25 June 2022

The Army Is Teaching AI Systems How to Fight the Wars of the Future

Kris Osborn

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, MD—In the future, warfare is likely to involve a dangerous and unpredictable mixture of air, sea, land, space, and cyber operations, creating a complex, interwoven set of variables likely to confuse even the most elite commanders.

This anticipated “mix” is a key reason why futurists and weapons developers are working to quickly develop cutting-edge applications of artificial intelligence (AI), so that vast and seemingly incomprehensible pools of data can be gathered, organized, analyzed, and transmitted in real-time to human decisionmakers. In this respect, advanced algorithms can increasingly “bounce” incoming sensor and battlefield information off of a seemingly limitless database to draw comparisons, solve problems and make critical, time-sensitive decisions for human commanders.

Many procedural tasks, such as finding moments of combat relevance amid hours of video feeds or surveillance data, can be performed exponentially faster by AI-enabled computers. At the same time, there are certainly many traits and abilities that are unique to human cognition. This apparent dichotomy is perhaps why the Pentagon is fast pursuing an integrated approach, combining human faculties with advanced AI-enabled computer algorithms.

Age of Machines: The U.S. Army Is Testing AI to Win the Future

Kris Osborn

As rapid advances in artificial intelligence (AI) continue to reshape the future of warfare, some question whether there are limits to its capacity when compared to human intelligence.

U.S. Army Research Lab (ARL) scientists continue to explore this question, pointing out that the limits of AI are still only beginning to emerge and are expected to yield new and unanticipated breakthroughs in coming years. Loosely speaking, the fundamental structure of how AI operates is analogous to the biological processing associated with the vision nerves of mammals. The processes through which signals and electrical impulses are transmitted through the brain of mammals conceptually mirror or align with how AI operates, senior ARL scientists explained. This means that a fundamental interpretive paradigm can be established, but also that scientists are now only beginning to scratch the surface of possibility when it comes to the kinds of performance characteristics AI might be able to replicate or even exceed.

For instance, could an advanced AI-capable computer be able to distinguish between a dance “ball” from a soccer “ball” in a sentence by analyzing the surrounding words to determine its context? This is precisely the kind of task AI is being developed to perform, essentially developing an ability to identify, organize, and integrate new incoming data not previously associated with its database.

Realism After the War in Ukraine

Kevin Blachford

The war in Ukraine has opened up a renewed debate on the merits of realist foreign policies and the realist paradigm. The invasion has challenged assumptions of the post-Cold War era and both critics and proponents of realism seek to prescribe a response to the crisis. Much of the debate has centered on John Mearsheimer’s provocative 2014 Foreign Affairs article “Why the Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s Fault.” While supporters may celebrate Mearsheimer’s prescience, for critics, the invasion of Ukraine merely shows realists’ callous disregard for morality and a lack of concern for the values of the liberal international order. One recent critic complained that realists “have very little to say about” the “evil” of Putin’s actions and that the offensive realism promoted by Mearsheimer is not just “morally slimy” but “plain offensive.” To question NATO expansion, as Mearsheimer did, is to be on the “wrong side of history” and realism has therefore become a “bogeyman” for polite society. But Mearsheimer’s realism is not a thin theoretical veneer for a morally bankrupt policy of power politics. During his long career, he has repeatedly warned against hubris, unnecessary wars, and the dangers of escalation. Indeed, Mearsheimer’s realism follows a long American tradition of republican realism.

There can be no doubt that the invasion of Ukraine is unjustifiable. The conflict in Ukraine has resulted in shocking images of innocent people under attack in their cities and homes. This has understandably created a moralistic urge to “do something” and an emotional appeal to make “Putin pay”. Yet, this does not necessarily mean that realism as a theoretical perspective can be disregarded for being ambiguous about moral issues. The celebrated economist Adam Tooze launched one of the most thoughtful recent critiques of realism in the British political magazine New Statesman by arguing that realism is based on the “naturalization of war.” One of his most challenging critiques of realism is aimed directly at what he sees as realism’s support for military force and aggression. As Tooze argued:

NATO blinks as Turkey maintains threats to block Sweden, Finland from alliance

Amberin Zaman

Ankara’s threats to block Sweden's and Finland’s NATO memberships may yield some modest dividends, with the security alliance weighing whether to devote its last session during a summit in Madrid next week to “challenges” to its southern flank — meaning Turkey — and the fight against terrorism, Al-Monitor has learned.

