26 June 2022

We fought to defend democracy. This new threat to America now keeps us awake at night.

Michael Hayden, James Clapper, Stanley McChrystal, Douglas Lute and Mark Hertling

The following commentary about threats to American democracy was written by five retired U.S. Air Force and Army generals and lieutenant generals, including former CIA Director Michael Hayden.

We know something about serious threats to America's democracy.

Each of us has invested the better part of our lives in military and public service, and in defense of the democratic institutions that Americans cherish. Our careers have placed us on the front lines of the gravest threats America has faced in the past half-century.

Today, we harbor unprecedented concern for our country and for our democracy. The nation we have defended for decades is in real peril.

How America Can Feed the World

Carlisle Ford Runge and Robbin S. Johnson

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has already killed tens of thousands, displaced millions, and thrown global financial markets into chaos. But without serious international action, Moscow’s war will lead to another deepening crisis: worldwide hunger. Both Russia and Ukraine are major producers and exporters of grain and other agricultural goods. The conflict has thoroughly disrupted this trade, with potentially disastrous consequences.

Russia has blockaded the Black Sea ports from which Ukraine exports nearly all of its grain. Combined with the unwillingness of maritime insurers to protect cargoes moving through the war zone, the conflict will reduce Ukrainian and Russian wheat and corn exports moving through the Bosporus to a trickle. International sanctions on Russia have restricted its grain exports and interfered with its capacity to finance these cargoes, limiting its ability to raise scarce foreign exchange and costing it foreign buyers. The war and the blockades have also led to a surge in commodity prices. Wheat prices rose from $7.79 per bushel at the end of 2021 to $12.83 per bushel in mid-May of 2022, an increase of 64 percent. The United Nations reported an overall year-on-year global food price increase from March 2021 to March 2022 of over 30 percent. Some countries, notably China and India, have reacted to these price hikes by hoarding food and imposing export controls, further inflaming food price instability.

The United States and China: Who Changed the ‘Status Quo’ over Taiwan?

Andrew Scobell.

Taiwan has been the perennial problematic issue in U.S.-China relations for decades. President Biden’s comments during a recent trip to East Asia put that in stark relief. When asked if the United States would be willing to “militarily defend” Taiwan if China were to invade, Biden said, “Yes, that’s the commitment we made.” Administration officials later appeared to walk back the president’s comments. But Beijing reacted forcefully, conducting military drills close to the island and with numerous Chinese officials condemning the comments. Most recently, at the Shangri-La Dialogue earlier this June, Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe warned that the People’s Liberation Army will “fight to the very end” if Taiwan dares to “secede” from China. Beijing’s vociferous reaction to Biden’s comments underscores how contentious the Taiwan issue remains and how easily tensions can flare.

Robots, Marines and the Ultimate Battle with Bureaucracy


In July 2008, a year before President Barack Obama surged 33,000 ground troops into Afghanistan, a Marine Corps officer at Camp Pendleton, California, sent an urgent memo up his chain of command acknowledging an embarrassing truth: Marines, famous for their marksmanship flair, weren’t very good at hitting their targets in a war zone.

In combat, troops needed to neutralize a moving enemy, Maj. Eric Dougherty noted. But the Corps, using static target practice that hadn’t changed much since the Revolutionary War, had “no systems or ranges” that could prepare them for the task. He pleaded for resources and, in particular, a way to teach Marines to hit a target that moved unpredictably and as fast as a man could run.

“Failure to respond to this need will mean the continued degrading of critical marksmanship skills required to succeed in an asymmetric environment,” he wrote.

Attack Beijing Or An Invasion Fleet? How Taiwan Should Use Its Cruise Missiles

James Holmes

To what end? That’s a timeless question military folk and their political masters should ask themselves before crowing about their ability to wield this or that weapon to do this or that in wartime. A refresher on the political uses of arms may be in order in the case of Taiwan.

Over at The War Zone, Emma Helfrich reports that You Si Kun, the president of Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan, or elected assembly, gave a speech earlier this month touting the indigenously manufactured Yun Feng supersonic cruise missile. According to Helfrich, You proclaimed that an extended-range variant of the missile “can already hit Beijing, and Taiwan has the ability to attack Beijing.”

The Real Stakes of Taiwan

Howard W. French

Last month, U.S. President Joe Biden stirred up a miniature tempest in the international relations world when he made an apparently off-the-cuff comment committing the United States to Taiwan’s defense in the case of a Chinese attempt to take over the island by force.

