18 August 2022

Raising the Curtain on China’s 20th Party Congress: Mechanics, Rules, “Norms,” and the Realities of Power


With preparations for this year’s 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in full swing, the attention of full-time China watchers, China dabblers within the broader commentariat, and pundits is starting to focus on this most important of CCP conclaves, held every five years. The stage for high drama at the congress was set as early as March 2018, when Chinese President and CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping modified the Chinese state constitution to remove a restriction limiting the president to two five-year terms, clearing the way for Xi to remain in power for a third term, and possibly longer. Xi looked set to cruise to a major victory at the congress, having orchestrated a smooth celebration of the CCP’s 100th birthday in July 2021, followed a few months later, at the Sixth Plenum of the 19th Central Committee, by the passage of a hagiographic resolution on party history that aggrandized Xi’s standing in the party’s ideological hierarchy, putting him ever closer to Mao Zedong. However, several unexpected events—including Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine; the emergence of the omicron variant of COVID-19 in China, which caused mass disruptions including a grinding lockdown in the financial capital of Shanghai; unremitting challenges from abroad in the form of deepening strategic competition with the United States; and a global economy bursting with inflationary pressures — have made the picture far more complex for China and for Xi.

Why No One Was in Charge in Afghanistan

Christopher D. Kolenda

On the first anniversary of the meltdown of Afghanistan, one of the best ways for the United States to respect the service and sacrifice of Americans and Afghans is to learn from its shortcomings and enact sensible measures that reduce the likelihood of future national security disasters.

Washington’s unenviable track record in post-9/11 military interventions, combined with increasing global volatility, suggests that reform is necessary and urgent to avoid being trapped in another quagmire of broken promises and impossible commitments. Here are three issues that contribute to U.S. failures—and some practical steps the U.S. government can take to prevent more fiascos.

Coordination is impossible without a common playbook. The State and Defense departments are two agencies separated by a common language. The U.S. government has no official national security terms and concepts, so the same words can have different meanings, which makes coordination haphazard and heightens the risk of miscommunication.



How can the summer be ending already?? Temperatures are soaring, vacations are wrapping up, and many of you are realizing that you have only a couple of weeks left to rest and relax before the new national security school year begins after Labor Day! Luckily, your loyal Strategic Outpost columnists are happy to present our seventh (!!) annual list of what we think you should be reading, watching, and listening to as you navigate your way back towards the real world from your last chance for sunburns, hangovers, and lost luggage! As we have in each of our previous summer reading lists, we’ve provided an eclectic blend of serious and not-so-serious recommendations that we think will pique your interest and set you up for being one of the smartest office pundits around. Enjoy!

War in Ukraine

Anything involving Michael Kofman. Whatever this impressive analyst at CNA has to say about the war in Ukraine is worth listening to. Kofman consistently provides penetrating insights about the conflict, expertly drawing upon his deep knowledge of the Russian military. We recommend listening to his frequent conversations with Ryan Evans on the War on the Rocks podcast, especially the most recent episode on the next phase of the war, and one from June that focuses on how both combatants are dealing with relentless battle and attrition. Also check out his Twitter feed for excellent Kofman facts and analysis in real time.

Dangerous Duo: China’s H-20 and H-6 Bombers Are Preparing to Target Taiwan

Kris Osborn

China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) recently flew the newest variant of its large, non-stealthy H-6 bomber over Taiwan in an effort to demonstrate resolve, lethality, and readiness to attack.

However, it remains unclear whether the H-6 bomber would actually pose a serious risk to Taiwan given its potential vulnerability to air defenses, surface ships, and Taiwanese and allied aircraft.

The PLAAF would need to establish air superiority in order for the H-6 to fly at low altitudes for mine-laying or precision-bombing missions, something which would not be at all assured in any confrontation over Taiwan with the United States. Whether the United States and its allies have advanced air defenses in the South China Sea is unclear, however, there are established systems already in Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea which could pose problems for the PLAAF.

With Dalai Lama’s Ladakh Visit, India Pokes China in the Eyes

Sudha Ramachandran

On August 10, India flew the Dalai Lama in an Indian Air Force helicopter from Leh, the capital of Ladakh, to the remote Himalayan village of Lingshed. Photographs of the Tibetan spiritual leaders with IAF officers at the Leh air station and disembarking from the helicopter at a helipad at Lingshed were shared by India’s Ministry of Defense.

