27 June 2022

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).

Can Russia Repeat the ‘Crimea Scenario’ in Ukraine’s Kherson Region?

Vadim Shtepa

As a result of its full-scale re-invasion of Ukraine launched on February 24, Russia presently occupies most of Kherson Oblast, a southern region with a million inhabitants that borders on Crimea. In fact, Russian troops captured Kherson with a strike from the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow illegally annexed back in 2014. Now, some observers predict that Kherson will soon undergo the same fate that Crimea did eight years earlier—even while the Moscow-backed quasi-statelets of Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics” have yet to be officially admitted into the Russian Federation.

The strategic importance of the Kherson region lies in the fact that it physically links the Crimean Peninsula with the continent. So without control over Kherson, Ukraine’s objective of “de-occupying Crimea” becomes that much less realistic. In addition, Crimea is vitally dependent on Kherson Oblast for its water: the North Crimean Canal, which carries fresh water from the Dnieper River to the peninsula, originates there. The blocking of this canal in 2014 by the Ukrainian authorities caused numerous problems for annexed Crimea, and today Russia is striving to further secure its “returned” territories. But this necessitates an expansion of the 2014 annexation. Finally, the Kherson region is an important springboard for a possible strike on Odesa, Russian control of which would finally cut Ukraine entirely off from the Black Sea.

Cybersecurity’s bad and it’s getting worse

Joseph Marks

Thank you!: To editors who guided me; researchers who wrote far more of this newsletter than most people realize and frequently caught my errors before they got into print; fellow reporters at The Post and elsewhere; sources without whom this newsletter would not have been possible, especially those who spent hours patiently explaining complex issues to me (you know who you are); and to readers who always gave me great feedback and made the newsletter better.

As for me: I’ll be heading to Johannesburg, where my wife will be doing her first tour as a U.S. Foreign Service officer. I’ll be doing some freelance reporting, so send any South Africa stories and tips my way. Please stay in touch. You’ll still be able to find me on Twitter. Other contact info is in my bio there.

It's hard to overstate how much cybersecurity has surged as a top concern

There are few analogues in history for how cybersecurity has surged in importance as a government policy issue during the past eight years.

Google Warns of New Spyware Targeting iOS and Android Users

IN HEARINGS THIS week, the notorious spyware vendor NSO group told European legislators that at least five EU countries have used its powerful Pegasus surveillance malware. But as ever more comes to light about the reality of how NSO's products have been abused around the world, researchers are also working to raise awareness that the surveillance-for-hire industry goes far beyond one company. On Thursday, Google's Threat Analysis Group and Project Zero vulnerability analysis team published findings about the iOS version of a spyware product attributed to the Italian developer RCS Labs.

Google researchers say they detected victims of the spyware in Italy and Kazakhstan on both Android and iOS devices. Last week, the security firm Lookout published findings about the Android version of the spyware, which it calls “Hermit” and also attributes to RCS Labs. Lookout notes that Italian officials used a version of the spyware during a 2019 anti-corruption probe. In addition to victims located in Italy and Kazakhstan, Lookout also found data indicating that an unidentified entity used the spyware for targeting in northeastern Syria.

“Google has been tracking the activities of commercial spyware vendors for years, and in that time we have seen the industry rapidly expand from a few vendors to an entire ecosystem,” TAG security engineer Clement Lecigne tells WIRED. “These vendors are enabling the proliferation of dangerous hacking tools, arming governments that would not be able to develop these capabilities in-house. But there is little or no transparency into this industry, that's why it's critical to share information about these vendors and their capabilities.”

Welcome to the summer from hell: 2022 is shaping up to be a season of disaster — and a preview of our future

Dave Levitan

A wave of deadly heat is rolling across the U.S. The ongoing drought in the West is stretching water supplies thinner than ever while supercharged rainstorms have unleashed devastating flooding in Yellowstone National Park. Wildfire season is off to a roaring start.

Get used to it.

For years, scientists have warned about the risks of compounding climate change-related disasters, how as the climate warms one calamity can piggyback on another and trigger a cascade of struggle and misery. The warnings are coming true, particularly in the western half of the country.