The session, which sources say will most likely be added to the program, would provide Turkey with a platform to air its longstanding gripes over what it says is a lack of NATO solidarity over the threats it faces, including from a US-backed armed Kurdish group in Syria that Ankara says is closely linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The PKK is waging an armed campaign for Kurdish autonomy inside Turkey and is designated as a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union.

One of the sources said the session had been added to the program and would be called "Terrorism in All its Forms and Manifestations." Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu indicated that this was a done deal during a press conference with UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, saying he found it "significant" that the session would be taking place. He did not elaborate.

Peace versus Justice: The coming European split over the war in Ukraine

Ivan Krastev, Mark Leonard


In the weeks and months since the invasion of Ukraine, Europeans have surprised both Vladimir Putin – and themselves – by their unity and decisiveness. Post-heroic European societies outraged by Russia’s aggression, and mesmerised by Ukrainians’ valour, provided the motivating force for Europe’s unexpected turn. They inspired their governments to adopt change on a historic scale; they opened their homes to millions of Ukrainians; they demanded tough economic sanctions; and they forced Western companies to leave Russia as quickly as possible. While previous “European moments” were marked by the European flag mobilising people beyond the borders of the European Union (including in Ukraine), this time the Ukrainian flag mobilised people within the EU.

Europeans have discovered that they are a more serious force than they previously thought. Distinguished commentator Moises Naim has argued, “Europe discovered that it’s a superpower”. But, as the war approaches its fifth month, will European unity last? Or will cracks start to emerge between and within EU countries?

Europe on the Edges It has always been defined and influenced by its periphery.

Robert D. Kaplan

If Russia’s war in Ukraine ends in triumph for the West, could Ukraine, with all of its manifold problems—vast devastation of infrastructure, corruption, weak institutions—eventually join NATO and the European Union? Given Europe’s history over two millennia, that course would be unsurprising.

Europe has always been defined and influenced by its periphery, and it has shifted its position on the map accordingly. NATO’s very move eastward after the Cold War, incorporating the countries of the former Warsaw Pact—however controversial that decision remains—has a deep echo in Europe’s past. So does the construction of Russian natural gas lines extending throughout Central and Eastern Europe. The American historian Henry Adams famously wrote more than a century ago that the fundamental challenge of Europe was and would remain how to integrate Russia’s various lands into what he called the “Atlantic combine.”

Expansion, writes Tony Judt, the late historian of postwar Europe, is part of the “foundation myth” of the European Union. From the start, the EU was a highly ambitious enterprise, gradually encompassing former Carolingian, Prussian, Habsburg, Byzantine, and Ottoman domains, each with its own separate history and development pattern. In other words, Europe must always find a way to be larger than itself, to be forward-deployed, so to speak: to be continually ambitious. For if Europe’s influence is not strongly felt in its frontier zones, adversaries like Russia will constantly threaten.

Boost-Phase Missile Defense

Masao Dahlgren, Thomas G. Roberts

Despite its charter mandate to develop systems for defeating missile threats in all phases of flight, the Missile Defense Agency’s (MDA) program efforts focus almost exclusively on intercepting ballistic missiles in their midcourse and terminal phases. While the United States has attempted to realize several boost-phase defense systems, none have made it past the developmental stage. Yet the post-2017 demonstrations of North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capability have reinvigorated questions about how the United States can improve its homeland missile defense. Likewise, the growing complexity of North Korean and Iranian missile threats has prompted a renewed interest in such an architecture. Boost-Phase Missile Defense: Interrogating the Assumptions provides a fresh assessment of key issues related to boost-phase defense, including the ways missile threats are evolving and broader technological trends. It examines prior boost-phase programs for lessons learned, reviews prior studies, and analyzes potential pathways towards realizing a boost-phase missile defense layer to defend the U.S. homeland

The Global Punching Bag?

Minhaz Merchant

FOR NEARLY A thousand years, India was invaded, plundered and ravaged, its temples demolished, its self-confidence broken, and its people converted to alien faiths by sword or lucre.