The Dalai Lama has been in Ladakh over the past month. His last visit here was in July 2019, and this is the first time since the pandemic began that the spiritual leader has left his base in Dharamsala, the seat of the Central Tibetan Authority, as the exile government is called.

His visits to Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh, Indian border regions where China lays claim to territory, have always riled Beijing and evoked a strong response.

Exercising Strategic Triage in Afghanistan

Anthony H. Cordesman

The best thing the Biden administration can do in its approach to Afghanistan, and what passes for a Taliban government, is to do as little as possible and avoid re-engaging in Afghan affairs. It is all too tempting to try to deal with the humanitarian crisis in the country, engage in some form of counterterrorism activity, try to influence the Taliban's efforts to shape a new government, or help the many Afghans who supported U.S. efforts in Afghanistan and could not leave the country during the final evacuation.

It is all too true that some 23 million Afghans face acute food insecurity, and over six million remain displaced from twenty years of conflict. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) issued a report, however, that shows that hunger is a critical issue in some fifty-six countries and territories and Afghanistan is only one of them. The same report notes that even conservative estimates made for 2020—in a world where things have since grown far worse in 2021 and in the first half of 2022—indicated that some 720 to 811 million people face serious problems with hunger.

Joe Biden’s Opportunity in Afghanistan

Adam Lammon

President Joe Biden is not to blame for all of America’s blunders in Afghanistan, but he could help decide whether we learn from them. We may not discover the conclusions of Congress’ independent Afghanistan War Commission until 2025, but we have an overabundance of damning revelations by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), not to mention accusations of intelligence failures, interagency finger-pointing and distrust, and policy inertia within America’s national security institutions, to sort through. By taking charge of such an autopsy, the Biden administration can deftly redirect criticism from how America’s war in Afghanistan ended to what really matters: how the United States squandered twenty years, $2.31 trillion, and nearly 2,500 American lives on what General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, ultimately dubbed a “strategic defeat.”

Such a wide-reaching post-mortem will be difficult, but it is long overdue. In fact, as part of its efforts to support human rights and rectify U.S. wrongs, the Biden administration should boldly examine contentious matters like the U.S. military’s record of errant airstrikes on civilians across the Middle East—which a New York Times investigation found was “marked by deeply flawed intelligence, rushed and often imprecise targeting, and the deaths of thousands of civilians, many of them children”—and rampant problems with the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program. Both are moral stains on America, and the Biden administration should act swiftly to protect civilians and reduce delays in the SIV’s application process, clear its applicant backlog, and help the Afghans who are under threat for supporting the U.S. war effort.

America Can’t Change the Taliban

Marvin G. Weinbaum

Over the course of the year since the Taliban seized Kabul and the nearly quarter-century of the movement’s existence, nothing has been so clearly demonstrated as its resistance to change. The present regime in Afghanistan differs little in its goals and strategies from the Taliban regime that ruled as an Islamic emirate from 1996 to 2001 and the insurgency that fought the Kabul government and its allies to victory in August 2021. In and out of power, virtually the same cast of senior figures has headed the movement. The Taliban’s allegiances have remained largely intact, as have its sources of financial sustenance. Moreover, the belief system driving the Taliban’s ultra-conservatism and inflexibility has never deviated far from the Deobandi school of Islamic teachings on which the movement’s leaders were nurtured.

During the past year, the United States and global and regional powers have sought the means to influence the behavior of a regime that very few wanted to see assume power and none trusted. As leverage, they have imposed sanctions on the new regime principally by withholding political recognition and denying direct financial and development assistance. With unusual unanimity, the international community has insisted that the Taliban regime form a more inclusive government, one representative of the diversity of Afghan society’s political, ethnic, and sectarian differences. Most countries have also called upon the Kabul government to relax its highly restrictive social policies, especially against women. If indirectly, sanctions have also put the Taliban regime on notice to cut ties to transnational and regional terrorist organizations.