In the days that followed, Biden’s national security team struggled to walk the comments back, saying that there had been no substantive change in U.S. policy toward Taiwan. The United States, in other words, still adhered to the historic “One China” policy but would also maintain a posture of strategic ambiguity. Historically, this has meant leaving it to Beijing to guess what Washington would do in the case of a Chinese attack on Taiwan.

Although it has not dominated the headlines in the United States, there has been no shortage of developments around Taiwan in the weeks since then. China, for example, unilaterally declared that it will no longer treat the 100-mile-wide strait separating its mainland from Taiwan as international waters freely open to navigation by foreign (read U.S.) warships. Beijing also unveiled its third aircraft carrier, which is the first whose size and technical design are intended to rival the most advanced carrier in the U.S. fleet.

Ukrainian Troops Retreat From Severodonetsk After Weeks of Brutal Battle

Yaroslav Trofimov

Ukraine ordered its troops to withdraw from their remaining foothold in the city of Severodonetsk to avoid encirclement, the regional governor said, ending a battle that lasted nearly two months and giving Russia a small but symbolically important victory in the grinding war for control of eastern Ukraine’s Donbas area.

Hard to defend and separated from the rest of Ukrainian-held territory by a river, Severodonetsk, a city of just over 100,000 people before the war, had limited strategic value by itself. It holds, however, political significance for both sides because of its status as the administrative center of Ukrainian-controlled parts of Luhansk, one of the two regions that make up Donbas.

Most of Severodonetsk was already held by Russian troops in recent weeks, with Ukrainian defenders holed up in the sprawling Azot industrial plant on the northern bank of Siverskyi Donets River. Weeks of brutal street battles and artillery exchanges in Severodonetsk mean that Russia has ended up capturing a largely depopulated and uninhabitable wasteland at a huge cost in lives and equipment.

Russia’s War in Ukraine: Large-Scale War and NATO

Martin Hurt

In the fourth brief of the series, Martin Hurt analyses the achievements of the Russian Armed Forces in Ukraine and compares them with the NATO’s existing forces and capabilities.

Martin Hurt, Research Fellow at the ICDS, briefly compares Ukraine’s military capabilities with those of some Allies and cautions against making any hasty conclusions about NATO’s ability to rapidly reinforce and defend its smaller member states in a potential war. He concludes that NATO should deploy its forces and capabilities along the borders of Russia, ready to defend Alliance territory as well as providing all necessary support to Ukraine, enabling it to significantly degrade the Russian forces.

The Nile River Dispute: Fostering a Human Security Approach

Akram Ezzamouri

Between 21–26 March 2022, decision makers, multilateral institutions and representatives from civil society, the private sector and academia gathered in Dakar, Senegal, for the 9th World Water Forum. The Dakar Declaration, issued on 25 March, reiterated international commitments, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which guarantee the right to water and sanitation for all and called for a strengthening of mutually beneficial cooperation and partnerships for an equitable management of transboundary water resources.

Applying these principles to the controversy surrounding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) and broader tensions over the management of the Nile River is fraught with challenges. The decade-long dispute, which began in 2011 as Ethiopia unilaterally began building the dam, has been characterised by firm state-centric approaches among riparian states. The inability (or unwillingness) of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia to consider compromises for an equitable sharing of these transboundary water resources has undermined the spirit of cooperation and, with it, efforts to place human security and the human right of access to water have also been overshadowed.[1]

HIMARS Marks Evolution in US Weapons Transfers to Ukraine

Elias Yousif

The Biden Administration has confirmed it is sending advanced High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) to Ukraine. This most recent in a series of expansions in military assistance represents a significant shift in the sophistication of military hardware that the US has committed to leaders in Kyiv.

HIMARS will significantly extend the effective engagement range of Ukrainian forces, an important capability in the country’s vast eastern steppe. The system, which consists of a multi-launch rocket system mounted on a Medium Tactical Vehicle, fires a variety of rockets capable of satellite guidance with ranges of between 70- and 499-kilometers, though the Administration has stated it will only provide rounds with 70-kilometer approximate range. The promised transfer comes on the heels of the provision of other indirect fire weapons, including dozens of M77 Howitzers with a maximum range of 30 kilometers.