Through all this, India remained a refuge for all faiths. The first Christians, led by Thomas the Apostle, came to India in 52 CE. The first Muslims arrived in the 7th century during the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad. Parsis followed in the 8th century, fleeing Islamic persecution in Persia.

In India, no one was persecuted. Christians built churches, Muslims mosques, Jews synagogues, Parsis fire temples. All lived in relative peace in India among an overwhelming majority of Hindus, practising their Sanatana Dharma.

Beijing Is Still Playing the Long Game on Taiwan

Andrew J. Nathan

Concern is growing in Taiwan, in the United States, and among U.S. allies in Asia that China is preparing to attack Taiwan in the near future. Testifying before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee last year, Admiral Philip Davidson, then the commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, warned that Beijing might attempt to seize the island in the next six years. Unifying Taiwan with mainland China is a key element of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “Chinese dream.” And as the political scientist Oriana Skylar Mastro has argued in these pages, Xi wants “unification with Taiwan to be part of his personal legacy,” suggesting that an armed invasion could come before the end of his third term as secretary-general of the Chinese Communist Party in 2027 and almost certainly before the end of his probable fourth term in 2032.

Putin’s war in Ukraine has intensified these concerns. Xi’s announcement just before the Russian invasion of a “no limits” partnership with Moscow, coupled with his failure to condemn Putin’s actions and the Chinese media’s endorsement of Russian propaganda, seem to signal Beijing’s support for Russia’s territorial aggression. Beijing may see a strategic opening now that U.S. political and military resources are tied up in Europe. Moreover, Chinese leaders may have interpreted the West’s response to the Russian attack as an indication that the United States will not intervene militarily to defend a country to which it is not bound by a defense treaty, especially against a nuclear-armed adversary. As David Sacks of the Council on Foreign Relations has argued, “Chinese policymakers may conclude that Russia’s nuclear arsenal effectively deterred the United States, which would be unwilling to go to war with a nuclear power over Taiwan.”

US and NATO lack capability to supply a long war


The long and short of it is that, while the US and NATO can fight a short conflict, neither can support a long war because there’s insufficient equipment in the now-depleted inventory and the timelines to build replacement hardware are long.

Despite a history of having done so before, starting in 1939, there is little chance that the US today can put in place a surge capacity, or that it any longer knows how to do so if it is even feasible.

Based on those circumstances alone – and there are additional, compelling reasons – the US and NATO should be thinking about how to end the war in Ukraine rather than sticking with the declared policy of trying to bleed Russia.

Let’s start by looking back at a time when the United States did know how to plan for surge weapons-building capacity.

Bolt-On vs Baked-In Cybersecurity

Herb Lin

A few weeks ago, the annual RSA Conference met in San Francisco. The conference is among the world’s largest cybersecurity events, and it thus provides a useful opportunity to reflect on current issues in cybersecurity.

One of the most prominent issues in cybersecurity is that of “baking in” security into product development from the beginning, rather than “bolting on” security as an afterthought. A company that uses bolt-on security as its default product development practice is usually acting in accordance with its economic incentives. Efforts devoted to security do nothing to advance the functionality of a new product. In an environment in which time-to-market is often the key to marketplace success, it makes a lot of economic sense to fix security problems if and when they manifest themselves after product launch rather than to spend the up-front effort preventing those problems from arising in the first place. A product manager may believe that the probability of discovering a vulnerability is low or that the economic loss resulting from its potential discovery is low. Thus, the product manager may make what seems to be an economically rational decision to fix only those problems that are both discovered in the field and serious. If the product manager is right, the resulting costs will be lower than the cost incurred in a security-up-front or baked-in model.