The perils of autocracy

Lawrence Freedman

At the start of February Vladimir Putin made a pilgrimage to Beijing to meet the Chinese president, Xi Jinping. The occasion was the start of the Winter Olympics, which was followed almost immediately by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, just as the Winter Olympics hosted by Putin in Sochi eight years earlier had been followed almost immediately by the annexation of Crimea. Whether or not Putin told Xi of his plans, it was an important part of his strategy for the coming move against Ukraine to have China on his side. It suited him also to meet as if he was an equal with Xi, confirming Russia’s status as a great power, one of his major preoccupations. In practice, of course, the two were far from equals. Whereas once China was the Soviet Union’s junior partner in the communist international, now Russia is the weaker partner. As China vies for the top spot in the international economic rankings with the United States, Russia no longer even makes the top ten.
Friendship without limits

The two men promised that their friendship would have “no limits”. They signed a lengthy communiqué in which they described their countries as upholding the underlying principles of the United Nations, following international law, affirming human rights, authentically democratic, ready to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in their security policies, and sharing a determination to challenge American pretensions to global predominance. The communiqué did not mention Ukraine, referring only to the Russian Federation’s proposals “to create long-term legally binding security guarantees in Europe”, which China supported. Reciprocating, the Russian side reaffirmed “its support for the One China principle” and opposed “any forms of independence of Taiwan”.

Taliban celebrates ‘victory day’, as Afghans face economic crisis

Taliban has marked the first anniversary of its return to power in Afghanistan, as its members celebrated a ‘day of victory’, chanting slogans next to the former US embassy in the capital, Kabul.

Exactly a year ago, the group captured Kabul after a nationwide lightning offensive against government forces just as US-led troops were ending two decades of intervention in a conflict that cost tens of thousands of lives.

“We fulfilled the obligation of jihad and liberated our country,” said Niamatullah Hekmat, a Taliban fighter who entered the capital on August 15 last year just hours after then-President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.

“It’s the day of victory and happiness for the Afghan Muslims and people. It is the day of conquest and victory of the white flag,” government spokesman Bilal Karimi said on Twitter.

US missiles credited as key in Ukraine fight with Russia


U.S.-provided anti-radiation missiles have helped take out some of Russia’s most dangerous weapons systems in Ukraine in recent days.

But the missiles, only recently confirmed to be in the hands of Ukraine’s air force, are just one part of a complicated strategy to expel Kremlin forces completely from the country, a Ukrainian fighter pilot told The Hill.

The pilot, who identifies himself by his call sign of “Juice,” said the country’s air force has recently used the anti-radiation missiles to suppress Russian air defense systems.

Their presence in Ukraine was confirmed for the first time Monday by Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl, who said the missiles have been included in several recent lethal aid packages from the United States and make existing Ukrainian capabilities more effective.

Putin Can’t Fix This: Russia Struggling To Replenish Ukraine Troops

Jack Buckby

Alexei Tabalov, a lawyer who heads up the Conscript’s School legal aid group, told The Associated Press this week how a large number of Russian troops are actively looking for ways to leave the military and stop fighting in Ukraine.

“We’re seeing a huge outflow of people who want to leave the war zone – those who have been serving for a long time and those who have signed a contract just recently,” Tabalov said.

It comes after the Pentagon this week confirmed that as many as 80,000 Russian troops have been wounded or killed on the battlefield, and as private military contractor PMC Wagner actively recruits prisoners to help replenish Russia’s dwindling number of troops on the battlefield.

Tabalov also told the press how it appears as though “everyone who can is ready to run away” and that the Russian Ministry of Defense is “digging deep to find those it can persuade to serve.”

Taiwan 'matters far more to the world economy' than many people realize, economist explains

Dani Romero

China's latest military exercises encircling Taiwan have clear ramifications for the global economy, following U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s recent visit to Taipei.

"Taiwan matters far more to the world economy than its 1% share of global GDP would indicate," Gareth Leather, Senior Economist in the Emerging Asia team at Capital Economics, wrote in a note.

The military exercises included live-fire drills and missile launches, restricting access to ships and aircraft in the area. Data compiled by Bloomberg shows more than 40 vessels have navigated around the drill zones south of Taiwan’s main port.

U.S. Says Al Qaeda Has Not Regrouped in Afghanistan

Eric Schmitt

WASHINGTON — American spy agencies have concluded in a new intelligence assessment that Al Qaeda has not reconstituted its presence in Afghanistan since the U.S. withdrawal last August and that only a handful of longtime Qaeda members remain in the country.