Russia’s decision to re-focus its military effort on seizing Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region has elevated the importance of long-range artillery systems in day-to-day fighting. In order to make up for strategic and tactical deficits, Moscow has leaned all the more heavily on its superior firepower to pound Ukrainian defenses and civilian targets from afar. Accordingly, Ukrainian officials have made increasingly desperate pleas for longer-range systems, like HIMARS, to counter Russia’s ability to bombard Ukrainian positions from beyond the reach of Ukrainian systems.

The Power and Pitfalls of AI for US Intelligence

FROM CYBER OPERATIONS to disinformation, artificial intelligence extends the reach of national security threats that can target individuals and whole societies with precision, speed, and scale. As the US competes to stay ahead, the intelligence community is grappling with the fits and starts of the impending revolution brought on by AI.

The US intelligence community has launched initiatives to grapple with AI’s implications and ethical uses, and analysts have begun to conceptualize how AI will revolutionize their discipline, yet these approaches and other practical applications of such technologies by the IC have been largely fragmented.

As experts sound the alarm that the US is not prepared to defend itself against AI by its strategic rival, China, Congress has called for the IC to produce a plan for integration of such technologies into workflows to create an “AI digital ecosystem” in the 2022 Intelligence Authorization Act.

On the Grid in Leisang

Bill Spindle

Leisang, India—People in this remote northeast Indian enclave still talk about the day back in 2018 when the light came. By “light,” they mean electricity: the village was being connected to the national grid for the very first time. The three dozen or so adults in the village brought some of their children and gathered on the porch of the village chief, Tongsat Haokip. A switch was flipped, and a bulb blinked on. “We were dancing and celebrating,” Satlen Haokip, a forty-three-year-old villager, recalled for me after I made a four-hour trek down a bumpy dirt road to visit Leisang recently. Even four years later, his face lit up as he clapped his hands and did a little dance at the memory.

Thousands of miles away in New Delhi, the government also celebrated. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, soon to face critical national elections, announced that Leisang was the last village in India to be connected to the grid in the government’s much-touted thousand-day drive to bring power to every settlement in the nation, a $2.5 billion initiative that brought power to millions. Job done, trumpeted the press releases: India was electrified.

Will China-Russia Relationship Unravel? Experts Weigh In


There are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies, only permanent interests, as the saying goes. And while China isn't party to the conflict in Ukraine, perhaps no country has been scrutinized more for its relations with Russia.

On February 4, just three weeks before Vladimir Putin ordered his troops into Ukraine, Russia's president was in Beijing, standing shoulder to shoulder with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, to reaffirm their alignment against the West.

What followed was a 5,000-word joint statement in which they declared the China-Russia partnership to be one with "no limits," with "no forbidden areas" of cooperation. At a time when Russian forces were amassing on Ukraine's borders, this bond raised concerns in European capitals—and rang alarm bells after the invasion began.

The West has been perturbed by what it sees as China's tacit support for Russia because of its refusal to condemn Moscow four months into the war. It has accused Beijing of repeating the Kremlin's line against NATO, opposing military aid for Kyiv and sanctions on Russia, despite Chinese officials' insistence they support Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Can European industry support Macron’s ‘war-time economy’? Firms are wary.


PARIS: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led the rest of Europe into a “war-time economy,” shocking many countries into making spectacular increases in their defense spending. And with increased spending comes increased opportunities — which have sent European industry scrambling to try and find ways to meet the potential demand.

French President Emmanuel Macron laid down a clear marker when he opened the 15th biennial Eurosatory land armaments exhibition a week ago, becoming the first head of state ever to do so — itself a statement of the moment and how the influx of defense spending, with roughly €150 billion ($158 billion) pledged by European nations since the start of Russia’s invasion, could have major domestic impacts for political leaders.

His remark that “spending a lot to spend elsewhere is not a good idea” was clearly aimed at those European countries that are buying American, such as Germany, which within days of announcing a €100 billion ($105 billion) injection of funds into defense promptly announced it would buy up to 35 US F-35 fighter aircraft.

Army Research Lab Advances AI to Land Drones on Tanks

Kris Osborn

Artificial intelligence, it's rapidly shifting the paradigm for combined arms maneuver both current and future warfare, the Army is fast achieving breakthroughs being able to shorten the time it takes to find a target and destroy it with the optimal weapon in a matter of milliseconds, a process that that used to take minutes, the Army Research Labs looking at ways to overcome some of the obstacles are built in challenges that are fundamental to artificial intelligence.