“What we see in the last few years is [a] kind of increase in these compound extremes, particularly droughts, heat waves and wildfire, because the three are just so tightly connected,” said Benjamin Cook, a research scientist at Columbia University and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies who focuses on drought and related issues. “The real concern around these kind of compound extremes is … a lot of our management and infrastructure are just not prepared for so many things to stress things out all at the same time.”

Space Force stands up new intel center; Air Force’s NASIC keeps some space-related analysts


WASHINGTON: The Space Force today stood up its new National Space Intelligence Center (NSIC), but its progenitor, the National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC), will confusingly keep space in its name — and continue to be responsible for a good chunk of space-related analysis, according to sources.

“It begs the question, I think, as to why did we need to stand up a National Space Intelligence Center? And the truth is that we needed a sharper focus on the space threat that is there today,” Maj. Gen. Leah Lauderback, Space Force’s head of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), said at the stand-up ceremony today.

Lauderback, who was recently nominated to be Air Force deputy chief of staff for ISR, was charged by Chief of Space Operations Gen. Jay Raymond in December 2020 to create the center, following the declaration that Space Force would become the 18th member of the Intelligence Community.

A Middle East NATO? A missile defense network with Israel? Major shifts brewing in region


DUBAI: The growing perception of Iran’s aggression in the Middle East, along with Washington’s desire to reduce Russian and Chinese influence in the oil-rich Gulf Arab states, has prompted intense bouts of diplomacy in recent months that could lead to major tectonic shits in the political and military landscape.

Many reports have surfaced in past weeks regarding significant developments in play that will likely come together during President Joe Biden’s expected visit to the region next month, according to analysts who spoke with Breaking Defense.

The idea of a new defense alignment was underlined Friday when Jordan’s King Abdullah II said he would support the creation of a Middle East alliance similar to NATO, telling CNBC “I would be one of the first people that would endorse a Middle East NATO.” However, he noted, “The mission statement has to be very, very clear. Otherwise, it confuses everybody.”

Saudi religious soft power diplomacy eyes Washington and Jerusalem

James M. Dorsey

Geopolitics is written all over Saudi religious soft power efforts. Nowhere more so than when it comes to Israel and Jews because of the growing importance of security cooperation with the Jewish state and the influence of the Israeli lobby in the United States, the kingdom’s most important yet problematic security partner.

In the latest move, Saudi Arabia ensured that it would be the first stop on the first overseas trip by Deborah Lipstadt as US special envoy to combat antisemitism.

“Lipstadt intends to build on the profoundly important Abraham Accords to advance religious tolerance, improve relations in the region, and counter misunderstanding and distrust,” the State Department said in a statement. The department was referring to the accords by which the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan established diplomatic relations with Israel in the waning days of US President Donald J. Trump’s administration.

Ms. Lipstadt said that Saudi religious soft power diplomacy had created an atmosphere in which she could discuss with government officials and civil society leaders, who in the kingdom inevitably are likely to be linked to the government, “normalizing the vision of the Jews and understanding of Jewish history for their population, particularly their younger population.”

Can Turkey’s Erdogan Rebuild the Bridges He Has Burned?

Since his sweeping overhaul of Turkey’s political system in 2017, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has cemented his near-total control over the country. Despite the worst electoral setback of Erdogan’s career in the Istanbul mayoral election in June 2019, as well as a tail-spinning economy exacerbated by the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, he continues to maintain his grip on power, even if he must undermine Turkey’s democracy to do so.

At the same time, Erdogan has pursued an adventurous and bellicose foreign policy across the Mediterranean region, putting Ankara increasingly at odds with its NATO allies. After Turkey’s purchase of a Russian air-defense system in July 2019, Washington suspended Turkish involvement in the F-35 next-generation fighter plane program. In October 2019, the Turkish incursion into northeastern Syria targeting Syrian Kurdish militias raised tensions with the U.S. Congress—which fiercely defended the Syrian Kurds, America’s principal partner on the ground in the fight against the Islamic State—even if former U.S. President Donald Trump seemed oblivious to their plight and subsequently received Erdogan at the White House. Turkey’s repeated incursions into waters in the Eastern Mediterranean claimed by Cyprus, as well as its standoffs with Greek and French naval vessels in the region, further raised tensions and alarmed observers. And its support for political Islamists since the Arab uprisings as well as its role in the Middle East’s various armed conflicts have put it at odds with the Gulf states and Egypt.