The terror group does not have the ability to launch attacks from the country against the United States, the assessment said. Instead, it said, Al Qaeda will rely on, at least for now, an array of loyal affiliates outside the region to carry out potential terrorist plots against the West.

But several counterterrorism analysts said the spy agencies’ judgments represented an optimistic snapshot of a complex and fast-moving terrorist landscape. The assessment, a declassified summary of which was provided to The New York Times, represents the consensus views of the U.S. intelligence agencies.

Taiwan’s Patriot missiles to get massive US upgrade


The US and Taiwan have renewed a missile engineering contract to upgrade the self-governing island’s Patriot missile defense systems against China’s growing missile threats and overflights.

The Taipei Times reports that the contract was announced by Taiwan’s Ministry of Defense on August 11, with Focus Taiwan citing a notification regarding the contract on the Taiwan Government e-Procurement System website. Currently, Taiwan operates the Patriot Advanced Capability 2 (PAC-2) and PAC-3 Guided Enhancement Missiles (GEM) systems.

The South China Morning Post reported that the US$83 million contract, signed by Taiwan’s military and the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto US embassy on the island, would help to assess and improve the performance of Taiwan’s Patriot missile batteries for the next four and a half years.

Russia's war priority: reorient units to strengthen southern Ukraine, UK says

Aug 14 (Reuters) - Russia's priority over the past week has likely been to reorient units to strengthen its campaign southern Ukraine, British military intelligence said on Sunday.

Ukraine and Russia have traded accusations over multiple incidents of shelling at the Zaporizhzhia facility in southern Ukraine. Russian troops captured the station early in the war. 

Russian-backed forces of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic in the Donbas continued to attempt assaults to the north of Donetsk city, according to the intelligence update.

Particularly heavy fighting has focused on the village of Pisky, near the site of Donetsk Airport, the British Defence Ministry said in its daily intelligence bulletin on Twitter.

Ukraine's military command on Saturday said "fierce fighting" continued in Pisky, an eastern village which Russia had earlier said it had full control over. read more

UK also said the Russian assault "likely" aims to secure the "M04 highway", the main approach to Donetsk from the west.

FAQ: Iran’s Demand to Close the UN Nuclear Watchdog’s Investigation

Andrea Stricker

At a new round of talks last week between Iran and six world powers (the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, and China, collectively known as the “P5+1”), the clerical regime demanded the closure of a probe by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) into Iranian nuclear activities that may violate the binding Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). As a party to the NPT, the Islamic Republic has signed a safeguards agreement with the IAEA, requiring Tehran to declare all sites where it produces or uses nuclear material. In 2019 and 2020, the IAEA detected man-made uranium particles at three sites Iran had not previously disclosed. Tehran has continually obstructed IAEA efforts to determine the source of this undeclared material and the activities that led to its production.

The IAEA previously investigated potential military aspects of Tehran’s nuclear program following international exposure of clandestine nuclear sites and activities in Iran. In essence, the agency investigated whether the Islamic Republic researched or sought to build atomic weapons as part of its nuclear program. In July 2015, under the terms of the JCPOA, the P5+1 instructed the IAEA to provide a “final” PMD assessment by December 2015 summarizing the agency’s conclusions to date about Iran’s nuclear weapons-related activities.

What Does China Want?

Hal Brands and Michael Beckley

The greatest geopolitical catastrophes occur at the intersection of ambition and desperation. Xi Jinping’s China will soon be driven by plenty of both.

In our new book, Danger Zone: The Coming Conflict with China, which this article is adapted from, we explain the cause of that desperation: a slowing economy and a creeping sense of encirclement and decline. But first, we need to lay out the grandness of those ambitions—what Xi’s China is trying to achieve. It is difficult to grasp just how hard China’s fall will be without understanding the heights to which Beijing aims to climb. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is undertaking an epic project to rewrite the rules of global order in Asia and far beyond. China doesn’t want to be a superpower—one pole of many in the international system. It wants to be the superpower—the geopolitical sun around which the system revolves.

That ambition is now hard to miss in what CCP officials are saying. It is even more obvious in what the CCP is doing, from its world-beating naval shipbuilding program to its effort to remake the strategic geography of Eurasia. China’s grand strategy involves pursuing objectives close to home, such as cementing the CCP’s hold on power and reclaiming bits of China that were ripped away when the country was weak. It also includes more expansive goals, such as carving out a regional sphere of influence and contesting American power on a global scale. The CCP’s agenda blends a sense of China’s historical destiny with an emphasis on modern, 21st-century tools of power. It is rooted in the timeless geopolitical ambitions that motivate so many great powers and the insatiable insecurities that plague China’s authoritarian regime.