Now AI, of course works by bouncing incoming new information off a seemingly limitless database, performing analytics and solving problems organizing information, performing analysis, and then submitting transmitting, if you will, optimal solutions to human decision makers. But what happens when an AI database comes across something that's not part of this database that it's never seen before. Reliability is a huge focus.

And that's something cutting edge scientists at the Army Research Lab are looking at the next generation of AI machine learning.

The Problem With Being a Petrostate

Emma Ashford

Since the end of World War II, the number of armed conflicts between states has plummeted. One group of countries, however, stands out in its continued aggression: oil-rich states, which have been at the heart of some of the most notorious and bloody conflicts in recent decades, from the Iran-Iraq War to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, from the Syrian civil war to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. No matter how you define a petrostate—whether you look at a state’s oil-derived wealth, its dependence on oil revenues, or its exports and relative importance to world markets—there is strong evidence that petrostates are more likely than other countries to start wars.

The question of why is trickier. The simplest explanation is wealth. Oil-wealthy states—which enjoy substantial income from their production of oil and natural gas—are in a lucrative business, one typically dominated by states themselves, which earn billions of dollars from the oil trade. From weapons to foreign aid to violent proxies, leaders of oil-wealthy states simply do not need to make the same budgetary trade-offs as non-resource-wealthy states.

In Russia’s War, China and India Emerge as Financiers

Clifford Krauss, Alexandra Stevenson and Emily Schmall

As Russia tries to break the stranglehold of sanctions, China and India are emerging as Moscow’s pivotal financiers by purchasing large amounts of Russian crude, putting themselves in the middle of the messy war with Ukraine and a geopolitical standoff with the West.

It’s a complex calculation for China, India — and the global economy.

Buying cheap oil from Russia offers economic and political advantages. China can diversify its oil supplies for national security reasons, while India can make billions exporting refined products like gasoline and diesel.

But undercutting European and American efforts to isolate the Kremlin risks serious diplomatic fallout that neither country wants. China has avoided overtly supporting Russia’s war in public statements, and India has portrayed itself as neutral.

After Petro’s Win, Colombia Teeters Between Hope and Fear

Frida Ghitis

When Colombians went to the polls Sunday to choose a new president, both choices on the ballot meant change and more than a little uncertainty about the future. It’s no surprise, then, that now that the results are in, Colombia finds itself on edge, teetering between high expectations and high anxiety.

The victory by Gustavo Petro, a former mayor of Bogota who once belonged to a radical leftist urban guerrilla movement, was above all a forceful rejection of the status quo. Petro promises profound change but speaks with the well-honed rhetoric of a smart, polished politician who has spent years as a legislator. Now that he is slated to be inaugurated in August, he knows he needs the support of the entire country, its business community and even foreign investors to have a successful presidency.

America’s Strategic Direction on Trade

Zhou Xiaoming

The Biden administration had long seen a need to realign America’s China trade policy. The punitive tariffs that former President Donald Trump imposed on Chinese imports have backfired, with more Chinese goods than ever entering the United States. The implementation of the so-called phase-one trade agreement has not proceeded in the manner Washington had hoped. Further, the Biden administration’s efforts to change China’s economic policy have failed to make headway.

The trade strategy that has emerged from the administration’s policy announcements and actions clearly shows some new directions and approaches. To start with — and contrary to the claim of U.S. Trade Representative Catherine Tai that Biden administration’s trade policy is “worker centered” — U.S. policy regarding trade with China is geared to serving Washington’s geopolitical goals. Trade plays second fiddle to the White House’s strategic objectives, meaning that commercial interests are to be sacrificed when Washington’s geopolitical ambitions call for it. Trade with China is viewed through a geopolitical lens.

Washington perceives China as an existential threat, and it increasingly employs trade as a weapon. For example, the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework was designed to dampen China’s influence — or, as Biden put it, to provide an “alternative to China.”