Preparing National Security Officials for the Challenges of AI

Steve Bunnell

Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of several rapidly emerging technologies that promise to disrupt not only multiple sectors of the U.S. economy but also the manner in which the U.S. government carries out its foundational responsibility to protect national security consistent with the rule of law and constitutional values. This presents an important challenge. Hard legal and ethical questions about national security uses of AI are already myriad and constantly evolving and expanding. How should the U.S. integrate tools like neural language models and facial and image recognition into its intelligence collection and analysis efforts? How much faith should be placed in machine predictions and identifications that no human can fully understand? What sort of oversight is needed to control for bias and protect privacy? To promote public trust? How can the U.S. combat deepfakes by foreign adversaries without running afoul of the First Amendment and free speech values? What level of AI-based predication is sufficient to warrant what types of intelligence, investigative, or military actions? When a decision is made to launch a drone attack against a terrorist target based on AI-based data and image analyses, are humans in the loop, on the loop, or out of the loop?

What ‘Zhong Sheng’ Says About China’s Perceptions of the Ukraine Conflict

Brandon Valeriano and Juan Garcia-Nieto

Pundits have gone to great lengths to project their interpretations of Chinese perceptions of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Sadly, few examine exactly what China communicates about the conflict. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) focuses mainly on placing the blame for the conflict squarely on the West while also offering tepid support for Russia. These views represent an evolution of cooperation between Russia and China, with a recent communique vowing that the “friendship between the two States has no limits.”

But of course, there are limits. In analyzing the specific language offered by representatives of the PRC through the state run Zhong Sheng pen name in the People’s Daily newspaper, three key themes emerge: emphasizing NATO is a threat; pointing to the Cold War mentality of the United States as a source of discord; and asserting that by leveraging massive sanctions, the United States is waging “financial terrorism.” At the same time, the PRC has not asserted that Russia’s territorial ambitions are legitimate.

Poland Has Had It With Russia

Mary Yang and Anusha Rathi

Almost all Poles say they see Russia as a major threat, according to a report released Wednesday by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center. Some 97 percent of Poles also say they have little or no confidence in Russian President Vladimir Putin “to do the right thing regarding world affairs.” The Russian invasion of Ukraine, now reaching its four-month mark, has accelerated a dramatic shift in attitudes in Poland—specifically toward NATO, the European Union, and the issue of immigration.

“That’s incredibly rare to get that kind of unified public opinion on one issue,” Jacob Poushter, associate director of global attitudes research at Pew, told Foreign Policy. “And in this case, it’s just very clear that people in Poland are very wary of Russia.”

Poland and Ukraine have had fraught relations dating back to World War II, but Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has forced many Poles and Ukrainians to reconcile: 84 percent of Poles now support arming Ukraine through NATO, and three-quarters of people in Poland want Ukraine to become a NATO member—a significant increase in support since 2015, the year following the Russian annexation of Crimea. The Eastern European country, once a part of the Soviet bloc, has now become a strategic hub for transporting military equipment to Ukrainian forces.

Many Russian Cyberattacks Failed in First Months of Ukraine War, Study Says

David E. Sanger and Julian E. Barnes

WASHINGTON — A new examination of how Russia used its cybercapabilities in the first months of the war in Ukraine contains a number of surprises: Moscow conducted more cyberattacks than was realized at the time to bolster its invasion, but more than two-thirds of them failed, echoing its poor performance on the physical battlefield.

However, the study, published by Microsoft on Wednesday, suggested that the government of President Vladimir V. Putin was succeeding more than many expected with its disinformation campaign to establish a narrative of the war favorable to Russia, including making the case that the United States was secretly producing biological weapons inside Ukraine.

The report is the latest effort by many groups, including American intelligence agencies, to understand the interaction of a brutal physical war with a parallel — and often coordinated — struggle in cyberspace. It indicated that Ukraine was well prepared to fend off cyberattacks, after having endured them for many years. That was at least in part because of a well-established system of warnings from private-sector companies, including Microsoft and Google, and preparations that included moving much of Ukraine’s most important systems to the cloud, onto servers outside Ukraine.

The arrival of Western weapons begins to reshape the battle off Ukraine’s coast.

Valerie Hopkins and Marc Santora

KYIV, Ukraine — As Ukrainian forces launch a renewed assault on Snake Island in the Black Sea, recent strikes suggest that they are using powerful Western anti-ship weapons in an effort to undermine Russian naval domination.

The Ukrainian military’s southern command said late on Tuesday that it was using “various forces and methods of destruction” to attack Russian infrastructure on Snake Island, a speck of land south of Odesa that is critical to efforts to control the Black Sea. On Wednesday morning, the military said it had destroyed a Russian air defense system, radar installation and vehicles on the island.