The U.N. Knows Afghanistan Is Messed Up. But It’s Keeping Mum.

Lynne O’Donnell

An internal United Nations report confirms the worst fears about Taliban excesses, including abuse of women and children, muzzling of media, targeting of civil society activists, shuttering of human rights organizations, and substituting public education with extreme religious indoctrination.

The report on the human rights situation in Afghanistan in May, by the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), details egregious violations and abuses by the Taliban administration. The report itself makes clear that despite almost a year of engagement with the Taliban as the de facto Afghan government, the U.N. has made little difference to the Islamists’ disregard for basic human rights, including access to food and education.

In the 10 months since the Taliban retook the country—thanks to former U.S. President Donald Trump’s so-called peace deal and current U.S. President Joe Biden’s decision to go ahead with a withdrawal of all American troops—the country has gone backward at vertiginous speed. The Taliban have reversed most of the social, economic, and political advances made in the 20 years of the Afghan Republic.

China-GCC Digital Economic Cooperation in the Age of Strategic Rivalry

Mordechai Chaziza

This piece is part of the series “All About China”—a journey into the history and diverse culture of China through short articles that shed light on the lasting imprint of China’s past encounters with the Islamic world as well as an exploration of the increasingly vibrant and complex dynamics of contemporary Sino-Middle Eastern relations. Read more ...

The strategic rivalry between China and the US that has developed over the past decade includes a struggle for control of the global digital economy, particularly the digital infrastructure and information communications technology (ICT) markets. In recent years, China has become a global leader in some areas of the digital economy such as e-commerce, digital payments, and investment in digital technologies. Digital economic cooperation has emerged as an increasingly important element of China’s relations with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries — and a focal point of Sino-American great-power competition in the Middle East.

What to make of China’s new aircraft-carrier

The aircraft-carrier has long been a symbol of military might. Admiral William Halsey, who commanded an early American one and led Allied forces in the South Pacific during the second world war, described it in 1942 as the best way to “get to the other fellow with everything you have, as fast as you can, and to dump it on him.” That has held true for most of the eight decades since, during which carriers played a key role in conflicts from Korea to Libya. They remain critical to ensuring American military dominance in Asia as friction with China intensifies, especially over Taiwan.

Containing China Amid the Ukraine Crisis

Zalmay Khalilzad

AMONG THE foreign policy challenges currently faced by the United States, two pose the greatest potential risk to our security and the future of the global order. One is the challenge posed by China as a rising power seeking to overtake the United States as the world’s preeminent power. The other is Russia, a declining power committing a shocking act of aggression against Ukraine in a futile bid for imperial restoration.

While the challenge of the Russian war in Ukraine is urgent, from a national security perspective, China, of course, presents the more serious and comprehensive threat, with economic, political, technological, and military dimensions. Even as we deal with Ukraine, the Chinese challenge must remain our central focus. For most of the post-Cold War period, this has not been the case, allowing for the continual rise of China to which we continue to contribute.

U.S. Defense Companies Are World-Class Innovators. Why Doesn’t Washington Know That?

Loren Thompson

The U.S. Department of Defense is a huge consumer of technology, and as a result America is home to many of the world’s biggest makers of military hardware.

If you were to infer from this that Americans have a love affair with defense companies, you’d be wrong. It is a longstanding tradition in the domestic political culture to view military contractors with suspicion.

That tradition is not confined to one party. During the 1920s, Republicans led the charge in labeling military suppliers like Dupont as “merchants of death.” Fifty years later, during the Vietnam War, it was Democrats who took the lead in condemning the “military-industrial complex.”

The latest wrinkle in this longstanding bipartisan bias is the charge that traditional defense companies are not innovative, and that if the Pentagon wants cutting-edge technology it needs to turn to commercial companies in Austin, Boston and Silicon Valley.