Russia, China and the US Assist Tajikistan in Strengthening Its Troubled Border With Afghanistan

John C. K. Daly

In the ten months since seizing power in Afghanistan, the Taliban has consistently stressed that its political control has eliminated armed unrest in the country. But undercutting the mullahcracy’s confident assertions is ongoing resistance centered in the northern Panjshir and Baghlan provinces. Last month (May), the National Resistance Forces of Afghanistan (NRF), a loose alliance of anti-Taliban factions consisting primarily of former members of the country’s military and police (many of them trained by the United States military), recently announced a new offensive against the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate (IE) to “liberate” the Panjshir and Andarab valleys (Hasht e Subh, May 8).

Further muddying the situation as the Afghan IE attempts to reassert its authority in Takhar and Badakhshan border provinces, Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISIS-KP) militants have not only also contested the Taliban’s control but even fired rockets into neighboring Tajikistan. The fluid security situation on the Tajikistani-Afghan frontier has attracted the attention of Russia, China and the US. Each of these rival powers is providing assistance to Tajikistan to strengthen its southern border with Afghanistan while Dushanbe simultaneously copes with domestic disturbances in its restive eastern Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO) (see EDM, May 24, June 1).

Russian Information Warfare Activities in the Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine

Yuri Lapaiev

On June 15, several Ukrainian media outlets reported that another top Russian military officer was killed in battle (InformNapalm, June 15). This time, it was Colonel Sergei Postnov, who headed the information response group within the 1st Bureau of the National Guard’s (Rosgvardia) Media Relations Department. Since the beginning of the Russian aggression against Ukraine back in 2014, information warfare has played a key role in the Kremlin’s efforts. And Postnov’s high officer rank further underscores this fact today.

The full-scale re-invasion that the Kremlin launched in February 2022 was also accompanied by a heavy propaganda campaign. But this information onslaught became even more important for Moscow in the Ukrainian territories it has occupied since the latest hostilities began. Here Russian occupying forces have two goals—to minimize the resistance of the local population and create safe conditions for the operations of their own forces. According to these goals, Russia’s information warfare efforts can be divided into three main categories: influence on the local civilian population, protective measures for the occupying forces, and influence on Ukrainian troops.

Azerbaijan’s Latest Steps Toward Becoming a Regional Digital Hub

Ayaz Museyibov

After implementing a number of trans-Eurasian energy and logistics mega-projects, such as the Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan oil pipeline, Southern Gas Corridor and Trans-Caspian International Transportation Route, Azerbaijan has also strategically committed itself to policies designed to turn the South Caucasus country into a regional digital hub (see EDM, May 26, 2020). This initiative has already secured buy in from several countries and major companies in the IT space. Notably, this past April, Italy’s largest internet service provider and one of the world’s leading operators, Sparkle, and Azerbaijan’s top wholesale telecommunications operator, AzerTelecom, signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation within the framework of the Digital Silk Way project (not to be confused with China’s Digital Silk Road), aimed at creating a digital telecommunications corridor connecting Europe and Asia via Azerbaijan (Azertelecom.az, April 21). Previously, the main telecommunications operators of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan signed two memorandums of understanding regarding cooperation on the Trans-Caspian Fiber-Optic Cable Line project (Azertelecom.az, October 12, 2021).

In addition to building up trans-border IT infrastructure, Azerbaijan is fostering digitalization reforms intended to improve the general domestic digital ecosystem, advance economic welfare, as well as contribute to the goal of the country becoming a digital hub for the broader region. Many of those reforms pertain to public administration. Thus, over the past decade, Baku has already launched the State Control Information System, Azerbaijan Digital Trade Hub, Electronic Agricultural Information System, an electronic procurement platform, an e-court system, e-health care, e-education, e-social services, e-property and land cadaster systems, and other initiatives (Vergiler.az, May 31). Owing to its objectives associated with the Digital Trade Hub project (officially launched in 2017), Azerbaijan became the first country in the world to offer interested international entrepreneurs mobile residency (m-Residency) and the second, after Estonia, to offer electronic residency (e-Residency) (Ereferoms.gov.az, February 22, 2017). The former involves a special SIM card that provides the individual with a government-verified electronic identity for online authorization and electronic signatures, while the latter offers the same but with a digital token. Additionally, Azerbaijan is applying a completely new management approach toward the liberated territories in and around Karabakh, with the entire systemic architecture in these regions designed around the concepts of the “smart city” or “smart village,” which rely on the “use of modern telecommunications, sensors, Big Data and other digital and artificial intelligence technologies, as well as innovation and knowledge” (E-qanun.az, April 19, 2021).