Russia’s defense ministry said it had thwarted the attack, which it said had featured 15 drones and long-range missiles, and was intended to land Ukrainian soldiers on the island. “The unsuccessful fire attack forced the enemy to abandon the landing to Snake Island,” the Russian military said.

As China shuts out the world, internet access from abroad gets harder too


Most internet users trying to get past China’s Great Firewall search for a cyber tunnel that will take them outside censorship restrictions to the wider web. But Vincent Brussee is looking for a way in, so he can better glimpse what life is like under the Communist Party.

An analyst with the Mercator Institute for China Studies in Berlin, Brussee frequently scours the Chinese internet for data. His main focus is information that will help him understand China’s burgeoning social credit system. But in the last few years, he’s noticed that his usual sources have become more unreliable and access tougher to gain.

Some government websites fail to load, appearing to block users from specific geographic locations. Other platforms require a Chinese phone number tied to official identification. Files that were available three years ago have started to disappear as Brussee and many like him, including academics and journalists, are finding it increasingly frustrating to penetrate China’s cyber world from the outside.

Former Defense secretary says China ‘could bring Taiwan to its knees’ without invading


Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates discussed China’s chokehold on Taiwan amid rising tensions between the two on the most recent episode of the “One Decision” podcast.

Gates talked to former MI6 chief Sir Richard Dearlove and international journalist Julia Macfarlane about major international concerns for the U.S., saying he does not believe China will invade Taiwan.

“I personally think the likelihood of a full-scale invasion is very low. The Chinese have never undertaken an amphibious operation. It would look something like D-Day and it would have to be huge, and it would require a lot of softening up,” Gates said.

Concerns of an invasion rose after Russia attacked Ukraine, with some afraid the action would embolden China to take its own measures against Taiwan.

Ukraine Disinformation Fight Sounds Warning Bells for Taiwan

James Baron

Taiwanese see propaganda everywhere. Decades of Martial Law will do that. Under the Kuomintang (KMT) dictatorship, indoctrination saw a generation of Taiwanese rendered “politically and socially inert,” to quote sociologist Chin A-hsiau. With that dark experience in living memory, the democratization of the 1980s and 1990s remains cherished – and any hint of backsliding triggers anxiety.

The 2018 local elections are a case in point. Following a drubbing at the polls for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), there were claims of external, mainly Chinese, interference in the vote and the concurrent referendum on same-sex marriage. A newly assembled Disinformation Coordination Team (DCT) advised the Central Election Committee to push for two bills – one to stop foreign sponsorship of campaign advertising and another to permit injunctions against misleading ads.

Both were rejected. The judiciary’s objection to involvement in the latter evoked memories of an era when the separation of powers in Taiwan was at best nominal.

‘Kamikaze’ Drones Strike Russian Oil Refinery, Looks Like Model Sold On Alibaba


Video has emerged showing a twin-boom tail configured drone crashing into a Russian oil refinery in Novoshakhtinsk, in the Rostov region, on the border with Ukraine, this morning. There is already much speculation that the incident was some kind of ‘kamikaze’ drone strike conducted by the Ukrainian Armed Forces. While the identity of the mysterious drone is yet to be established, initial analysis suggests it may have been an adapted, commercially available product that is available on the Chinese marketplace website Alibaba.

Footage of the incident apparently first appeared on the Telegram messaging service this morning before being distributed more widely across other social media channels. Filmed from nearby, the video clearly shows a twin-boom tail, pusher propeller-driven drone flying toward the refinery before making a steep dive and crashing into it, quickly resulting in a blaze.

Russia created a global food crisis by invading Ukraine. Here’s what can be done to stop millions from starving.

Nikhil Kumar

The situation worsens with each passing day: As the war in Ukraine persists, tens of millions of people living thousands of miles away are facing the prospect of crushing hunger — a calamity with direct links to the war. The latest blow came this week, when Russia destroyed a food warehouse at a key port along Ukraine’s southeastern coast.