Then What? Assessing the Military Implications of Chinese Control of Taiwan

Brendan Rittenhouse Green, Caitlin Talmadge


Taiwan is the most intractable issue in U.S.-China relations and the one that could most plausibly embroil the two great powers in a high-stakes, high-intensity war.1 For decades, observers have debated the likelihood of U.S.-China conflict over Taiwan, assessing China's willingness to attempt reunification through force, the credibility of the U.S. commitment to Taiwan, and Taiwan's resolve in maintaining its autonomy.2 Numerous studies have examined the cross-strait military balance—whether it might deter or enable a potential Chinese military campaign to retake Taiwan, for example, as well as whether Taiwan could effectively defend itself with or without the help of the United States.3

Compared with this robust literature on the military balance, however, discussion over Taiwan's potential military value, and its implications for U.S. grand strategy, remains surprisingly underdeveloped and vague. Many advocates of maintaining or strengthening the U.S. commitment to Taiwan focus on the island's political importance, emphasizing that the U.S. commitment is vital to maintaining the credibility of other U.S. alliances and to democracy more broadly.4 Failing to defend Taiwan would be disastrous, in this view, but largely because of the broader diplomatic implications, not because of any direct effect on the regional military balance.5 Meanwhile, those who advocate the opposite position—ending or lessening the U.S. commitment to Taiwan—also frame the problem in largely political terms, arguing that the United States could sever its support of the island without significant military consequences as part of a bilateral grand bargain.6 In contrast, the idea that control of the island itself could affect the military balance has not yet received a systematic, rigorous assessment, though a growing number of analysts mention it.7

Truce or Consequences?


The ongoing truce in Yemen has momentarily reduced the intensity of the conflict in the country. However, the increasing violations of the truce and the failure to reach a permanent ceasefire means that the present situation may be just a prelude to a brutal new round of military confrontation.

On August 2, the United Nations special envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, announced that the warring parties in Yemen had agreed to extend the truce for an additional two months. This was the second extension since the truce agreement entered into force in early April, between Ansar Allah, better known as the Houthis, and the Saudi-led Arab coalition, which backs the internationally recognized Yemeni government. The terms of the truce include allowing the entry of fuel ships into the Hodeida port and allowing two commercial flights a week to and from Sanaa airport. The agreement also states that the special envoy will “invite the parties to a meeting to agree on opening roads in Taiz and other governorates to facilitate the movement of civilian men, women and children ...”

The truce decreased the number of military clashes between the sides, especially cross-border attacks, whose frequency had risen significantly earlier this year. It also enabled some Yemenis to benefit from the direct flights to Jordan or Egypt through Sanaa Airport. At the same time, the flow of fuel to Houthi-controlled areas reduced the fuel crisis in those areas, which was at its height in the period preceding the agreement. Most importantly, the truce created a space for political talks.

Takshashila Doctrine Document - A National Security Doctrine For India

1. To create and defend a conducive environment for Yogakshema (well-being, prosperity, and happiness) of all Indians. At this stage of India’s development, national security is primarily focused on protecting and promoting India’s economic development.

a. As a Swing Power, we must seek to shape the world’s political, economic, and technological order

b. And defend India’s interconnectedness with the world

2. National security also includes protecting the constitutional order, individual liberty, territory, social cohesion, and national resources.

a. Securing the Republic of India and its institutions

b. Protecting the rights of all Indians

c. Comprehensive view of territory including land, sea, air, space, and cyberspace

d. National strength ultimately derives from social cohesion

e. Sustain and enhance natural, environmental, and social capital

Russia’s Strategy to Destabilize the Balkans Is Working

Nicholas Velazquez

Russia’s relationship with Serbia, a state in the heart of the contentious Balkans, will almost certainly be leveraged to imperil European security for the foreseeable future. Serbian President Aleksander Vucic, a former Europhilic parliamentarian turned autocratic leader, continues to advance Russia’s destabilizing efforts in the region. Russia’s close relationship with Serbia allows for the Kremlin to develop ties with the nationalist Serbian diaspora throughout the Balkans to destabilize Kosovo, Bosnia, and other pro-Western states in the region.

