as the joint force and service leadership work to build our military for the future, more questions on how the private sector can help accomplish key objectives in national security space is a good thing. These are questions we are more than ready to answer.

Asymmetric Advantage or Achilles Heel: Logistics in the U.S. Military

Michael Trimble & Jobie Turner


The ability of the United States military to deploy, supply, and redeploy its forces is unparalleled in the history of warfare. Professor Colin S. Gray writes that the U.S. military may “not have always been well-directed strategically or operationally. But that military establishment has always shown a mastery of logistics.” Since the end of the Second World War, logistics has been the great asymmetric advantage of the U.S. military. However, current and emerging challenges demand an updated concept of military logistics.

It will be difficult for the U.S. military to overcome the strategic complacency that has naturally resulted from decades of U.S. military logistical wins. As far back as the Civil War, legions of U.S. ground vehicles, ships, and later planes have always delivered in victory, and even in defeat. While military history in general abounds with logistical failures, the study of American military history reveals that superior U.S. logistics has repeatedly bailed out poor planning, sub-optimal operational decisions, and tactical errors. Even though American combatants have suffered under terrible conditions in such places as the Chosin Reservoir, the siege of Khe Sanh, and more recently in the fall of 2001 in the mountains of Afghanistan, they have never wanted for long. The last time an adversary was able to critically disrupt American supply lines was at Kasserine Pass in the fall of 1942.

Sending Stingers To Ukraine Has Increased The Urgency Of Developing New U.S. Army Air Defenses

Loren Thompson

Washington has sent over 1,400 Stinger antiaircraft missiles to Ukraine as part of the allied effort to prevent Russian occupation of the country.

That is a significant portion of the U.S. Army’s entire Stinger inventory, and it highlights the need to modernize the service’s short-range air defenses.

During the global war on terror that preoccupied the Army for more than a decade following the 9/11 attacks, tactical air defenses were neglected because the enemy did not have an air force.

However, with the shift of national defense strategy from counter-insurgency to deterring great power rivals, the Army has revived the air defense mission.

In fact, improved air and missile defense has become a pillar of the service’s modernization agenda. Army plans emphasize the value of layered defenses requiring weapons with diverse ranges, but in many tactical situations short-range weapons may be the only systems immediately available.

Don’t Overreact to China’s Solomon Islands Plans

Lucas Myers

Concerns over China’s Pacific expansion reached a fever pitch with the signing of an agreement between the Solomon Islands and Beijing in April. A leaked draft of the agreement specified that the Solomon Islands could request Chinese security assistance and China could, “according to its own needs and with the consent of Solomon Islands, make ship visits to, carry out logistical replenishment in, and have stopover and transition in Solomon Islands,” as well as protect Chinese assets and citizens there. Although China says it has “no intention” of building a base on the islands, the recent U.S. claim that a naval facility is under construction in Cambodia has raised further worries about Chinese plans. To be sure, the Solomon Islands agreement is a concerning deal, but China’s ability to contest sea control deep into the Pacific is likely decades out.

The Solomon Islands would certainly constitute a prime location for a Chinese military base. A formal base—or more likely in the short term, guaranteed military access to logistics facilities—would facilitate Chinese power projection into Oceania within striking distance of vital sea lines of communication (SLOCs) near Australia and New Zealand.