As Grid has reported, Russia and Ukraine are critical to the world’s food supply, and conflict between these two producers of basic staples has knock-on effects well beyond the front lines. Ukraine is a major exporter of wheat, corn, barley and cooking oil; in the three decades since the Cold War ended, Ukraine has gone from “bread basket” for the Soviet Union to a central source of sustenance for many other parts of the world.

The war has cut deeply into both Ukraine’s production and its ability to export; Ukrainian grain exports were down by roughly 40 percent in the first half of this month compared with last year, and Russia is currently blocking some 25 million tons of grain earmarked for shipment. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has warned that the figure could triple by the fall. The Russians have also been accused of stealing farm machinery, pilfering grain warehouses and shipping Ukrainian produce out of the country; recent satellite imagery shows Russian-flagged ships carrying Ukrainian grain to Syria.

Cyber Crime and Antitrust

James Andrew Lewis

One should consider the proposed antitrust legislation now pending in Congress not as a lawyer or academic, but as a hacker. For hackers, some provisions of the bills under consideration will be the gift that keeps on giving.

The riskiest provisions would require big app store operators to allow third-party apps to be offered in their stores without a security review, or allow any developer direct access to a customers’ mobile devices, a practice called “sideloading.” Some companies want this since it lets them to avoid paying fees to app store owners, which is understandable, but these changes would come with serious costs for cybersecurity.

Hackers know that one of the easiest ways to get access to a computer or cell phone is to get the victim to willingly download and install malicious software without knowing they have done so. Phishing, where an email encourages the reader to open an attached file, is the most common technique for this, but apps are a great delivery vehicle as well. It is next to impossible to know where an app came from, what is in it, who wrote it, or to whom the hackers might have subcontracted the coding. If this section of the bill becomes law, being able to put an unreviewed app on the market or letting people download apps from the “the wild” will become one of the most preferred methods for cybercrime. This would have implications not only for the usual fraud and robbery against individuals, but risks the creation of apps that, when loaded on a personal device, will provide access to corporate or government networks. Requiring companies to provide the technical data required for an app to work with a phone (such as operating system software) makes life easier for criminals and spies.

Strangling the Bear? The Sanctions on Russia after Four Months

Gerard DiPippo

Western governments imposed a series of financial, trade, and travel sanctions on Russia starting in late February in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. With almost four months of observations and data, Western policymakers are assessing the economic impact of the sanctions, weighing the risks of increasing pressure on Russia with new sanctions, and considering how the sanctions might plausibly contribute to an end to the war.

Q1: What effect are the sanctions having on Russia’s economy?

A1: The short-term financial impact of the sanctions on Russia’s economy has been substantial but appears to have dissipated since May. The Central Bank of Russia (CBR) prioritized stabilizing the exchange rate after the first wave of sanctions, which included a freeze of roughly half of the central bank’s international reserves. The CBR imposed capital controls and raised interest rates. The ruble fell more than 40 percent against the dollar after the invasion but then strengthened above its prewar level by late April, albeit by no longer being a fully convertible currency. The CBR doubled its benchmark interest rate to 20 percent after the war started, but after mid-April, the CBR began gradually cutting the rate. By mid-June, the rate and banking sector liquidity had returned to prewar levels.

Rebuilding Energy Security: The Role of U.S. Oil and Gas

Joseph Majkut: Good morning, everyone, and welcome to CSIS. I’m very pleased to see everyone here today. My name is Joseph Majkut. I’m the director of the Energy Security and Climate Change Program here at CSIS. If you’ll give me a moment, sir, I have to do a couple of preflight announcements.

For those who are joining online, I hope that you take the opportunity to interact with our programing today via social media. And for those of you who’ve joined us in the room, I’m very grateful for that. This is our program’s first in-person conference in the endemic period of COVID. And so we’re really pleased that so many folks came out. I’ll note that CSIS takes your safety and comfort very seriously, so if there’s any issues that arise while you’re here please let us know.

And if anything happens or a big alarm goes off, I encourage you to discover one of the exits at either end of the room or follow the instructions of a CSIS staff member. And we are meant to regroup behind the building. And I’ve heard that the tradition is that I have to take you all out for ice cream at the National Geographic Society. So hopefully that doesn’t happen, but if it does there’s a sweet treat at the end.