Following the violent breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, millions of Serbs found themselves in the states which emerged from the conflict. As a result, sectarian divisions still plague the region and guide Belgrade’s foreign policy. Belgrade continues to claim Kosovo as a part of Serbia, citing a historical claim to the land and the illegitimacy of Pristina’s unilateral declaration of independence. Russia, leveraging deep cultural ties with Serbia, provides Belgrade vital diplomatic and rhetorical support on territorial issues. In exchange, Serbia acts as a Russian trojan horse in the Balkans to facilitate the spread of Russian influence amongst the Serbian diaspora in the Balkans.

Ayatollah Khomeini Never Read Salman Rushdie’s Book

Robin Wright

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini never read Salman Rushdie’s book “The Satanic Verses,” his son Ahmed told me in Tehran, in the early nineteen-nineties. The Iranian leader’s murderous 1989 fatwa against the British American writer was a political move to exploit the erupting fury in Pakistan, India, and beyond over a fictional dream sequence involving the Prophet Muhammad. The book’s passages, which portrayed human weaknesses and undermined the Prophet’s credibility as a messenger of God, were blasphemous to some Muslims.

The Ayatollah was shrewd that way. At the time, the young Islamic Republic was emerging from existential challenges: an eight-year war with Iraq that produced at least a million casualties; widespread domestic discontent; deepening political rifts among the clergy; a flagging economy that had rationed basic food and fuel; and a decade of diplomatic isolation. Khomeini condemned Rushdie, as well as his editors and publishers in any language, to death. He called on “all valiant Muslims wherever they may be” to go out and kill all of them—without delay—“so that no one will dare insult the sacred beliefs of Muslims henceforth. Whoever is killed in this cause will be a martyr” and ascend instantly to heaven. Tehran offered a reward that eventually grew to more than three million dollars.

China Practices Multi-Domain "Island Attack Drills" Over Taiwan


(Washington D.C.) Using the term “island attack drills,” a Chinese-government backed newspaper says the People’s Liberation Army is flying bombers, fighters and surveillance planes in preparation for a possible so-called “joint land attack and long-range air strike” invasion of Taiwan.

However, while the phrasing and language of joint warfare operations may sound ominous, it raises an interesting question regarding the extent to which Chinese military forces are actually capable of “joint” multi-service operations. Such an ability, now evolving quickly within the US military services, is technologically complex and dependent upon an ability to align data and messaging formats, connect separately engineered communications nodes across multiple domains and vast distances and process shared information at relevant speeds. The extent to which China can do this might well indicate just how well the US military would perform in a major warfare engagement. Should the US be well ahead of China in this capacity, such a technological imbalance would favor success for the US.

Russia’s War in Ukraine: Russia’s Propaganda War

Igor Gretskiy

The ninth Brief in the “Russia’s War in Ukraine” series concerns Russia’s propaganda war.

Igor Gretskiy, a Research Fellow of the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute at the ICDS, examines key elements of Russia’s propaganda and disinformation that were crucial in the years long preparation of the invasion of Ukraine. He describes how the Kremlin’s official narratives were used to pave the way for Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine, and how Russia’s propaganda has changed as the war has progressed.

He states that the Kremlin began to prepare the Russian public for the invasion of Ukraine after the Biden-Putin summit in Geneva on the 30th of June 2021. He analyses Moscow’s language of war and concludes that Soviet-style narratives about Nazism and Western anti-Russian conspiracies became the main premises of the propaganda offensive. He also concludes that Russia’s president most likely began to plot the outright aggression after his re-election in 2018.

Coercing Fluently: The Grammar of Coercion in the Twenty-first Century

C. Anthony Pfaff

To illustrate the logic and grammar of coercion, this analysis relies on decision-theory methods, such as game theory, that examine the strategic decision-making process in interactions with adversaries and partners. The intent here is not to offer predictive models of rational-actor behavior. Rather, the intent is to use game-theory and similar approaches to understand how coercion works better. This analysis considers competitive interactions between actors that have discrete and qualifiable, if not quantifiable, preferences and who behave rationally, though this analysis acknowledges the behavior that is considered rational is frequently informed by nonrational social, cultural, and psychological factors. Considering these competitive interactions allows one to identify “rules of thumb” that can orient and guide actors as they compete.