Roe Abolition Makes U.S. a Global Outlier

On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, a 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to an abortion. In a 6-3 ruling, with all three of former U.S. President Donald Trump’s appointees voting in the majority, the court upheld a Mississippi state law that banned abortions after a gestational age of 15 weeks. That hands legal authority for abortions to states, about half of which will enact all but total bans on the medical procedure.

With the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, the United States became a world leader in liberalizing abortion laws, and scores of other countries followed suit in the decades afterward. Although a handful of countries in recent years have reversed these laws, Foreign Policy analysis shows a worldwide trend toward greater reproductive freedom for women, not less, which makes the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision—and the United States in general—an outlier. Abortion is still largely illegal in many countries coded as improving access—but exceptions in cases such as rape, incest, or saving the life of the pregnant woman have been made.

Russia’s War in Ukraine: The Kremlin’s Aims and Assumptions

Kalev Stoicescu

The first brief in a new series “Russia’s War in Ukraine” discusses Russia’s war aims. These are not limited to the destruction of Ukraine’s statehood, or even of the Ukrainian nation, its culture and language, but include altering Europe’s security architecture by undermining NATO and the European Union.

Kalev Stoicescu, Research Fellow at the ICDS, also examines Russia’s extensive preparations domestically and abroad (versus Ukraine, the West, and China), and evaluates where Russia’s assumptions were right and wrong, as proved by the course of events after 24 February 2022.

Stoicescu concludes that Vladimir Putin’s regime has an inclination for miscalculation and apparently an appetite for future adventures. The risks are thus far from over.

Russia, Ukraine, and the U.S.: The Monster Is In The House

Kevin R. James

It is self-evidently true that the United States must act as the “champion and vindicator” of her own liberty even if one supposes that John Quincy Adams was correct to declare that “she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy”. And it is precisely because the U.S. is the champion and vindicator of her own liberty that the U.S. must provide whatever help Ukraine needs to win her war against the monstrous Russian regime now ravaging her.

The reason is simple: any nuclear deterrence relationship between the U.S. and a hostile regime is inherently unstable and can result in nuclear war at any time. It follows that nuclear armed monsters are not “abroad,” they are in the house. Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine provides an opportunity to destroy the monster that is the Putin regime by shattering its military, economic, and political foundations. A victory for Ukraine is therefore a victory for the U.S.

Discretion Assured? Russia’s ICBM Force Protected by a Wide Variety of EW Systems

Dr. Thomas Withington

Unsurprisingly, survivability is a key tenet of Russia’s mobile intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) force. These truck-mounted weapons would be dispersed to Russia’s endless countryside in times of tension. By staying on the move, only stopping briefly to fire their deadly cargo, they should be difficult to find. Difficult to find means difficult to kill. These attributes are akin to those of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines which harness oceanic depths to preserve stealth.

The Russian military has correctly understood that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) would strongly prioritize finding and attacking Russia’s mobile ICBM launchers in wartime. Significant resources would be dedicated to this. These would include reconnaissance satellites gathering imagery of these vehicles and their locations. Signals intelligence (SIGINT) would also play a key role in detecting and locating these assets.

The modern cannons that may make the difference in Ukraine

“Hard pounding this, gentlemen, but we will see who can pound the longest.” Thus spoke the Duke of Wellington on the afternoon of the battle of Waterloo, when Napoleon’s guns were pasting his troops. Those words come to mind as the war in Ukraine descends into an extended artillery duel, focused on the Donbas, in the country’s east. Phillip Karber is a former American marine who now leads the Potomac Foundation, a research and policy outfit in Virginia, and who regularly visits the war’s front lines to study the fighting. He reckons Russian artillery barrages are now responsible for about 80% of Ukrainian casualties. Figures on the other side are no doubt similar.

Whoever wins this duel will therefore probably win the war. And Ukraine is pinning many of its hopes of doing so on the sophisticated guns and ammunition it is receiving from well-wishers in the West.

NATO allies split over how to avoid 'World War III' with Russia

Joel Gehrke

A grueling struggle between Russian and Ukrainian forces in the Donbas could have major implications for the chances of a war between Moscow and NATO.