Best and Bosom Friends: Why China-Russia Ties Will Deepen after Russia’s War on Ukraine

Russian president Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has put China in a difficult position. Putin launched his war of aggression just weeks after meeting with Chinese president Xi Jinping and declaring jointly their “no limits” partnership. China’s tacit backing of Russia clashes with Beijing’s stated support for the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity and jeopardizes Beijing’s relations with Europe. Putin’s war of choice is compounding China’s Covid-19-related economic challenges, causing energy and food prices to rise, and the remarkable resilience of Ukraine and strong allied response have likely prompted China to reexamine its calculus on Taiwan.

Some analysts and policymakers have posited, therefore, that Russia’s war in Ukraine will arrest the trajectory of deepening Russia-China relations, weakening the countries’ partnership. Indeed, there are data points that support this hypothesis. Chinese companies and banks have pulled back from new and ongoing initiatives in the Russian market to avoid Western sanctions, and Chinese official media recently granted Ukraine uncensored space to criticize the Kremlin.

Distribute Lethality, One Mine at a Time

Captain Edward Lundquist

In World Wars I and II, the U.S. Navy had specialized ships designed or adapted to lay mines. Offensive minelaying could prevent enemy warships from leaving port or vital supplies from arriving.

Ships capable of laying a tactically relevant minefield need the range and endurance to get where the mines should be deposited, a large internal volume to store the mines, and the ability to get them off the ship and into the water. It is no wonder that some of the ships adapted for the role were ferryboats, which can efficiently load and offload vehicles.

Many ferries operate on short distances and return to home port for fuel and maintenance. But others in coastal or regional services have sufficient endurance or can be modified to have adequate range to travel long distances and the speed to keep up with a task force.

This was certainly the case in World War I, when ships were used to create a massive minefield—the “North Sea Mine Barrage” blockade to keep German U-Boats from getting to open water. The Army Coast Artillery Corps was charged with establishing and maintaining defensive minefields in coastal waters and protecting U.S. ports and harbors. Many ships were introduced to the U.S. Army Mine Planter Service (AMPS) in 1918. Later, some of them would be turned over to the Navy.

The Logic of Israel’s Laser Wall

Ilan Berman

In early February, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced a major new defense initiative when, in an address to Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Strategic Studies, he laid out his administration’s plans for a “laser wall” to protect the country from rockets, missiles and UAVs. “In about a year, the IDF will launch a laser interception system,” Bennett explained. “At first experimentally and later it will become operational. First in the south and then elsewhere. This will allow us, in the medium to long term, to surround Israel with a laser wall that protects us from missiles, rockets, UAVs and other threats.”[1]

The announcement marked the public unveiling of a capability that has been an area of intense focus for the Israeli government and industry for some time, with hundreds of millions of shekels allocated to its development to date. It represents an attempt to address what has become a long-standing problem: the war of economic attrition being waged against Israel by Hamas and other militants.

Adverse Economics

The math confronting the Israeli government is both simple and stark. While missile defense systems like Iron Dome offer extensive protection against the rockets and mortars fired by Palestinian extremists, they are extremely costly to operate. For instance, each Iron Dome battery is estimated to cost approximately $100 million, while each interceptor missile costs roughly $50,000.[2] By contrast, the simple, unsophisticated rockets utilized by Hamas and other militants can cost as little as $300 apiece. As a result, though overwhelmingly successful at protecting Israeli population centers and civilians of inestimable value, existing Israeli missile defenses have become a distinct drag on Israeli finances.

This economic cost was showcased last May, in the most recent round of fighting between Israel and Hamas. Over the course of the eleven-day conflict, Hamas fired more than 4,000 rockets and mortars at assorted targets in Israel.[3] Iron Dome successfully defended against the lion’s share of these attacks, with an estimated interception rate of 90 percent.[4] However, the economic costs of doing so were high – so much so that, following the conflict, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz formally sought $1 billion in emergency aid from the United States in order to replenish Israel’s stocks of Iron Dome interceptors.