This analysis emphasizes coercion does not depend simply on imposing costs; rather, it depends on placing adversaries in positions in which they must act and their most rational option is the one most beneficial to one’s own cause. To achieve this result, actors must carefully calibrate their demands to ensure their adversary’s cost of concession is as low as possible. To prevent challenges in the first place, actors should convince the adversary acting on a threat is one’s most rational response. If convincing the adversary is not possible, then one must find ways to decrease the value of the adversary’s challenge. When none of those options are possible, preparing for conflict is likely one’s rational option. This analysis then applies the rules of thumb to US relations with China, Russia, and Iran.

CIA sued over alleged spying on lawyers, journalists who met Assange

Kanishka Singh

WASHINGTON, Aug 15 (Reuters) - A group of journalists and lawyers sued the CIA and its former director Mike Pompeo over allegations the intelligence agency spied on them when they visited WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange during his stay in Ecuador's embassy in London.

The lawsuit said that CIA under Pompeo violated the privacy rights of those American journalists and lawyers by allegedly spying on them. The plaintiffs include journalists Charles Glass and John Goetz and attorneys Margaret Kunstler and Deborah Hrbek, who have represented Assange.

"The United States Constitution shields American citizens from U.S. government overreach even when the activities take place in a foreign embassy in a foreign country," said Richard Roth, the lead attorney representing the plaintiffs.

Exposing China’s Semiconductor Vulnerabilities

The CEO of Chinese tech company Tsinghua Unigroup has become the latest in a number of Chinese executives under investigation in connection with corruption of the so-called Big Fund.

The China Integrated Circuit Industry Investment Fund, established in 2014, is used to develop China’s semiconductor industry. Its turmoil points to a critical Chinese weakness.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has good reason to be angry about the performance of the fund. After investing billions of dollars in developing the semiconductor industry in the past decade, China has not yet been able to reduce its reliance on importing advanced chips produced by other countries.

Can the Military Harness the Internet of Things’ True Potential?

Abdul Moiz Khan

In the 1990s, the U.S. Department of Defense put forward a new military doctrine called Network-Centric Warfare (NCW). The objective was to integrate emerging tactics, techniques, and procedures to bolster the warfighting capabilities of the military. To achieve this end, transforming information into combat power is critical. The Internet of Things, or IoT, refers to all those devices that are today connected to the internet and are sharing and collecting data. Real-time data collection and its analysis with the help of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the main feature of IoT. Thus, the military application of IoT can be a breakthrough moment for Network-Centric Warfare.

Network-Centric Warfare’s doctrine seeks the integration of three domains: the physical domain, where events took place and operations are conducted; the information domain, where data is transmitted and stored; and the cognitive domain, where data is processed and analyzed. D.S. Alberts and other experts on the subject defined Network-Centric Warfare as “an information superiority-enabled concept of operations that generates increased combat power by networking sensors, decision-makers, and shooters to achieve shared awareness, increased speed of command, higher tempo of operations, greater lethality, increased survivability, and a degree of self-synchronization. In essence, NCW translates information superiority into combat power by effectively linking knowledgeable entities in the battlespace.” This military doctrine ignited a revolution in military affairs.

One Year Later, Former Afghan President Ghani Defends Decision to Flee

Trevor Filseth

Ashraf Ghani, Afghanistan’s president from 2014 until his evacuation from Kabul in August 2021, defended his conduct in an interview on Sunday, claiming that he had made a “split-second” decision to prioritize his life and avoid capture by the invading Taliban.

In Ghani’s interview with CNN host Fareed Zakaria, he offered additional details about the morning of August 15, when he fled Afghanistan by helicopter for neighboring Tajikistan. Ghani claimed in the interview that he had been the last one in the palace after his guards had fled and that he had been informed in the morning that the city could not be defended against the incoming Taliban forces. The former president also claimed that one of his cooks had been offered $100,000 to poison him, leading him to fear for his immediate safety.

Throughout his time in exile, Ghani has insisted that his decision to flee the city had not been made out of fear of the Taliban, but out of concern for the public relations win the Taliban would receive from capturing him—a sentiment that he repeated to Zakaria on Sunday.