Russian forces have pummeled Ukrainian defensive positions over the past several weeks in a desperate bid to salvage a victory in eastern Ukraine following their defeat around Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital. Western officials are finalizing a plan to upgrade NATO defenses against a hypothetical Russian attack despite persistent disagreements about how to prevent the war in Ukraine from giving rise to a nuclear-fired clash with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“If the West does not support Ukraine sufficiently to allow Ukraine to have what is, in effect, a local victory, then he will be back. He will continue,” Latvian national security adviser Janis Kazocins told the Washington Examiner. “They will rearm and they will have another go — and they may, this time, not have another go in Donbas but have another go in the Baltics.”

France Bids Its Classic Mirage 2000C Fighter Jet Adieu


The retirement of a different 1980s-era fighter jet seems to be an increasingly regular occurrence, with the latest to bow out being the French Air and Space Force’s charismatic, delta-winged Mirage 2000C. Held in the highest regard by the many pilots who flew it, the Mirage 2000C has officially ended its service with the final squadron in France, as the air arm moves toward a fighter fleet dominated by the more modern and versatile Rafale.

Today saw the official disbandment of Escadron de Chasse 2/5, or EC 2/5, known as “Ile de France,” the last frontline operator of the original Mirage 2000C, which entered service, primarily as an air defense fighter, back in 1983. The move also temporarily ended the traditions of the historic squadron, which has served the French military for more than 80 years, beginning by fighting with the Free French against the Nazis in World War II. However, the unit is set to return in 2024 with Rafales.

Where the Cold War Began

George Friedman

I stood on a balcony in Warsaw this past week to gaze at the Vistula River. The Vistula runs wide and deep, the guardian of Warsaw from the east. Poland has seen existential threats from all directions. In the 20th century, the danger came from Germany to the west and from Russia to the east. Poland was once an empire, but for much of its recent history, it has been a victim. And the Vistula is where we must remember an episode that may not have resulted in the most Polish deaths but that nonetheless exemplifies the brutality and betrayal that was visited upon the country not so long ago.

In 1945, Germany was collapsing. A quasi-government in Poland called the Lublin Committee was emerging from the ashes, preparing to build a free Polish government and allow Poland to take control of its destiny. The future of Poland had been discussed extensively at the meetings of the big three – Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin. Roosevelt and Churchill favored the Lublin Committee. Stalin was appalled. For Stalin, a pro-Soviet or at least a Soviet-controlled Poland was essential. Then as today, the Russian objective was strategic depth. Moscow had nearly fallen to the Germans, saved only by winter and distance. Controlling Poland was a simple matter of safety. Moscow therefore wanted the Lublin Committee replaced by a communist government under Russian control.

Ethiopia Just Might Have a Chance for Peace

Adem Kassie Abebe

During an African Union summit on humanitarian work in late May, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed affirmed his government’s “commitment to ensuring assistance reaches those afflicted by natural and manmade disasters,” and called on international partners to “scale up their support for humanitarian services across the continent.”

The statement drew the ire of some commentators, who regarded it as an empty promise at a time when Ethiopia itself is enduring a dire humanitarian crisis, particularly in the war-ravaged northern region of Tigray and the neighboring regions, Amhara and Afar, to which forces under Abiy’s command have contributed. Nevertheless, Abiy’s statement added some weight to the Ethiopian government’s recent rhetoric, which has slowly but markedly softened, suggesting its willingness to address the consequences of a civil war that, since November 2020, has pitted government and allied forces against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, or TPLF, a regional political party and rebel group.