Climate Changes Lead To Water Imbalance, Conflict In Tibetan Plateau

Eurasia Review

Climate change is putting an enormous strain on global water resources, and according to researchers, the Tibetan Plateau is suffering from a water imbalance so extreme that it could lead to an increase in international conflicts.

Nicknamed “The Third Pole,” the Tibetan Plateau and neighboring Himalayas is home to the largest global store of frozen water outside of the North and South Polar Regions. This region, also known as the Asian water tower (AWT), functions as a complex water distribution system which delivers life-giving liquid to multiple countries, including parts of China, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Yet due to the rapid melting of snow and upstream glaciers, the area can’t sustainably support the continued growth of the developing nations that rely on it.

“Populations are growing so rapidly, and so is the water demand,” said Lonnie Thompson, distinguished university professor of earth sciences at The Ohio State University and senior research scientist at the Byrd Polar Research Center. “These problems can lead to increased risks of international and even intranational disputes, and in the past, they have.”

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.

But this bolt-on approach comes with important cybersecurity downsides. Fixing a security vulnerability discovered after the product has been finalized often entails revisiting important decisions made at early stages in product development. It could also end with the expensive result that much of the product must be redeveloped from those stages.


James K. Greer

This week, the Russian invasion of Ukraine turns four months old. While the Western world largely expected a rapid Ukrainian military defeat by Russian forces, the Ukrainian armed forces and their people halted the initial thrust of the invasion, and have since regained some of their lost territory and continue to defend their nation. The war is far from over. At this point, no one can describe with certainty the eventual outcome. That said, there is already much we can learn from this war. For the US joint force, and the Army in particular, that should include identifying major lessons regarding the conduct of large-scale combat operations on the modern battlefield. These lessons and their implications should then inform both near-term readiness—in the form of leader development, training, doctrine, force deployments and preparedness—and future force design across the DOTMLPF spectrum (doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel, and facilities).

We must always recognize that every war is unique and that none perfectly predicts the next. Certainly, our way forward must be shaped not just by the current conflict in Ukraine, but also by Gaza in 2021, Nagorno-Karabakh in 2020, Crimea and eastern Ukraine in 2014, Georgia in 2008, Lebanon in 2006, and of course the US and coalition counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations of the first two decades of this century. Even still, there are three major implications from the war’s initial months that can and must directly inform the US Army. The first of those is the necessity for effective conduct of large-scale combat operations (LSCO) over operational distances and extended duration in time. The second is the necessity to be able to operate effectively and preserve combat power during the noncontiguous and nonlinear operations that characterize modern large-scale combat. The third major implication is the necessity to operate effectively against, partner with, and employ hybrid forces—that is, combinations of special operations forces, conventional forces, paramilitary and irregular forces, and others. Recognizing there are dozens of other lessons that have emerged or are emerging, these three major implications are especially relevant and should serve as catalysts for improving US force design, capabilities, operations, and preparedness.

Busy Times in Iran-Central Asia Relations

Francisco Olmos

Visits at the highest level and different cooperation agreements have dominated interactions between Iran and Central Asia this spring. The presidents of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan have all been hosted by Tehran in the last month. Each country sees in Iran a partner in different spheres, from trade and transit corridor to energy importer and security guarantor. Growing ties may open trade routes for the region toward the south and even provide security guarantees, depending on the country.

United by Afghanistan?

In May, Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmon visited Tehran for the first time since 2013. Despite the cultural and linguistic links between the countries, Tajik-Iranian relations have been complicated. This time things were different.

Prior to Rahmon’s arrival in Iran, the two countries had inaugurated a drone factory in Tajikistan that will produce Iranian-made Ababil-2 UAVs. The development appears as a reaction from Dushanbe to Kyrgyzstan’s purchase of Turkish-made Bayraktar drones last year.

A Revived G7 Needs to Talk About China

Sophie Eisentraut

Russia’s invasion has instilled a new raison d’être into democratic formats more generally and the G-7 in particular. G-7 leaders and like-minded partners have delivered a surprisingly united and decisive response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s transgressions. However, Russia is not the only competitor that liberal democracies need to worry about. The broader and more comprehensive challenge facing them will likely come from China.