For their part, extremists have understood this adverse economic equation, and the power that it confers. The strategy embraced by Hamas in the latest round of fighting, experts have observed, represented a departure from past conflicts. The group’s approach, entailing “unprecedented rocket fire,” reflected a recognition of the adverse economic calculus confronting Israel.[5] Other extremists have taken note as well. For instance, Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia has, with Iranian assistance, stepped up its development and stockpiling of precision guided munitions (PGMs) in recent years. This arsenal has become so extensive that experts now believe that this capability will be a significant – if not the decisive – factor in any future confrontation.[6]
Breaking Out

To counter these threats, Israel has accelerated work on a directed energy complement to its existing layered missile defense structure. Israeli defense firm Elbit Systems is now developing an aerial laser defense capability, to be attached and flown on light aircraft, while state-owned Rafael Advanced Defense Systems is concurrently working on a ground-based laser weapon with an 8-10 kilometer range.[7] The technology is rapidly maturing, and an initial directed energy defense capability is anticipated to come online within the year, with sustained operations to follow over the next three years,[8] or perhaps even sooner.

Russia Finally Has Its Artillery War In Ukraine. But Can It Win?

Sebastien Roblin

Can Russia win an artillery war against Ukraine? In the months preceding the war, military analysts who correctly concluded Russia was massing troops for a likely attack on Ukraine also thought they had a good handle on the tactics its ground forces would use. They based their expectations on the fighting that had already taken place, in Ukraine and in Syria, starting in the middle of the last decade.

The key elements would be ad-hoc combined-arms units called battalion tactical groups, or BTGs. They would follow a doctrine of so-called non-contact or next-generation warfare in which battalion-sized mechanized units serve as mobile artillery delivery systems.

Rather than push forward infantry and tanks to engage the enemy with direct fire, BTGs would rely on drones and electronic intelligence to locate opposing units and plaster them from afar with artillery. The tanks and infantry were there to screen the artillery, only seizing ground after the artillery had destroyed most of the opposing force.

This doctrine sought to rationalize Russia’s strengths — lots and lots of armored vehicles and artillery — and its weaknesses: not enough capable infantry.

Algorithmic Warfare: DARPA Probing Quantum Computing Capabilities

Meredith Roaten

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency recently funded the second phase of a quantum computing project that aims to expand the utility of emerging technology, according to one of the lead researchers on the project.

The second phase of the Georgia Tech Research Institute-led project brought its funding total to $9.2 million for the scientists to run additional experiments on a quantum computing system configured to potentially string together more computing units than ever.

The DARPA project — Optimization with Noisy Intermediate-Scale Quantum devices — aims to “demonstrate the quantitative advantage of quantum information processing by leapfrogging the performance of classical-only systems in solving optimization challenges.”

Researcher Creston Herold said one of the classic problems of optimization that quantum computing systems could solve is called the traveling salesperson.

The Balance of Soft Power The American and Chinese Quests to Win Hearts and Minds

Maria Repnikova

In the post–Cold War era, few concepts have more profoundly shaped discussions of U.S. foreign policy than the idea of “soft power.” The term was coined by the American political scientist Joseph Nye in his 1990 book, Bound to Lead, in which he defined it as “getting others to want what you want.” But Nye wasn’t just trying to illuminate an element of national power. He was also pushing back against arguments that the United States was facing an impending decline. To the contrary, Nye argued that alongside its military prowess and economic strength, the United States enjoyed a massive advantage over any potential rivals thanks to its abundant soft power, which rested on “intangible resources: culture, ideology, [and] the ability to use international institutions to determine the framework of debate.”

The idea of soft power gained traction in the 1990s but was tested in the United States in the years after the 9/11 attacks in 2001. Following the disastrous U.S. war in Iraq and the steep rise in anti-American sentiment in the Middle East and beyond, Nye insisted that soft power was not merely complementary to hard power but indispensable to it. “When we discount the importance of our attractiveness to other countries, we pay the price,” he argued in his 2004 book, Soft Power, urging a more deliberate deployment of public diplomacy. Such arguments held little sway in the George W. Bush administration but were later embraced by the Obama administration; in 2013, an article in these pages described Obama’s first top diplomat, Hillary Clinton, as “the soft-power secretary of state.” The soft-power pendulum swung again under the more hawkish and less internationalist administration of President Donald Trump and once again when President Joe Biden took office, pledging to restore the country’s moral stature and to “lead not merely by the example of our power but by the power of our example.”