The Third War Over Ukraine

Jacob Heilbrunn

THE GREAT British historian John Wheeler-Bennett called it the forgotten peace. He was referring to the Brest-Litovsk treaty, which was signed by the Central Powers and Soviet Russia on March 3, 1918. Lenin had instructed the Bolshevik Central Committee “you must sign this shameful peace in order to save the world revolution.” In it, the Soviets handed over most of Ukraine and all three Baltic states to imperial Germany. The punitive treaty, Wheeler-Bennett wrote, “not only signified the apparently complete victory of German arms in the East, and the greatest diplomatic and military humiliation which Russia had ever sustained in a long history of defeat, but, with the exception of the Treaty of Versailles, it had consequences and repercussions more vitally important than any other peace settlement since the Congress of Vienna.” Wheeler-Bennett was writing in 1938, a year before a new world war erupted, revolving once more around a Teutonic Drang nach Osten, or push to the East. Now, as Russia pursues the will-o’-the-wisp of its old imperial aspirations in Ukraine, the melancholy legacy of the Brest-Litovsk treaty is manifesting itself again. Central Europe, long seen as a geopolitical backwater, is at the center of world events for the third time in the modern era. With his war of aggression in Ukraine, Russian president Vladimir Putin is ushering in nothing less than a new age of upheaval.

Are Market Access Negotiations in the IPEF Unnecessary?

William Alan Reinsch

During a recent Senate Finance Committee hearing discussing the Biden administration's trade policy agenda, U.S. trade representative Katherine Tai emphasized the scope of the novel Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF), which did not include market access. The IPEF is the economic complement to the administration’s security ambitions in the region. As of mid-June, the IPEF consists of 14 members, including the United States. The IPEF is divided into four pillars: supply chain resiliency, decarbonization and infrastructure, fair and resilient trade, and tax and anti-corruption measures. The administration has repeatedly underscored that despite its reluctance to offer market access, the agreement will be a high-standard one with enforceable measures.

Ambassador Tai defended IPEF in the U.S. Senate recently amid questions about the administration’s refusal to engage in tariff negotiations. “We're actually living in a pretty tariff-liberalized world as it is,” she said. Furthermore, Tai argued that the administration is not engaging in tariff liberalization because traditional trade agreements “have led us to a place where we are facing a considerable backlash that we are listening to from our own people about concerns regarding the offshoring and outsourcing of American jobs and opportunity through these types of arrangements.”

French navy eyeing US progress in unmanned, ‘data-centric’ operations

Megan Eckstein

WASHINGTON — The French navy is assessing what it can learn from U.S. advances in “data-centric operations” and cloud technologies, its chief told reporters Friday following a week of travel in the United States.

Adm. Pierre Vandier spoke June 24 at the Washington Navy Yard about the need to be interoperable and interchangeable with the U.S. Navy as they partner in four oceans and all domains.

He said he spent the week in California, with an itinerary designed by U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday to show off future technologies and concepts of operations the French Navy could incorporate into its own modernization plans.

Vandier said he visited destroyer Zumwalt, the unmanned surface vessel squadron, industry in Silicon Valley and more. With European defense budgets back on the rise, he said, he has important decisions to make about the future navy.

Boost-Phase Missile Defense

Ian Williams, Masao Dahlgren

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.

Orbital Vigilance: The Need for Enhanced Space-Based Missile Warning and Tracking

Arlington, VA | June 7, 2022 — The Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies is pleased to announce a new entry in its Policy Paper series, Orbital Vigilance: The Need for Enhanced Space-Based Missile Warning and Tracking by Christopher Stone, Senior Fellow for Space Studies at the Mitchell Institute Spacepower Advantage Center of Excellence.

Today, both China and Russia are fielding a new generation of hypersonic, low-flying missiles that U.S. ground-based radars are unable to track in the time needed to provide warning and cue defenses. They are also fielding anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons to degrade or destroy existing U.S. space-based missile warning sensors. In combination, these capabilities give China and Russia a decisive advantage in a major conflict with the United States.

DOD must create a more survivable and resilient multi-orbit sensor architecture that can track salvos of these hypersonic weapons and other maneuvering, non-ballistic missiles, then cue defenses against them in real-time. DOD now has the technology to create such a multi-orbit system of systems; realizing it must be a priority to avoid ceding the U.S. national security advantage in space that will be critical to the success of U.S. forces in all domains in a future peer conflict.

The Mitchell Institute Policy Papers is a series presenting new thinking and policy proposals to respond to the emerging security and aerospace power challenges of the 21st century. These papers are written for lawmakers and their staffs, policy professionals, business and industry, academics, journalists, and the informed public.