Evidently, in the context of the war against Ukraine, democratic societies have become keenly aware of the threat posed by China. As new public opinion data from all G-7 countries reveals, the crisis in Eastern Europe has not only deeply affected societal views of Russia; it has also triggered a radical reassessment of China. Beijing’s failure to condemn Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified attack against its neighbor, data collected for the Munich Security Conference shows, has not gone unnoticed by respondents in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.K., and the US.. Majorities in all G-7 countries say that Beijing’s response to the war in Ukraine has made them more wary of China’s own ambitions – from 50 percent of respondents in France to 58 percent of respondents in Japan.

Falling out of Favor: How China Lost the Nordic Countries

Andreas B. Forsby

Five years ago, the Nordic countries (this article will focus on Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden) were still eagerly pushing for closer ties with China. Each of the Nordic countries held frequent high-level meetings with Beijing, signed new Memorandums of Understanding to expand bilateral cooperation, competed with each other to attract Chinese investments, and welcomed Chinese-led multilateral initiatives such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) as well as China’s growing involvement in the Arctic.

In the past few years, however, perceptions of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) have fundamentally changed in the Nordic countries as security-related concerns and sensitive political issues have come to the fore. This development has been particularly noticeable since 2019 when the Huawei controversy, the Hong Kong protests and the revelation of mass detention camps in Xinjiang prompted the Nordic governments to re-evaluate their relationships with Beijing. Indeed, they have now come to view China as “a systemic rival,” a term first used in March 2019 by the EU Commission in its China strategy paper and recently also adopted by both the Finnish and Danish governments to describe their relations with China.

For some of the Nordic countries such as Denmark and Sweden, the overall deterioration in bilateral relations with China has been exacerbated by specific quarrels with Beijing. In the case of Denmark, a satirical newspaper cartoon of the Chinese flag with coronavirus symbols, the erection of a “pillar of shame” sculpture in front of the Danish parliament, and Chinese sanctions against the Copenhagen-based NGO Alliance of Democracies have severely strained the relationship. As for Sweden, the Gui Minhai case and the explicit Huawei ban imposed by the Swedish authorities have, along with the “shotgun diplomacy” practiced by the Chinese ambassador to Sweden from 2017-21, taken a heavy toll on bilateral relations.

Artillery: King of the Battlefield in Ukraine

Thomas Anders Bailey

As the shock of the Russian invasion of Ukraine died down and the two belligerents began to prepare for a long and grinding attritional war, it became clear that technology and advanced weapons systems would play a vital role. The West has been systematically sending weapons to Ukraine, from the British Starstreak MANPADS and Turkish TB2 drone to the American-made tank-busting FGM-148 Javelin, and has remained steadfast in its resolve to tip the balance in Ukraine’s favor. But what has also become clear, is that this is a war of artillery, and there are several Western artillery systems that could really help drive back the Russian army along the front.

Since the outbreak of war in Ukraine, artillery has undoubtedly revealed itself to be the most consequential battlefield weapon. High-ranking Ukrainian military personnel have said as much. An adviser to General Valery Zaluzhnyi, Ukraine’s top commander, stated that “anti-tank missiles slowed the Russians down, but what killed them was our artillery. That was what broke their units.” The power of indirect fire on enemy positions miles away cannot be underestimated and if Ukraine is to come out on top in this war, then an acceleration of shipments of modern weapons systems from the West is crucial.

Taliban Struggles to Respond to Major Earthquake in Afghanistan

Trevor Filseth 

Following a major earthquake in Afghanistan’s southeastern Paktika and Khost provinces—the country’s most significant natural disaster in more than twenty years—the Taliban-led government has struggled to mount humanitarian relief efforts and has appealed to the international community for assistance, in a major test of the group’s ability to react quickly to an unpredicted crisis.

Taliban officials urged the international community to assist areas harmed by the earthquake, and the group’s shadowy leader, Emir Haibatullah Akhundzada, publicly urged international humanitarian organizations to “help the Afghan people affected by this great tragedy and … spare no effort.” “We hope that the International Community & aid agencies will also help our people in this dire situation,” Anas Haqqani, a senior member of the group associated with the powerful Haqqani network, tweeted.

The United Nations (UN) and the European Union quickly offered assistance, with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) claiming that “inter-agency assessment teams have already been deployed to a number of affected areas.” Ramiz Alakbarov, the UN’s deputy special representative to Afghanistan, also committed the UN’s resources to aiding victims of the disaster, writing on Twitter that “[the] response is on its way.”